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Extracted

EXTRACTED: Daily News Clips 9/15/22

Mark Hefflinger, Bold Alliance (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave/Des Moines Register

By Mark Hefflinger

September 15, 2022

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PIPELINE NEWS

  • Associated Press: Safety board issues report on Kentucky pipeline explosion

  • Houston Chronicle: Congress examines claims oil companies harassing climate activists

  • The Detroit News: Nessel plans to appeal Line 5 suit to Sixth Circuit; Enbridge wants to block effort

  • AgWeek: Summit Carbon Solutions touts pipeline easement milestone in Iowa

  • Press release: SUMMIT CARBON SOLUTIONS ACHIEVES MAJOR PROJECT MILESTONE

  • The Courier: State-level office advocating for consumer on proposed Iowa pipeline

  • Journal Courier: Morgan Democrats discuss Lange campaign, pipeline concerns at new year’s first meeting

  • Law360: 10th Circ. Upholds Unsigned Settlement In Pipeline Injury Row

  • Salisbury Daily Times: Natural gas pipeline licensed to run under Pocomoke River

  • Denver Business Journal: Colorado company buys $205M of gas pipeline assets in Appalachia

  • Southwest Times: Pulaski climate activists fight pipeline in DC

  • NOLA.com: Louisiana coastal worker fined after rupturing oil pipeline at BP spill restoration site

WASHINGTON UPDATES

  • The Hill: Pelosi confirms Manchin deal while downplaying clash with liberals

  • E&E News: House Dem leaders scramble permitting reform effort

  • Washington Times: Democrat double-cross: House leaders poised to toss aside Manchin pipeline deal

  • Press release: King on Senate Floor: Permitting Reform Needed to Reach Clean Energy Future

  • Reuters: U.S. House Democrats probe PR firms’ work for oil, gas companies

STATE UPDATES

EXTRACTION

  • New York Times: Oil Executives Privately Contradicted Public Statements on Climate, Files Show

  • Carbon Mapper: Study finds super-emitters responsible for nearly 40% of methane emissions in five U.S. basins

  • Reuters: Explainer: Why western Canada has some of the cheapest natural gas in the world

CLIMATE FINANCE

  • Guardian: Private equity still investing billions in dirty energy despite pledge to clean up

OPINION

  • The Hill: Is Biden putting obstacles in the way of implementing his agenda?

  • NY Daily News: Joe Manchin’s right: We need permitting reform

PIPELINE NEWS

Associated Press: Safety board issues report on Kentucky pipeline explosion
9/14/22

“A 2019 pipeline explosion that resulted in one death and the destruction of five homes in Kentucky happened when the pipeline ruptured and released natural gas caught fire, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday,” the Associated Press reports. “Fourteen other homes were damaged as the fire burned about 30 acres (12 hectares) in Lincoln County, the NTSB said. The 30-inch pipeline, owned and operated by Enbridge Inc., had a preexisting manufacturing defect known as a hard spot, the agency said. That combined with a degraded pipeline coating and ineffective cathodic protection led to cracking induced by hydrogen at the outer surface, the NTSB said. Cathodic protection prevents corrosion where the coating has been damaged, according to the agency. The NTSB said Enbridge’s integrity management program did not accurately assess the pipeline condition or estimate risk, contributing to the accident… “The NTSB issued safety recommendations to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Enbridge Inc. The safety recommendations address topics including incomplete evaluation of risks, incomplete assessment of threats and missed training opportunities.”

Houston Chronicle: Congress examines claims oil companies harassing climate activists
James Osborne, 9/14/22

“Over the last five years pipeline giant Energy Transfer has filed dozens of lawsuits and subpoenas against people and groups that participated in and supported protests against their Dakota Access pipeline in 2016,” the Houston Chronicle reports. “The Dallas-based company claimed the protests, which resulted in a months long delay of the project, were part of a conspiracy to defame Energy Transfer, claiming billions of dollars in damages — a claim dismissed by a federal judge in 2019. Now, Congress is examining whether lawsuits by Energy Transfer and other companies in the oil industry are part of a strategy to harass activists into giving up their fight against greenhouse gas emissions. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, called the effect of the legal actions “chilling” at hearing Wednesday. “Wealthy and powerful corporate entities are dragging citizens and public interest opponents through meritless but protracted and extremely costly litigation to expose anyone who dares stand up to them to personal and financial ruin,” he said… “A report this week by the activist group EarthRights International found more than 150 individuals and organizations were targeted by lawsuits and subpoenas by oil companies over the past decade. Those legal actions include Exxon’s efforts to prove activists and state officials in New York and Massachusetts were conspiring against them through climate change litigation and TransCanada’s lawsuits against protestors over its failed Keystone XL pipeline… “But many are little known persons and non-profits. And for activists caught up in the litigation, the costs can be considerable. Legal cases can stretch out for years and demands for documents and correspondence can cripple smaller groups with limited budgets, Kirk Herbertson, a senior policy advisor at the activist group EarthRights International, told the Chronicle… “At Wednesday’s hearing, Anne White Hat, of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, described being arrested for trespassing in Louisiana despite having obtained permission from a landowner to protest the construction of a pipeline… “At Wednesday’s hearing, Raskin said he wanted to establish federal protections for activists, following measures known as anti-SLAPP laws (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation),adopted in more than 30 states.

