Energy & Environment — Court rules two Trump-era Gulf oil leases unlawful

·5 min read

An appeals court rules two Trump-era oil lease sales were illegal, a major evangelical group calls for climate action and wooden cities could shield residents from climate change.

This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Zack Budryk.

Two 2018 Gulf lease sales unlawful, judge says

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled two Trump-era Interior Department oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico were unlawful.

In the ruling, Judge Gregory C. Katsas of the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals found the department in 2018 leased more than 150 million acres for oil exploration without properly analyzing the risk under the National Environmental Policy Act. The lease sales, 250 and 251, were among 11 proposed by the department in its 2017 five-year plan.

How we got here: In a lawsuit following the sales, a coalition of environmental groups argued the Trump administration’s evaluation had erroneously presumed adequate endorsement of safety and environmental procedures in the Gulf. A D.C. court sided with the Interior Department on April 20, prompting an appeal by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs in the case include Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.

What he said: In his ruling, Katsas said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) failed to consider whether the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) “work was in fact rigorous, despite some evidence that it was not” when it came to inspection and enforcement. He noted a Government Accountability Office report said BSEE procedures are outdated and inconsistent.

“We agree with the environmental groups that BOEM’s failure to address the report was arbitrary. To engage in reasoned decision-making, an agency must respond to ‘objections that on their face seem legitimate,’” he wrote.

Katsas agreed with the Interior Department on other arguments, rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims that the BOEM failed to consider possible rule changes.

“Today’s ruling is a win for Gulf communities who are on the frontlines of climate change and our global dependence on oil and gas,” Earthjustice senior attorney Chris Eaton said in a statement.

Read more about the ruling here.

Evangelical org: Christianity demands climate action

The National Association of Evangelicals called climate action a Christian responsibility in a 50-page report this week, a call to action for a demographic that is less likely than the general population to consider climate change a threat.

The basics: The NAE’s report, “Loving the Least of These,” addresses the scientific evidence for the reality of climate change and the role of greenhouse gas emissions in driving it, as well as examining and debunking common arguments against the objectivity of climatologists.

The report goes on to address the issue from a theological and personal perspective, outlining biblical arguments for environmental stewardship.

“The earth brings glory to God, and God continues to care for and sustain the natural processes of the world. The psalmist says: ‘Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, my soul’ (Psalm 103:22),” it reads. “Because God’s glory is revealed in creation, we should be intentional about caring for his artistry.”

The report also cites Matthew: 22’s edict to “Love your neighbor as yourself” in the context of the human suffering caused by climate change and environmental disasters, and outlines personal experiences and examples of the human toll of those ongoing disasters.

It uses the case of Alliuddin, a Bangladeshi farmer whose livelihood depends on the continuing availability of an irrigation stream he uses to farm.

The NAE, which represents 45,000 evangelical churches, has acknowledged the existence of climate change, notably in a 2011 edition of the same report. However, the faith itself is less likely to consider it a major issue than both the public at large and other denominations like mainline Protestants and Catholics.

Read more about the report here.

Wooden cities could fight fire, climate change

Future cities composed of fire-resistant, high-tech wooden buildings could help counter the climate impacts of the coming urbanization boom, a new paper suggests.

The study in Nature Communications builds on a growing architectural and engineering movement that sees wood as not only a more sustainable building material than concrete and steel — but in many ways a superior one.

Half of the world population currently lives in towns and cities, a number that is expected to increase to 85 percent by 2100.

Housing those people in 20th century-style mid-rise buildings would mean a staggering hike in carbon emissions, as it would lead to huge increases in the production of concrete and steel — the production of which is already the source of large amounts of greenhouse gasses.

“But we have an alternative: we can house the new urban population in mid-rise buildings — that is four to ten stories — made out of wood,” Abhijeet Mishra of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research said in a statement.

Read more from The Hill’s Saul Elbein.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Canada invokes pipeline treaty with U.S. over Wisconsin Line 5 dispute (Reuters)

  • This Remote Mine Could Foretell the Future of America’s Electric Car Industry (The New York Times)

  • U.N. chief calls Pakistan floods a ‘climate catastrophe’ (The Washington Post)

  • Can the Lake Powell pipeline still happen? (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Incoming heat wave could be California’s hottest and longest this year, forecasters say (USA Today)

Lighter clickDon’t do the crime if you can’t do the Tom.

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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