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Extracted: Daily News Clips 6/25/21

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

By Mark Hefflinger

News Clips June 25, 2021

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PIPELINE NEWS

  • New York TimesBiden Administration Backs Oil Sands Pipeline Project
  • The HillBiden admin backs Trump-era approval of controversial Line 3 pipeline permit
  • Facebook: Honor the Earth [VIDEO]: Journalist Alan Weisman Arrested
  • Bridge MichiganArmy Corps decision could tack years onto Enbridge Line 5 tunnel timeline
  • Press releaseCongressman Cohen Raises Memphis Environmental Issues With TVA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • E&E NewsFeds Falling Short On Pipeline Safety — Watchdog

WASHINGTON UPDATES

  • J30On June 30th, we are calling on climate activists to join us at the White House
  • Politico Morning EnergyRELIABLE AND RENEWABLE
  • Press releaseFERC Establishes Office of Public Participation
  • E&E NewsD.C. official emerges as front-runner for FERC seat
  • E&E NewsMoniz, Brouillette: Natural Gas Is Here To Stay

EXTRACTION

  • ReutersExxon must face Massachusetts lawsuit alleging climate change deceit
  • DeSmogGlobal LNG Industry Reeling as its Image as a Climate Solution Shifts to ‘Climate Problem’

RESEARCH & SCIENCE

  • ReutersGas infrastructure across Europe leaking planet-warming methane
  • Nexus PollingPOLL: Voters Support Investing in Clean Energy Infrastructure

CLIMATE FINANCE

OPINION

PIPELINE NEWS

New York Times: Biden Administration Backs Oil Sands Pipeline Project
By Hiroko Tabuchi, 6/24/21

“The Biden administration has defended a contentious pipeline project that would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil through Minnesota’s delicate watersheds, urging in a court brief that a challenge brought by local tribes and environmental groups be thrown out,” the New York Times reports. “The closely watched filing in federal court was the latest in a series of actions taken by the administration to back Trump-era approvals of oil and gas infrastructure, despite President Biden’s pledge to aggressively cut emissions from fossil fuels, a major driver of climate change. The pipeline, which is known as Line 3 and is being built by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy, has been the focus of mass protests in recent weeks. Mr. Biden could still decide to withdraw the federal permits that the pipeline depends upon for construction to proceed. But for now, the administration is defending a decision by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to issue those permits. That decision was made in the closing days of the Trump Administration. The clash between Mr. Biden’s pledges on climate change and his recent decisions has disappointed those who had hoped that the United States would finally start taking aggressive steps to ward off the worst effects of global warming. It also illustrates the difficulties of weaning the country off the oil and gas that has long powered its economy… “In his first week as president, Mr. Biden signed an executive order vowing to address climate change, rejoined the Paris climate agreement and canceled another pipeline, the Keystone XL, which would also have carried the product of Canada’s oil sands, one of the dirtiest forms of energy. The Biden administration also recently suspended oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and said this week that it would order a tough environmental review on another of Enbridge’s oil pipeline projects, Line 5, which runs under the Great Lakes. Enbridge has said that will delay that pipeline’s construction. Yet at the same time, the Biden administration has defended a huge oil drilling operation proposed on Alaska’s North Slope and has taken other actions that could guarantee the drilling and burning of oil and gas for decades.”

The Hill: Biden admin backs Trump-era approval of controversial Line 3 pipeline permit
BY RACHEL FRAZIN, 6/24/21

“The Biden administration is backing the Trump administration’s approval of a controversial pipeline project in Minnesota in a new legal filing,” The Hill reports. “In a legal brief filed Wednesday, the Justice Department argued that the Army Corps of Engineers’s 2020 approval of a certain permit for Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline followed its legal obligation to consider the project’s environmental impacts.  “The Corps met its … obligations by preparing Environmental Assessments (EA), which included consideration of the impacts from the Corps’ authorizations, including to wetlands, the climate, low-income and minority populations, Tribal rights to hunt, fish, and gather, and all of the issues to which Plaintiffs draw special attention,” the department argued. It asked the court to reject arguments brought by tribes and environmentalists that the federal government didn’t adequately assess the project’s environmental impacts and instead affirm the pipeline’s approval… “Allowing Line 3 to move forward is, at best, inconsistent with the bold promises on climate and environmental justice President Biden campaigned and was elected on,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “The president must listen to frontline communities, defend the right of all people to clean water and a healthy climate, and act immediately to shut down this dirty tar sands pipeline,” he added.

