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The Ukrainian Invasion: Gas Prices & Oil Crack Spread

On February 24, 2022, years of political tension, propaganda, annexation, rebellion, and the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia erupted into the mass invasion of a sovereign European country.[1] The likes of which had not been seen since the start of World War II over three-quarters of a century ago. The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves throughout Europe that reverberated across the globe. From local and national politics to Starbucks and McDonalds, few areas of geopolitics and global economics failed to suffer repercussions. This is no less true than for the global energy market.

Immediately following the invasion, global energy markets nosedived, oil prices skyrocketed, and the Russian energy market nearly crumbled.[2] President Biden and fellow global leaders prevented a complete collapse of global markets by announcing the United States and other nations were considering a combined release of oil from strategic reserves.[3]

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State-by-State Regulation of the Gray Wolf is Unsustainable

On February 10, 2022, a federal judge in California struck down a Trump-era rule issued in January 2021 that removed the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.[1] Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) responded by drafting legislation that would require the Secretary of the Interior to delist the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Western Great Lakes region which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.[2]

The legislation includes language that bars judicial review of the bill and prohibits the Secretary of the Interior from considering any other statute or regulation that would normally apply to delisting a protected species.[3] This would essentially codify state-by-state regulation of the wolf population in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming, which would prevent future limitations on state powers over such regulations.

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Chicago Moves Forward in Clean Air Efforts, But Uncertainty Remains for Developers and Businesses

In 2019, Chicago’s average air quality index (AQI) was 52 (“moderate”).[1] The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “moderate” air quality as acceptable air quality, but for some pollutants, there may be a moderate health concern to a small number of individuals.[2] AQI ratings are calculated by weighing six key criteria pollutants for their risk to health: (1) ozone, (2) particulate matter, (3) carbon monoxide, (4) nitrogen dioxide), (5) sulfur dioxide, and (6) lead.[3] Particulate matter includes both PM10 and PM2.5, which are the numbers referring to the particle’s diameter in micrometers.[4]

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PFAS: Illinois’ Chance to Confront “Forever Chemicals”

What do pizza boxes, non-stick pans, make-up, firefighting foam, water-repelling clothing, and fast-food packaging all have in common? A simple, four-letter word: PFAS.[1] Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been around for decades, appear in a vast variety of industries around the globe, and pose a substantial risk to human health and the environment.[2] Worst of all, they rarely degrade.[3] For this reason, they have been dubbed by the scientific community “forever chemicals.”[4]

PFAS is an umbrella term for a group of thousands of man-made chemicals characterized by their ability to repel water, grease, dirt, and oil.[5] PFAS are chains of one of the strongest chemical bonds in nature, which do not easily break down under natural conditions.[6] This has far reaching implications that are not readily apparent. When the rest of a product that contains PFAS breaks down, you are left with tiny remnants of forever chemicals. But where do they go and what happens to them?

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Not Just Keystone XL: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice

Indigenous groups have been the stewards of the American terrain for generations.  Yet, these communities are in a constant battle not only to protect their own sacred land from ecological harm but also to advocate for a stable climate.[1] The continued exploitation of indigenous land by large corporations and the U.S. government is a reminder that colonialism is still alive and well in today’s governance.[2]  The loss of critical habitat for many species that indigenous people rely on leads to not only the loss of necessary resources for survival but also sacred cultural practices. [3] Treaties between the U.S. government and indigenous groups are intended to guarantee continued tribal access to species as their habitats continue to change, however,  these treaties are often not honored by the U.S. government.[4]

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California Governor’s Executive Order Pushes Phase-Out of Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

On September 23, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order (“Order”) directing that “all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.”[1] The order’s public announcement emphasizes concern over smog and toxic diesel emissions and notes that half of California’s carbon pollution originates from the transportation sector.[2] The Order prioritizes deploying zero emissions technologies to “reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants that disproportionately burden our disadvantaged communities of color.”[3]

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U.S. Scheduled to Exit Paris Climate Agreement on November 4

Amid raging wildfires, heavy rains, and tornadoes— all of which  have been linked to climate change—the United States is set to exit the Paris Agreement on November 4, one day after the presidential election.[1] President Trump, who has said that the global agreement to confront catastrophic climate change was a “total disaster” for the United States, formally issued the required one-year notice of withdrawal last November.[2] Former Vice President Joe Biden has stated that he would  re-enter the U.S. into the Paris agreement if he wins the 2020 election.[3]

The 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to limit the “global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” and ideally less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.[4] Nations set their own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through nationally determined contributions (NDCs).[5]

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Bureau of Land Management Reduces Royalty Rates for Onshore Drilling Operators

In April, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) issued guidance reducing the royalty rate for energy companies that drill for oil and gas on public land.[1] The announcement came as analysts began to understand the dire financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the oil and gas industry. BLM’s guidance aimed to provide a lifeline to the already struggling industry.[2]

The Mine Leasing Act of 1920 (“MLA”) governs the development of oil and gas on federal land.[3]  It authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to hold auctions for the subsurface rights of federal lands that contain fossil fuel deposits.[4] Under this arrangement, an energy company submits a bid for the lease, and, if successful, pays the federal government rent and royalties for its use.[5]

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Legalized Marijuana and Energy Use: A Primer

Marijuana use, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes, is growing. Because some states prohibit growing hemp plants outdoors, much of the production is indoors—an energy-intensive operation that requires grow lights, air conditioning, and dehumidification.[1]

Cannabis cultivation centers (where the plants are grown) have been likened to data centers, which are “50 to 200 times more energy-intense than a typical office building.”[2] With more states expected to legalize recreational cannabis in the next few years (medical use is currently legal in 33 states,[3] and adult recreational cannabis use is currently legal in 11 states[4]), demand for marijuana will continue to grow, bringing with it strain on energy resources.

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ComEd corruption probe: facing legal scrutiny on all sides

Commonwealth Edison Company (“ComEd”),  Illinois’ largest electric utility provider, finds itself mired in lawsuits after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against the Company earlier this summer.

In July, federal prosecutors entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (“DPA”) with ComEd that implicated a range of actors—from ComEd executives to long-time Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan—in a years-long bribery scheme.[1] Federal prosecutors, state regulators, and ratepayers seek to hold ComEd accountable for its conduct.

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