Energy & Environment — Supreme Court to hear Clean Water Act case

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Friday, September 30, 2022

The Supreme Court is set to review water regulations, the Federal Reserve will pilot an analysis of climate risks and California enacts a ban on "forever chemicals" in cosmetics. This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Not on the list? Subscribe here.  High-stakes case for water regulations The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments of a case between Idaho landowners and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a dispute that could redefine the scope of the country’s clean water regulations. The first case of the justices’ new term, landing just ahead of the Clean Water Act’s 50th anniversary, will feature arguments about wetlands and when they can or cannot be regulated by the federal government.Although technical in nature, the legal dispute could have broad implications for the country’s water quality if the 6-3 conservative majority court uses the case to narrow the EPA’s regulatory reach.   “If that's what the Supreme Court should decide, we're basically rolling back the clock 50 years,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who chairs a House panel on water resources and the environment. “That would remove 50 percent of our critical wetlands, and 70 percent of our rivers and streams from federal protection.”  Background: The case began in 2007 when Michael and Chantell Sackett were told they needed a federal permit to build a home on land they owned because it contained wetlands, prompting the Sacketts to sue. A federal court, siding with the U.S. government, ruled that the wetlands on the Sacketts’ property contained a “significant nexus” with other regulated waters, meaning the couple would need authorization to build there.The Sacketts are now urging the Supreme Court to discard the “significant nexus” threshold. Instead, their petition favors a separate test from former Justice Antonin Scalia that called for the waters to have a “continuous surface water connection” — a higher threshold that would apply to fewer wetlands.  The stakes of this case, however, go far beyond one property dispute. It attracted briefs from environmental groups, who argue that it would hamper the government's ability to keep people safe from pollution, as well as industries like farming, mining, construction and oil and gas, which support the deregulatory effort. Read more on what experts say about the case at TheHill.com this weekend. Fed to pilot climate risk program with major banks The Federal Reserve Board will enlist six major U.S. banks in a pilot climate-risk analysis program, officials announced Thursday.   Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo will participate in the pilot as part of the Federal Reserve’s attempt to determine the financial risk associated with natural disasters and climate change.The exercise will have no consequences to capital, and while data from its findings will be published, none of the banks will be identified by name.   The analysis, set to begin in 2023, will be distinct from the “stress tests” the central bank uses to determine whether financial institutions have sufficient capital to loan during major recessions, according to the announcement.   “The climate scenario analysis exercise, on the other hand, is exploratory in nature and does not have capital consequences. By considering a range of possible future climate pathways and associated economic and financial developments, scenario analysis can assist firms and supervisors in understanding how climate-related financial risks may manifest and differ from historical experience,” the Board said in its announcement.   Although international financial institutions are in broad agreement on the need for such analysis, it has caught the ire of congressional Republicans, who have accused the Fed of exceeding its mandate.  Read more about the exercise here. CALIFORNIA BANS 'FOREVER CHEMICALS' IN COSMETICS, CLOTHES California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) late Thursday night signed two bills that will ban cancer-linked “forever chemicals” from cosmetic products and textiles in the state beginning in 2025. The same evening, however, the governor vetoed a third bill that would have created a publicly accessible database of consumer items that contain these toxic compounds.  