Facebook: Honor the Earth [VIDEO]: Journalist Alan Weisman Arrested
6/23/21

“Alan Weisman is a writer and journalist who came to Minnesota to write about the Treaty People Gathering  for the LA Times. He was arrested on June 7, 2021 while covering a protest at an Enbridge pumping station north of Park Rapids, Minnesota. Filmed by Keri Pickett and River Akemann for Honor the Earth.”

Bridge Michigan: Army Corps decision could tack years onto Enbridge Line 5 tunnel timeline
Kelly House, 6/24/21

“Tack another delay onto the Line 5 tunnel construction timeline. Federal regulators this week announced they will thoroughly examine the potential environmental impacts of Enbridge Energy’s plan to encase the petroleum pipeline inside of a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac, a review that could take years,” Bridge Michigan reports. “The decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers all-but-guarantees something that had become increasingly evident over the past year: Enbridge Energy’s plan to begin building the tunnel this year and complete it by 2024 is not realistic. Instead, tunnel construction may not begin for years, if it happens at all. One study found that such federal reviews, known as environmental impact statements, take an average of nearly 3-and-a-half years to complete. They also require the Corps to closely study alternatives to the tunnel project… Whitney Gravelle, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, said in a statement that the Army Corps decision has “enormous significance.” The tribe has repeatedly called upon regulators to look more closely at the project’s environmental impacts. “We are encouraged to see that the Army Corps of Engineers heeded our call,” Gravelle said, adding that “Bay Mills remains very concerned that the pipeline threatens our way of life.”

Press release: Congressman Cohen Raises Memphis Environmental Issues With TVA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
6/24/21

“Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, today questioned expert witnesses from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) about environmental issues affecting his constituents in Memphis. In particular, he asked for an update on the status of the Byhalia Connection Pipeline that, if constructed, would unjustly affect the historic African American community of Boxtown and other communities in southwest Memphis and threaten their drinking water by crossing over their drinking water wellfield. Congressman Cohen has previously written to both President Biden and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raising concerns with the proposed pipeline and suggesting that the nationwide permit be rescinded until environmental and community concerns can be adequately addressed… “In his questioning about the Byhalia pipeline, Congressman Cohen said in part: “The Corps is committed to an environmental policy and being a good partner on the environment and yet this project [Byhalia pipeline] did not take into consideration (environmental justice) community issues… The Corps has an obligation to consider those effects now.”

E&E News: Feds Falling Short On Pipeline Safety — Watchdog
Carlos Anchondo, 6/24/21

“The country’s pipeline safety agency needs to develop performance measures to gauge whether previous regulatory changes are achieving their desired results, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office,” E&E News reports. “The report this week focused on a rule issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in late 2019, which broadly expanded safety requirements for hazardous liquid pipelines such as requiring inspections in and outside of ‘high consequence areas’ and after extreme weather events. Although PHMSA has taken steps to inform affected parties about the 2019 rule, the report said the agency hasn’t ‘established performance measures with targets or timeframes to monitor progress in achieving its desired outcomes.’ GAO said that without such provisions, PHMSA can’t determine whether the rule’s changes are achieving their intended outcomes and ‘contributing to PHMSA’s safety goals.’ The audit, which was conducted between April 2020 and this month, included interviews with PHMSA officials and a review of agency responses to frequently asked questions about the rule. PHMSA officials said performance measures or targets hadn’t been developed because many of the rule’s requirements ‘have long-term deadlines for compliance and performance data will not be available for several years,’ the report said. However, the report noted that GAO has previously reported that agencies ‘can use intermediate or multi-year goals or measures to define intended results and show an indication of the incremental progress or contribution toward relatively long-term goals.’

