By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
We hope you enjoyed the first night of our summer happy hour series. We certainly did!
Today’s Washington Brief:
- President Obama will announce a series of energy-efficiency moves today, including commitments to expand the use and availability of solar power, National Journal’s Jason Plautz reports.
- A debate on natural gas exports is one of a handful energy issues that brought down a Senate deal to consider a bipartisan energy efficiency bill and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, The Hill’s Laura Barron-Lopez reports.
- The energy efficiency legislation from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, looks likely to fall short of the votes needed to proceed in the Senate early next week due to a filibuster by Republicans, E&E’s Nick Juliano and Elana Schor report.
Today’s Business Brief:
Today's Chart Review:
Generation by Fuel
from Energy Information Administration
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Friday: Environmental Law Institute discussion on Clean Air Act @ 9 am
15: Natural Gas
16: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
19: Wall Street Journal
22-23: USA Today
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
1) Barring Unforeseen Developments, Last Rites for Shaheen-Portman Coming
from E&E by Nick Juliano and Elana Schor
Barring an 11th-hour miracle, a long-suffering energy efficiency bill is set to fail in the Senate early next week at the hands of a filibuster by Republicans protesting their inability to secure votes on controversial amendments. That likely kills the best chance for a vote this year to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline and further calls into question the upper chamber's ability to pass any significant energy policy legislation. The bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is falling victim to the poisonous partisan atmosphere that pervades the Capitol. While the sponsors thought they had sufficient bipartisan support to pass the relatively modest bill -- each signing up a half-dozen co-sponsors from their respective parties -- party leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were unable to agree on the process to consider the bill, and so far, no Republicans have said they will break with their leadership in order to advance the efficiency measure.
2) Obama Continues to Push Unilateral Action to Fight Climate Change
from National Journal by Jason Plautz
Just days after using the release of the National Climate Assessment to push his message on climate change, President Obama will continue his use of executive power Friday to push solutions to curb its effects. Obama will announce a series of energy-efficiency moves Friday in a speech at Walmart in Mountain View, Calif., including an additional $2 billion goal in energy-efficiency upgrades for federal buildings over the next three years. Obama will announce a series of commitments to expand the use and availability of solar power, including rules on renewable-energy installations for real property and solar-industry workforce training. It's part of the administration's "year of action" on climate change, said Dan Utech, White House special assistant on energy and climate change. It's also a continuation of Obama's strategy of using executive authority to move his climate and energy agenda in the face of obstruction from Congress. The announcement comes as the Senate is facing the failure of its own bipartisan bill to increase the energy efficiency of commercial and residential buildings and federal facilities.
3) Natural Gas Fight is Key to Keystone Vote
from The Hill by Laura Barron-Lopez
The fate of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill and a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline has boiled down to a fight over whether to make it easier to export liquefied natural gas. Liquefied natural gas exports have taken on new prominence in Congress because of Russia’s threats to stop gas exports to Ukraine and the European Union. Republicans argue exporting U.S. natural gas will reduce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leverage over Europe, and bolster Ukraine’s ability to stand up to his pressure. They also argue that it will be good for the U.S. economy. Democrats, however, argue allowing more exports could raise energy costs in the U.S. and hurt the economy and jobs.
4) Landrieu Paints Target on Republicans After Keystone Vote Failure
from PoliticoPro by Darren Goode and Burgess Everett
The collapse of Senate Keystone XL talks has set a new political blame game in motion — and no one has more at stake than Sen. Mary Landrieu. Facing a difficult reelection battle, the Louisiana Democrat is pointing the finger at Republicans, namely Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for letting a deal slip away that could have allowed a stand-alone vote this month on TransCanada’s long-sought oil pipeline project. Meanwhile the GOP is once again labeling Landrieu as powerless despite her recent rise to the top of the Senate energy committee. “I don’t think it bodes well for Mary Landrieu,” said one oil industry lobbyist who supports her campaign. “It shows that even as chair of that committee, she doesn’t have enough clout to bring it up to a vote on the floor. It scares the hell out of me.”
5) Agreement Reached on $8.2B Waterways Bill
from The Hill by Keith Lang
Lawmakers in the House and Senate said Thursday evening that they have reached an agreement on an $8.2 billion bill to boost U.S. ports and waterways. A bicameral conference committee has been haggling over the bill, known as the Water Resources Development Act, for the better part of six months. The lead negotiators said Thursday night that they would bring their agreement to the floors of the House and Senate next week.
6) Public-Private Habitat Ventures at Risk as FWS Weighs Listing for Sage Grouse
from E&E by Phil Taylor
...To a large extent, the efforts of ranchers like McStay will determine whether the bird receives protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Interior Department faces a court-ordered deadline of September 2015 to decide. Sage grouse, charismatic ground-dwelling birds, once occupied 297 million acres of sagebrush grasslands in the West, but agriculture and development have reduced that range by nearly half. The Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 found sage grouse warranted listing because their habitat was increasingly degraded and fragmented by agricultural conversion, urbanization, roads, power lines, increasingly frequent wildfire, invasive plants, grazing and energy development. While more than half of the remaining sage grouse habitat is on federal lands, more than 30 percent of it is on private lands where farmers and ranchers are pursuing habitat protections with money and technical assistance from the Agriculture and Interior departments. Sage grouse are the only bird that can consume large quantities of sagebrush. The chemicals that give the plant its fragrant scent are toxic in large quantities for other animals. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service. Others in Colorado are pursuing a habitat credit exchange where oil and gas and other energy developers agree to pay landowners to offset harm to sage grouse.
7) Freeport to Acquire Apache Stakes in Gulf for $1.4 Billion
8) U.S. Stock-Index Futures Are Little Changed Amid Earnings
9) Despite Orders, Federal Tank-Car Safety Measures Are Slow in Coming
from New York Times by Jad Mouawad
The derailment of a freight train carrying crude oil in Lynchburg, Va., last week was a reminder that basic safety features of the oil-by-rails business remain vastly inadequate, despite a flurry of emergency orders by federal regulators. The federal Department of Transportation, which on Wednesday said that the growing movement of oil trains posed an “imminent hazard” to the public, has nevertheless been slow to toughen up tank-car standards. While those delays have angered lawmakers and local officials, a small number of railroads and refiners have pushed the industry to change. BNSF, the rail operator owned by Berkshire Hathaway and the largest carrier of oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota, said in February that it would buy 5,000 new tank cars with the latest safety features. It was a departure from the industry’s practice of railroads not owning cars. Other railroads and refiners in Canada said they would charge higher rates for older cars in a bid to move the industry to adopt the newer models, built since 2011. And regulators in Canada recently mandated the use of the newest model within three years. But safety advocates, as well as railroad officials, point out that these newer cars — known as CPC-1232s — have also failed in recent crashes.
10) Railroad Says Federal Order Won’t Affect Oil Shipments
from Houston Chronicle (AP)
The main railroad moving crude oil out of the rich Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana said a new federal emergency order on rail shipments will not affect shipments. The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday required railroads to inform state emergency management officials about the movement of large shipments of crude oil. The agency also asked companies shipping oil from the Bakken region to stop using older generation tank cars that have been involved in a spate of fiery derailments over the past year. “We will comply with the new reporting requirements but do not anticipate they will impact our service,” BNSF Railway Co. said in a statement. “We will continue moving the freight that our customers demand.” Public and political pressure to make oil trains safer began last summer when a runaway oil train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and incinerating much of the town. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have derailed and caught fire since then in Alabama, North Dakota, New Brunswick — and just last week — in Virginia.
11) Worker Fatalities Surge in North Dakota Oil Boom: Study
12) Offshore Regulators to Keep Eye on Bad Actors
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Maritime and drilling regulators vowed Thursday to keep a closer watch on oil companies and contractors they say are consistently cutting corners on safety offshore. The Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for prevention policy, Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, and Brian Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, delivered that message directly to oil industry representatives on the final day of the Offshore Technology Conference. Servidio said the Coast Guard will consider launching unannounced inspections of oil and gas industry vessels after some logged more than five deficiencies during scheduled probes...While acknowledging some offshore supply vessels and mobile offshore drilling units have come through examinations without problems, and still others have worked to improve their performance, Servidio said some still are falling short. “There are other companies where we find the same problems over and over again,” he said.
13) Time May be Coming for Subsea Well Replacements
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
Several thousand subsea wells may need to be replaced in the coming years, an oil-field servicer said Thursday at the Offshore Technology Conference. Egil Tveit of FMC Technologies said subsea wells –in which the wellhead, Christmas tree and production-control equipment are all located on the sea floor — were introduced in the 1970s and started to grow especially popular in the 1980s and 1990s. But today, many of those wells could be at the point that they’re so old they must be replaced. “We’re now entering into a phase where we’re maturing the industry,” Tveit said. Older generations of subsea wells had a designed life of 15 to 20 years, so at this point, many of those devices are reaching the end of that time span — and many could be well past it.
14) Oil Producer Pleas Snubbed by Norway as Offshore Costs Surge
Oil and gas companies can expect little help from Norway on tackling surging costs as the government of western Europe’s biggest crude producer tones down plans for measures that producers hope will boost earnings. “I don’t really expect us to present a package of measures,” Petroleum and Energy Minister Tord Lien said in a May 7 interview in Oslo. Cost increases challenging offshore projects are “partly due to the fact that we’re not smart enough in the way we work. The responsibility for that lies first and foremost with the operators and suppliers.” Lien, a member of junior coalition partner the Progress Party, said in December his administration could by the end of the year present measures, including tax incentives, aimed at cutting costs that have doubled during the past 10 years. Expenses have jumped amid increasing complexity, higher raw-materials costs and rising demand. Coupled with stagnating energy prices, they’ve led companies such as Statoil ASA, the state-controlled operator of more than 70 percent of Norway’s production, to cut spending plans.
