John Gregg

last updated 2/27/2018

John P. Gregg

Partner at McCarter & English , LLP

Location:
Four Gateway Center 100 Mulberry Street, Newark, New Jersey, United States
HQ Phone:
(973) 622-4444

General Information

Experience

Special Gas Counsel - Public Energy Authority of Kentucky

Education

B.A.Hobart College

Bachelor's DegreeHobart & William Smith Colleges

J.D.American University

Affiliations

Board Member - American Public Gas Association

Member - Energy Bar Association

Member - District of Columbia Bar

Committee - Charitable Service Committee

Recent News  

Ten Takeaways on the 2016 Election's Impact on Energy Regulation - Veriforce

With over 35 years in energy regulation, John Gregg, Partner at McCarter and English, was able to provide great insights to help us understand the impact of the 2016 election on regulatory policy.
Gregg introduced the discussion with some perspective - reminding us that the Trump administration's theme of reducing regulatory burdens on business is not really new. Rather, we're seeing a return to (extremely) conservative political positions that we've seen before. Here are ten takeaways from Gregg's presentation. 1. It will be hard to reform regulation without people in place to execute. Gregg noted that since the election, there has been a government slowdown, in large part because of the exceptional number of unfilled political appointments. As of the end of April, only 25 people out of 556 had been confirmed to their positions (with only another 40 nominations in the queue). Among the empty positions is that of inspector general for a number of federal agencies, meaning the bureaucracy is moving on without proper oversight to protect against waste, fraud, and abuse. 2. With the big shift in power has come unprecedented action to roll back regulations. Although a regulatory pause is traditional when a new administration comes into office, the shift in political power due to this election caused 90 regulations to be delayed, suspended, or reversed within the first few months. Gregg pointed out that this Congress has made use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which requires agencies to send final rules to Congress for review before they can take effect. The law empowers Congress and the president to nullify a rule, and once repealed, no rule of the same topic may follow. This Congress, with the President's approval, has repealed 13 regulations using the CRA, compared to one prior repeal since the law's inception. Of interest to us, a methane flaring rule recently survived this process. 3. Regulation delays often breed uncertainty. Despite the new administration's focus on dismantling regulation, Gregg stated, "Regulation is not necessarily opposed by business. Regulation brings order to markets. It answers questions. It creates structures. It resolves disputes. He cited PHMSA rules as an example of regulations that many want to see completed. Gregg quoted a representative from the American Petroleum Institute (API) at a recent hearing of the House Transportation Subcommittee who expressed disappointment at the pace of regulation from PHMSA and noted, "One of the things that our industry depends on is consistency. Companies planning out multi-billion dollar, multi-year projects, expect to know what they need to do when building out those projects. 4. "Deconstructing the Administrative State" suggests less regulation. Gregg interprets the phrase made popular by the President's chief aide, Steve Bannon, to mean limited government and holding back "regulation creep. Gregg pointed out that generally, people do not like the idea of regulation, but they like the idea of clean air, for example. So it's not a simple task to determine the value of a rule and how many people actually favor "deconstruction." 5. We're in a period of government by executive order. Of the 40+ executive orders issued by President Trump, Gregg highlighted the five of most interest to us, those dealing with pipeline infrastructure and energy. They follow the general theme of regulatory reform, reduction, and process change to be more business friendly. However, in his discussion, Gregg noted some of the difficulties associated with implementing these - questions that result in a lot of regulatory uncertainty. As an example, he called attention to the complexity of PHMSA rules and asked how you would decide what rules to remove to satisfy the "2 for 1 Regs" order (13771). On the new "budgeting" provision in this order, he questioned how you would assess the cost vs. benefits of safety rules such as the Blow-Out Preventer rules in the wake of the hugely costly Deepwater Horizon disaster. Plus, this order has already been challenged in court on constitutional grounds. Gregg shared several stories to illustrate the challenges with the directive that all pipelines in the US must use American materials and equipment. For example, the Keystone Pipeline was exempted from the order because all the steel for the pipeline had already been purchased, and not all of it was from the US. In addition, the primary producer of large diameter pipeline in the US participates actively in the global market to obtain the types of steel needed to create its pipe. 7. Vacancies and changes in agencies responsible for energy regulation are having an impact. Gregg highlighted a few of these: Additionally, Gregg noted that Simmons is only one of nine political appointments at DOE; the remainder are waiting to be filled. Gregg commented that the confirmation process once new commissioners are nominated takes a while. With Senators taking their recess in August and the potential for Senate Democrats (with some Republican support) to block the two Republican nominations (normally nominations from both parties would be submitted together), the industry is getting nervous. (For more on Dennis's presentation and what's going on at FERC, see my earlier post, FERC, the New Administration, and Policy on Pipeline Projects.) 8. Energy markets are driving energy policy more than Congress or FERC. Gregg observed that the industry is largely deregulated, with functioning markets. The idea that FERC is too slow to approve pipeline applications is false. Any slowdowns have come largely as a result of the large volume of citizen input and protest and local and state governments exerting more authority over permitting, which can mean months of delay. And while it may seem that incentives for use of alternative fuels would be on the chopping block with conservatives dominating Congress, President Trump has expressed endorsement for the ethanol industry. Besides that, Gregg pointed out that solar and wind are top job creators, so who knows? 9. Tax reform may have impact on the energy industry. According to Gregg, tax reform may change the master limited partner regulations. If these rules are changed, many pipeline companies may need to reorganize their structures. 10. Handicapping energy sources: domestic oil and gas is going up. Gregg asserted that the low prices and reliable service of the oil and gas business can't be beat. Furthermore, the oil and gas industry is responsible for employment on a large scale and has full administrative support. Gregg further suggested that coal "is too far gone" (because it can't compete with natural gas) and it will not be burned for much longer in the US. It's possible that more coal exports will be retained. Since alternative fuels are part of the mainstream and growing, we should not see much change there. Finally, Gregg predicted that the outlook for nuclear appears dim, especially because of the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, which has nuclear plants under construction.

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