The Detroit News: Nessel plans to appeal Line 5 suit to Sixth Circuit; Enbridge wants to block effort
Beth LeBlanc, 9/14/22

“Attorney General Dana Nessel plans to appeal a loss in her battle with Enbridge Energy over the fate of Line 5, but the Canadian oil giant has moved to block the state’s path to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,” The Detroit News reports. “…The appeal comes after Neff blocked Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in separate suits from removing their cases to state court, where the laws are more favorable to the state’s authority over the pipeline and its revocation of a 1953 easement Michigan granted Enbridge in the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge responded to Nessel’s filing Tuesday, asking the court to reject it because it was an effort to revive an argument that’s already been exhausted and because it could delay the case more than a year… “Neff on Aug. 18 rejected a second attempt by the state to remove its case challenging the operation of Line 5 to state court. About a year ago, the judge also rejected an attempt by Whitmer to remove a separate suit seeking Line 5’s closure to state-level courts. Whitmer dismissed the case soon after Neff’s decision. The state’s arguments about its authority over the pipeline largely would be better received in state court; while Enbridge’s argument that federal regulators are the sole authority over the pipeline stands a better chance in federal court. In ordering the case to remain in federal court in November, Neff reasoned it was better suited for a federal courtroom because it concerned federal regulators, federal pipeline law and implicated a treaty between the U.S. and Canada. In rejecting Nessel’s arguments, Neff compared the state’s efforts at removal to “procedural fencing and forum manipulation.”

AgWeek: Summit Carbon Solutions touts pipeline easement milestone in Iowa
Jeff Beach, 9/14/22

“Summit Carbon Solutions says it has reached a major milestone as it pushes ahead on its carbon capture pipeline project,” AgWeek reports. “The Iowa-based company says it has worked with 800 Iowa landowners to sign 1,400 easement agreements totaling nearly 350 miles. The company says it has agreements for more than half of the proposed route in the state… “Securing easement agreements for more than 50% of the proposed route in Iowa clearly demonstrates the momentum behind our project and the growing recognition that carbon capture, transportation and storage projects will enhance our economy, improve environmental outcomes, and generate new sources of revenue for local communities, ”Summit Carbon Solutions CEO Lee Blank said in a news release… “Jessica Mazour of the Sierra Club in Iowa has been helping organize landowner resistance. “Summit can tout whatever false appearance of support that they want, but they’ve shown us time and time again that we cannot believe anything they say,” Mazour told AgWeek. “The truth is that 80% of the counties on the Summit route have objected to the pipeline project and over 95% of the filings in the Iowa Utilities Board docket are objections. Until they are done filing their eminent domain list, we should not believe any of their uncited propaganda.” Some landowners even refusing to even let survey crews from the pipeline company onto their land. Court records in North Dakota indicate SCS Carbon Transport has sued 23 property owners in North Dakota. Some county governments also have taken action in opposition to the pipeline and the potential use of eminent domain to secure easements, including changing permit requirements in Emmons County, North Dakota… “Summit Carbon Solutions says it has signed easement agreements with more landowners over the past four weeks than any other comparable timeframe since the project was announced in 2021. It lists O’Brien, Pottawattamie, Floyd, Crawford, Chickasaw, Greene, and Boone counties where more than 70% of the proposed route has been secured. Summit says it has distributed more than $80 million in easement payments to Iowa landowners.”

