Overnight Energy & Environment — White House eyes tapping into oil reserve

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today we’re looking at the Biden administration’s reported plans to tap the strategic oil reserve, a Supreme Court decision on water rights, and action from the Department of Interior on the greater sage grouse.

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

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Let’s jump in.

 

Biden expected to release spare oil: reports 

The Biden administration is expected, alongside other countries, to release some of the spare oil stored in its strategic reserve, multiple news outlets reported on Monday.

Bloomberg and Politico both reported that the administration was preparing to release barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, with Bloomberg reporting that this could happen as soon as Tuesday. 

Bloomberg reported that the release will happen alongside India, Japan and South Korea. 

The White House, however, said that no decision had been made when reached for comment by The Hill. The Energy Department did not respond to requests for comment.

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How we got here: The reports come as the country has struggled for months with high energy prices. Gasoline, which is made from oil, averaged nearly $3.41 per gallon on Monday. 

A major factor in the prices has been a rebound in demand not being matched with a supply return as major oil-producing countries have not returned to pre-pandemic production levels. 

The Biden administration has asked a group of oil-producing countries called OPEC+ to add more oil to the market, but the group has rebuffed his requests.

Read more about the report here.



Supreme Court rejects Miss. water claims 

 

The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Tennessee in a water dispute with Mississippi, ruling that the court should divide up the water that’s in an aquifer between the states to determine how much each can use.

In a unanimous decision, the high court rejected Mississippi’s attempt to get damages from Tennessee for pumping water from the resource.

Instead, the judges decided that waters should be governed by “equitable apportionment,” a process by which the court allocates how much of the water each state can use.

So what does this mean?: This process is often used in water disputes between two states, but the new ruling is the first time it is applied to an aquifer — where groundwater is held in rocks or sediment — that sits between two states. 

The judges said that Mississippi is wrong to try to claim all of the groundwater that’s located underneath it since the waters flow between states.

“Mississippi’s ownership approach would allow an upstream State to completely cut off flow to a downstream one, a result contrary to our equitable apportionment jurisprudence,” said the opinion, which was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts. 

The judges previously appeared skeptical of Mississippi's claims during oral arguments last month. The state argued at the time that Tennessee was acting “extraterritorially” when it set up pumps near the states’ border to access water under Mississippi.

Read more about the decision here.

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Biden mulls restoring sage grouse habitat 

 

The Bureau of Land Management will consider an update to the protections for the greater sage grouse’s habitat after reducing it under the Trump administration, the bureau announced Friday.

The bureau will assess information that has become available on the bird’s habitat since the last update in 2019, Director Tracy Stone-Manning announced. This will include assessing the effects of climate change and other environmental factors.

The sage grouse’s U.S. habitat is predominantly in sagebrush steppe in the western U.S. across 11 states.

The story so far: The Trump administration had in 2019 reduced protections for about 10 million acres of habitat for the bird, curtailing a 2015 move by the Obama administration. 

“They put in place a plan that radically reduced sage grouse habitat protections,” Erik Molvar, executive director for the Western Watersheds Project, told The Hill. After the move, both the Western Watersheds Project and other environmental advocates sued the administration, obtaining an injunction but not a ruling on the merits of the case.

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The U.S. Geological Survey earlier this year released new research on sage grouse population dynamics, Molvar added, noting that its findings indicate a sharp decline in the bird’s numbers since 2015.

Read more about the announcement here.


WHAT WE’RE READING


ICYMI

  • Electric car chargers to be required in new homes in England
  • Up to one-fifth of giant sequoias possibly lost in recent California wildfires

Offbeat and off-beat: The almighty dog-lar

 

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 Tuesday.