Analysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley
On September 26, a suspected sabotage attack on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines off the coast of Sweden resulted in several hundred tons of Russian natural gas being released into the atmosphere. While investigations are still ongoing as to the perpetuator, many fingers (at least from NATO and EU officials) have pointed at Russia.
Ironically, the Russian government was the majority owner of the Nord Stream pipelines and most of the gas that was lost. It is unclear what the Russian government stood to gain by the attack other than to raise the cost of natural gas in Europe and make the prospects for shortages greater.
In response, UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace said Sunday: “Our internet and our energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables. Russia makes no secret of its ability to target such infrastructure.” The UK has committed two specially designed ships to monitor and defend undersea infrastructure. Italy and Sweden have also deployed similar ships to defend their infrastructure.
The implications of this attack will be widespread and may not even yet be fully comprehended. If it is confirmed that Russia is the culprit, the EU, which receives much of the gas, will likely have to respond in some fashion. Such an attack could not go without a response.
Additionally, the attack seems to complicate the possibility of the EU ever again relying on Russia as a reliable energy partner given their willingness to take such a dramatic and irresponsible action towards their energy customers. The overall goal of such an action by Russia is not yet fully understood, but they deny responsibility and have instead pointed the finger at the United States or NATO but have yet to provide any evidence to back up this claim. For now, most international observers believe that a state actor had to have been involved given the complexity of the attack itself, and Russia being the most likely culprit.
The attack also makes the prospect of energy shortages in Europe this winter much more possible. Investigators are still trying to determine the extent of the damage to determine how long repairs will take, but it appears likely that Russian gas will not be flowing through the pipelines anytime soon.
Supreme Court Weighs in on Climate Change
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Biden Administration to weigh in on whether climate change lawsuits brought by states and cities around the nation belong in state or federal courts. The outcome could determine whether these tort cases are moved to federal courts, where they are likely to be dismissed, or state courts, where they may be more likely to succeed in many jurisdictions.
The request for the Justice Department’s position is derived out of a case in Colorado, where the city and county of Boulder and the county of San Miguel alleged Suncor Energy and Exxon Mobil violated state common law claims and alleged violations of a state consumer protection law. Like most other climate torts, the localities argued the companies had sold fossil fuels without disclosing the risks posed by climate change. The framework of these allegations follows similar successful claims made against the tobacco industry in the 1990s. In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Colorado.
The Supreme Court on Monday requested the Department of Justice file a brief in the case, an order known as a “call for the view of the solicitor general.” These responses by DOJ typically take many months to be drafted and then the court will have to analyze the response. Given that prospect, the court will likely not weigh on the decision until early 2023 or later. This decision will need to be closely watched by our sector and the energy industry, as the implications could be significant.
If you would like to get involved with Energy Workforce advocacy efforts or the Government Affairs Committee, contact SVP Government Affairs Tim Tarpley.
Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.