The Hickel Factor: AK In State Gas Line. SCOTUS & AK Dark Money Rules.

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Today’s Key Takeaways: Supremes to review NEPA and climate change considerations. British banks abandon North Sea oil while U.S. boosts lending to oil and gas. Alaska’s in-state gas line needs Wally Hickel. Suit challenging Donlin’s EIS in court. Supremes asked to consider AK’s dark money rules.


Supreme Court Takes Up Dispute Over Agency Environmental Reviews
Bobby Magill, Bloomberg Law, June 24, 2024

  • Case involves decision to vacate 88-mile oil railway in Utah
  • Counties say agencies’ environmental reviews must be limited

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari on Monday in a case that may determine whether the National Environmental Policy Act allows federal agencies to consider climate change and other environmental impacts beyond the immediate scope of a proposed project.

The case, Seven County Infrastructure Coalition v. Eagle County, Colo., focuses on the proposed 88-mile Uinta Basin Railway, which would carry oil and other minerals to market from northeast Utah. The Surface Transportation Board’s approval of the rail line was nixed by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit last year.

The coalition of Utah counties supporting the project are asking the Supreme Court to toss out that ruling and allow the Surface Transportation Board’s decision to stand.

The petitioners say the Supreme Court should settle a circuit split in the interpretation of its 2004 ruling in Department of Transportation v. Public Citizen. In that case, the justices ruled that NEPA doesn’t require federal agencies to study environmental impacts outside their jurisdiction.



British Banks Have Abandoned North Sea Oil
Alex Kimani, OilPrice.Com, June 24, 2024

  • Last year, Lloyds denounced fossil fuel financing, joining a growing list of financial institutions in Europe to do so.
  • Neptune Energy: Virtually all British banks have stopped financing smaller independent oil and gas producers
  • The situation could not be more different in the U.S. where smaller regional banks have significantly boosted their lending to oil and gas.


An in-state gas line in need of a Wally Hickel
Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Editorial Board, June 23, 2024 (subscription required)

It’s a prospect that is too good to not consider. Maybe, just maybe, Alaska could finally see an in-state gas line from the North Slope, an energy source that could help lower costs for Railbelt communities in the seemingly never-ending quest for affordable heat and power.

That is the renewed hope riding on news from the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) that it has secured a large source of North Slope natural gas per an agreement with Great Bear Pantheon Resources. The oil exploration company, a subsidiary of the London-based Pantheon Resources PLC and headquartered locally in Anchorage, made the announcement earlier this month. It has discovered a large gas reserve in its Ahpun project development about 20 miles south of Prudhoe Bay.


Federal case challenging Donlin mine’s environmental impact statement heads to court
Sage Smiley, KYUK, June 21, 2024

The environmental review process for proposed mining projects is a lengthy one. But Bethel’s Orutsararmiut Native Council and five other tribes from the region are suing the United States Army Corps of Engineers, saying the federal agency failed to consider important information in its review of the Donlin Gold mine project.

The suit focuses on three main points.

The first, the tribes assert, is that the Army Corps didn’t model a large enough potential spill from the tailings pond that would hold the mine’s waste material. Earthjustice attorney Maile Tavepholjalern represents the six tribes in the case.

“The Army Corps looked at a tailings spill of just 0.5% of the dam capacity,” Tavepholjalern said. “That’s even though larger tailings spills have happened, including during the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for this mine – that was when Mount Polley’s dam failed, spilling out more than 30% of its contents.”

Second, the tribes allege the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t look closely enough at the health impacts of a massive mine in the region. They point to an unreleased state report, which outlined the mine’s potential positive and negative impacts including diet and food security, marine traffic, and local economies.

The third point of contention is the impact of Donlin’s barging plan on the Kuskokwim, which could more than double the number of barges on the river during the spring and summer. The tribes argue that the Army Corps didn’t properly consider or mitigate the impact of increased barging on Kuskokwim rainbow smelt – an important subsistence food for communities up and down the river.



U.S. Supreme Court may consider Alaska’s ‘dark money’ disclosure rules
James Brooks, Alaska Beacon, June 21, 2024

Opponents of an Alaska law that requires the disclosure of “dark money” political donors are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the law.

A group of Republican and Republican-leaning plaintiffs filed a petition with the high court last week.

Under Alaska law, donors are required to disclose the “true source” of large contributions from politically oriented groups to local candidates.

In other states, donors frequently obscure their political activity by giving to a politically oriented nonprofit, which then donates money to a candidate. These donations are frequently labeled “dark money.”

Ordinarily, campaign disclosure laws would only list the nonprofit as the source of the money, but Alaska’s law was designed to expose the actual donor.

The names of top donors must be listed in advertising, and an ad must carry a warning message if a majority of donations came from outside the state.

Plaintiffs in the case are represented by former Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards and the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center, which argued in last week’s filing that the law could violate the First Amendment.