Today’s Key Takeaways: Arctic drilling debate highlights differing views from indigenous peoples.’ Guyana moves forward with production plans amid Venezuelan threats. BP challenges FERC on approval of Venture LNG export facility. Australia speeding up mining project approvals. Battle over fossil fuels continues at COP28.
NEWS OF THE DAY:
Indigenous peoples’ dissenting views on Arctic drilling fuels debate
David Jordan, Roll Call, December 11, 2023
Members of Congress agree that the administration needs to consider the concerns of indigenous communities when taking actions on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic. There is just disagreement on whose concerns should be prioritized.
The Biden administration’s slate of actions announced in September included canceling the remaining oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge issued under President Donald Trump and proposing new protections for over 13 million acres in the neighboring National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
These proposals drew condemnation from many Republicans — already critical of the Biden administration’s leasing policies — that the moves will increase U.S. dependence of foreign sources of oil. Alaska’s congressional delegation, which includes Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, said the administration ignored the wishes of those on the ground.
These frustrations were on display last week when the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill that would prohibit the Biden administration from enforcing these actions. The bill was introduced by Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., and co-sponsored by Peltola, who was the only Democrat to vote in favor.
The bill also had support from Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation and Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope. At a Nov. 29 hearing, Doreen Leavitt, director of natural resources for the latter group, said their voices had been “continually dismissed” as the Biden administration considers the fate of drilling in the region.
In their Dec. 7 comments on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska proposal, ICAS, the North Slope Borough and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation expressed many of the same concerns.
“[The Bureau of Land Management] is failing to fulfill its broader duties to Congress and the indigenous people of the North Slope by capitulating to a political agenda that calls for ending domestic oil and gas development with no regard to the economic and national security consequences of those actions,” the comments said.
Other Democratic members of the committee, though, spoke of their concerns that oil and gas development in the region would both be a major source of emissions and threaten the way of life of the Gwich’in people who depend on the region’s caribou herds for subsistence.
Oil Majors in Guyana Advance Plans despite Venezuela Threats: Prez Ali
Patricia Laya, Nicole Lapur, Blomberg/Rigzone, December 12, 2023
Oil majors operating in Guyana’s waters are “moving ahead aggressively” with production plans despite Venezuela’s threats to take over the region in an escalating border conflict, according to President Irfaan Ali.
Speaking from Georgetown, Ali said Guyana’s troops are prepared to defend the nation’s territory after Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro revived a long-dormant dispute over the Essequibo, a swath roughly the size of Florida where major oil discoveries have been made in recent years. Companies operating there were not intimidated by orders from the Venezuelan leader to leave the region, he added.
“There’s absolutely no slowing down” in production plans, Ali said in a video interview on Monday. “We are on the right side of international law, on the right side of ethics, and on the right side of history.”
Maduro last week told Exxon Mobil Corp. and others to withdraw from the area within three months, leaving Brazil and other Latin American nations on high alert about the possibility of an armed conflict in the region. Exxon leads a joint venture that includes Hess Corp. on Guyana’s Stabroek Block, home to the world’s largest crude discovery of the past decade.
Ali and Maduro are set to meet on Thursday on the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a bid to deescalate tension. The dispute intensified in recent years as the massive oil discoveries off the coast of Guyana led the small English-speaking nation to become the world’s fastest-growing economy.
Estimates that Guyana’s economy will grow 25 percent-30 percent a year in the medium-term are “very conservative,” said Ali, who is targeting more than 1.2 million barrels of daily production in the coming years.
“We are continuing to ensure that we are in a position with our international partners to defend what is ours,” Ali said. “But make no mistake, our troops are going to ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Guyana is respected.”
BP challenges US energy regulator’s oversight of Venture Global LNG plant
Curtis Williams, Reuters, December 12, 2023
BP PLC (BP.L) has challenged U.S. energy regulators’ approvals of a Venture Global LNG liquefied natural gas export facility, arguing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has failed to enforce its regulations, according to a letter filed with FERC on Monday.
