Democrat spending proposal in the United States would raise conservation cash through fossil fees

PAYING FOR IT: Polluters would help foot the bill for conservation under Democratic spending proposal

Fossil fuel and mining companies would contribute billions toward conservation programs under a new proposal from Democrats on a key House committee. 

In a memo dated Tuesday that was obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Committee said it planned to raise $5.5 billion to $6 billion from fees on drilling and pipelines as well as coal and hard rock mining. 

Added to the $25.6 billion the committee was already allotted, the committee’s new proposal assumes it’ll have $31.6 billion to work with. 

A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment. 

How are they gonna do that? The proposal would impose fees on oil and gas companies through changes to royalties paid to the government to drill on federal lands and waters, imposing annual pipeline owner fees and getting rid of noncompetitive leasing bids and “royalty relief” under which royalty fees are reduced or eliminated.

It would additionally impose “carbon pollution fees,” fees on nonoperational wells and changes to rental rates and lease term lengths to raise revenue. 

And what’s it funding? One of the biggest areas of funding would be $3 billion devoted to the Civilian Climate Corps — a conservation jobs program that’s been a priority for progressive advocates  — and an additional $120 million for a climate corps that’s specific to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The proposal also said it hopes to “repeal” the leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an Alaska area that’s home to grizzly bears, polar bears and more than 200 species of birds. A 2017 law required the government to lease land at the refuge for drilling.  

The new proposal would also seek to ban offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. 

Plus a little drama on the side: The memo also points to tension over how much funding should go to the Interior Department (DOI), saying that the $25.6 billion allocation that was negotiated by the White House, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “largely omitted” funds for the department. 

“We have reworked the allocation to address some of the needs at DOI. However, we will continue to advocate for additional funding through the process,” the memo stated. “It continues to be our understanding that the Senate plans to spend far more money in our space than what we have been allocated.”

Read more about the push here.

HANGING OUT IN THE LOBBY: Oil producers push Democrats to preserve key drilling deduction

Oil producers are ramping up their lobbying efforts to ensure that Democrats don’t repeal a lucrative tax deduction in the $3.5 billion reconciliation bill.  

The U.S. tax code allows companies to recover the cost of drilling for oil and gas and preparing oil wells for production, a provision that helps boost U.S. oil production but has drawn criticism from environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who wields significant influence over tax changes in the reconciliation package, is considering removing the intangible drilling costs deduction in the final bill, according to a committee spokesperson.

Wyden previously proposed repealing the deduction in his bill to overhaul energy tax incentives to boost clean energy development. President Biden also proposed eliminating the tax provision in his budget plan and the American Jobs Plan. 

That’s alarmed oil and gas lobbyists, who are rounding up support from moderate Democrats from fracking-heavy states such as Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio to ensure the deduction survives.  

“Democrats, particularly those with oil and gas operations in their districts, understand the importance of this industry, that it provides high-paying jobs and the benefits that come with domestic production,” said Anne Bradbury, president of the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC), which represents independent oil and gas producers.

But it only takes one: Only a handful of defections among House Democrats — or one defection in the 50-50 Senate — could doom the party-line reconciliation package, which will not receive Republican support. 

…and they’ve got their eyes on the prize: Lobbyists are eyeing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a moderate House Democrats who have expressed reservations about the reconciliation package. 

Read more about the lobbying push here.

NITRO MEET YOU: ‘Unrealistic’ experimental designs obscured effects of nitrogen pollution: Study

Flaws in the design of experiments studying the effects of nitrogen pollution have obscured its true impact, according to research published Wednesday by the University of Exeter.

In the study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, researchers found past experiments have relied on models with far greater proportions of nitrogen deposits than the actual global average rate. Numerous species of flora and fauna, they wrote, are sensitive to nitrogen at levels far lower than those modeled in the experiments in question. As a result, they can often respond to increased nitrogen levels in “subtle and non-linear” ways that the nitrogen-heavy, one-size-fits-all models will not necessarily reflect.

Nitrogen levels vary widely worldwide, with higher levels found in forests and heavily industrialized areas of Europe and Asia than the global average. The levels typically used in the experiments in question, meanwhile, are more characteristic of agriculture use of mineral fertilizer, the researchers wrote.

“Despite decades of research, past experiments can tell us little about how the biosphere has responded to anthropogenic nitrogen deposition. A new approach is required to improve our understanding of this important phenomenon,” Dan Bebber of the University of Exeter, the lead researcher on the study, said in a statement.

Read more about the study here.

By Rachel Frazin

This was originally shared by The Hill.