By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- The EPA's carbon emissions rule for power plants will step outside the fenceline to give states flexibility to meet benchmarks instead of placing limits on individual plants, according to Wall Street Journal's Amy Harder and Washington Examiner's Zack Colman. Governments around the world are awaiting the regulation as a test of how serious President Obama is about fighting global warming, New York Times' Coral Davenport reports.
- The rule could give new life to cap-and-trade, a carbon-cutting strategy that nine Northeastern states have seen success with under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Politico Pro's Erica Martinson reports.
- A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order that incentivizes electricity users to consume less power in a practice called demand response. The court ruled that FERC exceeded its jurisdiction, handing a victory to utilities that argued the system would discourage power-plant investment. Grid operators have encouraged the behavior since at least 2002, Bloomberg's Mark Chediak and Andrew Zajac report.
Today’s Business Brief:
- Divisions in the fight over lifting a decades-long ban on exporting crude oil are not clear-cut, Morning Consult's Emily Holden reports.
- Companies are capitalizing on retail markets that allow customers to buy their power from entities rather than utilities, setting up systems for them to sign up for electricity from green sources, New York Times' Diane Cardwell reports.
- Washington Examiner's Zack Colman explains how electric industry changes have made work more complicated for generation dispatchers and electricity delivery.
Today's Chart Review:
Gas Prices Are All Over the Map
from New York Times by Clifford Krauss
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Tuesday: Brookings Instituton discussion on Russia's influence on gas markets @ 10 am
Wednesday: White House, DOE, GSA Energy Datapalooza @ 8:30 am
Wednesday: FERC, NRC meeting on grid reliability @ 9 am
Wednesday: Resources for the Future seminar on natural resources, ecology and policy @ 12:45 pm
Wednesday: Johns Hopkins University discussion on careeres in green energy financing @ 4 pm
Wednesday: House Energy and Commerce opening statements on manufacturing bill markup @ 4 pm
Thursday: Hudson Institute discussion on congressional action on energy infrastructure @ 8 am
Thursday: House Appropriations Committee markup on 2015 ag spending bill @ 9 am
Thursday: House Energy and Commerce markup on manufacturing bill @ 10 am
Thursday: House Science hearing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process @ 11 am
Thursday: House Small Business hearing on EPA Clean Water Act 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
Friday: House Energy and Commerce hearing on DOE's loan programs @ 9:15 am
18-20: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
26-28: Washington Post
29: Charleston Gazette
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
30: American Wind Energy Association
31: Center for Energy Innovation
1) EPA Set to Unveil Climate Proposal
from Wall Street Journal by Amy Harder
The Obama administration will next week unveil a cornerstone of its climate-change initiative with a proposed rule aimed at allowing states to use cap-and-trade systems, renewable energy and other measures to meet aggressive goals for reducing carbon emissions by existing power plants. Energy companies and others affected by the proposal will be watching for key details, including the percentage by which companies and states must reduce carbon emissions, which is expected to be proposed in a range instead of a single number. The baseline year against which those reductions are calculated will also be closely monitored. But the proposal is designed to give states, which will administer the regulations, flexibility to meet the benchmarks, as opposed to placing emissions limits on individual plants, according to people familiar with the Environmental Protection Agency's work on the rule.
2) EPA Leans Toward Broad Scope for Regulating Power Plants
from Washington Examiner by Zack Colman
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to be sued for the carbon emission rules for existing power plants it is scheduled to roll out in early June, but who the plaintiff will be depends on whether the agency uses a broad scope of what it can regulate on the electric grid through one section of the Clean Air Act. At issue is whether the EPA can take an "outside the fenceline" approach to regulating power plant emissions, a term that refers to imposing rules on the electric power sector that go beyond the smokestack. That could mean requiring that the users of electricity do it less -- a position the electric utility industry says would be difficult -- by installing "smart" devices, adding more renewable electricity or making improvements to transmission lines to curb "load loss" when power travels from generators to utilities. The electric utility industry says the tactic is legally suspect, but environmental and public health advocates say it's necessary. Most experts believe the EPA is leaning toward using that scope, which could significantly reduce the amount of coal used to generate electricity in the U.S.
