By Darius Dixon
With help from Alex Guillén and Elana Schor
BLAST ROCKS EXXON MOBIL REFINERY, INJURES FOUR: One fireball this week just wasn’t enough. An explosion and fire ripped through a gasoline processing unit at an Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, Calif., yesterday, Reuters reports. In a statement, Exxon Mobil said that all of its personnel at the site had been accounted for and that four contractors were sent to the hospital for minor injuries. Three of the injured contractors were released later the same day. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued a health advisory for some residents, like children and the elderly, if they see or smell smoke. A state workplace safety agency has opened an investigation into the cause of the blast and said the unit could be shut down for as long as six months. Torrance Fire Captain Steve Deuel said there was no evidence of foul play. Reuters: http://reut.rs/1Eq3w9x
Mind you: This is happening while Tesoro Corp.’s 166,000-barrel-per-day refinery sits idle in nearby Martinez while United Steelworkers union members continue a strike that started at the beginning of the month.
CSX: NO TRAIN CAR IN KANAWHA RIVER: While there are reports that at least one car from Monday’s oil train derailment in West Virginia ended up in a tributary to the Kanawha River, CSX says (http://bit.ly/1CJgEXg ) that “No rail cars entered the Kanawha River in this incident.” Still, as a precaution, drinking water intake pumps that serve the nearby community of Montgomery were temporarily closed out of concern that oil had contaminated the river, the Charleston Gazette reported. According to CSX, 25 tank cars of the company’s 109-unit train derailed and 20 cars were involved in the subsequent fires. The Coast Guard put the number of derailed tank cars at 27 while saying 19 were involved in fires. The Coast Guard: http://bit.ly/1AHJfi5.
YOUR OIL-TRAIN DERAILMENT MUST-READ: One house was destroyed by the trainwreck in W.Va., and it belong to this guy: “I’ve got a bad back and bad knees and, sometimes, I can’t even walk,” Morris Bounds said, “but the good Lord gave me strength.” Charleston Gazette: http://bit.ly/1G5dCO4.
ENERGY NERDS, REASSEMBLE! Just as energy groupies were starting to decompress from this week’s NARUC winter conference, we know that many of you are putting your game face back on today for FERC’s technical conference on EPA’s carbon rules. The conference is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Play nice.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE: FERC Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur offered some advice for those attending her agency’s technical conference on EPA’s Clean Power Plan today: “Get there early,” she told ME at yesterday’s NARUC conference. LaFleur said that more than 400 people signed up to attend the all-day conference, pressing a couple of overflow rooms into service. Today is the first of four conferences, and the other regionally-focused meetings will take place in Denver, D.C., and St. Louis. LaFleur told the regulators gathered at this week’s NARUC meeting that FERC is looking to replicate its successful work on helping to implement EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards after the four hearings. “We’re hoping that in these four days, with so many smart people signed up to speak to us, we can start making progress on that, see what might be real, to get past the rhetoric to what we’re really going to do here,” she said. Today’s hearing includes three panels covering electric reliability concerns, infrastructure needs and implications for FERC-jurisdictional markets. Full schedule: http://1.usa.gov/1AFMtmp
FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller-with the help of Photoshop – got creative yesterday in his hopes that EPA chief Gina McCarthy might swing by today’s conference, tweeting “@GinaEPA, you are welcome to make a guest appearance tomorrow at the Downton FERC!” http://bit.ly/17sLLvc
**Statoil is an international energy company with operations in more than 30 countries. The world needs energy, and our mission is to supply it in the most sustainable and responsible way. It’s not easy, but with the right people, passion and curiosity – it’s possible. Learn more about Statoil: http://powerofpossible.com **
COME FOR THE EPA REGS, STAY FOR THE CAMPAIGNS: With all the attention be put on EPA’s draft carbon rules this week, plenty of groups are hoping to make the most of it:
– Those who attended NARUC’s winter meeting earlier this week may have noticed the “mobile billboard” (http://bit.ly/19z8gjF) the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity rolled out Tuesday calling on attendees to reject the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations. Well, the group, which represents coal-fired utilities, plans to pull out in front of FERC today. They also plan to deploy street teams wearing sandwich board signs.
