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  • The Narrow Reinterpretation: The Oil and Gas Industry’s Retreat from the Broad Permitting Authority It Long Embraced Cover

    The Narrow Reinterpretation: The Oil and Gas Industry’s Retreat from the Broad Permitting Authority It Long Embraced

    Published in the Harvard Environmental Law Review Online

    What's the function of oil and gas permitting agencies? Despite broad statutory grants to federal agencies, oil and gas companies increasingly argue that the role of those agencies is to promote development regardless of whether it is socially desirable. But this “Narrow Reinterpretation,” in addition to lacking textual support, is at odds with longstanding practice. What changed? Not the governing statutes, at least not in pertinent part. But the energy sector has: renewable sources have replaced coal as the primary competitors to oil and gas. 

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  • Accounting for Nature's Value Cover

    Accounting for Nature’s Value

    National accounts—which measure a country’s aggregate economic activity, including Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—largely ignore natural capital and ecosystem services. This omission occurs because national accounts heavily rely on market transactions to identify and value economic activity, whereas ecosystems’ contributions occur most commonly outside markets. This leads governments, businesses, and decisionmakers to ignore or misidentify some sources and uses of their income and wealth, skewing their decisionmaking. Recognizing these shortcomings, many countries, including the United States, are increasingly moving towards Natural Capital Accounting (NCA), a system of measuring natural capital and ecosystem services in a way that allows for their integration with national accounts. In this report, we provide an overview of NCA for non-economists.

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  • Comments to the Army Corps of Engineers on Agency Specific Procedures to Implement the Principles, Requirements, and Guidelines for Water Resources Investments

    In February 2024, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a series of procedures to implement the governmentwide Principles, Requirements, and Guidelines for water-resource projects. The “heart” of these agency-specific procedures (ASPs) is ensuring that decisionmakers consider a wide suite of economic, environmental, and social benefits and costs as they invest in such projects. The proposal reasonably moves the Corps away from its historical and inefficiently narrow focus on national economic development to the exclusion of other essential objectives like environmental quality and distributional considerations. While the proposal takes valuable steps toward more comprehensive accounting of societal benefits and improved decisionmaking, our comments recommended several reasonable steps the Corps can take to make these ASPs even more effective.

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  • Letter to DOE on Programmatic Review of LNG Export Program

    In January, the White House announced a pause on LNG export approvals for the Department of Energy to update its underlying analyses for authorizations, which underpin its public interest determinations. In particular, the announcement notes that DOE’s economic and environmental analyses are outdated and calls for them to be updated. This letter offers recommendations for updating DOE’s analyses.

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  • Accounting for the Increasing Benefits From Scarce Ecosystems Cover

    Accounting for the Increasing Benefits From Scarce Ecosystems

    As people get richer, and ecosystem services scarcer, policy-relevant estimates of ecosystem value must rise

    Governments are catching up with economic theory and practice by increasingly integrating ecosystem service values into national planning processes, including benefit-cost analyses of public policies. Such analyses require information not only about today’s benefits from ecosystem services but also on how benefits change over time. We address a key limitation of existing policy guidance, which assumes that benefits from ecosystem services remain unchanged. We provide a practical rule that is grounded in economic theory and evidence-based as a guideline for how benefits change over time: They rise as societies get richer and even more so when ecosystem services are declining. Our proposal will correct a substantial downward bias in currently used estimates of future ecosystem service values.

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  • The Climate Costs and Economic Benefits of LNG Export Cover

    The Climate Costs and Economic Benefits of LNG Export

    Gas provides nearly a quarter of the world’s total energy supply. As part of that supply chain, gas is shipped between continents in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The United States is now the world’s largest LNG exporter following a surge in gas exports since 2016, but these exports have generated controversy due to their climate effects.This policy brief provides an analysis to support an effort to balance the full range of impacts from LNG exports. Using DOE’s own published studies, we compare the climate cost per unit of LNG export to the economic benefit (measured using consumer welfare). We find that climate costs likely exceed economic benefits. While the precise difference depends on several factors, gross climate damages greatly exceed economic benefits under all scenarios evaluated. These findings provide useful insights as DOE prepares to re-evaluate the LNG export program.

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  • Amicus Brief in D.C. Circuit Opposing FERC Pipeline Approval

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved the construction of a new natural gas pipeline that would run through New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The gas capacity this expensive pipeline would provide, most of which will serve New Jersey markets, is unnecessary to meet the demand of New Jersey customers: the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities commissioned a study that demonstrates as much. We submitted an amicus brief in support of petitioners challenging this pipeline. In our brief, we explain that, in approving pipeline applications, FERC has abdicated its statutory responsibility to examine whether a pipeline is truly needed. Instead of determining whether a pipeline would serve the public interest, FERC defers to the assertions of profit-motivated pipeline developers and their customers. FERC's practice of approving needless pipelines is particularly concerning in light of how it regulates the development of electric transmission infrastructure, a related regulatory process. We argue that FERC should have placed greater weight on the rigorous economic study conducted by an expert state agency charged with ensuring safe and adequate gas supply for its residents.

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  • Comments to EPA on Louisiana Primacy for Carbon Sequestration Wells

    We recently filed comments to EPA on its proposal to grant the State of Louisiana primary enforcement responsibility (primacy) over Class VI injection wells used for geologic carbon sequestration. Our comments encourage EPA to ensure that Louisiana has adequate and timely plans for transitioning Class II enhanced oil or gas recovery wells to the Class VI program, where appropriate, in order to mitigate safety concerns. Louisiana’s planned timeline for Class II transition fails to meet some of the requirements set forth in EPA’s regulations and guidance, and the state’s Class II transition plan and related regulations may be inadequate for mitigating risks. Our comments also encourage EPA to provide thorough responses to all concerns raised by community members about risk and oversight of injection wells, and require appropriate risk-mitigation measures before granting primacy.

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  • The Obligation to Serve in Massachusetts Cover

    The Obligation to Serve in Massachusetts

    Gas Service and the Energy Transition

    In Massachusetts, achieving the state’s decarbonization target in a cost-effective manner will likely require the refusal of new gas service in addition to the termination of existing gas service in certain buildings and its replacement with electric service. The scope of utilities’ legal obligation to serve their customers will be central to those efforts. This brief analyzes the contours of this obligation by examining the relevant Massachusetts statutes, regulations, Public Utility Commission decisions, and case law.

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  • Policy Integrity Amicus Brief Cited Extensively in BLM Drilling Case

    We filed an amicus brief in a case challenging the Bureau of Land Management's approval of over 300 oil and gas drilling permits in New Mexico. Our brief highlighted problems in the agency's analysis, which inappropriately minimized the climate impacts of new drilling through comparison to nationwide totals. We explained that the agency’s approach did not facilitate a rational analysis of the project's climate effects and failed to meet the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that agencies analyze the actual environmental impacts of their actions. In its decision ruling against the agency, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit cited our brief extensively and adopted many of our arguments against BLM’s comparison-based approach to assessing the significance of climate impacts.

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