Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court sides with oil companies in Baltimore case| White House environmental justice advisers express opposition to nuclear, carbon capture projects | Biden administration to develop performance standards for federal buildings

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Today, the Supreme Court reverses a lower-court ruling on Baltimore’s lawsuit against oil companies, White House advisers say to pump the brakes on nuclear and carbon capture, and the Biden administration will develop performance standards for federal buildings.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS BALTIMORE: Supreme Court sides with oil companies in Baltimore case

The Supreme Court on Monday backed a bid by major players in the oil and gas industry to undo a lower court’s decision that kept the city of Baltimore’s lawsuit against them in state court. 

The justices ruled 7-1 that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals erred in its determination that it lacked jurisdiction to consider certain grounds from the companies for bringing the case into federal court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the dissenting vote.

In the 2018 case, Baltimore alleged that production and misleading marketing of fossil fuels from defendants including Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron has exacerbated climate change.

Court stays out of broader issues: Monday’s decision did not delve into those issues, as the court instead looked at whether the case should be heard in federal or state court.

The defendants sought to move the lawsuit from Maryland state court to federal court, a move that has been referred to as “forum shopping.”

Critics argue that corporate clients often do this, thinking they’ll have a better chance at winning in federal court.

Read more about the ruling here: 

CAPTURE FRACTURE: White House environmental justice advisers express opposition to nuclear, carbon capture projects

The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council expressed opposition to nuclear and carbon capture projects as well as projects that expand capacity for fossil fuel production in a report issued Friday.

The volunteer advisory council listed such projects as among “examples of the types of projects that will not benefit a community,” in a set of recommendations issued to the White House. 

The recommendations issued by the council, which is made up of leaders in the environmental justice movement, are meant to advise the Biden administration, but don’t necessarily reflect administration policy.

Advisors buck administration statements: In fact, the opposition appears to be somewhat at odds with policies the administration has backed, like President Biden’s promotion of a carbon capture tax credit in his infrastructure plan. 

The report did not specify why the advisory panel considers such projects not to be beneficial, but opponents have raised concerns about nuclear waste. 

Carbon capture’s opponents have expressed skepticism about the still-developing technology aiming to capture the greenhouse gas from activities like burning fossil fuels. They argue that the government shouldn’t be boosting the fossil fuel industry.

Read more about the advisory council’s comments here:

BUILDING OF SALE: Biden administration to develop performance standards for federal buildings

The Biden administration announced on Monday that it is taking several actions aimed at making buildings cleaner, including new “performance standards” for federal buildings. 

A fact sheet released by the White House on Monday didn’t give specific details on what exactly the performance standards would entail but said it plans to “establish metrics, targets, and tracking methods to reach federal carbon emissions goals.”

Acting General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Katy Kale made similar comments during a Monday webinar, saying “this administration and GSA believes in leading by example.”

Meanwhile, the administration will also create new Energy Star standards for heat pumps, central air conditioners and electric water heaters, according to the fact sheet.

Energy Star standards are government-backed indicators of energy efficiency for consumer products. 

The administration also said it is starting an initiative to increase market adoption of efficient water heaters in residential and commercial buildings, expanding partnership programs with the goal of increasing efficient upgrades in underserved homes.

Read more about the announcement here:


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