Energy News for March 10, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 10, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 3/10/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén and Elana Schor

PONEMAN’S NEW GIG SPARKS HILL INQUIRY: At least one congressional office is looking into Energy Department ethics policies following Centrus Energy Corp.’s announcement last week that former Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman would begin leading the company this month. “Sen. [Lamar] Alexander has asked for additional information from the U.S. Department of Energy,” a spokesman for the Tennessee Republican said in response to a POLITICO inquiry about Poneman working for the uranium enrichment firm. The hire is a big win for Centrus, which was known as USEC until the company exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings last year. But the news that Poneman would be Centrus’ president and CEO quickly ricocheted in some circles on Capitol Hill because he held the No. 2 DOE spot less than six months ago and many of the arrangements the agency put together to prop up USEC’s Ohio enrichment project went through his office.
Eyebrows have gone up in a few places but a Hill staffer in another office didn’t sugar-coat their feelings about Poneman’s move: “We think it stinks to high heaven.”

GOP’S ‘JUST SAY NO’ MOTTO COMPLICATES EPA CLIMATE PLANS: Supporters of President Barack Obama’s climate regulations are getting worried EPA may have few tools to use if states decide to follow conservatives’ advice and refuse to cooperate with the agency on climate change regulations. Questions abound about how the agency would impose its own climate plans on behalf of states, or make sure the states that do submit plans actually stick to them. Also up in the air: whether the agency has the right to hit the violators with penalties that could even include the loss of federal highway dollars — one of the main fiscal weapons Washington has used to get states to toe the line on everything from motorcycle helmet laws to underage drinking. Erica Martinson explains:

WELCOME TO TUESDAY! I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and after reading a reporter’s account of the 1860 Republican convention as imagining “all the hogs ever slaughtered in Cincinnati giving their death squeals together,” I’m not sure I can think of any convention without that image. Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

LET’S CALL IT ‘TSCA TUESDAY’: Sens. Tom Udall and David Vitter are expected to introduce a bill on Tuesday that would update the Toxic Substances Control Act, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the plan. The bill from the New Mexico Democrat and Louisiana Republican is also expected to have a bipartisan list of original cosponsors, the aide said. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing March 18 on the bill and the broader debate on EPA’s signature law overseeing the manufacturing and processing of chemicals.

Still, there’s a big hill to climb. The Environmental Defense Fund is among those citing their effort as a big improvement over the current law, which hasn’t been significantly updated since 1976. But Sen. Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat on EPW, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are among those opposed to the deal, in part because it would preempt California’s toxics law.

RICK SCOTT DENIES BANNING CLIMATE WORDS: Florida Gov. Rick Scott denied an investigative report that his environmental protection agency muzzled workers from talking about global warming — but he also made clear that he didn’t want to talk about the issue at all. The controversy erupted Sunday after the nonprofit Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published an account quoting former Florida Department of Environmental Protection staffers who said agency leaders under Scott pressured them to not mention “global warming,” “climate change” or “sea level rise.”

“First off, it’s not true,” Scott told reporters yesterday, declining to elaborate when asked about the report. Scott wouldn’t say if the agency plans for or believes in global warming, but said he’s a problem-solver. Asked if he thought global warming was a problem, Scott refused to say. POLITICO’s Florida Playbooker Marc Caputo:

ONE-THIRD OF U.S. SOLAR CAME ONLINE LAST YEAR: The U.S. added 6.2 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity in 2014, a 30 percent bump over the previous year, according to a report out today from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. The U.S. now has a cumulative total of 18.3 gigawatts of PV, meaning that a third of the U.S.’s current capacity was installed just last year. The report also notes that solar made up 32 percent of new electric generating capacity added last year, behind only natural gas. It argues that solar’s leaps-and-bounds growth in recent years has been driven by falling PV costs, downstream developments and a stable federal investment tax credit. GTM and SEIA project 8.1 gigawatts of new installations in 2015. The next two years are expected to continue solar’s impressive growth in part because of a large number of utility-scale projects slated to come online by the end of 2016, when the ITC will be cut in third. The U.S. also brought 767 megawatts of concentrating solar power online last year, for a total of 1.7 gigawatts. The report:

GAME OF FERC: FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller is out with a new visually enhanced invitation — this time to boost attendance to the agency’s next staff-led technical conference discussing the EPA’s carbon rules, which is set for tomorrow. Moeller tweeted: “In honor of @ErnestMoniz, hair is some encouragement to attend FERC’s Eastern regional tech conf on 111d.”

