By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- California's Kevin McCarthy and Louisiana's Steve Scalise claimed two of the top three spots in the House GOP leadership Thursday. Houston Chronicle's Jennifer A. Dlouhy looks into how oil refiners could benefit. E&E's Nick Juliano predicted McCarthy will oppose an extension of the wind production tax credit.
- A report from the House Oversight Committee alleges major problems at the Chemical Safety Board, including retaliation against whistleblowers and obstructuion of outside investigations. Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa and other members, including Democrats, are urging the CSB chairman to step down, National Journal's Jason Plautz reports.
- NRC commissioner George Apostolakis confirmed his decision to retire after the White House declined to nominate him for a second term, Politico Pro's Darius Dixon reports.
- Politico's Mike Allen chats with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on video about the "war on coal."
Today’s Business Brief:
- A second liquefied natural gas terminal, Sempra's Cameron project in Louisiana, won final approval to export to countries without free trade agreements with the U.S, Bloomberg's Brian Wingfield reports. The Energy Department is defending its reworked plan for reviewing the applications, Houston Chronicle's Dlouhy reports.
- Most of Iraq's oil production has been unaffacted by militant violence, according to IHS analysts. Yet crude oil and gasoline prices continue to rise, Houston Chronicle's Ryan Holeywell reports.
- A judge in Texas accepted a jury verdict awarding $2.9 million to a family who said emissions from gas and oil drilling made them sick, David Hasemyer at Inside Climate News reports.
- New York Times' Diane Cardwell explores how consumers without roof space for solar panels are joining so-called community solar gardens.
Today's Chart Review:
Clean Power Plant Comments Map (Click for Interactive Version)
from Bipartisan Policy Center
The map is colored based on the political affiliations of state leaders: governor, state house, and state senate. Hover your mouse over a state to see information about the state’s political makeup. Click on a state to display corresponding comments and electricity sector information in the boxes below the map.
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Friday: House Natural Resources hearing on permitting/rights-of-ways for energy infrastructure @ 9:30 am
15-17: Natural Gas
18-19: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
26: New York Times
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
29: House Oversight Committee
30: ICF International
1) New GOP Leaders Have Oil Interests Nearby
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
When Republican Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise claimed two of the top three spots in the House GOP leadership Thursday, oil refiners emerged as a potential big winner too. At least three refiners — Shell Oil Co., Phillips 66 and Valero Energy Corp. — have refineries in or near both the California and Louisiana districts the lawmakers represent. For instance, Valero’s Wilmington refinery is just 120 miles south of McCarthy’s Bakersfield, Calif., district. And while Scalise’s congressional district near New Orleans officially claims just one Valero refinery — the Meraux facility — the company’s St. Charles facility is also just a few miles beyond the congressional boundary.
2) Daniel Poneman, Deputy U.S. Energy Secretary, to Step Down
from Reuters by Ros Krasny
The U.S. Department of Energy's number two official, Daniel Poneman, will leave the agency after more than five years, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on Thursday, the second senior U.S. energy official in a week to announce his departure...Poneman, U.S. deputy secretary of energy since May 2009 and also chief operating officer, has been focused on nuclear safety and proliferation, among other issues.
3) Judge Upholds Jury Verdict for Family in Texas Fracking Case
from Inside Climate News by David Hasemyer
The judge presiding over a pivotal case involving toxic emissions from gas and oil drilling has accepted a jury verdict that awarded $2.9 million to a family who said the emissions have made them sick. Judge Mark Greenberg issued a one page ruling late Thursday denying a motion by Aruba Petroleum to reject the jury’s verdict. Among Aruba’s arguments rejected by Greenberg were that Bob and Lisa Parr did not prove the emissions that made them sick came from Aruba wells. The Parrs filed their lawsuit in March 2011, claiming they were "under constant, perpetual, and inescapable assault of Defendants’ releases, spills, emissions, and discharges of hazardous gases, chemicals, and industrial/hazardous wastes."
4) Darrell Issa Has a New Target: The Chemical Safety Board
from National Journal by Jason Plautz
Lawmakers want the head of the federal government's chemical-accident investigation unit to resign, saying he is overseeing a broken board where mismanagement has created a "toxic" work environment. A House Oversight Committee report alleges the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is mired in a managerial mess, with problems including everything from retaliation against whistle-blowers to repression of public debate to obstruction of outside investigations. The dysfunction, the report changes, has forced out investigators and has created an atmosphere that makes it impossible for the board to fulfill its mission. The issues prompted Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and other members, including Democrats, to suggest that CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso step down before his term expires.
