By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- The Obama administration's carbon emissions rule may be a problem for Democrats from fossil fuel states, but it also might give a boost to Democrats from states that support action to curb climate change, New York Times reports.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's efforts to hand-pick the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be tested this week when the Energy Committee votes on whether to confirm Norman Bay, Wall Street Journal's Amy Harder reports.
- On the campaign trail, Sen. Mary Landrieu's years of defending the oil lobby are paying off in campaign contributions, National Journal's Jason Plautz reports. In Iowa, the EPA's extension of the deadline for refiners to meet the 2013 renewable fuel blending requirement may have given a leg up to Rep. Bruce Braley in a tight Senate race E&E's Amanda Peterka reports.
- The Energy Department may have violated laws in an attempt to prop up a troubled uranium enrichment company, Washington Post reports.
Today’s Business Brief:
- The electric industry plans to retire more than 10 percent of its coal fleet, but those shutdowns will eliminate only 4 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from plants in the U.S., USA Today reports.
- The International Energy Agency is predicting global natural gas demand will increase at a slower rate through 2019 than previously expected while coal and renewable power will gain, Bloomberg reports.
Today's Chart Review:
Percent Change in Renewable Energy Production Under EPA Examples (Interactive)
from Morning Consult by Emily Holden
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Tuesday: FERC/DOE conference on reliability of the bulk power system @ 8:45 am
Tuesday: House Appropriations markup of energy and water bill @ 8:45 am
Tuesday: House Natural Resources hearing on early detection of earthquakes @ 10 am
Tuesday: Capitol Hill Ocean Week begins with keynote from Podesta @ 10 am
Tuesday: House Energy markup of manufacturing legislation @ 10 am
Tuesday: Western Governors Association annual meeting with McCarthy @ 10:30 am
Tuesday: Heritage Foundation talk on Western land management @ 11 am
Tuesday: USEA presentation on CCS and offshore storage @ 2 pm
Tuesday: EESI/WIRES talk on grid resilience, gas-electric coordination, new business models @ 2:30 pm
Tuesday: Senate Environment hearing on superfund cleanups @ 2:30 pm
Tuesday: CSIS talk on lifting the ban on crude oil exports @ 3 pm
Wednesday: America's Wetland Foundation briefing on Mississippi River sustainability @ 8:30 am
Wednesday: House Transportation hearing on Clean Water Act jurisdiction @ 10 am
Wednesday: CSIS talk on energy policy @ 10 am
Wednesday: House Foreign Affairs hearing on energy priorities in Middle East/North Africa @ 10 am
Wednesday: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation talk on energy evolution at Newseum @ 3 pm
Thursday: House Natural Resources hearing on American energy jobs @ 9:30 am
Thursday: Brookings Institution talk on Japanese energy future @ 10:30 am
Thursday: Sens. Heitkamp, Barrasso speak at Natural Gas Roundtable luncheon @ Noon
Thursday: U.S. Energy Association forum on efficiency at National Press Club @ 1 pm
Friday: U.S. Energy Association forum on efficiency at National Press Club @ 7:30 am
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
21: New York Times
22: Los Angeles Times
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
23: Government Accountability Office
1) Harry Reid Shapes Energy Regulator With an Eye to Nevada Industry
from Wall Street Journal by Amy Harder
The nation's top energy regulator may soon get two new leaders who share at least one thing in common: the unrelenting attention of Sen. Harry Reid. As majority leader of the Senate, the Nevada Democrat is one of the most powerful people in Washington. Over the past year, he has on two occasions scotched the White House's pick of leader for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a low-profile agency that oversees the nation's electric grid, and he has successfully pushed for other preferred candidates. His efforts will be tested as soon as this week when the Senate's energy committee votes on whether to confirm Norman Bay as FERC chairman and Cheryl LaFleur as a commissioner.
2) Planned Coal-Power Closings Won't Cut CO2 Much
from USA Today by Wendy Koch and John Kelly
The electric power industry's plan to retire more than 10% of its coal-fired generators within a decade will do almost nothing to reduce the nation's emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
The 140 slated retirements — mostly small, old generating units in the Midwest and South — account for only 4% of all CO2 emitted last year by U.S. power plants. In fact, not one ranks among the top 100 units for carbon emissions and only 12 are among the 475 units that comprise the top 10% of emitters, according to a review of 2013 federal data.
3) Report: Government Violated Laws to Prop Up Struggling U.S. Uranium Enrichment Firm USEC
from Washington Post by Steven Mufson
The Energy Department, in an effort to prop up a troubled uranium enrichment company, arranged for uranium transfers that failed to comply with laws about fair pricing, national security determinations and limits to prevent the department from flooding the domestic uranium market, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released to the public Monday.
