Energy & Environment — Anti-green investing laws could cost taxpayers: group

Energy & Environment — Anti-green investing laws could cost taxpayers: group

A study warns laws against sustainable investing could trickle down to taxpayers.

We’ll also look at a Swedish mining company’s potentially game-changing discovery.

This is Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk.

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Programming note: We’ll be taking off Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We’ll be back on Tuesday!

Let’s jump in.

Taxpayers could pay over anti-ESG laws: analysis

State-level efforts to penalize companies for use of environmental, social or governance (ESG) goals in investments could cost taxpayers more than $708 million, according to a study published by the nonprofit Sunrise Project. 

Where did the laws come from? ESG incorporates environmental and social factors into investment decisions along with traditional financial metrics. Conservative critics of the practice have argued it introduces a political agenda to what should be a purely financial decision. 

Eighteen states have either proposed or passed legislation restricting the state from doing business with companies that practice ESG, and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) has announced an investigation into the use of ESG in state pension funds.

These bills are based on model legislation written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative nonprofit that creates draft bills for state legislatures. 

How they did it: In the study, researchers analyzed a Wharton School of Business paper on Texas’ anti-ESG law, which linked the state law to $532 million in higher interest payments on municipal bonds.

Sunrise Project analysts extrapolated this to six other states — Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and West Virginia — and estimated the same impacts would cost taxpayers a total of $708 million over the past 12 months. 

  • The range of potential additional costs varies state by state, according to the study.
  • Florida has both the widest range and highest ceiling, with a range of $97 million to $361 million. While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has proposed an anti-ESG rule for state pension funds and pulled $2 billion in assets from BlackRock over its use of ESG, the state does not have a law that would specifically affect bond issuance. 

Read more about the analysis here. 

Sweden discovers huge rare earth deposit

Swedish government-owned mine operator LKAB on Thursday announced the discovery of a major rare earth mineral deposit in the northern city of Kiruna, potentially significantly reducing reliance on China for electric vehicle components. 

  • The deposit, the largest such discovery in Europe, is equivalent to more than 1 million metric tons of rare earth oxides, according to LKAB.
  • “This is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition. We face a supply problem. Without mines, there can be no electric vehicles,” LKAB president and CEO Jan Moström said in a statement.

What does this mean for consumers? The discovery could be a game-changer for Europe, which currently has no rare earth mining operations and is entirely dependent on Chinese imports for the metals, which are used in the manufacturing of wind turbines and electric cars. As of 2020, 99 percent of rare earth imports to the European Union came from China. 

Demand for the minerals is expected to surge as the proliferation of electric vehicles increases, with the EU projecting a more than fivefold increase by the end of the decade. Europe is particularly wary about dependence on imports after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine highlighted European reliance on Russian oil imports. 

Read more about the find here. 

At least 8 dead as tornadoes rip through Southeast

At least eight people have died after severe storms and dozens of tornadoes swept the Southeast on Thursday. 

  • Seven people were killed in Autauga County, Ala., multiple news outlets reported on Friday.
  • A 5-year-old also died in Butts County, Ga., when a tree fell on a car, the county coroner confirmed.

At least 35 tornadoes were recorded across the Southeastern U.S. on Thursday, downing power lines and damaging buildings, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service.  

Alabama and Georgia appear to have faced the brunt of the damage, with at least 14 counties in Alabama and five in Georgia sustaining damage in the severe storms, The Associated Press reported.

Read more from The Hill’s Julia Shapero. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • A Faked Kidnapping and Cocaine: A Montana Mine’s Descent Into Chaos (The New York Times
  • Drought has eased in Colorado, but experts brace for what the 2023 snow season holds in store (The Colorado Sun
  • California’s drought has led to a groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley (CBS News
  • Oil, human rights, security: Here’s what’s in store for U.S.-Gulf relations in 2023 (NPR

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week.  

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