5) Republicans Are Talking Differently About Climate Change
from National Journal by Alex Roarty
These days, it takes careful parsing to pinpoint what Republican candidates believe about climate change.
The GOP's Senate candidate in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land, issued a press release last month that declared global warming was "absolutely" a reality. Such an acknowledgment, on its face, would once have amounted practically to heresy for a party hostile to the science of climate change. But lest anyone begin to confuse her with Bill Nye the Science Guy, her campaign's spokeswoman quickly emailed a follow-up statement: Although Land thinks the Earth's climate is changing partly as a consequence of human behavior, she's dubious about the degree to which humankind is responsible...her almost-but-not-quite embrace of climate-change science is indicative of a broader shift within the Republican Party—one that has shucked the defiant skepticism of its recent past for a nuanced view on the subject.
6) NJ Democrats, Environmentalists Call for State to Join RGGI
A group of Democratic state lawmakers and environmentalists stressed today that now is the time for New Jersey — and the rest of the nation — to act on climate change. During a news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton, the leaders — including two candidates for Congress — praised President Obama's administration for introducing the country's first-ever rules to regulate carbon emissions from fossil-power plants across the U.S. They also called on Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, to rejoin a regional pact aimed reducing carbon pollution, saying New Jersey needs to take steps to avoid the kind of destruction caused by storms like Hurricane Sandy in recent years.
7) Legislature Sends Climate Change Bill to Cuomo
from Capital New York by Scott Waldman
A bill passed by both houses of the Legislature on Thursday would require state-funded projects to factor in climate change. The Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act, sponsored by Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, requires the state to account for the effects of climate change and extreme weather events. It had a wide range of support among business and environmental groups.
8) Europe on Track for 2020 Energy Efficiency Goal -Report
from Reuters by Barbara Lewis
The European Union is almost on track to reach its goal of improving energy savings by a fifth by 2020 and may consider a significantly higher target for the next decade, according to a draft European Commission document seen by Reuters. Energy efficiency has risen up the agenda in Europe as member states seek ways to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels in the context of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has led to the cut-off of Russian gas to Ukraine.
9) 30 GOP Senators Sponsor Bill to Stop EPA’s Water Rule
from The Hill by Timothy Cama
Thirty Republican senators signed onto legislation Thursday to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to redefine its jurisdiction over land and water under the Clean Water Act. The bill would “stop the Environmental Protection Agency from taking over all private and state water in the United States,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said in a statement. The rule, which the EPA proposed in March along with the Army Corps of Engineers, seeks to clarify the federal government’s authority under the Clean Water Act after a number of court cases made it unclear. The agency said the rule would not significantly change its power, but Republicans and business groups disagree.
10) U.S. Stock Futures Little Changed After S&P 500 Record
from Bloomberg by Jonathan Morgan
U.S. stock-index futures were little changed after the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at a record yesterday...Futures on the S&P 500 expiring in September climbed less than 0.1 percent to 1,950.7 at 7 a.m. in New York. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts added 6 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 16,839 today.
11) Militants Fly Their Black Flags Over Iraq Refinery
from Houston Chronicle by Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP)
Sunni militants hung their black banners on watchtowers at Iraq’s largest oil refinery, a witness said Thursday, suggesting an ever-increasing stranglehold on the vital facility by insurgents who have seized vast territories across the country’s north. A top Iraqi security official and a militant fighting for control of the plant said the government still held it...The Iraqi witness, who drove past the sprawling Beiji refinery, said militants also manned checkpoints around it. He said he saw a huge fire in one of its tankers. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals.
12) Report: Most Iraq Oil Production Unaffected by Turmoil
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
Most of Iraq’s oil production has been unaffected by militant violence, according a report by IHS analysts. That’s because the majority of the country’s production is concentrated in the southern part of the country, while the violence attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, is concentrated in the north. The consulting firm, which counts many major energy companies among its clients, said it’s received no reports of shut-in production. Yet, despite the lack of disruption, crude oil and gasoline prices continue to rise.
