This article is written by Sushree Surekha Choudhury from KIIT School of Law, Bhubaneswar. The article talks about all the laws, legislation, regulatory bodies, Congressional committees, regulations, and state agencies dealing with regulating the oil and gas industry in the United States.

It has heen published by Rachit Garg.


All of us use cooking gas in our homes. Our vehicles run on petroleum, diesel, or gas. We all need electricity every day of our lives. When the petrol prices sore high, it affects us all. The airplanes we board to travel to our homes in India, or Australia, use energy to fly. But why am I stating facts? This is because we use oil and gas in various forms in our everyday lives more than we care to think about it. So, we need to regulate the sector, no? That is exactly what the oil and gas laws have been doing in the United States of America. Many laws are enacted to regulate one of the fastest-growing industries in the world market. The industry comes with a share of risks involved as it includes activities like mining, digging, extracting, refining, etc., and is explosive in nature. Many of these byproducts are hazardous to the health of the workers engaged in these activities. Besides, it poses a brimming threat to the environment. Harmful substances, hazardous byproducts, explosions, etc., can significantly harm the environment and life. Thus, careful monitoring has to be conducted regularly. The prices of these products have to be stabilized federally. To take up all these responsibilities, the US government has set up standing committees, enacted laws, vested duties on regulatory bodies and state agencies, etc. In this article, we shall learn more about the sector and how it is regulated in the USA.

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Oil and gas laws in the USA: an overview

Divided into three categories, upstream, midstream, and downstream, the oil and gas industry makes a huge contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the USA. Upstream is the process of finding out and digging the grounds to extract oil and natural gas. The storage, transportation, etc., are conducted midstream and the filtering, refining, producing finished products, and their supply, everything is covered downstream. Oil and gas are produced and supplied for uses in several forms like petrol, diesel, LPG, CNG, crude oils, lubricants, kerosene, jet fuel, asphalt, etc. Thus, the sector is regulated. The private player drilling companies take up the charge to perform these functions. While they do so, they must first enter into contracts with the US government to do so. The government regulates the sector with close scrutiny as it has potential threats and impacts on the environment. It is the duty of the government that the environment and atmosphere are not hampered during any stage of oil and gas processing. 

Additionally, the government has to protect the workers’ health and safety, and public safety, while saving non-renewable and natural resources and reducing wastage. Local governments regulate the oil and gas industry in their particular jurisdictions, and everything is regulated federally. The Federal government while monitoring the working of local governments in regulating the sector, performs greater functions like looking after environmental protection. The regulations and legislation enacted for the oil and gas industry are made by the federal executive in consonance with legislation like the Clean Air Act (1963), Clean Water Act (1972), National Environmental Policy Act (1970) and other environment-related legislation. 

33 out of the 50 states in the US that produce oil and gas regulate the upstream, midstream, and downstream in their respective jurisdictional lands. The coastline states also regulate from 3 to 9 nautical miles inshore. For federal regulation, the main regulating body is the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA looks into the oil and gas regulations and ensures that the regulations are made in consonance with environmental protection. It sets standards and norms that the state regulators must take as a model law and incorporate these standards in their procedures, regulations, and legislation.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) looks into the exploration and extraction activities onshore. It sets standards and rules for digging lands, leasing of lands, development, etc. There is a National Park Service established to regulate the drilling and production of oil and gas in areas that are covered under National Parks. All of these norms and standards are made in consonance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. The NEPA sets standard assessments for environmental impact assessments to be followed and statements to be submitted. For regulating offshore exploration, the federal government has vested regulatory duties in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Offshore drilling and production are further regulated by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). These regulations and regulators are mainly focused on upstream oil and gas laws. 

The federal laws also protect and regulate midstream oil and gas laws. The Department of Transportation (DOT) through its various regulatory bodies, regulates the filtering, refining, transportation, etc., of natural gas through pipelines. It also sets safety standards for workers and the general public. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates oil pipeline transportation rules. The Federal Railroad Administration department of DOT looks into railroad safety in transportation. 

