- The Associated Press: Oil, gas industry continues campaign for crude exports despite price slump
- Oil & Gas Journal: Report: U.S. oil, gas M&A reaches 10-year high in 2014
By Alex Guillen
With help from Darren Goode
YUCCA IS SAFE, BUT NO APPROVAL RECOMMENDATION YET – NRC REPORT: The long-awaited Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety evaluation of Yucca Mountain said that the site would be safe as a nuclear waste repository, but it recommended against approving it – for now. The Nevada repository, meant to house the nation’s growing stockpiles of nuclear waste, has gotten a clean bill of health from the nuclear regulators, including NRC staff’s conclusion that it could safely hold waste for a million years. But the Energy Department, which is in charge of building the site, has not yet secured land and water rights for the surrounding areas, and the NRC staff say those issues must be cleared up before they can recommend approving the construction plan. Your morning host has more: http://politico.pro/1DlyvTv
SENATE CLEARS KEYSTONE, BUT VETO LOOMS: The Senate voted Thursday to approve the Keystone XL pipeline on a 62-36 vote, setting up a clash with President Barack Obama, who has vowed to kill the bill with just his third veto in six years. The Keystone bill’s three-week gallop included votes on more than 40 amendments, but the bill still lacks the support in both the Senate and the House to override a presidential veto. Elana Schor has more: http://politico.pro/1EsEZ6Y
Number of statements ME received on the vote: 63
HAPPY FRIDAY and welcome to Morning Energy, where we’re kind of concerned about this whole “scientists can unboil eggs” thing: http://goo.gl/zYYUYF. Send your energy news to firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow on Twitter the whole Pro Energy lineup: http://bit.ly/Qad8Rb
DOE IS FIRED UP ABOUT NEW CONSERVATION STANDARD: It’s cold outside, and DOE wants to make sure your fake fireplaces conserve more energy. DOE has posted online an advance copy of a proposed rule setting standards for “gas-fired hearth products,” like decorate fireplaces and stoves. The big change is an end to the continuously burning pilot lights used to keep such devices ready to go when not in use, switching instead to electric ignition systems. Turning off the pilot light will save around $165 over the life of the average gas hearth, with the extra costs being recouped in savings after about 3 years, according to DOE. And through 2030, the change would result in a net reduction of CO2 of around 11.1 million metric tons, the equivalent output of about 1.5 million homes, DOE says. DOE will take public comment for 60 days once the NOPR is published in the Federal Register. Pre-publication notice: http://1.usa.gov/1ESWEC0
Pros may recall this is DOE’s second stab at hearth-related conservation standards. The department had to go draw up a new game plan two years ago after a federal appeals court vacated a previous hearth rule because it was promulgated under the wrong section of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. Refresher: http://politico.pro/1KdQBt5
GREEN LAWSUIT TARGETS OIL TRAIN TERMINAL’S PERMITS: Several environmental groups and an organization called the Association of Irritated Residents have filed a lawsuit alleging a California air district and the operator of a crude oil transfer terminal avoided an environmental review via a ‘piecemeal’ permitting process. The suit, filed in California courts, challenges permits issued by the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District to the operator of the Bakersfield Crude Terminal, which can handle two hundred cars of crude oil per day. The green groups say communications between air district officials and the project manager amount to collusion to bypass a more public review process via ‘ministerial’ permits. “Ministerial permits are for minor home additions or wedding licenses, not massive crude oil projects,” said Elizabeth Forsyth of Earthjustice. The groups want to toss out the terminal’s permits and shut down the facility until an environmental review is completed. Complaint: http://bit.ly/1tAIYug
ALSO IN COURT NEWS – CONDUCTIVITY LAWSUIT CAN PROCEED: A federal judge ruled this week that parts of an environmentalist lawsuit that alleges the Interior Department’s issuance of permits for two coal mines violates the Endangered Species Act can move forward. Interior argued that the groups don’t have standing to bring the suit, which argues that Interior didn’t consider how wastewater discharges from the mines would impact two protected species of fish by affecting water conductivity. A federal judge this week dismissed half of the counts alleged in the complaint because the groups do not have a necessary ‘personal stake,’ but allowed the other half of the complaint to move forward. Opinion: http://politico.pro/1ybAuqf
** A message from the American Petroleum Institute: America is now the world’s #1 natural gas producer and will soon be #1 in oil. Now more than ever, abundant energy means abundant prosperity, opportunity and security for all Americans. Learn more at EnergyTomorrow.org. **
CONOCO TO SLOW INVESTMENT IN NPR-A PROJECT: ConocoPhillips is slowing its plan for a project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that the company and Alaska’s congressional delegation say has been a victim of slow federal permitting. ConocoPhillips Alaska President Trond-Erik Johansen said the company is “deferring the final investment decision” for Greater Mooses Tooth 1 project. “The project is challenged by permitting delays and requirements, as well as the current oil price environment,” Johansen said. The company this year will “continue to shoot seismic” over the area and advance the engineering for the project, which is located in the northeast corner of the NPR-A.
