Energy & Environment — Energy chief, oil execs hold ‘constructive’ meeting


President Biden’s Energy secretary met with oil executives on Thursday as the administration faces pressure to tamp down sky-high gas prices. Meanwhile, the Fish and Wildlife Service has reinstated pre-Trump endangered species protections.

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Energy Dept. says oil meeting was ‘productive’

Oil executives and industry groups said a Thursday meeting with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was “constructive.”

  • “Today’s meeting was a constructive conversation about addressing both near-term issues and the longer-term stability of energy markets,” said Mike Wirth, CEO and chairman of Chevronin a statement.
  • “We remain optimism about our ability to work together to achieve these shared objectives. We appreciate Secretary Granholm’s invitation to participate in the conversation, which was an important step toward achieving greater energy security, economic prosperity, and environmental protection,” he added.

The American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturerswhich respectively represent the oil industry broadly and oil refiners specifically, issued a similar sentiment.

“Secretary Granholm’s meeting with American refiners today was a constructive discussion about ways to address rising energy costs and create more certainty for global energy markets,” the organizations said in a joint statement.

An Energy Department readout of the meeting likewise described it as “productive.”

“The meeting took a productive focus on dissecting the current global problems of supply and refining, generating an opportunity for industry to work with government to help deliver needed relief to American consumer” the department said.

Relationship status — it’s complicated: The positive comments from both sides come amid a period of tension between the Biden administration and oil companies. In a recent letter to oil refiners, Biden criticized their high profits.

  • “At a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” he wrote in the letter.
  • And ahead of the meeting, Wirth wrote a letter to Biden criticizing what he described as attempts to “vilify” the oil industry.
  • “Notwith these efforts, your Administration has largely sought to criticize, and at times vilify, our industry. These actions are not beneficial to meeting the challenges we face and are not what the American people deserve,” he wrote on Tuesday.

The deets: Granholm was scheduled to meet Thursday with executives from ExxonMobil, Shell, Valero, Marathon, Phillips 66, BP and Chevron.

According to the Energy Department readout, participants discussed what the companies are doing to maintain existing operations and hurdles in increasing domestic refining, in which oil is made into gasoline.

Read more about the meeting here.

Biden administration reinstates habitat protections

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service on Thursday announced a new rule reversing a Trump-era definition of “habitat” as applied to endangered animals.

Under the 2020 rule, the definition of federally-protected habitats for endangered species was narrowed to only those where a species could currently live, excluding those that could someday sustain a species. On Thursday, FWS reversed this, saying it contravened the intent of the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA).

  • When it narrowed the definition, the Trump administration argued that its changes would be more consistent and transparent for landowners.
  • But environmentalists said that the government should be able to protect land that could support an animal in the future and described the Trump move as a “giveaway to industry.”

“The growing extinction crisis highlights the importance of the Endangered Species Act and efforts to conserve species before declines become irreversible,” Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz said in a statement.

“Today’s action will bring implementation of the Act back into alignment with its original purpose and intent and ensures that species recovery is guided by biological science-based policies and conservation actions that preserve America’s heritage for future generations.”

Read more here.

GET WIND OF THIS

The White House said Thursday that it was launching an offshore wind partnership with 11 East Coast states.

  • The partnership will entail building up the supply chain for offshore wind, expanding the workforce and addressing regional issues like fishing and connecting to the electric grid.
  • The states involved in the push are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, according to The Verge.

The federal government, New York and Maryland will also jointly fund the development a “supply chain roadmap” for offshore wind.

The Department of Transportation will also give applications for financing for offshore wind vessels priority status through the Federal Ship Financing Program

Draft finds mining would pose risk to watershed

A federal study released Thursday determined that hardrock mining in a Minnesota wilderness area would risk contaminating the region.

  • In its assessment, the US Forest Service said copper-nickel mining would pose a major risk to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. While the assessment is a draft, it proposes a 20-year ban on copper mining on federal lands in the watershed.
  • Potential fallout from mining in the area includes “the creation of permanently stored waste materials” upstream, which could lead to the release of water with elevated levels of acidity and metal contamination, the assessment states.

“The greatest potential risk to water quality of the wilderness area and lands within the withdrawal areas comes from catastrophic failure of a wet basin tailings storage (impoundment) dam,” the assessment added.

“Wet basin tailings storage poses the risk of dam failure and the potential release of a large volume of contaminated sediment (tailings) and water to a nearby water body with potential transport of it to downstream water bodies and receptors.”

The assessment comes nearly six months after the Interior Department announced the cancellation of two mining leases in the area, which were granted under the Trump administration in 2019. The January legal opinion determined the Trump administration had improperly renewed the leases in 2019 after initially approving them the year before.

Read more about the draft finding here.

ON TAP TOMORROW

The House Climate Crisis Committee will hold a hearing on cutting methane emissions

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Lake Mead nears dead pool status as water levels hit another historic low (NBC News)
  • The last nuclear plant in California – and the unexpected quest to save it (The Guardian)
  • Forest Service grazing decision irks environmental group (The Associated Press)
  • OPEC+ Mulls When to Fire Its Last Oil Production Bullets (Bloomberg)
  • Manchin slams ‘stupid’ EV push, cites Chinese supply chain (E&E News)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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