The government regulates the energy sector and sets restrictive regulations on the use of natural resources, renewable resources, and nonrenewable resources. Out of the 33 oil and gas producing states, 29 have energy portfolios that regulate the amount of energy to be used. The EPA also makes Renewable Fuels Programs to regulate and educate on the efficient use of natural resources.

Apart from regulating the exploration and supply of oil and natural gas, the government has also made efforts to regulate safety and standard working conditions for the workers in the mining, extraction, and other activities in the oil and gas industry. Severe health hazards and deaths were witnessed in oil and gas extraction operations. The major reasons for these hazards and deaths were during the transportation of the finished products due to vehicle accidents. Other than that, fatalities were observed due to exposure to harmful substances, fire explosions, exposure to chemicals, and other factory accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the regulatory body that sets standards and norms for proper working conditions in order to ensure the safety of the workers. The Council for Oil and Gas Extraction of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health prepares a National Occupational Research Agenda and conducts research on standard health and safety norms with the help of experts, academicians, etc.

Ownership and jurisdiction

The ownership of oil and gas in the United States can be with the federal government, the local governments, as well as private individuals and corporations. The ground rule is that ownership of oil and gas in an area belongs to the owner of the land. Unless the land’s ownership is vested in someone else, specified by a decree, the ground rule applies. If it so happens that the ownership of the land is different from the ownership of the mineral estate, the person having ownership of the mineral estate will also have ownership rights over the oil and gas extractions in that estate. The owner of the mineral estate will also have a right to use the land surface to the extent necessary for the extraction of the oil or gas. Under certain circumstances, the federal government or the local governments may also become owners of the mineral estates. The coastal states own oil and gas up to 3 nautical miles and the decision-making rights in this jurisdiction. This is provided for under the Submerged Lands Act (2002). The exception to the 3 nautical mile rule has been applied to the west coast of Florida and Texas, which have ownership rights over oil and gas up to 10 nautical miles from shore. The federal government enjoys ownership rights up to 200 nautical miles from the shore, otherwise known as an Exclusive Economic Zone.

Leasing and licensing rights

Oil and gas can be extracted from an estate after obtaining a lease to do so. Even when the ownership belongs to someone else, another person can obtain a lease to extract and develop oil and gas from a particular estate. For lands that are federally owned, leases are obtained by way of auctions. The BLM conducts auctions for onshore estate leasing, whereas BOEM does it for offshore leasing. Lands that are owned by states are also leased to state agencies. Privately owned lands and estates are leased through personalized negotiations. Leases are entered into in the form of contracts that are valid for a particular period of time. Mining and extracting have to be done accordingly as per the terms of the contract, else the contract would be terminated and the lease would lapse. The individuals or government that lease an estate are entitled to a periodic royalty paid on such extractions. BLM and BOEM are empowered to lease lands by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 and the Mineral Leasing Act of Acquired Lands of 1947. These extractions are subject to federal taxes and customs duties. The taxes are levied as per the Internal Revenue Service and the US Customs Service of the Department of the Treasury manages the customs duties. Further, excise duties are levied by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The rights obtained from BLM and BOEM auction awards are transferable post permission from the respective authorities.


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the authority to regulate the establishment of pipelines, their operations, and usage. It does so while coordinating with the EPA and the DOT’s Office of Pipelines Safety (OPS). Coordinating with the EPA is essential to understanding and following the set standards of environmental protection while constructing and operating pipelines. Additionally, the FERC coordinates and prepares environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the National Historic Preservation Act (1966), and the Magnuson-Stevens Act (1976).

Federal statutes

The oil and gas industry in the United States is managed and regulated by a number of federal statutes. Mentioned below is an insight into all those statutes to understand oil and gas regulations in the United States:

Interstate Commerce Act of 1887

The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 federally regulated the railroads. The transportation of oil and gas through railroads is thus done while adhering to the provisions of these regulations. The Act of 1887 also formulated an Interstate Commerce Commission that monitors and scrutinizes all transportation made using railroads. The legislation brought a uniform regime, as opposed to the post-Civil War period during which the railroads were privately regulated. Carriages and shipments moving through the railroads are now regulated by this Act. The Act also regulates the related roads, bridges, etc., that are connected to the railroads. This Act made a uniform regime for duties and compensation paid and treated all forms of transportation alike. Therefore, a contractor or corporation that indulges in downstream transportation in oil and gas and thereby uses the railroads for such transportation has to pay compensation as per the rules established herein and also abide by other provisions of the Act. 

