Energy News for February 26, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 26, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 2/26/2015


KEYSTONE’S NAFTA REVENGE? President Barack Obama may decide to kill Keystone XL for good, but that could be no easy task — thanks in part to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The 21-year-old free-trade pact allows foreign companies or governments to haul the U.S. in front of an international tribunal to face accusations of putting their investments at risk through regulations or other limits. The CEO of Keystone developer TransCanada has raised the prospect as a potential last resort if Obama rejects the $8 billion project, although for now the company is focused on getting him to say yes.

Administration officials involved in reviewing the proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline are aware of the potential for a NAFTA challenge and the importance of minimizing that risk in the event the president rejects Keystone. Such a challenge would go before a tribunal of privately chosen arbiters who could award TransCanada damages paid by U.S. taxpayers, but it would not have the power to approve Keystone. Elana Schor has more on this wrinkle in the Keystone debate:
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST — LEGAL MOVE TO HALT CALIF. FRACKING: Californians Against Fracking, a collection of more than 100 organizations, is moving on an emergency petition this morning calling on California Gov. Jerry Brown to establish a statewide moratorium on fracking. “[S]hockingly, Governor Brown has permitted fracking and other dangerous activities in California to continue unchecked without the completion of any statewide health or environmental review,” the groups, which include several environmental organizations such as and Greenpeace, state in their petition to Brown, the state’s conservation department, and water resources control board. “The moratorium should remain in place until and unless California completes its own comprehensive, scientific review of the health and environmental consequences of these high-risk activities,” the petition adds. “The Governor has the duty and authority to institute a moratorium where, as here, the public is in danger.” Brown will have 30 days to respond. Read the 7-page petition being filed today:

BEHOLD, IT’S THURSDAY. I’m Darius Dixon, and while ME is clearly a creature of the Beltway, your host is a New York kid at heart and it’s cool to hear from our Big Apple readers (as well as from those in California, Michigan, D.C. and elsewhere). But I do want to put one reader question to rest: I’m not a fan of the Jets, nor am I a fan of the Giants. I grew up watching Star Trek, playing video games and reading books about Richard Feynman. Sports just don’t pull any heartstrings. Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

THE BAY STATE BOOMERANGS: In case you didn’t get enough of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz during their appearances on Capitol Hill yesterday, the two Massachusetts natives are walking the halls of Rayburn again today. Moniz is up first, testifying to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water at 9:30 a.m. in Rayburn 2359. McCarthy will take questions from the spending panel’s Interior and Environment subcommittee at 1 p.m. in Rayburn B-308.

NOAA NOM TO GET COMMERCE VOTE: The Senate Commerce Committee today is scheduled to markup nine bills as well as vote on six nominations, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration candidate Manson Brown. Brown, tapped to be assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction was approved by the same committee in September but, like many other nominees, couldn’t escape the Senate before the last session ended. The markup starts at 10 a.m. in Russell 253.

SOLAR GROUPS TURN THE HEAT ON AEP: A pair of rooftop solar power advocacy groups have teamed up in a concerted effort against American Electric Power, launching a new website today “dedicated to uncovering deceptive behavior” by the utility. Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed — a conservative solar group co-chaired by former Rep. Barry Goldwater, Jr. — and The Alliance for Solar Choice both have had overlapping interests this year in a fight with AEP over attempts to rewrite West Virginia’s so-called net-metering policies. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin eventually vetoed the bill solar advocates have been attacking, but he did so largely over a series of technicalities in the language of the bill, HB2201. The new website includes a whistleblower hotline for current and former AEP employees to report issues anonymous:

** 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 **

HOTEL CARBON AUCTION: California’s recently expanded cap-and-trade program racked up carbon allowances at $12.21 per ton, a rate that Reuters ( says was “below market expectations” given that the program was made to distributors of transportation and home heating fuels on Jan. 1. That expansion effectively doubled the number of available credits, and a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in gasoline prices. Nevertheless, the Sacramento Bee ( reports, the total proceeds came to $1.02 billion — the largest amount recorded to date for the program, which holds auctions quarterly. This was the second auction since the program expanded to include Quebec as carbon trading partner. NRDC senior scientist Merrian Borgeson cheered the auction results, saying “Despite the oil industry’s fear mongering, the sky did not fall. California’s carbon market continues to hum along as expected, with this auction’s price right in line with previous auctions.”

