Today’s Key Takeaways: Senate wants U.S. to lead in development and export of nuclear technologies. Which generation is in demand for oil and gas industry? Natural gas is a solid investment for years to come. Biden delays access to U.S. critical mineral mines – again. Debt bill’s energy provisions are a “BFD”.
NEWS OF THE DAY:
BIPARTISAN SENATE MOVES ON NUCLEAR: The Environment and Public Works Committee wants to make the U.S. the leading global developer and exporter of advanced nuclear reactor technologies, passing this morning the bipartisan ADVANCE Act to generate more civil nuclear diplomacy around the world.
What’s in the bill: A big emphasis on exports. The bill directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to “coordinate” all its work on nuclear reactor import and export licensing and to involve itself more in the development of civil nuclear programs and standards in other countries.
It would also create a new international initiative to be spearheaded by the Energy and Commerce Departments to “modernize civil nuclear outreach to embarking civil nuclear energy nations.”
Nuclear at home: The legislation enables the Appalachian Regional Commission to make grants to support construction of nuclear power plants at the sites of former coal plants. West Virginia opened the door to this last year by lifting a ban on nuclear plant construction.
The bill also authorizes the chairman of the NRC to appoint dozens of highly specialized staff, including reactor engineers, structural engineers, and physicists, to support NRC work and ensure that licensing work be done swiftly.
Big themes: Congress and the Biden administration are intent on outcompeting Russia for influence in global energy markets, as expressed recently by Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel. They also want to beat out the Chinese on the development and manufacture of advanced energy technologies.
The motivation is the same with this nuclear bill, as heavy hitters such as Saudi Arabia dip their toes into nuclear power: “If we as a country can become the chief technology, the chief developer, the chief innovator, of the smaller, modular reactors, we can lead the world,” Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito, lead sponsor of the bill, said this morning.
Some Markey-d opposition: Capito’s bill has wide support. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Cory Booker, and EPW Chairman Tom Carper all cosponsored it, as did a handful of Republicans. The bill passed out of committee in a 16-3 vote.
Sens. Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, and Bernie Sanders opposed the legislation. Markey had the most to say, critiquing the bill for what he saw as an ill-advised expansion of the NRC’s mandate of ensuring nuclear safety.
Authorizing the commission to promote civil nuclear technology on a global stage would blur its role as the United States’s nuclear safety agency and make Congress into “nuclear Johnny Appleseeds.”
Which Generation Is Most in Demand in Oil, Gas Right Now?
Andreas Exarheas, Rigzone, May 31, 2023
Which generation is most in demand in the oil and gas industry right now – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, or Gen Z?
The answer to that question is Millennials, Dave Mount, the President of Louisiana based OneSource Professional Search, outlined to Rigzone.
“They have work experience ranging from four to 18 years,” Mount told Rigzone.
“Many companies are experiencing the big crew change of Boomers retiring and are building their company/bench strength with these professionals,” he added.
Baby Boomers ranked second in a list of three Mount sent over. The OneSource Professional Search head said this generation offers “great industry experience” and “work ethic” and highlighted that they are in demand at smaller/leaner companies and mid-sized companies “needing seasoned leadership, mentorship, and knowledge transfer of newer less experienced employees”.
Gen Z ranked third and last in Mount’s list, with the OneSource President noting that most Gen Z workers are near entry level “and our firm doesn’t have high demand for near entry level search”.
“They are being hired through typical company college recruiting channels,” Mount said.
Natural Gas Eyed as ‘Multi-Decade’ Investment for LNG Exports, Low-Carbon Transition
Carolyn Davis, Natural Gas Intelligence, May 30, 2023
Sponsoring U.S. natural gas projects will be a solid bet for years to come as overseas demand grows, and as the fuel supports the energy transition, according to private equity (PE) investors.
Biden Administration Delays Access to U.S. Critical Mineral Mines
Institute for Energy Research, May 31, 2023
The Biden administration paused finalizing an environmental impact statement for a copper mine in Arizona in order to meet with opposing tribes and review the Forest Service’s consultation, and it is delaying a decision about whether to allow Alaska to build a 211-mile road to a copper, cobalt and critical minerals mining area in the Brooks Range until 2024. Biden wants wind turbines, electric vehicles, medical equipment, and weapons that need increasing amounts of these critical minerals, but he does not want to anger environmentalists who do not want mining in this country. As a result, he delays opening these areas to mining, allowing the Chinese to gain even greater advantage in developing its industry and pushing the United States father away from developing a critical mining industry as it can take a decade or more to obtain the permits and develop a mine.
