News of the Day:
Court order delays construction at ConocoPhillips’ Alaska project
Yereth Rosen, Reuters, February 7, 2021
A weekend court ruling has temporarily blocked winter construction at a huge ConocoPhillips oil project on Alaska’s North Slope.
U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued an order Saturday barring ConocoPhillips from starting planned gravel mining and gravel-road construction at its Willow project. With an estimated 590 million barrels of oil and the potential to produce 160,000 barrels per day, Willow would be the westernmost operating oil field in Arctic Alaska. First oil is planned as early as 2024, according to ConocoPhillips.
Gleason’s injunction came in response to an environmental lawsuit claiming the Trump administration’s Willow approval failed to properly consider wildlife and climate-change impacts. The judge last week rejected environmentalists’ request for a more sweeping injunction. Her new order halts gravel-related work until at least Feb. 20, giving the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals time to weigh in.
Exclusive-Amazon orders hundreds of trucks that run on natural gas
Laura Sanicola, Yahoo! Finance, February 6, 2021
Amazon.com Inc has ordered hundreds of trucks that run on compressed natural gas as it tests ways to shift its U.S. fleet away from heavier polluting trucks, the company told Reuters on Friday.
The coronavirus pandemic caused delivery activity to surge in 2020, with truck volumes exceeding 2019 levels on average while passenger car traffic fell. But that increase in road activity means more pollution, as heavier-duty trucks emit higher levels of greenhouse gases than passenger vehicles.
Amazon has ordered more than 700 compressed natural gas class 6 and class 8 trucks so far, according to the company.
Alaska mine output rises, nation’s drops
Shane Lasley, North of 60 Mining News, February 5, 2021
Alaska mines produced roughly $3.16 billion worth of non-fuel minerals last year, a slight increase over the $3.13 billion during 2019, according to Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021 published by the U.S. Geological Survey on Feb. 2
The rise in Alaska mine production value is largely due to higher gold output at Alaska’s large mines and record setting prices for the precious metal last year.
According to early estimates by the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, Alaska mines produced roughly 1.2 billion pounds of zinc, 265 million lb of lead, 620,000 ounces of gold and 15.5 million oz silver.
Alaska’s US senators want to thwart Biden’s anti-oil policies. Here’s what they’re trying.
Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media, February 8, 2021
With President Biden issuing executive orders pausing oil and gas leases and permits, Alaska’s U.S. senators are seeing years of their accomplishments erased. They’re fighting back, but with Democrats in control of Congress, their tools are limited.
Here are some of the options they are using:
Option 1: Make the case in the media. Sen. Dan Sullivan argued against Biden’s low-carbon energy plan on Fox News last week, saying it kills jobs.
“We’re working hard to get the president to realize that he’s really damaging not just the economy but the American worker during a pandemic and a recession,” Sullivan said to Fox host Neil Cavuto. “Makes no sense.”
Option 2: Leverage the Senate confirmation process. Sullivan made the same case against the Biden energy plan at a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
“Nobody has an answer!” Sullivan said while questioning Biden’s nominee for EPA administrator, Michael Regan. “It’s a strategy and a policy that makes no sense, which is why we want to go see the president.”
Regan said the policies are aimed at transition the country to carbon-free energy. In the short term, he said Alaska will benefit from Biden’s plan to invest in roads, electrical grids, and water and sewer infrastructure.
“I believe that many of the jobs and skill sets that people have in your state, and other states, can move quickly to those jobs,” he said.
Option 3: Aim for the Oval. Sullivan rallied 25 Republican senators, many from fossil-fuel production states, to sign a letter seeking a meeting with Biden. At Regan’s confirmation hearing, Sullivan said it hasn’t yielded results.
“The White House press secretary said, ‘Sorry, the president isn’t interested in meeting with one-quarter of the Senate on the issue of jobs and energy,’” Sullivan groused. “I hope he changes his mind, and if you get confirmed maybe you can convince (him) to talk about this really important issue.”
Option 4: Protest vote: Sullivan has so far voted against one of Biden’s cabinet nominees – Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen. He said the vote was a response to Biden energy policy.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she also uses the confirmation process to make her case to nominees. When a nominee makes the rounds to interview privately with each senator Murkowski says it’s a great time to educate them about Alaska’s special circumstances.
“I think what has rattled most of us is the breadth to which these executive orders and secretarial orders apply,” Murkowski said. “The first week with a secretarial order coming out that there is a pause on permits on oil and gas and federal lands. So we were hearing from every operator up in the NPRA saying ‘what does this mean to us?’”
At least one operator was immediately affected. An Australian-based company called 88 Energy was waiting for permits to drill in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska when the Biden Interior Department issued a 60-day pause.
Option 5: Hit the phones: Murkowski said the delegation leapt into action to get a faster permit review. She said they can’t assume the new officials know that Alaska’s North Slope drilling season ends in April.
“If you have permits that are on a 60 day pause in New Mexico or Louisiana, 60 days can come and go and you’re not going to lose your season,” she said. “In Alaska, 60 days come and go, and you have lost a full season.”
Murkowski says she contacted the acting Interior secretary, among others.
The permits were issued a few days later. The senators might count that as a success, but Murkowski says she hopes they don’t have to battle the administration permit by permit.
Big Business squirms as Biden tightens climate regulations
Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico, February 8, 2021
Corporate America is entering the Biden era with bold public pledges to fight climate change. But as Democrats seek to hold businesses to those promises, they’re facing a big battle.
Democrats are vowing to go through the Securities and Exchange Commission to impose sweeping financial disclosure rules on climate risk that would force thousands of businesses including banks, manufacturers, and energy producers to divulge information to investors. Lenders are set to get even more scrutiny from their own regulators like the Federal Reserve, including potential stress tests to measure their resiliency to rising sea levels and extreme weather.
Now, the backlash is beginning.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who has been hailed by some as a corporate leader in fighting climate change, is putting his weight behind a call for companies to abide by a voluntary global standard instead and is warning against the potential shortfalls of government intervention. And Republican lawmakers are emerging as allies to businesses resistant to the looming transparency rules.
“This is about solving a societal problem that does not align simply with the SEC’s mission,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee. “I’d like the Securities and Exchange Commission to stick to what they do and then for us in the elected class to make these large-scale societal decisions.”
At the heart of the clash is a broader argument about how much control the government should have over business, a debate that will get more heated as President Joe Biden’s administration moves to impose stricter regulations on the economy after four years of rollbacks by former President Donald Trump.