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THE GREEN CASE FOR BIDEN AUTHORITY OVER LEASE SALES: Environmental groups say that the Biden administration has the authority to stop holding new oil and gas lease sales on federal lands and are demanding that it follow through on President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to do so.

Biden’s pause on the federal leasing program was stopped dead last summer in a court decision the Justice Department subsequently appealed.

DOJ lawyers argued in the appeal that federal law gives the Interior Department “considerable discretion” to move forward or not move forward with lease sales.

But green groups say the administration is paying little heed to the arguments it has made in court and that it has more flexibility to decline holding sales, even with the court’s injunction in place, than it has exercised.

The administration orchestrated one offshore sale covering acreage in the Gulf of Mexico in November, citing compliance with the injunction, and the Bureau of Land Management just announced new onshore lease sales to be held this summer, saying again it is moving forward in compliance with the order.

Hallie Templeton, legal director of Friends of the Earth, dismissed the administration’s justification and said new sales runs counter to Biden’s climate change goals, pointing also to the administration’s appeal on the leasing pause.

“Their favorite phrase is that their hands are tied, that they had to do something, but then also they’re also going to argue that they have all this discretion,” Templeton said, adding the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act gives the administration “unfettered” discretion over the offshore program.

FOE successfully sued the Interior Department over the November lease sale, which a federal judge invalidated in January, and is lobbying the administration to craft its next five-year plan for the offshore program with no leases in it.

“OCSLA mandates that you have a five-year plan in place if you're going to have a lease sale, but it doesn't say you have to have a five-year plan in place, it doesn't say you have to do it on a specific timeline,” Templeton said. “It just says, if there’s going to be a lease sale, you have to have a five-year plan that manages it.”

The current five-year plan, which expires this summer, provides for one offshore lease sale to be held this year.

Back on shore: The upcoming onshore sales cover federal acreage in multiple states.

BLM shrank the amount of available acreage that will be made available by 80% of what had been nominated and is hiking the royalty rate, too, but the reductions in acreage were insufficient for opponents of the program.

Tom Delehanty, an attorney with Earthjustice, brought up the 131,771 acres in Wyoming which will be auctioned off in June.

All told, BLM is making about 144,000 acres available in the upcoming sales, meaning lands in Wyoming account for more than 90% of the total acreage up for lease.

“We do think it's actually quite troubling that the administration would sort of say that they have a need to review their oil and gas program and still move forward with a really large sale in Wyoming,” Delehanty said.

Delehanty said the administration had alternatives available to them under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“We see a path where they could still comply with the preliminary injunction order, and if their NEPA analysis shows that it's not appropriate to lease, then they don't have to lease,” Delehanty said. “And so why they moved forward anyway, I don’t know.”

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers Jeremy Beaman (@jeremywbeaman) and Breanne Deppisch (@breanne_dep). Email or for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

ESTONIAN AMBASSADOR TALKS RUSSIA PULLING GAS ‘LEVER’: It’s too early to tell what long-term effect Gazprom’s shut-offs of Poland and Bulgaria will have, but the move will certainly harden EU nations’ resolve to keep cutting Russia out of the picture, said Estonian ambassador to the U.S. Kristjan Prikk.

“It's already fair to say that this only makes European countries to stick even stronger together and come up with creative solutions on how to help each other out from this and how to further diversify from the Russian energy sources,” he told Jeremy.

Prikk emphasized that shut-offs had long been expected as the war carried on and the West heaped more economic pressure on Moscow.

“We need to be cognizant that this is exactly the kind of Russian counterpunches that we expected,” Prikk said. “I'm even surprised that it happened now, not earlier.”

Estonia intends to stop using Russian gas altogether no later than this coming fall, a shorter timeline than the one to which the broader EU has committed, although doing so will be easier compared to some fellow EU members because it’s less reliant on Russian imports than others.

RUSSIAN OIL PROFITS UNSCATHED DESPITE WAR: Russian oil and gas revenues have nearly doubled since it launched its invasion of Ukraine two months ago, with the EU purchasing roughly 71% of its supply—demonstrating how Vladimir Putin has benefited from the recent surge in oil and gas prices.

The EU alone imported roughly 44 billion euros’ worth of Russian oil and gas over the last two months, according to a new analysis from the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, compared to 24 billion euros’ worth during the same period last year.

The research underscores the extent to which Russian fossil fuel exports have remained unscathed despite many rounds of punishing sanctions from the West. The news also comes as EU officials have pledged to reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of 2022, and end all imports by 2030.

Officials are also reportedly weighing whether to adopt a phased-in ban on Russian oil imports, which they could vote on as early as next week.

U.S. COMPANIES ALSO SEE BIG GAINS: Meanwhile, ExxonMobil and Chevron also reported a large jump in profits for the second consecutive quarter due to the high prices and increased demand. Exxon, for its part, reported earnings of $5.5 billion in the first three months of 2022– doubling the amount it earned during the same quarter in 2021. Chevron reported $6.26 billion in profits, more than four times what it earned in the same period last year.