Press release: SUMMIT CARBON SOLUTIONS ACHIEVES MAJOR PROJECT MILESTONE
9/14/22

“Summit Carbon Solutions has reached a major milestone as it continues to advance its transformative carbon capture, transportation, and storage project. By partnering with 800 Iowa landowners to sign 1,400 easement agreements totaling nearly 350 miles, the company has now secured agreements for more than half of the proposed route in the state and remains on track to begin construction in the third quarter of 2023… “In addition to driving growth in the ethanol and agricultural industries, Summit Carbon Solutions will support local economies across Iowa by investing an average of $31 million in each of the 29 Iowa counties where the project is located during construction, which are dollars that will flow back to hotels, restaurants, hardware stores and other local businesses to generate economic growth. After construction, according to a study by global accounting leader Ernst & Young, Summit Carbon Solutions will pay an average of $1.2 million in new property taxes annually to every Iowa county where the project is located, helping communities support critical local priorities such as schools, road construction, public safety, and more.”

The Courier: State-level office advocating for consumer on proposed Iowa pipeline
Andy Milone, 9/15/22

“The Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate was given little floor time during informational meetings on Navigator’s proposed carbon pipeline passing through several Iowa counties,” The Courier reports. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t play a significant role on behalf of the public. It may be successful in gathering information, which often was requested by residents at these meetings, and making it public. While it’s still somewhat early to see exactly the role it might play in the Navigator project passing through Bremer and Buchanan counties, the office has put in notable work related to the one proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions, one of three proposed pipeline projects in the state of Iowa… “We’ll be very closely scrutinizing any request for eminent domain, and we suspect we’ll see that with Summit and Navigator,” Jon Crotty, an attorney with the OCA, told the Courier. He noted that it’s “relatively rare” for a non-public utility to seek the option. Additionally, he told the Courier the safety of the pipeline, as well as the purported environmental benefits will be put under a microscope… “The OCA already has recommended that the Iowa Utilities Board, which will have the final say on the application, order Summit to provide additional information about its application like plume modeling for a rupture and how far any chemicals would travel, as well as its plans for emergency response.”  

Journal Courier: Morgan Democrats discuss Lange campaign, pipeline concerns at new year’s first meeting
Ben Singson, 9/15/22

“A congressional candidate and two environmental activists were among those Tuesday at the first meeting of Morgan County Democrats’ new year,” the Journal Courier reports. “…Also present at the meeting were Nick Dodson and Francesca Butler of the Coalition to Stop CO2 Pipelines. The two distributed information about the proposed Heartland Greenway pipeline, with Dodson speaking briefly about the group’s safety concerns. He focused on the 175 Morgan County homes he said would be in close proximity to the pipeline’s path and all of the homes in northern Bethel and Chapin…”

Law360: 10th Circ. Upholds Unsigned Settlement In Pipeline Injury Row
Daniel Ducassi, 9/14/22

“A Wyoming utility contractor can’t escape an unsigned settlement deal to defend and hold faultless an energy company for injuries two of the contractor’s workers sustained while working on a pipeline, a panel of judges for the Tenth Circuit decided Wednesday, concluding that the settlement didn’t need to be executed to be enforced,” Law360 reports. 

Salisbury Daily Times: Natural gas pipeline licensed to run under Pocomoke River
Kristian Jaime, 9/14/22

“Horizontal drilling for a natural gas pipeline under the Pocomoke River is one step closer to being a reality after the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a license Wednesday,” the Salisbury Daily Times reports. “The license was granted to Chesapeake Utilities for a project involving installation of a natural gas steel pipeline by horizontally drilling under the river with an annual compensation assessment of $630 to be deposited into the Maryland Department of Environment Wetlands and Waterways Program Fund. Among potential customers for the pipeline, according to the license, is Sysco, the wholesale restaurant food distributor. In 2009, the company began exploring the use of natural gas as a fuel source for its fleet of trucks… “Among the special conditions attached to the license are: a restriction on the time of year when construction can begin, U.S. Coast Guard approval, geotechnical data submitted prior to the start of any work, independent environmental monitoring, a locally approved Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, and plans to restore disturbed tidal wetlands. Finally the project also has to provide monetary compensation for tidal wetlands impacts and for monitoring pipeline leaks. There will also be restrictions on discharging runoff, sediment or other suspended materials into Maryland waters… “In January 2021, the Del-Mar Energy Pathway pipeline from Chesapeake Utilities Corp. was approved to add a nearly 10-inch-diameter gas pipeline from Delaware, through Wicomico County and into Somerset County. This would extend natural gas service to Eastern Correctional Institution and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.”

