By Emily Holden (@emilyhholden)
Today’s Washington Brief:
- The EPA is racing against the clock to churn out new regulations before the end of President Obama's term, The Hill's Ben Goad and Timothy Cama report. The agency also missed an already-postponed May 16 deadline to publish its final cooling water intake rule for power plants, SNL's Eric Wolff reports.
- The New York Times digs into the "quixotic" 1980 campaign that launched the conservative Koch brothers' powerful political network.
- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley vetoed a bill that would have delayed a proposed wind farm, counter to the wishes of U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and Southern Maryland lawmakers, Washington Post reports.
Today’s Business Brief:
Today's Chart Review:
Energy Lobbying in 9 Charts
from Morning Consult by Emily Holden
Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern):
Monday: Interstate Gas Association of America Foundation briefing on LNG exports @ Noon
Monday: American Public Power Association releases paper on EPA's greenhouse gas rules @ 12:30 pm
Monday: National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid @ 12:30 pm
Monday: Google+ Hangout with Grist.org, Moniz, McCarthy, White House on climate change @ 1 pm
Tuesday: Distributed Solar Forum @ 8 am
Tuesday: Energy Efficiency Global Forum with Moniz @ 8 am
Tuesday: National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid @ 8:30 am
Tuesday: Platts 3rd Annual North American Refined Products conference in Houston @ 9:45 am
Tuesday: House Natural Resources hearing on manufacturing jobs @ 10 am
Tuesday: Senate Energy hearing on FERC nominees LaFleur and Bay @ 10:15 am
Tuesday: Environmental Law Institute and National Invasive Species Council webinar @ Noon
Tuesday: Environmental Law Institute webinar on methane leackage from fracking @ Noon
Tuesday: House Natural Resources hearing on oil and gas activities in wildlife refuges @ 2 pm
Tuesday: House Transportation hearing on pipeline safety @ 2 pm
Tuesday: House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on energy jobs for veterans @ 2 pm
Tuesday: Energy Efficiency Global Forum with Moniz @ 8:30 am
Wednesday: Distributed Solar Forum @ 8:30 am
Wednesday: National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid @ 8:30 am
Wednesday: Platts 3rd Annual North American Refined Products conference in Houston @ 10 am
Wednesday: House Homeland Security hearing on cyber threats @ 10 am
Thursday: Distributed Solar Forum @ 8:30 am
Thursday: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions conversation on carbon pricing @ 9:30 am
15: Utilities and Infrastructure
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
22-23: New York Times
24: Houston Chronicle
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
27: Electric Reliability Council of Texas
28: Energy Information Administration
1) Obama’s Big Carbon Crackdown Readies for Launch
from Politico Pro by Erica Martinson
The EPA will launch the most dramatic anti-pollution regulation in a generation early next month, a sweeping crackdown on carbon that offers President Barack Obama his last real shot at a legacy on climate change — while causing significant political peril for red-state Democrats. The move could produce a dramatic makeover of the power industry, shifting it away from coal-burning plants toward natural gas, solar and wind. While this is the big move environmentalists have been yearning for, it also has major political implications in November for a president already under fire for what the GOP is branding a job-killing “War on Coal,” and promises to be an election issue in energy-producing states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana. The EPA’s proposed rule is aimed at scaling back carbon emissions from existing power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gases. It’s scheduled for a public rollout June 2...
2) EPA Races to Finish Obama Rules
from The Hill by Ben Goad and Timothy Cama
Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are racing to churn out new regulations before the clock runs out on President Obama’s term. White House records show there have been a flurry of meetings in recent weeks between administration officials and outside groups trying to influence the final language of EPA rules under construction. The activity is evidence that Obama’s push to combat global warming with regulation has entered a critical phase, with officials hammering out the details of rules that carry major implications for the environment and the economy.