15) Natural-Gas Prices Tumble on Inventory Addition
from Wall Street Journal by Timothy Puko
Natural-gas futures posted their biggest decline in 10 weeks Thursday as storage additions eased concerns about a potential shortage of the heating fuel next winter. Prices for the front-month June contract fell 16.8 cents, or 3.5%, to $4.572 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the biggest percentage decline since Feb. 27 and put prices 5.4% below the two-month high they had hit a week ago. "It's not a huge turn, but it's a bloody day," said Scott Gettleman, an independent trader in New York. "Usually you get a selloff, but you bounce back a little. Today we never got a bounce."
Utilities and Infrastructure
16) For Utilities and Their Suppliers, Lack of Communication is Opening for Cyberthreats
from E&E by Peter Behr
The cyber peril to energy companies and their vendors has brought forth a tide of regulations, industry standards and voluntary guidelines, but these are not enough, speakers at the Utilities Telecom Council's convention here said. "We're drowning in risk management frameworks," said Ronald Ross, a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "We're drowning in controls. "We have all the tools we need, but where we are having difficulty is applying those tools to actually make a difference," he added. The missing piece is communication, a prerequisite for trust, he and other speakers said: the need for frank -- and sometimes difficult -- conversations about who has responsibility for ensuring that software, equipment and systems are cyber protected and responding when threats inevitably break through. "This is not a tools or framework problem. This is a problem that is cultural," Ross said. "It's the way we do business today.
17) Wave and Tidal Power Industry Buffeted by Rough U.S. Regulatory Process
from E&E by Julia Pyper and Elizabeth Harball
The American wave and tidal industry, which has the potential to meet roughly one-third of all U.S. electricity needs, has a treacherous route to navigate in order to live up to its potential. The United States is well-positioned to be the global leader in this nascent marketplace, according to industry experts. But onerous regulations and a lack of federal funding stand to quash the domestic industry before it really gets started. In 2012, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), a Pennington, N.J.-based wave energy company, appeared set to build America's first grid-connected wave energy project, a 1.5-megawatt power station composed of 10 "PowerBuoys" in waters near Reedsport, Ore. Having received at least $4.4 million in Department of Energy funding, it secured the first Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for a wave power station in August 2012. But this March, OPT abandoned the project, citing "a considerable increase in costs" in a March filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is assumed the decision is largely due to the lengthy, costly process the company underwent to secure the FERC license in the United States, according to Jason Busch, executive director of Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a nonprofit, state-supported group that spent more than $436,000 in support of OPT.
18) Troubled N.J. Pilot Project Wins Millions in Federal Funding
from E&E by Elizabeth Harball
Sometimes, the dark horse trots into the winner's circle. Fishermen's Energy LLC, a company that has proposed a five-turbine, 25-megawatt offshore wind farm near Atlantic City, N.J., yesterday was named one of three offshore wind developers to receive up to $47 million in Department of Energy funding. Of the seven contenders vying for a DOE award, Fishermen's Energy was the only fully permitted project. But over the past several months, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has twice denied bids by Fishermen's to participate in a state program that would obligate utilities to buy power from the wind farm, in part because the developer had not yet secured the DOE grant. Fishermen's filed an appeal of the agency's decision to the New Jersey appellate court Monday, according to attorney Stephen Pearlman, outside counsel for the developer in its case against the BPU.
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
19) The Latest Storm of Climate Alarmism
from Wall Street Journal by Steven F. Hayward
The third National Climate Assessment, released Tuesday by the White House, may not do anything to protect Americans from the effects of climate change, but it has done its primary job—generating alarming headlines in the media and setting the stage for a renewed push by the Obama administration for its climate-policy agenda. Coming barely six weeks after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most recent alarmist report—also duly trumpeted in the media—we have now reached the junkie's-craving phase of the climate-change story, where bigger and more frequent fixes are necessary to keep alive the euphoria of saving the world. Confronted with polls and surveys finding that the public is tuning out climate change as a matter of vital concern, the climate campaign seemingly persists in thinking that one more report will turn the tide in its favor.