WASHINGTON UPDATES

J30: On June 30th, we are calling on climate activists to join us at the White House
6/24/21

“On June 30th, we are calling on climate activists to join us at the White House to demand President Biden act now to stop dirty fossil fuel projects in all our communities, from Line 3 to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and beyond, and call on Congress to prioritize climate justice, racial justice, Indigenous rights, housing justice and transit justice in the infrastructure discussions. While fires rage out west and storms threaten the Gulf, President Biden is busy meeting with Republicans and failing us all on climate.  If he wants to be a climate champion, time is running out, just as it is running out for our communities. There is no room for compromise when it comes to the very survival of our planet. Please join us on June 30th to be a part of the movement that changes the trajectory of this administration so that the White House stands up for the rights of our communities instead of doing the bidding of corporate polluters. JUNE 30, 2021. FREEDOM PLAZA. 7AM”

Politico Morning Energy: RELIABLE AND RENEWABLE
Matthew Choi, 6/23/21

“Recent energy crises are putting a wrinkle in Biden’s plans to green American energy, with Republicans and industry groups pushing back that the incidents prove the need for more fossil fuel development, not less,” Politico Morning Energy reports. “It’s a line repeated after the Texas winter storm crisis that left millions in the dark as well as the cyberattack that shut on the Colonial Pipeline. “That [pro-fossil-fuel] message, to resonate with people in a way that’s fearful, has been a part of that playbook for years,” Heather McTeer Toney, climate justice liaison for the Environmental Defense Fund, told Pro’s Gloria Gonzalez. “It’s like ‘let’s scare people so they don’t buy into things that are environmentally safe and friendly.’ But it’s not the truth.” Some of the communities most impacted by this year’s energy crises are among the country’s most vulnerable, with low income and communities of color left in the dark longer during the Texas blackout, and struggling with gasoline shortages in the Southeast. But pipeline defenders say efforts to block new projects can backfire, since oil that would transported through arteries like the now-defunct Keystone XL still finds its way to market, but via rail cars, which have a worse climate footprint. Environmentalists retort that the pipelines themselves pose environmental risks to some of the country’s frontline communities, with much of the nation’s fossil fuel infrastructure concentrated in the counties with the most social vulnerability.”

Press release: FERC Establishes Office of Public Participation
6/24/21

“Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Richard Glick today announced the Commission has issued a public report outlining its work to establish the Office of Public Participation (OPP), which includes interim staffing of OPP to assist members of the public who wish to learn more about, and participate in, FERC proceedings. The Commission intends to hire OPP’s Director and other key personnel later this year. Today’s announcement marks FERC’s compliance with the congressional directive set forth in Section 319 of the Federal Power Act following months-long, outreach efforts during which the Commission hosted six listening sessions, a full-day virtual Commissioner-led workshop, and a public comment period. FERC’s plans are outlined in the report issued today, detailing the legal background of, and public feedback on, OPP. OPP’s proposed functions include direct outreach and education, procedural assistance, program office coordination to improve existing FERC processes, and counsel to the Commission on intervenor funding. The report outlines the plans for a multi-year phase-in to stand up the new office: By the end of fiscal year 2021, the Commission aims to hire the OPP Director and a Deputy. During fiscal year 2022, OPP’s initial operations will expand to provide support to the public on education, outreach, and assistance. OPP will also advise on an intervenor funding rulemaking.”

E&E News: D.C. official emerges as front-runner for FERC seat
Jeremy Dillon and Timothy Cama, 6/25/21

“Willie Phillips, the chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, has emerged as one of the front-runners to land the nomination for an upcoming vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to sources,” E&E News reports.

E&E News: Moniz, Brouillette: Natural Gas Is Here To Stay
Mike Lee, 6/24/21

“Former Energy Secretaries Ernest Moniz and Dan Brouillette said yesterday that the U.S. needs to continue exporting natural gas to support its allies around the world,” E&E News reports. “Gas will continue to be an important source of fuel worldwide as more countries try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they said during a forum sponsored by the nonprofit group Meridian. Other speakers, including officials from Japan and Vietnam, echoed their remarks, saying gas will be important even as more countries try to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and as financiers press the gas industry to curb its pollution. ‘It’s going to be a transition, but I think that the ground truth is that natural gas is going to remain a very important part of the global picture,’ Moniz said.,, “Moniz, who was secretary during Obama’s second term, credited the fracking boom of the 2000s and 2010s with helping reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, mostly by replacing coal as a power plant fuel.”’

EXTRACTION

Reuters: Exxon must face Massachusetts lawsuit alleging climate change deceit
Jonathan Stempel, 6/23/21

“A Massachusetts state judge has rejected Exxon Mobil Corp’s (XOM.N) bid to dismiss a lawsuit by state Attorney General Maura Healey accusing the oil company of misleading consumers and investors about its role in climate change,” according to Reuters. “In a decision released on Wednesday, Superior Court Justice Karen Green in Boston said Exxon failed to show that the October 2019 lawsuit was meant to silence its views on climate change, including those Healey and her constituents might dispute. “Climate change indisputably is a topic that has attracted government attention,” Green wrote. “It is apparent from the context in which they were made that many Exxon statements referenced in the complaint are not protected.” Exxon said it was considering its next legal steps. “This case lacks merit, and we look forward to defending the company,” spokesperson Casey Norton told Reuters.

