Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Judge permanently blocks Biden’s oil lease pause

A federal judge blocks an executive order on oil leasing in 13 states, the EPA has its eye on restoring certain chemical safety regulations, and the Energy Department projects that Democrats’ climate bill will bring U.S. emissions 40 percent lower than they were in 2005 in 2030.

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. 

Let’s jump in.

Oil leasing moratorium permanently blocked in court

n against the Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters Thursday night, a day after another court tossed an earlier injunction against it.

In the Thursday ruling, Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana permanently blocked the January 2021 order in 13 states that sued over the order in March of that year.

The states in question are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. It does not apply to any states uninvolved in the lawsuit.

Doughty ruled the order was in violation of the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), saying it took steps reserved for Congress.

“Both statutes require Government Defendants’ agencies to sell oil and gas leases. The OCSLA has a Five-Year Plan in effect that requires eligible leases to be sold. Government Defendants’ agencies have no authority to make significant revisions in the OCSLA Five-Year Plan without going through the procedure mandated by Congress,” Doughty, a Trump appointee, wrote. 

“The MLA requires the DOI [Interior Department] to hold lease sales, where eligible lands are available at lease quarterly. By stopping the process, the agencies are in effect amending two Congressional statutes. Neither the OCSLA nor the MLA gives the Government Defendants’ agencies the authority to implement a Stop of lease sales,” he added.

The decision comes one day after a higher court tossed a previous order of his that temporarily blocked Biden’s moratorium nationwide while he weighed the merits of the case.

Biden’s order barred new oil and gas leasing on federally-owned lands, as well as offshore. It did not impact neither existing oil and gas production nor future production on private lands.

Read more about Doughty’s decision here.

BIDEN PROPOSES RESTORING CHEMICAL SAFETY REGULATIONS

The Biden administration is proposing to restore chemical safety regulations that were loosened under the Trump administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prosed to reimpose certain safety requirements that apply to facilities including agricultural supply distributors, chemical manufacturers and distributors, food and beverage manufacturers and oil refineries.

The specifics: In 2019, the Trump administration got rid of requirements to assess potentially safer technologies and processes that may limit hazards. It also eliminated requirements to conduct “root cause” analyses after accidents, hire third parties to audit the facilities after accidents and provide the public with information about chemical hazards upon request.

These requirements were imposed under the Obama administration after a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas killed 15 people.

In restoring these requirements, EPA Administrator Michael Regan argued that they will protect the health and safety of people who live near such industrial facilities.

Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who worked under former President Trump, had argued that doing away with the requirements eliminated burdens on companies and addressed homeland security concerns.

Read more about the proposal here.

DOE: DEM BILL COULD CUT US EMISSIONS TO 40% OF 2005 LEVEL

A new preliminary assessment released Thursday by the Energy Department has found that the Democrat’s climate, tax and healthcare bill will help bring the country’s emissions down to 40 percent below 2005 levels in 2030.

This is in line with a projection from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). It’s also relatively close to projections from three other recent models which collectively find that the U.S. emissions could be between 32 and 42 percent of where they were in 2005 in 2030.

The DOE estimate finds major cuts in the power sector, largely due to tax credits for carbon-free energy generation and storage. It also finds cuts from manufacturing, homes and commercial buildings, transportation and agriculture and forestry.

The findings still put the U.S. shy of President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions at least in half by 2030. But, they do bring the country closer to reaching it.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • She Didn’t Know She Still Owed Money to Her Utility. Then 25% of Her Paycheck Was Gone. (ProPublica and Outlier Media)
  • ‘Severe’ drought designation expanded in NY and parts of northern NJ (Gothamist)
  • The TVA is dumping a mountain of coal ash in Black south Memphis (The Washington Post)
  • Extreme heat is slamming the world’s three biggest economies all at once (CNN)
  • Federal judge shoots down Michigan’s ‘unfair’ bid to move Line 5 lawsuit to state court (The Detroit News)

ICYMI

📸 Lighter click: Take a picture, it’ll last longer.

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 Monday.  


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