The first bill signed into law, AB 2771, will prohibit the manufacture, sale and delivery of cosmetic products that contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This legislation builds upon an existing law that had banned select types of PFAS by that same deadline. “Toxic PFAS have no place in our consumer products,” state Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D), who authored the bill, said in a statement. “Californians won’t have to worry that they’re putting their health, or the health of their loved ones, at risk by doing something as routine as applying lotion or wearing makeup,” she added. The second bill, AB 1817, will bar the manufacture, distribution and sale of “any new, not previously owned” textiles that contain PFAS, with a few exceptions. The bill will also require manufacturers to provide a certificate of compliance indicating that their products do not contain PFAS.  “This is a first-in-the nation law to stop the use of these ‘forever chemicals’ in this product category, setting up a national model on the efforts to mitigate PFAS pollution,” Assemblymember Phil Ting (D), who authored the bill, said in a statement.  These new requirements follow up on two other product bans signed into law last October. Those bills, proposed by Friedman and Ting respectively, prohibit the sale and distribution of both food packaging and children’s products that contain PFAS, beginning next year.  Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin. Russia is the prime suspect in pipeline sabotage  Russia is the prime suspect in the apparent sabotage of pipelines transporting natural gas to Europe, which has left foul methane gas spewing into the Baltic Sea.  Experts say damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines is a cynical use of a “gray zone” aggression that leaves few good options for retribution.   “We have war-gamed this for years, we’ve always been a bit afraid that this is something that the Russians could do if they wanted to,” said Jim Townsend, who served as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO during the Obama administration.“I think all of us have got to know that Putin has other cards that he can play besides conventional or nuclear, he’s got something in between — this critical infrastructure that can be a target.”   National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday about protecting critical infrastructure in the wake of the “apparent sabotage” of the pipelines. Explosions on the pipelines, which were not in use, released the trapped gas, first discovered in Danish waters early Monday.    Top European and NATO officials are bluntly assigning sabotage, even as they stop short of directly blaming Putin ahead of an investigation.    “The sabotage of the Nordstream pipelines is of deep concern. NATO is committed to deter and defend against hybrid attacks,” Stoltenberg earlier tweeted. “Any deliberate attack against Allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.”  Read more here, from The Hill’s Laura Kelly.   GRANHOLM, EXXON SPAR OVER FUEL EXPORTS ExxonMobil and the Biden administration are feuding over fuel exports after Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm asked industry to limit its shipments abroad.   This week, Exxon CEO Darren Woods wrote a letter to the administration, apparently disagreeing with its position that limiting exports would help consumers.   “Continuing current Gulf Coast exports is essential to efficiently rebalance markets—particularly with diverted Russian supplies,” said the letter, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Reducing global supply by limiting U.S. exports to build region-specific inventory will only aggravate the global supply shortfall.” ,  Granholm on Friday released a statement criticizing the company’s profits, and saying that it company “misreads” the current situation   “This week’s letter from a company that made nearly $200M in profit every single day last quarter, misreads the moment we are in. The fact is this: Energy companies are making record profits, with refiners and retailers also posting margins that are well above average — while passing the costs on to consumers,” she said.   “This is a time for American energy companies to take action to lower prices for consumers and to rebuild inventories of gasoline and diesel in this country that are below the five-year range,” she added.   Read more about their comments here. WHAT WE'RE READING Hurricane Ian was a powerful storm. Real estate developers made it a catastrophe (Grist) Meet the People Who Want to Stop the Next Hurricane by Hacking the Ocean (The Daily Beast) Even as Oil Prices Ease, U.S. Keeps Tapping Strategic Reserve (The New York Times) FERC policy chief frets about agency’s staff openings (E&E News) The Climate Movement Wanted More Than the IRA. Now What? (The Atlantic)  🌵 Lighter click: Prickly perch That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week.  

