Today’s Key Takeaways: Lame duck session permitting reform push. Bets on $200 oil increasing. A look at Japan’s view of AKLNG. Senators push for new mining safety standard. CA voters reject Prop 30-spurn taxes to fund EV transition.
NEWS OF THE DAY:
Lawmakers back to deal-making on permitting, spending
Nick Sobczyk, E & E Daily, November 15, 2022
The Senate is putting the annual defense bill on the back burner as leaders decide how to address this year’s remaining priorities. Government funding runs out next month.
Lawmakers are intensifying negotiations on a spending package and permitting reform ahead of a busy rush to the finish line in December.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said “good conversations” continued over the recess on permitting. The White House has also voiced support for a bill in the lame-duck session (E&E News PM, Nov. 11).
“We’re working every way we can,” Manchin said as Congress returned to work Monday. “This needs to be passed.”Manchin and other lawmakers want to streamline the approval process for both fossil fuel and renewable energy projects and want the compromise legislation to ride on the National Defense Authorization Act, which already includes an array of energy and environmental provisions.
Lawmakers, for example, are poised to use the must-pass defense bill to approve the latest water projects authorization bill, the Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA.
But the politics around permitting reform remain tricky. Changing the current system faces stiff opposition from House progressives wary of making any changes to the National Environmental Policy Act or approving the contentious Mountain Valley pipeline project.
And many Republicans have resisted Manchin’s permitting proposals, arguing reform legislation should be more aggressive. The GOP has also resisted joining a deal that Manchin hatched with Democratic leaders in exchange for his support of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), one of the progressive permitting reform opponents, said it’s “hard to say” whether the permitting push would have enough votes in the House as an attachment to the NDAA.
“The NDAA is already going to be combined with WRDA,” Huffman said. “You’ve got to put a pretty complicated algorithm together for that.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who has supported permitting reform as a means to build out clean energy, said it’s “too early to tell” if the effort will pan out.
“It’s one of those interesting places where it’s not the substance that has tripped all this up,” Heinrich said in an interview Monday. “So that makes it harder, for me at least, to sort of game out what the odds are.”
The Senate launched debate on its version of the NDAA last month but set aside the effort to deal with nominations and gay marriage. The chambers may end up crafting a final defense bill behind closed doors.
Bets On $200 Oil Surge As Traders Eye Extreme Volatility
Irina Slav, OilPrice.Com, November 15, 2022
- Lower demand forecasts could materialize if China doesn’t fully reopen.
- The European Union is preparing to implement an oil import embargo on Russian crude oil next month and on fuels two months later.
- Bets on $200 oil are increasing at a fast pace.
A week ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration cut its crude oil demand outlook for 2023 by 320,000 bpd, with supply also falling, by 300,000. This week, OPEC also revised down its oil demand forecast for next year by 100,000 bpd, citing economic challenges on the global oil scene. It also warned supply might become more problematic.
The chief factor behind the demand outlook appears to be the situation with Covid in China. Updates on that situation have pushed oil prices up or down on a daily basis, depending on their content, and are likely to continue doing it next year as well.
On the supply side, however, clouds are gathering. The European Union is preparing to implement an oil import embargo on Russian crude oil next month and on fuels two months later.
The G7 is meanwhile putting the finishing touches of a price cap on Russian oil purchases in a bid to achieve two normally irreconcilable goals: keep Russian oil flowing into international markets and reduce the country’s oil revenues.
According to OPEC, the EU embargo will create “additional energy-supply disruptions” and contribute to the economic slowdown in the bloc. At the same time, the G7 price cap is also coming into effect on December 5, like the EU embargo, with a lot of questions around it still without an answer, such as how the cap will be enforced, and compliance monitored.
The view, from Asia, of Alaska’s natural gas pipeline
Nathaniel Herz, Alaska Beacon, November 15, 2022
I spent 10 days in Japan last month. I was mostly on vacation — great hot springs, the trains run on time and astonishingly fast — but I also met with a few people in Japan’s energy industry.
That’s because the nation is the world’s largest liquefied natural gas importer and, importantly, likely the biggest potential buyer of gas from the proposed Alaska LNG pipeline. The state-sponsored project, at a cost of nearly $40 billion, would run some 800 miles from Alaska’s North Slope oil fields to Cook Inlet, not far from Anchorage, then export gas mostly to Asian markets.
The LNG project has generated some headlines in recent weeks: While I was in Tokyo, U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel — the former Chicago mayor and chief of staff to Barack Obama — held an “Alaska LNG Summit,” with U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and several state workers showing up in person to pitch the project to Japanese buyers. (I stopped by and ambushed Emanuel, to no avail, but I did spend some time with Sullivan; a little more on that later.)
Since I was in Japan, it seemed like a good chance to try to answer the question that people always seem to ask when they hear about the pipeline project, which politicians have talked about for decades but never managed to pull off: Is it actually going to happen?
Spoiler alert: I still don’t know. But I made some observations and learned a few things on my trip that could add to Alaskans’ understanding of where the project is headed.