PUT YOUR NUCLEAR REGULATION HAT ON: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission kicks off its two-and-half day Regulatory Information Conference this morning in North Bethesda, a conference that draws industry, state and international regulators, Energy Department engineers as well as some critics of the NRC itself. Three of the four sitting commissioners are expected to speak before lunch today, including NRC Chairman Stephen Burns. Jeff Baran will be the only commissioner speaking tomorrow. NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki has been known to make a nerdy joke while addressing this crowd but it’s unclear how many nuclear-related jokes actually exist in the known universe.

GREENS TALLY CHEMICALS IN CALIF. FRACKING WASTEWATER: Arsenic, lead, benzene and hexavalent chromium are among the chemicals found in California wastewater samples analyzed by the Environmental Working Group in a new report released today. While EWG underscores that state officials have found “no evidence to date that California aquifers currently used for drinking water have been contaminated by fracking chemicals,” the group warns that reports of injection wells for wastewater being drilled near aquifers that are potential drinking water sources presents “clear cause for alarm.” The full report:

U.S. ADVANCED ENERGY GREW 14 PERCENT LAST YEAR — REPORT: Revenue from the advanced energy sector — which includes renewable energy, natural gas electric generation, biofuels and efficiency — jumped 14 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a report out today by Navigant Research and commissioned by Advanced Energy Economy, a trade group of energy-saving and clean energy businesses. The advanced energy market in the U.S. reached nearly $200 billion last year, about 15 percent of the global total, with major growth coming in wind power, solar and natural gas turbines. The $1.3 trillion global market increased 12 percent over 2013, with major increases in wind power and hydropower. The global market is now roughly as big as the international fashion and apparel industry, while in the U.S. advanced energy is bigger than airlines and equal to pharmaceuticals, AEE says. Read:

DOE’S NEW COAL HAND LUKE: The Energy Department tapped Duke Energy’s David Mohler to be its deputy assistant secretary for clean coal and carbon management. Mohler has been Duke’s senior vice president and chief technology officer. He moves into the spot to replace Julio Friedmann as Friedmann moves into the position of principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy. From 1997 to 2006, Mohler was senior vice president for strategic planning at Cinergy.

UCS: NUCLEAR SAFETY UP, BUT SO IS SECRECY: The Union of Concerned Scientists released its annual report card on the NRC and industry safety, and on several fronts, things are looking up. The number and severity of so-called “near-miss” incidents have been steadily declining since the group began conducting annual reviews in 2010. Still, UCS said regulators “inconsistently” enforced a number of regulations, and “masked many of those inconsistencies by improperly hiding information from public inquiry.” UCS also blasted the NRC for its alleged mistreatment of whistleblowers, including Michael Peck, an NRC inspector at PG&E’s Diablo Canyon plant who submitted several reports disagreeing with the NRC’s conclusion that Diablo Canyon was suitably prepared for an earthquake. The report:

NRC spokesman David McIntyre took the report in stride: “We are gratified that UCS sees improvements in our oversight and the safety record of our licensees, while we continue to disagree with the term ‘near misses’ to describe these inspections… Regarding the personnel issues: Mr. Peck reached the end of the standard term for resident inspectors and applied for, and was appointed on merit to, a prestigious teaching position at the NRC’s highly regarded training center in Chattanooga.”

THE CLIMATE CAUCUS FOR KIDS: The advocacy group Avaaz is out with a new poll today that says that 90 percent of 8th graders accept that climate change is manmade. Interestingly, the poll, conducted by Ipsos, also showed that only 56 percent of the 1,002 junior high school kids surveyed seemed to connect electricity use with carbon emissions. In addition to the poll, a half-dozen high schoolers from Georgia, Nebraska, Florida, and North Carolina are on Capitol Hill today to press their senators about climate change.


— Lawsuit by Indian Point owners could impact upstate plants. Poughkeepsie Journal:

— Hungry Market Eats Up Oil Bonds. The Wall Street Journal:

— SolarCity sues SRP over new fee for rooftop solar customers. The Associated Press:

— Mexico May Further Modify Oil Auctions, Energy Minister Says. The Wall Street Journal:

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