The Supreme Court is set to review water regulations, the Federal Reserve will pilot an analysis of climate risks and California enacts a ban on "forever chemicals" in cosmetics. This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Not on...

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Energy & Environment — A closer look at the ‘loss and damage’ fund

COP27’s highly touted “loss and damage” fund still has major uncertainties — including where its money will come from. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is easing some restrictions on ESG investing and Europe is proposing a price cap on natural gas. This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on...

COP27’s highly touted “loss and damage” fund still has major uncertainties — including where its money will come from. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is easing some restrictions on ESG investing and Europe is proposing a price cap on natural gas.   This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Someone forward you this newsletter? Close Thank you for signing up! Subscribe to more newsletters here The latest in politics and policy. Direct to your inbox. Sign up for the Energy and Environment newsletter Uncertainties about fund lead to skepticism A newly agreed “loss and damage” fund in which developed countries would pay for climate damages suffered by vulnerable developing counterparts lacks both details and actual funding, raising questions about whether it’s merely a symbolic breakthrough.  Developing nations responsible for the smallest amounts of climate pollution for years have called for such a fund, which has been resisted by the United States and other wealthy countries.  That changed over the weekend when nearly 200 countries agreed to launch a new fund at the United Nations climate change conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.    The agreement states that the fund will help developing countries respond to “economic and non-economic loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events.”   OK, so what’s still unknown?   The deal provides no money, and no organizational structure, saying such details will be worked out in the coming months. It creates a “transitional committee” made up of representatives from 24 countries who will be tasked with finding funding sources and setting up the fund’s structure and governance.   “A loss and damage fund has been established and that’s important on its own, but it’s an empty vessel,” Morgan Bazilian, a public policy professor at the Colorado School of Mines, told The Hill.    What about the U.S.?  The government divided by the midterms is likely to pose a hurdle for getting U.S. funding. Some Republicans are already expressing opposition. “Insanity. This wasn’t even on my list of the top 1 million things the United States should do with money we don’t have,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a written statement that his office shared with The Hill when asked for his thoughts on the deal.   Yet, reaching this point at all is a first:  “There was just a tremendous breakthrough this time of getting the United States and other traditional blockers to stop blocking,” said Jean Su, the energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.   She acknowledged that there are still “big questions,” including “whether finance will actually get delivered,” but said that ultimately it gave “vulnerable communities around the world a glimmer of real hope.  Read more about the uncertainties here. Biden eases ESG restrictions for financial advisers The Biden administration is making it easier for money managers to consider climate change and other environmental and social factors in retirement investments.   The Labor Department on Tuesday issued a new final rule making it so that these fiduciaries can consider “the economic effects of climate change” in investments that they oversee.  Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Lisa Gomez said in a statement that the rule was issued to end a “chilling effect” created by Trump-era restrictions on considering environmental and social factors in investing.    In 2020, the Trump administration issued a rule that was expected to discourage the consideration of environmental and social factors in this type of investing.  Read more about the new rule here.  WHITE HOUSE UNVEILS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE SCREENER The White House on Tuesday unveiled a tool aimed at screening for environmental justice communities – disadvantaged communities that face high pollution burdens.   White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory said in a statement that the tool would enable the administration to make sure that these communities particularly see benefits from its climate actions.   “The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool identifies communities that have faced historic injustices and have borne the brunt of pollution so we can ensure they’re some of the first to see the benefits of climate action,” she said. EU proposes gas price cap ahead of winter The European Commission on Tuesday proposed a temporary cap on natural gas prices, with the goal of taming energy costs and safeguarding supplies ahead of winter.  The so-called Market Correction Mechanism” would serve “to protect EU businesses and households from episodes of excessively high gas prices in the EU,” while reducing volatility on European gas markets, according to the Commission.  “Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and weaponization of energy supplies, natural gas prices have seen unprecedented price peaks across the EU,” a statement from the Commission said.  At the end of August, Russian state-run energy company Gazprom shut down its main gas pipeline to Europe for what it said would be three days of maintenance, but then never resumed operations.  Natural gas prices reached all-time highs in Europe during the second half of August — a situation that the Commission described as “highly damaging for the European economy, with contagion effects on electricity prices and an increase in overall inflation.”  On Tuesday, Gazprom threatened to cut off its last running gas pipeline to Europe, which runs through Ukraine, next week. The company accused Kyiv of diverting gas supplies intended for Moldova and creating a “transit imbalance.” The Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine denied the accusations, asserting that all volumes of gas destined for Moldovan customers were being transferred “in full.”  With an uncertain winter ahead, the European Commission stressed that it intends “to prevent the repetition” of August’s price surges by proposing a “temporary and well-targeted instrument.”  How does it work? In the case of extreme gas price hikes, the instrument would automatically intervene — setting a safety price ceiling of 275 euros ($282) per megawatt-hour on month-ahead title transfer facility (TTF) derivatives.  Read more here, from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.   WHAT WE'RE READING The U.S. Promised Tribes They Would Always Have Fish, but the Fish They Have Pose Toxic Risks (ProPublica and Oregon Public Broadcasting) Nuclear plant along Lake Michigan will not reopen after federal application denied (MLive) Europe’s Wind Industry Is Stumbling When It’s Needed Most (The New York Times) Bison’s relocation to Native lands revives a spiritual bond (The Associated Press) ICYMI EPA reports drop in significant Clean Water Act violations Biden administration to allocate $550M for community-based clean energy  🦖 Lighter click: Not historically accurate, but we’ll let it slide. That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Offshore Wind Moves Forward on California Coast

Progress continues on the controversial proposal to install a multi-billion dollar wind farm off the California coast. The five project areas will provide future power needs equivalent to the electricity produced by Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which was on schedule to be retired until this past legislative session. On November 21, PG&E received a federal grant of $1.1 billion to keep it operating for another five years.