3) EPA Misses Deadline, Delays Cooling Water Intake Rule Until May 19
from SNL by Eric Wolff
The U.S. EPA missed a May 16 deadline to publish its final cooling water intake rule, saying it needed until Monday, May 19, to complete work on the rule, a spokeswoman said. As part of a settlement with the environmental nonprofit group Riverkeeper and its co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit, the EPA was supposed to publish a rule regulating cooling water intake structures under Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act by April 17, but on April 16 a Department of Justice attorney representing the EPA told the court it would need another month. The agency promised it would have the rule ready by May 16. But it was not to be.
4) Energy Rigs in U.S. Climb to Tie Highest Count Since 2012
from Houston Chronicle (Bloomberg)
Rigs targeting oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased this week, tying a 20-month high, as energy producers used a record number of horizontally drilling ones to reach deposits in shale formations in the middle of the country. The oil and gas rig counts grew by three each, bringing the total to 1,861 and matching the high set on April 25, data posted on Baker Hughes’ website show. Rigs drilling horizontally to bore across formations gained five to reach a record 1,248, the Houston-based field services company said. Energy producers are using more efficient drilling techniques to draw record volumes of oil and gas from U.S. shale formations, boosting domestic crude output to the highest level in a quarter-century and bringing the nation closer to energy independence than it has been in 28 years.
5) Super PACs Digging for Dirt Bombard Agencies with Records Requests
from E&E by Kevin Bogardus
Groups skilled in opposition research and separate from the traditional political parties have bombarded U.S. EPA and other federal agencies with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC, as well as America Rising LLC, a private company that's affiliated with a conservative super PAC of the same name, have together sent dozens of requests since last year to several agencies, including EPA, the Department of Commerce, the Federal Labor Relations Authority and the National Archives. According to a review of government records by Greenwire, many of the requests ask for documents on lawmakers running for re-election. Unlike other outside spending groups that concentrate on radio and television ads, American Bridge, created in 2010, and America Rising, founded just last year, have sought to dig up dirt on their opponents in order to embarrass them on the campaign trail.
6) Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network
from New York Times by Nicholas Confessore
He backed the full legalization of abortion and the repeal of laws that criminalized drug use, prostitution and homosexuality. He attacked campaign donation limits and assailed the Republican star Ronald Reagan as a hypocrite who represented “no change whatsoever from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats.” It was 1980, and the candidate was David H. Koch, a 40-year-old bachelor living in a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City. Mr. Koch, the vice-presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and his older brother Charles, one of the party’s leading funders, were mounting a long-shot assault on the fracturing American political establishment...It was the first and only bid for high office by a Koch family member. But much of what occurred in that quixotic campaign shaped what the Kochs have become today — a formidable political and ideological force determined to remake American politics, driven by opposition to government power and hostility to restrictions on money in campaigns.
7) Energy Companies Try New Methods to Address Fracking Complaints
from Wall Street Journal by Alison Sider
Frackers are trying to clean up their act. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing—a technology that uses water, chemicals and sand to unlock oil and gas trapped in dense underground rocks—communities from Pennsylvania to North Dakota are experiencing a boom in energy production. But the industry is facing more intense pressure from communities and environmentalists over its role in increased air and water pollution.
In response, energy companies are pioneering new technologies to curb some of fracking's worst offenses.
8) California’s Thirst Shapes Debate Over Fracking
from New York Times by Norimitsu Onishi
Enemies of fracking have a new argument: drought. Fracking a single oil well in California last year took 87 percent of the water consumed in a year by a family of four, according to the Western States Petroleum Association, an industry lobbying group. That amount — a modest one by national standards, the oil industry argues — has become an increasingly delicate topic since a drought was officially declared early this year in the state. The drought, combined with a recent set of powerful earthquakes, has provided the momentum for about a dozen local governments across California, the third-largest oil producing state, to vote to restrict or prohibit fracking in their jurisdictions, as concerns over environmental effects and water usage have grown.
9) In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves
from New York Times by William J. Broad
When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.
Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.
