News of the Day:
Biden to Sign Order Requiring $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
Catherine Lucey, The Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2021
President Biden will sign an executive order Tuesday requiring that federal contractors pay a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the White House said.
The order would affect hundreds of thousands of people working on federal contracts, the White House said, including cleaning and maintenance workers, as well as nursing assistants and food-service workers.
Under the order, starting Jan. 30, 2022, all agencies will need to include a $15 minimum wage in new contract solicitations, and by March 30, 2022, all agencies will need to implement it into new contracts. Agencies will also need to incorporate it into existing contracts when they are extended.
The current minimum wage for workers performing work on covered federal contracts is $10.95. The order would also phase out the use of a tipped minimum wage for federal contractors, currently $7.65 an hour, by 2024.
In January, Mr. Biden signed an order to start the process so that he could sign this order within his first 100 days. At the time, the White House said he would sign an order requiring that federal contractors pay a $15-an-hour minimum wage and provide paid leave for their employees.
Nordic Oil Firm Sells World First Certified Carbon Neutral Oil
Tsvetana Paraskova, OilPrice.Com, April 26, 2021
Sweden-based Lundin Energy said on Monday that it had sold the world’s first certified crude oil produced with net-zero emissions from an oilfield offshore Norway.
Lundin Energy, which is active in many areas offshore Norway, Western Europe’s largest oil and gas producer, said that the crude oil was certified carbon-neutral across the full life, including exploration, development, and Scope 1 and 2 emissions from production.
The oil, pumped at Lundin Energy’s Edvard Grieg field offshore Norway, was sold to Italian refiner Saras SpA for its Sarroch refinery in Sardinia.
The Edvard Grieg field is the first oilfield in the world to be independently certified by Intertek Group under its CarbonClear certification, Lundin Energy said.
To supply a fully carbon-neutral barrel to Saras, residual emissions of 2,302 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) were compensated through a nature-based carbon capture project, certified by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
Lundin Energy says that all the barrels it produces will be carbon neutral in their production from 2025 onwards.
“We were the first company to have one of its field’s carbon emissions independently certified as low carbon, and this certified carbon neutral transaction with Saras, is the next stage in what we believe will become a key value differentiator for Lundin Energy,” said Nick Walker, President and CEO of Lundin Energy.
The Nordic company is not the only one looking to appeal to customers and investors with carbon-neutral crude.
In January this year, a unit of U.S. Occidental said it had delivered the world’s first shipment of carbon-neutral oil, or oil where emissions associated with the entire crude lifecycle—wellhead through the combustion of end products—have been offset. The delivery of the oil, produced by Occidental in the Permian, “is a first step in the creation of a new market for climate-differentiated crude oil,” Oxy Low Carbon Ventures said.
EU Admits It Can’t Go Net-Zero Without Natural Gas
Irina Slav, OilPrice.Com, April 26, 2021
Last week saw some much-needed good news for natural gas. The European Union signaled that it would include natural gas in its energy plans for the future, emissions, and all. The not-so-good news is that speaking of emissions, the EU might oblige suppliers to minimize these as much as is possible.
In the early days of the rush to cut emissions, natural gas was hailed as what many called a bridge fuel, the bridge being between fossil fuels and renewable energy. Then, as the rush accelerated, the bridge-fuel status of natural gas began to be questioned, increasingly loudly.
While a lower emitter than coal or oil, gas was still an emitter, and many of the proponents of a net zero energy world became increasingly radical with the help of statistics that showed, for example, that U.S. emissions did not decline with the replacement of coal power plants with gas-fired plants because the output of these gas-fired plants—and their numbers—increased.
Gradually, gas became the third focal point of emissions-cutting efforts, almost on par with coal and oil. This is why the European Union’s decision to include natural gas in its brand new EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act. The weird-sounding document basically spells out what is green and what isn’t in a list for businesses and investors to peruse with a view to helping the EU along with its plans to become a net-zero emitter by 2050.
The piece of legislation, according to the EU, “introduces clear performance criteria for determining which economic activities make a substantial contribution to the Green Deal objectives. These criteria create a common language for businesses and investors, allowing them to communicate about green activities with increased credibility and helping them to navigate the transition already under way.”
While gas was not included in the list of green economic activities, the EU said it would be included in a separate document treating—and this is the important part—transitional activities. Put simply, the EU legislation will restore natural gas to its bridge-fuel status.
This is, in essence, an admission that it won’t be that easy for the EU to wean itself off fossil fuels completely. It is also a confirmation of what the vice president of the EU and person in charge of the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said earlier this year about gas and other fossil fuels.
“Where, and as long as, clean energy cannot yet be deployed on the scale needed, fossil gas may still play a role in the transition from coal to zero emission electricity,” Timmermans said in March. “But I want to be crystal clear with you—fossil fuels have no viable future. That also goes for fossil gas, in the longer run.”
Some would argue that natural gas and almost certainly nuclear power have a pretty bright long-term future in Europe because putting all your energy eggs in the renewable energy basket when you’re electrifying the economies of a whole continent is a pretty risky business. Yet, the EU seems determined to achieve a net-zero status whatever it takes. And this is where the bad news for gas producers comes.