Mineral Leasing Act of 1920

The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 regulates mineral leasing entirely. The Act provides for the disposition of minerals like coal, phosphate, sodium, potassium, oil and gas in the lands of the United States. Such dispositions are made to US citizens, associations, corporations, or municipalities. The leases and licenses obtained by individuals for mining in a mineral estate are also regulated under the provisions of this Act. Individuals or corporations can acquire leases from the owners of estates, like private individuals, or the government. They get the mining rights in those lands in exchange for a royalty fee paid periodically to the owner. This is regulated by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. It also regulates the manner of leasing, the restrictions on mining, and the procedure to be followed lawfully. It mandates the mining agencies to abide by the standards set by different regulatory bodies of the US government. It prescribes procedures to be followed to exercise rights on leased land, like transferring rights, relinquishing rights, etc. It regulates the taxation regime and other state-imposed duties that are to be paid for undertaking leasing activities. It regulates the formation of contracts of lease and sets standards and essentials that make these contracts lawfully valid. 

Natural Gas Act of 1938

Covered under Chapter 15B of 15 United States Code (Title 15), the Natural Gas Act of 1938 regulates the construction and operation of gas pipelines in the United States. The Act essentially makes the following regulations:

The operation and interstate transportation of natural gas in the US is done in the public interest and monitored by the FERC. The FERC is vested with the responsibility to ensure that every procedure is followed, keeping in mind the public interest. 

The provisions of the Natural Gas Act of 1938 are applicable to interstate transportation of natural gas for public distribution for domestic, commercial, as well as industrial needs. The regulations are also applicable to imports and exports of natural gas. However, the regulations are not applicable to intrastate transportation.

The Act gives importance to public safety and states that transportation made in closed containers and in fuel in a self-propelled vehicle shall be considered natural gas transportation. 

It makes provision for free trade agreements to be entered into while importing gas to the United States. The agreement was entered into with the United States and the country supplying natural gas as parties.

The Act makes a detailed safety regulation by making provisions for inspections, advisory reports, state consultations, emergency response plans, etc. Further, the Act makes provisions to ensure healthy and fair competition in the marketplace. 

Clean Air (Amendment) Act of 1990

The extraction, preparation, and transportation of minerals, oil, and natural gas involve risks to the environment. The chemical compounds, fumes, and other harmful substances that are emitted can potentially harm the environment if not taken care of. Thus, these processes must be done in consonance with the Clean Air Act of 1990. The Clean Air Act aims to control and prevent air pollution in the US. The Act aims at identifying and curbing source-specific pollution. The Act mandates the local governments and their agencies to look after pollution control measures in their particular states. The clean Air Act sets standards and measures to be observed while indulging in activities involving air pollution risks. The local governments regularly monitor the factories and units indulging in these activities and ensure they follow the safety norms and standards. They also scientifically inspect the quality of air in their jurisdictions. The Act makes provisions for the use of alternative fuels to petrol and diesel that emit pollutants in high amounts. The Act encourages the use of natural gas, biogas, methanol, ethanol, etc., as they do not harm the environment. 

Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 regulated the energy sector and made provisions for the efficient use and conservation of petroleum and other products. It directed the plants and factories that run by burning fuels like natural gas and petroleum products to replace them with coal. The Act authorized the Federal Energy Administrator to monitor these power plants. The Act empowered the US President to restrict and limit the export of coal, petroleum, natural gas, etc. The US Congress is required to make quarterly reports under this Act while making such restrictions. The restrictions are made in the national interest. The Act makes provisions for making optimum domestic supplies. The Act established a Strategic Petroleum Reserve Office in the Federal Energy Administration. This was made with the intent to make huge storage and maintain stocks of petroleum for use in the US. A Strategic Reservation Plan was made to further this idea. Such a plan would require an environmental impact assessment, storage facilities, and estimated costs, as well as the consequence of this plan on petroleum prices in the US. The states where facilities are installed are required to make reports to the Federal Energy Administrator, and the Administrator further makes an analysis. Thus, this Act was enacted to ensure the conservation and proper utilization of petroleum and natural gas.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 empowers the EPA to control and implement hazardous waste management. Right from the beginning of extractions, followed by the filtering and refining, and the final stage of transporting, hazardous wastes are generated voluminously. The EPA is entrusted with the duty to control and manage it. However, the Act is not limited to hazardous waste. It also makes provisions for the management of non-hazardous solid wastes. It also deals with underground tanks that store petroleum and other harmful substances, their impact on the environment, and the risks involved. The Act aims to mitigate these risks. The Act aims at waste minimization. It channelizes and makes procedural arrangements for the disposal of waste. It conducts compliance monitoring through inspections and investigations. These activities are conducted by the local governments following the guidance of the EPA and the federal government. The conservation and monitoring programs cover hazardous waste management, management of used oils, universal wastes, mixed wastes, land disposals, waste injections, imports/exports and dumping of wastes, underground storage tanks and solid wastes.

Energy Policy Act of 2005

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 governs the energy sector of the United States. It manages the energy production, supply and distribution, and conservation of energy in the States. It makes provisions for the efficient use of energy. It addresses the proper and mindful utilization of renewable energy. It manages the production and distribution of oil, gas, coal, tribal energies, nuclear energy, ethanol, hydrogen, etc. It addresses the threats of nuclear energy and sets security measures to be followed. It manages hydropower and geothermal power and its sources. It manages the taxation and duties on these energy sources and sectors. Importantly, it makes provisions for technological measures to be taken so that the energy sector does not become a source of climate change. The Act makes provisions for financial aid and assistance in research and development programs that aim at innovating new ways and technologies that do not harm the environment and decrease the by-production of greenhouse gases. 

Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was enacted by the US Congress with the objective of enhancing security in the energy sector of the United States. It aims to increase the production of renewable energy in the US. The Act also aims to improve vehicle fuel economy in the US. The Act aims to increase energy efficiency, and to do so, it directs federal and local agencies to decrease energy intensity by 3% by FY2015. It directed the agencies to make provisions and establish energy managers at facilities and plants. The agencies are further required to make periodic evaluations and implement the necessary measures for efficient energy utilisation in these facilities and plants. The agencies are required to constantly monitor these facilities and ensure that they function within the safe limits and set standards of energy production. The agencies also evaluate the use of water in these facilities and plants and, thereafter, make provisions for water conservation measures. One important measure implemented by the Act is the aim of reducing the use of fossil fuels, and focusing on and promoting sustainable development. The facilities and buildings wanting to establish plants and factories for energy development must have acquired an ENERGY STAR® status from the government. It promotes the replacement of non-renewable sources with renewable sources of energy like solar energy, etc. 

International agreements

Apart from the federal statutes dealing with oil and gas laws in the US, there are certain international treaties, conventions, and recommendations that the US government abides by and reflects in its statutes. Those are:

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a convention of the United Nations that member nations must abide by. The United States, being a member nation, also follows the laws, regulations, and standards set by the UNFCCC. It is the duty of the member states to make their domestic legislation at par with the standard norms and model of the United Nations. Thus, the different legislation made by the United States Congress is also in consonance with UNFCCC rules. The Clean Air Act of 1990, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, etc., are all consistent with UN conventions. The UNFCCC defines climate change as a change in the atmospheric composition of the environment from its natural order due to human activities over a period of time. Many other international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol (1997/2005) and the Paris Agreement (2016) were resultant of the UNFCCC. The primary objective of the UNFCCC is to ensure the prevention of climate change due to human activities and interference. The UNFCCC has set standards and limits beyond what is termed as ‘dangerous human intervention.’ This is assessed with three measuring standards: sustainable development, agricultural productivity, and ecosystem response. It is calculated as being within these standards if:

  • The ecosystem gets enough timeframe to adapt to climate change naturally, 
  • The consequences of climate change do not interfere with or obstruct sustainable development, and 
  • When climate change does not affect the agricultural productivity of states. 

The convention aims at stabilising greenhouse emissions in quantities that do not harm the environment or cause climate change. This must not affect the food productivity of a state or be an obstacle to its sustainable development goals. 

