Trump administration finalizes plan to expand oil drilling opportunities by millions of acres in Arctic Alaska reserve
Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News, January 4, 2021
In another last-minute move, the Trump administration on Monday finalized a plan to dramatically increase the land available for oil and gas drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, an effort already facing legal challenges from groups concerned about threats to polar bears, caribou, migratory birds, climate change and subsistence resources.
The Bureau of Land Management on Monday announced that it had finalized a new activity plan for the 23-million-acre reserve in the Arctic, with a signing by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on New Year’s Eve.
The reserve, the largest area of federally managed land in the U.S., is located west of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields in an area containing large new oil discoveries, including ConocoPhillips’ Willow prospect.
The new activity plan will allow oil and gas leasing across 18.6 million acres — up by 7 million acres from a 2013 plan completed during the Obama administration.
The plan includes protections for the environment, the agency said in a statement. New activity such as drilling would require additional government review before it could occur.
Oxford Energy Podcast – LNG Finance – will lenders accommodate the changing environment?
Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, January 5, 2021
Since the 1980s the growth of the LNG business has been underpinned by third party finance, predominantly from international banks, under limited recourse project finance. Financings were also often backed by political risk cover from Export Credit Agencies. Under these arrangements the project itself borrowed money to fund its development enabling financially weaker shareholders to participate in the project. Key to the funding was the existence of reliable revenues from the project secured though long-term offtake contracts with creditworthy buyers. In this podcast David Ledesma discusses with Robin Baker how the LNG business is changing, changing buyer contractual requirements and asks the question – are lenders willing to loan funds based on more flexible terms?
The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies is a world leading independent energy research institute specializing in advanced research into the economics and politics of international energy across oil, gas, and electricity markets.
Alaska demands action on B.C.’s ‘lax’ mining oversight
Quinn Bender, Terrace Standard, January 4, 2021
he United States government has approved US$3.6 million in spending to help Alaska pressure the B.C. government into reforming mining regulations they claim are lax and present an imminent threat to fish and habitat in transboundary watersheds.
On Dec. 21, U.S. Congress approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2021 that included US$3.1 million for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to expand a 2019 baseline water-quality monitoring program on rivers downstream from B.C. mines. An allocation of US$500,000 was also approved to shore up involvement of the U.S. Department of State to identify gaps in a memorandum of understanding between B.C. and Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana relating to mining activity in transboundary watersheds.
The bear case for big energy and climate deals
Ben Geman, Axios, January 5, 2021
Anyone thinking that the immediate past is a prologue for Capitol Hill deal making could be in for rough years ahead.
Catch up fast: In late December, Congress passed, and President Trump signed legislation to cut a major greenhouse gas, extend clean energy tax incentives and bolster Energy Department tech deployment programs.
Why it matters: That bill was a big deal. But, looking ahead, today brings the runoff elections in Georgia.
- Unless Democrats beat the odds and win both contests, that means at least two years of a Democratic White House and GOP-led Senate — not the deal-friendly landscape seen in the Obama years.
- If Democrats do win, they’ll govern with the thinnest possible margin.
- And parts of President-elect Biden’s agenda need Congress — notably huge increases in clean energy infrastructure spending — even as he plans aggressive executive moves.
What we’re watching: With the caveat that journalists have a not-awesome track record on gaming out the future, the bear case on more big deals looks something like this…
1. December’s deal was its own animal. The year-end bill phases down hydrofluorocarbons, the powerful planet-warming gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration.
- But that’s far less politically volatile terrain than mandates to cut carbon emissions from fossil fuels, which face lots of GOP resistance, as the Washington Examiner points out.
- And the HFC phasedown was not even especially controversial, enjoying buy-in from powerful manufacturers.
2. Big spending plans could struggle for traction, even though the need for more COVID-19 relief could provide a vehicle.
- Biden wants to spend $2 trillion over four years on climate-friendly initiatives.
- But as a number of analysts and reporters have pointed out, once Biden is in power, Republicans may revive their fallow deficit concerns.
3. The whole December thing was kind of weird. The deal hitched a ride on a COVID-19 relief and government funding package during a lame-duck session, ahead of a change in White House control, and while party control of the Senate was unknown.
4. Trump will cast a shadow. Yes, he rejects climate science but wound up signing not one but two bills during his only term that bolstered CO2 capture and storage credits (the first was in 2018).
- But that said, we’re seeing right now that a number of Republicans don’t want to run afoul of Trump’s base, so if he snipes at a potential deal from the sidelines, well, that matters.
5. The left is feeling restive too. The year-end deal bolstered tech that Republicans and some Democrats like that nonetheless make progressives queasy, like CO2 capture and nuclear.
- That could make deal making tougher in the thinly divided House.
- Related: the Congressional Progressive Caucus has reorganized itself as it looks to operate with more unity.
Yes, but: Is there room for some things to move, maybe in a piecemeal fashion? Yeah, probably.
The big picture: If Democrats somehow win both runoffs, they could pass some measures without needing a supermajority via the budget reconciliation process.
- But even if control is divided, at some point the idea of an infrastructure package could stop being a running gag, which could allow an opening around areas like mass transit and EV charging.
What they’re saying: Josh Barro’s latest Business Insider column argues GOP infighting over Trump’s baseless election theft claims could bode well for Biden (though it doesn’t address energy specifically).
- “When your opposition is weak and divided is the best time to split them and make deals,” he writes.
CLIMATE CHANGE CONVERSATIONS:
From the Washington Examiner Daily on Energy:
HOW BIG A DEAL IS EPA’S SCIENCE RULE? EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says environmentalists and public health experts are overstating the effects of the agency’s newly final “science transparency” rule, putting him in the odd position of arguing his action isn’t as big a deal as his critics say it is.
“There is no scientific study based on this rulemaking that will be absolutely ruled out from use by the agency,” Wheeler said, unveiling the new rule during a virtual event this morning hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
In fact, Wheeler, though saying the rule is important for transparency, several times appeared to downplay and dismiss claims that the rule would limit the scope of scientific studies the EPA considers in the future or tie the hands of any future administration that wanted to set stricter pollution standards.
For example, he noted the rule doesn’t block studies from being used, but rather requires the EPA to give greater weight to research where the underlying raw data is publicly available. He said researchers can satisfy the public data requirement in the case of private health data and confidential business information by making that data available on a restricted access basis, so independent researchers can verify the study’s conclusions.
In addition, Wheeler pointed to a provision within the rule that allows the EPA administrator to exempt specific studies from the public data requirements on a case-by-case basis.