By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- FERC Commissioner John Norris gave his two-week notice yesterday. SNL's Esther Whieldon reports he's heading to Rome, where he will be minister-counselor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- In an interview with SNL's Eric Wolff, the executive director of the organization of state clean air agencies says they are thinking of banding together under a cap-and-trade system to meet carbon emissions requirements. Air officials, along with state energy regulators, will be tasked with making state proposals work. In case you missed it, Morning Consult interviewed more than a dozen energy regulators last month.
- Legal experts say two lawsuits against the EPA's draft carbon rule can't do much in the near term, E&E's Nathanael Massey reports.
- The algae industry wants the EPA to make carbon capture a specific compliance option so that it can purchase carbon from utilities to feed to microorganisms, E&E's Amanda Peterka reports.
Today’s Business Brief:
- Exxon will start drilling in the Arctic Ocean tomorrow in a deal with Russia. Bloomberg reports that the project shows Russian sanctions "lack bite."
- Environmentalists say NRG's plan to reach half of Illinois' carbon emissions reduction target doesn't go far enough. NRG plans to upgrade two coal plants, cease operations at another and convert a fourth to burn natural gas, Alejandra Cancino reports for Chicago Tribune.
- Texas is struggling to launch an energy efficiency program and consumer advocates say poor Texans have borne the costs without realizing benefits, Texas Tribune reports.
Today's Chart Review:
Energy production and other mining account for a large percentage of some state economies
from Energy Information Administration
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Friday: Quarterly Earnings- PDC Energy
18: Natural Gas
19-20: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
25: The Hill
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
26: Morning Consult
1) Norris tells FERC 'ciao,' heading to Italy to work for USDA
from SNL by Esther Whieldon
FERC Commissioner John Norris has given a two-week notice that he plans to leave the agency Aug. 20 to head overseas to Rome, where he will be the minister-counselor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Norris told SNL Energy on Aug. 7. Rumors are that President Barack Obama will tap the chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Colette Honorable, to replace Norris, according to sources. Honorable's one-year term as the head of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners began in November 2013. Norris' early departure, first reported by SNL Energy, comes about three years before the end of his term at the commission.
2) Q&A with NACAA: States leaning toward cap-and-trade programs to implement EPA CO2 rule
from SNL by Eric Wolff
State clean air agencies are leaning, in an early, still-thinking-about-it kind of way, toward banding together under cap-and-trade systems in order to comply with the U.S. EPA's proposed rule to limit carbon dioxide from power plants, said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. Becker's 33-year-old, six-and-three-quarters employee organization represents 42 state clean air agencies, four territorial clean air agencies, and 116 out of 117 local clean air agencies. His membership consists largely of the policy officials who will have to iron out the on-the-ground details of the EPA's proposed rule.
3) New lawsuits unlikely to touch EPA's carbon rule, at least in the near term
from E&E by Nathanael Massey
U.S. EPA's proposed rule for power plant carbon has seen an early salvo of legal attacks, with one lawsuit launched by Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. in June and a second, led by West Virginia and backed by 11 others states, last week. But with the rule still unformed, do these opponents have a target to aim at? Probably not, according to legal experts contacted by ClimateWire. At least not yet.
4) Mitch McConnell's wife sits on the board of a group working to kill the coal industry
from Yahoo News by Chris Moody
For months, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has accused his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, of engaging in a “war on coal,” casting her as an outright enemy of one of the state’s most vital industries. But while McConnell presents himself as a defender of Kentucky coal mining, a member of his own family who serves as a key campaign surrogate is taking a role in funding one of the most aggressive anti-coal campaigns in the country. McConnell’s wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, sits on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has plunged $50 million into the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” initiative, an advocacy effort with the expressed goal of killing the coal industry.
5) U.S. forecasters see below-normal Atlantic hurricane season
from Reuters by Letitia Stein
Federal forecasters on Thursday downgraded their outlook for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, predicting "below normal" activity with seven to 12 named storms, no more than two of which are expected to reach major hurricane status. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it was more confident of a below-normal season than when it issued its initial advisory in May, when a "near or below normal" season was predicted.
6) State Struggles to Launch Energy Efficiency Program
from Texas Tribune by Jim Malewitz
About five years ago, Texas regulators ordered the three largest electric transmission providers – Oncor, CenterPoint and AEP Texas – to budget $18.5 million for a program that would provide poor Texans with “home and business area networks” (HAN), tools to help them interact with "smart" meters installed at their homes. But that money has yet to be spent, and the program, which was intended to improve energy efficiency among folks who struggle the most to pay their electricity bills, is stuck in a bureaucratic limbo with no end in sight. That failure to launch rankles consumer advocates who say poor Texans have borne the costs of the state’s rollout of 7 million home “smart” meters without realizing all of the benefits. They add that the delay exemplifies lingering challenges for Texas – considered a national leader in smart grid technology – as it seeks to further bolster its infrastructure.
