Energy News for March 11, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 11, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 3/11/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén

RAILROAD LOBBIED WH ON OIL TRAIN SAFETY AFTER SPILL: Just one day after a 105-car oil train derailment spilled as much as 150,000 gallons of crude in Illinois, the railroad involved in the accident urged the White House not to require they use sophisticated new brakes under a much-anticipated final fuel-by-rail safety rule. The Friday meeting with BNSF Railway and six other railroads had been scheduled before the fiery derailment in Galena, Ill., and it followed meetings earlier in the week between the Office of Management and Budget and both oil industry representatives and manufacturers of the tank cars used to ship crude from the shale-rich Bakken region of North Dakota.
Documents the railroads brought to the White House meeting showed they have significant concerns about a possible DOT mandate on electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, which can stop tank cars in a unit train more quickly than older air brakes that stop each car individually. Elana Schor has more:

CENTRUS RESPONDS TO PONEMAN DRAMA: Incoming Centrus Energy Corp. chief Dan Poneman was not approached about running the uranium enrichment firm until after he stepped down as deputy energy secretary last October, a company spokesman told ME. Poneman also has to cut off communication with the Energy Department for two years as part of his exit from government service, spokesman Jeremy Derryberry said. “When Dan left DOE, he obtained guidance from his designated agency ethics official,” he said. “They provided him with post-employment restrictions applicable to somebody at his level. Generally, there’s a restriction on communicating with former colleagues at DOE for two years after he left the agency in October.” Derryberry added: “At no time was he approached when he was in the government about working with Centrus.”

HAPPY HUMP DAY, FOLKS. I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and I don’t think that mini-ME’s inability to rollover at six months old is quite the world-ending failure that our pediatrician seems to think. Maybe I’m wrong but I think he just doesn’t have a good reason yet. Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

LET THE TSCA BATTLE COMMENCE: Sens. Tom Udall and David Vitter took the wrapping off their chemical safety bill yesterday and laid out a plan to break the logjam and update the 40-year-old rules governing EPA’s oversight. The bill that would update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act has already drawn seven Democratic and seven Republican cosponsors, a strong start for the measure that’s been mired in controversy. The list of original cosponsors is “a very strong statement in terms of our ability to move forward and pass this legislation,” Vitter told reporters, adding that he is “very confident” the bill could get more than 60 Senate votes and majority support in the House.

But the bill has also drawn the wrath of California. “Legal experts who have examined the Udall-Vitter-Inhofe toxics bill at my request tell me this bill is worse than current law,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member Barbara Boxer said in a statement. “This means there will be fewer protections from the most dangerous chemicals for communities and families.” Darren Goode has the news:

MCCARTHY GETS GLOBAL: EPA chief Gina McCarthy is speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations this morning and she’s tailored an address that stitches environmental diplomacy, global stability and business — along with a few jabs at climate change skeptics. Here are a few choice excerpts:

On business: “As temperatures and tensions rise — so do insurance premiums, food prices, and the cost of doing business. What doesn’t rise — are tourist visits, investment dollars, jobs growth, and the opportunity to fight poverty. Climate change injects volatility into the global marketplace.”

On EPA’s “air-monitor-diplomacy”: “A few years ago, we put an air monitor on the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and posted its air quality data online… Well, it worked — and then some. It informed the Chinese public about air pollution risks. And it gave the Chinese government an opportunity to respond — by more effectively capturing data and cutting pollution in ways that align with climate and economic goals. Our embassy air monitor is a textbook example of soft diplomacy.”

Climate skeptic bait: “Successful economies invest in where the world is going — not where it’s been. Despite clear evidence, clear economics, and clear advice from the smartest people on the planet, narrow-minded interests hang on to the past. They cling to business models rooted in century-old technology and a century-old understanding of pollution and public health. Climate deniers can put their heads in the sand, but that doesn’t change the world around them.”

