Articles in Category: Environment

President Trump signed a bill to roll back a Dodd-Frank banking reform disclosure requirement that demanded that resource exploration and extraction companies disclose any payments that they might make to foreign governments, the U.S. federal government or other entities in their exploration activities.

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Rule 13q-1 adopted by the SEC, would have implemented the resource extraction issuer payment disclosure provisions of Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Under the SEC rule, a public company that qualified as a “resource extraction issuer” would have been required to publicly disclose in an annual report on Form SD of its tax return information relating to any single “payment” or series of related “payments” made by the issuer, its subsidiaries or controlled entities of $100,000 or more during the fiscal year covered by the Form SD to a “foreign government” or the U.S. Federal government for the “commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals” on a “project”-by-“project” basis.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who attended the signing Tuesday, said it would be “the first of many Congressional Review Act bills to be signed into law by President Trump.” He said they would “provide relief for Americans hurt by regulations rushed through at the last minute by the Obama administration.”

Supporters of the SEC regulation say it would have provided greater transparency. The SEC said Congress had sought transparency “to help combat global corruption and empower citizens of resource-rich countries to hold their governments accountable.”

The regulation, which never went into effect, was drafted at the direction of the Obama administration in response to directions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. The directive was in an amendment backed by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and then-Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).

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Foes of the regulation, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, said the rule would put natural resource companies at a competitive disadvantage to foreign firms by disclosing too much of their contract terms.

A Washington, D.C. federal judge refused Monday to halt construction and drilling on the recently approved, eight-mile final stage of the Dakota Access pipeline, rejecting the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s plea for a temporary restraining order to ostensibly protect a religiously and culturally significant lake.

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A similar challenge was rejected by another federal judge last year.

Philippines Environment Czar Cancels 75 Mining Contracts

The Philippines’  Environment Ministry, under the direction of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, on Tuesday ordered the cancellation of 75 mining contracts, stepping up a campaign to stop extraction of resources in sensitive areas after earlier shutting more than half of the country’s operating mines, Reuters reported. The contracts are all in watershed zones, with many in the exploration stage.

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They cover projects not yet in production and the latest action by Lopez suggests she will not allow them to be developed further. The move turns up the heat in her battle with the mining sector after she ordered the closure of 23 of the country’s 41 mines earlier this month on environmental grounds.

It can be tempting to lump our Renewables MMI in with the Rare Earths MMI as sub-indexes that rarely move with fairly calm, if lower-priced, markets.

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That might be true of the once-high-flying RE market, but to say that about renewables would be a mistake. Sure, many of the magnets and batteries derived from rare earth elements end up in wind power installations and hybrid/electric cars so there’s a direct relation from end use, but the real difference maker in the renewables market is solar.

An estimated 2% of all new jobs created in 2016 in the U.S. came from the solar industry, according to the Department of Energy. 10% Of those jobs came from non-warm weather climes such as Colorado, too, so regional limitation is essentially over. The solar industry employs more than three times the amount of people as the coal industry, despite the political power of the latter. Solar installations are expected to rise by 29% this year from last. While wind and other renewable technologies have a long road to adoption, the solar industry is largely “there” when it comes to supplying energy directly to homes and businesses with solar silicon photovoltaic panels affixed to them and even directly to modern energy grids.

Aside from those statistics, too, there are market forces at play that make solar adoption a strong investment opportunity. China’s National Energy Administration has revealed its solar power production more than doubled in 2016, hitting 77.42 gigawatts, making China the world’s largest producer of solar energy.

But Jeff, you say, isn’t this just yet another promised tipping point? Haven’t we been promised all of this before? What makes me feel different about these studies is that they are based on jobs, and not adoption numbers alone. You may have noticed that we have a new President who is very eager to develop new American jobs. As much as President Donald Trump might like oil pipelines, coal mines and steel mills, he’ll need solar to create millions of American jobs and to make us all tired of winning so much.

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The DOE report says 187,117 workers are employed at coal, oil, and natural gas power plants compared to nearly 374,000 people in the solar industry. This is somewhat misleading because an array of direct and indirect jobs related to exploration, excavation, construction, and well surveying—still employs millions of people come from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas exploration and those aren’t counted. Still, the National Solar Jobs Census 2016 documents truly dramatic growth of a the solar industry in less than a decade and that 10% projected increase isn’t something the Trump administration can afford to miss. Workers who install rooftop solar panels make up the largest share employment in the sector at 137,133 jobs.