Arizona Resolution Copper Mine
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that was to be produced this spring for the Resolution Copper mine in Arizona is now being delayed. The EIS would trigger the advancement of a congressionally approved land swap in Arizona–a 2,422-acre parcel known as Oak Flat, located east of Phoenix, to Resolution Copper Mining LLC. The land transfer is the result of an “act of Congress,” which authorized the deal as part of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act to trade Oak Flat for other land in the state. The Apache Stronghold, a nonprofit that includes members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, indicated that the trade of Oak Flat will stop Apaches from being able to access the site to exercise their religious beliefs. Resolution Copper is a joint venture of Anglo-Australian firms Rio Tinto and BHP.
The ore deposit lies nearly 7,000 feet below the earth’s surface and it represents one of the most significant untapped copper deposits today, with an estimated copper resource of 1.787 billion metric tons. The mine has the potential to supply nearly 25 percent of U.S. copper demand and will create several thousand direct and indirect jobs, with an economic value of several billion dollars over the estimated mine life. According to Mila Besich, the Democratic mayor of Superior, a town of 2,500 that abuts the mine site, “Every time there’s another delay to this process means that investors in our community may decide this isn’t the place to invest because the federal government can’t make up its mind.” Endless delays equate to denial of projects in the capital-intensive mining business.
Amber Industrial Access Project
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will delay its final decision on the Ambler Industrial Access Project that would connect copper and cobalt mines to the road network by up to six months to the second quarter of 2024. The Ambler Road project would cross federal lands and a national preserve, and it is being opposed by environmental groups and some Alaska Native tribes, although some Native groups who originally opposed it now support the road in a region with very little economic investment.
The BLM is the lead federal agency developing an EIS under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to evaluate whether or not to grant a right-of-way for the proposed Ambler Road across BLM-managed lands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are cooperating agencies helping to prepare the EIS. The proposed project would construct a new 211-mile roadway on the south side of the Brooks Range, extending west from the Dalton Highway to the south bank of the Ambler River. The road would be open only to mining-related industrial use. Without access, the mineral assets associated with the Ambler Mining District would likely remain stranded.
Why the debt bill’s energy provisions are a BFD
Ben Geman, Axios, May 30, 2023
The debt ceiling deal is a monument to the messiness of a divided government — and it might cast a shadow over climate politics in 2024.
Catch up fast: The tentative compromise between the White House and GOP leaders includes…
- Approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a major gas project in Virginia and West Virginia.
- Efforts to speed permitting via new deadlines for environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, and some other changes.
- A new study of boosting regional power transmission capabilities.
State of play: Groups on the left and allied Democratic lawmakers are furious over MVP, and what some activists call weakening of NEPA.
- The Sierra Club called for rejection, while the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jean Su said President Biden made a “colossal error” on climate.
- Others had softer takes. Groups like the League of Conservation Voters, which have close ties to Democratic leaders, bashed the energy provisions but didn’t urge votes against the debt package.
What we’re watching: The political fallout.
- It’s one of several times the White House has recently angered climate activists over fossil fuel projects or policy, notably the March approval of ConocoPhillips’ Willow oil project in Alaska.
- Activists want a much harder line against fossil fuels. But it’s tough to know whether their disappointment will cost Biden more than a relative handful of climate-minded voters in 2024.
Also in the political mix: MVP is a win for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). He faces a tough race next year — if he runs — in his conservative state.
- Officials emphasize it omits GOP proposals to revoke climate law incentives.
- They say it preserves NEPA’s strength while making it easier to build climate-friendly infrastructure like wind and solar projects.
- The American Clean Power Association blessed the deal, but called it only a “down payment” on permitting and transmission needs.
The other side: Republicans face challenges preventing too many defections among conservatives, who say the deal fails to meaningfully restrain spending.
- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s wider pitch includes touting the “first significant reforms to the environmental review process in more than 40 years.”
- The American Exploration and Production Council, an oil and gas industry group, urged passage, too, praising the NEPA and MVP provisions.
What’s next: Votes in Congress are expected this week as the clock ticks toward the June 5 default date.
- Further down the road, there could be efforts to reach a more sweeping deal on energy permitting.
- But the hurdles are high when there’s no forcing mechanism like, say, the threat of an economically catastrophic default.