7) Colorado commission votes to pull lawsuit over Longmont oil, gas rule
from Denver Post by Mark Jaffe
Longmont's adoption of oil and gas rules was the opening shot in Colorado's battle over local control of drilling — and Thursday the state decided to call a truce. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted unanimously to drop its lawsuit against the Longmont rules, which include a drilling ban in residential neighborhoods. "We are hoping this can be a win for everybody," Mayor Dennis Coombs said in an interview. The move is part of a compromise orchestrated by Gov. John Hickenlooper to keep oil- and gas-related initiatives off the November ballot and cool the conflict between the state and local governments over drilling. But two years ago, Hickenlooper had said leaving the Longmont rules in place would "stir up a hornet's nest" by pressuring other communities to follow it.
8) Algae companies ask EPA to be able to cash in on power plant emissions
from E&E by Amanda Peterka
Algae companies on the cusp of commercialization say they worry that U.S. EPA may be shutting the door on an opportunity for them to cash in on power plants' carbon emissions. Algae companies need to feed their microorganisms a steady diet of carbon dioxide, but EPA has not formally recognized their technologies in its proposals to stem greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. The companies worry that without government endorsement, power plants would have little incentive to give away their carbon for reuse.
9) CO2 capture from air could ripen into a global warming solution, researcher predicts
from E&E by Niina Heikkinen
Technologies for capturing carbon dioxide directly from the ambient air will play a key role in reversing the buildup of greenhouse gases if the process can gain wider acceptance, according to a Columbia University scientist. "It's not a question of if air capture technology will be adopted; it's a question of when," said Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University's Earth Institute.
10) Cybersecurity firms push search for elusive attackers -- and profits
from E&E by Peter Behr
FireEye Inc., a brash cybersecurity startup that boasts of its unique defensive strategy, and industry pioneer Symantec Corp., whose Norton anti-virus programs sit on computers around the world, are on opposite poles of the information security industry. Their industry's customers are moving vital data to the cloud and exposing new Web vulnerabilities. Their adversaries are constantly evolving more insidious attacks. And so cybersecurity firms are forced to evolve on the run, as well, juggling precious dollars between research and marketing in search of a competitive edge, while skeptical customers wonder if the touted defenses will really work, analysts say. Both companies reported earnings this week, illustrating in different ways the harsh competitive pressures on the cybersecurity front.
11) Feds vs. feds: EPA questions energy agency’s environmental review
from Houston Chronicle by Rhiannon Meyers
Federal energy regulators have failed so far to show how a proposed liquefied natural gas project would affect the air, water and wetlands along Corpus Christi Bay and how to limit those effects, the Environmental Protection Agency says. In a letter Monday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the EPA said its fellow agency’s draft environmental review for Cheniere Energy’s proposed export and import facility was insufficient.
12) Agency's 'aggressive' spox drives messaging counterattacks
from E&E by Robin Bravender
U.S. EPA has been a popular punching bag since the start of the Obama administration. But in the past few months, the agency has started hitting back harder than ever. The architect behind the aggressive new media strategy is Tom Reynolds, an Obama campaign vet who thinks the agency's foes shouldn't get the last word.
13) EPA taps new No. 2 in staff shuffle
from The Hill by Laura Barron-Lopez
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named Lisa Feldt as acting deputy administrator on Tuesday, replacing the outgoing second in command. Feldt will step in for Bob Perciasepe, who served as the second-highest official at the agency since 2009, as he starts his gig as director of the advocacy group Center for Climate and Energy Solutions next week.
14) Russia May Be Losing Influence Over European Energy Markets
from New York Times by Stanley Reed
The Ukraine crisis is unlikely to produce many benefits. But it could serve as a kind of stress test to see whether Europe’s approach to energy policy is working. The European authorities have been far more interventionist than their American counterparts on energy, with the objectives of reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy security. Now along comes an international imbroglio in which energy is playing an outsized role. How much impact is it having on Europe? Of course, the confrontation over Ukraine has heightened fears that natural gas from Russia could be cut off. For those reasons, Europe has been reluctant to impose punitive sanctions on Russia. And when it did start clamping down on Russia’s energy industry late last month, the sanctions were carefully drafted to block the export of technology or equipment that might aid new oil projects in Russia, while not interfering with Russian gas, which Europe supposedly cannot live without. But the indicators so far are that these fears may be exaggerated and that it is executives at Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas export monopoly, who have reason to be uneasy.
