By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
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Today’s Washington Brief:
- The Transportation Department wants to phase out thousands of oil train tank cars within two years under rules proposed yesterday. The plan isn't as stringent as some in the rail and energy industry feared, Wall Street Journal reports. The proposal includes a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit until sturdier cars can be built, as well as changes in cover tank-car design, routing, brakes and testing of hazardous liquids.
- There may be trouble confirming the president's Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominees, Roll Call reports.
- SNL's Glen Boshart has an opinion piece criticizing the Wall Street Journal's accuracy when it comes to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
- States that are against the EPA's carbon emissions rule may benefit the most, according to a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group. The regulation would cut demand for coal but create demand for natural gas and drive job creation in states like Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, New York Times' Coral Davenport reports.
Today’s Business Brief:
- Japan is stepping up its support for coal-fired power plants in developing nations, challenging a U.S. policy to discourage coal generation in an effort to fight global warming, Wall Street Journal's Mari Iwata reports.
- E&E's Christa Marshall toured the Kemper County coal plant in Mississippi that aims to capture the majority of its carbon emissions.
- New York Times' Matthew L. Wald reports on Texas' new network of high-voltage power lines that will tie in wind power to the grid.
Today's Chart Review:
A Carbon Tax Even Republicans Can Support
from Bloomberg View by Christopher Flavelle
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Thursday: Women's Council on Energy and Environment roundtable at AGA @ 8 am
Thursday: Senate Energy hearing on DOE deputy secretary nomination @ 10 am
Thursday: USEA forum on coal issues in China @ 10 am
Thursday: House Energy hearing on state energy policies @ 10 am
Thursday: Heritage Foundation event on energy exports and free trade @ 10 am
Thursday: House Transportation hearing on EPA's integrated planning and permitting @ 10 am
Thursday: CSIS report release "Remaking American Power" @12:30 pm
Thursday: House Natural Resources oversight hearing on federal land managing agencies @ 2 pm
Thursday: McCarthy conference call with business leaders on EPA carbon rule @ 4 pm
Thursday: Quarterly Earnings--Cabot Oil & Gas Corp, Noble Energy Inc
Friday: Environmental and Energy Study Institute talk on managing climate risks in the Northeast @ 1:30 pm
Friday: Quarterly Earnings--American Electric Power Co Inc, Forum Energy Technologies Inc, DTE Energy Co
11: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
20: Inside Climate News
21: Energy In Depth
22: Energy Collective
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
23: Department of Transportation
1) States Against E.P.A. Rule on Carbon Pollution Would Gain, Study Finds
from New York Times by Coral Davenport
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma are among the most vocal Republican skeptics of the science that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, but a new study to be released Thursday found that their states would be among the biggest economic winners under a regulation proposed by President Obama to fight climate change. The study, conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group, both research organizations, concluded that the regulation would cut demand for electricity from coal — the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution — but create robust new demand for natural gas, which has just half the carbon footprint of coal. It found that the demand for natural gas would, in turn, drive job creation, corporate revenue and government royalties in states that produce it, which, in addition to Oklahoma and Texas, include Arkansas and Louisiana.
2) For Californians, higher costs dampen support for clean energy
from Reuters by Jennifer Chaussee
An overwhelming majority of California residents support the state's mandate for reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, so long as they do not bear the higher costs of cleaner energy themselves, a new public opinion poll shows. Eighty percent of adults surveyed believe climate change poses a serious threat to California's economy and lifestyle, and 68 percent back a 2006 law for lowering statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. But support for specific initiatives to reach the goal appeared to wane sharply in the face of higher energy costs, the Public Policy Institute of California found in a poll released late on Wednesday.
3) Landrieu downplays urgency behind revenue-sharing bill amid backstage drama
from E&E by Nick Juliano
There's little doubt Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) would like to see quick enactment of a bill to send more oil and gas drilling revenues directly to coastal states like her own, but it seems unlikely that such legislation will begin moving through the Senate anytime soon. A combination of factors -- Republican desires to not give Landrieu a pre-election win, a crowded slate of legislative priorities, broader Senate dysfunction and practical budgeting considerations -- are complicating efforts to schedule one last legislative markup in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that could see action on revenue sharing and liquefied natural gas exports, among other matters.
