By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- President Obama plans to personally unveil proposed carbon-emissions rules for power plants, elevating climate change as a top issue for his final two years in office, Bloomberg’s Lisa Lerer and Julianna Goldman report.
- New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown urged Senate Republican leaders to stop a bipartisan energy efficiency bill so Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the bill’s Democratic sponsor and his opponent, wouldn’t be able to campaign on the measure, Huffington Post’s Sabrina Siddiqui and Ryan Grim report.
- The federal agency tasked with managing oil and gas development admitted it needs to do more to improve oversight of oil and gas wells that may cause water contamination, Associated Press reports.
Today’s Business Brief:
Today's Chart Review:
California Power Sources
from Natural Gas Intelligence and Energy Information Administration
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Thursday: Environmental Law Institute discussion on Clean Air Act @ 8 am
Thursday: ICF International EIA forecast of energy markets @ 8 am
Thursday: Atlantic Council forum on carbon capture and storage @ 8:30 am
Thursday: Monthly Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meeting @ 10 am
Thursday: Senate Energy hearing on North American energy boom @ 10 am
Thursday: House Transportation hearing on proposed changes to Clean Water Act jurisdiction @ 10 am
Thursday: Center for Strategic and International Studies talk on results of DOE's Quadrennial Review @ 1 pm
Thursday: Bureau of Land Management hearing on venting and flaring @ 1 pm
Thursday: House Homeland Security hearing on electromagnetic pulse threats to infrastructure @ 2 pm
Thursday: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions webinar on water and energy issues for utilities @ 2 pm
Thursday: Environmental and Energy Study Institute briefing on measuring domestic climate impacts @ 2 pm
Thursday: Quarterly Earnings--EP Energy Corp, EPL Oil and Gas
Friday: Environmental Law Institute discussion on Clean Air Act @ 9 am
13-14: Natural Gas
15: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
23-24: Wall Street Journal
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
29: National Biodiesel Board
1) Scott Brown Urged GOP Senators To Kill Jeanne Shaheen's Energy Efficiency Bill
from Huffington Post by Sabrina Siddiqui and Ryan Grim
New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown called Senate Republican leadership to urge them to stop a bipartisan energy efficiency bill, so as not to give Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), the bill's Democratic sponsor and his Democratic opponent, something to run on. The Huffington Post first reported on Tuesday that Brown, a former senator from Massachusetts, lobbied against the bill as recently as last week. The Shaheen-Portman bill failed to clear a procedural hurdle Monday despite enjoying broad bipartisan support. Although the legislation had 14 co-sponsors -- seven from each side of the aisle -- just two other Republicans ultimately voted with Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) to end debate on the measure: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Susan Collins (Maine). A spokeswoman for Brown, who did not return HuffPost's request for comment, did not deny the report in a statement to Politico. "Scott Brown was concerned that Senator Shaheen was refusing to allow a vote on the Keystone pipeline, a commonsense and bipartisan project that would immediately create thousands of jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil," spokeswoman Elizabeth Guyton said. Brown is running in the New Hampshire GOP primary, set for Sept. 9, for the opportunity to challenge Shaheen in November.
2) Obama Said to Put Personal Push Behind EPA Emission Rules
3) Carbon Capture Provision Draws Heat in Comments on Proposed EPA Greenhouse Gas Rule
from SNL by Eric Wolff
Of all the provisions in the U.S. EPA's proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, the requirements for carbon capture and sequestration drew the most heat from industry groups, according to a selected sample of the 995,575 comments filed with the agency by the May 9 deadline. The EPA on Jan. 8 issued a revised proposal to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from new stationary sources. The agency still is uploading comments to its website, but an examination of a selection of the submissions from industry groups yielded few surprises: Fossil fuel-dependent industries, including traditional utilities and community cooperatives, opposed the rule, and environmental and clean-energy groups supported it. The EPA's requirement that traditional coal and integrated gasification combined-cycle, or IGCC, power plants use partial carbon capture and sequestration to meet new greenhouse gas emission limits drew particular attention, given the absence of a commercially active plant using CCS technology.