The strong quarter follows the Biden administration’s call for oil and gas companies to increase their production amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, seeking to lessen growing demand and help lower gas prices, which soared to a record-high in March.

Despite these pleas, however, both companies said their global production fell in the last quarter: Chevron reported an 8% global decline in the last three months, while Exxon reported a 4% decline, which it blamed on divestments, bad weather, and planned maintenance.

GOP-LED STATES ASK SUPREME COURT TO BLOCK KEY BIDEN CLIMATE METRIC: A group of Republican attorneys general asked the Supreme Court to block the Biden administration’s use of its “social cost of carbon” metric in regulatory decisions, after it was restored by an appellate court earlier this year. The metric is used by agencies to estimate the all-in effects of greenhouse gas emissions in economic terms.

In the letter, the attorneys general, led by Louisiana AG Jeff Landry, argued that the estimates are a “power grab” “designed to manipulate America’s entire federal regulatory apparatus through speculative costs and benefits” so that the administration can “impose its preferred policy outcomes on every sector of the American economy.”

How we got here: In February, U.S. Judge James Cain of the Western District of Louisiana temporarily blocked use of the metric. That was later overturned on appeal by the 5th Circuit Court, which found the states’ argument lacked standing because the social cost metric on its face did not constitute “imminent harm” to any of the petitioning states.

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL PROBES BIG OIL OVER PLASTICS POLLUTION: California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched a first-of-its-kind investigation into the role fossil fuel and petrochemical industries allegedly played in “causing and exacerbating” the global plastics waste crisis.

Bonta said that the industry, including oil producers, “has engaged in an aggressive campaign to deceive the public, perpetuating a myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis.”

According to the EPA, the plastic recycling rate in the U.S. has never surpassed 9%. The remaining 91% is either “landfilled, incinerated, or released into the environment,” Bonta said.

As part of the investigation, Bonta’s office subpoenaed ExxonMobil for information on its alleged role in the crisis, and whether its actions were based on a “good faith” understanding of the industry at the time. Officials also plan to extend their investigation to other companies in the state.

But industry officials pushed back on the allegations: Exxon dismissed them as “meritless.” Others sought to highlight the strides they are taking to improve recycling infrastructure and education. In an email, one plastics industry association spokesperson told Breanne they are investing “billions” in new recycling programs and technologies.

California lawmakers “know the industry stands ready to partner with them to form lasting solutions and prioritize investment in our recycling infrastructure and use of recycled content to get recycling rates where we all want them,” this person added.

GREEN GROUPS SUE USPS OVER ICE MAILTRUCKS: Environmental groups filed suit against the Postal Service yesterday to interrupt its plan to purchase mostly internal combustion-powered delivery vehicles to update its aging fleet.

Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and other plaintiffs are asking a federal court in California to enjoin USPS’s plan, which provides that only 10% of the new whips will be battery electric and the rest will be internal combustion engine vehicles.

Plaintiffs argue USPS failed its obligations under NEPA and noted the Biden administration’s objections to the plan, as the vehicles would be powered by fossil fuels and contribute to climate change, running counter to Biden’s ambitions to fully electrify the federal vehicle fleet.

The financially precarious USPS determined the costs of more fully electrifying the fleet to be too high, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement at the time the plan was announced in February pointed to USPS’s “fragile financial condition.”

Plaintiffs, and the EPA, too, dispute USPS’s cost comparisons.

ENDORSEMENTS INCOMING: Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions announced a slate of endorsements today for candidates it said have shown commitments to both clean energy and free-market policies.

The conservative energy policy group is backing Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Minority Whip John Thune, along with three other Senate Republicans up for reelection.

Seventeen House Republicans have CRES’s backing, including West Virginia Rep. David McKinley, who faces his fellow sitting Rep. Alex Mooney in the Republican primary after their districts were redrawn (the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia also announced yesterday it supports McKinley.)

Reps. Dan Crenshaw, Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman, and Conservative Climate Caucus head John Curtis also scored endorsements.

BIDEN NOMINEES PUSHED THROUGH: The Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the nomination of Kathryn Huff to be an assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy out of committee yesterday and on to the full Senate.

The full chamber also confirmed Brad Crabtree, director of the Carbon Capture Coalition and vice president for carbon Management at the Great Plains Institute, to be assistant secretary of fossil energy and carbon management at DOE.

The Rundown

Wall Street Journal Oil middlemen fueled Putin's war machine. Now they're getting out.

Politico How climate change is fueling the rise of Spain’s far right

Associated Press Increased infectious disease risk likely from climate change



12 p.m. Advanced Energy Economy will hold a webinar featuring FERC Chairman Richard Glick titled “Making Connections: How to Get Transmission Built for an Advanced Energy Economy.”


10 a.m. 192 Dirksen The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development will hold a hearing on the Energy Department’s budget for FY2023.