MONDAY AGAIN. Welcome to Overnight Energy, your source for the day’s energy and environment news.
Today we’re looking at the first-ever water shortage declaration for Lake Mead, new White House guidance on international fossil fuel financing and the Biden administration’s next steps in the fight over its oil and gas leasing pause.
HOT WATER: Federal government announces first-ever water shortage in Lake Mead, Colorado River
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced the first shortage declaration for Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River Basin in its history, triggering cuts to individual states’ water allocations beginning in January.
After an inordinately dry spring, the river’s Upper Basin saw runoff into Lake Powell that was just over a quarter of average runoff. Projected rates for unregulated inflow into Lake Powell, that is, the amount that without storage behind Glen Canyon dam would have flowed into Lake Mead, is around 32 percent of the average.
Overall, the bureau said, total system storage for the Colorado River at 40 percent capacity, a decline of 49 percent from this point in 2020.
“Like much of the West, and across our connected basins, the Colorado River is facing unprecedented and accelerating challenges,” Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo said in a statement Monday. “The only way to address these challenges and climate change is to utilize the best available science and to work cooperatively across the landscapes and communities that rely on the Colorado River. That is precisely the focus of the White House Interagency Drought Working Group—a multi-agency partnership created to collaborate with States, Tribes, farmers and communities impacted by drought and climate change to build and enhance regional resilience.”
What’s next?: Lake Mead will operate under shortage status for the entirety of calendar 2022. Under the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines and the 1944 Water Treaty Mexico, this includes required reductions and contributions for each individual state forming the lower basin. These requirements include about 18 percent of Arizona’s annual apportionment, 7 percent of Nevada’s annual apportionment and 5 percent of Mexico’s annual apportionment.
Last month, a similar compact governing the Upper Basin enacted drought operations.
THE IM-FOSSIL-FUEL DREAM: Biden administration releases guidance limiting international financing for fossil fuels
The Biden administration on Monday said it would vote against decisions by the World Bank and other multilateral development banks to fund most projects that would develop fossil fuels.
The announcement was released in guidance that said the U.S. would oppose new coal-based projects and would also oppose most oil-based projects — with a few exceptions.
The U.S. will still offer support for some natural gas projects and is also open to carbon capture projects in which emissions from burning fossil fuels are captured and stored instead of being released into the atmosphere.
“Today, the United States takes bold, proactive steps to address the climate crisis by working with our international partners to establish a clear path to end Multilateral Development Banks’ support for fossil fuels except in exceptional circumstances while helping developing countries build a strong and sustainable future,” Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money: Federal judge rejects effort to block eviction moratorium | Moderates revolt on infrastructure in new challenge for Pelosi | Consumer confidence plunges in August Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS Biden confident Republicans will vote to raise debt ceiling MORE said in a statement about the new guidance.
So what does that mean?: Multilateral development banks provide funding for economic projects in developing countries meant to promote growth.
Some environmental groups were unsatisfied with the guidance, arguing that it did not go far enough to eliminate fossil financing.
“The Treasury guidance leaves loopholes for continued fossil fuel financing that are so big, you can drive an LNG ship through them,” Luisa Galvao, International Policy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., using an acronym ot reference liquified natural gas.
OUT IN THE COAL: Biden administration to review federal coal leasing, appeal injunction for oil leasing pause
The Biden administration will review coal leasing on federal lands this week, officials said Monday while also announcing a plan to appeal an order that halted a moratorium on oil and gas leasing.
“Interior will release a notice of intent to conduct a review of the federal coal leasing program later this week,” said a statement that was attributed to the Interior Department and not any specific person.
Spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said via email that the review would not include any sort of pause on new federal coal leases like the administration had implemented for oil and gas.
In the statement, which also announced the appeal of a court order halting the pause on issuing new oil and gas leases on public lands and waters, the department argued that this appeal is “important and necessary.”
“Together, federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and growing climate and community impacts. Yet the current programs fail to adequately incorporate consideration of climate impacts into leasing decisions or reflect the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions including, for example, in royalty rates,” it said.
In the meantime: The department indicated that while the appeal, from the Justice Department, is considered, federal oil and gas leasing will continue as required by the current injunction.
“Interior will proceed with leasing consistent with the district court’s injunction during the appeal,” the department said. “In complying with the district court’s mandate, Interior will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under the law to conduct leasing in a manner that takes into account the program’s many deficiencies.”
I WISH HE’D LESS-ATORIUM: Oil industry trade groups sue Biden administration over leasing pause
The American Petroleum Industry (API) led 12 energy trade groups Monday in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing sales, saying the pause constitutes an illegal indefinite suspension of leases.
In the lawsuit, the API argued that the leasing moratorium, which President BidenJoe BidenInternational community calls for ‘safe and orderly departure’ of foreign nationals and Afghans Taliban seize power as Washington debates what went wrong Toll from Haiti earthquake jumps to almost 1,300 dead, 5,700 injured MORE established in January, ran afoul of federal law requiring regular lease sales and “reasoned explanations for policy changes.” Plaintiffs cited the Mineral Leasing Act, which they wrote requires regular leasing of land suitable for oil and gas drilling.
“The law is clear: the department must hold lease sales and provide a justification for significant policy changes. They have yet to meet these requirements in the eight months since instituting a federal leasing pause, which continues to create uncertainty for U.S. natural gas and oil producers,” API Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Paul Afonso said in a statement Monday.
“As our industry takes action to preserve our legal rights, we will continue working with the Biden administration on policies that support a lower-carbon future while providing access to the affordable, reliable energy our economy needs to recover,” Alfonso added.
WHAT WE’RE READING:
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Interior staff must confirm vaccination or face restrictions, E&E News reports
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Energy efficiency incentives could return under Ohio bill, The Associated Press reports
ICYMI: Stories from Monday and the weekend…
Biden administration to review federal coal leasing, appeal injunction for oil leasing pause
Federal government announces first-ever water shortage in Lake Mead, Colorado River
Biden administration releases guidance limiting international financing for fossil fuels
Oil industry trade groups sue Biden administration over leasing pause
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OFFBEAT AND OFF-BEAT: Rings a bell