Increasing installations would be considered the low-hanging fruit of jobs growth. The Renewables MMI was up 2% this month.

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One of the biggest social challenges facing the authorities in Beijing is that of environmental pollution. It’s not just the western media that is fixated by measures of particulate matter and images of impenetrable smog in Beijing, the general population has been moved to outright demonstration and the impact on the health of those living in the affected areas is an extremely serious issue causing widespread discontent. Beijing knows it must come to grips with this problem. Drastic action is required, and recent reports suggest the authorities are finally considering just that.

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According to CRU Group, the Chinese Ministry of environmental protection is consulting industry groups such as the China Nonferrous Industry Association about a proposal to shut down 30% of the aluminum smelting capacity and 50% of alumina refining capacity during the big winter heating period from November to March in an effort to reduce coal-fired power consumption. Rumous of this proposal contributed to recent rises in aluminum prices even though the impact would not be felt before the end of 2017 and there is still considerable debate on how viable such a policy would-be.

Shutdown Plan

The provinces in question are Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Henan, home to a significant portion of China’s aluminum smelting and alumina refining capacity. According to an article by Aluminum Insider, Shandong produces 11 million metric tons of aluminum per year, Henan turns out 3.8 mmt, Shanxi is good for 1 mmt, while Hebei puts out 100,000 mt a year. Those four provinces account for 37% of the country’s total output of aluminum. Shandong refines 23.5 mmt of alumina per year, Henan produces 12.6 mmt, and Shanxi produces 20 mmt each year, combining to produce around 78% of the country’s total alumina output. Read more

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday, paving the way for an infrastructure project that has been surrounded by protest and controversy.

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Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, announced the decision to Congress, saying he was ready to offer the pipeline’s owner a 30-year easement on a disputed patch of land.

In the decision, Speer said he would halt the preparation of an environmental impact statement meant to assess the effects of the pipeline, adding that he had sufficient information to support approval. The pipeline had already passed environmental review and a federal judge found for the pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe flied a lawsuit, based on the tribe’s water supply and sacred lands, against it before then-President Obama halted the project last November. No part of the proposed route goes through tribal lands.

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The easement will allow for the completion of the last mile and a half of the 1,172-mile project, connecting oil production areas in North Dakota to a crude oil terminal near Patoka, Ill. The pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners. In a statement, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said, “Today’s announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brings this issue one step closer to final resolution — and delivers the certainty and clarity I’ve been demanding.”

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline will receive a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow construction of the $3.7 billion project’s final eight miles of pipe to be completed, according to both, North Dakota U.S. Senators, Heidi Heitkamp (D) and John Hoeven (R).

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Hoeven said Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer had told him and Vice President Mike Pence of the move.

“This will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream,” Hoeven said in a statement.

Shipping of oil from the Bakken shale has robbed commodities such as metals and grains from cars to deliver it. Source: iStock.

The announcement was met with derision and a vow to fight by the many groups protesting its construction. While the pipeline does not go through any part of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, it is located next to the tribe’s water supply and many tribal and environmental groups have said they will oppose the pipeline’s construction under any circumstance. Read more

President Donald Trump is expected to take executive action Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines Trump told reporters before a meeting at the White House this morning. The president is scheduled to sign orders at the White House later today.

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Former President Barack Obama stopped TransCanada Corp.‘s proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy, a deal that Trump has said he will pull the U.S. out of.

The pipeline would run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needed to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border with its northern neighbor. Read more

After filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year and subsequently being declared “hopelessly insolvent” by a judge, U.S. energy giant SunEdison Inc. is winding down its operations in India.

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SunEdison is exiting its India business by selling 1.7 gigawatts of wind and solar farms to Greenko Energies Pvt.

Foreign Investment

Greenko is backed by the sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi and Singapore. The two sites include one with 440 megawatts of capacity already operating and another 1,200 mw of projects still under development including a 500 mw solar project. Reports pegged the projects total assets value at about $500 million. Read more

You probably wouldn’t be the first to nominate the Daily Mail or its owner, the Daily Mail and General Trust, for an award for cutting edge journalism but a recent article from Daily Mail Australia certainly grabs your attention.