SENATORS PRESS FOR PASSAGE OF NEW MINING SAFETY STANDARD: Five Democratic senators wrote to the Mine Safety and Health Administration yesterday questioning the delay of a new rule to regulate miners’ exposure to crystalline silica, a compound linked to a number of incurable respiratory ailments.
In the letter, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia noted that last September, the Labor Department had said it planned to issue an updated rule by January 2022.
“It has been over a year since that correspondence, and still no new proposed silica standard has been promulgated that would further protect our brave miners,” said the letter, addressed to Assistant MSHA Secretary Chris Williamson.
Members also referred to a 2020 report from the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General that called for improved protections for coal miners from silica exposure. That report noted that the number of coal miners with black lung had tripled between the latter half of the 1990s and first half of 2010s, due in large part to inhaling crystalline silica.
ON PERMITTING REFORM, MINING INTERESTS SAY LOOK TO CANADA: Mining and electric vehicle interests want Congress to follow the Canadians’ lead as it works through reforms to streamline environmental reviews and permitting.
Canada has a good reputation within the sector for being able to review and permit new mines in a two-year time window, while projects within the U.S. take substantially longer – closer to 10 years on average.
Mitch Krebs, president and CEO of Coeur Mining, has done business in both worlds. Coeur operates a gold and silver mine each in South Dakota, Nevada, and Alaska. Reviews and permitting for Coeur’s Kensington gold mine in Alaska took 17 years to complete.
An in-the-works silver, zinc, and lead mining project Coeur is currently undertaking in British Columbia is moving much faster, Krebs said, although he qualified that it’s not completed yet.
“That upfront planning process and the consultation, getting everything well defined, and a schedule and a timetable — I think are simple steps that Canada has that we could easily borrow,” Krebs, who is also chairman of the National Mining Association board, told Jeremy.
The existing process in the U.S. stands in the way of investment in new mines that would otherwise flow if the timelines weren’t so long, he said.
“A lot of the capital is going to be on the sidelines until they can see some certainty in terms of a timetable to get an investment back,” he said, pointing to his own mine. “A lot of investors in this sector historically have been burned. “
Joe Britton, executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association, suggested Congress put some kind of restraint on lawsuits under key laws, like the Endangered Species Act, that have delayed mining and other projects.
Britton pointed to the lot of Ioneer, which is attempting to stand up its Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron mine in Nevada but has faced litigation. The Center for Biological Diversity, in the latest challenge, announced last month its intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Tiehm’s buckwheat wildflower species.
“They’re getting jammed up over a rare form of buckwheat,” Britton, a former staffer to several Democratic senators, said at a National Mining Association event this morning. “That doesn’t make anybody look good.”
From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy
Electric cars hit a big speed bump in the midterms
Alex Fitzpatrick, Axios, November 10, 2022
California voters rejected a measure Tuesday that would have taxed wealthy residents to fund the state’s ambitious electric vehicle (EV) transition.
Why it matters: The measure, called Proposition 30, was the midterms’ highest-profile vote tied directly to the generational shift toward cleaner cars.
Catch up quick: As my colleague Nathan Bomey reported, earlier this year California moved to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.
- While many in the pro-EV crowd celebrated that decision, it wasn’t immediately clear how the state planned to finance it — EVs are expensive, as are chargers and other required infrastructure.
- Prop 30 was meant to help by levying a new 1.75% tax on the approximately 43,000 Californians making over $2 million.
- “Most of the money would have gone to programs that help people buy electric cars or install more chargers, with some money dedicated to lower-income people,” per Fortune. (Some of the Prop 30 cash would have also gone to wildfire prevention and firefighting.)
The intrigue: California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has otherwise championed the EV transition and is a driving force behind his state’s gas car ban, came out hard against Prop 30.
- Newsom said the measure would be a giveaway to ride-hailing companies such as Lyft, which under state law are required to largely electrify their fleets by 2030.
- His argument: Lyft and its ilk should bear the costs of switching to EVs without taxpayer help.
The other side: The results “are an unfortunate setback for the climate movement,” Lyft — which spent about $45 million supporting Prop 30 — said in a statement Wednesday.
By the numbers: Prop 30 was among the country’s top five ballot measures this Election Day in terms of total contributions, with nearly $73 million spent by parties on either side, per Ballotpedia.
Be smart: California’s huge car market gives it outsize influence on automakers. If it says, “no more gas cars,” the industry will follow.
Meanwhile: On the other side of the country, Massachusetts voters approved a new 4% tax on those making more than $1 million for transportation and education funding, broadly speaking.
- And New Yorkers OK’d $4.2 billion in bond sales to fund climate change mitigation and resiliency programs. (That Gov. Kathy Hochul held off challenger Lee Zeldin is also good news for public transit advocates across the Empire State.)
The big picture: Even with funds raised by Prop 30, California’s all-EVs-by-2035 plan would’ve been a stretch. Sacramento must now seek other means of financing that goal, perhaps through federal programs.