13) Refinery Change Leaves Louisiana Boaters High and Dry in Gasoline Search
from Platts by Caitlin Laird and Jeffrey Bair
The ExxonMobil-operated Chalmette Refinery will no longer distribute ethanol-free gas from the rack, a move that is making it more difficult for Louisiana boaters to find compatible fuel for their boats. In early May, the Chalmette Refinery in St. Bernard Parish announced that it would no longer distribute ethanol-free (conventional) gasoline to the local rack. The 200,700 b/d refinery had previously been the largest resource of ethanol-free gasoline for the area, with many area businesses purchasing fuel from the rack, a local distribution terminal. ExxonMobil, the operator and co-owner of the refinery with PDVSA, continues to sell to the commercial market, but acknowledges that the local market is affected by the change at the rack. The decision was pushed through in an effort to “better comply with the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standards,” said Patrick Trahan, a spokesman for the refinery.
14) Pennsylvania Sues Oil Companies for Groundwater Pollution
15) Sempra Wins Final U.S. FERC Approval for LNG Export Plant
Utilities and Infrastructure
18) FERC Deal Settles Standoff Over Leadership
from Politico Pro by Darius Dixon
...The agreement, according to energy panel Chairwoman Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), would keep acting FERC Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur as head of the agency for another nine months after she is reconfirmed by the full Senate. That would mean that Obama’s pick, Norman Bay, wouldn’t take the reins until mid-2015 after first serving as one of the agency’s five commissioners. But that didn’t sway Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the energy committee, who voted against Bay and said the White House hadn’t given her enough assurances to win her support — and therefore the support of most other GOP committee members...Even in the minutes ahead of Wednesday’s vote, details of the deal with the White House seemed unclear, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) appeared unaware that any agreement had been reached over extending LaFleur’s chairmanship.
19) Regulators OK Novel Plan for 'Real Time' Power Sharing in the West
from E&E by Hannah Northey
Federal energy regulators today signed off on a politically popular plan that allows California's grid manager to launch a voluntary "real time" energy market and share its electricity resources with five Western states. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously voted to conditionally accept the California Independent System Operator's (ISO) proposal -- as made through tariff revisions -- to design an energy imbalance market, or EIM, which pools energy resources in parts of Oregon, Washington, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. State grid operators have proposed to launch the market on Oct. 1.
20) EPA Administrator Denies War on Coal
from Politico by Mike Allen
MIKE ALLEN: Is there a war on coal?
GINA MCCARTHY: No. I don’t want to get complicated with my answer because when I do, people think I’m hedging. The answer to the question is no. I am doing what Congress told me to do with the Clean Air Act and what they told me to do was see how you can reduce pollution in ways that are reasonable and achievable, that follows the law and that follows the science.
21) Records: Duke Warned About Pipe That Caused Spill
from News Observer by Michael Biesecker (AP)
Records subpoenaed by federal prosecutors show engineers working for Duke Energy warned the company nearly 30 years before a massive coal ash spill that a stormwater pipe running under an ash dump was made of corrugated metal and needed to be monitored for leaks. That pipe at a North Carolina dump collapsed in February, triggering a spill that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge. Following the disaster, Duke officials said the company didn't know that an underground section of the pipe was made out of metal, believing instead that it had been fully constructed of more-durable reinforced concrete.
22) Rising German Coal Use Imperils European Emissions Deal
23) NRC’ Apostolakis to Depart as White House Nixes Second Term
from Politico Pro by Darius Dixon
News that George Apostolakis won’t be nominated for a second term at the NRC didn’t come as a big surprise, but it still knocked the wind out of his allies this week. “We all knew this train wreck was coming,” one former NRC official said in an email Thursday. The former official said that Apostolakis, whose term expires at the end of the month, got a call from the White House earlier this week, and he subsequently sent a short note to friends and colleagues saying the he was “retiring” from the NRC.
24) Buying Into Solar Power, No Roof Access Needed
from New York Times by Diane Cardwell
Like many consumers, David Polstein had already done much to reduce energy use in his large Victorian home in Newton, Mass. He replaced his appliances with energy-efficient models, installed better heating and put in new insulation. But he was unable to get a solar system to reduce his utility bill, he said, because his roof is too small and shady to make it worthwhile. Now, that could be changing. Mr. Polstein is considering joining a so-called community solar garden that is under development in his part of the state, one of many similar new arrangements now available in Massachusetts. Through the approach — largely pioneered in Colorado and spreading across the country — customers buy into a solar array constructed elsewhere and receive credit on their electricity bills for the power their panels produce.