Denver Business Journal: Colorado company buys $205M of gas pipeline assets in Appalachia
Greg Avery, 9/14/22

“The affiliate of a natural gas giant saw a chance to avoid millions in future infrastructure investment with a cash acquisition in West Virginia,” the Denver Business Journal reports. “Antero Midstream, a Denver-based natural gas pipeline and gathering system company, is spending $205 million buying pipelines and infrastructure where it sees potential growth in West Virginia’s Marcellus shale region… “The acquisition adds 72 miles of dry natural gas gathering pipelines and nine compressor stations that have a collective 700 million cubic feet of compression capacity. That increases the company’s gathering pipelines by 15% and its compression capacity by 20%, the company said.”

Southwest Times: Pulaski climate activists fight pipeline in DC
PATRICK FORD, 9/14/22

“Lief Hurt and their (preferred pronoun) husband, Matt, visited Virginia lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last week to advocate for climate justice in Appalachia and the New River Valley,” the Southwest Times reports. “I went to help out and to join the Appalachians Coming to DC Rally,” Lief told the Times. “It started with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), which was the main focus. Along the way, it became a climate justice-focused rally.” Residents of Elliston, Blacksburg and other parts of the New River Valley (NRV) joined the couple… “The meeting with the staff of Senators [Tim] Kaine (D-Va.) and [Mark] Warner (D-Va.) was a shared meeting just because they work together so often,” the Hurts told the Times. “We brought up the MVP and the burn pits because that’s all in the same area here. We wanted to put pressure on them, saying these are things affecting our lives, our water and our childrens’ future.” Warner told the Times he plans to review the proposal once the legislation is available. “Any prospective interstate natural gas pipeline project – including the Mountain Valley Pipeline – must abide by applicable federal and state laws and regulations and be safe for communities and the environment,” Warner told the Times. “I will be reviewing the proposal as a whole once the full legislative text is available and monitoring further developments as they occur.”

NOLA.com: Louisiana coastal worker fined after rupturing oil pipeline at BP spill restoration site
TRISTAN BAURICK, 9/14/22

“A heavy equipment operator from Harvey was sentenced by a federal judge to two years probation and fined $2,500 for rupturing an oil pipeline while working to restore a Louisiana island harmed by a much larger oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” NOLA.com reports. “James Tassin, 52, plead guilty last year to misdemeanor charges in exchange for cooperation in a larger case against Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, the Houston-based company that the government hired to restore Chenier Ronquille, a sandy, uninhabited island east of Grand Isle… “On Sept. 5, 2016, Tassin was a subcontractor operating an excavator marsh buggy for Great Lakes when it struck an underground pipeline jointly owned by Harvest Pipeline Co. and Arrowhead Gulf Coast Pipeline, releasing an estimated 5,250 gallons of oil into Bay Long on the south edge of Barataria Bay. According to court documents, Tassin reported the spill to supervisors but they directed him to cover up evidence that he had been deepening an unauthorized access channel. Tassin was also instructed to keep quiet about the incident, his lawyer said. The U.S. Coast Guard said at the time that more than 20 boats, eight skimmers and 10,000 feet of boom were deployed to contain the spill. At least 200 birds were oiled before a large share of the oil was recovered, Coast Guard officials said. In a separate case, Great Lakes plead guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay a fine of $1 million. Great Lakes also agreed to civil payments of almost $3.2 million to the pipeline companies. Tassin’s employer, Shallow Water Equipment Co., of Morgan City, also agreed in the same civil case to pay almost $1.7 million, for a total payment to the pipeline companies of more than $4.8 million.” 

WASHINGTON UPDATES

The Hill: Pelosi confirms Manchin deal while downplaying clash with liberals
RACHEL FRAZIN AND MIKE LILLIS, 9/14/22

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled Wednesday that she could back a side deal between Democratic leaders and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) if it is included in a Senate bill funding the government, setting up a potential clash with liberals in the debate over climate change,” The Hill reports. “If the Senate passes a CR, we have to keep government open,” Pelosi told The Hill, referring to a continuing resolution — a stopgap funding measure to prevent a shutdown. Pelosi may not have to deal with such a situation.  Democrats need 10 Republican senators to back a CR to get it through the Senate, and Republicans have raised complaints about the permitting reform issue at the center of Manchin’s deal with President Biden, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).  It’s entirely possible the Senate ends up sending a “clean” resolution to the House despite the promise to Manchin… “But Pelosi noted Wednesday that the legislative vehicle was never specified.   “We had agreed to bring up a vote, yes,” she told The Hill, adding that “we never agreed on how” that vote would go down. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stirred some confusion on Wednesday when he declared in no uncertain terms that no House Democrats, Pelosi included, have endorsed the deal. “The Speaker has said she was not part of that agreement. I was not part of that agreement. Our committees were not part of that agreement,” Hoyer said during a press briefing. “I’m not critical of the agreement. I have questions about it, concerns about it. But having said that, this is not our agreement.” “…As the House awaits word from the Senate, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the lower chamber’s top appropriator, told The Hill Wednesday that she opposes the idea of expediting energy projects. But she also suggested Democrats might have to swallow some version of permitting reform for the sake of preventing a shutdown. “I’m not supportive of that piece,” she told The Hill. “But also, there’s the issue of where we go in terms of keeping the government open.”