Kyoto Protocol (1997/2005)

The Kyoto Protocol came as a consequence of the UNFCCC. It is an international treaty agreement between countries to achieve stable levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in a way to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate and the ecosystem. It is an agreement between member countries that aims at reducing greenhouse emission targets. The developed countries have been vested with additional responsibilities. The developed countries have contributed to greenhouse emissions for a century and a half due to their industrial activities. Hence, they are entrusted with ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’ During the first phase of the protocol post-enactment, the industrially developed countries were mandated to reduce emissions of 5 harmful gases, namely, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and hexafluoride sulphur by 5% by 2012. During the second phase in 2012, countries were required to reduce emissions by 18% from the period of 2013 to 2020, as compared to the emission levels in 1990. Thus, all the countries, including the United States, have to abide by these standards set under Kyoto Protocol while dealing with their oil and gas and make necessary regulations to guard the same. 

Paris Agreement of 2016

An outcome of the UNFCCC, the Paris Agreement of 2016 is an international treaty affecting climate change. It was ratified by 196 countries in Paris in 2015. The Agreement aims at bringing down the levels of global warming to a good 1.5 degrees celsius. This would be made possible by reducing greenhouse emissions. The Paris Agreement proposes achieving the goals with the help of technology. It aims to reach the targets with 5-year plans by using technology to bring economic and social changes. The countries regularly share their short-term and long-term targets and the ways they are advantaging to achieve them. The countries also help one another to reach targets efficiently. The Paris Agreement makes provisions for helping the countries in need, financially, with technical assistance, and with capacity-building support. Developed countries are encouraged to provide financial assistance to countries in need of financial assistance. The Paris Agreement talks about a technology framework that helps the countries meet the technological means using this mechanism. The developed countries are also encouraged to help the developing countries build capacity to meet their goals. The United States has made its regulations and legislation dealing with gases and energy emissions at par with the standards of the Paris Agreement of 2016.

Regulatory bodies

The federal statutes are guarded by regulatory bodies in the USA. These regulatory bodies ensure that the laws are followed all over the United States and that standards are maintained. They form their own set of regulations and standards to ensure that the oil and gas industries are channelized. These regulatory bodies guarding the oil and gas laws in the United States are:

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as the name suggests, is a federal regulatory body that manages the energy sector in the US. It makes provisions for the construction and operation of pipelines in the lands of the United States. It also regulates the transportation rates for oil in the US. It regulates interstate pipelines, operations for oil and natural gas, as well as imports and exports of oil and natural gas. It abides by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and follows its requirements with regulations governing interstate commerce of oil and natural gas. The safety of these interstate pipelines is maintained by the Department of Transportation. 

US Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management

The US Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management is a department of the US government that makes provisions for land management in the USA. In the context of oil and gas laws, it is an agency that deals with leasing and licensing of mineral estates to individuals for extraction and development of minerals and oil. These lands might be owned by the federal government, extractive corporations, or private individuals. The mission of the agency is to promote cleaner air and a pollution-free atmosphere. It aims at restoring the land and water to nature and helping to balance the natural order in the environment. It also aims at conserving natural resources and non-renewable resources. The agency regulates around 200 million acres of land in the USA. The BLM also conducts auctions for awarding leases to private individuals, which grant them the rights to extract, develop, filter, refine, and transport minerals and oil from those lands. These leases are granted for a period of certain years on federally owned lands. In exchange for the lease, the government enjoys a specific percentage of royalty on the products, periodically. 

US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Just as the US Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management manages the land and mineral estates on the surface of the Earth, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is a federal agency that manages surfaces offshore. It provides leases on the outer continental shelf for energy location, extraction, and development of these minerals and other resources found in the oceans. The coastal states own mining and extraction rights up to 3 nautical miles from the ocean. The federal government owns 200 nautical miles offshore, which is known as the Exclusive Economic Zone. These surfaces can be leased for mining and extraction just like the land surfaces. The BOEM is vested with the responsibility of conducting auctions for granting leases of these areas. It also aims at the sustainable development of these surfaces while keeping the national interest intact. It promotes economic development and maintains national security. The BOEM acts on the advice and aid of a scientific and technologically sound team of professionals. 