4) Energy Future Top-Ranking Lenders Take Issue With Financing Plan
from Wall Street Journal by Peg Brickley
Investors owning $1.7 billion or more in top-ranking debt say a $7.3 billion piece of Energy Future Holdings Corp.'s financing plan is a flawed and "incoherent" attempt to evade bankruptcy rules. Through their bond trustee, holders of a majority of some first-lien notes attached to the company's Energy Future Intermediate arm took aim at a planned series of transactions designed to rework the balance sheet of the business, one of two major divisions that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection along with parent Energy Future in April. Investors say the complex deals are an "unprecedented" effort by the Texas power seller and its affiliate "to reset their entire multibillion-dollar capital structure and lock in creditors" without offering creditors the protections of the Bankruptcy Code.
5) Mexico Senate Passes Political Reform, Easing Legislative Logjam
from Reuters by Noe Torres and David Alire Garcia
Mexico's Senate voted to approve a political reform on Wednesday, helping clear the way for other pending measures, including eagerly-anticipated energy laws to implement a sector overhaul passed late last year.
The reform, which would allow lawmakers to serve consecutive terms in office and sets new rules for coalition governments, was approved by a vote of 113 to 7. The bill now faces a vote in the lower chamber, where approval is also expected in the next couple of days.
6) U.S. Stock-Index Futures Little Changed Before Data
7) Bakken Crude Is Highly Volatile, Oil Study Shows
from Wall Street Journal by Lynn Cook
Data released by a lobbying group for oil refiners confirmed that crude from the Bakken shale in North Dakota is very volatile and contains high levels of combustible gases. But the group said the crude, which has been linked to fiery rail accidents, is no more dangerous to ship than oil from other shale regions and is being correctly loaded and transported under existing federal rules. New rules aren't warranted, the group, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, said Wednesday. U.S. regulators recently called Bakken crude an imminent hazard because of what they believe is its unusually flammable nature, and are in the process of proposing new regulations for the booming business of shipping oil by train.
8) Canada Introduces New Pipeline Safety Measures
from Wall Street Journal by Paul Vieira
Canada introduced new measures Wednesday to strengthen pipeline safety, ahead of a decision from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet expected next month on a proposed pipeline to ship Alberta heavy crude to the Pacific Coast. Canadian Resources Minister Greg Rickford unveiled modest changes to Canada's pipeline rules while in Vancouver, British Columbia. British Columbians are engaged in a charged debate about plans by both Enbridge Inc. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP to operate pipelines that would bring more oil to the province's coast from the landlocked oil sands in neighboring Alberta. Enbridge's planned Northern Gateway project—which would ship more than half a million barrels a day of crude to a deep-water port in northwest British Columbia for transport on tankers—has generated fierce opposition, in particular from aboriginal communities who have vowed to do whatever it takes to stop the pipeline.
9) U.S. Crude Oil Production Hits 28-Year High - EIA
from Reuters by Selam Gebrekidan
Domestic crude oil production in the United States hit 8.43 million barrels per day last week, the highest level since October 1986, weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday. The EIA output data is an estimate and includes lease condensates produced alongside oil. Meanwhile, crude oil inventories in the Gulf Coast region hit a record high of 215.7 million barrels after they rose 2.3 million barrels in the week to May 9, EIA data showed.
10) OPEC May Struggle to Meet Rising Oil Demand, Says Energy Watchdog
from Wall Street Journal by Benoit Faucon
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may struggle to catch up with rising oil demand, an energy watchdog said Thursday as it upgraded consumption forecasts. In its monthly oil market report, the International Energy Agency—which advises industrialized nations on energy matters—said that "while OPEC has more than enough capacity to deliver, it remains to be seen whether it will manage to overcome the above‐ground hurdles that have plagued some of its member countries lately." Outages in countries like Libya and Nigeria and sanctions on Iran have kept the output of the OPEC below its target of 30 million barrels a day in recent months.