15) U.S. Index Futures Drop as Obama Approves Iraq Air Strike
from Bloomberg by Namitha Jagadeesh
U.S. stock-index futures fell, indicating equities will drop for a second day, as President Barack Obama approved airstrikes in Iraq, and rocket attacks marked the end of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas...Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 0.4 percent to 1,898.3 at 10:31 a.m. in London. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts retreated 50 points, or 0.3 percent to 16,271.
16) Crude Rises After Obama Authorizes Air Strikes in Iraq
18) Companies take a big step toward LNG export plant in Louisiana
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holyewell
Sempra Energy, GDF Suez and other investors in the Cameron LNG project have made their final investment decision on the project and intend to move forward with it, the companies announced this week. The facility will be located at Sempra Energy’s existing Cameron LNG import terminal in Hackberry, La. It is expected to cost around $10 billion.
Utilities and Infrastructure
19) Environmentalists say NRG plan doesn't go far enough
from Chicago Tribune by Alejandra Cancino
Environmentalists expressed frustration with NRG Energy's pollution reduction plan announced Thursday, saying it didn't go far enough. NRG Energy said it will cease coal operations at one generating unit in Romeoville (the Will County plant), convert its Joliet plant to burn natural gas and upgrade its two other coal plants in Pekin and Waukegan to comply with environmental regulations. “(NRG officials) are tone deaf to the demand of the local community,” said Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. They wanted NRG to close the Waukegan plant.
20) NRG reports $97 million loss as it outlines reorganization
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
NRG Energy Thursday reported a $97 million loss for the second quarter, as it outlined plans to reorganize.
The power company’s challenges stemmed, in part, to an unusually mild summer so far in much of the country, executives said. Profits were down in each of its three regional power generation units, and its retail units suffered a net loss of $112 million in the quarter.
21) SolarCity Loss Widens as New Rooftop Installations Surge
from Bloomberg by Christopher Martin
SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), the biggest U.S. solar company by market value, increased its loss in the second quarter by investing in the installation of 107 megawatts of new rooftop-power plants. The net loss in the second quarter increased to $47.7 million, or 52 cents a share, from $39.5 million, or 52 cents, a year earlier, San Mateo, California-based SolarCity said today in a statement. Excluding some items, a loss of 96 cents was smaller than the expected loss of 99 cents, the average of 10 estimates compiledby Bloomberg. Sales rose to $61.3 million from $37.9 million. The company is expected to lose more than $1 billion over the next three years through 2016 on rooftop power projects for homes and commercial buildings. Customers sign decades-long contracts to buy the output, and SolarCity is pouring the revenue into new installations.
22) SunEdison Increases on Demand to Build Solar Power Plants
from Bloomberg by Christopher Martin
SunEdison Inc. (SUNE), the best-performing solar company this year, surged the most in three months after its pipeline of power plants swelled by 19 percent and it reported an unexpected quarterly profit. SunEdison gained 12 percent to $21.59 at the close in New York, the biggest increase since April 22. It’s climbed 65 percent this year, the most on the Bloomberg Intelligence Global Large Solar index of 17 companies. SunEdison added 684 megawatts of orders to build solar farms in the quarter. Its pipeline now stands at 4.3 gigawatts, the St. Peters, Missouri-based company said in a statement today.
23) FERC Grants Expedited Process for Kentucky Hydro Project
from Roll Call by Randy Leonard
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week approved the use of a two-year licensing process for a hydropower project at a century-old dam on the Kentucky River. Free Flow Power Project 92, LLC applied in May to add 5 megawatts of hydropower generation to Kentucky River Lock and Dam 11, built for transportation in 1906.
24) China loses appeal of WTO ruling on exports of rare earths
from Reuters by Tom Miles
China lost an appeal at the World Trade Organization in a case brought by the United States, the European Union and Japan to challenge China's restrictions on exports of rare earths, according to a WTO Appellate Body ruling published on Thursday. "... China has not demonstrated that the export quotas that China applies to various forms of rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum by virtue of the series of measures at issue are justified ... " the document's conclusion said. China produces more than 90 percent of the world's rare earths, which are key elements in defense industry components and modern technology from iPhones and disk drives to wind turbines.
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
25) Compelling case for exporting crude oil and LNG
from The Hill by Toby Mack, President of Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance