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The Climate Change Debate--A New Direction
by outdoorwire. 04/25/19 02:03 PM
H.R. 2199: Central Coast Heritage Protection Act
by outdoorwire. 04/23/19 11:28 PM
S. 1111: Central Coast Heritage Protection Act
by outdoorwire. 04/23/19 11:17 PM
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Climate Change
04/25/19 02:30 PM
A federal district court has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) failed to adequately consider climate change when approving a set of oil and gas leases on public lands in Wyoming. The ruling should be of broader interest to developers and energy companies because it offers guidance on how to properly analyze a project’s effects on climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). The law in this area remains unsettled –especially since President Trump rescinded the Obama Administration’s formal guidance on NEPA and climate change in 2017. Future developments are likely, and project sponsors should monitor them closely.

At issue in the case are oil and gas leases covering 300,000 acres of public lands in Wyoming. For each lease sale, BLM prepared an environmental assessment to comply with NEPA. The environmental assessments discussed climate change on a “conceptual level,” without quantifying and analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the lease sales. The court found the analysis inadequate under NEPA, and it halted drilling under the leases and sent the matter back to BLM for additional environmental review. In its lengthy ruling, the court offered concrete guidance to BLM on how to fix its analysis of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and climate change on remand, including that:

BLM should quantify GHG emissions that would result from drilling oil and gas wells on the leased parcels.
BLM should provide more detail about “downstream” GHG emissions that would result from the consumption of oil and gas produced under the leases.
BLM should better evaluate the “cumulative” effect of the leases together with other projects, including by comparing GHG emissions from the leases against available emissions forecasts and other BLM programs.

This guidance may also serve as a useful roadmap to NEPA compliance for other projects, particularly other energy projects. And development opponents are likely to use the court’s reasoning to challenge future NEPA documents. Below we break down the court’s direction on three categories of GHG emissions, each requiring a different level of detail.

I. Direct GHG Emissions from Drilling

The court found that BLM should have quantified the GHG emissions that would result from drilling oil and gas wells on the leased parcels. The court acknowledged that BLM was not required to conduct a site-specific analysis at the leasing stage, as the precise number and locations of wells were unknown. But, per the court, BLM should have forecasted the aggregate GHG emissions from the approved leases, based on the available data. This data included estimates of the number of wells to be drilled, the GHG emissions to be produced by each well, and the GHG emissions being produced by existing wells within the region and the state.

Under this court’s analysis, NEPA documents should provide a quantitative analysis of GHG emissions whenever possible. Even if specific project details have not been determined, the agency should make reasonable forecasts and projections based on the available data. As appropriate, the agency may express the forecasts as ranges and explain any underlying uncertainties. But the agency may not, as the court put it, “simply throw up its hands and ascribe any effort at quantification to a ‘crystal ball inquiry.’”

II. Indirect GHG Emissions from Oil and Gas Consumption

The court also found that BLM should have provided more detail about “downstream” GHG emissions that would result from the consumption of oil and gas produced under the leases. Although BLM was not required to analyze downstream emissions at the same level of detail as drilling emissions, it should have provided more than the “sparse discussion” it did. The court did not “require” BLM to quantify the downstream emissions on remand, but it ordered BLM to consider whether doing so is reasonably possible, and if not, to thoroughly explain its decision.

Under this court’s analysis, NEPA documents should provide a robust analysis of all reasonably foreseeable indirect or downstream GHG emissions. If possible, the analysis should be quantitative, and if not, the agency should thoroughly explain on the record why it is not. In addition, if third parties or project opponents provide their own quantitative emissions estimates, the agency should assess them and, if it decides not to use them, explain why they are unreliable or otherwise inappropriate.

III. Cumulative Effects of GHG Emissions

Finally, the court found that BLM had failed to adequately analyze the “cumulative” effect of the leases together with other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects. In particular, BLM should have compared the GHG emissions from the leases against available state, regional, and national emissions forecasts, as well as other regional and national BLM programs. The court, however, disagreed with environmental groups that BLM was required to use any specific methodology, such as the “social cost of carbon” or “global carbon budget” protocols.

Under this court’s analysis, NEPA documents should evaluate project emissions in the context of regional and national emissions. This analysis should specifically account for any relevant emissions forecasts or climate plans, and for the agency’s other related projects. For now, NEPA documents need not use the carbon protocols favored by environmental groups, although project sponsors should monitor for future developments in this area.

Source: Lexology
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Climate Change
04/25/19 02:03 PM
The contentious and partisan debate in Washington over climate change policy may be shifting in a new direction—one that is driven not by partisanship but by a group of bipartisan members of Congress and the engagement and leadership from the private sector.

While the Green New Deal has dominated the political news with much fanfare and minimal results, there has been a much less publicized discussion in the House of Representatives between Republicans and Democrats on key committees about the causes and impact of climate change and what prudent steps need to be taken to address the issue.

Shell and ExxonMobil along with Chevron, British Petroleum and other fossil fuel companies are taking the lead within the industry in recognizing the problem and working toward a realistic solution. These companies are pushing for a more aggressive approach to combating climate change, including their support for the Paris Climate Agreement, carbon pricing, fuel mandates and the need to reduce methane gas emissions.

Shell has announced that it would base in part their executives’ pay on reducing the company’s carbon emissions. Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden has written, “The need for urgent action in response to climate change has become more obvious since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015. As a result, society’s expectations in this area have changed, and Shell’s views have also evolved.”