4) Ex-Obama administration diplomat, Senate Democrats at odds over LNG exports
from SNL by Corbin Hiar
A former top official in the Obama administration's Department of State said that loosening natural gas export restrictions could help ease a potentially looming energy crisis in Europe, an argument that was disputed by climate-conscious Democrats in a July 22 Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing. Ukraine relies on Russia for more than half of its natural gas supplies, and the country hosts two major pipelines that carry significant volumes of Russian gas to Western Europe. Kiev has been sparring with Moscow since February, when pro-Russian fighters seized control of the Crimean Peninsula. Russia escalated the dispute on June 16 when it cut off gas service to Ukraine, alleging billions of dollars in unpaid gas bills. One easy way for the Obama administration to combat Russian aggression would be to ease restrictions on LNG exports to countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the U.S., according to David Goldwyn, who served as the State Department's special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs from August 2009 through January 2011.
5) Republicans target NRDC 'lobbying machine' in hearing on climate rule
from E&E by Jean Chemnick
An environmental group came under attack today as Senate Republicans accused U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy of heeding Beltway elites and putting their concerns ahead of needy Americans when her agency wrote rules for curbing power plants' greenhouse gas emissions. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) pointed to a July 6 New York Times story about the Natural Resources Defense Council's role in shaping EPA's proposal for existing power plants. McCarthy has said the story overstated NRDC's role.
6) Judge halts drilling permits next to condors
from Lompoc Record (AP)
A California court has delivered a setback to an oil company seeking to drill wells within a few miles of condor habitat at the state's Pinnacles National Park. A Monterey County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that authorities in central California should have weighed the long-term environmental impact before they authorized an oil company to drill 15 oil wells next to the park.
7) Federal agency pledges new chemical leak health studies
from Charleston Daily Mail by Dave Boucher
Federal researchers have pledged to pay for and conduct health studies related to the effects of the Freedom Industries chemical leak. The National Toxicology Program will conduct animal studies using MCHM, the coal-washing agent that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians in January, Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said Wednesday morning. The studies, expected to cost $750,000 to $1.2 million, will examine short-, intermediate- and long-term health effects of the chemical, Gupta said.
8) U.S. Index Futures Gain After S&P 500 Record
9) U.S. Seeks New Rules for Rail Transport of Fuel
from Wall Street Journal by Russell Gold, Betsy Morris and Bob Tita
The U.S. government wants to phase out thousands of railroad tank cars that carry crude oil within two years once it adopts proposed rules to upgrade safety for trains carrying flammable liquids. Tens of thousands of these older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, will have to be replaced or retrofitted under the proposed rules, announced Wednesday. This puts the U.S. on roughly the same timetable as Canada, which announced a phase out earlier this year. The federal government's sweeping proposals come after a string of explosive derailments involving trains filled with oil from the Bakken Shale and will change how flammable liquids are transported in North America. But they aren't as stringent as some in the rail and energy industry feared. Crude-carrying tank cars would need to upgraded by 2017. The proposed regulations would also give the ethanol industry until 2018 to improve or replace tank cars that carry that fuel. The deadline for cars used to transport other flammable liquids that typically pose less of a hazard than oil or ethanol would extend to 2020. Other new requirements proposed include a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit until sturdier tank cars can be built or existing railcars can be strengthened, as well as other rules that cover tank-car design, routing, brakes and testing of hazardous liquids.
See also: 5 Things to Know About New Oil-Train Rules from Wall Street Journal by Russell Gold.
10) Industry poll says Americans want more oil production, support offshore drilling
from Houston Chronicle by Rhiannon Meyers
Americans overwhelmingly want the U.S. to produce more domestic oil and natural gas, but few believe the federal government is doing enough to encourage such activity, according to an industry-backed survey released Wednesday. The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Petroleum Institute, shows that 68 percent of voters across the political spectrum support offshore drilling and the same percentage say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports offshore drilling in the U.S.
Utilities and Infrastructure
11) Microgrids: How the U.S. Military Can Benefit
from Roll Call by Joe Warminsky
The rise of microgrids — small, site-specific electrical power generation and distribution systems — has been documented among homeowners in disaster-prone areas and noticed by the companies that run the big grids. Nationwide, microgrids produce only about a gigawatt of power collectively, reports say, and many of those projects are by homeowners and institutions such as colleges. But there also another potentially big American player: the Defense Department. A new analysis released by Red Mountain Insights notes that the military moves a lot of fossil fuel around to generate electricity at its far-flung facilities. “The fuel powers more than 15,000 generators in Afghanistan alone,” the research firm says. “What if, through use of Microgrid technologies, the military could cut that fuel transportation and use in half?”