11) U.S. Government Acknowledges Gaps in Oil Well Inspections
from Wall Street Journal (AP)
The federal agency tasked with managing oil and gas development on Wednesday acknowledged it needed to do more to improve oversight of drilling. The agency pointed to a lack of funding as a reason it failed to inspect oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination. Jeff Krauss, a spokesman with the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, noted that his agency has worked hard to keep up with the nation's energy boom, which has included the increased use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling technique that environmentalists fear could spread chemicals to water supplies. He said BLM is counting on Congress to approve a budget request that would allow it to use $10 million raised from fees charged to oil and gas companies to pay for the high-priority inspections.
12) Oil-Rich Mexico Becomes Net Importer of U.S. Petroleum Goods
from Wall Street Journal by Laurence Iliff
Mexico has become a net importer of petroleum products in its trade with the U.S. for the first time in at least 40 years, a significant industrial shift for a country that has long been proud of its status as one of the world's top crude-oil exporters. Mexico still exports more than a million barrels a day of crude oil, but it imports just about everything else: natural gas, gasoline, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, and petrochemicals. In the first three months of the year, the country posted a petroleum deficit of about $551 million with the U.S., according to recent Bank of Mexico data. The newfound dominance of the U.S. energy sector is relevant for a country that has long been proud of its status as a "petroleum nation," after former President Lázaro Cárdenas nationalized the industry in 1938.
13) Moody’s: LNG, Power Demand Driving Shift in U.S. Gas Flow
from Houston Chronicle by Collin Eaton
U.S. companies building new natural gas pipelines are finding big demand to carry the fuel to liquefied natural gas terminals and gas-fired power generators in the south, as producers in the Marcellus Shale seek new outlets for huge supplies, according to a report released this week. Meanwhile, gas pipelines in the Midwest have faced hurdles in recent years and have begun to reverse their west-to-east and south-to-north flows, further driving a historic shift in the direction of North American gas, Moody’s Investors Service analysts wrote in a report Tuesday. Data collected by Moody’s showed Marcellus producers in Pennsylvania have more than quadrupled the amount of gas they sent northeast since the shale-gas boom began seven years ago. And Texas gas producers have tripled the amount of supplies they sent to southeastern generators and other buyers.
14) Wyo. Report Lays Out Blueprint for Switch From Diesel to LNG Use in State
from SNL by Mark Passwaters
Wyoming could replace a significant amount of the diesel fuel used in the state with locally produced LNG over the next two decades, according to a new report compiled by Gladstein Neandross & Associates. The report, commissioned by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and a number of natural gas producers, was released May 12. It said the state has the ability to develop LNG infrastructure to make the fuel a sizable supplement to diesel fuel in the high-horsepower-engine sectors. Those sectors, the firm said, include mining, rail, drilling, pressure pumping and over-the-road trucking…The related costs to building out the needed infrastructure for LNG use to be widespread, the report said, will not be cheap, nor will the infrastructure be completed in the immediate future. "An estimated $327 [million] to $400 million in capital investments will be required to build out Wyoming's infrastructure capable of producing, distributing, storing and dispensing 509,000 [gallons per day] of locally sourced LNG," the report's authors said.
Utilities and Infrastructure
15) Exelon CEO Calls for State-by-State Clean Energy Negotiations
from E&E by Hannah Northey and Peter Behr
Exelon Corp. Chairman and CEO Christopher Crane said yesterday that states should implement U.S. EPA's forthcoming regulations on carbon emissions by adopting new "clean energy" standards that would include nuclear power alongside renewable energy sources. Speaking to an audience at Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C., Crane acknowledged that his company -- the largest owner of U.S. nuclear power plants -- would continue to lobby on behalf of its portfolio of generation assets, facing advocates for wind and solar power and other energy options. But he said it would be better to negotiate comprehensive agreements among all energy providers to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals without undermining nuclear power, which he called a crucial resource for backing up renewable power when it is not available and providing grid stability.
16) Turkish Unions Call National Protest Strike After Mine Disaster
from Reuters by Ece Toksabay
Four Turkish labour unions called for a national one-day strike on Thursday in protest against the country's worst industrial disaster that killed at least 282 people in a coal mine in western Turkey. Representing workers in a range of industries, the unions are furious over what they say are poor safety standards since the formerly state-run mine in Soma, located about 480 km (300 miles) southwest of Istanbul, was leased to a private firm.