THE MIDTERMS ARE OVER BUT the NRDC Action Fund is kicking off a five-figure online ad campaign today ripping Mitch McConnell’s first 50 days as Senate Majority Leader and urging him to “clean up his act” on the environment. The ads are set to run in D.C. and in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.

NEW CONGRESS, SAME OL’ NOMS: Obama resubmitted his nomination for Monica Regalbuto to the Energy Department last night. She was nominated almost a year ago to be the assistant secretary for environmental management and got through the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources, and Armed Services panels but never made it to the floor.

LET ME MAKE AN OBSERVATION: The spectacle and controversy around Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon has really blown up: Climate change activists are sinking their teeth in, and climate skeptics have turned Soon into a martyr. ME is all for disclosure — financial and otherwise — but money alone doesn’t explain everything. As astrophysics professor Adam Frank ( put it the other day, “What should really matter is not the source of a scientist’s money, but the quality of their work.” (Granted, it took about 10 minutes on Google to track down peer-reviewed articles and other materials that challenged the premise of Soon’s science, including reports from the National Academies). For instance, it’s hard to come by a major geology or earth science department at a university that doesn’t get a great deal of from one or more oil companies, but those programs also represent a great deal of the scientific research put out on climate change. (While we’re talking disclosure, your host has a master’s degree in geology and has many grad school friends who ended up at oil companies and are still fine scientists.)

That said, Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s request that certain universities disclose financial information about seven researchers whose work has been championed by skeptics of man-made climate change is likely sending shivers through large segments of academia. The scientific community is already on edge because of efforts by House Science Chairman Lamar Smith to revise the National Science Foundation’s grant-making process, which is seen as nothing less than a Trojan horse for unwelcome interlopers. So, regardless of political stripe, professors and university researchers don’t take kindly to outsiders — and Congress, in particular. Some professors have already taken to Twitter to defend some of the researchers Grijalva has targeted, even if they disagree on climate science. Sure, part of it is a collective defense against any real or perceived threat to tenure, but it is also about your reputation as a scientist and debater. It boils down to this: Scientists like to beat each other on their own turf, believe that the best argument will rule the day and hold that it’s politics — whether it elevates or eliminates someone like Soon — that ruins everything. I await your hate mail.

Also…#SOONGATE IS A THING: Your host is a curmudgeon when it comes to social media but Soon defenders and detractors both seem to be using #Soongate on Twitter. The more you know.


— European Leaders Seek Tighter Cooperation on Energy. The New York Times:

— Cape Wind chief calls state energy legislation “promising.” WWLP:

— Construction of Topaz Solar Farms in California Valley is finished. The San Luis Obispo Tribune:


8:15 a.m. — The American Association of Blacks in Energy 2015 Energy Policy Summit begins. API President Jack Gerard, NEI President Marvin Fertel, Rep. G. K. Butterfield, EEI President Thomas Kuhn and FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable speak. The agenda: The W Hotel, 515 15th St. NW.

9 a.m. — The Alliance to Save Energy hosts a breakfast event with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Bistro Bis, 15 E St NW.

9:30 a.m. — The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water reviews the Energy Department’s fiscal 2016 budget. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz testifies. Rayburn 2359.

10 a.m. — The Commerce Committee marks up nine bills and six nominations, including Manson Brown to be assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction at NOAA. Russell 253.

10 a.m. — The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a discussion about Understanding U.S. Arctic Policy Coordination. Obama science advisor John Holdren speaks. CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.

11:45 a.m. — The American Enterprise Institute holds a luncheon briefing on The U.S. Shale Revolution and Asia at 2030. Sen. Bill Cassidy speaks. Senate Visitors Center.

1 p.m. — The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment reviews the EPA’s fiscal 2016 budget. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testifies. Rayburn B-308.

1 p.m. — The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development reviews the Transportation Department’s fiscal 2016 budget. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx testifies. Rayburn 2358-A.

1 p.m. — The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a discussion about Making the Most of North America’s Evolving Oil Infrastructure. EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski speaks. CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.

2 p.m. — The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Interior convenes a hearing “Examining the Impacts of EPA Air and Water Regulations on the States and the American People.” Rayburn 2154.


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