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Biden’s climate agenda collides with Trump’s justice


President Joe Biden’s efforts to combat global warming run up against the industry-friendly anti-environmental legacy of his Republican predecessor.

A Louisiana federal judge on Tuesday overturned Biden’s first executive order that temporarily froze new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters. The hiatus, which Republicans falsely described as a total ban, was put in place pending the outcome of a review of the federal rental program.

The reversal is unlikely to have an immediate impact on US production of climate-modifying emissions. But the ruling perhaps highlights the biggest obstacle to Biden’s climate agenda: a court system filled with conservative judges who share former President Donald Trump’s loyalty to the fossil fuel industry.

Trump appointed 226 judges during his only four-year term. While this total is lower than the 320 judges Barack Obama added in his two terms, or the 322 judges George W. Bush added in his, Trump has served 54 judges on the benches of appellate courts. federal – just one less than Obama and eight less than Bush.

These appointees formed what Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), An ally of the fossil fuel industry, called “a firewall against Joe Biden’s harmful attacks on Made-in-America energy. “In a Tweeter Tuesday evening.

Trump’s judicial choices have been widely criticized as ideologues. The ruling on Tuesday proved that Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana was no exception.

Doughty concluded that Louisiana and other plaintiffs in the case have proven that they will be harmed by the administration’s action.

“Millions and perhaps billions of dollars are at stake,” Doughty wrote in his order. “Local government funding, jobs for workers in the requesting state, and funds for Louisiana coastline restoration are at stake.”

Doughty did not mention what is at stake if countries fail to bring greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet: rising seas, worsening heat waves and drought, and new infectious diseases. .


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An oil and gas drilling rig at sunset in the Gulf of Mexico.

Doughty’s opinion was based in part on a study by Timothy Considine, professor of economics at the University of Wyoming, which claimed that a drilling ban would lead to massive job losses in states like Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado, although huge chunks of federal leases have yet to be tapped. In the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, drillers have racked up enough leases and permits to keep producing for years, according to Associated Press Analysis.

Internal emails published by Wyoming Public Radio and investigative site Floodlight show that the Western Energy Alliance, a lobby group representing 200 oil and gas companies, helped guide Considine’s study and then publicized the results to state officials.

Considine has advised for the American Petroleum Institute, the leading trade association for the US oil and gas industry, as well as several coal, oil, gas and mining companies, according to his resume. On his academic page, Considine notes that his work was published by the Cato Institute, a Washington, DC-based libertarian think tank co-founded by fossil fuel billionaire Charles Koch and has a long history of peddling disinformation about climate change.

“The hiatus from oil and gas rentals is a key part of President Biden’s efforts to turn the page on the Trump administration’s dire climate policies and start taking public land management and our climate seriously,” Kyle Herrig, chairman of the Accountable.US watchdog group, said in a statement Wednesday. “Using talking points from the oil and gas industry to guide climate policy is a sure-fire way to ensure that change does not happen. “

Republicans in fossil fuel-producing states, including Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, have city Considine’s study to attack Biden’s hiring break.

But independent researchers have rejected the findings. The study “has a number of weaknesses that exaggerate the economic impacts of potential policies by about 70 to 85 percent,” wrote Laura Zachary, energy analyst and co-director of Apogee Economics and Policy, a research organization on energy, in a rebuttal.

The Energy Department concluded in a recent analysis that the hiatus would likely have “no effect” until 2022, “as there is approximately a minimum of eight to ten months between rental and production in the future. land areas “.

And the impact on U.S. emissions will likely be negligible in the near term, said Ed Crooks, vice president of energy consultancy Wood MacKenzie.

“Most oil and gas emissions come from consumption, not production,” he said. tweeted Wednesday. “So even if US production is affected, if consumption stays the same, the total effect will be very small.”

Yet even a symbolic loss for the White House does not bode well. Already, the Biden administration is struggling to gain congressional support for its $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.), long a prominent climate hawk in the Senate, said last week that he was “nervous“that the president’s efforts to win Republican votes on the package would risk dragging the process” into the mud of “two-party politics” where we are failing on the climate. “

Tuesday’s decision shows the threat that could await a climate bill even if Democrats manage to pass one with their weak majorities in Congress.

The Conservative Supreme Court majority was instrumental in blocking the Obama administration’s signature climate regulation, the Clean Power Plan, a package of clean energy subsidies and carbon limits on utilities that Republican attorneys general successfully persuaded the High Court to suspend in February 2016. Before the White House could challenge the ruling or adjust the rules to meet legal requirements, Trump took office and appointed Scott Pruitt, the attorney General of Oklahoma who led the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan, as the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tuesday’s order stems from a lawsuit Louisiana and more than a dozen other states have filed against the administration to block Biden’s executive order.

In a statement, an Interior Ministry official said the agency comply with the decision and is working on finalizing a report that “will include initial findings on the state of federal conventional energy programs, as well as next steps and recommendations for the Department and Congress to improve the management of public land and water, create jobs and build a fair and equitable energy future.

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