17) Boxer to NRC: Don’t Dawdle on Spent Fuel Transfers
from Politico Pro by Darius Dixon
“There will be hell to pay” if the NRC drags its feet on forcing nuclear plants to transfer their spent fuel into dry casks, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer warned the agency Wednesday.
The California Democrat has been pressing regulators to quicken the transfer of spent-fuel rods from wet pools to dry casks for years. And during a hearing on reactor decommissioning, she fired another shot across the NRC’s bow. “I know this is under discussion now,” Boxer said, “but there will be hell to pay if the NRC does what it’s done in the past.” An NRC official testifying at the hearing, Michael Weber, didn’t have a chance to directly respond to Boxer’s comment but repeatedly said the agency believes spent-fuel pools are safe.
18) Fire Forces Evacuation of San Onofre Nuclear Plant
from Los Angeles Times by Shelby Grad
An out-of-control brush fire at Camp Pendleton was creeping closer to the San Onofre nuclear power plant, prompting evacuations. Southern California Edison said in a tweet that "about a dozen non-essential employees evacuated" from the plant because of the fire. The plant is located off Interstate 5 at the Orange-San Diego county line north of Camp Pendleton. Edison announced last year it was closing the plant due to structural problems with facility.
19) Senate Debates Wind Tax Credit
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
Wind energy supporters are hoping to blow past opponents in the Senate, as the chamber considers broad legislation to renew dozens of expired tax breaks — including one credited with making turbines spin in Texas. Although the Senate began debating the broad “tax extenders” measure Wednesday, its path out of the chamber is far from clear, complicated by some Republicans’ hopes to make changes, such as doing away with an existing medical device tax or dropping the renewable energy production credit altogether. But the legislation’s supporters are hoping that the broad array of interests represented in the bill — from teachers to race track owners — will help it get past critics with objections to individual provisions.
20) 'Resourceful Consumers' Push Energy Efficiency, Home and Business Solar
from E&E by Elspeth Dehnert and Nathanael Massey
U.S. consumers appear increasingly sophisticated in their consumption of energy, and they have emerged as an important force in expanding home energy efficiency and distributed power generation, according to two new reports from Deloitte. While part of this movement may be based on increasing awareness of sustainable energy, the reports, unveiled yesterday at the 2014 Deloitte Energy Conference, indicate that the public is responding to the improving economics of renewables and energy efficiency as well. "We're seeing consumers transform from reactive to resourceful," said Greg Aliff, vice chairman and senior partner for energy and resources at Deloitte. While consumers generally became more conscientious of their energy use during the recent economic recession, he said, many have carried those habits forward even as the economy has improved.
21) India May Back Solar Duties After Probe Finds Dumping
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
23) How to Hit Putin Where It Hurts
from Wall Street Journal by R. James Woolsey and Anne Korin
As Russia's Ukrainian incursion sends a chill through the Baltic states, diplomatic fecklessness and the lack of adequate collective defense capabilities on the ground seems to leave the U.S. and Europe with economic sanctions as the only lever against Vladimir Putin's imperialism. Yet asset freezes and travel bans on Putin buddies garner yawns in the Kremlin and almost no public support among NATO or European Union members. There is, however, another approach that would undermine Russia's (and like-minded oil autocracies') efforts at regional domination while strengthening Western economies. Russia's geopolitical influence in Europe derives in part from its hand on the natural-gas tap, but its Achilles' heel is the price of oil. A successful effort to drive the price of oil down to, say, $60 a barrel—far below the $117 per barrel that Russia requires to balance its national budget—would benefit the West, as well as China and India. Neither of the latter two countries, on the other hand, is likely to cooperate with sanctioning major energy exporters.
24) Making Iran Come Clean About Its Nukes
from Wall Street Journal by David Albright and Bruno Tertrais
Alarm bells should be going off in the West. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany—called P5+1—have been trying to negotiate a deal to end sanctions against Iran in return for drastic reductions in its nuclear program. A prerequisite for any final agreement is for Iran to address nuclear-weapons questions raised by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Iran is able to successfully evade questions about a weapons program now, when biting sanctions on oil exports and financial transactions are in place, why would it address them later when these sanctions are lifted? What use will an agreement be if Iran can hide a capacity to secretly build nuclear bombs?
