Energy News for February 24, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 24, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 2/24/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén, Elana Schor, Erica Martinson, Andrew Restuccia and Bob King

FERC WALKS TIGHTROPE AS CARBON PLAN REFEREE: FERC’s five commissioners are trying to position themselves as impartial referees as they weigh in on EPA’s Clean Power Plan, but it may not be that simple, Alex Guillén reports. Utility industry officials, as well as congressional Republicans, hope to turn the independent commission into a battering ram against the administration’s sweeping climate rules that are set to be released this summer. FERC’s authority to help shape the EPA’s rules is limited, says former agency Chairman Jim Hoecker, and its influence will depend on whether it can persuade EPA to follow its recommendations or use its resources. “But FERC is an independent regulatory agency, not an arm of the administration, and it wades into this area with some apprehension,” Hoecker said. “I mean, it doesn’t want to participate to the point where it begins to appear to be executing administration policy. That’s not its role.” Alex has more:
HOW THE KEYSTONE SAGA ENDS — FIVE NOT-SO-EASY PIECES: President Barack Obama plans to veto Congress’ Keystone XL pipeline bill soon after he gets it Tuesday — yet that’s just the beginning of the unpredictable next phase in the project’s journey through the Washington wringer, Elana Schor reports. A veto could doom the congressional push for Keystone, since Republicans lack the votes for an override. But the White House and State Department still must decide the larger question of whether to allow construction of the $8 billion Canada-to-Texas heavy-oil pipeline, and that means — you guessed it — lots o’ cash. Supporters and opponents will be making a final push in a lobbying feud that has already devoured years and tens of millions of dollars. Elana, our Keystone Nostradamus, breaks it down with titles that sound like Secret Service nicknames — The Safe Bet, The Split Decision, Hillary’s Nightmare, The Curveball and The One-Two Punch:

JEWELL HEADED FOR AN ALASKAN BASHIN’: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell hasn’t testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in nearly two years and her visit today, as the spokesman for panel chairwoman Lisa Murkowski put it, “won’t be a warm welcome.” Between the agency’s rebuke on the Izembek Road for the community of King Cove to more recent Obama administration proposals aimed at protecting more than 12 million additional acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and draft Arctic offshore oil drilling rules announced last week, just to name a few, there’s plenty to talk about. “The list of issues that Chairman Murkowski alone may bring up could be its own special edition of Morning Energy,” Robert Dillon said. “The list goes on and on — and as a result, so might Jewell’s time with the committee.” The hearing starts at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 366. Maybe you should bring a snack.

HAPPY TUESDAY. I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and I’m still reveling in the fact that I can buy liquor off the Internet. Think about that for minute. I’m a scotch drinker but being able to purchase an Irish gin from a place in Hopkins, Minn., while standing in my kitchen is pretty amazing. Just be sure to check on how much your state lets you import each month. Send your energy commentary, news, scoops — scotch recommendations — and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

THE HOUSE COMES BACK TODAY: A series of votes are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight.

** A message from the National Biodiesel Board: America’s first commercially produced advanced biofuel, biodiesel, is here, now — growing and diversifying our transportation energy portfolio. In fact, biodiesel producers have delivered more than a billion gallons of advanced biofuel three years running. Learn more today at **

HEY, ME FIRST!—STEYER TEAM MEMO JABS KOCHS OVER KXL: NextGen Climate Research, an operation founded by billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, is circulating a memo today ribbing the conservative Koch brothers for taking sides in the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. “While it has been well documented that the Kochs lobby to protect millions in subsidies for the oil industry while claiming they do no such thing, a new lobbyist registration filing shows the Kochs’ are now doing the same on the Keystone XL pipeline,” the document states. “This memo details how the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity is now lobbying in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, after the Kochs said years ago that they had no position on Keystone.” The memo:

THE PATCHWORKS OF DISCLOSURE: While bigger publications have focused on the money climate science critic Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon received from fossil fuel companies, Science Insider did an interesting dive into the nature of disclosure requirements among peer-review journals. UCLA geophysicist Robert Strangeway has been Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar Terrestrial Physics since early 2012 and his journal published three articles co-authored by Soon, a scientist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in 2011 and 2012 that received funding from Southern Co.

