Energy News for February 4, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on February 4, 2015

Today’s Washington Brief:

  • EPA told the White House in a letter Tuesdaythat it should factor low oil prices into the decision to approve the Keystone pipeline. The agency also questioned the State Department’s claims that the project would have minimal impact on climate change.The Wall Street Journal has the story.
  • The White House budget released Mondaycontains several initiatives that aim to help displaced coal workers and revitalize those communities. E&E
  • States that go above and beyond emissions targets set in the Clean Power Plan could get a boost from a $4 billion EPA fund. But critics say the extra credit program misses the point, since states need help just to meet the targets, not incentive to best them. Davis Burroughs reports for Morning Consult.

Today’s Business Brief:

  • The recent rally in oil prices hasn’t been enough to convince investors the worst is over. Read the stories from the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg.
  • Union leaders made little progress in negotiations with Royal Dutch Shell as talks over a new wage contract for refinery workers stalled. Talks resume today as the worker strike enters its fourth day. Reuters
  • As the fate of Keystone remains in limbo, traders are setting up alternative routes to ship Canadian oil sands from U.S. ports. More from Bloomberg.

Today’s Chart Review: 

Oil’s Surge to Bull Market Viewed as Temporary Bounce

from Bloomberg by Angelina Rascouet and Rupert Rowling


Politico Morning Energy for 2/4/2015: EPA says cheap oil raises Keystone’s climate impact — State Department spox, reporters tussle over transparency — EPA furnace and wood stove rule coming — Lawmakers renew push on RFS reform bill

By Alex Guillén

EPA SAYS CHEAP OIL RAISES KEYSTONE’S CLIMATE IMPACT: The EPA gave President Barack Obama a road map for rejecting the Keystone XL on Tuesday, warning that the pipeline could drive up production from Canada’s oil sands and worsen climate change. In EPA’s long-awaited comments on the State Department’s environmental review of Keystone, EPA said State should give “additional weight” to whether the sharp drop in oil prices would increase the pipeline’s environmental impact and stimulate production in the carbon-rich Canadian oil sands. Green groups hailed the EPA comments, which they said provided the White House with enough doubt to deny the project a permit, while pipeline supporters dismissed them as a bid to provide political cover to the president. Elana Schor has more:

STATE DEPARTMENT SPOX, REPORTERS TUSSLE OVER TRANSPARENCY: The State Department press corps got into a spat with department spokeswoman Jen Psaki over Keystone XL during yesterday’s briefing after Psaki would not disclose how many of the eight federal agencies able to comment on its national interest determination had actually done so. Psaki called the comments “internal recommendations” that the other agencies were not mandated to produce, and declined to say how many had actually submitted comments. Multiple reporters questioned whether the State Department’s review process is as transparent as the administration has long claimed if it will not even confirm that fact. “What happened to this transparency idea?” one reporter asked, garnering pushback from Psaki.

“When you say ‘internal process,’ okay, that really means secret and nontransparent, correct?” a reporter later asked. Psaki replied: “I don’t agree with that. A great deal of information here is public, Matt. Just because we’re not making public internal input that we received-” she added, before being interrupted. The reporter did not let up however, arguing that he doesn’t understand “why you won’t even say if you got eight reports or you got five. … I mean, I don’t see how that compromises anything.” Psaki ended the exchange: “I’ve registered your question. I’ll let you know if we’re going to confirm it.”

Watch the exchange via C-SPAN, starting around 12:05: Official transcript:

In case you were wondering: Psaki also declined to set any sort of deadline for the administration to make a decision. “I’m not putting a new deadline on it, but we are going to make a determination,” Psaki said after being asked if the administration plans to make a decision before the end of President Barack Obama’s tenure in January 2017.

WOW IT’S ALREADY WEDNESDAY and welcome to Morning Energy. Send your energy news to, and follow on Twitter @alexcguillen, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

GET THOSE COLD HANDS READY: EPA was due to sign its final rule for new furnaces and wood stoves on Tuesday, shortly after the White House Office of Management and Budget finished its review of the rule on Monday. The agency is likely to release the rule – which will create first-time pollution controls to make wood stoves, fireplace inserts, masonry heaters and other devices 80 percent cleaner – later today. One key change to watch for is the implementation deadline. EPA’s proposal a year ago set a 60-day deadline before the rule goes into effect; 37 senators asked EPA to give companies a year to comply with the new standards.

Don’t worry: BBQs and pizza ovens aren’t covered by the rule.

