By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- Industry groups, environmentalists and the administration are waging war ahead of the debut of landmark climate rules for power plants, Politico Pro reports. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study claims the regulations would kill jobs, but the Natural Resources Defense Council, the EPA and the White House disagree. A report from corporate sustainability group Ceres found electricity producers can likely handle the new carbon emissions limits, The Hill reports.
- The rulemaking process has companies and researchers examining a number of ways--from taxing carbon to spurring energy efficiency--to comply with the proposal expected to be released next week. Those ideas could fundamentally alter the way Americans get electricity, Bloomberg's Mark Drajem reports.
- Opponents of government policies that have encouraged green energy growth claimed their first victory Wednesday when Ohio lawmakers voted to freeze the phasing-in of power that utilities must buy from renewable energy sources, New York Times' Diane Cardwell reports.
Today’s Business Brief:
- One of the nation's dirtiest coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania once warned the administration's climate push would be devastating, but it has become a model for how to slash pollution, Associated Press reports.
- Natural gas and oil are once again dominating the national energy picture, while wind power is starting to find itself on shaky ground, E&E's Nathaniel Gronewold reports.
- A new study from IHS claims lifting the ban on exporting crude oil exports would spur the U.S. economy, Bloomberg reports.
- Residential solar power had one of its best quarters yet, Bloomberg reports.
Today's Chart Review:
Electricity Net Generation (Billion Kilowatthours)
from Energy Information Administration
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Thursday: Hudson Institute discussion on congressional action on energy infrastructure @ 8 am
Thursday: House Science hearing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process @ 11 am
Thursday: House Small Business hearing on EPA water rule @ 1 pm
Thursday: House Foreign Affairs hearing on U.S. LNG and Asia @ 2 pm
Thursday: George Mason University SPP gala and talk on energy geopolitics with Macfarlane @ 7 pm
17: Natural Gas
18-20: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
26: Washington Post
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
28: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
31: Environmental Working Group
32: Solar Energy Industries Association
33: Oil Change International
1) Pregame Scuffle Breaks Out on EPA Climate Rule
from Politico Pro by Andrew Restuccia and Erica Martinson
President Barack Obama’s landmark climate rule for power plants is still days from its debut, but industry groups, environmentalists and the administration are already waging a war of words over the coal crackdown. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce grabbed headlines Wednesday with a study contending that the rule would drag down the economy, wiping out an average of $51 billion worth of output and 224,000 jobs a year. Dead wrong, the Natural Resources Defense Council responded — arguing that, to the contrary, “hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created and Americans will save billions of dollars on their electric bills.” EPA jumped into the debate too, with a blog post accusing the Chamber of “using the same tired play from the same special interest playbook that is engineered to continue polluting and stall progress.” White House aide John Podesta chimed in on Twitter: “I’m old enough to know what a broken record actually sounds like. @USChamber wrong before, wrong again on pollution.”
2) Wonks Collide as Obama Climate Plan Prompts New Ideas
4) Obama Confident on EPA
from The Hill by Timothy Cama and Benjamin Goad
The Obama administration is confident that sweeping new rules it is set to announce on coal-fired power plants will survive court challenges from opponents. The rules are expected to be announced on Monday, and will ring the bell on President Obama’s biggest brawl yet over climate change. Top administration officials are expecting a legal challenge to the new rules, as business groups and congressional Republicans are bent on blocking regulations they charge will cripple the nation’s coal industry and weaken the economy. The administration’s confidence stems from a string of court victories in which federal judges have endorsed the Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution rules.
5) Obama Seeks Climate Legacy as Coal-State Democrats Cringe
from Bloomberg by Lisa Lerer
When President Barack Obama reviewed his aides’s ideas for tackling climate change last year, he gave one simple directive: “Don’t skinny it down.” They didn’t, and Obama now is set to release new limits on greenhouse gas emissions by power plants as early as next week. That comes atop the unveiling of a National Climate Assessment in May and executive actions including promoting renewable fuels and building better defenses against extreme weather. “The White House is systematically talking about climate change when, not too long ago, they wouldn’t use the word,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island and one of the chamber’s strongest advocates for action to slow climate change. “It’s been a huge step up.”
6) Report: Power Plants Reducing Emissions
from The Hill by Timothy Cama
The country’s top 100 electricity producers have reduced emissions of major pollutants in recent years, showing that they could likely handle the new limits on carbon dioxide coming soon from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a new report. The Wednesday report from corporate sustainability group Ceres found that the major producers reduced emissions of carbon dioxide 13 percent between 2008 and 2012. They’ve also significantly cut nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury.
7) How the U.S. Energy Mix Made a U-turn from Calif. to Texas
from E&E by Nathanial Gronewold
Windmill blades could be seen on a loading dock at one of the nation's busiest ports during a recent visit to the offices of the Port of Houston Authority to discuss major petrochemical investments coming their way.