E&E News: House Dem leaders scramble permitting reform effort
George Cahlink, Jeremy Dillon, 9/15/22

“House Democratic leaders threw the permitting reform effort into doubt on Wednesday, saying the overhaul did not necessarily need to be attached to a stopgap government funding bill,” E&E News reports. “That declaration flies in the face of repeated pledges from Senate Democrats, who have said that a deal between Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would tie together permitting and the stopgap funding bill, otherwise known as a continuing resolution. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters, “We have agreed to bring up a vote, yes. We never agreed on how it would be brought up, whether it be on the CR, or independently or part of something else. So, we’ll just wait and see what the Senate does.” In recent weeks, dozens of House Democrats have pressured leaders, saying they would resist voting for a funding bill that includes permitting language. House Republicans could scramble the effort as well — a top GOP chair told E&E that her party might be willing to vote for the bill if it went far enough on reforms. The must-pass CR likely would be the best chance for passage before the midterm elections and what’s likely to be an unpredictable lame duck session. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told E&E House Democrats have agreed to “nothing” regarding the permitting bill, including how it moves. He suggested he favored the House approving a CR this week, a move that would preclude the permitting legislation that is still being negotiated in the Senate. For their part, the chief Senate negotiators on the legislation told E&E the public release of the bill language could come as soon as the end of the week. The Senate plans to act first on the CR, likely next week… “Groups have different views with respect to what is acceptable and what is not, so we’re just trying to weave our way through this and come up with common sense compromises that not only enable us to move forward in these projects, but also do so in a way that is not harmful to our air, to our water and so forth,” Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.)  told reporters.

Washington Times: Democrat double-cross: House leaders poised to toss aside Manchin pipeline deal
Ramsey Touchberry, 9/14/22

“House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer now says there is no agreement to tie energy permitting reforms to a must-pass government funding bill,” the Washington Times reports. “That all but nixed chances that Senate Democrats will be able to honor a deal they struck with Sen. Joe Manchin III in exchange for his recent vote on a climate and tax bill. “You’re asking what we’ve agreed to on our side of the Capitol in the House. The answer to that is nothing,” Mr. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday in his Washington office. “The speaker has said she was not part of that agreement. I was not part of the agreement. Our committees were not part of the agreement.” Nearly 80 Democrats have signed a letter threatening to vote down a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open if it includes a measure by Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, that would streamline energy projects, among them the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in West Virginia. Democrats say the permitting reforms, aimed at speeding up both renewable and fossil fuel projects, will undermine climate change efforts. House Republicans are unlikely to rescue the government funding bill — known as a continuing resolution or CR in Washington-speak — if Democrats vote en masse against it. Republican lawmakers believe the Manchin permit language does not go far enough to speed up fossil fuel projects. They also are unwilling to help Mr. Manchin, who angered them by providing the crucial vote to pass President Biden’s climate and tax bill. Republicans have unveiled a rival energy permitting proposal, a topic they say Congress should only debate after they fund the government. House Democratic leadership now appears likely to cut Mr. Manchin’s permit language out of the legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. It’s unclear whether Senate Democrats would even be able to muster enough votes with the language to clear a 60-vote threshold. “It’s simply a fact that this was not our agreement,” Mr. Hoyer said. “We want to get a CR passed. We don’t want to shut down the government. You can compute those two.”

Press release: King on Senate Floor: Permitting Reform Needed to Reach Clean Energy Future
9/13/22