US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

The US Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement is popularly known as the sister agency of the BOEM. It works closely with BOEM and ensures safety measures are followed while mining and extracting minerals offshore. It provides safety measures for the workers and the environment and restricts extractions to safe limits so the resources are not exhausted. It imposes federal rules and regulations to ensure safety in offshore mining and extraction. It comes up with management and operational plans to increase the safety and conservation of offshore minerals and protect the environment. They also conduct periodic inspections and investigations to ensure the offshore mining and extracting activities are being undertaken while following the safety standards. 

US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

The US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ensures safety in the transportation of energy and hazardous minerals. To achieve this goal, the agency proposes national plans that the individual states and individual contractors should implement. It creates awareness and education for the people involved in transportation activities. It also sets safety norms and standards that the individual players and related people and agencies must abide by. It makes use of scientific and technological measures to achieve these safety goals. It also finances research and development programs to come up with innovative short-term and long-term solutions and safety standards. It also arranges training programs for different agencies and federal personnel to provide a better understanding of safety values and standards. 

US Environmental Protection Agency

It is safe to call it the most important agency in protecting the environment in the United States. All the departments and agencies discussed in this article work under the guidance and in consonance with the regulations and standards set by the US Environment Protection Agency. With the goal of ensuring environmental protection, EPA envisions the following objectives:

  • Ensure the air, water and land in the United States is free from pollution.
  • Using scientific technology to reduce the levels of environmental pollution. The EPA believes that to achieve this goal, combined efforts of all states and individuals are needed.
  • The EPA is entrusted with regulating and enforcing federal laws for environmental protection in the US. 
  • The EPA is entrusted to help the state and its government achieve its goals of environmental protection and sustainable development. 
  • While formulating its policies for environmental protection, it takes into consideration factors like human health, natural resources, economic growth, energy, transportation, industries, agriculture and international trade. The EPA believes these factors influence the environment and are also essential for a state’s administration. 
  • EPA believes in transparency. It says that for people, communities, businesses, local governments, and the federal government to be able to work efficiently toward environmental protection, they must have sufficient access to the necessary information and factors affecting the environment and EPA policies. 
  • EPA looks into the careful and safe disposal of dangerous substances and chemicals from the lands and waters that have been produced during mining and extracting activities. 
  • EPA prescribes tests for chemicals to ensure safety before they can be released to the marketplace. 
  • EPA makes regulations for states and local players to follow. These regulations are made as per the federal environmental laws.
  • EPA sets acceptable norms and standards of environmental safety, and all local governments must ensure these standards are maintained by businesses and facilities in their states. 

The EPA makes its regulations around these objectives. It also monitors the activities of local and tribal governments, private companies, etc., dealing with hazardous substances. All the companies, individuals, and government departments and agencies that deal with the mining, extraction, processing, and transportation of oil, natural gas, and other minerals, onshore, offshore, and through pipelines, are all closely monitored by the EPA. The EPA has designated different regulatory divisions to fulfil this task and work as per the many environmental legislation passed by the federal government as we read in this article. Additionally, the EPA provides financial grants and assistance to organisations, projects, and studies that aim at conducting research and developing innovative ways of environmental protection. It provides financial aid for spreading awareness and education on the importance of environmental protection and ways of achieving it. The EPA has its own laboratories scattered throughout America to conduct extensive research on existing environmental problems and find ways to solve them. 

EPA shares its findings and analysis with other countries as well, to help them achieve environmental protection goals efficiently. This is a step in the positive direction where environmental safety can be ensured through international collectivism. It furthers the idea envisioned by UNFCCC and other international agreements by increasing cooperation and coordination.

EPA regularly joins partnership hands with various local agencies, NGOs, and businesses to increase efficiency and learn and work on technicalities better. The EPA regularly updates its official website with information and educational articles that create basic awareness among ordinary people. 