– The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is running a bit of Beltway-centric self-promotion targeting conference-goers. http://bit.ly/1LbQpuC
– And, of course, there are competing reports out defending and attacking the EPA rules. PRO: Analysis Group is out with a new report arguing that the draft regulations offer states a flexible compliance process and builds off of existing reliability practices. http://politico.pro/1LgpO1A CON: The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a group of power generators, is out with a report that establishes “a clear consensus” about the potentially adverse reliability impacts of the rules. http://bit.ly/1Dtct4M
BABY BREAK: This is what mini-ME thinks of all this FERC talk: http://politico.pro/1w04H0b
BUT LET’S NOT GET AHEAD OF OURSELVES: There is still a monthly FERC meeting today, which regulators have scheduled for immediately prior to the technical conference. The commissioners are set to consider a set of Order No. 1000 filings, including a joint operating agreement and separate interregional compliance filings filed in 2013 by the Southwest Power Pool and MISO, as well as open-access transmission tariff filings from Entergy and Cleco Power. Also on the agenda: A replacement standard from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. that would update standards for the collection of power demand and energy data used in reliability assessments. The meeting starts early this month, at 9 a.m., to accommodate the technical conference. FERC HQ, 888 First St. NE. Webcast: http://bit.ly/1vU2yyB
THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE: Expect the commissioners to have kind words for Jeff Wright, the director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, who will retire this month after more than 30 years at the agency.
DRAFT REPORT STUDIES DOE’S TRUST ISSUES WITH LABS: A congressionally established commission set to review the Energy Department’s national labs has released a draft of its 145-page interim report to Capitol Hill and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The interim report is part of the first “phase” of the commission’s work, which produced “preliminary observations and recommendations”-mainly documenting the longstanding trust issues the labs have with headquarters. The draft report praises a lot of the work Moniz has done to improve relations with the labs but “[s]till, there is a degree of micromanagement and transactional oversight that continues and is not appropriate for the relationship that should exist between DOE…and its laboratories.” The nine-member panel is taking written comments through tomorrow and in-person comments next week. The second phase of the commission is supposed “to identify additional areas in need of improvement, root causes of long-standing issues, and findings on which to base strong recommendations,” the report states. The draft interim report: http://1.usa.gov/1A7YBdJ
PJM CHIEF TO RETIRE: PJM Interconnection President and CEO Terry Boston will retire at the end of this year, the grid operator announced yesterday. Boston took the helm at PJM in 2008. “I intend to use my eighth and final year at PJM consolidating the improvements that we have accomplished, serving as Chairman of the ISO/RTO Council and helping my successor assume the duties of CEO,” Boston wrote in a letter to PJM’s board: http://bit.ly/1Lc5tZh
UTILITIES WIN FIRST BATTLE IN HOOSIER STATE SOLAR WAR: Indiana’s electric companies won the first round in a contentious fight over a bill that would reduce the amount of money utilities have to pay solar-powered homeowners for their excess power, the Indianapolis Star reports. So-called net metering policies are being reworked in nearly two dozen states and the bill migrating through the Indiana legislature would also allow utilities to tack on “user fees” to those homeowners. Approved by the state House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee, the bill now moves to the full Indiana House. Indianapolis Star: http://indy.st/1MyYjBV. The Sierra Club denounced the decision as a restriction on “energy freedom.” http://bit.ly/1vjlpqF
SMART GRID MEETING SURGES ON: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is holding the second official day of its smart grid conference, which ends tomorrow afternoon. Pat Hoffman, the Energy Department assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, gives today’s keynote and Joseph Paladino, a senior advisor on smart grid projects at DOE, will moderate a panel. Washington Grand Hyatt. Details: http://bit.ly/1Jo32at
– Virginia House, Senate preserve coal tax credit for utilities. Richmond Times-Dispatch: http://bit.ly/1FwiGhe
– BP to stop sending petcoke to Chicago. Chicago Tribune: http://trib.in/1An57vV
– Oil falls sharply as U.S. crude inventories expected to hit record. Reuters http://reut.rs/1Bopv2K
– Utility regulation bill gains senators’ support. The Florida News-Press: http://newspr.es/17tiCjf
– Criminal charges in spills to cost Duke Energy $100 million. The South Carolina State: http://bit.ly/1DDP8vI
– National Grid joins Access Northeast natural gas pipeline expansion plan. The Middletown Press: http://bit.ly/1JqI6j2
– Japan trade deficit sinks 58 percent in January on lower oil prices. The Associated Press: http://apne.ws/1FwkUwT
- Bloomberg: Oil companies cash in on offshore drilling amid price decline, observers say
- Energy Voice: Current oil bust drives energy diversification
- The Wall Street Journal: Funding for gas export terminals dwindles, experts say
- Oil & Gas Journal: Senators urge Obama administration to allow crude oil swaps with Mexico
- The Hill: Lawmakers should repeal Jones Act
- Industry Week: U.S. shale boom to continue over next 20 years, BP says
- The Bakken Magazine: Oil, gas companies improve operations amid price slump, execs say