Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Biden deals another hit to Alaska mining project 

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The Biden administration is proposing to protect a salmon fishery, dealing a blow to a proposed mine, while Massachusetts’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil has been allowed to move forward.  

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? Subscribe here. 

EPA proposes protections for Alaska salmon fishery

The Biden administration is moving toward protections for a major sockeye salmon fishery in Alaska — at the expense of a proposed gold and copper mine. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a decision that would protect the Bristol Bay watershed, dealing yet another blow to the imperiled Pebble Mine project.  

A long time coming: The issue has been ongoing for years and has pitted environmentalists, tribes and fishing interests against mining interests. 

The EPA under former President Trump had allowed the mine to move forward, but the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the project after prominent conservatives including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. rallied against the move. 

The Biden administration had previously indicated that it was likely to protect the watershed.  

In its latest decision on Wednesday, the administration said that the mine’s construction and operation would result in waste discharges into waters, which would result in a loss of fish habitat. 

“The Bristol Bay watershed is a shining example of how our nation’s waters are essential to healthy communities, vibrant ecosystems, and a thriving economy,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. 

“EPA is committed to following the science, the law, and a transparent public process to determine what is needed to ensure that this irreplaceable and invaluable resource is protected for current and future generations,” he added. 

Not everybody’s happy: The mine’s developer, the Pebble Partnership, condemned the EPA’s proposal as “political.” 

“As we are still actively working through the established permitting process via our appeal of the Army Corps of Engineers permit denial, we oppose any action that is outside of that process. This preemptive effort is clearly a political conclusion to attempt to block our ability to work through that established process,” Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively said in a statement. 

Shively also argued that the decision runs counter to the administration’s clean energy goals.  

“The Pebble Project remains an important domestic source for the minerals necessary for the Biden Administration to reach its green energy goals and if it blocks Pebble it will have to seek minerals to meet its goals from foreign sources who simply do not have the same environmental standards as we do,” he said. 

Read more about the decision here. 

Mass. high court allows Exxon lawsuit to proceed

Massachusetts’s highest court on Tuesday declined to strike down Attorney General Maura Healey’s (D) lawsuit accusing ExxonMobil of knowingly misleading shareholders and the public about the relationship between its products and climate change.  

The energy giant had argued the lawsuit ran afoul of Massachusetts’s anti-strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) law. However, the panel ruled that the state law did not apply to civil actions by the attorney general’s office.   

Quote the ruling: “Construing the anti-SLAPP statute to apply to the Attorney General would place significant roadblocks to the enforcement of the Commonwealth’s laws,” the ruling says. 

Such an interpretation would have “a substantial effect on the investigation and enforcement of illegal activity, which is a critical function of the government,” Justice Scott Kafker wrote.  

SLAPP statutes are generally intended to protect people and entities from nuisance lawsuits from private citizens, rather than government agencies, he added.  

“Once again, Exxon’s attacks on my office and our case have been rejected by the courts. Today’s ruling is a resounding victory in our work to stop Exxon from lying to investors and consumers in our state. Exxon’s repeated attempts to stonewall our lawsuit have been baseless, and this effort was no different,” Healey said in a statement.

“We look forward to proceeding with our case and having our day in court to show how Exxon is breaking the law and to put an end to the deception once and for all.” 

An Exxon spokesperson told The Hill the company is  “reviewing the decision and evaluating next steps.”  

Read more about the ruling here. 

Oil, gas companies join pledge for cyber resilience 

More than a dozen global companies in the oil and gas industry are uniting for the first time to promote cyber resilience amid growing cyber threats. 

The energy companies announced their commitment on Wednesday at the annual global conference of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. 

The pledge aims to encourage global firms to collaborate and take collective steps to strengthen cyber resilience across the industry. The initiative was led by the WEF’s cyber resilience in oil and gas initiative, which seeks to incentivize the oil and gas industry to adopt cyber resilience practices. 

“The Cyber Resilience Pledge is a landmark step as it signals recognition of the complexities of building a cyber-resilient industry ecosystem and a commitment towards collective action to achieve it,” said Alexander Klimburg, head of cybersecurity at the WEF. 

The energy corporations participating in the pledge include Galp, Petronas, Occidental Petroleum and Aker BP. 

Organizers behind the pledge said the initiative is in response to major cyber breaches that occurred in the past two years, highlighting the vulnerabilities of critical sectors.  

In 2020, Russian state-sponsored hackers exploited the vulnerabilities in software updates from tech company SolarWinds. The hackers were then able to penetrate the networks of nine federal agencies and at least 100 private sector organizations for nearly a year. 

The following year, Colonial Pipeline was hit by a destructive ransomware attack, forcing it to shut down for nearly a week. The incident caused gas shortages in several states as fuel prices spiked.  

Read more from The Hill’s Ines Kagubare. 

ON TAP TOMORROW

The House Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on defense environmental restoration 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • California, Long Leery of Nuclear Power, Joins Bid to Save it (Bloomberg
  • EPA denies air pollution permit for south Alabama factory (AL.com
  • Shell consultant quits and accuses firm of ‘extreme harms’ (BBC
  • U.S. releases environmental study about new Idaho test reactor (KTVB

And finally, something off-beat but on beatThat’s one way to gift?

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.  

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Tags Biden Donald Trump Jr. Maura Healey Michael Regan

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