LITHIUM: General Motors conditionally agrees to invest $650 million in the developer of the proposed Thacker Pass Mine in Nevada, giving the auto company exclusive access to the mine’s first batch of lithium. (Associated Press)

• Allete and Grid United propose constructing a high-voltage DC transmission line from North Dakota to Montana that would link the Eastern and Western grids. (Utility Dive)
New Mexico researchers work to develop computer models enabling grid operators to quickly perform “black starts,” or restore power after full outages. (news release)

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Scientists say a five-mile long methane cloud spotted by satellites over Wyoming last month may have been caused by a natural gas facility venting the gas after a malfunction. (Bloomberg)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom renews calls for a gas price gouging penalty after Chevron and ExxonMobil post record annual profits. (Washington Post)
Alaska officials predict the Cook Inlet’s natural gas fields can satisfy statewide demand for about four more years without new drilling. (KDLL)
A financial analyst finds New Mexico could face a $36 billion budget deficit by the mid 2030s if lawmakers don’t diversify the economy and reduce reliance on oil and gas tax revenues. (Albuquerque Journal)
The U.S. Interior Department releases guidance on how states can apply for $500 million in federal funding for plugging and cleaning up orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells. (news release)

• Montana lawmakers consider a bill that would preemptively block local governments from banning energy sources such as natural gas hookups. (States Newsroom)  
• California regulators schedule a public hearing to examine the drivers of this winter’s high natural gas prices and determine ways to mitigate the impacts. (news release)

CRYPTOCURRENCY: Washington state and Oregon lawmakers consider bills that seek to limit carbon emissions from cryptocurrency miners’ power consumption. (Crosscut) 

CLEAN ENERGY: A progressive think tank estimates last year’s federal climate law will create 92,000 clean energy and efficiency jobs in the Mountain West over the coming decade. (KUNC)

Details of Nevada’s tax breaks for Tesla’s $3.6 billion factory expansion will remain secret until late February under a non-disclosure agreement between the state and company. (Associated Press) 
Oregon utility Pacific Power awards $2 million to communities for programs encouraging electric vehicle and e-bike adoption. (KTVZ)

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TRANSPORTATION: California’s transportation department seeks volunteers from rural and tribal communities to test a road fee system based on miles driven rather than the amount of fuel used. (news release)

A former California executive is sentenced to more than six years in prison and fined nearly $620 million for his role in a mobile solar generator fraud scheme. (Associated Press) 
Colorado rooftop solar customers and installers accuse Xcel Energy of delaying solar connections to avoid losing money, but the utility says it’s backed up due to high demand. (CBS Colorado)

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Jonathan hails from southwestern Colorado and has been writing about the land, cultures, and communities of the Western United States for more than two decades. He compiles the Western Energy News digest. He is the author of three books, a contributing editor at High Country News, and the editor of the Land Desk, an e-newsletter that provides coverage and context on issues critical to the West.