3) Governments Await Obama’s Move on Carbon to Gauge U.S. Climate Efforts
from New York Times by Coral Davenport
President Obama is expected to announce on Monday an Environmental Protection Agency regulation to cut carbon pollution from the nation’s fleet of 600 coal-fired power plants, in a speech that government analysts in Beijing, Brussels and beyond will scrutinize to determine how serious the president is about fighting global warming. The regulation will be Mr. Obama’s most forceful effort to reverse 20 years of relative inaction on climate change by the United States, which has stood as the greatest obstacle to international efforts to slow the rise of heat-trapping gases from burning coal and oil that scientists say cause warming. The president had tried, without success, to move a climate change bill through Congress in his first term, and such legislation would now stand no chance of getting past the resistance of Republican lawmakers who question the science of climate change. So Mr. Obama is taking a controversial step: He is using his executive authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to issue an E.P.A. regulation taking aim at coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.
4) Murkowski Calls for More Drilling in Alaska
from The Hill by Ramsey Cox
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced two bills Thursday that would increase the production of oil and gas on federal land in her home state. S. 2408 and S. 2409 would open up nearly 2,000 acres of the Arctic coastal plain for exploration, leasing, development and production of oil and gas...Murkowski said the area, which is a non-wilderness portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, could yield 10.4 billion barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — more than 40 years worth of jobs for her state.
5) Applying the Lessons of Politics to Green Power
from New York Times by Diane Cardwell
Over the years, Tom Matzzie — by working as a political operative on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and on building the antiwar movement that helped usher President Obama into office — became convinced that the key to creating change was to make it easy for people to participate. But it was not until 2010, as he navigated the complexities of buying and installing solar panels on his home here, that he thought to apply those lessons to renewable energy. That idea would become part of an effort to help it reach a scale sufficient to slow global warming...Four years later, he is deep into pursuing that goal with a start-up called Ethical Electric, which allows customers to sign up for electricity from green sources without physically changing anything in their businesses or homes.
6) Cap and Trade is Dead — Long Live Cap and Trade
from Politico Pro by Erica Martinson
Many people in Washington think of cap and trade as a carbon-cutting strategy that died in the Senate four years ago. But in fact, it’s alive and well in much of the country. Advocates say it’s working. And it’s poised to gain new life from the proposed greenhouse gas rule that EPA is rolling out next week. Nine Northeastern states already take part in a regional trading network that puts an economic price on their power plants’ carbon output, while California has a carbon trading system that is linked with Quebec. The Northeastern states saw their power plants’ carbon emissions drop more than 40 percent between 2005 and 2012, the trading network told EPA in December — without any of cap-and-trade critics’ apocalyptic expectations for such a system.
7) King Questions Choice of Bay to Lead FERC, Citing Maine Case
from Energy Guardian by Edward Felker
President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has already run into Republican opposition, but now faces potential opposition from Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. King said Thursday he has told senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that he is concerned about nominee Norman Bay's experience and the $5 million fine levied for alleged market manipulation against a small Maine paper mill in a case Bay pursued after becoming FERC's enforcement chief.
8) Shakeout Threatens Shale Patch as Frackers Go for Broke
10) Steyer’s 2014 Plan Goes Beyond Green Slogans
from Politico Pro by Darren Goode
Environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer’s $100 million plan for the midterm elections isn’t some gauzy green crusade to make Americans care about climate change. The details his super PAC outlined this week call for a much more targeted effort aimed at specific constituencies in seven bellwether states, including “low propensity” Hispanics in Florida who would otherwise be less inclined to vote, students in Iowa and New Hampshire, independent women in Maine, some low-income communities in Pennsylvania and African-Americans in Michigan. The messages will be targeted as well, hitting issues like rising flood-insurance premiums and farmers’ struggles with droughts and floods.
11) Conserative Groups Take Aim At Billionaire Climate Activist Tom Steyer
from Washington Examiner by Zack Colman
Conservative groups are honing in on an attack plan to rebuff billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer's foray into a handful of Senate and gubernatorial races. At issue are Steyer's alleged dealings in Indonesian coal when he ran his former hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management. Conservative outfits want to turn Steyer's suggestion that his policies aren't aligned with his pocketbook -- a defense Steyer and his environmental and Democratic allies make to parry accusations that he is a liberal version of the Koch brothers -- on its face.