DeSmog: Global LNG Industry Reeling as its Image as a Climate Solution Shifts to ‘Climate Problem’
Nick Cunningham, 6/24/21

“As recently as 2019, the global market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) looked bright,” DeSmog reports. “Analysts saw demand for LNG in Asia rising in both a steady and unrelenting fashion, expanding for years or even decades into the future. The industry gave the greenlight to 71 billion tonnes per annum (mtpa) of new LNG capacity in 2019, an all-time record. But a lot has changed in the past two years, with “business conditions drastically diminished,” and even “the basic rationale of an industry built around a relatively small number of massive but highly vulnerable facilities” now called into question, according to a new report from Global Energy Monitor. “LNG was sold to policymakers and to investors as a safe, clean, secure bet,” Lydia Plante, lead author of the report, told DeSmog. “Now all those attributes have turned into liabilities.” Not only did the pandemic disrupt demand projections, but the positive perception of LNG as a somewhat climate-friendly alternative to coal – a perception assiduously promoted by the industry – has fallen apart. “Most striking is the shift in LNG’s public image from climate solution to climate problem,” the report said.

RESEARCH & SCIENCE

Reuters: Gas infrastructure across Europe leaking planet-warming methane
Kate Abnett, Shadia Nasralla, 6/24/21

“The potent greenhouse gas methane is spewing out of natural gas infrastructure across the European Union because of leaks and venting, video footage made available to Reuters shows. “Using a 100,000 euro ($119,000) infrared camera, non-profit Clean Air Task Force (CATF) found methane seeping into the atmosphere at 123 oil and gas sites in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Romania this year. Methane, the biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2), is the main component of natural gas and over 80 times more potent than CO2 in its first 20 years in the air. Currently, the EU does not regulate methane emissions in the energy sector, meaning companies running the sites surveyed by CATF are not breaking laws because of leaks or venting. While some member states require firms to report some emissions there is no overarching framework forcing them to monitor smaller leaks, or fix them. That’s set to change. The EU is proposing laws this year that will force oil and gas companies to monitor and report methane emissions, as well as improve the detection and repair of leaks.”

Nexus Polling: POLL: Voters Support Investing in Clean Energy Infrastructure
6/24/21

“A new poll released today finds voters in the United States strongly support investing in clean energy infrastructure as part of a post-pandemic economic recovery. The poll from Nexus Polling, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication finds broad support for a variety of infrastructure investments and for raising taxes on fossil fuel companies and wealthy individuals – not raising the gas tax – to pay for those investments. More than six in 10 (62%) voters support multi-trillion-dollar economic stimulus legislation that prioritizes investments in clean energy infrastructure and technologies as part of the economic recovery effort, and a majority (56%) say Congress should pass the legislation whether Republicans vote for it or not. Voters also support many of President Biden’s proposed plans, including the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that prioritizes clean energy investments (62%); Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget (62%); and the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion plan that establishes universal preschool, two free years of community college, and extends the child care tax credit (60%). In order to pay for additional infrastructure spending, voters support increasing taxes on wealthy individuals in the United States and corporations. About two-thirds support enacting a wealth tax of 2% on individuals’ net worth over $50 million (68%), raising taxes on individuals making more than $452,700 and married couples making more than $509,300 (66%), and increasing the capital gains tax on individuals making more than $1 million (66%). More than six in 10 support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a tax on their carbon pollution (64%) and raising taxes on corporations (64%). On the other hand, just 37% support increasing the gas tax to adjust for inflation, and a majority (54%) of voters in the United States oppose increasing the gas tax. “Americans strongly support large investments in the nation’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges, renewable energy, and expanded child care,” said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “And they support paying for those investments through increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, including fossil fuel companies.”