12) Japan to Step Up Support for Overseas Use of Coal
from Wall Street Journal by Mari Iwata
Japan said Wednesday it would step up support for coal-fired power plants in developing nations, challenging a U.S. policy that seeks to discourage such plants in an effort to fight global warming. "Without public loans and insurance from rich countries, emerging countries would turn to less costly, inefficient technologies. It could aggravate the CO2 emission issue," said Takafumi Kakudo, coal director at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. He spoke at a meeting where a government panel of energy experts approved a new policy that promotes coal. The move represents a repudiation of the Obama administration's strict stance of carbon emissions.
13) Can a big, relatively clean coal-fired power plant make money and revolutionize the industry?
from E&E by Christa Marshall
The nation's first coal-fired power plant aiming to capture the majority of its carbon dioxide emissions rises like a silver city from a vast, cleared plot of Mississippi pine forests. The Kemper County Energy Facility -- which envisions grabbing 65 percent of the CO2 from a 582-megawatt gasification power plant here -- is nearing completion, with hundreds of construction workers on-site. It has enough piping to stretch across much of the state, constructed conveyer belts as tall as buildings and an operating coal mine, where massive trucks ferry unearthed lignite coal to a storage dome. In a tour last week, officials from Southern Co. and its subsidiary Mississippi Power, the developers of the $5.5 billion plant, said they are on track for a May 31, 2015, operation date and plan to begin capturing CO2 at the gasification plant this fall. The first fire of the gasifier is expected later this summer.
14) Could pro-McConnell 'dark money' group get its bankroll from coal?
from E&E by Elana Schor and Manuel Quiñones
A nonprofit group backing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is spending $2 million-plus this month on TV ads that slam his Democratic challenger, a campaign partly dedicated to impugning her record on coal that leads some political observers to wonder if the industry is behind the curtain. The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, organized in 2008 as a 501(c)4 group not required to disclose its donors, yesterday released its third straight $700,000 ad buy this month against Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes. The nonprofit is publicly aligned with Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a super political action committee tied to former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove whose donors include real estate mogul Donald Trump and the CEO of coal company Alliance Resource Partners LP.
15) NRC Nominees Heading for Trouble?
from Roll Call by Joe Warminksy
There are “already signs that the path to Senate confirmation won’t be a cakewalk” for the two men nominated by President Barack Obama to fill seats on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, reports CQ Roll Call’s Geof Koss. Jeffrey M. Baran, a Democratic staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Stephen Burns, the head of legal affairs at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency, “got a somewhat cool response from the industry’s trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute,” Koss writes. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a longtime nuclear stalwart who sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Wednesday he was unfamiliar with either nominee. But a possible link between Burns and the policies of former NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko troubles Sessions, Koss writes. Burns spent 33 years working at the NRC.
16) Texas Is Wired for Wind Power, and More Farms Plug In
from New York Times by Matthew L. Wald
The wind is so relentless that a week can go by before it is calm enough for a crane operator to install the 30-ton blades atop the 260-foot towers at the Panhandle 2 wind farm here. It’s worth the wait; a single turbine at the farm can produce 40 percent more energy than an average one. But turning wind into electricity is one thing; moving the energy to a profitable market is another. For years, the wind industry has been hampered by such a severe lack of transmission lines that when the wind is strong, a local power surplus forces some machines to be shut down. Now, Texas is out to change that by conducting a vast experiment that might hold lessons for the rest of the United States. This year, a sprawling network of new high-voltage power lines was completed, tying the panhandle area and West Texas to the millions of customers around Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston. The project, its supporters say, is essential if states are ever to wean their reliance on fossil fuels and meet new federally mandated rules to reduce carbon emissions.
17) Wind Farm Tax Credits Warrant Deeper Look
from Courthouse News Service by William Dotinga
Wind power companies suing the United States for $226 million in renewable-energy tax credits must allow Uncle Sam to determine rebate amounts through discovery, a federal judge held. Twenty Alta Wind farms owned by nonparty Terra-Gen Power, LLC have sued the United States since last year over unpaid tax credits and cash grants allegedly promised under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The wind farms claims that the Treasury Department rejected their project appraisals in favor of its own "greatly reduced valuation, arrived at through the disregard or misapplication of established rules for determining value of the investment tax credits," according to the original complaint.
