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Biden’s climate certificate is challenged by oil pipeline spat

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Actress and activist Jane Fonda held a placard with a photo of Joe Biden during a demonstration this month against the pipeline that transported Canadian heavy oil to the United States. It said: “President Biden, which side are you on?”

This message comes from a protest against the expansion of the Enbridge Line 3 project in Minnesota, and succinctly illustrates the growing problems Biden is facing.

The president faces pressure from activists to intervene to stop the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure, but he is unwilling to take too harsh measures.

On the first day of taking office, Biden gave up the license for the Keystone XL pipeline, a $8 billion project that will also transport Canadian crude oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast, causing it to be blocked. abandoned This month.

But in other projects, he is not so decisive. Activists had hoped that he would instruct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change its stance on the licensing of the Line 3 project and the Dakota Passage Pipeline (DAPL), which transports oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to the south. In both cases, his government opposed it and left the matter to the court for a ruling.

He also avoided a dispute between Canada and Michigan over another Enbridge pipeline, Line 5, which the Calgary-based company ignored the governor’s order to shut it down.

This practice angered the activists.

“Biden’s climate credibility is at stake,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate pressure group 350.org. “I think at this point, it is clear that only the federal government can do what needs to be done on Line 3, DAPL and other areas.”

The president is running for office on a platform to deal with climate change. However, despite some measures he has taken — such as rejoining the Paris climate agreement, proposing unprecedented federal support for clean energy, and suspending new drilling leases on federal land — activists hope he promises him a “transition”. The industry takes a tougher stance. keep away.

The pipeline has become a hot spot between climate activists and the oil and gas industry. The former believes that at a time when the world should switch to clean energy, new projects will encourage more fossil fuel production in the coming decades. The latter believes that these projects are still essential for a stable supply of affordable fuel. U.S. oil demand averages 20 million barrels per day.

The success of the Keystone XL pipeline campaign against TC Energy has inspired more opposition to other US projects.

Amy Miles Jaffe, managing director of the Climate Policy Laboratory at Tufts University, said: “Our idea is: You can’t organize hundreds of people around coal-fired power plants, but you can pick one you can try to kill. Very expensive thing to die.” Fletcher School.

Some activities have been proven effective. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will transport natural gas from oil wells in West Virginia to utilities on the east coast. abandon Last year, after legal challenges led to soaring costs.Despite strong protests, DAPL was put into use in 2017, but its future now depends on the new environmental review, as it barely avoided court orders Turn off last year.

Last week, the court handed another victory to environmentalists, who took a novel approach to prevent new construction. The Environmental Protection Fund argued that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to establish the necessary market demand for the Spire STL natural gas pipeline in the Midwest because the company relied on contracts with affiliated companies to prove demand. The court agreed.

Paul Patterson, an analyst at Glenrock Associates, said: “This is another arrow in the opponent’s quiver.” “Environmentalists seem to pay more attention to economics.”

Richard Glick, the chairman of FERC, opposed the initial certification. Say The ruling emphasized the need for the Commission to re-examine how it assesses new interstate natural gas pipelines through “legal and durable needs assessment methods.”

Despite a series of uneasiness, pipeline executives believe that some cases have been paid too much attention while the construction continues behind the scenes.

“Most people only focus on shiny objects,” said John Stoody, vice president of the Petroleum Pipeline Association, an industry group. “The United States is carrying out a large number of pipeline development and construction every day.”

According to the United States, during the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, 16,000 miles of oil pipelines and 44,000 miles of natural gas pipelines were built Ministry of Transportation ——Increases of 8% and 3% respectively.

Pipeline mileage (thousands) line chart shows that U.S. pipeline construction has risen sharply
Pipeline mileage (million) line chart shows increase in natural gas pipeline construction

Biden has tightened some environmental requirements affecting the new pipeline.The Environmental Protection Agency said it will authorize states to refuse to provide water quality permits for infrastructure projects — giving them effective veto powers — after the Trump administration Dilute their Authority in this regard.

In line 5, the Army Corps of Engineers said last week that it would conduct More rigorous Environmental review, Enbridge said it will postpone the plan to upgrade the line.

Christi Tezak, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, said: “I think we will see the front-end licensing procedures become more and more stringent and robust, so the risk will return to the state before the Trump administration.” She added that the licenses It will become more difficult to obtain, but once approved, it will be longer legally.

However, when it comes to holding positions on individual projects such as Line 3, Line 5, and DAPL, the president has gone well. Government lawyers stated in a legal document on June 23 that the Army Corps of Engineers had correctly assessed the impact of the Enbridge Line 3 project and requested the court to dismiss the objections of local tribes and environmentalists.

Jaffe of the Climate Policy Laboratory said that previous governments faced similar dilemmas between environmental and community interests and national energy security.

“So far, no one has done a good job,” she said. “For the Biden administration, what I want to say is that they are working hard to solve this problem, and a good solution may mean that everyone will be unhappy.”

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