LAWMAKERS RENEW PUSH ON RFS REFORM LEGISLATION: A bipartisan quartet of House lawmakers will reintroduce Renewable Fuel Standard reform legislation specifically targeting the ethanol mandate. The 11-page bill eliminates corn-based ethanol requirements caps the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline at 10 percent, and requires EPA to set cellulosic biofuel mandates at production levels, according to an aide to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the lead sponsor of the RFS Reform Act. He will be joined at a 2 p.m. press conference along with Reps. Peter Welch, Steve Womack and Jim Costa. Goodlatte introduced a similar bill in 2013, but it never made it out of committee. Increasing frustration among lawmakers with EPA’s delays in issuing a 2014 RFS rule have stirred up new interest in addressing at least the corn ethanol mandate. Bill text:


Crude oil export ban: Rep. Joe Barton and a dozen other Republicans have introduced legislation – coincidentally, H.R. 666 – that would lift the general ban on crude oil exports. “I have already had positive conversations with my colleagues in the Senate about introducing similar legislation,” Barton said. “I predict that no matter which party controls Capitol Hill or the White House, the ban will eventually be lifted, but the sooner it happens the sooner we will see the benefits.” Read:

LNG excise tax: Sens. Richard Burr and Michael Bennet have reintroduced their bill that would change the federal highway excise tax to be based on energy output rather than by the gallon, a move meant to help LNG compete against the more energy-dense diesel. ‘This is a no-brainer,’ Burr said. ‘Our bill would eliminate a current tax disincentive for using LNG, a fuel that is not only environmentally cleaner would but also reduce our dependence on foreign oil.’ Burr and Bennet say the change could save LNG truck drivers thousands of dollars in taxes. Text:

LWFC: Burr, Bennet and Kelly Ayotte have also introduced legislation that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Read:

DOE PULLS PLUG ON FUTUREGEN: Via the AP: “The Department of Energy announced Tuesday that it has suspended the long-planned FutureGen clean-coal project in western Illinois. The department concluded the project couldn’t meet a September deadline to use its $1 billion in federal stimulus funding, DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons told The Associated Press. The FutureGen Alliance, the group of coal companies working with the government on the project, has no choice but to shut down, said spokesman Lawrence Pacheco. Without the federal funding there isn’t enough money to finish the $1.65 billion project.” AP:

JOE’S CREB SHACK: The IRS has a total of $1.4 billion worth of so-called New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds ready for reallocation, the agency says. Congress in 2008 and 2009 allocated a total of $2.4 billion worth of CREBs, which can be used by power providers and others to finance renewable energy projects by giving the bondholder federal tax credits instead of part of the typical bond interest. The CREBs had to be used within three years of issuance, however, and a bit more than half of the volume cap remains now that that time has passed. The IRS says it has available $517 million of CREBs for projects to be owned by public power providers, $597 million for governmental entities like states or cities, and $281 million for electric co-ops. An IRS notice describes the application process for new CREB allocation:

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE, IT’S TIGHTER OZONE STANDARDS! The Sierra Club has launched a five-figure digital advertising campaign to boost EPA’s proposal to tighten ozone standards. The ads are running on parenting websites and are geotargeted to areas with particularly bad air quality, like Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Fort Collins, Colo. The ad features a boy in a superhero outfit and urges viewers to “keep our little superheroes safe from air pollution.” EPA on Monday held its final public hearing on the proposal in Sacramento on Monday, and is due to issue a final standard in October. The ad:

THE BIRD IS THE WORD: Yesterday’s edition of Morning Energy noted the Interior Department has requested an extra $45 million for sage-grouse conservation efforts. An Interior official points out that the $45 million is not the full funding figure, and represents just the planning programs from the Bureau of Land Management. Building off previous BLM funding, and including other funds for the Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey focused on grouse conservation, the department has requested a total of about $78 million for those efforts.

FIFTY YEARS AGO, LBJ WARNED OF CO2 POLLUTION: The Daily Climate notes that Lyndon Johnson was the first president to warn of carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels 50 years ago this month. ‘Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places,’ Johnson said in a February 8, 1965 special message to Congress. ‘This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.’ DC:

MOVER, SHAKER: The green communications and PR firm Outreach Strategies has picked up Katie Sarro as an account manager. Sarro was previously as associate at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.


– Colorado’s GOP-controlled Senate gives initial approval to a bill rolling back renewable energy standards. Denver Post:

– West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signs a bill repealing his state’s alternative and renewable energy portfolio. State Journal:

– Colorado’s oil and gas task force is considering proposals that would require companies to disclose fracking fluids while giving local governments more control over well locations. Longmont Times-Call:

– Germany’s rate of new solar installations fell last year. Reuters:

– IBM and Apple release an app to provide energy field workers. ZDNet:

THAT’S ALL FOR ME. See you tomorrow.
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