10) U.S. Stock-Index Futures Fall
U.S. stock-index futures fell, following the first back-to-back weekly losses since January for the Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) Index, as investors weighed the prospects for economic growth to support equity gains...Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 expiring next month fell 0.4 percent to 1,867.4 at 10:27 a.m. in London. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts declined 66 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,399.
11) Oil Nations Put Out Welcome Mat for Western Companies
from Wall Street Journal from Benoit Faucon
Some of the biggest oil producers in the world are about to make it a lot easier for Western oil companies to do business with them. For years, Mexico, Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Libya—most of them among the top 10 producers world-wide—were fiercely nationalistic when it came to oil. They either offered Western companies punitive terms to develop their reserves or didn't do business with them at all, controlling their supplies tightly with state-owned companies. Now, facing a range of problems, these nations are looking to tap more of their reserves—and they're offering Western companies generous deals to win their help.
12) Exxon Unit in Canada Seeks Deep Arctic Well
from Wall Street Journal by Chester Dawson
Exxon Mobil Corp.'s Canadian subsidiary is considering plans for what would be the deepest offshore well ever drilled in the Arctic, increasing some environmentalists' concerns about how the company would respond to a blowout. Imperial Oil Ltd. submitted a project description last September to Canadian regulators for a proposed exploratory well so deep that it would likely take two to four years to complete. The well could extend about 6 miles beneath the floor of the Beaufort Sea, according to a study commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts, an environmental watchdog.
13) U.S. Gasoline Prices Fell 3.5 Cents in Past 2 Weeks -Lundberg
from Reuters by Ashley Lau
The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States fell for the first time in three months, dropping about 3.5 cents over the past two weeks, according to the Lundberg survey released on Sunday.
Gasoline prices, which had steadily increased since Feb. 7, eased to $3.6876 per gallon of regular grade gasoline, according to the most recent survey, which was conducted on May 16.
14) Chesapeake Sees $4 billion in Asset Sales, Oilfield Spinoff
from Reuters by Anna Driver
Chesapeake Energy Corp said it expects to sell more than $4 billion in assets this year and will spin off its oilfield services division as the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer focuses on drilling more profitable wells and improving returns. Doug Lawler has been chief executive officer of Chesapeake for nearly a year. Under Lawler, the Oklahoma City company has worked to drastically cut costs and debt and increase output of higher-margin crude oil and natural gas liquids. The strategy marks a dramatic shift from Chesapeake under former CEO Aubrey McClendon, who spent heavily to acquire millions of acreage in shale formations across North America.
Utilities and Infrastructure
15) U.S. Industry Too Complacent About Cyber Risks, Say Experts
from Reuters by Jim Finkle and Alina Selyukh
After warning for years that the U.S. electric grid and other critical infrastructure are dangerously vulnerable to hacking, security experts fear it may take a major destructive attack to jolt CEOs out of their complacency. While awareness about cybersecurity has increased in recent years, infrastructure consultants say the industry remains reluctant to spend the money needed to upgrade their aging equipment - especially in the absence of much pressure from the U.S. government, regulators or shareholders.
16) The Coal Plant to End All Coal Plants
from Washington Post by Steven Mufson
Last November, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz rode an elevator to the top of the 11-story scaffolding surrounding Southern Co.’s new coal-fired power plant here and gazed out over the Mississippi flatlands. Below him lay a new lignite coal mine, new storage facilities and a glimmering maze of steel.
The beauty of it all was this: Sixty-five percent of the plant’s carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas released by all coal-fired power plants, would be captured, carried through a 62-mile-long pipeline and injected into old oil reservoirs to boost output of precious crude. The carbon dioxide would remain buried in the ground, where it would not contribute to climate change. That would make this the first U.S. power plant designed to include commercial carbon-capture technology...Six months later, the future has been postponed. Southern’s advanced coal plant, already running over budget and behind schedule when Moniz visited, has suffered new setbacks.
