Morning Consult Energy: Biden Reportedly Plans to Designate Nevada’s Spirit Mountain Area as National Monument


Essential energy industry news & intel to start your day.
March 17, 2023
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Today’s Top News

  • President Joe Biden is expected to designate nearly half a million acres of the southern Nevada Spirit Mountain area known by the Mojave name of Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument sometime next week, according to two people familiar with the matter, representing the largest monument designated by Biden to date. The designation could put land that is suitable for wind and solar projects off limits. (The New York Times)
  • An investigation from the Department of Labor found BP PLC violated process safety rules at its Toledo, Ohio, refinery and did not properly train employees, which contributed to the death of two workers after a September 2022 explosion. The workers died from their burns after they had tried correcting rising liquid levels in a fuel gas mix drum, according to investigators, who noted BP did not train its operators to identify the presence of a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture called naphtha. (Reuters)
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) announced an alliance with 18 other states that contend Biden’s support for environmental, social and corporate governance investing is a threat to the U.S. economy and individual economic freedom. The 19 states plan to lead their own state-level initiatives to “protect” their residents from the ESG movement, which include efforts to block ESG investments at state and local levels, among other initiatives. (The Hill)
  • Judy Chang, who played a major role under Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) as undersecretary of energy and climate solutions from June 2020 through January 2023, is a front-runner to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to three people familiar with the White House appointment process. No final decisions on the nomination have been made, according to three people tracking the process, although momentum for a new nominee has picked up since the spot has remained vacant following the departure of former Chair Richard Glick (D) in January. (E&E News

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What Else You Need to Know

Politics and Policy

White House: Biden’s hands were tied on Willow

Robin Bravender, E&E News

The White House on Thursday defended the administration’s decision to approve a massive oil and gas drilling project in Alaska after widespread criticisms that the move undercuts President Joe Biden’s promises on climate change and the environment.


Kansas anti-ESG push slowed by debate over private investors

John Hanna, The Associated Press

Republican lawmakers pushing to prevent Kansas from investing its funds using socially and environmentally conscious principles disagree about also imposing rules for investment managers handling private funds, complicating their efforts to thwart what they see as “woke” investing.


‘He’s a hypocrite’: Oil debate fuels Senate animosity

Kelsey Brugger, E&E News

President Joe Biden’s approval of the Willow drilling project this week appeared to intensify a simmering Senate feud, with Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan berating New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich.


Treasury Department guidance urgently needed to tap IRA’s clean energy ‘gold mine,’ analysts say

Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

Billions in Inflation Reduction Act incentives can “hard-wire” clean energy into the U.S. economy, new data show.


E.U. enters clean-energy arms race against the U.S.

Sara Schonhardt, E&E News

The European Commission unveiled a series of proposals on Thursday aimed at injecting life into Europe’s clean energy industries and securing the minerals that are critical for a global transition away from fossil fuels.


Biden climate legacy at stake after backlash over Willow

Chris Megerian, The Associated Press

When Elise Joshi was at the White House last year, her eyes welled with happy tears as President Joe Biden hosted thousands of supporters to celebrate groundbreaking legislation targeting climate change.


New bill would boost advanced, climate-related agricultural research

Andrew Freedman, Axios

A bipartisan bill will be introduced Thursday by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) to re-up a program to foster next–generation agricultural research, including work to address the agriculture sector’s ability to withstand extreme weather.

Climate and Enviroment

Shell rules out more ambitious goal for end-user emissions

Ron Bousso and Shadia Nasralla, Reuters

Shell has ruled out setting targets to cut emissions in absolute terms from customers’ use of its products, its chair said in a report published on Thursday as the energy company faces increased activist and investor pressure over climate.


Regulators monitor cleanup of 400,000 gallon radioactive water leak in Minnesota

Steve Karnowski, The Associated Press

Minnesota regulators said Thursday they’re monitoring the cleanup of a leak of 400,000 gallons of radioactive water from Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant, and the company said there’s no danger to the public.

Renewables and Nuclear

How Climate Tech Startups Survive Without SVB

Akshat Rathi et al., Bloomberg

The bank’s collapse has created difficult questions for climate startups that want to grow quickly and need lots of cash. 


Big Solar Boom Is Coming for State That Doesn’t Have Much of It

Will Wade, Bloomberg

Entergy Corp. is seeking approval to install more than 3.2 gigawatts of solar power in Louisiana, more than 11 times the amount that’s currently in service in the state. 


Duke Energy to start construction of floating solar pilot in Florida


Duke Energy Corp. said on Thursday that its Florida unit would start construction of about 1 megawatt floating solar array pilot later this month in Polk County.


Republican Lawmakers Pan Offshore Wind Plans at NJ Event

Josh Saul, Bloomberg

Four Republican lawmakers criticized offshore wind farms planned for waters off the East Coast at a New Jersey event, marking the latest sign of mounting pushback against the fledgling energy source.

