By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- Most Americans, 67 percent, support the Obama administration's carbon emissions rule released earlier this month, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. More than half, 57 percent, said they would support a proposal requiring companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions even if it means higher utility bills, Amy Harder reports. General support for the president, however, is eroding.
- The Senate energy panel and the White House are discussing an arrangement for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominee Norman Bay to become chairman after serving for a time as a commission member, while acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur remains in the post temporarily. Bloomberg's Brian Wingfield and Laura Litvan report.
- Senate Energy Chairwoman Mary Landrieu is using the gavel to boost Louisiana's energy interests, Bloomberg's Laura Litvan reports. No one in recent memory has so aggressively used a chairmanship to get re-elected, sources say.
Today’s Business Brief:
- The Energy Department and Southern Company reached a $187 million deal for the energy company to puruse carbon capture technologies, SNL's Matthew Bandyk reports.
- SolarCity has agreed to acquire Silevo, a maker of high-efficiency solar modules, in the hopes of competing with Chinese companies on cost, Wall Street Journal's Russel Gold reports.
- Manufacturers and other industrial users of natural gas are asking the Obama administration to rethink its new plan for prioritizing reviews of certain export proposals, Houston Chronicle's Jennifer A. Dlouhy reports.
- Canada approved Enbridge's project to expand pipeline links from Alberta's landlocked oil sands to the Pacific coast, Wall Street Journal reports.
Today's Chart Review:
Most Americans Back Carbon Rule, Despite Eroding Support for Obama
from Wall Street Journal NBC News Poll
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Wednesday: Platts Transmission Planning and Development Conference @ 8:30 am
Wednesday: International Association for Energy Economics conference in New York @ 9 am
Wednesday: Senate Environment hearing on climate change with past GOP EPA administrators @ 10 am
Wednesday: House Appropriations energy and water markup @ 10 am
Wednesday: American Public Power Association expo in Denver @ 10 am
Wednesday: EPA's Holmstead and DOE's Tierney talk on EPA power sector proposal at BPC @ 10 am
Wednesday: Environmental and Energy Study Institute talk on grid-strengthening technologies @ 10 am
Wednesday: Bipartisan Policy Center talk on EPA power sector proposal @ 10 am
Wednesday: Senate Environment hearing on climate change @ 10 am
Wednesday: Senate Energy markup on Keystone XL, FERC nominees @ 10:30 am
Wednesday: ACORE teleconference on renewable energy investment @ Noon
Wednesday: House Natural Resources hearing on energy jobs @ 2 pm
Thursday: Platts Transmission Planning and Development Conference @ 7:30 am
Thursday: Senate Armed Services hearing on defense energy nominees @ 9:30 am
Thursday: House Energy hearing on EPA's power plant rules @ 9:30 am
Thursday: Monthly meeting of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission @ 10 am
Thursday: House Agriculture hearing on Clean Water Act agricultural exemptions @ 10 am
Thursday: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions webinar on water and energy @ 2 pm
Thursday: Senate Energy hearing on natural gas exports, consumption and transportation fuel @ 2:30 pm
Friday: House Natural Resources hearing on permitting/rights-of-ways for energy infrastructure @ 9:30 am
17-19: Natural Gas
20-21: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
28: Electric Markets Research Foundation
29: National Association of Home Builders
1) Obama Carbon Rule Backed by Most Americans — WSJ/NBC Poll
from Wall Street Journal by Amy Harder
More than two-thirds of Americans support President Barack Obama’s new climate rule and more than half say the U.S. should address global warming even if it means higher electricity bills, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Widespread support for the carbon rule, unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month, is a rare bright spot for Mr. Obama, who otherwise received mostly low marks by poll respondents on topics ranging from his overall competence to his administration’s decision to trade five imprisoned Taliban officials in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The poll finds that 67% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support EPA’s new rule, while only 29% oppose it. Americans are also increasingly willing to stomach higher electricity costs in order to cut carbon emissions. More than half of poll respondents—57%—said they would support a proposal requiring companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming even if it means higher utility bills. That figure is up 9 percentage points since October 2009.