12) Enviro Groups Strengthen Ties to the Clintons in the Run-Up to 2016
from E&E by Emily Yehle and Elana Schor
Last month, former President Clinton told a room full of conservationists that their fight to protect wildlife was connected to the conflict in Ukraine...The Clintons have long been conservationists with close ties to environmental groups. But in the span of two months, all three -- Bill, Hillary and Chelsea -- are being honored for their contributions to the environmental cause, amid rumors that Hillary is mulling a 2016 White House bid.
13) U.S. Stock-Index Futures Rise; S&P 500 May Extend Record
14) Divisions On Oil Exports Not So Clear-Cut
from Morning Consult by Emily Holden
In the fight over whether the U.S. should lift a decades-long ban on exporting crude oil, the battle lines might seem clearly defined. On one side are the exploration and production companies pushing for the ability to export, giving them access to a much bigger market. On the other, the thinking goes, are the refiners who might see business jeopardized as oil gets sent out of the U.S. before getting processed in their plants. But in reality, it’s not that simple.
15) Clinton, Keystone and 2016
from Politico Pro by Andrew Restuccia and Maggie Haberman
The Keystone XL pipeline is becoming another potential 2016 headache for Hillary Clinton. Clinton is keeping her silence for now on the proposed oil pipeline, a project that has split her party, posed difficult choices for Democrats on this year’s ballot and created a huge lobbying industry in D.C. But the Obama administration’s repeated delays in deciding on Keystone are increasing the odds that the issue will still be lingering if she runs for president — and some of her potential green supporters are clamoring for her to take a stand now. If she supports the pipeline, she’ll run afoul of the Democratic Party’s increasingly vocal environmentalist base...But if she opposes Keystone, she’ll go up against labor unions that welcome the project’s promise of thousands of jobs — along with moderate Democrats and, according to polls, most of the American public.
16) Shareholder Resolutions Gain Ground on 'Stranded Assets' Issue
from E&E bt Daniel Cusick
Questions about oil and gas companies risking billions of dollars in stranded petroleum assets under potential new carbon regulations remained a hot topic this week, as three of the world's leading energy companies responded to shareholder pressure to address such concerns. Yesterday, the nonprofit group As You Sow revealed that a shareholder resolution asking Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to more fully analyze its "stranded asset" risks garnered 30 percent support among voting shareholders. The result was "the highest ever for a carbon asset risk resolution, signaling the need for investors to seriously consider these risks," the Oakland, Calif.-based group said. Meanwhile, investors and observers of Royal Dutch Shell PLC were still digesting the findings of a 20-page analysis on the financial risks of climate change issued by the company last week at its annual shareholders meeting in The Hague, Netherlands.
17) Sharp Rise in West Coast Oil Trains, Fears Abound
from Houston Chronicle (AP)
Residents along the scenic Columbia River are hoping to persuade regulators to reject plans for what would be the Pacific Northwest’s largest crude oil train terminal — the proposed destination for at least four trains a day, each more than a mile long. The increasing numbers of trains, each carrying tens of thousands of barrels of potentially volatile crude from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, have raised concerns around the country after nine accidents in the past year, including one last month in Virginia. In Vancouver, Wash., just across the Columbia from Portland, Ore., the oil companies say their proposed terminal will create at least 80 permanent jobs and will bring an economic windfall to the region. But area residents and others in nearby communities are worried about the risks to people, wildlife, businesses and to their way of life.
Utilities and Infrastructure
18) FERC Pay-to-Save Energy Plan Thrown Out by U.S. Court
19) N.Y. Energy Czar Sheds More Light on 'Restructuring 2.0'
from E&E by Colin Sullivan
New York's energy czar this week peeked out from the shadows of state government to explain and justify Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) plans for sweeping regulatory changes aimed at the state's sprawling electric grid. Richard Kauffman, a former partner in Goldman Sachs' Global Financing Group, made two public appearances here this week to pitch the governor's still-fresh vision for a major overhaul of how electricity is bought, sold and delivered in the state. That plan, called REV for "Reforming the Energy Vision" and just announced last month, has already been likened to state and federal power market restructuring efforts in the 1990s that unbundled generation from transmission and distribution to prod open the once-monopolistic behemoth to competition. But this time, potential changes to how the industry conducts business appear to be even more dramatic, as renewable energy and energy storage costs continue to drop, smart grid technologies blossom, demand response tools vie for footing, and the massive transportation sector looks to plug into the grid to make vehicles go.