CLIMATE FINANCE

New York Times Magazine: The Little Hedge Fund Taking Down Big Oil
By Jessica Camille Aguirre, 6/23/21

“On the day the little investment firm Engine No. 1 would learn the outcome of its proxy battle at Exxon Mobil, its office in San Francisco still didn’t have furniture,” the New York Times Magazine reports. “Almost everyone had been working at home since the firm was started in spring 2020, so when the founder, Chris James, went into the office for a rare visit on May 26 this year to watch the results during Exxon Mobil’s annual shareholder meeting, he propped his computer up on a rented desk. As an activist investor, he had bought millions of dollars’ worth of shares in Exxon Mobil to put forward four nominees to the board. His candidates needed to finish in the top 12 of the 16 up for election, and he was nervous. Since December, James and the firm’s head of active engagement, Charlie Penner, had been making their case that America’s most iconic oil company needed new directors to help it thrive in an era of mounting climate urgency. In response, Exxon Mobil expanded its board to 12 directors from 10 and announced a $3 billion investment in a new initiative it called Low Carbon Solutions. James paced around the empty office and texted Penner: “I was doing bed karate this morning thinking about how promises made at gunpoint are rarely kept. Exxon only makes promises at gunpoint.”

Bloomberg: Dealmaker Exodus in Calgary Shows Banks’ Shifting Energy Goals
By Kevin Orland, 6/24/21

“Calgary, the center of Canada’s oil and gas industry, has lost senior investment bankers from Morgan Stanley, Barclays Plc and Citigroup Inc., a signal of banks’ new approach to the energy sector and declining deal flow,” according to Bloomberg. “The departures reflect a variety of forces, including a shrinking pool of major oil producers in the city and global banks’ heightened focus on renewable energy, as well as their own environmental metrics. Canadian banks have been more willing to provide credit to the country’s energy firms than their international rivals, and are therefore winning other business too, Adam Dean, president of Dean Executive Search in Toronto, told Bloomberg…  “The business of investment banking in the energy space more broadly is moving toward energy transition,” Dean said. “The U.S. firms and the global firms are moving away from the traditional E&P advisory business.”

OPINION

National Observer: The coming oil boom will be Alberta’s last — but could still help Jason Kenney
By Max Fawcett, 6/25/21

“Jason Kenney has bet his political future on delivering the “best summer ever” for Albertans, and so far he’s getting a lot of help from global commodity markets,” Max Fawcett writes in the National Observer. “After years of being stuck in various stages of doldrums, oil prices are on fire — and show no signs of relenting any time soon. With COVID case counts subsiding in most major economies and huge stores of pent-up demand for travel and other petroleum-fuelled activities, some prominent market watchers like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are predicting oil prices could hit $100 per barrel. With a provincial election scheduled for 2023 in Alberta, the timing couldn’t be better for Kenney… “But make no mistake: This isn’t going to be your father’s oil boom. It’s probably not even going to be your slightly older brother’s version. There will be no major new oilsands facilities commissioned, no massive increase in oil production and none of the frothy optimism that drove up activity and wages in the oilpatch. That’s because, for all the near-term excitement about higher prices, nobody who makes decisions in the oil and gas industry has any confidence it will last… “This time, prices are rising because of restraint, not scarcity. Saudi Arabia is holding millions of barrels off the market to support higher prices, while the “drill, baby, drill” mantra that used to define the so-called American “shale cowboys” has been replaced with a much tighter grip on the metaphorical reins.”

Union of Concerned Scientists: Undercutting Climate Goals, Biden Administration Greenlights Oil Drilling in Alaska
Derrick Z. Jackson, 6/21/21

“It just takes common sense to see that the climate change math of the Biden administration is not adding up: You cannot approve massive oil drilling projects if you want to swiftly reach net-zero emissions,” Derrick Jackson writes for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “That is exactly what the administration did when it sided with ConocoPhillips in the company’s bid to drill for more than a half billion barrels of oil in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR) in the Alaskan Arctic, erecting infrastructure that will be in operation for 30 years or more. After spending $6 million in federal funds and generating more than 3,600 pages of environmental analysis, the Biden administration’s brief, recently filed in federal district court, argues that the lease the Trump administration granted to ConocoPhillips is “valid”—including its impacts on the climate… “In an Earth Day fact sheet in April, the Biden administration said it is setting the nation on a firm path toward cutting emissions in half over the next nine years, a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions by 2050. “The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now,” the fact sheet said. “Climate change poses an existential threat.” Given the dire threat we face, it cannot comport with any rationale for supporting ConocoPhillips. The project would make a mockery of being on a firm path in cutting emissions when the government itself says the project might spew 260 million metric tons of global warming emissions into the atmosphere over the next 30 years, equivalent to the annual emissions from 63 coal-fired plants.”

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