“U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today delivered a forceful speech on the Senate Floor explaining the need for pragmatic, realistic, and rapid permitting reform to reach America’s clean energy goals – calling on energy and environmental organizations to break free of entrenched stances. In his comprehensive address, where he detailed his decades of experience in renewable energy and conservation, he cited the words of Abraham Lincoln in seeking to reset the tone in DC, “we must disenthrall ourselves … and we will save the planet.” “…When I talk here and work with my colleagues here about permitting reform, I’m talking, we’re talking, about the process, not the standards. We’re not talking about lowering the standards, saying you can emit more or you don’t have to meet clean water standards… “The estimates are that to permit a mine in this country takes about ten years, about ten years. Mr. President, we don’t have ten years to spend on a permitting process if we’re going to solve this problem in time to save the country and the planet. We’ve got to figure out how to do this in a more timely way. How are we going to do it?.. “One is one-stop shopping. You shouldn’t have to go to five agencies. Go to one agency in charge of the permitting process and let them lead it. Don’t make the applicant go to five, six, seven different agencies. Secondly, deadlines, real deadlines, deadlines that mean something. So that the agencies, if it says 180 days, they’ve got to have a decision in 180 days. Eisenhower retook Europe in 11 months. There’s no reason that we can’t get decisions out of some of these agencies in less than a year. So deadlines and reasonable time frames, I think, is part of this process. Accelerated appeal process, where an appeal from an environmental decision on a renewable energy project or related to a renewable energy future can go to the courts, get a fair hearing, but in a timely basis, not go through a long process that takes, again, years. Another suggestion I have, this goes back to my experience of working on renewable energy projects, there should be credit given for the nature of the project you’re doing. In other words, if you’re doing a project that is going to contribute to the solution of the problem of global climate change, you shouldn’t be treated as a strip mall. Some weight should be given to the import and the value, the environmental value of the project vis-à-vis the incidental environmental cost and I could be criticized for using the word incidental but the small costs that may be involved in getting there.” 

Reuters: U.S. House Democrats probe PR firms’ work for oil, gas companies
Valerie Volcovici, 9/14/22

“Public relations firms go beyond their traditional task of marketing to help their oil and gas clients fight off climate policies and mislead the public about climate change, U.S. congressional Democrats said at a hearing on Wednesday,” Reuters reports. “The House Natural Resource Committee’s oversight panel, led by U.S. Representative Katie Porter of California, held a hearing about the role of public relations firm in preventing climate action and released a report detailing “deceptive” and “misleading” tactics they use for their client campaigns. The report, which was based on its review of documents like submissions for industry awards, said PR firms helped oil companies fend off climate policies and mislead the public about their green claims by “engineering astroturf ‘citizen’ groups to advocate for industry interests and defeat legislative proposals, and using unscrupulous tactics to sabotage genuine policy solutions and attack community advocates.” PR firms declined to attend the hearing about whether they helped the fossil fuel industry spread disinformation about climate change, according to the House of Representatives panel holding the event. “Of note, PR firms Singer Associates, Story Partners, and Pac/West Communications were invited but refused to attend,” Committee spokesperson Lindsay Gressard told Reuters… “Anne Lee Foster, another witness on the panel who led a ballot initiative campaign in Colorado to ban fracking, told the committee about how local oil companies used a PR firm to create local citizens groups to counter fracking opponents and prevent them from get support for their petition. “I personally suffered from what I feel is stalking or harassment in a number of other circumstances throughout this campaign,” she said.”

STATE UPDATES

Oregon Capital Chronicle: Oregon, Washington hope to make Northwest the U.S. leader of ‘green hydrogen’ energy
ALEX BAUMHARDT, 9/13/22

“Oregon and Washington have teamed up to go after billions of federal dollars to make the Northwest a hub of green hydrogen energy,” the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports. “…The region currently produces some hydrogen, but almost none of it is considered “green.” Much of it is a byproduct of the natural gas industry rather than being produced from water, which makes it green… “Getting to 80, 90% decarbonization of the grid is feasible,” she said. “If you want to get that last 10 or 15 or 20%, you need options that include hydrogen.” Under Benner’s leadership, Oregon joined a public and private partnership this summer called the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Association. It includes the director of Washington’s Department of Commerce, the chief operating officer of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Amazon’s leading global hydrogen strategist, a government affairs official at oil company BP America, three labor unions and the Sierra Club, among others. Together, they are working on a plan they’ll pitch to the U.S. Department of Energy outlining a strategy to make the region a hub of green hydrogen production, distribution and consumption. In doing so, the group hopes to collect a portion of $8 billion from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aimed specifically at boosting hydrogen production nationwide. The department expects to select at least four “hydrogen hubs” later this year for funding during the next four years.  While environmentalists, scientists and big energy companies agree that hydrogen will play a role in getting global economies as close to zero emissions as possible as fast as possible, they disagree on the extent of that role. Environmentalists are also concerned that not all the hydrogen that will be produced in the region will be green, and that it will prolong the lifespan of the natural gas industry, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.”