17) Russia's Mechel Says Further Sanctions Could Hit its U.S. Coal Business
from Reuters by Polina Devitt and Svetlana Burmistrova
Further sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis could affect indebted Russian miner Mechel's U.S. coal business Bluestone, Mechel said in its annual report on Friday. The situation in Ukraine since Russia' annexation of Crimea has developed into the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War, prompting Washington and Brussels to impose sanctions on some Russian individuals and companies. Western governments have so far refrained from imposing sanctions on leading companies, but they have threatened further measures that could target key sectors such as energy and banking if the crisis escalates.
18) Texas Renewable Energy Production Up 12 Percent
from Houston Chronicle by Ryan Holeywell
Renewable energy production in Texas rose 12 percent last year, according to the state’s grid operator.
The report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas found that power generators participating in the state’s renewable energy credit trading program produced 38.1 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy last year. That’s up from 33.9 million in 2012. One megawatt hour represents, roughly, the amount of power used in a house in a typical month. Almost all of that production — 97 percent — came from wind power.
19) Why Is Texas Terrible at Producing Solar Power?
from National Journal by Clare Foran, Jason Plautz and Patrick Reis
Texas is an energy superpower, and not just for fossil fuels. The Lone Star State produces more natural gas than any other state, but it also leads the nation in wind energy. It's also a massive, Southern, sun-baked state that is so full of the wide-open spaces needed for solar panels that it rivals California for the nation's largest solar-energy potential, according to an Energy Department report. Texas, the report says, is home to a full 20 percent of total U.S. potential for concentrated solar power. Only a tiny percentage of that potential, however, has been exploited. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Texas has only about 200 megawatts worth of solar-power panels installed. That's less than is currently firing in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York. So why is Texas's solar sector floundering when other energy sources, even other fledgling renewable-energy sources, are surging? In short, because a confluence of policy choices and economic forces have stunted the state's solar growth—and few solar advocates see hope that the state landscape will change anytime soon.
20) Georgia Power Plan Would Install Solar Arrays on 3 Army Bases
from E&E by Kristi E. Swartz
Georgia Power and the Army jointly released plans to install large solar arrays at three military bases yesterday in what officials say could be a model for other states. The three solar arrays are scheduled to start producing power in 2015 and will lead to the Army getting 18 percent of its electricity in Georgia from renewable fuels that are on-site. The 90 total megawatts of solar electricity also will move the Army 9 percent closer to meeting federal goals for renewable energy. Adding three 30 MW arrays would continue to boost Georgia's rapidly growing solar output and would help the military meet its renewable energy goals to become sustainable and more secure.
21) Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley Vetoes Bill Delaying Wind Farm Projects
from Washington Post by
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Friday vetoed a bill that would have delayed — and likely derailed — a proposed wind farm in Somerset County, saying the legislation would send “a chilling message” to the clean-energy industry if it became law. The governor’s decision was praised by environmentalists and some officials on the Eastern Shore as a way to bring much-needed jobs and green energy to a part of the state that is struggling economically. But it ran counter to the wishes of U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Southern Maryland lawmakers, who argue that a wind farm would compromise radar that tests the stealth capabilities of fighter jets at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, just across the Chesapeake Bay.
OPINIONS, EDITORIALS, PERSPECTIVES
22) Electric Prosecutor Acid Test
from New York Times
Should companies be punished ex post facto for conduct that was perfectly legal when their putative fraud occurred? One of President Obama's regulators thinks so, and now the White House thinks he deserves a promotion. The Senators who scrutinize the nomination on Tuesday may not feel the same. In February Norman Bay became the nominee to run the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, after energy-state Democrats defeated the anti-fossil fuels Ron Binz last year. FERC used to be independent and noncontroversial until Obama-appointed Chairman Jon Wellinghoff spent five years converting the commission into a regulatory truncheon. A key figure in this transformation has been Mr. Bay, a former U.S. attorney for New Mexico with no energy expertise until Mr. Wellinghoff appointed him to lead FERC's enforcement arm in 2009. The left has cheered as Mr. Bay has stretched the law to punish what he claims is Wall Street manipulation of electricity markets. His team has levied $1.23 billion in penalties and disgorged profits from actors ranging from J.P. Morgan to Maine paper mills. The problem is that Mr. Bay has declined to share his definition of market manipulation.