20) Keeping the Lights On Used to Be So Simple
from Washington Examiner by Zack Colman
Employees at the Iberdrola Renewables National Control Center are monitoring supply and demand curves in the Midwest, keeping an eye on bird migration patterns in south Texas, placing phone calls to electricity marketers out West and checkingwind patterns across the country on 16 TV screens. It is a dizzying process that funnels 1.2 million bits of data through this office every four to 10 seconds. And to think, keeping the lights on used to be so simple. The nature of the electric grid is changing, and no one knows that better than Iberdrola, a subsidiary of Spanish firm Iberdrola, S.A., that now has renewable energy assets in 19 states. Its business operations vary widely across the country, a reflection of fragmented infrastructure, regional regulatory mechanisms, local policy choices and varying amounts of renewable energy available in different parts of the country.
21) US Plants Prepare Long-Term Nuclear Waste Storage
from Houston Chronicle (AP)
Nuclear power plants across the United States are building or expanding storage facilities to hold their spent fuel — radioactive waste that by now was supposed to be on its way to a national dump. The steel and concrete containers used to store the waste on-site were envisioned as only a short-term solution when introduced in the 1980s. Now they are the subject of reviews by industry and government to determine how they might hold up — if needed — for decades or longer. With nowhere else to put its nuclear waste, the Millstone Power Station overlooking Long Island Sound is sealing it up in massive steel canisters on what used to be a parking lot.
22) Wind War's Total: Nearly Half-Million in Lobbying Dollars
from Topeka Capital-Journal by Andy Marso
The latest filings posted by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission show that spending on official lobbying topped $1 million through April in the 2014 session, driven largely by a heated debate over the state's renewable energy standards. Six votes on repealing the Renewable Portfolio Standards, or RPS, resulted in the state opting to keep the standards, which were established in 2009 and call for 20 percent of Kansas electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. Five groups that lobbied heavily on that issue combined to spend almost $500,000. Much of the spending on the issue came from Americans for Prosperity, whose session-long bid to repeal the standards ended with the House's 60-63 vote on the last day of the session, May 2. Here is a look at the biggest players in the debate and what they spent in aggregate on official lobbying...
23) Turbines Popping Up on New York Roofs, Along With Questions of Efficiency
from New York Times by Matt A.V. Chaban
In an industry, a city and a society obsessed with being green, wind turbines remain scarce — only two apartment buildings in New York City harvest the skies for energy, with limited yields. But in the past few weeks, two new installations have popped up, the one on Pearson Street and another atop what is now Brooklyn’s tallest building, 388 Bridge Street. At least half a dozen more are on the horizon. Whether turbines become as common as doorknobs, or even solar panels — a recent cover of The New Yorker had both devices dotting the skyline — remains to be seen. But with each passing project, New York resembles a new New Amsterdam just a little bit more.
24) India Ministry Recommends Solar Cell Anti-Dumping Duties
from Wall Street Journal by Saurabh Chaturvedi
India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry has recommended slapping anti-dumping duties on solar cells imported from the U.S., China, Taiwan and Malaysia after ruling they were being priced below their normal value and were damaging local manufacturers. The decision came despite opposition by those who argue that because India doesn't have sufficient domestic manufacturing capacity to meet targets for increased use of solar power, imposing duties that would likely reduce imports doesn't make sense. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy plans to ask prime minister-designate Narendra Modi to halt the proposed duties.
25) Biofuel-Obsessed U.S. Seen Blowing 'Historic Opportunity' in Nascent Green Chemical Market
from E&E by Amanda Peterka
The United States may be losing a major opportunity to be a global leader in the growing market for green chemicals because of its overwhelming policy tilt toward biofuels, industry experts say. There are big profit margins in renewable chemicals, experts say, as major corporations like Coca-Cola Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. demand cleaner chemicals for their booming efforts to promote being green. But U.S. policy that has for many years emphasized biofuels and biopower production has yet to catch up with the shift on chemicals that is taking place in the private sector, experts and advocates say. Though the new farm bill includes an incentive for renewable chemicals, other nations appear to be lapping the United States in attracting and nurturing renewable chemical production.