US Congress Committees

Legislation, regulations, and laws are enacted and monitored by various standing committees of the US Congress. These committees begin by giving advice, also perform the functions of looking after the passing of bills and monitoring the implementation of laws.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce

Pursuant to the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, the US Congress established a standing committee in 1795 called the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It is one of the oldest standing committees in the US. The primary function of the committee is to manage interstate commerce as well as imports and exports. It takes into consideration factors like the economic growth of the nation, healthcare of its citizens, transportation, energy, and the environment. It ensures environmental protection and formulates nation’s energy policies. These policies regulate the commerce and transport of oil and natural gas in the US. The Committee enjoys jurisdiction over commerce and is responsible for making laws to regulate commerce and safety in the United States. 

House Committee on Natural Resources

The US Congress’s House Committee on Natural Resources aims at conserving and developing the state’s water resources, lands, resources from land, wildlife, air quality, environmental protection, and waste management. It aims to reduce climate change due to harmful substances. It monitors onshore and offshore oil and gas developments. It establishes energy resources for renewable energy like geothermal energy, solar energy, wind energy, and ocean energy. It monitors mining regulations for coal and hardrock mining. It also protects the rights of tribal communities in terms of granting them equal access to natural resources. It conducts inspections and investigations to ensure that state regulations are followed in the energy industry. It ensures that natural resources are managed and utilised effectively. It ensures protecting the oceans from pollution, climate change, and contamination due to harmful waste.

US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

The US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is a committee of the US government that aims to manage and develop energy resources in the US. It is responsible for managing nuclear energy. It also manages petroleum and petroleum products in the US by establishing Strategic Petroleum Reserves and following petroleum reserve plans in different states of the US. It addresses the issues of energy shortages and increasing energy prices in the USA. It also manages the domestic sources of energy. It is also responsible for managing and enforcing the federally made laws governing energy and natural resources. It coordinates with the state governments and agencies to ensure this governance. It works through various subcommittees to achieve the energy goals of the government. The committee conducts its own research and development in established laboratories and comes up with innovative regulations and solutions. Apart from energy and natural resources, it also manages the National Parks in the US, the rivers, trails, and other relevant systems in those National Parks. 


The oil and gas industry is huge and the United States has been a big player in this game. The oil and gas industry significantly affects the United States’ GDP. Thus, it is no surprise that there are a number of regulations, laws, regulatory bodies, agencies, etc., to manage the sector effectively. The USA, being an important member of the United Nations, also makes sure that the country’s laws are in adherence to the UN conventions and international agreements. Even so, the laws have been able to fulfil all their promised obligations. Even though the regulations and agencies seem to place the highest importance on the protection of the environment, the environmental impacts of the USA’s industrial activities have been often questioned. Even the United Nations has been criticised for giving relatively less importance to environmental issues when they are caused by developed nations. Time will tell how far these regulations and laws fulfil their future goals and contribute to making a better, safer, pollution-free world. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the factors affecting oil and gas prices in the US?

The following factors help in determining the prices of oil and gas in the US:

  1. Market forces: demand and supply in a given financial year.
  2. National energy policies.
  3. Tax regime and other duties imposed on oil and gas.
  4. Transportation, distribution and marketing costs.
  5. Processing costs.

Which country has the most oil in the world?

According to the 2016 Statistical Review of World Evergy and US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Venezuela tops the list for having 299,953,000,000 barrels of oil reserves (18.2% of world share) and the United States stands at 11th place with 35,230,000,000 barrels (2.1% of world’s share).

Who regulates the oil and gas laws in the USA?

The US government, through its various legislation and regulations, regulates the oil and gas industry in the country.

What are the factors responsible for gas being affordable in the US, as compared to other counties?

Gas is so affordable in the US for the reason that it has huge reserves and supplies of gas in the country and they regularly engage in exporting gas. The industry makes up huge proportions of the country’s GDP and this availability and sensible use make it more affordable than other states.

Does the US import oil at all?

Yes. Apart from the sources and reserves within the country, the US also imports oil from countries like Russia, Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Columbia. Interestingly, the 2022 Ukraine-Russia war, where the US chose to support Ukraine, has been a reason behind Russia cutting off its oil supplies to the United States.

What is the average petrol price in the US?

Petrol price ranges from $1.19 to $1.37 (average: $1.27) per liter from April-June, 2022.


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