The blades weren't entering the port, the staff explained, but rather leaving it. Though the details were fuzzy, the explanation was that a canceled wind energy project in central Texas was reselling them to another buyer, perhaps in Latin America. This scene more or less epitomizes the past six-year swing in the future outlook of energy in the United States: renewable wind power headed out as oil- and natural-gas-fueled development moved in.
8) Obama Admin Retools Sprawling Western 'Energy Corridor'
from E&E by Scott Streater
The Obama administration is slowly taking the first steps to revise potentially large sections of a congressionally designated 6,000-mile-long energy corridor as mandated by a nearly 2-year-old legal settlement with environmental groups that claimed the original corridor unnecessarily tore through sensitive landscapes and fails to advance renewable energy development. But it could be years before any substantive revisions are made to dozens of contested sections of the "West-wide Energy Corridor" that stretches across 11 Western states and nearly 3 million acres of public land, including federal wildlife refuges and key habitat for greater sage grouse.
9) Texas: Can't Tie Water Contamination to Drilling
from Sacramento Bee by Ramit Plushnick and Emily Schmall (AP)
The amount of explosive gas tainting a North Texas neighborhood's water supply has increased in recent years, but the state's oil and gas regulator says it can't link the methane to drilling activity nearby, according to a report it released Wednesday. The state Railroad Commission has found that the contamination has gotten worse in most of the private water wells it tested in September 2013 compared with what was measured in 2010 and in 2011. However, Peter Pope, the agency geologist who signed off on the report, wrote that staff "has determined that the evidence is insufficient to conclude that Barnett Shale production activities have caused or contributed to methane contamination beneath the neighborhood."
10) EU Eyes Plan to Diversify Energy But No Easy Fixes
from Houston Chronicle (AP)
The European Union’s executive has proposed a strategy to secure the bloc’s energy supplies — and notably reduce its reliance on Russia — by seeking new supplies from the Caspian Sea, the Mediterranean, and increasing use of transportable Liquefied Natural Gas, or LNG. The plan EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger presented Wednesday will be considered by European leaders at a June 26-27 summit, but offers no easy fixes. Europe imports 40 percent of its gas from Russia, and half of that via pipelines that run through Ukraine.
11) U.S. Stock Futures Little Changed on Hillshire Bid, GDP
12) Lifting of Crude Export Ban Will Boost U.S. Economy, IHS Says
13) TransCanada's Safety Promises Draw Scrutiny Even as They Multiply
from E&E by Elana Schor
The company behind Keystone XL yesterday disputed a claim that federal regulators imposed new safety mandates on its contentious, long-delayed pipeline in response to repairs conducted along the project's southern leg -- without drawing attention to an array of spill-prevention measures that it vowed to consider following a third-party risk analysis supported by U.S. EPA. TransCanada Corp. pushed back at an Associated Press report that connected two extra conditions imposed on KXL by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to welding failures that the agency found last year on the Canada-to-U.S. project's 485-mile southern segment.
14) Oklahoma Governor Signs Bill Raising Oil-Output Tax
from Wall Street Journal by Daniel Gilbert
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation Wednesday that will raise taxes on new oil and gas wells, but kept the increase to a level the state's largest energy producers said they were comfortable with. The new law takes effect in 2015 and will tax energy companies at a 2% rate on a well's oil and gas output for the first three years of its life. After that, the tax rate will rise to 7%. The new, permanent tax rate will cover all wells in the state. It replaces an expiring incentive for deep, costly wells that taxed production at a 1% rate for the first four years. Some Oklahoma energy executives, most prominently billionaire George Kaiser, argued the state needed additional funds, and a 7% tax on oil and gas production wouldn't significantly slow down drilling.
15) Calif. Senate Vote Falls Short for Moratorium on Oil Fracking
from Los Angeles Times by Patrick McGreevy
The state Senate on Wednesday failed to muster the votes needed to set a moratorium on the oil drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until a study determines that it does not pose a health risk for the public. Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said her bill is needed because of public concern that the injection of water and chemicals into the ground to stimulate oil production may threaten health. She said she does not want to increase California’s dependance on foreign oil. “However, the safety of oil drilling is an environmental justice issue that I believe we should review with great scrutiny,” Mitchell said. The bill garnered an 18-16 vote, three votes short of the majority needed for approval. The Senate granted Mitchell the right to try another vote later in the week.
16) Canada Moves to Plug Oil Spill Gaps With Gateway Looming
17) Dominion Proposes Gas Pipeline on East Coast
from Houston Chronicle (AP)
Dominion Resources Inc. has proposed building a 450-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from the Appalachian Basin to markets in Virginia and North Carolina. The proposed Dominion Southeast Reliability Project would run from a Dominion Transmission pipeline in Harrison County, West Virginia, through Virginia to Lumberton, North Carolina. Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the company hasn’t decided whether to build the pipeline.
