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Energy & Environment Senate approves Russian oil ban

Energy & Environment Senate approves Russian oil ban

Energy & Environment Senate passes Russian oil ban
Madeline Monroe/Getty images, The Hill illustration

Congress has moved swiftly to codify the Biden administration’s ban on Russian oil, while methane levels in the atmosphere are at historic levels.

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Congress passes bills banning Russian oil exports

Thursday’s vote by Congress was a final push to end normal trade relations between Russia and Belarus and codify Russia’s ban on oil imports. This is the culmination of weeks of negotiations that had been stalled.  

Two bills were approved by Senators 100-0 The first ends all normal trade relations with Russia or Belarus. The Magnitsky Act sanctions which are intended to punish human rights violations and corruption, such as asset freezes or visa bans, were reauthorized. 

The second bill, also passed 100-0 by the Biden administration, codifies the ban on Russian oil imports.  

Both bills were amended by the Senate before being sent to the House. They were passed with minimal opposition.

The bills now head to President Biden’s desk.

No nation whose army has committed war crimes is eligible for free-trade status from the United States. Senator Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D.N.Y.), said that Putin is no vile thug and should be treated as equal with the leaders in the free world. 

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Record-breaking levels of methane

According to data released Thursday morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Methane emissions worldwide increased in 2021 and broke a previous record. 

NOAA preliminary analysis indicated that atmospheric methane measured increased by 17 parts/billion (ppb), surpassing the 15.3ppb increase in 2020. 

Based on data from 2021, NOAA scientists have estimated that global methane levels are approximately 15% higher than they were in 1984 and 2006.  

In a statement, Rick Spinrad, NOAA Administrator, stated that the data shows that global emissions continue to move at a rapid pace in the wrong direction.  

The evidence is overwhelming, alarming, and undisputed. We must build a Climate Ready Nation in order to adapt to what is already happening and prepare for the future. Spinrad said that we cannot afford to delay the urgent and effective action required to address the problem of greenhouse gas pollution.   

What’s the deal with methane? Methane is the second-largest contributor of climate change after carbon dioxide. However, it is about 25x as effective at trapping heat from the atmosphere. It can also be emitted from fossil fuel production and livestock digestion.  

Despite this, scientists see methane emissions as a significant threat. Major sources of methane are leaks from oil and gas pipelines. Upgrades and maintenance are one possibility. 

Advocates point out methane’s short life span in the atmosphere. This means that a focus on reducing methanes atmospheric concentration could prove to be especially effective in curbing global warming. 

Learn more about the new data by clicking here


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Thursday’s rejection by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 36 requests for exemptions to biofuels blending requirements for gasoline was a sign of disapproval.  

Oil refiners must blend a certain amount ethanol or other biofuels into gasoline. However, small refiners have the right to request exemptions if it would cause hardships.  

The EPA denied 36 of the 36 petitions. However, it said that 31 of them will be allowed to meet the 2018 requirements. This was after they had requested to be exempted through an alternative compliance approach. 

These refineries won’t have to purchase additional blending credits or use them to meet their obligations. Extenuating circumstances such as exemptions granted in the past, the agency stated that it would grant the authority to the refineries.  

Although the EPA decision on Thursday did not allow any exceptions from being made, the agency indicated that it is still reviewing several additional exemption requests. 

In December, the agency proposed denial of 65 petitions.  

Congress created the blending requirements in 2005 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. It is intended to reduce the release of planet-warming gases due to U.S. gasoline consumption.  

However, some studies have called into question climate benefits from ethanol use, citing greenhouse gas emissions from changes in the land used to grow the corn. 

Learn more about the EPAs decision.


Interior Secretary Deb Haland announced on Thursday that she will reverse a 1975 policy granting the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), final power over tribal water plans.  

Roger B. Morton, then-Secretary of the Treasury, gave BIA superintendents and other local authorities the power to veto any new codes or ordinances regulating tribal water use in 1975 memo. Haaland described in the announcement that the memo was an unnecessary procedural obstacle that has caused decades of confusion in relations between the federal government, tribes, and tribes.  

The majority of tribal constitutions do away with the requirement for secretarial approval. However, those that do include such requirements have the option of amending them to remove them.  

If we want to support Tribal self determination, we must be willing to examine and correct past actions that created obstacles for Tribal countries. Haaland stated that the Department’s commitment is to uphold Tribal self determination and the federal trust obligation to support Tribal sovereignty. 

You can read more about the reversal by clicking here.


  • U.S. Solar expansion is stalled by protests from rural land-use (Reuters)
  • Indigenous people face difficult decisions to save caribou (National Geographic)
  • First, wind power is the second-leading source of electricity in the United States in one day (Yahoo)
  • Texas’ drought is the worst in many years. Are we on the verge of widespread disasters? (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
  • It’s happening right now: How rising sea levels are causing a US immigration crisis (The Guardian)


This is it for today. Thanks for reading. For the most recent news and coverage, visit The Hills Energy & Environment. We hope to see you again tomorrow.

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