4) IEA Cuts Gas Use Growth Forecast as Coal, Renewables Gain
5) EPA Extension of RFS Deadline 'a Gift Package' for Braley in Iowa?
from E&E by Amanda Peterka
The Obama administration on Friday may have handed Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) a needed leg up in the race for a key Senate seat in the heart of ethanol country. On Friday, U.S. EPA extended by three months the June 30 deadline for refiners to meet 2013 renewable fuel blending requirements. The action essentially ensures that the agency will not release a controversial final rule setting the 2014 requirements until late summer, industry watchers say -- right when Braley is in the thick of campaigning for the seat of retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
6) Some States Push Back Against Proposed EPA Carbon Rule
from E&E by Nathanael Massey
Legal challenges to U.S. EPA's proposed rule on power plant carbon won't be possible until a final version is released next year, but that hasn't stopped a number of states from laying foundations for resistance. Nineteen states -- nearly all of which either produce or consumer significant quantities of coal -- have introduced resolutions targeting the proposed rule. Eleven states have introduced legislation related to the rule with six bills enacted so far.
7) Democrats See Winning Issue in Carbon Plan
from New York Times by Carl Hulse and Michael D. Shear
He is a Democrat in a marquee Senate race, pressed by a strong Republican in a state with a challenging political environment. So when a new proposal to limit power plant emissions was seen as posing a threat to allies of the Obama administration, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado acted quickly: He embraced the plan...The E.P.A. proposal to reduce carbon pollution from power plants was deemed a political gift from the Obama administration to Republicans running for Senate seats in the coal-producing states of Kentucky and West Virginia, and an anchor around the necks of their Democratic opponents. Elsewhere, the threat of higher electricity bills and Republican attacks about another federal power grab were supposed to send Democrats scurrying for cover and distance from the White House. But Mr. Udall’s example shows that not all Democrats look at it that way.
8) Battle Over Fracking Poses Threat to Colorado Democrats
from New York Times by Jack Healy
An impassioned national debate over the oil-production technique known as fracking is edging toward the ballot box in Colorado, opening an election-year rift between moderate, energy-friendly Democrats and environmentalists who want to rein in drilling or give local communities the power to outlaw it altogether. If they make the ballot in November, an array of proposals will be among the first in the nation to ask a state’s voters to sharply limit energy development...The ballot measures reflect the anxieties that have accompanied a drilling boom across the West.
9) How Mary Landrieu's Escaping Her Democratic Shadow
from National Journal by Jason Plautz
Mary Landrieu isn't shy about flexing her political muscle, and she loves to do it on behalf of her home state's oil industry. That muscle was on full display here last month as the senator showed off the hub of her home state's Gulf of Mexico drilling activity to no less than Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz...But Landrieu's ties to the industry go way past victory laps and photo ops. She has had the industry's back at every congressional turn, even when that meant bucking her party—or ripping President Obama. And now, years of defending the oil lobby as well as a powerful perch atop the Senate's Energy panel appear to be paying dividends in the Democrat's hour of need.
10) Tom Steyer’s Slow, and Ongoing, Conversion from Fossil-Fuels Investor to Climate Activist
from Washington Post by
At the base of the mountain, Tom Steyer was a billionaire hedge-fund manager with oil and gas investments and a seemingly conflicted conscience. But by the time he and environmentalist Bill McKibben finished a hike up two tall Adirondacks peaks on that summer day in 2012, Steyer had revealed that he was ready to change his life — he would unload his investments in fossil fuels and become an activist in the fight against global warming. Just two years later, Steyer, 56, has become the environmental hero he set out to be, giving the left its own billionaire donor to counter the powerful Koch brothers on the right.
11) Inside a Green Billionaire’s Brain Trust
from National Journal by Clare Foran and Ben Geman
Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer wants to put climate change front and center in American politics and he has assembled an all-star team of Democratic operatives in his bid to do it. The list of players working with Steyer's NextGen Climate group is full of high-powered veterans who've held important positions in some of the Left's biggest victories of the past two decades—including operatives in President Obama's 2008 election win and advisers in the Obama and Clinton administration.
12) White House Goes All-Hands-On-Deck for Power Plant Rules
from Washington Examiner by Zack Colman
The White House is throwing its weight behind new power plant regulations. Using a carefully executed, months-long strategy, the Obama administration is sending a strong signal that it believes Democrats have the upper hand on public opinion concerning emissions limits on power plants...Once the rule is finalized in June 2015, the White House is expecting Republicans to try to force a Senate vote on the regulation through the Congressional Review Act, a maneuver used to let Congress have a say on regulations that have a significant economic impact. Industry groups and Republicans will take continued whacks at the proposal as well. But the White House has said, in both words and action, bring it on.
