Headlamp – Critics attack Trump for streamlining tool for leasing.

Trump move to reduce duplicative studies angers ENGO’s. The Trump administration’s latest efforts to streamline oil and gas development have drawn sharp criticism from environmentalists who say the policies shortcut federal law. At issue are new guidelines unveiled last month by the Bureau of Land Management that aim to avoid long, drawn-out National Environmental Policy Act reviews whenever possible. One feature of the February memo is an emphasis on the use of “determinations of NEPA adequacy” for oil and gas leasing. The approach, known as a DNA, allows the agency to forgo fresh environmental review when it already has studies that cover a new proposal. DNAs are unique to BLM. The term does not appear in the NEPA statute or related regulations; BLM created the tool to avoid conducting costly analysis that repeats previous work. Supporters say the approach makes perfect sense: Why spend resources to study something the agency already studied? BLM officials used them during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, too. But critics see DNAs as vulnerable to misuse. They fear the Trump administration is setting up for a major escalation that would bypass targeted environmental analysis for hundreds of thousands of acres of newly leased lands.

“We need to persuade global financial leaders that the North American Arctic is the world’s safest emerging market,” Last summer, the icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon) became China’s first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage, travelling from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic through the Arctic Ocean archipelago. Then, in January, China officially included the Arctic region in its massive Belt and Road Initiative, making Northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland eligible for Chinese investment in railways, roads, pipelines and utility grids. China understands the Arctic will be part of a new global trade infrastructure system. Does North America? According to the U.S. investment firm Guggenheim Partners, the Arctic will require close to US$1-trillion of infrastructure investment over the next decade, including transportation, telecommunications and social services to support a new era of economic opportunity from energy, fishing and mining, to defense and tourism. With fewer than one million residents, the North American Arctic has no choice but to seek outside capital for its enormous strategic and economic opportunities. We recently convened an international forum at the University of Toronto to help North American players come to grips with what’s at stake in their far north. Here’s what was suggested.

Tillerson out – Pompeo in. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he was replacing Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, just over a year into the former Exxon Mobil CEO’s tenure. “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” The news follows what had been a difficult tenure for Tillerson, who fought to keep pace with a president who liked to conduct foreign affairs through his Twitter account and struggled to get key positions within the State Department filled.

From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

FERC GIVING PIPELINE APPROVALS A FRESH LOOK: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reviewing its nearly 20-year-old policy for approving pipeline projects as the agency evaluates how to best manage the transport of bountiful shale natural gas to market, while balancing environmental and climate change concerns.

FERC has been characteristically tight-lipped since it announced in December its plan to take an open-ended “fresh look” at its 1999 policy statement governing how it issues permits for pipelines.

Different expectations: With no clear expectation of what could happen, experts and advocates are anticipating what FERC may do.

“I would be very surprised if this particular FERC made it even more difficult to get pipelines built, given the emphasis this administration has on energy infrastructure issues,” said Tony Clark, a Republican who served as a FERC commissioner from 2001 to 2012, noting President Trump appointed four of the five current commission members. Industry satisfied: Pipeline backers say the current policy works fine.

If anything, they are angling for fewer hurdles to development because they say the shale industry is already facing pipeline bottlenecks that could stop it from delivering on forecasts predicting U.S. oil production will top 11 million barrels a day by November.

Greens tire of ‘outdated’ policy: Pipeline opponents, meanwhile, say FERC’s pipeline policy is outdated, created when climate change concerns were less dominant and the shale boom was unanticipated.

They say FERC has become a “rubber stamp” for pipeline approvals because the policy statement encourages the committee to lean too heavily on economic considerations when making decisions.

 

First Reads:

North America must seize its Arctic opportunity – or risk being left out in the cold
The Globe and Mail, Clint Davis, Jessica Shadian and Mead Treadwell, March 11, 2018

Former Exxon CEO Tillerson out as secretary of state
Chron, James Osborne, March 13, 2018

Critics pounce on NEPA streamlining tool for leasing
E&E News, Ellen M. Gilmer, March 13, 2018