SVINICKI TO BARAN: SEIZE THE RIC: Jeff Baran will be the only commissioner speaking on the second day of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Regulatory Information Conference this morning in North Bethesda. The other three sitting commissioners spoke yesterday. But, never fear, said NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, who has made a habit of telling a science jokes at the RIC. “I’ve given this advice to others and I will look, I think, expressly at Commissioner Baran: If you’re going to tell a joke tomorrow morning, you will have to tell a joke forever. So I hope that you will think long and hard about that,” she said. “By the way, you’re a second-day commissioner, and I feel I was a second-day commissioner at the RIC for a long time. And you know the good thing about it is like you should just claim tomorrow as yours. It’s like the field is yours alone to occupy. It’s your territory.” Today’s agenda:

Commissioner Baran, if you’re having a hard time coming up with a good joke, I offer this one: What’s the favorite food of a British physicist? Fission chip. Zing! You’re welcome.

ENOUGH HASN’T BEEN SAID ABOUT EPA’S CARBON RULES, so FERC is holding its second regional technical conference today to discuss their potential impact on electric reliability. The staff-led conference starts at 9:30 a.m. and EPA’s acting air chief Janet McCabe will speak around 10:15 a.m. Each of the three panels have a mix of state regulators, utilities, co-ops, grid operators and environmental groups. Here’s the agenda: The conference takes place at FERC headquarters, 888 First Street NE.

SO, THERE IS A RULE FOR ‘SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET’: FERC leaders have apparently had more than enough of the anti-fracking protests that have disrupted their meetings — and in very FERC-ian fashion, they’ve approved a new rule on it. Order No. 806 clarifies that for the public, the right to observe meetings “does not include disruptive behavior.” The rule notes that “unscheduled statements” are forbidden ex parte communications and “will not be included in the record or considered by the Commission.” It doesn’t impose any real penalties on disruptive individuals, though, so protestors will still simply be escorted out of the room. The protests have come from opponents of expanding natural gas use who have increasingly targeted FERC because of its role in approving gas infrastructure and export facilities, much to the chagrin of the agency’s commissioners, who view broader climate change as outside their bailiwick. The protests have also irked industry officials who say that if they made similar outbursts, it would count as an unlawful ex parte communication with the commissioners. The most recent provocation came during a technical conference FERC hosted on Feb. 19, when about a half-dozen protestors were booted out after they began chanting “Gas is dirty, wind and solar now.”

The new rule, approved earlier this week, goes into effect 30 days after it’s published in the Federal Register:

You can still expect protestors to be FERC and center: Ted Glick, national campaign coordinator at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the groups involved in the FERC protests, told ME that FERC has failed to protect human health and the environment. “People facing new pipelines, compressor stations, and liquefaction plants in their communities have voiced concerns through every ‘official’ means possible, only to see FERC put the interests of the gas industry over the public interest at every turn,” he said. “Now, instead of focusing on doing its job, FERC appears to be focused on further shutting out citizen voices. As long as FERC continues to fail the public, people will face no choice but to keep showing up at their doorstep.”

KOCH OFFERS DEMS A FIRST AMENDMENT DEFENSE: Koch Industries won’t be telling Senate Democrats what climate research it has funded. I know, shocker! In a recent letter, the company shot down a request from three senators who asked Koch and other companies and trade groups to disclose what climate research they’ve funded. “The activity and efforts about which you inquire, and Koch’s involvement, if any, in them, are at the core of the fundamental liberties protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Koch general counsel Mark Holden wrote. “Under the circumstances, we decline to participate in this endeavor and object to your apparent efforts to infringe upon and potentially stifle fundamental First Amendment activities.” The letter:


— Duke Energy settles shareholder lawsuit for $146M. The Charlotte Observer:

— Will Club for Growth take on Murkowski? The Hill:

—How Falling Oil Prices Are Hindering Iraq’s Ability to Fight Islamic State. The Wall Street Journal:

— Christie Calls $225M ExxonMobil Settlement “Really Good.” The Associated Press:

— Group Petitions for Probe of Whether Fla. Banned Climate-Change Talk. The AP:

— Geoengineering Is Not a Solution to Climate Change. Scientific American:

— Duke Energy Fined $25 Million Over Coal Ash Pollution. The AP:

— Japan Pushes ahead with plans to reopen nuclear reactors. Deutsche Welle:

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