18) Ethanol producers squeezing more fuel from corn crops
from Midwest Energy News by Karen Uhlenhuth
A farmer-owned refinery in Iowa that recently produced ethanol from corn fiber made a bit of biofuel history, which may be a prelude to more developments to come. Quad County Corn Processors hiked its ethanol production by about 6 percent by devising a technology for creating ethanol from the cellulose fiber in corn kernels, a material otherwise generally considered a useless byproduct.
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
19) Wall Street Journal shows little concern about accuracy when it comes to FERC
from SNL by Glen Boshart
It seems ironic that The Wall Street Journal recently bemoaned the politicization of FERC when clearly such politicization has been the newspaper's goal for some time now. But the publication's apparent lack of interest in ensuring that the insinuations it makes about FERC's and the commission members' motivations have some basis in reality — and that the facts it reports about the agency's actions are accurate — is equally troubling. The Journal's apparent disinterest in ensuring that it gets the facts right regarding FERC actions and policies is also troubling. The latest example of the publication's inaccuracies can be found in a July 17 story written by Rebecca Smith. While the article was later corrected, her initial story wrongly stated that FERC had approved a rule beefing up the electric grid's security, without discussion. The article's headline and URL also incorrectly said FERC would require new security plans, and the story misidentified Thomas Popik as an attorney with the Foundation for Resilient Societies. In reality, FERC only issued a proposed rule that actually solicited stakeholder comments, and also engaged in quite a bit of discussion during its open monthly meeting before doing so.
20) Runaround: Three Months of Correspondence With the EPA
from Inside Climate News by Jim Morris and Lisa Song
For more than a year, InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity have been reporting on air pollution caused by the fracking boom in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas. Despite hundreds of complaints from residents, many of them about noxious air emissions, we discovered that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution and rarely fines companies for breaking emission laws. On our 11 trips to Texas we encountered many residents who asked what seemed to be a reasonable question: If a state regulatory agency—in this case the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality—isn't doing much to curb the industry's air pollution, why isn't the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepping in? The EPA, after all, is ultimately responsible for enforcing the federal Clean Air Act. In February, after we published our first stories on the Eagle Ford, we began trying to answer that question by seeking on-the-record interviews with EPA officials in Washington, D.C., and Texas. Five months later, no such interviews have been granted.
21) Fracking, InsideClimate, and Public Integrity
from Energy In Depth by Steve Everley
Over the past several months, researchers at InsideClimate News (ICN) and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) have increasingly focused their attention on issues related to hydraulic fracturing. From a lengthy report on air quality in the Eagle Ford region of south Texas to a largely uncritical write-up of an environmental group’s research on shale development, the stories have been decidedly negative, with accusations of health and environmental impacts forming the bulk of the coverage. But the omission of research demonstrating safety or benign environmental impacts, including major governmental reports and peer-reviewed studies, suggests that the ICN/CPI team is actively pursuing a narrative of harm, leaving aside other facts and realities about a significant yet complicated issue.
22) On Politics and Climate Policy, Part 2: How to Improve on a Politically-Constrained Carbon Price?
from Energy Collective by Jesse Jenkins
- Economists widely consider putting a price on carbon to be the ideal, "economically optimal" climate change policy. Unfortunately, real-world political constraints mean carbon pricing rarely lives up to this ideal.
- Careful attention to several political economy constraints on carbon pricing can yield improved policy designs and better environmental and economic outcomes.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
23) U.S. DOT Announces Comprehensive Proposed Rulemaking for the Safe Transportation of Crude Oil, Flammable Materials
from Department of Transportation
The NPRM proposes enhanced tank car standards, a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids and new operational requirements for high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) that include braking controls and speed restrictions. Specifically, within two years, it proposes the phase out of the use of older DOT 111 tank cars for the shipment of packing group I flammable liquids, including most Bakken crude oil, unless the tank cars are retrofitted to comply with new tank car design standards. The ANPRM seeks further information on expanding comprehensive oil spill response planning requirements for shipments of flammable materials. Both the NPRM and ANPRM are available for review on www.regulations.gov and will now be open for 60 days of public comment.