Shortly after the November election, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods met with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the new chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, to discuss several climate change initiatives, including ExxonMobil’s endorsement of the Paris Climate Agreement; funding research into advanced biofuels; and spending $1 million to support a carbon tax. ExxonMobil has announced that the company has invested $8 billion on energy efficiency and emissions reduction. Mr. Woods personally urged President Trump to keep the U.S. a party to the Paris Accord.

During the past twenty years, oil and gas companies and their trade associations have largely opposed climate change legislation. The debates before the Congress have been intense with no interest at compromise.

After years of opposition, environmental activists have been skeptical and quick to aggressively challenge the industry’s commitment. In late October of 2018, the New York Attorney General sued ExxonMobil, accusing the company of misleading investors on how it applied internal proxy carbon costs for evaluating oil and gas projects.

It is not surprising that with Democrats now in the majority, climate change will be a significant issue in the House of Representatives. On various committees, Democrats have already held more than a dozen hearings that focused on the impact of climate change. Chairwoman Johnson has made the issue one of her highest priorities. Her first committee hearing examined the scientific causes of climate change and possible solutions.

What is surprising has been the engagement of Republican members of the Science Committee. After years of largely partisan debates over climate science, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that supports the scientific findings and considers meaningful steps to address the issue, including investments in new technologies and encouraging partnerships between industry and the federal government.

A new bipartisan Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has been formed in the House to investigate climate change, hold hearings and issue findings on how climate change is impacting the nation’s economy. Senate Democrats have announced a companion committee without Republican support.

While the debate over climate change has not been a high priority for the Republican leadership in the Senate, funding research for energy innovation has gained support. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to fund new technologies to promote the capture, utilization and storage of carbon dioxide emissions.

What may be the most significant change in the debate over climate change has been the response of the of the private sector, including the business community. One of the strongest players to emerge has been The Climate Leadership Council, whose membership includes many of the country’s most important corporate and intellectual leaders. Led by two former secretaries of state, two former heads of the Federal Reserve and multiple major corporations, The Council supports a carbon tax on carbon dioxide emissions in exchange for eliminating greenhouse gas regulations and protecting fossil fuel companies from climate liability lawsuits. Most economists have endorsed a carbon tax as the most efficient and effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

While it is never wise to underestimate the harsh partisanship that has taken hold in Washington, the congressional debate over climate change, at least in the House, may be entering a new chapter, one that is less partisan, more inclusive and hopefully more productive.

Source: Lexology
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Legal Issues
04/24/19 02:40 PM
Western Watersheds Project v. Grimm, No. 18-35075 (9th Cir. 2019)

The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by conservationist groups to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The panel held that the conservationist groups had Article III standing because declarations from members described how USDA Wildlife Services's wolf-killing activities threatened their aesthetic and recreational interests. Therefore, the members established that the interests fell within the scope of NEPA's protections and they established an injury-in-fact. The panel noted that causation was established under the relaxed standard for procedural injuries. Finally, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiffs' injuries were not redressable and in relying on an unpublished opinion that lacked precedential value.

Read complete opinion in Justia - US Law
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Legal Issues
04/23/19 11:47 PM
WildEarth Guardians v. Conner, No. 17-1334 (10th Cir. 2019)

WildEarth Guardians appealed after the United States Forest Service published a 2014 environmental assessment (“EA”) to the Tennessee Creek Project, and subsequently issued a Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact. The Service undertook the project for a stated purpose of protecting from insects, disease, fire, improvement of wildlife habitat and to maintain watershed conditions. One of the conclusions in the EA determined none of these actions would adversely impact the Canadian lynx. WildEarth Guardians alleged the EA failed to adequately assess the Project’s effects on lynx and by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). The district court upheld the agency action. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the Agency’s actions, finding the Service satisfied its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) obligations when it reasonably concluded in its EA that under a worst-case scenario the lynx would not be adversely affected by the Project and reasonably concluded that an EIS was not necessary.

Read the decision at: Justia - US Law
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Federal Legislation
04/23/19 11:28 PM
To designate certain Federal land in the State of California as wilderness, and for other purposes.

Introduced: Apr 10, 2019
Status: Introduced on Apr 10, 2019

This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on April 10, 2019. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.
Read proposed bill text on GovTrack

Bill history:
Oct 16, 2017 - Earlier Version — Introduced. This activity took place on a related bill, H.R. 4072 (115th).
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Federal Legislation
04/23/19 11:25 PM
To establish as a unit of the National Park System the San Gabriel National Recreation Area in the State of California, and for other purposes.

Introduced: Apr 10, 2019
Status: Introduced on Apr 10, 2019

This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on April 10, 2019. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Read proposed bill text on GovTrack

Bill history:

Oct 23, 2015 - Earlier Version — Introduced. This activity took place on a related bill, H.R. 3820 (114th).
May 3, 2017 - Earlier Version — Introduced. This activity took place on a related bill, H.R. 2323 (115th).
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Federal Legislation
04/23/19 11:17 PM
A bill to designate certain Federal land in the State of California as wilderness, and for other purposes.

Introduced: Apr 10, 2019
Status: Introduced on Apr 10, 2019

This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on April 10, 2019. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Read proposed text on GovTrack
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Federal Legislation
04/23/19 11:15 PM
A bill to establish as a unit of the National Park System the San Gabriel National Recreation Area in the State of California, and for other purposes.

Introduced: Apr 10, 2019
Status: Introduced on Apr 10, 2019

This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on April 10, 2019. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Read proposed text GovTrack
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