Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy & Environment — Court ruling delays oil and gas leasing

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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 how a new court ruling is affecting the Biden administration’s climate plans, a new U.S./Egypt climate working group and German climate protests blocking traffic. 

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

Let’s jump in. 

Biden administration to delay oil and gas leasing amid appeal of climate ruling 

The Biden administration will suspend or delay new federal oil and gas leasing following a court ruling against the process by which it calculates the social cost of climate change, the administration announced over the weekend. 

On Feb. 11, Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana, a Trump appointee, blocked the administration’s method of calculating the social costs associated with greenhouse gases, the primary driver of climate change. The Biden administration had returned to Obama-era calculation methods, with plans to develop its own in the future. 

How we got here: In his ruling, Cain blocked federal agencies from considering findings from the White House Interagency Working Group, which had been tasked with devising new metrics based on the Obama-era calculations. It also bars the administration from considering the global impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, one of the major distinctions that made the Obama estimates far higher than the Trump administration’s. 

In a legal filing Saturday evening, the Justice Department asked the court to stay the injunction, citing the likelihood that its appeal of the decision will succeed. 

“From President Nixon on, every President has imposed some internal Executive Branch requirement for federal agencies to assess the costs and benefits of major government actions,” the filing states. “The injunction further calls into question the authority of the past three Administrations to provide standardized guidance to agencies on appropriate methods of estimating the social cost of greenhouse-gas emissions.” 

What’s next: In the meantime, “work surrounding public-facing rules, grants, leases, permits and other projects has been delayed or stopped altogether so that agencies can assess whether and how they can proceed,” the filing states. 

“The Interior Department has assessed program components that incorporate the interim guidance on social cost of carbon analysis from the Interagency Working Group, and delays are expected in permitting and leasing for the oil and gas programs,” Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said in a statement Saturday night. 

Read more about the filing here.

US, Egypt launch joint working group 

U.S. climate envoy J Kerry visits Egypt

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry have kicked off the first meeting of a joint climate working group between the two nations amid Kerry’s trip to Cairo. 

According to the State Department, the group will have two focuses: one on this year’s COP27 climate summit, which is slated to take place in Egypt in November, and another on “bilateral cooperation on a range of mitigation and adaptation-related issues.” 

The countries agreed to establish the group last year.  

Kerry also delivered remarks on Monday at American University in Cairo. 

What did he say? During his speech, the former secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee emphasized a focus on implementation of climate goals, or what he called “implementation plus.” 

“What does this mean? It means delivering on existing commitments, strengthening commitments that are not strong enough, and creating new commitments and efforts where none exist,” he said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. 

But the push comes amid uncertainty as to whether the U.S. can actually achieve its own climate commitments, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has resisted passing the Biden administration’s social and climate spending bill despite expressing openness to climate action. 

Kerry nodded to this, saying “we hope” to pass legislation that would invest $500 billion in combating climate change, per the prepared remarks. 

Read more about the announcement here.

GERMAN OFFICIALS CONDEMN CLIMATE ACTIVISTS WHO BLOCKED ROADS

German officials on Monday condemned the climate protests that have resulted in blocked roads, including near Hamburg, which has the country’s largest port.  

“To massively impede people’s mobility or block the movement of goods is a serious breach of the law,” Bavaria’s top state security official, Joachim Herrmann, a member of the Christian Social Union, told German newspaper Funke media group, according to The Associated Press

Members of the group Uprising of the Last Generation blocked roads on Monday in Stuttgart, Freiburg and the Hamburg port in protest of food waste, the AP reported. The group demanded to end food waste, saying that disposing of vast amounts of usable food contributes to hunger and climate change. 

Nouripour, the head of Germany’s environmentalist Green Party, said he supports peaceful protests, according to the AP, but added the road blockages may undermine the support to tackle climate change. He also condemned the activists’ threat to step up the protest unless the government conforms to their demands by last Sunday.

Germany is not on track to hit the carbon emission reduction targets after the government set ambitious climate goals of being carbon neutral by 2045. 

Read more about the protests here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • The global climate attention crisis (POLITICO
  • A year after Texas cold spell, study shows renewable energy could help prevent blackouts (The Washington Post
  • Wyo., EPA edge toward power plant deal (E&E News
  • New Mexico legislative session sees few wins for environment, energy bills (NM Political Report)

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Meet Hank.

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. 

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