The case of French Engie refusing a cargo of U.S. LNG because of the high carbon footprint of its extraction has now become notorious as an illustration of the EU’s priorities. The bloc may not get to net-zero without gas, but it is highly likely that it will require the gas it uses to be as clean as possible. Methane leak elimination and emission reduction at the liquefaction terminals are just some things that natural gas producers may need to familiarize themselves with if they want to sell to the EU.
The world leader in LNG exports, Qatar is already working on it. When the country made the final investment decision on a 40-percent capacity increase at the world’s biggest LNG project, it also said it would invest in a carbon capture and sequestration system at the site, to lower its LNG’s carbon footprint.
Traditionally, buyers have looked at the quality and the price of commodities—and all other goods, really—to make a decision to buy. Now, the quality aspect has gained a new and very important detail when it comes to energy commodities. Their greenhouse gas footprint is on its way to becoming the single most important factor for some buyers.
For now, Europe is the only one with a comprehensive emissions strategy, but it may not remain the only one for long. The Biden administration has also announced pretty ambitious emission-related goals, and they are bound to affect natural gas consumption and exports. Asian buyers are also becoming increasingly emission-conscious and requiring proof of cleanliness for the gas they buy. In other words, gas may have retained its bridge-fuel status in the energy transition but using it to stay in the race for as long as possible will require a lot of emissions-cutting efforts on the part of producers.
Citigroup declined 11 coal transactions last year
Ben Geman, Axios, April 27, 2021
Banking giant Citigroup said that last year it declined 11 “transaction opportunities” around coal mining or coal-fired power as a result of recently launched climate policies.
Why it matters: The tally, part of a wider ESG report released Monday, provides a rare glimpse at specific business fallout of Wall Street giants’ growing restrictions on certain types of fossil finance.
Of note: Bloomberg has more on the report here.
Catch up fast: A number of banking giants like JPMorgan Chase and Citi are boosting finance for clean technology sectors in addition to their fossil restrictions.
- Citi’s report comes on the heels of its pledge this month to steer $1 trillion toward “sustainable finance” by 2030, with half for various “climate solutions.”
What they’re saying: One climate activist who tracks banking tells me that the level of detail in Citi’s report on its coal financing rejections is uncommon.
- “This sort of specificity and transparency is rare and refreshing,” Beau O’Sullivan of the Bank on our Future network tells me via email.
- We’re used to banks boasting about the green business they’re financing, but that’s exactly what banks do — finance profitable and growing sectors. Real climate leadership in the banking sector means turning down business,” he said.
But, but, but: Activists are pushing banks to phase out fossil-related lending more broadly, including the oil-and-gas sector.”
- We need to see Citi, the world’s second biggest financier of fossil fuels, ending relationships on a corporate level with companies that are expanding fossil fuel business,” O’Sullivan said.
Center for Biological Diversity Scared of Beaudreau?
Emma Dumain, E&E News reporter, Monday, April 26, 2021: President Biden’s choice for deputy Interior secretary will have the chance this week to explain and defend his record.
Tommy Beaudreau, the nominee to fill the agency’s No. 2 slot, is set to appear before members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.
His confirmation hearing will present an early test of his popularity among Republicans, as Beaudreau’s selection was designed to offer members of both parties a nominee they could get behind.
It will also mark the first time Democrats are forced to speak openly about Beaudreau since he was formally nominated two weeks ago amid controversy and confusion ( Greenwire, April 13).
Democrats have so far been largely quiet about Beaudreau, who was put forward at the recommendation of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and with the blessing of committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
The two influential lawmakers had expressed opposition to Biden’s first choice for deputy Interior secretary, Elizabeth Klein, who they saw as hostile to oil and gas (E&E Daily, March 24).
It’s not clear if Democrats will let their concerns about the circumstances of Beaudreau’s nomination spill out into the public arena or if they will take direct issue with his record, which came into focus last week.
Beaudreau, who has ties to Murkowski’s native Alaska, is a veteran of the Obama administration, serving as the very first director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and later as chief of staff to then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
But in the years since leaving government, he has been a partner at the global law practice of Latham & Watkins, where he represented a lengthy list of clients in the oil, gas and coal sectors, his financial disclosure report revealed late last week (E&E Daily, April 23).
It’s far from likely these realities will derail Beaudreau’s nomination. He is expected to win support from some Republicans, and most Democrats will have a difficult time rebuffing a Biden nominee, especially someone who has been enthusiastically endorsed by mainstream environmental groups.
However, the disclosure was deeply unsettling to many progressive environmentalists and validated their worst fears about the extent of Beaudreau’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.
A handful of left-leaning green groups are now preparing to fight the nominee and put pressure on their Senate allies to oppose him in a showdown that could become an embarrassing distraction to party unity.
“I don’t expect our efforts will result in him not getting confirmed,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We just want to register our objection.”
Hartl also said he feared Beaudreau would “undermine” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as the agency’s second-in-command.
Haaland, who was demonized by Republicans as being too “radical” for her past statements opposing oil and gas drilling on public lands, has been touted as the gold standard for whom staunch environmentalists want to see in the Biden administration.
