News of the Day:
This legislation would require state departments and agencies to end existing relationships and partnerships with financial institutions that have chosen to stop financing oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic.
“I will not let our state be taken advantage of by outside entities that undermine our economic security.” Governor Mike Dunleavy
Biden May Be Stymied as Conservatives Target Landmark Case – Chevron vs. NRDC
Morning Consult, December 15, 2020
Democrats have long hoped that unseating President Trump would usher in a period of political transformation. But if Republicans maintain control of the Senate after Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoffs, Biden won’t be able to push broad legislation through Congress. He may have to use federal agencies’ rulemaking powers to advance much of his agenda, relying on the Environmental Protection Agency to craft policies limiting emissions and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to regulate Wall Street.
He’ll inevitably face opposition in the judicial system, which has grown increasingly hostile to government regulation. President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have stacked the federal appeals courts with conservative judges, many of them handpicked by groups intent on dismantling regulations. And with Barrett confirmed, the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court is likely to chip away at Chevron and other legal doctrines that give deference to agencies.
“It’s a big threat,” says Patrick Parenteau of Vermont Law School, an expert on environmental regulations. Courts are “going to demand a whole lot more justification for what the agencies are doing.”
Already, libertarian groups such as the Pacific Legal Foundation are gearing up for fights with the Biden administration over financial regulations, environmental rules, and new policies to combat the pandemic. They’ll be joined by a familiar cast of characters: Republican state attorneys general, who fought Obama’s regulatory agenda in the courts. Challenges to Chevron are likely to be front and center.
“More regulatory activity means more opportunities for courts to defer to agencies,” says Steve Simpson, a senior attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation. “And more opportunities for people like us to challenge that deference. That will happen across the board.”
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:
GE’S CASE FOR NATURAL GAS: General Electric announced earlier this year it would exit the business of building coal-fired power plants as it strives to be carbon neutral by 2030, but the company still believes natural gas has a role to play in reducing emissions in the short-term, it said in a white paper today.
“Viewed separately, renewables and gas generation technologies each have merits and challenges as a means to address climate change and optimum solutions will differ regionally,” GE’s white paper reads. “Together, their complementary nature offers tremendous potential to address climate change with the speed and scale the world requires.”
GE has a significant gas turbine business, as well as a renewable energy business. The company argues in its white paper that replacing coal worldwide with a combination of renewables and natural gas would prompt greater carbon reductions than replacing with renewable energy alone. It also recommends ways to decarbonize natural gas, including by using hydrogen and installing carbon capture equipment.
Speaking of: GE Gas Power joined the Carbon Capture Coalition today, which has more than 80 members, including fossil fuel companies, labor unions, and environmental groups.
Australia PM warns of ‘lose-lose’ in any China coal shift
Reuters/Mining.Com, December 15, 2020
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said any shift by China away from importing high quality Australian coal would be a “lose-lose” for the environment and their trading relationship.
Chinese media on Monday reported that China’s top economic planner had granted approval to power plants to import coal without clearance restrictions, except for Australia.
Coal is the third largest export from Australia, which is in a diplomatic row with China, its largest trading partner, which imposed trade reprisals after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the source of covid-19.
Australia on Tuesday urged China to clarify the reports in outlets including The Global Times and Caixin, saying if they were true any restrictions on Australian coal would be in breach of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Congress authorizes new Arctic icebreakers for Coast Guard
Associated Press, December 15, 2020
Congress has passed a bill authorizing the addition of Coast Guard Polar Security Cutters for use as icebreakers and an Alaska senator says the Trump administration is considering leasing an icebreaker owned by a Republican donor. The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act is part of the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress for Fiscal Year 2021.
CLIMATE CHANGE CONVERSATIONS
Oil companies fight to get climate cases before Supreme Court
James Osborn, The Houston Chronicle, December 15, 2020
Some of the world’s largest oil companies are hoping to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether they should be held liable for climate change.
In the middle of a years-long legal fight with state attorneys general across the country, Exxon Mobil and the Canadian oil company Suncor Energy filed a petition with the Supreme Court earlier this month, asking the justices to overturn a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that sent a climate lawsuit filed by local officials in Colorado to state court.
That might sound like a technicality, but it has potentially significant implications for efforts by state and local governments to hold fossil fuel companies financially responsible for their greenhouse gas emissions as both sides battle for a more favorable setting in which to make their case.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2011 that federal pollution laws prohibited corporations from being sued for greenhouse gas emissions, effectively blocking litigation through the federal courts.
But the opinion, written by the late liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, did not address state laws, leaving open the question of whether plaintiffs could still sue on the basis of state nuisance laws that allow financial compensation for environmental damage.