But let’s be honest: “The journal, published by Elsevier, asks authors to fill out a conflict-of-interest disclosure. But Strangeway admits he’s never carefully examined one — and isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do if he sees a red flag. ‘My role is to vet the science,’ Strangeway says, noting that he and his two primary editors each handle more than 100 papers annually. ‘Generally, I don’t know any of [the authors] individually… and we assume that they have properly [disclosed]. I simply don’t have the resources to go back and check all of that.’” Science Insider:

THE MÖBIUS STRIP CLIMATE SCIENCE: Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, speaking at the Climate Leadership Conference in Arlington, Va., yesterday, relayed a recent conversation she had with a “very, very prominent” member of Congress — “I think you would call him a climate denier.” Browner said she ran into the member on a plane, “and he came up to me and said, ‘The only thing you and I disagree on is the science,’” in regards to climate change, Browner said. She asked him what there was to disagree about, and the lawmaker said, according to Browner, “No, there’s not enough science. And the reason I know there’s not enough science is that scientists are still studying the issue.” If policy was decided based on whether scientists were still studying the issue, “we never would have banned lead in gasoline,” Browner said. “We never would have banned smoking in restaurants,” she continued, arguing that active scientific research should not stand in the way of policymaking. Browner declined to name the lawmaker. (She’s no fun at all.)

CANADA TO GET INTO TRAIN GAME: With its own oil train derailment just two days before the accident in West Virginia, the Canadian Transportation Safety Board said the tank cars involved in the recent derailment in Ontario met upgraded standards that started to go into place last year, the Associate Press reports. Despite the new standards, the agency said “the Class 111, 1232 standard cars still ‘performed similarly’ to those involved in the derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that killed 47 people two years ago.” “This was supposed to be a better quality car. So far we haven’t seen that better performance,” said Rob Johnston, a senior Transportation Safety Board official. The AP:

FREE-MARKET GROUP SNIPES AT PANOPLY OF REGS: The Institute for Energy Research, a free-market-pushing nonprofit, is coming out with a new paper today arguing that a wide range of federal regulations — especially the EPA’s forthcoming climate rules — threaten some 130 gigawatts of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Sure, electromagnetic pulses, physical attacks and cyberthreats are scary and could cause damage to the grid, the paper says. But “[t]he single greatest emerging threat to reliable electricity in the U.S. does not come from natural disturbances or from human attacks. Rather, the host of bad policies now coming from the federal government — and, unfortunately, from many state governments — is creating far greater and more predictable problems with grid reliability.” EPA air rules, the wind production tax credit, NRC regulations are all on the IER hit-list:

ENVIROS, CELEBS, POLS MAKE NEW ANTI-KEYSTONE PUSH: In case the anti-Keystone XL pipeline crowd hasn’t made their position on the project clear enough, today they’re issuing a new “Unity Letter” urging the president to veto the legislation coming his way, and reject the pipeline permit as well. “Many of the choices that define a presidency come by accident or chance — some storm or crisis that demands a quick response,” the letter states. “But this one is firmly in your control. Climate change will be a defining issue of this century.” The new letter has been signed by more than 100 artists, elected officials (see: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Raúl Grijalva), labor unions, environmental groups, landowners and climate activists. The letter:


— No talks expected this week in refinery strike: sources. Reuters:

— E.P.A. Issues Stiffer Rules on Vehicle Fuel Ratings. The New York Times:

— Amendment to Va. solar energy bill aids Dominion. The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

— CMU Team Finds Exporting Natural Gas Will Not Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Carnegie Mellon:

— Oil falls 2 percent on glut worries; heating oil up on tight supply. Reuters:

— Crude Oil podcast. Platts:

— France Warns of Nuclear Industry Shake-Up After Areva Loss. The New York Times:

— Few refinery workers still remember 1980 strike. The Times-Picayune:

— Shell’s plan to increase oil trains in Anacortes hits snag. The Seattle Times:

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