23) America's New Energy Prosecutors
from New York Times by William S. Scherman
The subjects of investigations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, are rarely willing to speak out publicly. Some stay silent, wrongly believing that by cooperating they might convince regulators to leave them alone. Others stay silent because they know they will have to continue to deal with their regulators after the investigation. But Kevin and Richard Gates recently spoke out publicly against FERC, detailing their tribulations during a three-year probe. Having represented dozens of clients under investigation by FERC, we know the Gateses' experience is the tip of the iceberg. In the Energy Law Journal, we recently revealed numerous due process and substantive infirmities in FERC enforcement, some for the first time publicly. Unless these institutional and systemic defects are cured by FERC or the courts, the energy markets that FERC has long sought to promote and foster may be irreparably harmed.
24) GOP Has Reached Point of No Return on Climate
from Houston Chronicle by Paul Krugman
Recently two research teams, working independently and using different methods, reached an alarming conclusion: The West Antarctic ice sheet is doomed. The sheet's slide into the ocean, and the resulting sharp rise in sea levels, will probably happen slowly. But it's irreversible. Even if we took drastic action to limit global warming right now, this particular process of environmental change has reached a point of no return. Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida - much of whose state is now fated to sink beneath the waves - weighed in on climate change. Some readers may recall that in 2012, Rubio, asked how old he believed the Earth to be, replied, "I'm not a scientist, man." This time, however, he confidently declared the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change false, although he later was unable to cite any sources for his skepticism. So why would the senator make such a statement? The answer is that like that ice sheet, his party's intellectual evolution (or maybe more accurately, its devolution) has reached a point of no return, in which allegiance to false doctrines has become a crucial badge of identity.
25) Money to Burn: OPEC's Wasteful Energy Subsidies
from Reuters by John Kemp
Fossil fuel subsidies cost governments in emerging markets more than $500 billion every year and are a major contributor to climate change, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The biggest subsidies are concentrated in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America, according to the IEA's Fossil Fuel Subsidy Database (www.iea.org/subsidy/index.html). Moreover energy-exporting countries accounted for three quarters of all consumption subsidies in 2012, according to the IEA and OPEC members account for more than half the world's subsidies...According to the IEA, phasing out subsidies for oil, gas and electricity and aligning prices with international benchmarks would cut growth in energy demand by 5 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 2 billion tonnes a year by 2020 - equivalent to the current combined emissions of Germany, France and the UK.
26) Waiting On A (Crude) Train: The Cost Of Exports?
from Forbes by Loren Steffy
Don’t trade food for fuel. That’s often been the rallying cry of those opposed to ethanol mandates and subsidies for the development of biofuels. Now, though, the same food-versus-fuel tradeoff is playing out on the nation’s rail lines. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that railroad logjams are delaying the shipments of fertilizer, which could keep farmers in the upper Midwest from planting crops on time. Farmers also had trouble shipping their harvests to processing plants last year because of a lack of rail cars. One of the reasons for the logjams are the rise in shipments of crude oil by rail from places such as North Dakota.
RESEARCH REPORTS, ISSUE BRIEFS, CASE STUDIES
27) Annual Report on the Texas Renewable Energy Credit Trading Program
from Electric Reliability Council of Texas
Generators participating in the state’s renewable energy credit trading program reported producing 38.1 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable generation in 2013, compared to 33.9 million in 2012 — a 12 percent overall increase. At more than 36.9 million MWh in total generation, wind power represented nearly 97 percent of the total. Energy produced from wind generation was up by 13 percent compared to 2012. Solar energy production was up by about a third from last year, based on information from commercial solar resources and aggregators that participate in the program.
28) Industrial Facilities Get Most of Their Electricity from the Grid
from Energy Information Administration