Alaska Winning Trio: Beaufort, AKLNG, Senator Sullivan’s Resolution.

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Today’s Key Takeaways:  Feds stop attempt to halt oil and gas work near the Beaufort Sea. DOE deems AKLNG “in the public interest.”  Final environmental impact analysis on Ambler road is coming soon. Senator Sullivan moves to overturn Biden standards on tailgate emissions -aka EV mandate.


Federal appeals court declines to ‘criminalize’ Beaufort Sea oil and gas work
James Brooks, Alaska Beacon, March 20, 2024

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined Tuesday to halt significant amounts of oil and gas work on and near Alaska’s Beaufort Sea coast despite concluding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred when it granted permission for oil companies to harass nearby polar bears. 

In 24 pages published Tuesday, the judges issued a split decision that partially overturns a prior Alaska U.S. District Court decision that upheld the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2021 “incidental take regulation” as applied to the Beaufort Sea, which is adjacent to Alaska’s North Slope oil fields.

Such regulations are required every five years by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, which restricts companies’ ability to kill, injure or disturb protected animals during construction or other work that might disturb them. 

Judges Margaret McKeown and Jay Bybee, ruling in the majority, said the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly justify parts of its 2021 regulation. 

Judge Daniel Bress, writing in dissent, disagreed with that opinion, and said he would have ruled fully in favor of the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Alaska Wilderness League, and other environmental groups had sued the Fish and Wildlife Service over the 2021 regulation with hopes of halting oil and gas work in northern Alaska.

Despite ruling partially in plaintiffs’ favor, the judges declined to grant that request, saying that “vacating the 2021 ITR would in essence criminalize the act of knowingly operating as an oil company in the Beaufort Sea.”



DOE backs Alaska gas exports over climate objections
Niina H. Farah, E & E News, March 20, 2024

The Department of Energy is defending its decision to re-approve exports from a massive liquefied natural gas project in Alaska, even as the agency acknowledged the project would likely result in a net increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.

In a brief filed in federal court last week, DOE said it has broad discretion under federal law to deem Alaska LNG to be in the public interest, a finding that is being disputed by environmental groups. The agency’s determination predates its January decision to pause new LNG export approvals as it takes a closer look at the effect that shipping natural gas overseas has on climate change and energy costs.

The $43 billion Alaska LNG project includes an 800-mile pipeline connecting a gas treatment facility in Alaska’s remote North Slope to a liquefaction facility in the south of the state. Most of the LNG from the project would be exported, starting in 2032.

“Here, DOE reasonably determined, based on a thorough consideration and discussion of all pertinent benefits and potential harms, that it lacked a basis for finding that Alaska LNG exports would be inconsistent with the public interest,” Justice Department attorneys wrote in a brief filed Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.


Federal attorneys: Final impact report on Alaska’s Ambler road to come in year’s second quarter
Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon, March 20, 2024

A final environmental impact analysis, followed by a decision about whether the Ambler Access Project will be allowed to be built, is expected by midyear, according to a status report filed as part of a lawsuit seeking to block the controversial project.

What is known as the final supplemental impact statement, or final supplemental EIS, will likely be completed in the second quarter of this year, said the status report filed on Monday in U.S. District Court by Justice Department attorneys.

That is a little later than previously anticipated, the status report said. Previously, the final SEIS was expected to be released in the first quarter of the year, the status report said.

The supplemental EIS was launched in 2022 in response to litigation. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management started the process to address what it determined were deficiencies in the environmental reviews conducted during the Trump administration.

The Ambler Access Project is a proposed 211-mile road that would pass through the Brooks Range foothills to enable commercial development of multiple mines in the remote Ambler district of Northwest Alaska. The mine sites hold copper, along with other metals.

While the BLM approved construction of the road in 2020 under the Trump administration, the agency determined that there had been insufficient analysis of the project’s impacts.

A draft supplemental EIS released in October found that the Trump administration analysis had understated the road’s anticipated disruptions to traditional subsistence hunting and fishing and its expected damage to the region’s permafrost.

The supplemental EIS process has been contentious.



BREAKING: Senate Republicans are introducing a disapproval resolution to overturn the Biden administration’s standards for reducing tailpipe emissions for new vehicles, finalized just minutes before. 

Sens. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, both members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, are introducing two separate disapproval resolutions that would overturn the finalized rule, which would create further restrictions on new vehicle emissions. The pair called the standards “delusional,” and deemed them an electric vehicle mandate that would make it harder for consumers to buy and maintain cars. 

“This is the Biden administration’s attempt to get rid of the internal-combustion engine without congressional authority,” the senators said in a statement. “Congress must take action to keep vehicle costs down, protect our free-market economy, and defend consumer choice. We can’t allow Biden to make us more reliant on foreign adversaries like China who control the critical minerals needed for electric vehicles.” 

The pair reasoned that the push for EVs would not work in their home states – where extreme cold, isolated communities, and long-distance drives would make for a hazardous combination for the vehicles.

Some background: The EPA’s finalized rule is a watered-down version compared to the original proposal, Breanne writes. While the EPA will still seek for EVs to make up 67% of new car sales by 2032, it will allow automakers to do so using other mixes of vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, strong hybrids, and improved ICE vehicles, in addition to pure battery electric vehicles.

The key part: The administration has faced pushback from auto manufacturers as it attempts to deliver on its EV targets, with manufacturing trade groups arguing that the administration’s EV sales targets are not achievable in the intended timeframe, and risked limiting consumer choice while  triggering price hikes for all types of vehicles.

The new rule regulates tailpipe emissions for light and medium-duty vehicles, while another rule regulating heavy-duty vehicles will be introduced at a later time. Ricketts introduced a disapproval resolution for Wednesday’s rule, and Sullivan will be introducing the resolution dealing with heavy-duty vehicles once the rule is finalized.

A long time coming: Sullivan and Ricketts had vowed to introduce resolutions overturning the rule when it was first proposed in 2023, arguing that the standards weren’t achievable. Sen. Joe Manchin said then that he would support an effort to overturn the rule, so be on the lookout for how he votes when this comes to the floor. 
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy , March 20, 2024