Utilities and Infrastructure
18) Shale Boom Won't Budge Utility Bills—or Stocks
from CNBC by Tim Mullaney
As utilities and their customers move into a future in which shale gas is nearly ubiquitous, no utility exemplifies better than Southern the mix of aggression and apprehension the U.S. energy boom is causing. A decade after shale went commercial, the price of natural gas is much lower—it even dipped below $2 per million BTUs in 2012 during a market glut. But it's still too volatile to count on, and the need to upgrade or replace older, dirtier electricity plants—many of which burn coal—is offsetting much, if not all, of the savings from cheaper fuel...For investors, the shale rush has been a mixed bag. Utilities don't typically benefit directly from lower fuel costs, which are passed through to consumers as lower rates. And the industry remains challenged by another long-term energy trend: Greater efficiency of nearly all appliances means U.S. demand for power is expected to grow at only 0.8 percent a year through 2040, according to Energy Department forecasts.
19) TV, Web, Phone, Electricity? A New Threat to Utilities
20) Reliant Hopes You’ll Give Up Some Control of the Thermostat
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
Air conditioning can feel like the only source of salvation during a sweltering Texas summer. But retail electricity provider Reliant is posing an intriguing question to customers: For a fee, would you be willing to give up some control of your thermostat? That may seem like heresy in a state where the summer thermometer often reads triple digits. But Reliant hopes residents will consider the proposal, and is willing to pay if they say yes.
21) One Of America's Dirtiest Coal Plants Had Some Dire Predictions. It Was Wrong.
from Hufffington Post by Dina Cappiello and Kevin Begos (AP)
Three years ago, the operators of one of the nation's dirtiest coal-fired power plants warned of "immediate and devastating" consequences from the Obama administration's push to clean up pollution from coal.
Faced with cutting sulfur dioxide pollution blowing into downwind states by 80 percent in less than a year, lawyers for EME Homer City Generation L.P. sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the rule, saying it would cause it grave harm and bring a painful spike in electricity bills. None of those dire predictions came to pass. Instead, the massive western Pennsylvania power plant is expected in a few years to turn from one of the worst polluters in the country to a model for how coal-fired power plants can slash pollution.
22) The Case For Coal
from Forbes by Christopher Helman
Since 2011 coal companies have found themselves crushed between draconian new environmental regulation from Washington fed by fears of global warming and a plentiful supply of cleaner-burning natural gas that’s stolen share in the electrical generation market, coal’s biggest customer...It would be all too easy to assume that Alpha, and coal, is on its deathbed. But despite fears of global warming coal remains the fastest-growing fossil fuel worldwide, thanks to China’s sprawling economy and fears of nuclear disasters in places like Germany and Japan, which mothballed nuke plants after Fukushima. Coal’s share of the domestic power-generation pie has bounced back to 42%, from a low of 36% in 2012, amid a rebound in natural gas prices over the past two years...A turning point should arrive in 2016. That’s when the U.S. is likely to begin exporting natural gas, which will raise its current price and give coal a chance to compete.
23) Obama Administration Delays Coal Regulations, Starting New Black Lung Rulemaking
from SNL by Taylor Kukkendall
The U.S. Department of Labor is again extending the timetable on several coal mining regulations and beginning new rulemaking on issues with the federal black lung benefits program. According to the Obama administration's recently released semiannual regulatory agenda, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration pushed back the deadlines for proposed rules on required proximity detection devices on mining machinery, delayed a "request for information" on lessons learned from the Upper Big Branch explosion, and delayed revision of criteria and procedures for assessment of civil penalties for health and safety violations.
24) A Pushback on Green Power
from New York Times by Diane Cardwell
As renewable energy production has surged in recent years, opponents of government policies that have helped spur its growth have pushed to roll back those incentives and mandates in state after state.
On Wednesday, they claimed their first victory, when Ohio lawmakers voted to freeze the phasing-in of power that utilities must buy from renewable energy sources. The bill, which passed the Ohio House of Representatives, 54 to 38, was expected to be signed into law by Gov. John R. Kasich, who helped negotiate its final draft. It stands in marked contrast to the broad consensus behind the original law in 2008, when it was approved with virtually no opposition, and comes after considerable disagreement among lawmakers, energy executives and public interest groups.