25) German Solar Industry Sets Major Records in June but Needs More Storage
from E&E by Henry Gass
Over a two-week span earlier this month, the German solar power sector broke three national power production records, according to analysis from a German industry research institute. Its growing solar capacity also makes it a world leader, but whether the remarkable growth can continue could hinge on what happens in the energy storage market in the next two years.
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
26) Roaring on the Seas: China's Power Grab is Alarming
from New York Times by Editorial Board
Few aspects of China’s dynamic emergence as a global power have generated as much insecurity and danger in its neighborhood as its mounting campaign to control the South China Sea, a vital waterway for international commerce. On Wednesday, at a high-level meeting in Hanoi, China’s top diplomat scolded his Vietnamese hosts for complaining about an oil rig that Beijing planted in early May in waters that Vietnam claims, as its own...In addition to installing the rig, Beijing’s efforts to assert sovereignty over the many specks of rock dotting the South China Sea now includes a novel twist: the piling of sand on isolated reefs and shoals to create what amount to new islands in the Spratly archipelago.
27) Rep. Steve Scalise's Election to Majority Whip is Good for Louisiana
from Times-Picayune by Editorial Board
Rep. Steve Scalise is a rarity in Washington: somebody with unmistakably strong partisan views who has, at the same time, managed to maintain strong and meaningful friendships with colleagues across the aisle. His conservative bona fides and his political acumen paid off Thursday when House Republicans elected Rep. Scalise as the House majority whip. That's the third highest-ranking post for House Republicans.
This is the first time a Louisianian has been a part of the House Leadership since 1999. That's a long drought, and our state could certainly use the influence in Washington. That's not to say that the 48-year-old Metairie Republican hasn't already been influential. He already had an important position on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and he played a pivotal role two years ago in the passage of the Restore Act, which ensures that 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines levied against BP will be directed to the Gulf Coast states. He was also already the head of the 170-member conservative faction of Republican House members called the Republican Study Committee.
28) America's Coal-Producing States Weigh Their Options
from Forbes by Jim Marston
Nobody was surprised to hear political foes of President Obama and leaders from several coal-dependent states blast EPA’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from America’s power plants. The Clean Power Plan, released June 2, represents a big change in the way America will generate and use energy in the coming decades. We understand: Big changes are scary. So it’s interesting to ponder which political leaders in states dependent on coal-fired power will, in the end, seize this historic opportunity. Who will use the flexible policy tools offered in the Clean Power Plan to diversify their energy economies and unleash innovation to help their states grow? Who will show political courage?
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
29) Leadership Failure at Chemical Safety Board Jeopardizes Agency Mission, Puts Safety at Risk
from House Oversight Committee
- Chairman Moure-Eraso and Horowitz created a toxic work environment that resulted in the departure of at least nine experienced employees from the CSB. Because experienced employees left CSB, investigations dragged on for years.
- Chairman Moure-Eraso and Horowitz have mismanaged investigations to the detriment of public safety in certain industries. This gross mismanagement resulted in the waste of taxpayer dollars.
- The broken relationship between Chairman Moure-Eraso and the other Board Members has delayed the release of important investigative reports.
- Current and former CSB employees agree that Chairman Moure-Eraso retaliated against whistleblowers. As a result, all employees fear retaliation at the hands of the Chairman.
30) ICForecast Energy Outlook: Expects Proposed Regulations to Add to Long-Term Power and Fuels Market Uncertainty
from ICF International
The study highlights the near-, mid- and long-term future of gas, coal and power prices; the impacts of proposed U.S. federal environmental regulations; and projections on pollution control installations, coal production and renewable energy development...Attention is turning again to regulation of the power sector with recent court rulings favoring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule and the Cross-state Air Pollution Rule. EPA’s recent release of its proposed Clean Power Plan, regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing generation sources, will draw much of that attention going forward. ICF’s retirement projection for U.S. coal plants leading up to the MATS compliance date remains steady in the range of 63 GW, based on a regulatory portfolio that includes EPA's proposed regulations.