– ConocoPhillips is telling employees to expect layoffs, and is instituting a pay freeze. FuelFix: http://goo.gl/N7n9y4
FRIDAY READ: Michael Grunwald writes in POLITICO Magazine: “President Obama’s signature environmental initiative, his Clean Power Plan, is designed to fight climate change and crack down on America’s carbon-emitting power plants. But behind the scenes, a dispute is raging over obscure language that could promote the rapid destruction of America’s carbon-storing forests. This highly technical but consequential fight over the Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to ‘bioenergy’-energy derived from trees, crops, or other plants – has gotten lost in the larger hubbub… But while the overall plan was hailed by environmentalists and attacked by industry when it was unveiled in draft form last June, the EPA seems to be taking industry’s side on bioenergy.” http://politi.co/15YnsEu
RIGHT-LEANING ENERGY CAMPAIGN GROUP LINKED TO LIBERAL INTERESTS: The right-leaning Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, which last year supported lawmakers like Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham and Mike Simpson, has connections to liberal interests, writes the Huffington Post. “A Huffington Post examination of tax records, accessed on CitizenAudit.org, found that in its first year of operations, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions was funded with $1 million in seed money from two nonprofits often linked to liberal causes. From June 2012 through June 2013, the group received $500,000 each from the Advocacy Fund and the Trust for Energy Innovation. … James Dozier, president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, said in a statement to HuffPost that his group has received funding from 800 donors and backing from more than 5,000 ‘conservative activists.'” HuffPo: http://huff.to/15YtiFT
ACORE CHIEF RETIRES: Michael Brower has stepped down as president and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy. Brower started leading the organization in 2013 after Dennis McGinn became the Navy’s top energy official. As the group searches for a new leader, Dan Adler of the California Clean Energy Fund will serve as interim president, and Dan Reicher of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University will be acting CEO.
More movers, shakers: The American Petroleum Institute has hired Tracee Bentley, formerly legislative director and energy adviser to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, to open and lead an API office in the state. Bentley has also worked at the Colorado Energy Office and the Colorado Farms Bureau.
– The American Council for Capital Formation has picked up George ‘David’ Banks as its executive vice president. Banks was previously managing director of the free market strategy firm Battle Group, and was deputy director of the Center for Strategic & International Studies’s nuclear energy program. His resume also includes stints on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
OFFICER SEARCH FORM CALIFORNIA PUC CHIEF’S HOME: The Los Angeles Times writes: “State law enforcement officials stepped up their investigation of the Public Utilities Commission this week, searching the La Cañada Flintridge home of former President Michael Peevey and seizing computer equipment and smartphones. … The state conducted a related search at PUC headquarters in San Francisco in November as part of its investigation into allegedly improper communications Peevey and other PUC officials had with PG&E brass since 2009. Separately, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco has launched a similar investigation.” LAT: http://goo.gl/2WxfnH
IN TODAY’S FEDERAL REGISTER: DOE is extending the public comment period on a preliminary technical support document regarding energy conservation standards for general service lamps. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association asked that the deadline, formerly Feb. 9, be extended. Comments are now due by Feb. 23. FR: http://1.usa.gov/1yaLwvF
– New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn hits the brakes on the $2 billion SunZia transmission line. AP: http://goo.gl/SZhtdZ
– The builders of the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia say it will be delayed by 18 months at a cost as high as $720 million. AP: http://goo.gl/hN70wG
– Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz keeps his oil minister but orders a shuffle for most of the rest of his cabinet. Wall Street Journal: http://goo.gl/I7TblZ
– The Washington Post considers ‘why the smart meter revolution has, thus far, fallen short.’ http://wapo.st/1LowVG9
– The Department of Housing and Urban Development and California will expand financing for energy efficiency and solar at multifamily housing. San Jose Mercury News: http://bayareane.ws/1BBNb0Q
– Latin America’s solar market grew 370 percent in 2014. Greentech Media: http://bit.ly/1JQjD3pTags: energy, fuel, transportation