Progress continues on the controversial proposal to install a multi-billion dollar wind farm off the California coast. The five project areas will provide future power needs equivalent to the electricity produced by Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which was on schedule to be retired until this past legislative session. On November 21, PG&E received a federal grant of $1.1 billion to keep it operating for another five years. California’s deep waters, 3,000 feet, are three times as deep as any floating wind turbines have been launched. Forging into the unknown presents a number of concerns and promises that engineers, officials and citizens are weighing out. Leases to Outer Continental Land, needed to locate as many as 1,300 mega-sized wind turbines, will be auctioned off December 6. The process for building 2-5 GigaWatt offshore wind projects, producing more electricity than Diablo Canyon, gets underway with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s lease sale auction starting at 7 a.m. Pacific. They will warm up with a practice auction the day before. The auction could take two days to reach a conclusion and settle on five winning bidders. The lease sale includes three Morro Bay areas, (80,062 acres, 80,418 acres, 80,418 acres), and two Humboldt areas, (673,338 acres and 69,031 acres) totaling 373,268 acres of the Outer Continental Shelf, 20-30 miles offshore. Forty-three bidders have qualified and ponied up the $5 million bid deposit to participate.‍ Bidding credits‍ Bids will be considered not only on amount of money, but also on how they propose to use the bidding credits. Bidders can qualify for up to 20 percent credit by committing to investing in workforce training and supply chain development. They can also get up to five percent credit for a Lease Area Use Community Benefit Agreement and five percent for a General Community Benefit Agreement. CBAs are intended to mitigate potential impacts on- and offshore to communities, tribal, or other stakeholder groups and may assist fishing and related industries by supporting their resilience and ability to adapt to impacts that may arise from the development of the lease area. A Lease Area Use CBA would be between the lessee and a community or stakeholder group “whose use of the geographic space of the Lease Area, or whose use of resources harvested from that geographic space, is directly impacted by the Lessee’s potential offshore wind development. ”The General CBA would be with communities, tribes, or stakeholder groups that are expected to be affected by the potential impacts on the marine, coastal, and/or human environment from activities resulting from lease development that are not otherwise addressed by the Lease Area Use CBA. Eric Endersby, Morro Bay’s harbor director, sees how those credits can help the waterfront. “We are the closest port to the Morro Bay area, and we are a protected port, so it makes sense for the operations and maintenance boats to be coming and going out of Morro Bay,” he said in an interview. “There would be a lot of fuel sales, a lot of high-dollar, high-skilled jobs. The cable is coming into Morro Bay, through the grid system, so there’ll be that aspect to it. We see a revitalization of our working waterfront.” Other ocean users The leases require consideration of other users, from commercial fishing and Department of Defense national security to vessel speed requirements, use of low-energy geophysical survey equipment and coordinating with the Coastal Commission on plan submissions. Bidders know that BOEM has no authority to issue leases in national marine sanctuaries. The Morro Bay wind areas are adjacent to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the proposed Chumash Heritage NMS. Violet Sage Walker, chair of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, wrote in an op-ed in The Tribune, “The Northern Chumash Tribal Council advocates for marine conservation, equitable mitigation measures and fair community benefits. We believe offshore wind must coexist and cooperate with marine protections, and we see this as a unique opportunity for a collaborative effort, not a combative one.” Frankie Myers, vice chair of the Yurok Tribe in Northern California, said at the Floating Wind USA 2022 conference in San Francisco, that the ocean is the last place his people have to pray. “We can’t go any further west,” he said. “What will our descendants see? Another colonial resource or a collaborative partner?” Lines on a map are abstractions that are irrelevant to fisheries and tribal lands. Full details are in the Final Sale Notice National and state goals The West Coast Floating Offshore Wind projects, with a goal of 4.5 GW of power by 2030, are part of the Biden administration’s goal for Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, a commitment to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 and at least 25 gigawatts of onshore renewable energy by 2025.The state of California has set a target of 2-5 GW of offshore wind power by 2030 and 25 GW by 2045. Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant’s two units combined produce 2.2 GW. Although intended to be retired in 2024 and 2025, in 2022 the legislature extended the plant’s licenses five years. ‍New port terminals needed Ten additional port terminals along California’s coast will be required to support the projects. None of California’s current ports is large enough or strong enough to support the wind turbine staging and fabrication. Terminals may be located in existing ports such as Long Beach and San Francisco, but construction of entirely new ports may be required. ‍Building the turbines Turbines are 1,100 feet tall on a base 425 feet wide. About 1,300 are projected to be installed in the West Coast projects. The size of the turbines presents problems yet unsolved, including moving the assembled turbines from the manufacturing facility into the water. It could take two weeks or longer to tow them out to the site where they will be tethered. The size and complications of constructing the turbines and setting them in place presents risks that are difficult to evaluate and insure. “What keeps me up at night is a project that is uninsurable,” one insurance executive said.‍ Deeper waters, bigger ships Hanson Wood, regional senior vice president for development in the West Region, EDF Renewables, said that although technical lessons have been learned from projects in Asia, there is no precedent for a wind project in California’s depths, around 3,000 feet. The chains tethering the turbines to sea floor anchors could put marine mammals at risk by catching drifting fishing gear and ensnaring them. The area is known as the Blue Serengeti for its migration routes of whales and seals. A ship large enough to transport the turbine parts, in compliance with U.S. Jones Law, is under construction in Texas. The 472-foot-long Charybdis is estimated to cost around $500 million. Humboldt has already received a grant for $10.5 million to renovate its facilities into the Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Marine Terminal, which will be capable of handling large heavy cargo vessels, offshore wind floating platform development and integration and decommissioning, and other maritime activities. Developing the Central Coast wind area could create around 15,000 new jobs, according to a report on the economic impact by REACH Central Coast and Cal Poly. Environmental impacts Environmental impacts such as the loss of wind energy that drives the ocean upwelling which is the central feature of ocean ecology in the area remain to be evaluated in the future. The amount of money involved is staggering, hundreds of billions of dollars, so those credits – 20 percent for workforce and supply chain, and five percent each for offshore and onshore impacts – will represent large amounts of money to communities like Morro Bay and Humboldt. It’s not without significant risk, though. In mid-November, Shell, with partners China General Nuclear Power Group and France’s Caisse des dépôts et consignations (CDC) canceled a demonstration floating wind project offshore France. Shell’s statement cited ”technical, commercial and financial challenges” in the execution of the project as the main reasons for the decision to cancel the EUR 300 million, 28.5 MW Groix & Belle-Île pilot wind farm, Le Parisien reports.“ The economic conditions linked to the project have been significantly modified, calling into question, for all the partners of the consortium, the economic viability of the project,” Shell was quoted as saying in a statement. State regulators Representatives of California’s State Lands Commission and the Coastal Commission attended the San Francisco conference, supporting the projects. Governor Gavin Newsom is committed to floating offshore wind and the regulatory agencies are on board. All projects will be subjected to California's notoriously contentious permitting process, but the pressure is on to get turbines in the water by 2030. With the workforce development required – it will take as long as two years to train welders to the skill level needed – new port terminals to be constructed, and techniques for anchoring the turbines in such deep water refined, sussing out the risks of screwing it up is needed. Yurok Vice Chair Myers said, “The path to messing it up is just so wide. ”While the powers behind the idea and the money are moving forward, those communities that will be most affected are watching from the sidelines. “I’m afraid that it will be just such a bright, shiny object that it will distract us from the changes we need to make,” one conference participant said privately. The question of whether this provides the solution California needs for its future power requirements, or if expenses and technical problems overwhelm it remains to be seen. We will keep you posted.