“We are going to view him and treat him the way we would have treated a [former Interior Secretary] David Bernhardt type: He is too cozy with industry,” Hartl said of Beaudreau. “We are going to want to see all of his calendars and all of his emails and everything he puts his fingers on because we’re not going to trust him.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is expected to join with other organizations to circulate a letter of opposition this week in advance of Thursday’s confirmation hearing.
One of those allied groups could be the Sunrise Movement, which is also coming out strongly against Beaudreau. Press secretary Ellen Sciales called the nomination “atrocious.”
“We need leaders who will reject the influence of the fossil fuel industry and have the clear priorities of moving away from fossil fuels and stopping the climate crisis,” Sciales said in a statement. “We do not trust that Tommy Beaudreau will be that leader, and his nomination must be revoked.”
Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, April 29, at 10 a.m. in 366 Dirksen and via webcast.
Witness: Tommy Beaudreau.
When Academia Loses Objectivity About Climate Change Science
William Allison, Energy in Depth, April 19, 2021
A prominent academic with direct ties to the climate litigation campaign confirmed in a recent E&E News article that so-called “climate attribution science” was designed specifically to support lawsuits against major energy companies. The comments undercut the credibility or objectivity of its proponents, including Peter Frumhoff of the Union Concerned Scientist who has been delivering different messages to public and private audiences about the use of attribution science.
Climate litigation supporters have claimed that attribution science should serve as objective evidence in lawsuits against major energy companies, as it purportedly links a specific amount of greenhouse gas emissions to specific operators, thus providing an avenue by which a court could assign damages to companies. Yet, as University of Oxford climate expert and litigation supporter Friederike Otto told E&E News, attribution science was created solely to bolster these lawsuits. As the article notes:
“But Friederike Otto, a climate expert at the University of Oxford who has worked with [Myles] Allen, said her efforts to link extreme weather events to climate change have always been tied to the possibility of legal action. ‘Unlike every other branch of climate science or science in general, event attribution was actually originally suggested with the courts in mind,’ she said.” (emphasis added)
This stunning admission from Otto undercuts any claim that attribution science should be viewed as a neutral or objective resource by courts of law or policymakers. In fact, Otto herself has relied on climate attribution work to support climate lawsuits as a 2019 E&E News story mentions:
“Friederike Otto, a climate expert at the University of Oxford and lead scientist at the World Weather Attribution project, said she talks ‘a lot with lawyers’ about how attribution science could be used as a litigation tool.” (emphasis added)
Otto also signed onto a motion in support of San Francisco and Oakland’s climate lawsuit and the E&E News article mentions that she works with Myles Allen, another climate academic at Oxford, who, the publication notes, “authored what is widely considered the first attribution study on the 2003 European heat wave,” and he wrote an op-ed that same year linking attribution science and lawsuits.
Nor is this the first time that supporters of climate litigation have cited the need for attribution science to bolster their lawsuits like plaintiffs’ attorney Vic Sher did in 2017.
Different Audiences, Different Messages
For years, Peter Frumhoff – a key player in the climate litigation campaign has been working behind-the-scenes for years to push attribution research forward in the hopes it could be used for litigation. But in the most recent E&E News story, he stated the exact opposite to a public audience.
“In an interview with E&E News, Frumhoff rejected the notion that his work was designed to help local challengers in the climate liability lawsuits… ‘The research we’ve done and published on attribution has definitely not been motivated by any specific piece of litigation or to inform any specific piece of litigation,’ Frumhoff said.” (emphasis added)
It runs counter to everything Frumhoff has said to fellow activists in the past as they have made this research central to the efforts to promote climate litigation for nearly a decade. In 2012, he and the Union of Concerned Scientists helped organize the La Jolla conference, where the playbook for the entire climate litigation campaign was designed, which included discussion on the attribution research done by Richard Heede, the leader of the Climate Accountability Institute. Heede is one of the preeminent persons working in the attribution space and his “Carbon Majors” report was highlighted in the E&E News article and has received extensive media attention.
The summary document from the La Jolla conference showed that Matt Pawa – a plaintiffs’ attorney who has served as outside counsel in multiple climate cases – believed that attribution research would aid litigation:
“Most of the workshop’s participants responded positively to Heede’s research. Matt Pawa thought the information could prove quite useful in helping to establish joint and several liability in tort cases, but he cautioned that, in practice, a judge would likely hesitate to exert joint and several liability against a carbon-producing company if the lion’s share of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could not be attributed to that company specifically. Nevertheless, he said this kind of accounting would no doubt inspire more litigation that could have a powerful effect in beginning to change corporate behavior.” (emphasis added)
That document concludes with a clear message about the use of attribution science:
“Several participants agreed to work together on some of the attribution work already under way…and build an advocacy component around those findings.”
In 2015, Frumhoff told Dr. Edward Maibach, who leads GMU’s Center for Climate Change Communication, in an email that “we’re also in the process of exploring other state-based approaches to holding fossil fuel companies legally accountable—we think there’ll likely be a strong basis for encouraging state (e.g. AG) action forward.”