Headlamp – Gigantic flip flop by Trump EPA neither “deters nor derails” Pebble project.

Decision neither “deters nor derails”. Opponents of the Pebble mine project took Friday afternoon to celebrate a small but unexpected victory via Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt announced Friday that the EPA would not finalize the proposed withdrawal of the 2014 proposed determination to prohibit a large mine in the Bristol Bay region through its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authority. The agency said in a statement Friday that it has “serious concerns” about the impacts of mining activity in the Bristol Bay watershed and public comments in stakeholder meetings stressed the importance of the world’s largest wild salmon fishery. Pruitt said it would be disingenuous for the agency to not offer an environmental position at this stage of the project. Pebble Limited Partnership filed its wetlands fill permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dec. 22. The application outlines plans to fill 3,190 acres of wetlands at the mine site. While not specific to any mine plan — a point Pebble and parent company Northern Dynasty minerals have stressed — the Bristol Bay Watershed assessment published by EPA in 2014 concludes a mine that would fill more than about 1,100 acres would be too damaging to fish habitat to allow. Pruitt emphasized in his statement that his decision “neither deters nor derails” the Pebble environmental permit application process now underway while at the same time he has heard from stakeholders on whether to withdraw the proposed 404(c) restrictions.

Keep it simple. The City and Borough of Juneau Mining Committee voted Thursday to pursue changes to the city’s current mining ordinance — very minor ones, that is. The changes, if they’re made, will have one simple goal: make the ordinance easier to understand. At the request of the committee members, City Attorney Amy Mead will go through the 17-page ordinance and outline areas that could use clarification. She will not be suggesting any substantive changes to the ordinance, but will be making changes to language.

Port Mackenzie is out of the Alaska LNG project. The state-owned Alaska Gasline Development Corp. will begin soliciting equity investments by mid-year in the proposed $43 billion Alaska LNG Project, officials of the corporation told state legislators in briefings last week. An initial offering will be aimed at raising about $1 billion to be used for final engineering needed to prepare the project for final investment decision by the state and potential Chinese customers in mid-2019, Keith Meyer, AGDC’s president, told the resources and finance committees in the House and Senate. A recent accomplishment is the completion of answers to over 100 technical questions asked by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Alaska LNG Project’s application to the agency for a certificate for the giant project, Meyer said. Alaska LNG is now waiting for the FERC to set a schedule for the federal Environmental Impact Project that is needed. Meyer also explained why the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s Port MacKenzie was eliminated early on as a site for the terminus of the Alaska LNG Project’s 800-mile, 42-inch pipeline and large liquefied natural gas plant. “Port MacKenzie is a little too close to Anchorage and ship traffic going there. Also, Port MacKenzie is a multi-use cargo port and federal law requires an LNG terminal to be single-use,” Meyer said. “The Alaska coast has many locations that would make wonderful port, but we wound up choosing Nikiski and we’re sticking with that,” he said.

Canada to rival US in shale revolution? The revolution in U.S. shale oil has battered Canada’s energy industry in recent years, ending two decades of rapid expansion and job creation in the nation’s vast oil sands. Now Canada is looking to its own shale fields to repair the economic damage. Canadian producers and global oil majors are increasingly exploring the Duvernay and Montney formations, which they say could rival the most prolific U.S. shale fields. Canada is the first country outside the United States to see large-scale development of shale resources, which already account for 8 percent of total Canadian oil output. China, Russia and Argentina also have ample shale reserves but have yet to overcome the obstacles to full commercial development. Canada, by contrast, offers many of the same advantages that allowed oil firms to launch the shale revolution in the United States: numerous private energy firms with appetite for risk; deep capital markets; infrastructure to transport oil; low population in regions that contain shale reserves; and plentiful water to pump into shale wells. Together, the Duvernay and Montney formations in Canada hold marketable resources estimated at 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 4.5 billion barrels of oil, according to the National Energy Board, a Canadian regulator.

From today’s Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

EPA HALTS APPROVAL PROCESS FOR ALASKA GOLD MINE: The EPA on Friday night reversed a prior decision and halted the approval process of a gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Pruitt said the Pebble Mine project would harm the area’s natural resources. “It is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there,” Pruitt said. Bottom line: The decision, a rare nod from Pruitt to environmentalists, does not cancel the mine outright, but leaves in place the Obama administration’s block of the project until the EPA solicits further comments. Pruitt said he made the decision after consulting with various stakeholders, including Alaska natives and tribal governments. Local opposition: The Obama administration had denied the mine a permit for years because of the potential impact it would have on water quality and the number of salmon that indigenous populations rely upon. That decision led to a lawsuit in 2014 by the Canadian company developing the mine.

First Reads:

Mining Committee seeks to make ordinance easier to understand
Juneau Empire, Alex McCarthy, January 28, 2018

EPA’s unexpected decision welcomed by Pebble opponents
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Elwood Brehmer, January 27, 2018

Port Mac not part of $43 million LNG Project
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Tim Bradner, January 28, 2018

Why Canada is the next frontier for shale oil
Reuters, Nia Williams, January 28, 2018