2) Obama Pick to Lead FERC Might Be Phased in
6) Why Cantor's Downfall is Bad News for EPA
from National Journal by Jason Plautz
The Environmental Protection Agency is already facing a war on multiple fronts as it works to review its smog standards this year. Environmentalists have vowed to fight to get the standards as low as possible to get maximum health benefits, while industry groups have been lining up to fight what they say is the most costly environmental regulation to come out of the administration. And now Eric Cantor's upset loss has put one of the ozone rule's congressional critics—House Whip and presumed next Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—in position to keep fighting it from the top.
7) Obama's Coded Climate Politics
from National Journal by Ben Geman
President Obama's climate speech Saturday got plenty of press for its lengthy assault on global-warming denial. But what excited an aggressive wing of the climate movement were just a few cryptic words elsewhere in the commencement address at the University of California (Irvine): "You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms." Activists pushing universities and other institutions to dump their financial holdings in coal and oil-and-gas companies believe they heard an unmistakable White House endorsement.
8) Exxon in Spotlight After Obama Gay-Rights Move
from Wall Street Journal by Laura Meckler
Shareholder resolutions couldn’t force a change to Exxon Mobil Corp.'s anti-discrimination policies, but President Barack Obama‘s pen just might. Exxon, one of the biggest companies in the U.S., may have to change its employment code after Mr. Obama signs an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation, which covers gays, lesbians and bisexuals, or gender identity, which covers transgender workers. Mr. Obama has used a series of executive orders to advance policies when progress has stalled in Congress, and is expected to sign this order soon.
9) Cheniere: Revoking High Executive Payout Would be ‘Detrimental’ to Company
from Houston Chronicle by Collin Eaton
Cheniere Energy and its executives asked a Delaware court late Monday to throw out a shareholder lawsuit that challenged $1.7 billion in stock awards, including most of CEO Charif Souki’s pay last year. The Houston liquefied natural gas firm and its top brass argued the investors failed to establish a claim that would pass the court’s requirements to go to trial, and that they did not “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Cheniere said it would elaborate on the dispute in briefs to be filed later.
10) U.S. Stock Futures Little Changed Before Federal Reserve
U.S. stock-index futures were little changed, following a three-day gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as investors awaited the latest monetary-policy decision from the Federal Reserve...Futures on the S&P 500 (SPX) expiring in September declined less than 0.1 percent to 1,933.5 at 10:44 a.m. in London. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts slipped 3 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 16,726.
11) Canadian Government Approves Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline
from Wall Street Journal by Paul Vieira and Chester Dawson
The push to expand pipeline links from Alberta's landlocked oil sands to Canada's Pacific coast got a boost on Tuesday when the federal government approved Enbridge Inc. 's Northern Gateway project. Enbridge faces other hurdles before it can start construction on the 7.9 billion Canadian dollar (US$7.3 billion) project. Like TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S., Northern Gateway has come up against opposition, from politicians in British Columbia to environmentalists and aboriginal groups who have vowed to stop the project.
12) The New Oil Crisis: Exploding Trains
from Politico Pro by Kathryn A. Wolf and Bob King
Communities throughout the U.S. and Canada are waking up to the dark side of North America’s energy boom: Trains hauling crude oil are crashing, exploding and spilling in record numbers as a fast-growing industry outpaces the federal government’s oversight...A POLITICO analysis of federal data from more than 400 oil-train incidents since 1971 shows that a once-uncommon threat has escalated dramatically in the past five years.
13) Upshot of Domestic Oil Boom: Fewer Shocks
from Wall Street Journal by Josh Zumbrun
The latest spasm of violence in the Middle East has sent crude-oil prices climbing in recent weeks, a familiar action-reaction that frequently has proved to be a drag on economic growth. Yet that dynamic figures to ease in coming months and years as U.S. dependence on Mideast oil is, by a variety of measures, at a generational nadir.
14) Keystone Vote in Endangered Senator’s Campaign Strategy
15) US, Canadian Officials Predict Keystone Approval by April
from The Hill by Timothy Cama
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer agreed that the Keystone XL pipeline would attain its presidential permit by April 2015, whether President Obama does it himself or Congress forces his hand. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday to mandate approval of the final segment of the pipeline that is planned to run from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast, and the House has previously voted to approve it. Hoeven predicted that Congress would force the permit.
