Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Court tosses anti-leasing-pause order

FILE – An oil well works at sunrise Aug. 25, 2021, in Watford City, N.D., part of McKenzie County. The Biden administration on Friday, Nov. 26, called for an overhaul of the nation’s oil and gas leasing program to focus on areas that are most suitable for energy development and raise costs for energy companies to drill on public lands and water. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

A federal court reversed an earlier ruling halting the Biden administration’s anti-leasing order. Also, we’ll break down the environmental implications of the Inflation Reduction Act and how the government projects renewables will increase this year. 

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.

Appeals court axes ruling against oil leasing pause

An appeals court on Wednesday tossed an injunction that halted the Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas leasing and sent the case back to a lower court for further proceedings.  

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the injunction didn’t make clear what exactly the Biden administration is and isn’t allowed to do. 

What are the specifics? The appeals court didn’t weigh in on whether the lower court was right to block the oil and gas leasing pause, saying the lower court first needed to deal with the procedural issue. 

  • “We cannot reach the merits of the Government’s challenge when we cannot ascertain from the record what conduct—an unwritten agency policy, a written policy outside of the Executive Order, or the Executive Order itself—is enjoined,” found the three-judge panel made up of a Reagan, Clinton and Obama appointee.  
  • “Our review of [Administrative Procedure Act] claims must begin by determining if there was final agency action. Where, as here, it is unclear what final agency action the district court predicated its order upon, we are unable to reach the merits of the appeal,” the panel added.  

How we got here: At the beginning of his tenure, President Biden paused new oil and gas leasing on public lands and in public waters, preventing the start of the process for new oil and gas production offshore and on lands owned by the federal government. 

Biden’s pause did not interrupt existing drilling and did not prevent new drilling on private lands.  

Last year, a federal judge in Louisiana halted the moratorium while the case against it played out, arguing that there were likely to be losses to the states as a result.  

In an executive order directing the pause, Biden said it should be carried out “pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices” 

Read more about the ruling here.

Biden secures climate legacy: activists

President Biden is enacting climate action at a previously unprecedented scale in the United States and establishing a significant environmental legacy in signing the Inflation Reduction Act, say climate advocates. 

Biden, during his first year in office, pledged to cut U.S. emissions that lead to climate change in half by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.  

On Tuesday, he signed a bill that is expected to go a long way toward reaching that goal. 

“Decades from now, this will be remembered as a turning point in federal policy on climate change. This is the first real, big bill,” said Jamal Raad, executive director of environmental group Evergreen Action.  

By the numbers: Three recent analyses find the bill would lower U.S. emissions by 2030 to between 37 and 41 percent, 32 and 42 percent, and 42 percent below 2005 levels.  

The legislation includes nearly $370 billion toward energy security and climate change mitigation. This is about four times as large as the $90 billion for clean energy in the Obama administration’s Recovery Act.  

“As somebody who’s been working for two decades trying to push Congress and various administrations to take climate change seriously and enact climate action, today’s a big day. It’s a BFD,” Melinda Pierce, legislative director of the Sierra Club, told The Hill on Tuesday.  

The U.S. is a major climate change contributor, behind only China in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Read more about the significance here.

Renewables to total 22 percent of electricity in 2022

Renewable energy will comprise nearly a quarter of electricity generated in the U.S. this year, according to projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  

The number represents an increase from 2020 and 2021, both of which saw about
20 percent generation from renewables. The EIA further projected the proportion will increase to 24 percent renewables in 2023.  

  • The EIA predicts much of the increase will be driven by a combination of new wind and solar proliferation, as well as further retirement of sources such as coal and nuclear power. 
  • However, U.S. coal production, which already saw an increase in 2021, is projected to see another increase of 21 million short tons (MMst) in 2022. Consumption, meanwhile, is projected to decline slightly this year, from 546 MMst in 2021 to 541 in 2022.  

At the regional grid level, the EIA found renewable generation grew for the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which provides power to the central U.S., from 13 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2021, with a projected increase to 44 percent by 2022.   

Texas’ self-contained grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), saw its renewables share nearly triple during the same period, from 10 percent in 2013 to about 32 percent this year. Much of both grids’ increased renewables share is the result of increased wind power, according to EIA. 

On the solar side, the U.S. added 13 gigawatts of utility-scale photovoltaic capacity last year and the additions are projected for 20 gigawatts this year, with 24 the following year. Overall, the agency projects 31 billion new kilowatt-hours of generation this year and 41 billion next year.  

In the short term, EIA projected continued uncertainty in U.S. energy as a result from the continued turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.   

Read more about the projections here.

DOE INVESTS $45M IN CYBER TECH THAT PROTECTS POWER SECTOR

The Department of Energy announced on Wednesday that it is investing $45 million in cyber technology that will protect the power grid sector from cyberattacks. 

The investment will fund up to 15 research projects that will focus on developing new cybersecurity technologies designed to reduce cyber risks in the energy sector. 

“As DOE builds out America’s clean energy infrastructure, this funding will provide the tools for a strong, resilient, and secure electricity grid that can withstand modern cyberthreats and deliver energy to every pocket of America,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. 

The research projects will also establish and strengthen existing partnerships with energy sector utilities, vendors and universities.  

This is the second time this year the DOE has announced investment in cyber technology. 

In April, the agency said it was investing $12 million in cybersecurity innovations intended to secure critical infrastructure like the energy sector. 

The $12 million investment would fund six university-led projects that will focus on the research, development and demonstrations of new cyber technology to help advance data-related fields such as anomaly detection, artificial intelligence and machine learning.  

That same month, House lawmakers introduced a legislation that would address rising cyber threats against U.S. energy sectors. 

Read more from The Hill’s Ines Kagubare.

NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES SANCTION ENVIRONMENT OFFICIAL

The National Academies of Sciences has barred Jane Lubchenco, deputy director at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, from its publications for five years following a determination of an ethics violation.  

Responding to a petition from the conservative American Accountability Foundation, NAS determined that before joining the administration, Lubchenco violated its code of conduct when she edited a since-retracted paper that used outdated data and was co-authored by her brother-in-law.  

“I accept these sanctions for my error in judgment in editing a paper authored by some of my research collaborators – an error for which I have publicly stated my regret,” Lubchenco said in a statement.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Lawyer Who Defeated Cheney Spent Career Fighting Environmental Rules (The New York Times
  • The U.S. could see a new ‘extreme heat belt’ by 2053 (NBC News
  • Hundreds of thousands drop flood insurance as rates rise (E&E News
  • Oil Majors Lose Bid to Move Climate Lawsuits Out of State Courts (Bloomberg)

ICYMI

Lighter clickSouth of the border.

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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