Overnight Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment — Drought costing California agriculture billions

A new study finds that drought is costing California’s agriculture industry billions. Meanwhile, Russian strikes knocked Ukraine’s electricity offline, and the Biden administration approved a new oil export terminal. 

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. Sign up below or online here.

Programming note: We will be taking a break on Thursday and Friday. We’ll be back Monday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Persistent drought adds to California losses: study

As California’s drought stretches into a third straight year, the state’s agriculture industry is incurring billions in related losses, a new study has found. 

  • The report estimates direct impacts on farm activity of $1.2 billion this year — up from $810 million in 2021.
  • But the effects of the drought in 2022 extended far beyond that $1.2 billion sum, according to the report, released by the University of California, Merced’s Water Systems Management Lab.
  • Impacts on food processing industries that depend on farm products were about $845 million in 2022 — up from $590 million last year. 

What makes this particularly bad? “California is no stranger to drought, but this current drought has hit really hard in some of the typically water-rich parts of the state that are essential for the broader state water supply,” co-author John Abatzoglou, a professor of climatology at UC Merced, said in a statement

Altogether, the combined direct and indirect consequences of the drought have reached about $2 billion in value-added losses this year alone, researchers found.

By the numbers: These losses amount to a 5.9 percent reduction when compared to those of 2019 and also resulted in 19,420 job cuts, according to the study. 

In addition to suffering the impacts of the drought, California’s agricultural economy has also suffered from supply chain disruptions, including the ability to ship crops out of state, the authors explained. 

Such delays could result in increased inventory and influence some of California’s specialty crop prices, according to the study. 

While acknowledging such negative effects of the drought on agriculture, the researchers found that things could have been worse. 

Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.

Officials OK Gulf oil terminal over local opposition

Federal regulators this week approved a new oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas over the objections of local activists, who argued the move contravenes the Biden administration’s stated climate goals.

  • The Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration formally granted the license Nov. 21, ending a process that began under the Trump administration three years ago.
  • The Sea Port Oil Terminal would be located offshore of Freeport, Texas, with a capacity of 2 million barrels a day.
  • The project would involve two pipelines running through the city of Surfside Beach, where the City Council unanimously voted in opposition to the project in March 2020. 

Greenpeace blasted the Biden administration’s approval of the terminal, pointing to an environmental impact statement published in July projecting the terminal would generate 83,000 tons of carbon emissions per year through the construction process alone, with a projected total of 219 million tons a year in downstream refining and combustion emissions. 

The environmentalist group also pointed to President Biden’s recent attendance at the COP27 United Nations climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and the Biden administration’s stated commitment to cutting carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030. 

“When we say oil and gas companies are sacrificing communities to make a buck this is exactly what we’re talking about. We have less than a decade to cut emissions by half. Approving new oil and gas projects is not a bridge, it is an on-ramp to planetary collapse,” Destiny Watford, climate campaigner at Greenpeace US, said in a statement.

“It is peak hypocrisy for President Biden and [Transportation] Secretary Pete Buttigieg to shorten the fuse on the world’s largest carbon bomb by greenlighting additional oil export terminals right after lecturing the world about increasing climate ambitions at COP27.”

Read more about the approval here.

Ukraine electricity rocked by Russian strikes

Russia launched mass strikes on critical infrastructure in Ukraine on Wednesday, knocking out power across much of the country and causing temporary blackouts at power plants, Ukrainian officials said. 

  • Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said the “vast majority of electricity” for consumers in Ukraine was disrupted after the shelling.
  • Officials also reported a temporary blackout for all nuclear plants and most heating and hydroelectric plants, affecting millions of people. 

The details: “There are some emergency outages happening. The lack of electricity can affect the availability of heat and water supply,” the ministry said in a Facebook update.

“The power workers are already working and doing their best to restore power as soon as possible. But [given] the scale of the impact, it will take time.” 

Russia has launched missile strikes targeting civilian infrastructure and energy grids in Ukraine since October following heavy losses in the war. 

The Energy Ministry said despite the widespread blackouts, “Russia will not succeed in intimidating Ukrainians.” 

“Ukrainians are not afraid of the cold. Ukrainians are not afraid of the dark. Ukrainians are not afraid of terrorists,” officials wrote in the Facebook post. 

Wednesday’s strikes included 70 missiles, about 51 of which were shot down by anti-air defenses, according to a Telegram post from state grid operator Ukrenergo, which is working quickly to repair the damage. 

Read more from The Hill’s Brad Dress. 

TALES FROM THE CRYPT(O)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Tuesday signed a law temporarily restricting cryptocurrency mining in the state over environmental concerns, making it the first state nationwide to implement such a move.

The bill was delivered to the governor on Tuesday after the state legislature passed the measure in June, and The Associated Press reported that Hochul signed the measure. 

The restrictions also come after the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which has led to growing scrutiny of the industry. 

But the New York law instead takes aim at the technology’s environmental impact, establishing a two-year moratorium on permits for fossil fuel plants used for cryptocurrency mining that utilizes “proof-of-work authentication.” 

The technology, which is used for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, requires large amounts of energy, and the law’s text suggests its use makes achieving the state’s climate goals more difficult. 

Read more from The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld. 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

Tuesday

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is slated to vote on advancing nominees including (the many-times-delayed nomination of) Joseph Goffman to lead the EPA’s air and radiation office, Beth Prichard Geer to be a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Shailen Bhatt to lead the Federal Highway Administration. 

Wednesday

  • The Senate EPW Committee will hold a hearing on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the private sector.

Thursday

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on a large slate of energy bills. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • How China, the world’s top polluter, avoids paying for climate damage (The Washington Post) 
  • U.S. aims to sanction Brazil deforesters, adding bite to climate fight (Reuters
  • How the U.S. Abruptly Shifted Decades of Climate Policy (The New Republic
  • EPA skips stricter aircraft pollution regs (E&E News

🦃 Lighter click: Go Turkeys! 

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 next week. 

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