Energy & Environment — COP27 closes with 'loss and damage' breakthrough

The COP27 conference closes with a long-elusive "loss and damage" deal, pro-sustainability Democrats want narrower permitting reform and Saudi Arabia denies a report that it’s set to increase oil production. This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Sign...

The COP27 conference closes with a long-elusive "loss and damage" deal, pro-sustainability Democrats want narrower permitting reform and Saudi Arabia denies a report that it’s set to increase oil production. This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Sign up in the box below or subscribe here.  Close Thank you for signing up! Subscribe to more newsletters here The latest in politics and policy. Direct to your inbox. Sign up for the Energy and Environment newsletter UN conference ends with climate damage deal  The COP27 global climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, wrapped early Sunday with an agreement to compensate developing countries for the damages they have suffered from climate change.  While developing countries have long pushed for a "loss and damage" fund for suffering they say they have endured from climate change, wealthy countries, including the U.S., had resisted the idea.But that changed this year, and those developing nations got a fund establishing such climate reparations. Still, questions linger over how that fund will actually secure monetary backing. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres heralded the agreement as an “important step towards justice.” “I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period,” Guterres said in a statement. “Clearly this will not be enough, but it is a much-needed political signal to rebuild broken trust.”  What does it do? The decision establishes a fund for responding to the “loss and damage” that these countries have suffered, but some details are not yet resolved.   To address that, a transitional committee that will be made up of 24 countries tasked with finding funding sources and establishing a structure and governance for the fund will be established.The fund would be open to "developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change."The decision comes after a tentative deal was reached in the early hours of Saturday morning.   Background: Although the U.S. has long been at the forefront of opposition to the idea, President Biden's climate envoy John Kerry said earlier this year the U.S. was open to it. Late last week, European Union (EU) delegates issued a proposal that European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans described as the EU’s “final offer.” Timmermans said any agreement would depend on an updated definition of a “developing” country. China, currently the world’s largest single emitter, is considered a developing country under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  But wait, there's more: Nations also adopted a broader agreement, called the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan. Read more about the deal and the original announcement. Sustainability Dems propose narrow permitting effort A group of House Democrats that are part of a sustainability coalition on Monday put forward a narrow proposal on permitting reform amid broader talks on how to reshape the country’s energy approval process.   The new policy brief, released by leaders of the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) narrowly focuses on bolstering the country’s electricity infrastructure and community involvement in energy project assessments.  “This policy brief breaks down some of the key legislative solutions that Congress should take up when considering reforming our laws to build a clean energy future,” the brief’s introduction reads.   The background: The permitting reform negotiations are complex as large swaths of Democrats and Republicans would have to be on board on a set of issues where the two parties remain far apart.   Some of SEEC’s leaders, including co-chair Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and vice chairs Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va.), were part of a large coalition of Democrats who expressed opposition to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform push. The new pitch from the sustainability coalition promotes legislation that the lawmakers say would give the federal government more power to approve some electric transmission lines, bolster grid resiliency and promote the development of community solar and offshore wind. It also called for increases to community involvement by requiring the preparation of reports on whether projects will harm community health and establishing environmental justice liaisons for such projects.   Manchin has been fighting to speed up the approval process for both fossil and renewable energy projects. Backed by Democratic leadership, he recently attempted to pass legislation that included shorter timelines for environmental impact studies and the approval of a pipeline in his home state.  Read more about the brief here.  INTERIOR PROPOSES OIL LEASE SALES IN UT, NV The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Monday announced two proposed oil and gas lease sales for nearly 100,000 acres of land in Nevada and Utah. The land in question includes 63,603.89 acres on 35 parcels in Nevada and 31,808 acres across 18 parcels in Utah, according to a release from BLM. The land in question would be leased under updated provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden’s expansive climate and infrastructure package that became law earlier this year. Under the updated regulations, minimum bids would be set at $10 per acre, a fivefold increase from the previous minimum of $2 per acre. This marks the first increase in the minimum in 35 years. The sales will also reflect updated royalty rates for oil and gas leasing, with minimum rates increasing from 12.5 percent to 16.7 percent. Meanwhile, while rental rates before the act were $1.50 per acre for five years and $2 per year thereafter, the new rates will increase to $3 per acre for the initial two years, $5 an acre for the third through eighth years and $15 in the ninth and tenth years. Read more here. Saudi Arabia denies report on oil production increase Saudi officials on Monday denied the kingdom is backtracking on planned cuts to oil production after The Wall Street Journal reported Riyadh is mulling an increase. “It is well known, and no secret, that OPEC+ does not discuss any decisions ahead of its meetings,” Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Monday through state news agency SPA.“The current cut of 2 million barrels per day by OPEC+ continues until the end of 2023 and if there is a need to take further measures by reducing production to balance supply and demand, we always remain ready to intervene.”  In its initial report Monday, the Journal reported Saudi Arabia and other OPEC member nations are considering stepping up oil production by up to 500,000 barrels a day ahead of the organization’s Dec. 4 meeting.  In October, OPEC+ announced the original 2 million-barrel cut, sparking fears in the West that it could send gas prices spiraling and throw a lifeline to Russia as it faces the loss of energy revenues due to sanctions.  A number of congressional Democrats called for changes to the U.S.-Saudi relationship after the announcement, saying the West has worked with the Saudis despite concerns over human rights abuses with the understanding that the kingdom would act as a strategic ally. Read more about the denial here.  WHAT WE'RE READING No nitrate police: State and local regulators can’t, or won’t, stop Nebraska’s drinking water from getting worse (Flatwater Free Press) U.S. oil giants Exxon Mobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips challenged over ‘secretive’ tax practices (CNBC) Soaring West Virginia Electricity Prices Trigger Standoff Over the State’s Devotion to Coal Power (InsideClimateNews) Gold, guns, gangs: on patrol with the elite unit saving Ivory Coast’s forests (The Guardian) EPA floats sharply increased social cost of carbon (E&E News)  MORE FROM THE HILL Interior Department announces new proposed oil and gas lease sales in Nevada, Utah Speeding up clean energy build-out could lessen the impacts of related emissions: study Hochul activates NY National Guard amid ‘epic snow event’ Environmental ministers warn UN climate summit could roll back progress  ⚡️ Lighter click: Electric pizza That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