Fossil Fuels

The dubious economic calculus behind the Willow project

Zoya Teirstein and Jake Bittle, Grist

The ConocoPhillips venture is supposed to secure energy independence and Alaskan prosperity. It probably won’t achieve either.


California regulator probes high winter natural gas prices


The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Thursday said it began an investigation into why natural gas prices spiked on wholesale markets in December 2022, driving up utility bills for customers.


Biden administration sides with climate lawsuit against fossil fuel companies

Hilary Beaumont, The Guardian

DoJ brief argues Colorado case against energy giants ExxonMobil and Suncor should be heard in state court instead of federal.


State and US officials tout spending to plug ‘orphan wells’

Gerald Herbert and Kevin McGill, The Associated Press

Stacks of valves, networks of pipes and hulking, two-story-tall tanks litter parts of the swampy landscape of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin, rusting relics of sites where oil wells were drilled in the 1970s, an unwanted legacy of the energy industry that has long helped drive the Louisiana economy.


Russia is using old oil tankers to bypass export sanctions, risking spills

Michael Birnbaum, The Washington Post

Russia is using a fleet of older, poorly insured tankers to sidestep Western sanctions on its fossil fuels, raising fears of a potentially catastrophic accident or oil spill as the Kremlin works to finance its invasion of Ukraine, policymakers and environmental advocates said.


OPEC+ views oil price drop as financially driven, delegates say

Alex Lawler et al., Reuters

OPEC+ considers this week’s slide in oil prices to a more than one-year low to be driven by financial fears, not any imbalance between demand and supply, and expects the market to stabilise, four delegates from the oil producer group told Reuters.


Boston seeking to limit fossil fuel use in new buildings

The Associated Press

Boston is pushing forward with plans to discourage the use of fossil fuel in new buildings.

Transportation and Alternative Fuels

South Korea’s Battery Giants Are in Hot Demand From US to Europe

Heejin Kim and Heesu Lee, Bloomberg

Seoul’s biggest annual battery event is a beauty parade of US and European officials lobbying for investment.


Volkswagen to invest in mines in bid to become global battery supplier

Victoria Waldersee, Reuters

Volkswagen plans to invest in mines to bring down the cost of battery cells, meet half of its own demand and sell to third-party customers, the carmaker’s board member in charge of technology said.


GM CEO meets with senators on self-driving cars

David Shepardson, Reuters

General Motors CEO Mary Barra met with two key senators on Thursday as the Detroit automaker pushes for legislation to speed deployment of self-driving vehicles on U.S. roads.


Tesla Turns Twitter Into $44 Billion Communications Apparatus

Dana Hull, Bloomberg

Elon Musk’s carmaker has been more active on his social media service since he took over.


DOE offers $750M to help drive clean hydrogen production costs down 60% by 2026

Ethan Howland, Utility Dive

The funding aims to cut the cost of hydrogen produced with emissions-free electricity to $2 per kilogram by 2026 from around $5/kg today.


FERC expands cybersecurity supply chain standards to low-impact assets

Ethan Howland, Utility Dive

“To not protect these [bulk electric system] assets against one of the most frequent attack scenarios — supply chain — would be a big mistake,” Willie Phillips, FERC acting chairman, said.


Analysis: US grid could be 90 percent carbon-free by 2030 with IRA tax credits

Zack Budryk, The Hill

Under the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, the American electrical grid could achieve up to 90 percent of its electricity without carbon emissions by 2030, according to an analysis published Wednesday by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).


Texas’ ERCOT may reassess grid outages to tackle possible reserve power shortfall


The power grid operator for most of Texas said on Thursday it would evaluate the need to delay or withdraw planned outages on Friday because of a possible deficiency in reserve power starting on March 20.

Land and Resources

Rising bottled water consumption signals safe drinking water goal is under threat, says U.N. think tank

Gloria Dickie, Reuters

Surging global bottled water consumption reflects the failure by governments to improve public water supplies which is putting the U.N. sustainable development goal of safe drinking water by 2030 under threat, a U.N. academic think tank said on Thursday.


Feds spend $2.4 million on cloud seeding for Colorado River

Brittany Peterson, The Associated Press

The Southern Nevada Water Authority on Thursday voted to accept a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to fund cloud seeding in other Western states whose rivers feed the parched desert region.


BlackRock CEO “walks tightrope” on climate risk investing

Andrew Freedman, Axios

This year’s chairman’s letter from BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, published Wednesday, gives less emphasis to climate risk and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments than past letters — but doesn’t play down the substance.


Apple’s ‘Extrapolations’ shows how hard it is to make climate must-watch TV

Shannon Osaka, The Washington Post

The new drama’s enthusiasm for moralizing distracts from its most unsettling moments.

Morning Consult