13) Chinese Official Plays Down Emission Cut Expectations
from Reuters by David Stanway
Any near-term regulation of China's greenhouse gas emissions would likely allow for future emissions growth, a senior government official said on Monday, discounting any suggestion of imminent carbon cuts by the biggest-emitting nation.
14) Moody’s: Oil and Gas Sector to Grow Through 2015
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
The independent exploration and production sector’s growth will continue into 2015 and only crude prices falling to $80 per barrel would slow it down, according to a new report from credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service. With Brent and West Texas Intermediate oil prices well above $100 per barrel and unlikely to drop to $80, E&P companies’ investments should remain strong through mid- to late-2015, the report projected.
15) U.S. Stock-Index Futures Drop After Equities Set Records
16) BP Rejected by Supreme Court on Gulf Payments Reprieve
BP must pay potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in claims after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt disputed payments stemming from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In a one-sentence order issued today, the justices said they wouldn’t put a hold on lower court rulings that require the oil company to begin making the payments, part of a $9.2 billion accord. BP says some of the money would go to businesses whose losses were unrelated to the spill, including lawyers who lost their licenses and warehouses that burned down before the incident. The company says the process violates the Constitution and the federal rules that govern class action litigation.
17) Lawmakers Aim to Limit Emergency Oil Sales
from Houston Chronicle by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
The Obama administration could be facing new obstacles in its plan to establish a 1-million-barrel stockpile of gasoline in the Northeast. A draft spending bill set to be considered by a House panel Tuesday would bar the government from using any of the money it collected in a recent sale of oil from the United States’ emergency stash of crude to buy up gasoline for the Northeast stockpile. It also would place new restrictions on the government’s sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It was not immediately clear Monday who authored the provision, embedded in a broader $34 billion measure doling out funding to the Department of Energy and related agencies.
18) For Western Oil Companies, Expanding in Russia Is a Dance Around Sanctions
from New York Times by Andrew E. Kramer and Stanley Reed
...Despite the push by Western governments to isolate Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine, energy giants are deepening their relationships with companies here by striking deals and plowing more money into the country. Along with Exxon, BP of Britain and Total of France also signed contracts at the business forum in St. Petersburg to explore for shale oil in Russia.
19) China’s Clean-Fuel Focus Tests U.S. Coal-Export Lifeline
from Bloomberg by David J. Lynch
The mud-colored air that blankets Chinese cities these days is bad for the people who live there. It may prove unhealthy for U.S. coal producers, too. Intense opposition on the U.S. West Coast, over climate change, rail congestion and damage to Native American fisheries, already is blocking new export terminals designed to ship coal across the Pacific Ocean. Now,China -- which consumes almost as much coal as the rest of the world combined -- is accelerating a planned switch to cleaner fuels, including a possible cap on carbon emissions and limits on new coal-fired plants.
20) NC, Va. Sign Deal With Duke for Dan River Cleanup
from ABC News by Michael Biesecker (AP)
Environmental and wildlife officials in North Carolina and Virginia signed an agreement with Duke Energy Monday for the cleanup of toxic coal ash from the Dan River, which flows through the two states. The agreement requires Duke to pay any "reasonable" cost associated with the Feb. 2 spill at its power plant near Eden, which coated 70 miles of the river in gray sludge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also a party to the deal. Duke signed a similar agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month.
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
21) Interests, Ideology And Climate
from New York Times by Paul Krugman
There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult. But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?
I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests...What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism.
22) Obama and the EPA: It's About Rewarding Friends and Punishing Enemies
from Los Angeles Times
The Environmental Protection Agency published its Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule last week. By how much would the rule reduce future temperatures? If we apply the climate model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research — used by both the United Nations and the EPA —the new rule, even if implemented immediately, would reduce global temperatures in 2050 by less than a hundredth of a degree, and less than two-hundredths of a degree by 2100. Those trivial temperature effects are much smaller than the annual variability (11-hundredths of a degree) of the surface temperature record. They could not be measured reliably.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
23) Enhanced Transparency Could Clarify Costs, Market Impact, Risk, and Legal Authority to Conduct Future Uranium Transactions
from Government Accountability Office
GAO identified legal concerns with all four of DOE's uranium transactions. For the largest transaction—DOE's transfer of tails to a third party for re-enrichment—GAO believes that DOE likely did not have authority to transfer tails under restrictions imposed by the USEC Privatization Act. DOE disagreed, citing its authority to conduct this transaction under the Atomic Energy Act. Even if DOE had such authority, GAO found that it did not meet the Act's requirement to charge a price for the tails because it transferred them without charging any price at all.
Washington Post covers the report here.