Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems press drillers over methane leaks

·6 min read


Welcome to Friday's Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today we're looking at a House committee demanding answers on methane leaks, green groups seizing their moment on infrastructure ad spending and what appears to be end of the road for lobster fishers' court case.

For The Hill, we're Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: rfrazin@thehill.com and zbudryk@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @RachelFrazin and @BudrykZack.

Let's jump in.

Dems ask oil, gas companies to turn over data

Democrats are asking 10 oil and gas companies for data on leaks of a planet-warming gas called methane, as these leaks can add significantly to fuels' contributions to climate change.

As part of a new inquiry announced on Friday, House Space, Science and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice (D-Texas) wrote to companies seeking such data.

She wrote to 10 companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, that operate in the Permian Basin producing region in the southwestern U.S. in what she described as an attempt to understand whether their technology can achieve significant emissions reductions.

The inquiry also seeks information about whether and how to strengthen the federal government's role in monitoring methane leaks.

So what's the background? When they're burned, oil and especially natural gas give off fewer planet-warming emissions than coal, and the industry has often touted them as cleaner energy sources.

However, leaks of methane, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, can occur during the process of producing and transporting oil and gas. These leaks in turn increase how the fuels contribute to global warming and undercut such assertions from the industry.

Johnson, in her letters, cited a study that found that about 60 percent more methane was leaked in 2015 than was counted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study attributed the underestimate to inventory methods that do not account for "abnormal operating conditions."

And what are they asking for? In the letters, she specifically asked companies whether they have developed estimates of their emissions in the Permian Basin that differ from the EPA estimates.

She also asked them to provide information about how much methane they have leaked annually since 2016.

Read more about the request here.

A MESSAGE FROM EXXONMOBIL

Carbon capture and storage. One way we're helping reduce emissions.

Industry and power generation account for nearly two-thirds of global CO2 emissions. At ExxonMobil, we're collaborating on some of the world's largest carbon capture and storage projects to help reduce industrial emissions at scale.

Green groups' big spending

Green groups are spending big to promote climate policies amid deliberations by lawmakers in the past several months on a major climate and social spending bill.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and a group called Climate Power have partnered on a number of advertisements, spending a total of $50 million promoting climate legislation and Democrats' major climate and social spending bill so far this year, according to figures shared with The Hill.

Pete Maysmith, LCV's senior vice president for campaigns, told The Hill that this is significantly more than the group has spent on policy ads in the past.

"When it comes from a policy and an advocacy perspective, we've never done any thing of this order of magnitude before and again, that's because this moment is so urgent," Maysmith said.

The sum only applies to policy-related ads and not spending to bolster electoral campaigns.

The story so far: The spending comes as Democrats have tried to lock in the spending package's climate provisions, amid pushback from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and some House moderates about certain climate proposals.

The House has already passed the bill, but in the Senate, Manchin has noted that they are working on "adjustments" to the energy provisions. Lawmakers told The Hill this week that a program seeking to cut methane emissions and provide incentives for buying union-made electric vehicles are being negotiated.

LCV and Climate Power say they spent about $30 million on television ads and about $2.8 million on Facebook ads with key words related to the legislation, including in states where key lawmakers reside.

Read more about the push here.

Lobster fishers denied bid by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday denied a request by lobster fishers to halt environmental protections that restrict fishing in a large swath of the Gulf of Maine.

The application, filed earlier this week by a lobster fishers' union and two lobster fishing companies, was rejected without comment by Justice Stephen Breyer, who handles emergency matters arising from the region.

At issue are federal limits that aim to protect the North Atlantic right whale, one of the planet's most endangered species, by restricting the use of lobster traps in nearly 1,000 square miles off Maine for several months of the year. The whales are prone to becoming tangled in nets or colliding with boats.

In their Wednesday filing, the lobstering groups said the restrictions would curtail fishing by more than 100 of the state's "largest and most productive" boats.

Read more about the denial here.

ON TAP NEXT WEEK

Tuesday:

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on legislation aimed at pipeline reliability

  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on R&D for addressing PFAS

  • The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on equity in distribution of disaster benefits

  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on bills relating to national museums, monuments and historic sites.

Wednesday:

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on a wildlife recovery bill

  • The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on reusing contaminated properties

Thursday:

  • The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on federal efforts to address PFAS contamination. Sean O'Donnell, the inspector general overseeing both EPA and the Defense Department, is slated to testify, alongside several defense officials.

  • The Select Climate Crisis Committee will hold a hearing on "climate investments to help families and businesses."

A MESSAGE FROM EXXONMOBIL

WHAT WE'RE READING

ICYMI

And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Possum pirate

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 Monday.

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