EXTRACTION

New York Times: Oil Executives Privately Contradicted Public Statements on Climate, Files Show
Hiroko Tabuchi, 9/14/22

“Documents obtained by congressional investigators show that oil industry executives privately downplayed their companies’ own public messages about efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and weakened industry-wide commitments to push for climate policies,” the New York Times reports. “Internal Exxon documents show that the oil giant pressed an industry group, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, to remove language from a 2019 policy statement that “could create a potential commitment to advocate on the Paris Agreement goals.” The Paris Agreement is the landmark 2015 pact among nations of the world to avert catastrophic global warming. The statement’s final version didn’t mention Paris. At Royal Dutch Shell, an October 2020 email sent by an employee, discussing talking points for Shell’s president for the United States, said that the company’s announcement of a pathway to “net zero” emissions — the point at which the world would no longer be pumping planet-warming gases into the atmosphere — “has nothing to do with our business plans.” These and other documents, reviewed by The New York Times, come from a cache of hundreds of thousands of pages of corporate emails, memos and other files obtained under subpoena as part of an examination by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform into the fossil fuel industry’s efforts over the decades to mislead the public about its role in climate change, dismissing evidence that the burning of fossil fuels was driving an increase in global temperatures even as their own scientists warned of a clear link. On Thursday, the House committee is expected to discuss some of its early findings. “It’s well established that these companies actively misled the American public for decades about the risks of climate change,” Representative Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California who spearheaded the investigation with Carolyn B. Maloney, the New York Democrat who leads the House committee, told the Times. “The problem is that they continue to mislead.”

Carbon Mapper: Study finds super-emitters responsible for nearly 40% of methane emissions in five U.S. basins
9/13/22

“A study released today by Carbon Mapper, University of Arizona, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Arizona State University, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) shows that strong methane point sources contribute an average of 40% of total emissions across multiple basins in the U.S., revealing that a small number of emitters account for a disproportionately high fraction of emissions. The ability to quantify the regional impact of super-emitters (point sources that emit greater than 22 pounds or 10 kilograms of methane per hour)—and precisely determine their causes can improve the accuracy of emissions accounting and inform strategies for timely methane emissions mitigation. Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research is a key milestone in bridging the gap between research and operations of a global tiered observing system for methane. A tiered system involves the coordinated application of multiple technologies to observe and analyze methane emissions across a range of scales. The team mapped five regions from 2019-2021 including the southern San Joaquin Valley in California, Uinta basin in Utah, Denver-Julesburg basin in Colorado, the Permian basin in Texas and New Mexico, and key sections of the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania. Researchers used a tiered observing system to quantify the net regional emissions, as well as the contributions from over 3,000 individual high emission point sources… “They discovered that across all basins and time periods, super-emitters make up on average 40% of each basin’s total observed methane emissions. This occurs in both oil and gas dominant basins such as the Permian, but also in basins where other emissions sectors play an equivalent or larger role. “These findings drive home the need for swift action to advance strong methane rules in the U.S., which should tackle pollution from practices like routine flaring—a common source of super-emitters from oil and gas facilities” said David Lyon, Sr. Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund, and study co-author. “This study shows that states that have established leading methane rules like Colorado and California appear to have a lower frequency of super-emitters, underlining the importance of strong nationwide rules from EPA.”

Reuters: Explainer: Why western Canada has some of the cheapest natural gas in the world
Nia Williams, 9/14/22

“Despite soaring global demand for natural gas, Canadian producers are struggling with volatile prices and deep discounts at Alberta’s AECO hub, one of the largest storage facilities in North America and where the benchmark price for Canadian gas is set,” Reuters reports. “…Canadian producers have been struggling with volatile pricing for years because of tight capacity on pipelines shipping gas from Alberta and British Columbia to North American markets. The problem tends to worsen every summer when pipeline maintenance work reduces capacity. The main system gathering and transporting gas out of western Canada is TC Energy’s (TRP.TO) Nova Gas Transmission Line (NGTL), which delivered 12.5 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d) in 2021, accounting for around 75% of Canada’s overall production. Rising production, NGTL maintenance and some gas processing facilities’ outages this summer left gas molecules bottlenecked in Alberta, driving down the spot price for interruptible pipeline service… “Since late August, the price has recovered to trade at $3.50 per million British thermal units. But the discount to U.S. benchmark Henry Hub prices, which analysts told Reuters should be around $1 to reflect the transportation cost, is still more than $5… “TC Energy attributed the deep AECO discount to abundant western Canadian supply and limited pipeline space, and said the solution is to build extra capacity for firm service contracts. TC is working to add 1.3 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d) of capacity in 2022 and another 2.2 bcf/d between 2023 and 2026, but has been delayed by weather, labour shortages, increasing environmental requirements and regulatory and government delays, a spokesperson told Reuters.”