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It underlines why China has such an intractable problem with pollution. It also suggests how Chinese steel mills are managing to have such a disruptive effect on global steel prices apparently bereft as they are of the legislation imposed on the rest of the world.

Unlicensed Steel Mills

In a series of graphic photographs (please click through to the link above, MetalMiner cannot republish the photos due to copyright) the paper illustrates the appalling state of many private steel plants on the fringes of the Chinese steelmaking industry. Certainly, the industry is dominated by major state enterprises, but it is also riddled with hundreds of smaller steel plants operating almost entirely outside the law.

Paying little more than bribes to buy off investigating officials, these mills not only ignore worker’s rights and safety but compliance with air and soil pollution legislation is non-existent. When you pay peanuts, ignore environmental requirements (and hence costs) and operate on the fringe the dividing line between profit and loss is blurred. These mills not only pollute the environment not just to the detriment of their workers and the local community, they also, when it suits them, dump excess capacity both domestically and for export.

The photos, taken by photojournalist Kevin Frayer in an arid region in the country’s north called Inner Mongolia show images of steel mills we have not seen in the west since the days of Charles Dickens.

Not surprisingly, after several years of a “war on pollution” Beijing was again suffering from a yellow smog alert recently with hundreds of flights cancelled and highways closed across northern China as average concentrations of small breathable particles known as PM 2.5 soared about 500 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing and surrounding regions, according to Reuters.

Shadow Steel Industry

Although Beijing has taken strenuous measures to control emissions with so much energy produced from coal and so many industries still failing to meet environmental standards, it’s no surprise progress is slow. While China is the world’s biggest polluter it is also, to its credit, a global leader in establishing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Yet, as these photographs show, a great deal more needs to be done. Until Beijing cleans up the production side of the equation, no amount of new renewable energy technology is going to solve the problem.

Six years its first proposal, Indian mining giant Adani seems as if it’s finally ready to start its $16.5 billion coal project in Queensland, Australia.

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The company recently secured the approval for a permanent rail line for what’s known as the Carmichael project. An official statement by the company said Queensland’s Coordinator-General had given “the latest, and final, secondary approval” for about 19-and-a-half miles of permanent track, as well as a 300-bed camp.”

The permission will add to the nearly 242 miles of heavy haul track connecting the mine to Abbot Point port. Chief Executive of Adani Australian, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, said in a press statement, “We are particularly focusing on the construction of our planned near-400-kilometer (248 miles) rail line to be constructed between the Carmichael mine and our bulk port facility at Abbott Point near Bowen.”

When fully operational, the mine will reportedly be the largest in Australia, involving the dredging 3.53 million cubic feet of soil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The project will ensure Adani a steady supply of coal to be used for electricity generation, benefiting a hundred million Indians.

The proposed project ran afoul with green groups in Australia, quickly taking on a “jobs versus ecology” dimension. As per some claims, the project is likely to create at least 11,000 jobs, and the company has promised to farm these out to locals, and not bring in labor from abroad.

After getting approval, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, amid protests from groups in Melbourne. Adani has said the project will start in the new year.

Supporters of the project insist mines such as these will provide an economic stimulus to North Queensland.

Matt Canavan, Minister for Northern Australia, was quoted in a section of the media as saying this would be the first time a new minerals basin would be opened up in 40 years.

Adani also announced that it will set up regional centers for providing vital support services for the project and associated infrastructure and headquarters for its rail and port operations.

Townsville would become Adani mining’s regional headquarters, while the Mackay-Bowen area would become the regional headquarters for its rail and port operations. Adani said its shift to the regional Queensland centres would allow it to more directly harness local skills.

The project has faced a lengthy environmental approval process and a number of court challenges. Earlier, this year, it finally got Queensland government approval to mine. Some say, however, that while the Carmichael mine has the final government approvals, there are still a few hurdles it has to surmount.

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An appeal has been lodged with Australia’s full Federal Court seeking to overturn the Commonwealth approval, and is due to be heard in March.