16) BP Wins First Defense Deal Since Feds Lifted Contract Ban
from Houston Chronicle by Collin Eaton
In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP fell from its perch as the biggest provider of jet fuel to the Department of Defense, barred from doing business with the federal government in late 2012. Nearly two years later, BP has secured its first contract with the government’s military arm since the Obama Administration lifted the company’s debarment from federal contracts in March, a Defense Department spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.
17) Manufacturers Want More Time on Natural Gas Exports
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
A coalition of manufacturers and other industrial users of natural gas is asking the Obama administration for more time to review its latest plan for vetting proposals to sell the fossil fuel overseas. The group, known as America’s Energy Advantage, asked the Energy Department to give stakeholders a full four months to weigh in on the plan, which would effectively prioritize export projects that have already advanced through separate environmental reviews. The coalition said the extra time was needed “given the rule’s scope, complexity and impact” as well as its potential “implications on the domestic economy.”
18) Ohio's Freeze on Renewables Said Not Likely to Drive New Natural Gas Demand
Ohio's move last week to become the first state in the country to roll back its renewable energy standards by freezing for two years mandates that require utilities to sell more power from green sources isn't likely to increase natural gas demand in the state, sources say. Yet the legislation comes at a time when an ever-increasing number of coal-fired power plants are scheduled for retirement, undermined by federal regulations and a surplus of cheap gas. Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich signed SB 310 on Friday, which freezes mandates passed in 2008 that required utilities to meet annual benchmarks, and sell 25% of their electricity from renewable sources, and eliminate energy waste among consumers by 22% by 2025. While the legislation is not expected to drive more power sector demand for gas, sources said it factors into a broader set of circumstances that will likely find more generators switching to gas or ramping up capacity at combined-cycle plants.
19) EPA Says FERC Should Weigh Gas Production Stimulus Effects of Cove Point
from Natural Gas Intelligence by David Bradley
FERC should pay close attention to the potential impacts of increased natural gas production in its decision-making process for the Cove Point Liquefaction project, and it should also focus on potential environmental justice impacts from the Calvert County, MD, facility, according to the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA).
"Both FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] and DOE [U.S. Department of Energy] have recognized that an increase in natural gas exports will result in increased production," EPA said in comments filed at FERC Monday. "However...FERC concludes that the nature of natural gas supply and pipeline system in the U.S. makes it difficult to predict accurately where the additional gas development activity will occur and thus concluded that it is not feasible to more specifically evaluate localized environmental impacts."
Utilities and Infrastructure
20) DOE, Southern Reach $187M Carbon Capture Deal
from SNL by Matthew Bandyk
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Southern Co. $150 million to pursue research and development into carbon capture technologies to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants. Southern, one of the largest energy companies in the country and already one of the lead practitioners of technology to gasify coal to burn the fuel with reduced emissions, will add $37 million of its own money for a total of $187 million under a five-year cooperative agreement signed with the DOE, the department said in a June 12 statement. The testing of carbon capture and coal gasification technologies will go on at the National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Ala., a facility that hosts efforts to model how techniques would work if commercially deployed. For example, Ohio State University has pursued a plant at the center that will test chemical reactions to burn coal but contain CO2.
21) Public Power Industry's New Leader Sees Urgency in 'Substantial Challenges'
from E&E by Rod Kuckro
As the nation's more than 2,000 public power utilities gather in Denver this week for their annual meeting, the group's new president and chief executive officer aims to invigorate the group with a sense of urgency about the "substantial challenges" facing their industry. Yesterday, in her first address as CEO of the American Public Power Association, Sue Kelly outlined those challenges: "threats to the federal power system, wholesale market dysfunction, distributed generation, climate change, and grid security."
22) Assessing Fukushima Damage Without Eyes on the Inside
from New York Times by Matthew L. Wald
Though three and a half years have passed, it is still too dangerous to climb inside for a look, and sending in a camera would risk more leaks. Engineers do not have enough data to even run a computer model that could tell them how much of the reactor cores are intact and how much of them melted, because the measurement systems inside the buildings were out of commission for days after the accident. And though the buildings may be leaking, they were built of concrete and steel so thick that there is no hope of using X-rays or other conventional imaging technology to scan the wreckage from a safe distance. To clean up the reactors, special tools must be custom-made...
23) Solar Home Market Begins to Capture Mainstream Buyers
from E&E by Daniel Cusick
The rooftop solar panel, once a badge of distinction for energy nerds and greens, is going mainstream.