Venture Global LNG has become a major U.S. exporter of the superchilled gas since it started processing at its Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana, plant early in 2022. It has sold more than 200 cargoes of the gas under its own accounts without supplying BP and other long-term contract customers, who have complained they have lost billions in revenue.
“By failing to follow the Commission’s requirements …(Venture Global Calcasieu Pass) has immunized its self-serving assertion that commercial operations must be deferred from the public scrutiny,” BP said in its letter to FERC.
FERC oversight of LNG facility operations has not met the commissions transparency requirements, including the public disclosure of key facts and documents necessary to ensure that commission’s rulings are in fact being followed, BP wrote.
Western Australia seeks to speed up mining project approvals
Reuters/Mining.Com, December 12, 2023
Western Australia said on Tuesday it will overhaul its environmental permit system, aiming to speed up the development of new businesses critical to the transition to greener forms of energy.
As part of the reforms, the state environment minister will be able to fast-track decisions on projects of state significance, while government approvals processes will be able to run concurrent to environmental approvals instead of afterwards.
The state government is also looking to specify timeframes for decisions more broadly and will also take steps to reduce duplication of approvals with other departments, it said.
“Today’s announcement is a massive step forward to remove the green tape that has been holding back our industry and the State economy for years,” the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies CEO Warren Pearce said.
Tumultuous COP28 heads into overtime as sides battle over fossil fuels
Andrew Freedman, Axios, December 12, 2023
Why it matters: This summit is likely to be judged by its language on the future of fossil fuels, as well as provisions on climate adaptation and finance.
- A majority of countries are hoping to significantly shore up these sections during increasingly high-stakes talks.
State of play: A new draft decision text is expected from the COP president, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, on Tuesday evening local time.
- After that, countries may gather in a plenary session to further hash out differences.
- Further text amendments may be made, and countries will be forced to publicly defend their stances.
Between the lines: The biggest point of contention relates to the section setting out expectations for the fate of fossil fuels.
- The Monday draft made no mention of “phase out” or “phase down,” instead giving countries a choice from a list of actions they “could” choose to pursue (including none of these options).
- Still, the mention of fossil fuels in a COP decision text would be historic since the term has never been included before other than references to oil and gas subsidies.
Climate negotiators — including U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, Germany’s foreign minister, smaller nation envoys and climate activists — say the language introduced Monday would not provide the world a fighting chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
What they’re saying: The numerous reactions circulating can be best summarized as: “The draft crosses a red line and is inconsistent with the science.”
Be smart: Wrestling with the future of the fossil fuel economy was never going to be easy. Yet some countries don’t view the COP president, who also heads the UAE’s national oil company, as an honest broker amid opposition from oil- and gas-producing countries.
- There is also a fraying of the sense of trust, with many of the talks producing this document and others taking place behind closed doors, without the consultation of each negotiating bloc.
Yes, but: COP28 is not over yet. While some are pronouncing an early demise, a lot may change in subsequent drafts and during public plenary meetings.
What to watch: While the Saudis are known to be adamantly opposed to fossil fuel phaseout language, they are not the only ones.
- Many developing countries, particularly in Africa, don’t want to see this in a text without financing commitments from the developed world to help them make the energy transition and adapt to climate impacts.
- Monday’s draft also fell short in that regard.
- If the climate adaptation and finance sections were bolstered, it could unlock more support for sharp cuts to fossil fuels.
The bottom line: Many climate negotiators consider this summit to be make or break, given the recent acceleration in warming and devastating extreme weather events. Against that backdrop, there’s a sense that time is dwindling to bend the emissions curve downward.
- If it fails, there may be reevaluations of the COP process itself, not just recriminations about Dubai’s missed opportunity.
- In other words, there’s a distinct chance that the largest COP ever could be the one that ends all COPs.