With help from Alex Guillén
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— JPMorgan Chase plans to announce several steps during its investor day, including restrictions on financing for coal mining and on new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.
— The Council for Environmental Quality holds its second of two hearings today on proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act.
— Supreme Court justices grappled Monday with implications of a decision to block the Atlantic Coast pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail.
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JPMORGAN TO ANNOUNCE CLIMATE STEPS: JPMorgan Chase is set to detail several new climate commitments today during its annual investor day in New York. Most notably, the bank said Monday, it will expand restrictions on financing for coal mining and coal-fired power, and will end financing for new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. But already green groups have said the moves do not go far enough.
As part of today’s new initiatives, the bank will facilitate $200 billion in projects that support the U.N.’s sustainable development goals — $50 billion of which will go toward financing for green initiatives as part of an earlier, 2017 clean-financing target, according to details shared with ME.
The firm also said it will not finance projects for new oil and gas development in the Arctic, nor will it provide financing for the development of new — or the refinancing of existing — coal-fired power plants, unless it uses carbon capture and sequestration technology. The bank also said it will no longer provide lending, capital markets or advisory services to companies deriving most of their revenue from coal extraction. It set a 2024 timeline to phase out remaining credit exposure to those companies.
In the backdrop: The announcement adds JPMorgan Chase to an expanding list of financial institutions that have similarly made climate commitments, like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock, as pressure grows for companies to address climate change. The BBC reported last week that economists at JPMorgan warned clients that there could be “catastrophic outcomes” if action is not taken on climate change. And a recent report by the Rainforest Action Network and other green groups found JPMorgan Chase was the world’s top funder of fossil fuels.
Not so fast: Already, environmentalists said the announcement does not do enough. The Sierra Club said the updated policy does not put restrictions on other oil and gas, including fracking. Rainforest Action Network senior campaigner Jason Opeña Disterhoft in a separate statement called the measures “steps forward” but said in a larger context, “the biggest fossil bank in the world — by a 29 percent margin — has a unique responsibility to phase out its climate impact. Today’s policy does not meet that responsibility.”
Disterhoft added the new policy “is on par” with Goldman Sachs’ but “notably weaker than BlackRock’s,” adding it “does not demonstrate true climate leadership.” RAN also pointed out the new policy would still allow the firm to finance coal-mining conglomerates that get less than 50 percent of their revenue from coal, and allows it to continue funding other parts of the fossil fuel industry.
EPA, GREENS TUSSLE OVER FUTURE OF GRANTEE BAN: EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council can’t agree on what to do after a federal judge earlier this month found fault with former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s directive barring grant recipients from sitting on advisory committees. The judge had asked for their suggestions by Friday, but EPA and the NRDC said in a late Friday filing that they were “unable to agree” on what to do next.
So they will brief on the dispute, with the NRDC kicking things off this Friday, EPA following up on March 13 and the NRDC getting the last word on March 20. It’s not yet clear precisely what each side wants; neither would tell ME what their position is. But the smart money is on the NRDC seeking an end to the ban and EPA wanting to keep it in place while either appealing or writing further explanation to satisfy the judge’s ruling.
CEQ HOLDS D.C. NEPA HEARING: The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality will hold a hearing today at Interior Department headquarters on proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act. The Trump administration has proposed a narrower interpretation of the law, imposing a two-year deadline for environmental impact statements that agencies must conduct before approving activities that could significantly affect the environment, and one year for less rigorous environmental assessments. The proposal would also expand the number of projects that could be excluded from NEPA reviews.
The Trump administration has said the proposal would modernize the law, earning praise from industry groups and Republicans who have long complained the law delays or kills projects. A coalition of groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dubbed the Unlock American Investment Coalition, was launched in support of the proposal.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, say the plan would weaken a bedrock law for environmental protection. “The proposal that they’ve cooked up casts aside any consideration of frontline communities, ignores the severe environmental and health consequences that will come with eliminating the requirements to consider cumulative environmental impacts and indirect effects,” said Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, on a call with reporters Monday. Environmentalists have also argued that the public is being left out of the process, since the Trump administration is holding just two hearings (today’s and one held earlier this month in Denver).