CLIMATE FINANCE

Guardian: Private equity still investing billions in dirty energy despite pledge to clean up
Nina Lakhani, 9/14/22

“Private equity firms pumping billions of dollars into dirty energy projects are exposing investors, including pensioners, to unknown financial risks as the planet burns and governments face escalating pressure to act, new research finds,” the Guardian reports. “The first-of-its-kind climate risks scorecard ranks Carlyle, Warburg Pincus and KKR as the worst offenders among eight major private equity companies with significant fossil fuel portfolios. All three continue investing heavily in greenhouse-gas-emitting projects with no adequate plan on transitioning away from oil and gas, according to the analysis by two financial watchdog non-profits of publicly available information. The firms also have scant transparency on political and climate lobbying, the report finds… “The eight firms on the scorecard manage a combined $3.6tn in assets including about $216bn in energy projects – an amount equivalent to the fossil fuel financing by the world’s five biggest banks last year. Carlyle is rated F, the lowest in the climate credentials scorecard that has been created by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project (Pesp) and Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund (Afref). More than three-quarters of Carlyle’s energy investments are in fossil fuels, and just over 60% of its 2022 first half profits came through its subsidiary NGP Energy Capital, which focuses almost exclusively on oil and gas projects… “Among the worst downstream polluters is Blackstone, which also scored a D rating, with its power plants emitting a combined 18.1m metric tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide in 2020 – equivalent to the annual emissions of nearly 4m gas-powered cars, according to the report… “The scorecard provides important information and analysis that can help investors and communities understand what these firms are doing, and makes very clear that the firm’s climate commitments are largely empty words, Oscar Valdes Viera, research manager at Afref and co-author of the climate risks scorecard,” told the Guardian.

OPINION

The Hill: Is Biden putting obstacles in the way of implementing his agenda?
Scott Slesinger is a former lobbyist and legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, 9/14/22

“Industry wants it both ways. The executive branch is required to enact new laws via regulation and rulemaking. Often industry wants the bureaucracy to go slow, consider every alternative, find the least burdensome way no matter how long it takes or how many people are harmed during the process,” Scott Slesinger writes for The Hill. “On the other hand, if industry wants a permit to build a facility or dig a coal mine, it wants the same bureaucracy to not consider alternatives or climate impacts or anything that would slow it down the project, particularly input from affected communities. The new Inflation Reduction Act only passed through Congress and became law after Senate leadership secured a key vote from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — with the agreement of a side deal on “permitting reform” seen by many as an opportunity to soft industry regulation… “If the “permitting reform” draft is accurate, the proposals attempt to run roughshod over the public and the climate hindering the frontispiece of the Biden agenda. The other problem on the horizon is the attempt to put a break on the pedal of implementing the Biden agenda, by using the faulty “science” of cost-benefit analysis to slow down rules implementing the laws Biden proposed… “The president and the Democratic congressional leadership need to call a time out and consider whether undercutting NEPA and its climate analysis and encouraging bureaucratic processes to slow down needed safety, health, environment and securities regulations on everything Biden wants to accomplish, makes sense.”

NY Daily News: Joe Manchin’s right: We need permitting reform
Jeremiah Johnson is policy director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for New Liberalism, 9/14/22

“In November 2016, Seattle voters approved a plan to expand the city’s light rail transit system. Almost six years later, the project still hasn’t properly begun,” Jeremiah Johnson writes for the NY Daily News. “Instead, in January 2022 the city’s Sound Transit released a draft of their required Environmental Impact Statement, which ran more than 8,000 pages long. The final version of this EIS won’t be ready until 2023, at which point the project will already have spent hundreds of millions of dollars before a single shovel hits the ground. Current timelines, which might be delayed, call for services on the new lines to be open by 2039. If a 23-year timeline from voter approval to project completion seems ridiculous to you, you’re not alone. America has a huge problem with not being able to build anything cheaply or quickly. One of the key obstacles is our environmental permitting process. The National Environmental Policy Act is one of America’s foundational environmental laws, but it now requires incredibly long review processes that end up doing more harm than good… “Sen. Joe Manchin is an unlikely environmental hero, but he’s leading the charge on permitting reform and trying to impose rules limiting how long NEPA reviews can take… “If we want to build a green future, we must reform the permitting process. Unless we make it easier to build, we’ll never make that future happen. Even if permitting reform makes it easier to build Manchin’s natural gas pipeline, it can also be used to make it easier to build solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, mass transit and infrastructure.” 

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