25) Time to Act on Energy Exports
from CNBC by Spencer Abraham and Bill Richardson
Once again the world is looking for America's leadership in unsettled times. Our diplomats have limited options to combat Russia's annexation of Crimea, but they can take greater advantage of a new tool in their toolbox that no administration has had for generations — U.S. energy abundance. American energy exports will not only create economic opportunities here at home but will provide strategic geopolitical advantages abroad.
The crisis involving Ukraine and Russia highlights the need for American energy leadership. Russia remains the world's largest exporter of natural gas, supplying 30 percent of Europe's imports. Countries on Russia's periphery, many nearly completely dependent on Russian supply, pay exorbitant oil linked prices. Many are NATO allies.
26) U.S. Coal Falls Victim to Stagnating Electricity Demand
from Reuters by John Kemp
U.S. electricity consumption has remained flat for the last six years, the first such prolonged pause in growth, as recession and improvements in efficiency have bitten deeply into demand. Homes, schools, offices and factories consumed a total of 3,831 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013, basically unchanged from the 3,816 billion in 2006, and well down from the record 3,890 billion in 2007, according to the Energy Information Administration...Efficiency is also hastening the demise of older, smaller coal-fired power plants. Most were built before the 1980s and lack the scale to compete effectively with new gas-fired power plants using cheap shale gas. Moreover, environmental regulations require them to retrofit expensive scrubbers to clean up their mercury emissions. In a growing market, some of these coal-fired units might survive, but with electricity demand essentially flat, they cannot hope to compete with cheaper and cleaner gas, as well as subsidies and mandates for renewables, and generate the returns needed to justify installing expensive new scrubbers.
27) Ohio Moves to Rollback Costly Green Energy Mandates
from Forbes by Chris Prandoni
Twenty-nine states and the District of Colombia have passed renewable energy mandates that require consumers and businesses to consume minimum amounts of wind, solar, and other green energy. A handful of states have also enacted laws that require states to reduce their total energy consumption. These mandates have increased energy prices, causing many legislatures to reexamine their value. While legislative efforts began and stalled in a handful of Republican states like North Carolina and Kansas, Ohio is positioning itself to be the first state to rollback its mandate, known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), and energy reduction program. As is generally the case, the mandate begins small and relatively painless but quickly ramps up, requiring utilities to use more and more renewable energy. In Ohio, 25 percent of all electricity sold in the state must come from alternative energy sources by 2025; half of that amount must come from sources identified as renewable. These policies sound nice, which is why so many states rushed to pass RPSs over the last 15 years. In the abstract, people like wind, solar, and renewable energy. It is only after legislators and consumers began appreciating the full costs and consequences of RPSs that they look less appealing.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
28) Climate Science: Shifting Storms
from Nature by Hamish Ramsay
An analysis of historical storm data reveals that the average latitude at which tropical cyclones attain their maximum intensity has undergone a pronounced shift towards the poles over the past three decades...The poleward trends are evident in the global historical data in both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres, with rates of 53 and 62 kilometres per decade, respectively, and are statistically significant. When considered together, the trends in each hemisphere depict a global-average migration of tropical cyclone activity away from the tropics at a rate of about one degree of latitude per decade, which lies within the range of estimates of the observed expansion of the tropics over the same period.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attributes the changes to increases in human-caused greenhouse gases, stratospheric ozone depletion and atmospheric pollution.
29) Biodiesel Producers Reduce Output
from National Biodiesel Board
The survey, conducted by the National Biodiesel Board found, that nearly 80 percent of U.S. biodiesel producers have scaled back production this year and more than half have idled production at a plant altogether. Additionally, two-thirds of producers said they have already reduced or anticipate reducing their workforce as a result of the downturn. The cutbacks come in the face of a weak Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) proposal from the EPA and Congress’ failure to extend the biodiesel tax incentive.
The Hill's Timothy Cama covers the report here.