Fossil fuel lobbyists continue to seize on war in Ukraine

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From the Mountain The Valley Pipeline was announced eight years ago, the proposal to transport fractured natural gas from West Virginia to export terminals in southern Virginia has faced regulatory hurdles and local opposition. The main concern is that the project crosses ecologically sensitive waterways and farmland, putting them at risk of a spill — while further promoting the development of hydraulic fracturing throughout West Virginia.

Now, after nearly a decade of lobbying, the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine appears to have turned the tide, with federal regulators backing a construction path that could bring the pipeline into service as early as the year next.

Filings show pipeline boosters quickly took advantage of the Ukraine crisis to sway policymakers. In federal appeals courts last month, pipeline project lawyers argued that with the U.S. ban on imports of Russian natural gas, “domestic supply will become all the more important for energy needs.” from the country”. Completing the pipeline, the lawyers wrote, “would undoubtedly be a significant step toward building U.S. oil and gas infrastructure, freeing up additional natural gas for domestic consumption and export to Europe.” Other pipeline supporters, including Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., have heavily cited the war in Ukraine to pressure administration officials to quickly approve the project as a matter of national security. .

Shortly thereafter, on April 8, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously approved plans to build the pipeline through 180 bodies of water and wetlands, a move analysts consider the latest. step to overcome the obstacles that had put the project in jeopardy for years. .

Progressing the West Virginia pipeline project is one of many fossil fuel priorities now reshaped by the devastation of war in Ukraine. In the early days of the war, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents industry giants such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, argued that it was reinforcing the need for increased development of American oil reserves and gas and accelerated approval of pipelines and other infrastructure.

“As the crisis looms in Ukraine, American energy leadership is more important than ever,” API tweeted at the start of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Soon after, other oil and gas companies joined the fray. In early March, the chief executives of TC Energy, Enbridge, Williams Companies and Kinder Morgan cited the war to call for rapid approval of gas pipelines which faced opposition from activists and regulators.

Industry critics immediately countered that developing more fossil fuels would take too long to provide short-term relief. Gas and oil are global commodities, and small increases in US production will not have an immediate impact on domestic energy prices.

But rising utility and gas prices have rattled policymakers. Last month, following pressure from industry sources, including natural gas exporters, the Biden administration canceled pipeline assessment plans on climate and environmental justice grounds. The Department of the Interior also announced a plan on April 15 to resume selling leases to drill on federal lands for oil and gas.

In recent weeks, more and more interest in fossil fuels has been accumulating. This month, attorneys for Sempra Energy filed a letter with FERC seeking approval for the North Baja Pipeline, a project to transport liquefied natural gas to export terminals on the west coast of Mexico. The project, the lawyers said, took on added urgency “in light of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine” and “concerns about the energy security of Europe and Central Asia”.

In recent weeks, more and more interest in fossil fuels has been accumulating.

TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, has filed an amended application for approval of its Alberta XPress project, which would expand an existing gas pipeline network. The “beneficial domestic and international end-uses” of the project, the company said, have “recently increased exponentially” with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the need for oil and gas exports to the market. global.

K&L Gates, a law firm that represents Rio Grande LNG, a project to build a site with five liquefied natural gas trains in Texas, also petitioned FERC, calling for swift action to approve the account. view of “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s grip on Europe’s energy”. supply.”

Fossil fuel-backed interests are also trying to use the war in Ukraine to shape the Biden administration’s proposed rules on carbon capture and sequestration. Harry MacDougald, a lawyer who has led industry-backed lawsuits to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding on greenhouse gas emissions, filed comments with the Board of the White House on environmental quality arguing that any carbon capture rule should not limit the potential for greater oil and gas development. “With Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine, the national imperative to increase US oil production is evident,” MacDougald wrote.

Lobbyists for a a range of other industries – including power plants, refrigerator makers, software developers and telecom providers – also wasted no time using Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a topic forum to influence decisions on a wide range of policies, from tariffs to environmental rules. The comments range from urgent calls for action on vital economic issues to precarious arguments that stretch the imagination to fit the Ukraine crisis into a domestic American context.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank backed by business interests including Google, has filed a document with the Federal Trade Commission opposing new enforcement guidelines against corporate mergers that pose monopolization risks . The think tank argued that it was important to consider a transparent process for a potentially costly new enforcement regime, especially given the “geopolitical uncertainty surrounding Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine”. .

The American Public Power Association, the lobby group that represents electric utilities across the country, including many coal-fired power plants, submitted comments to the EPA in March opposing new limits on sewage pollution, in part highlighting “the immense pressure on fuel and energy prices” caused by “the recent war in Ukraine”.

Microsoft and the US Telecom Association have filed letters with the Commerce Department asking for greater government investment in semiconductor development, pointing to supply chain problems exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. “The shortage has been further exacerbated by Russia’s war with Ukraine, which has strained the supply chain of critical minerals and other raw materials and exposed new vulnerabilities in the supply chain of semi- drivers,” wrote Microsoft attorney Sarah O’Neal.

Ukraine provided about half of the world’s supply of semiconductor-grade neon, a colorless and odorless gas used to control lasers for the production of specialized computer chips. The wartime shortage, with factories in eastern Ukraine under occupation, has alarmed automakers. The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, the auto parts trade group, drew attention to the potential global shortage in a letter urging the Biden administration to take swift action to bolster domestic semiconductor supplies.

And the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute and the North American Food Equipment Manufacturers Association are among lobby groups pushing for an easing of U.S. steel tariffs citing the crisis in Ukraine.

Other petitioners calling for relaxed US government interference in the marketplace are less persuasive. Mike Schafer, the head of a fish processing plant, has petitioned the Biden administration for ‘laws to be changed to bring in fish products for humanitarian purposes and kindergarten school lunch programs in 12th grade. Schafer called for a range of government support for the fishing industry, including subsidies for international marketing to feed “all the refugees from Ukraine” who “could really use fish protein”.

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