Sustainability Democrats propose narrow permitting reform effort on electric grid, community involvement

A group of House Democrats that are part of a sustainability coalition on Monday put forward a narrow proposal on permitting reform amid broader talks on how to reshape the country’s energy approval process.  The new policy brief released by leaders of the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) narrowly focuses on bolstering the...

A group of House Democrats that are part of a sustainability coalition on Monday put forward a narrow proposal on permitting reform amid broader talks on how to reshape the country’s energy approval process.  The new policy brief released by leaders of the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) narrowly focuses on bolstering the country’s electricity infrastructure and community involvement in energy project assessments.  “This policy brief breaks down some of the key legislative solutions that Congress should take up when considering reforming our laws to build a clean energy future,” the brief’s introduction reads.  The permitting reform negotiations are complex as large swaths of Democrats and Republicans would have to be on board on a set of issues where the two parties remain far apart.  Some of SEEC’s leaders, including co-chair Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and vice chairs Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), and Donald McEachin (D-Va.) were part of a large coalition of Democrats who expressed opposition to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform push.  The new pitch from the sustainability coalition promotes legislation that the lawmakers say would give the federal government more power to approve some electric transmission lines, bolster grid resiliency and promote the development of community solar and offshore wind. It also called for increases to community involvement by requiring the preparation of reports on whether projects will harm community health and establishing environmental justice liaisons for such projects.  Manchin has been fighting to speed up the approval process for both fossil and renewable energy projects. Backed by Democratic leadership, he recently attempted to pass legislation that included shorter timelines for environmental impact studies and the approval of a pipeline in his home state.  Manchin’s push was met with pushback from both sides. Democrats, led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), have raised concerns that Manchin’s push could hamper the environmental review process and benefit polluting fossil fuels.  Separately, in a new letter to House leadership on Monday, Grijalva reiterated his request to exclude the package from upcoming must-pass funding legislation for both general government spending and military spending.  Meanwhile, Republicans have argued that Manchin's proposal didn’t go far enough. They have particularly pushed for tighter restrictions on how long agencies can take to study a project’s potential environmental impacts.  Some have also expressed opposition to working with the senator after his support for the Democrats’ climate, tax and healthcare bill. 

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