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This week in climate policy: 4 stories you should follow

The EU makes a show of dominance as it battles China for global EV production leadership; Climate policy has created billions of clean energy investments so far in 2024.

A Marathon Oil gas station

Marathon oil will pay for the fossil fuel pollution it contributed. Photo: Shutterstock/ Your Hand Please

Here are the major climate policy developments to follow this week:

  • Fossil fuel makers pay to clean up their mess: Marathon Oil will pay a record $64.5 million fine and invest $177 million to cut pollution and make up for its violation of the Clean Air Act. The penalty comes from a lawsuit brought by the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department, claiming that Marathon violated the requirements of the Clean Air Act in around 90 of its facilities, leading to thousands of tons of illegal pollution. Marathon is also required to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 2.25 million tons over the next five years. "Today’s record Clean Air Act settlement is the most significant to date under EPA’s climate enforcement initiative and makes clear that EPA will hold corporate polluters like Marathon accountable for violations," the agency said.
  • Bitcoin mining is pushing the Texas grid to its limit: Bitcoin mining is pushing the Texas grid — known for its fragility during heat waves and cold snaps — to the point of collapse. In a Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearing in June, Texas grid operators, public utility commissioners and representatives from oil, gas, and cryptocurrency were grilled on Texas’ growing energy demand and the grid’s ability to keep up. Two of the largest Bitcoin mining facilities in the world — both in Texas — use around the same amount of electricity as 300,000 homes.
  • The EU may cut energy tax rates: In 2021, the European Union proposed retooling energy tax rules to make them more climate-friendly. In July, the policy was finally brought forward. The rules give governments the ability to cut energy taxes below EU-minimum rates if the price of energy rises by more than 40 percent for three months or more. This would allow governments to cut taxes and curb consumer bills. The previous version of this proposal, stalled since its introduction in 2021, only allowed tax cuts when energy prices rose over 70 percent for six months.
  • Northeastern states develop connected transmission infrastructure: Ten states in the Northeast — Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine — signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together to develop "robust interregional transmission infrastructure." A first-of-its-kind, the MOU declares that states will share technical data, regulatory updates and strategic plans to increase and steady the flow of electricity. The MOU also acknowledges the region's offshore wind plants in development, pledging to assess ongoing infrastructure needs and solutions.

Here are the major climate policy developments from last week, July 1-5:

  • U.K. voters vote for change: For the first time in 14 years, the United Kingdom’s center-left Labour party ousted the Conservative majority in nationwide elections July 4. New Prime Minister Keir Starmer ran on a promise to transition the U.K. into a "clean energy superpower," pledging to invest in clean industries to reach zero-carbon electricity by 2030. Other goals associated with the new Labour government include imposing a Green Taxonomy and mandating corporate sustainability disclosures aligned with international standards and the TPT disclosure framework.  
  • Impacts of the Chevron doctrine have begun: Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the so-called "Chevron deference," the justices granted a request to reverse a lower court’s decision that supports the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of a solar facility in Montana. The case is considered an important precedent setter moving forward in a post-Chevron U.S. The Supreme Court ordered the Washington D.C. Circuit Court to reconsider its decision to defer to FERC’s interpretation of policy — which led to the mandate that utility NorthWestern Energy buy power from the solar plant.
  • Germany aims to integrate its renewable sector into larger marketplace: Germany decided to overhaul its renewable energy industry, providing power producers a one-time grant to support investments in renewable energy. Germany’s government is hoping the subsidy will reduce the renewable industry’s dependence upon the government.  
  • U.S. LNG production is back: A federal judge ordered that the U.S. resume permitting liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities, after the Biden administration paused the process to allow the government to analyze the impact LNG production and exportation has on climate change, national security and the economy. The Louisiana judge ruled that the administration cannot halt projects involving LNG production while a 16-state legal challenge makes it way through federal court. 

  • The European Union is officially imposing additional tariffs on electric cars built in China, increasing current duties in place from 10 percent to 38 percent. Driven by the EU’s desire to level the playing field against Chinese automakers, the increase comes one month after the United States announced that it would impose new tariffs on Chinese EVs. Some European auto manufacturers worry that additional tariffs will actually increase production costs, as many are dependent upon China for both exports and imports in the domestic marketplace. Some experts worry that the tariffs will increase prices for domestic EVs, leading consumers and constituents to continue to prioritize gasoline-powered vehicles.  
  • Global clean energy spending is expected to surpass $2 trillion in 2024, according to new predictions from the International Energy Agency, thanks in part to U.S. legislation such as the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The World Energy Investment report states that BIL and IRA catalyzed large leaps in clean energy investments funding for low-emissions electricity totaled $76 billion from 2021 to 2023 before leaping to $94 billion in 2024 so far. "For every $1 going to fossil fuels today, almost $2 are invested in clean energy," said Fatih Birol, executive director at IEA.
  • In the wake of a report from Bloomberg revealing that American regulators blocked an effort to focus international financial rules on climate risk, 19 Democratic senators and representatives called on financial institutions to do more to combat the climate crisis. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Rep. Sean Casten (Ill.) led the coalition to write a letter to the Federal Reserve, Office of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that stated, "The United States’ lack of progress and innovation in establishing robust measures to address the financial and economic risks from climate change places us behind out international peers and is counterproductive to American interests."   
  • Policymakers and utilities agree that the establishment of a region-wide electricity trading market in the Western U.S. would enable the sharing of clean energy resources and reduced power costs, but incorporating California’s massive clean energy demand is a major obstacle. California is a member of the West-Wide Governance Pathways Initiative alongside Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington, a group meant to create a shared regional electricity market that would expand access to clean energy produced in each state by creating a trade network. While all parties across the five states agree on the utility of the regional marketplace, they can’t agree on a market structure that works for each state’s individual energy goals. Initial proposals were submitted last month, but it will likely take years to agree upon a final model.   

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