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
26) Tough Emissions Cuts Would Prove the U.S. is Serious About Climate Change
from Washington Post by Editorial Board
The Environmental Protection Agency will soon unveil its most anticipated new rulesin a generation, the shape of which will help determine how well the United States responds to the threat of climate change. There will be fierce debate about them before they become final. Critics will try to undermine the effort by insisting that the rules be weak, poorly designed and unnecessarily expensive. Instead, the EPA should make them ambitious, fair and flexible.
27) The Myth of the Climate Change '97%'
from Washington Post by Joseph Bast and Roy Spencer
Last week Secretary of State John Kerry warned graduating students at Boston College of the "crippling consequences" of climate change. "Ninety-seven percent of the world's scientists," he added, "tell us this is urgent." Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that "Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous." Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, "Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities." Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.
28) A Bogus Claim that Electricity Prices Will 'Nearly Double' Because of Clean Coal Technology
from Washington Post Fact Checker by Glenn Kessler
This is a case study of how a trade group takes a snippet of congressional testimony and twists it out of proportion for political purposes. In a radio ad and in print advertising (“Ready for 80% Higher Electric Bills?”), the National Mining Association is claiming that electric bills will jump 80 percent because of pending regulations for new power plants. The source supposedly is an Obama administration official, but the claim falls apart under close scrutiny. The Fact Checker takes no position on the EPA regulations, which some contend will increase the cost of the electricity and make it difficult to build new coal plants, but this ad does not pass the laugh test.
29) W.Va. Needs a Plan for After Coal is Gone
from Charleston Gazette
What do out-of-state coal owners leave behind after they’ve removed valuable minerals from a colony-like region? Many reports have spotlighted McDowell County as a classic “sacrifice zone” that was used by coal owners, then left to poverty and drug addiction when mining ended. Now a New York Times report has underscored the sad picture: “McDowell County is in some ways a place truly left behind, from which the educated few have fled, leaving almost no shreds of prosperity,” the article by Trip Gabriel said. “...The economy is declining along with the coal industry. Towns are hollowed out as people flee, and communities are scarred by family dissolution, prescription drug abuse and a high rate of imprisonment.”...The report quotes Sheriff Martin West: “Our politicians never really did look ahead in this county for when coal wouldn’t be king. Therefore, we’ve fallen flat on our face.” The sheriff summed up what we’ve recommended repeatedly: West Virginia’s leaders should make intelligent preparations for the inevitable time when coal is depleted and the state’s economy will need alternatives. They should conduct intense studies to learn how to prevent other Mountain State coal zones from becoming replicas of McDowell.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
30) The Clean Air Benefits of Wind Energy
from American Wind Energy Association
The EPA in June 2014 will propose a rulemaking to, for the first time ever, provide for federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. States will play a key role in the compliance process with the final rule, in part through the submission of state plans that will detail how generators in their states will meet the carbon pollution standards set forth by the EPA...Wind energy is widely available across the country as a compliance option under 111(d) and is already playing a significant role in reducing carbon emissions in nearly every state...wind energy is doing so affordably and reliably for consumers. The paper provides state-by-state numbers, calculated using the EPA's Avoided Emissions and generation Tool for the emissions reductions attributable to teh currently installed wind turbine fleet in the U.S.
31) Beyond 2015: An Innovation-Based Framework For Global Climate Policy
from Center for Clean Energy Innovation
International climate negotiations, set to conclude in Paris in 2015, are focused on how to integrate
countries’ past individual actions into a cohesive global agreement, but most of the policy proposals on
the table mirror the unsuccessful approaches of the past 20 years. Rather than continuing down the same path, the 2015 negotiations offer an opportunity to craft a fundamentally new approach to decarbonizing the global energy market that prioritizes innovation to make clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels without subsidies. This will enable energy consumers in high-income nations to voluntarily switch to clean energy for economic reasons and consumers in low-income nations to more easily afford clean energy to address energy poverty. Most importantly, it offers the best opportunity to rapidly transition to a global clean energy economy. This report explores principles for a new framework for clean energy innovation policy.