While firm numbers are hard to pin down, homebuilders and industry experts say the number of newly constructed homes with a solar energy system preinstalled is surging, from as little as a few hundred units a decade ago to tens of thousands of units entering the market today. And according to newly published data from McGraw Hill Construction and the National Association of Homebuilders, more than half of all U.S. homebuilders are expected to offer solar PV energy systems as an option in new single-family homes by 2016, up from just 12 percent in 2013.
24) SolarCity Buys Silevo, a Module Maker
from Wall Street Journal by Russell Gold
SolarCity Corp. agreed to acquire Silevo, a maker of high-efficiency solar modules, a move that the U.S. solar-panel installer expects will enable a breakthrough in the cost of solar power. Based in Fremont, Calif., closely held Silevo has developed solar-cell technology with high efficiency at a low cost, SolarCity said. Peter Rive, SolarCity's chief technology officer, compared Silevo's panels to "buying a BMW at a Ford price."
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
25) For Republicans: First Immigration, Now Climate Change
from Bloomberg by Tom Zeller Jr.
The Obama administration is getting a good deal of mileage out of the president’s commencement speech Saturday at the University of California, Irvine, during which he compared deniers of climate science in Congress to those who might have argued, during the race to the moon 50 years ago, that the nation’s celestial obsession was made of cheese. It was a cheap laugh line, but the speech itself -- which clearly resonated with the thousands of twenty-something voters assembled at Angel Stadium in Anaheim -- underscored what a growing number of surveys and political strategists now make clear: Ignoring the issue of climate change is no longer a viable political strategy, and the GOP risks its fortunes in 2016 and beyond by keeping its collective head in the sand.
26) Oil Investors Are Too Calm As Iraq Slides Into Civil War
from Forbes by Christopher Helman
The outbreak of civil war in Iraq has oil traders nervous. Crude oil trading on the NYMEX Thursday gained more than $2 per barrel and has so far continued its climb Friday morning, going as high as $107.68. Prices are higher on the international market, with Brent crude topping $114 per barrel in London today, the highest level of 2014. So far the price increase hasn’t trickled down to gasoline. Today the average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. is $3.64. A month ago it was $3.62, and a year ago $3.63, according to Gasbuddy.com. Investors in companies leveraged to Iraqi oil are skittish, but far from panicky.
27) Attorney General Buddy Caldwell Should Intervene in Coastal Damages Lawsuit
from Times-Picayune by Oliver Houck
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has acted three times to uphold the public interest in the New Orleans flood protection authority lawsuit. Once to approve it, then to defend that approval in court, and most recently to urge Gov. Jindal to veto the bill that purports to kill it. Mr. Caldwell now has one final opportunity, and it is the most important of all. He may intervene in the lawsuit and help steer it toward an acceptable conclusion. In fact, the Louisiana Constitution was amended in l974 expressly to make his office independent and enable him to "institute, prosecute or intervene in any civil action." That is exactly what we have here. If there were ever a case for the exercise of this authority, here is the one.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
28) Ensuring Adequate Power Supplies
from Christensen Associates Energy Consulting for the Electric Markets Research Foundation
Keeping the lights on is better assured in areas served by traditionally regulated utilities than in restructured electricity markets around the country...Approximately one-third of Americans obtain electricity through a market based on the traditional regulation of vertically-integrated utilities, which provide generation, transmission and distribution services to customers at prices approved by state regulators. The other two-thirds reside in restructured markets that use competitive bidding to establish prices for wholesale power delivered to electricity users by utilities or unregulated retail suppliers. Restructured markets are managed by regional transmission operators (RTOs). The EMRF study analyzed and compared how each market addressed reliability issues...Last winter’s polar vortex exposed the future vulnerabilities of the electricity system in restructured markets as the power industry in the Northeast and Midwest scrambled to avoid blackouts while consumers paid unprecedented high prices for electricity...The President’s carbon rules announced in early June will likely accelerate the trends discussed in this report, forcing additional retirements of coal-fired plants and boosting demand for natural gas in restructured markets, although their impacts will also be felt in regulated markets. Consumers are also facing sticker shock as “the polar vortex created significant spikes in the price of wholesale power, which has quickly morphed into a political issue,” the study said.
29) Green Multifamily and Single Family Homes: Growth in a Recovering Market
from National Association of Home Builders