25) U.S. Solar Power Rises 79% as Home Panels Beat Warehouses
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
26) The Insiders: The Left is to Blame for the Distorted Global Warming Debate
from Washington Post by Ed Rogers
The New Republic’s recent article by Jonathan Cohn, “Obama’s new rules for coal plants are a B.F.D.,” exemplifies what is wrong with the political debate on climate change. The piece is ostensibly about the new Environmental Protection Agency regulations that will limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, but it serves to make the left’s tired case for action on global warming. In pushing the left’s climate change agenda, Cohn cites the same old claims that get repeated ad nauseam. He even purports to answer a list of “frequently asked questions,” but actually relies on vague talking points supplied by the usual suspects on the left instead of providing any precise, clear information. What scientists say about global warming isn’t the problem; the problem is what political professionals and ideologues say when they enter into the conversation. The public sees their dishonesty and reacts accordingly. This is why climate alarmists lose most objective voters.
27) A Failure Of Due Process At FERC
from Forbes by William Scherman and Jason Fleischer
Nearly nine months ago, we began writing a law review article that described the erosion of due process and basic fairness in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) enforcement process. Forty-nine pages and 270 footnotes later, our article was published by theEnergy Law Journal on May 15th. The following week, on May 20th, the Senate held a hearing to consider Acting-Chairman Cheryl LaFleur’s re-nomination to the Commission and Director of Enforcement Norman Bay’s nomination as Chair of the Commission. There has been a great deal of speculation over the last few days questioning whether the article’s release was timed to coincide with the confirmation hearing? Nothing could be further from the truth...No one can reasonably dispute that the subjects of FERC investigations should receive meaningful due process and have the opportunity to fully and fairly respond to the allegations made against them. The problems we identified and the reforms to cure them should, at a minimum, be addressed by holding technical conferences to allow the regulated community to come together before the Commission, with Enforcement Staff, to tell their stories and propose reforms.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
28) Assessing the Impact of Proposed New Carbon Regulations in the United States
from U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Our report illustrates the impacts associated with an EPA regime modeled on the Obama Administration's stated emissions reductions goal. To obtain the most accurate modeling and analysis possible for the report, we commissioned the respected global energy and economics firm IHS. The conclusions of the report are our own. Our analysis shows that Americans will pay significantly more for electricity, see slower economic growth and fewer jobs, and have less disposable income. Potential EPA regulations would result in a very slight reduction in carbon emissions, which would be overwhelmed by global increases.
29) Electric Power Industry is Transitioning to Lower-Carbon Sources and Positioned to Meet New EPA Carbon Standards
A new report on U.S. power plant emissions from the country’s top 100 electric power producers shows a downward trend in nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxides (SO2), mercury and carbon dioxide (CO2) since 2000, with CO2emissions decreasing 13 percent between 2008 and 2012. The findings show that the industry is already shifting toward a combination of increased energy efficiency and lower carbon fuel sources, which should help it meet new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon standards expected to be announced on June 2nd.
30) Assessing the Impact of the Export Ban and Free Trade on the U.S. Economy
Lifting the 1970s-era restrictions on US crude oil exports would lead to further increases in domestic oil production, resulting in lower gasoline prices while supporting nearly 1 million additional jobs at the peak.
Doing away with exports restrictions would also generate added benefits to US household income, gross domestic product (GDP) and government revenues. The US oil system is nearing “Gridlock” with the mismatch between the rapid growth of light tight oil and the inability of the US refining system to economically process these growing volumes. Lifting the export ban and allowing free trade will, in our base case, increase US production—from 8.2 million B/D currently to 11.2 million B/D—and add investment of nearly $750 billion. The resulting increase in domestic oil production would be so great that it would cut the US oil import bill by an average of $67 billion per year.
31) Using Less Corn Ethanol Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
from Environmental Working Group
The Environmental Protection Agency’s pending proposal to cut the amount of corn ethanol that must be blended into gasoline in 2014 by 1.39 billion gallons would lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 3 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2e) – as much as taking 580,000 cars off the road for a year. It is now clear that the federal corn ethanol mandate has driven up food prices, strained agricultural markets, increased competition for arable land and promoted conversion of uncultivated land to grow crops. In addition, previous estimates have dramatically underestimated corn ethanol’s greenhouse gas emissions by failing to account for changes in land use.
32) U.S. Solar Market Insight
from Solar Energy Industries Association
The U.S. solar market continued to expand in the first quarter of 2014. Photovoltaic (PV) installations reached 1,330 MWdc in Q1, up 79% over the same quarter in 2013. The utility PV market was responsible for the lion’s share of this growth, installing 873 MWdcin Q1 2014, up from 322 MWdc in Q1 2013. We expect this segment to fuel growth throughout the year, and our forecast calls for nearly 3.8 gigawatts (GWdc) of utility PV to be connected to the grid by December 31.
33) Interactive Crude by Rail Map for North America
from Oil Change International
The map shows how where oil is traveling by rail and was debuted ahead of protests planned around the July 6 anniversary of the derailment that killed nearly four dozen people and destroyed downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Houston Chronicle reports.