Legal Labyrinth: NPR-A Rules Under Siege

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Today’s Key Takeaways: ConocoPhillips challenges move to block oil and gas development in NPRA.  Santos pursues sustainable oil development at Pikka.  Senator Murkowski fighting for AK’s mining industry.  Googles plans going “up in smoke.” 


ConocoPhillips challenges Alaska drilling restrictions
Offshore-Technology.Com July 8, 2024

In April, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) finalised regulation to block oil and gas development in 40% of the National Petroleum Preserve.

ConocoPhillips has initiated legal action against the Biden administration’s prohibition on oil drilling in a significant portion of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, reported Bloomberg News.

The company contends that the new rule violates a federal law mandating the facilitation of oil development in the area.

In April 2024, the US DOI finalised regulation that blocks oil and gas development in 40% of Alaska’s National Petroleum Preserve.

The move forms part of the DOI’s efforts to protect wildlife habitats and the way of life of indigenous communities.

Conservation groups have praised the rule, introduced in April, for safeguarding the diverse ecosystem of the reserve.

However, oil sector representatives including those with existing leases in the reserve argue that the rule hampers development in an area historically allocated for energy resources.



Santos Seeks Sustainable Oil Development In Alaska
Violet George, Carbon Herald, July 8, 2024

Australian oil giant Santos is making a splash in Alaska with the Pikka project, claiming it will be a game-changer – an “environmentally friendly” oil field. 

Santos, a heavyweight in the Australian oil and gas scene, is a new player on the Alaskan frontier. 

The company’s Pikka project on the North Slope has the potential to revolutionize the state’s oil industry.

Santos is moving beyond the industry standard of carbon offsets, where companies invest in emission-reduction projects elsewhere to balance their own emissions. Their plan incorporates two cutting-edge strategies:

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Santos aims to trap emissions directly from North Slope power plants and drilling sites. They’re also exploring “direct air capture,” a new technology that essentially sucks carbon dioxide out of the thin air. This captured carbon would then be securely stored underground.
  • Offsets: Santos recognizes the role of offsets in achieving net-zero emissions. They might invest in projects like planting trees (reforestation) or renewable energy initiatives to compensate for the emissions produced when the extracted oil is burned.



Kudos are in order for Senator Murkowski
J.P. Tangen, North of 60 Mining News, July 1, 2024

Secretary of the Interior Haaland is fighting a Congressional Review deadline to ensure that the Ambler Road is blocked now.

For those who haven’t been paying attention lately, Senator Murkowski has weighed in strongly on behalf of the Alaska mining industry several times in the past few months. 

First, at a meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she used her time to sternly admonish Interior Secretary Haaland about the BLM’s decision to block the Ambler Road application; and again, from the Senate floor, she delivered a 20-minute challenge to the Administration about the policy requiring the acquisition of critical minerals found in Alaska from foreign (not necessarily friendly) countries.

“Instead of pushing policies and agreements that will force us to import, the administration needs to approve U.S. projects,” Sen. Murkowski said. “It is unacceptable for them to reject the Ambler Access Project, to close off millions of acres of Alaska, and to lock in our long-term dependence on China and Africa when we could be producing more minerals here at home.”

On May 10, Murkowski joined her colleagues for a press conference calling out the Biden administration for its National Security Implications of the Biden Administration’s Latest Sanctions restricting access to the Ambler Mining District in Alaska.

“We’re fortunate to have several major mines in Alaska, from Red Dog to Usibelli to Greens Creek. Those projects support thousands of high-paying jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues each year, and local community needs through philanthropy, scholarships, and more.

“[Alaska] has many promising projects on the horizon, which will provide more jobs and revenues, shore up our national security, and reduce our imports by providing domestic sources of antimony, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, gold, graphite, lead, lithium, nickel, palladium, platinum group elements, silver, tin, and zinc, among others.

“Alaska’s mineral potential is off the charts. But what we need is for President Biden and his administration to realize that mining is not only a proud part of our past and present, but also an essential part of our future. Instead of pushing policies and agreements that will force us to import, the administration needs to approve U.S. projects.



Google’s Net Zero Plans Are Going Up in Smoke
Robert Brice, Real Clear Energy, July 8, 2024

For years, the search giant has touted its alt-energy deals and net zero plans. But these four charts show that Google’s electricity use, CO2 emissions, and carbon intensity, are soaring.

In 2017, Google declared it had reached “100% renewable energy for our global operations.” The company continued, “Google became carbon neutral in 2007, and since then, our carbon footprint has grown more slowly than our business — proof, 10 years later, that economic growth can be decoupled from environmental impact and resource use.”

That “decoupling” didn’t last long.

In fact, since 2017, Google’s environmental reports show that the company’s electricity use, CO2 emissions, and carbon intensity have soared. The most recent numbers came out last Tuesday when the search and advertising colossus released its 2024 environmental report. And the numbers don’t lie. As seen in the chart below, since 2017, CO2 emissions at Google have jumped four-fold to a company record of 14.3 million tons in 2023.