Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden’s Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for $640M Flint water crisis settlement

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PAUSE ON PUBLIC LANDS: The Interior Department took swift action to deliver on President Biden’s campaign pledge to block oil and gas drilling on public lands, freezing such leases for the next 60 days.

An order signed by acting Secretary Scott de la Vega on Wednesday bars the department from pushing ahead with any new leasing or drilling permits. It also blocks any new major mining actions.

Biden’s climate plan calls for “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters,” a pledge made by each Democratic candidate in the primary after the idea was first proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

The 60-day timeline pauses a number of other actions at Interior, including any promotions for department staff or transfer of public lands back to the states.

Biden has nominated Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department, and her signature would be required to establish a permanent moratorium on new oil drilling on public lands.

“For four years, the Trump administration cut legal corners and rushed through massive drilling and mining projects at the behest of corporations. Now the Biden administration is rightfully attempting to take stock of the damage and make sure the agency is following the law, instead of rubber-stamping destructive projects that were in the pipeline,” Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director at the Center for Western Priorities, a public lands watchdog group, said in a release.

“Once Deb Haaland is confirmed as Interior secretary, she’ll be able to take long-term actions to make sure the Interior department prioritizes communities and conservation, not extractive industry lobbyists.”

Biden’s climate plan calls for putting the U.S. on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050, an effort that will require reducing use of fossil fuels.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the oil industry, has said blocking new leases will further push the U.S. toward foreign oil while limiting revenue for conservation.

“Restricting development on federal lands and waters is nothing more than an ‘import more oil’ policy. Energy demand will continue to rise — especially as the economy recovers — and we can choose to produce that energy here in the United States or rely on foreign countries hostile to American interests,” API President and CEO Mike Sommers said in a release Thursday.

Read more about the temporary pause on new leases here

DON’T HATE, LEGISLATE: Some Western Republicans have launched a longshot bid to block President Biden’s executive orders to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and revoking the permit for the Keystone pipeline.

The lawmakers, many from big energy-producing states, plan to introduce two pieces of legislation that would give Congress a say in the decisions.

“I urge President Biden to do what the Obama administration refused to do and submit the Paris Agreement to the Senate for consideration as required under the Constitution,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said in a release, calling the agreement “a poorly negotiated, fatally flawed treaty that represents a bad deal for American families everywhere.”

The executive order signed by Biden, the third of 17 that he signed on his first day in office, will formally recommit the U.S. to the global agreement in 30 days, ending the U.S. status as the only country in the world not participating in the deal.

He also put forth an order that revoked a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that allowed it to cross the U.S.-Canada border and also carried out other environmental actions. 

In press releases on Thursday, the Republican lawmakers said they intended to introduce a resolution calling on Biden to submit the Paris Climate Agreement to Congress for approval before rejoining.  

The lawmakers said they would introduce a bill authorizing the continued construction of the controversial pipeline. 

“President Biden’s executive order will rob both American and Canadian workers of good-paying jobs,” said Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), who is the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “President Biden’s actions will not end our need for oil from our strongest ally, Canada. Instead, it will cost jobs, result in more shipments of oil by rail and make America even more vulnerable to OPEC and foreign adversaries, like Russia.” 

Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Roger Marshall (Kan.) and Barrasso all signed on to both pieces of legislation.

Each piece of legislation would face an uphill battle in the Democratically-controlled chamber, where Vice President Harris will serve as the key tie-breaker vote.

Former President Obama angered lawmakers in 2016 when he joined the deal without securing Senate approval, something Daines and others argue violates Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution which calls for a two-thirds vote from the upper chamber when entering into treaties.

But the Paris deal allowed countries to set their own commitments to the deal, rather than enter into a more formal agreement, something the Obama administration viewed as allowing the U.S. to join the deal without Senate approval.

Read more about the opposition here. 

SETTLING IN? A federal judge in Michigan on Thursday granted preliminary approval for a $641 million settlement in the Flint water crisis. 

Affected residents will now have to decide whether they want to participate in the settlement before a final approval is given. 

Almost 80 percent of the funds are expected to go to the city’s children, with the majority targeted for those who were younger than 6 when they were first exposed since they are at the highest risk for lead poisoning. 

Nearly 20 percent will go to the city’s adult population. 

Some Flint residents, however, have told local news outlets they don’t believe the compensation is sufficient, particularly for adults. 

Those who participate in the settlement will have to end their litigation against defendants including the state and city. 

The judge in her decision on Thursday stated that if those impacted by the crisis choose to participate in the settlement, they can object to certain aspects of it. 

Judge Judith Levy acknowledged that some have raised issues with the settlement, but warned that opponents will have to “decide whether the risks of litigation—and there are many—outweigh the benefit of a certain resolution with the Settling Defendants.”

Three COVID-19 vaccines under late-stage review for WHO emergency…

Judge denies request for Amazon to immediately restore Parler

In 2014, Michigan allowed the city of Flint to get its water from the Flint River, which ultimately resulted in tainted water flowing to people’s taps. 

In addition to lead contamination, the decision has been linked to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people.

Read more about the settlement here


Southern Ocean waters are warming faster than thought, threatening Antarctic ice, The Washington Post reports

Upper Colorado River Drought Plan Triggered For First Time, KUNC reports

Biden to review Trump’s changes to national monuments, The Associated Press reports

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday…

Canadian firm cuts 1,000 jobs after Biden revokes Keystone XL permit

Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone

Judge grants preliminary approval for $640M Flint water crisis settlement

Biden’s Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands

Kerry promises Europeans Biden will seek to make up time on climate action


Riding to the rescue on climate, the Biden administration needs powerful partners, writes Paul Bodnar, a former White House climate lead in the Obama National Security Council


Tags Deb Haaland Elizabeth Warren Jerry Moran John Barrasso Mike Crapo Roger Marshall Steve Daines

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