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‘NEPA no longer applies to Lease Sale 257’

Some cocktails are simply bad ideas.


If you missed it, make sure to read my late-night post taking a look at the week ahead.

Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the Department of Interior argues, the National Environmental Protection Act no longer applies to a Gulf of Mexico oil-drilling lease sale stopped in court. Lease Sale 257 had been rescinded because of the department’s failure to consider the consequences of unlocking yet more global-warming pollution, but the “biggest climate bill that any country has ever passed” mandated the reinstatement of the sale. So, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s lawyers argue, even though the IRA language did not explicitly override NEPA compliance, the question of climate destruction is moot.

Kristen Monsell, oceans program litigation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told E&E News’s David Iaconangelo the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management can’t ignore its legal responsibilities that easily:

“BOEM has no valid NEPA analysis on which it can rely to permit new Gulf drilling. This is true not only for leases under Lease Sale 257, but all the leases issued for the last several years. This means BOEM has been, and is, permitting all Gulf drilling unlawfully. This has to stop.”

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is desperate to resolve this legal ambiguity with his fossil-fuel fast-tracking plan, which would explicitly override and curtail NEPA rules for oil and gas projects like the fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. He’s told reporters that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who released a NEPA-gutting bill of her own, needs to round up 20 Republican votes for him, crying to the press that he’s on Team GOP here: “Something you’ve always wanted, and you get 80 percent of something, and you’re gonna let the perfect be the enemy of the good?”

But GOP Senators aren’t that interested in doing Manchin’s dirty work after he tricked them in order to get the IRA passed, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters. “There’s not a lot of sympathy on our side for providing Sen. Manchin a reward for his flip-flop on the reconciliation.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) was even blunter: “I don’t think that’s going to go anywhere.”

The prospects of Manchin’s dirty deal are continuing to grow dimmer, as hard-right Republicans have come out against giving Manchin any succor. 42 House Republicans and 14 Senate Republicans have signed letters committing not to vote for the continuing resolution unless it matches their partisan agenda, which it won’t.

The future Manchin—with the assistance of ostensible climate hawks like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Brian Schatz, and President Joe Biden—is trying to unlock is dire.1 The United States alone has “enough fossil fuel reserves to single-handedly eat up the world’s remaining carbon budget before the planet is tipped into 1.5C,” Oliver Milman reports. And global reserves would burn up the planet seven times over. These numbers come from the the new Global Registry of Fossil Fuels, launched today by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and Global Energy Monitor to be the most up-to-date assessment of global fossil-fuel reserves.

Private equity oversees $216 billion worth of those fossil-fuel assets. A large coalition of environmental organizations is trying to bring some accountability to the quiet climate killers like Apollo Global Management, Blackstone Group, Brookfield Asset Management, Carlyle Group, KKR and Warbug Pincus.

Although some Democrats are looking to fast-track civilizational collapse, the good news is that many aren’t! Today, Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s (D-Ariz.) House Natural Resources Committee is receiving testimony on the Public Lands and Waters Climate Leadership Act, which would put a moratorium on federal oil and gas lease sales until and unless they are aligned with the Paris Agreement climate targets.

And now, a set of Mountain Dew cocktails!

Rum & Code Red (SAILOR’S WARNING): Hurricane Fiona, gathering strength and speed, barreled through the Dominican Republic yesterday and is now striking the Turks and Caicos. Over a million Puerto Ricans remain without electricity following Hurricane Fiona. For a timely conversation, join a webinar hosted by Climate Nexus and the Energy Democracy Project at 1 pm today marking the five-year anniversary of Hurricanes Maria and Harvey with experts and activists from Puerto Rico and Texas.

Tequila & Live Wire (FINAL SUNRISE): Boggling at billion-dollar nuke boondoggles.

Vodka & Original (FORUM BAN): Conspiracy theorists are harassing climate scientists who fact-check social media posts.

Whiskey & Spark (MONSTER MASH): The global ant population is estimated to be approximately 20 quadrillion. That’s 2.5 million per human, and a total mass of about 12 megatons of dry carbon. The study’s lead author, Patrick Schultheiss, argues this number is “unimaginable.”

“We simply cannot imagine 20 quadrillion ants in one pile, for example. It just doesn’t work.”

Whiskey & Baja Blast (TEX-MIX): Democrat Beto O’Rourke is hammering GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the state’s catastrophic power grid failures.

Whiskey & Original (TENNESSEE TUSSLE): The New York Times is streaming its NYC Climate Week symposium today, featuring speakers like John Kerry and Al Gore.

Vodka, Tequila, Rum, Whiskey, or Wine & Hard (YOU’VE FUCKED UP): The fires are coming for New Jersey, Kendra Pierre-Louis writes.

ON THE HILL: This morning, the Science Committee is investigating the science of the rapidly melting Arctic, which is heating many times faster than the rest of the planet. Big Oil is of course pushing to exploit the fossil-fuel-melted Arctic with more drilling. In the 1980s, oil companies like Shell hired climatologists who were experts on the effects of greenhouse pollution on sea ice to help them plan drilling projects, and by the early 1990s ExxonMobil’s Candian subsidiaries were using climate models to predict the “fate of sea ice in a warmed planet”—specifically, that it would disappear.

A group of geoengineering enthusiasts from the aerospace industry have a modest suggestion for our Arctic problem: How about some modest stratospheric aerosol injection? Just around the poles? The authors don’t have the scientific background to understand the potential consequences of their plan, but it would be relatively inexpensive to put sun-dimming pollution above the Arctic, so hey, why not.

The House Agriculture Committee is looking at federal conservation programs for farmers and ranchers; Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is sending billions of dollars of climate-friendly agricultural subsidies to farmers, who overwhelmingly back Republicans. NPR’s Scott Neuman muses whether a political shift is coming; Climate Power, the League of Conservation Voters, Black Progressive Action Coalition, Somos Votantes, and NRDC are pushing a $10 million IRA ad blitz to try to make it so.

The House Oversight Committee is marking up the Disaster Resiliency Planning Act, which would compel the federal government to incorporate climate risk into its management of federal property and assets.

And the House Natural Resources Committee has a hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta decision, a recent assault by the radical-right Supreme Court on tribal sovereignty.

Finally: the peasants are revolting! A tale in rhyme from Neima Jaironi:

The spirits of labor strife branch like a tree,
From Starbucks and Amazon to the ’leventh cent’ry:
In Jersey, knights and queens, godly and wyse,
At a Medieval Times did unionize.

I’d do the Dew for that. But try to remember, folks: just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should. True for mixed drinks and for international climate policy!

Hearings on the Hill:

Climate Action Today:

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1 The climate-impact models of the Inflation Reduction Act do not count the pollution from the burning of oil and gas production that is exported from the United States, systematically undercount methane pollution, and assume a remarkable deployment of carbon-capture and sequestration, all of which work together to minimize the effect of the IRA’s support for fossil-fuel extraction.

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