Energy & Environment — Biden administration blocks Pebble Mine
The Biden administration is blocking the construction of a gold and copper mine over concerns about impacts to an Alaska salmon fishery. Meanwhile, six states are saying they found a compromise on water cuts amid a drought along the Colorado River, and ExxonMobil reports record profits.
This is 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.
EPA uses veto power to protect salmon fishery
The Biden administration has blocked a controversial proposed gold and copper mine in Alaska in order to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blocked construction for the Pebble Mine, citing its potential impact on Bristol Bay — a southwestern Alaska watershed that’s home to numerous animal species including the salmon.
The decision, announced on Tuesday, is not a surprise, as the administration had proposed to block the mine last year. But, Tuesday’s action officially prevents its construction.
- EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters that the agency had determined that discharges that would come from the proposed mining would have “unacceptable adverse effects” on salmon fishery areas.
- “As a source of food and jobs and a means of preserving sacred indigenous customs and practices, Bristol Bay supports the livelihoods of so many,” he added. “This final action demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to safeguarding our nation’s indispensable natural resources.”
The company behind the mine, the Pebble Limited Partnership, threatened a lawsuit over the EPA’s action.
“Unfortunately, the Biden EPA continues to ignore fair and due process in favor of politics. This preemptive action against Pebble is not supported legally, technically, or environmentally. As such, the next step will likely be to take legal action to fight this injustice,” said CEO John Shively in a written statement.
Read more about the decision here.
Colorado River states, minus California, reach deal
Six of the seven states on the Colorado River said Monday night that they have reached a framework for an alternative to potential looming federal cuts after a Jan. 31 deadline.
Representatives for Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming said they have reached an alternative on updates to the 2007 guidelines for the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell and the Hoover Dam at Lake Mead. California is the seventh state in the basin.
Negotiators said the framework is not a formal agreement but includes plans to reduce release from the two reservoirs.
The plan: It would cut a total of 250,000 acre-feet of water to Arizona, California and Nevada at Lake Mead for elevations of 1,030 feet and below and would cut 200,000 acre-feet to the same three states at elevations of 1,020 feet and below.
“While our goal remains achieving a seven-state agreement, developing and submitting this consensus based alternative is a positive step forward in a multi-phased environmental review process critical to protecting the Colorado River system,” said John Entsminger, Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager, in a statement.
The background: Use of water from the river is still governed by a century-old compact between states that allocates more water than actually flows through it. After years of gridlock, the federal Bureau of Reclamation last year suggested it could unilaterally impose cuts if the states cannot reach a new agreement by February.
Read more about the agreement here.
Exxon announces record profits for 2022
ExxonMobil announced record profits for the year 2022, reporting it made $55.7 billion over the past year and drawing ire from the left.
- CEO Darren Woods said on Tuesday that the annual profits were a record for the company during an earnings call. He said that the company “benefited from a favorable market” but also made investing choices in the past that helped it “take full advantage of the undersupplied market.”
- His comments come after a banner year for the industry, amid a supply crunch and high prices linked to both coronavirus pandemic recovery and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Other major energy companies, including Chevron, also posted record earnings for the year. Exxon’s profits were higher still than the $35.5 billion reported by Chevron.
The politics: The announcement drew criticism from the left, as Democrats have been critical of corporate profits at a time when consumers faced high prices at the pump.
“It’s outrageous that Exxon has posted a new record for Western oil company profits after the American people were forced to pay such high prices at the pump amidst Putin’s invasion,” said a written statement from White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan.
Read more about the announcement here.
Democrats announced who will lead key subcommittees on the House Natural Resources Committee:
- Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.) will be the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries
- Rep. Joe Neguse (Colo.) will be the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Federal Lands
- Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (N.M.) will be the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs
- Rep. Melanie Stansbury (N.M.) will be the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) will be the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) will remain the panel’s top Democrat and Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (Calif.) will be vice ranking member.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Inside the Fight to Save the Peruvian Amazon From Big Oil (Rolling Stone)
- Europe’s Fossil Fuel Use Is Set to Plummet in 2023, Report Says (Bloomberg)
- New China Rule Threatens to Disrupt U.S. Solar Ambitions (The Wall Street Journal)
- Court upholds Minnesota ‘Clean Car Rule’ tied to California (The Los Angeles Times)
- Why Wyoming won’t build Biden’s EV chargers (E&E News)
Lighter click: Is the dodo making a comeback?
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.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.