More than 100 people have reserved speaking slots for today’s hearing, which will be broken into morning, afternoon and evening sessions, and more than 600 people have reserved tickets to listen in, a CEQ spokesperson told ME.
FOR YOUR RADAR: The Senate will hold a roll call vote today on the confirmation of Katharine MacGregor to be deputy Interior secretary. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced the nomination by a voice vote earlier this month.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH: Several Supreme Court justices appeared wary Monday of blocking the delayed Atlantic Coast pipeline, which would be built across a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Some of the justices questioned whether blocking the natural gas pipeline would effectively bar any other developments passing over or under trails administered by the National Park Service, which oversees the relevant section of the Appalachian Trail, Pro’s Ben Lefebvre reports.
Justice Stephen Breyer asked whether siding with the environmental groups that brought the suit would mean that the NPS’s management of the trail ran “to the center of the earth,” and if so, its mission to prioritize park usage over infrastructure development would essentially block any pipelines from crossing below it. The idea that the NPS could block infrastructure projects or unilaterally manage land running miles underneath a strip of hiking trail seemed to trouble justices across the ideological spectrum, Ben reports. Besides Breyer, justices Brett Kavanaugh and Sonia Sotomayor all raised the issue.
Kavanaugh said the environmental group’s argument “has enormous implications,” while Breyer said that part of the defense “worried me the most.” Sotomayor, who had aggressively questioned the lawyers representing Atlantic Coast about their claim that the Park Service had no say over the project, said the potential for overly broad restrictions on any development across the trail was one of the most salient of the “parade of horribles” that the attorneys arguing the company’s case had laid as possible outcomes if the court decided against their case.
STATE GOP LAWMAKERS WALK OUT ON CAP AND TRADE: Republicans lawmakers in Oregon walked out again Monday in an attempt to block a cap-and-trade bill in the state by denying Democrats a quorum, according to the Associated Press. Republicans similarly walked out last year over a previous version of the cap-and-trade bill. A state legislative panel on Monday approved the bill, the AP reports, after it rejected a proposed GOP amendment to put the issue on the ballot in November. After the committee voted, Republicans did not show up for a scheduled floor session of the Democratic-majority Senate — leaving the chamber short of a quorum. Senate President Peter Courtney said the Senate would attempt to reopen today, the AP reports. The bill calls for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2035 and to at least 80 percent below by 2050.
FORMER FACEBOOK EXEC LAUNCHES EMPLOYEE CLIMATE EFFORT: Former Facebook sustainability chief Bill Weihl launched a volunteer effort Monday dubbed ClimateVoice to help mobilize employees to pressure their companies to act on climate change. The effort invites students preparing to enter the workforce and current employees to back a “ClimateVoice Pledge,” supplying them with “action updates and tools” necessary to raise the issue with their employer. It launches with the aim of gathering support for three bills: the Virginia Clean Economy Act, Illinois’ pending Clean Energy Jobs Act, and the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative aimed at reducing transportation emissions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
“Silence is no longer an option,” Weihl said. “ClimateVoice is mobilizing the power of the workforce to activate companies to raise their voice in climate policy battles.”
— Arthur Haubenstock was appointed as executive director of the Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School. Haubenstock “brings experience in a variety of public and private capacities to the Green Energy Institute, including service at several leading clean energy developers and trade associations, national law firms, and the U.S. EPA,” the school said in a release.
— The Association of Energy Services Professionals announced Monday that Jennifer Szaro will become president and CEO beginning April 6. Szaro will replace John Hargrove, who is retiring. Szaro was previously vice president of research and education at the Smart Electric Power Alliance.
— “Climate change could be a ‘catastrophic’ national security threat, report warns,” via USA Today.
— “Scientists gather to study risk from microplastic pollution,” via Associated Press.
— “Most California cities refuse to retreat from rising seas. One town wants to show how it’s done,” via Los Angeles Times.
— “Newly opened U.S. thermal coal mine for sale after operational, market problems,” via S&P Global Market Intelligence.
— “Bernhardt ‘cancer on the planet’ threat turned over to FBI,” via E&E News.
— “In state after state, climate change emerges as a key issue for Democratic voters,” via The Washington Post.
THAT’S ALL FOR ME!