20) A Nuclear Option for Energy
from Bloomberg by Robert Bryce
In the wake of the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, it may sound odd to say so, but here goes: The prospects for nuclear energy have never been brighter. Reactor technology is improving fast, the nuclear sector is getting significant private-sector investment, and mainstream environmentalists are embracing nuclear like never before. To be clear, nuclear faces many challenges -- it’s too expensive and there are too many old plants -- but with the right policies in place, nuclear should become more affordable and safer over the coming decades. Nuclear is green because it has such a small footprint. Inside the core of an average reactor, the power density is about 338 megawatts per square meter. This explains how just two reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center in Westchester County, New York, can provide as much as 30 percent of New York City's electricity. To equal the generation capacity at Indian Point with wind energy, which has a paltry power density of 1 watt per square meter, you’d need about 772 square miles of wind turbines, an area three-quarters the size of Rhode Island. Add in nuclear’s minimal carbon-dioxide emissions, and it's clear that nuclear can, and will, provide a significant chunk of the world’s electricity for many years to come.
21) Biofuels Are a Bad Idea
from Bloomberg by Robert Bryce
Many critiques have been written about the foolishness of America’s mandates and subsidies for biofuels. But the most savage was almost certainly published last year in the Strategic Studies Quarterly, a U.S. Air Force journal, by Ike Kiefer, who launched this barrage:
Imagine if the U.S. military developed a weapon that could threaten millions around the world with hunger, accelerate global warming, incite widespread instability and revolution, provide our competitors and enemies with cheaper energy, and reduce America’s economy to a permanent state of recession. What would be the sense and the morality of employing such a weapon? We are already building that weapon -- it is our biofuels program.
Ouch. But I also say amen, hallelujah and pass the biscuits. What makes Kiefer’s meticulously footnoted takedown of biofuels so effective is that he doesn’t frame his argument with moral cries about higher food prices, even though that’s one of his key points. Instead, he hammers the physics and math. And in particular, he focuses on density.
22) Climate Change vs. GOP: Our view
from USA Today by Editorial Board
Not all that long ago, leading Republicans took strong positions on climate change. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party's 2008 presidential nominee, co-authored legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions. And former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee presented the fight against global warming as a religious cause. These days, it's difficult to find a Republican candidate willing to speak out in favor of doing something. Anyone who does so risks defeat in GOP primaries, where ardent climate change skeptics hold sway. This is a problem for the country, indeed the world. The National Climate Assessment, released this week, adds to a mounting and overwhelming body of evidence that the effects of rising temperatures are here and now — and that even higher sea levels, more extreme weather and water shortages are in our future if nothing is done. Addressing the threat won't be easy, or popular. But denying that a problem even exists — which is common among the most vocal of Republicans — risks branding the party as one that is anti-science and refuses to participate in constructive governance.
23) Sen. John Barrasso: No More Red Tape
from USA Today by John Barrasso
My state is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is also one of America's biggest "all of the above" energy producers. In Wyoming, we've figured out how to balance a healthy environment with a healthy economy. It's too bad the Obama administration won't follow our lead. Once again, President Obama is pushing an extreme agenda of burdensome regulations that will put more Americans out of work. Instead of making the environment better, the president's strategy will make the climate for unemployed Americans worse. We've already seen how heavy-handed regulations are forcing power plants to fire their workers and close their doors. In April alone, more than 800,000 Americans gave up looking for work. We now have the lowest labor force participation rate since the Carter administration. President Obama should not roll out more red tape that will make it even harder for people to find work. To make matters worse, his regulations would have no effect on global temperatures. The U.S. share of the world's carbon dioxideemissions had been declining for nearly a decade before President Obama took office. Meanwhile, China's emissions grew by 173% from 1998 to 2011. Unless developing countries also act, the president's policies would hurt our competitiveness while yielding few environmental benefits.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
24) Death on the Job Report
North Dakota had the highest fatality rate in the nation (17.7 per 100,000 workers) followed by Wyoming (12.2), Alaska (8.9), Montana (7.3) and West Virginia (6.9). The lowest state fatality rate (1.4 per 100,000 workers) was reported in Massachusetts, followed by Rhode Island (1.7), Connecticut (2.1), and New Hampshire and Washington (2.2). North Dakota stands out as an exceptionally dangerous and deadly place to work:
- The state’s 2012 job fatality rate of 17.7 per 100,000 is more than five times the national average and is one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state. The state’s fatality rate more than doubled from a rate of 7.0 per 100,000 in 2007, and the number of workers killed on the job increased from 25 to 65.
- Latino workers accounted for 12 of the North Dakota deaths in 2012, a fourfold increase from the three Latino worker deaths in 2011.
- The fatality rate in the mining and oil and gas extraction sector in North Dakota was an alarming 104.0 per 100,000, more than six times the national fatality rate of 15.9 per 100,000 in this industry; and the construction sector fatality rate in North Dakota was 97.4 per 100,000, almost ten times the national fatality rate of 9.9 per 100,000 for construction.