Energy News for March 5, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 5, 2015

POLITICO Morning Energy for 3/5/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén and Bob King

EPA RULES KICK UP WIND WARS IN THE WEST: EPA’s upcoming climate rule for existing power plants has created a big divide on who gets the credit for green electricity — the state that produces it or the state that uses it? The debate has major stakes for populous, electricity-hungry states like California, already a major buyer of renewable and fossil-fuel power produced elsewhere. But it’s just as important for states like Wyoming, which is both the nation’s largest coal producer and its 12th-largest generator of wind power.
EPA’s original draft leans heavily in the pro-California direction, which could make it harder for states like Wyoming to meet the agency’s mandates to make their power supply less carbon-intense. And that in turn could give some states less incentive to push forward with expensive wind or solar projects. “It’s important for the future of our state to have them get this right in some way,” said Wyoming Public Service Commission Chairman Al Minier. “And right now, the way that the targets are set and how the program looks like it’s going to roll out, it’s going to be awful for us.” Alex Guillén explains:

CHANGE OF PLANS: Although it initially stood defiantly in the face of wintery weather, the Senate yesterday followed the House’s example and decided to skip town a little early this week to avoid being stuck here. A hearty fear of snow — or at least that of being stuck on a tarmac somewhere — did wonders to improve the efficiency of the Senate. The chamber had been scheduled to break a Democratic filibuster yesterday of President Barack Obama’s veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. That would’ve kept the actual override vote off the calendar until today. But in the haste to leave town, lawmakers skipped right to the override vote — which, as expected, failed. The tally was 62-37. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who supports the pipeline, was the only one to miss the vote.

This town is the fainting goat of American cities when it comes to winter weather, and notices started to go out yesterday announcing the cancellation of several hearings and other events about town. Two hearings of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a panel discussing the Export-Import Bank at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a breakfast seminar on liquefied natural gas with Sen. John Barrasso have all been scrapped. Nevertheless, if you have to go out, promise ME that you’ll be safe.

I WASN’T KIDDING, people actually bred goats that “faint”: (h/t Mrs. ME).

FROM ALASKA WITH LOVE: If only to honor Alaskan pride, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s hearing today on “Arctic Opportunities” is still slated to happen at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 366. As Murkowski’s spokesman put it, “snow is not a foreign object to Alaskans. We know how to handle it.” Alaskans probably don’t worry about snow unless there’s a grizzly bear involved. The Alaska Republican also teamed up with Maine Sen. Angus King yesterday to form the Arctic Caucus.

The House Natural Resources Committee is also sticking to its plan to hold a hearing with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at 9 a.m. in Longworth 1324. Admit it, you’re not going in person, so here’s the webcast:

HAPPY THURSDAY, or what Congress has essentially decided to call “Saturday.” I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and it’s not too late to curl up with a hot cocoa and watch Columbia University’s 1984 13-part collection of debates about the Constitution. The Constitution: That Delicate Balance: There’s no way you can make me feel bad about pushing this on people, and at least 168 of you went to the website yesterday so I’d love to know what you think. Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

MURKOWSKI CHARGES ‘PAY TO PLAY’ ON ALASKAN PROJECT: Sen. Lisa Murkowski said an $8 million mitigation payment ConocoPhillips will be required to make in order to move forward with its Greater Mooses Tooth project in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve verges on “pay to play.” Companies “that have deep pockets and pretty considerable investments” could be needled by the Interior Department into paying large sums for mitigation efforts in order to get a permit, Murkowski said yesterday. “Mitigation is not new,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, arguing that requiring off-site mitigation efforts allows for landscape-level planning — like with solar farms in the California desert that were required to pay for desert tortoise habitat preservation elsewhere. Jewell and her No. 2, Mike Connor, explained that Interior hashed out the figure with ConocoPhillips after reviewing the project’s impacts on local subsistence resources. But Murkowski wasn’t convinced. “The fear is that, rather than creating efficiencies, that what we may have developing here is additional unpredictability, lack of clarity in terms of where you’re going with a project that deters investment that really can derail a project,” she said.

NRC TO GIVE REACTOR DESIGN CRITICAL STUDY: The NRC will soon begin reviewing a new reactor design: the Advanced Power Reactor 1400 MWe, or APR1400. Regulators initially turned down a request to certify the Korean-design more than a year ago but Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power submitted a revised application in late December. The staff will provide a review schedule “in the near future.” If the design is certified, which could take years, there is no obligation to actually build the reactor. But once the design is cleared by regulators, it’s one less regulatory obstacle for any company that wants to build an APR1400 in the U.S. The NRC:

AN OBSERVATION — EXPLAINING THE VICIOUS NUCLEAR WASTE CYCLE: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water began to spin in circles a bit yesterday afternoon when it came to nuclear waste policy and concerns about the NRC’s recently re-written Waste Confidence rules (now called Continued Storage). Sen. Dianne Feinstein aired her strongest critique of nuclear power to date, saying that she’s worried that the NRC’s new waste rules gave the industry the go-ahead to keep waste at reactor sites indefinitely. “To me, this is almost diabolical — that you leave the 6 million people in the area without the benefit of power but the spent fuel is there,” the California Democrat said. “And, I say this respectfully, but I think the industry should think about this. I just don’t think it’s right. And that’s one of the reasons why I think we have to press on and get repositories and get spent fuel out.”

That left the NRC commissioners to defend the rule, which is being challenged again in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and to explain that they don’t want to see the waste stranded around the country either. As NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff put it: “We are not, as a commission, an advocate for indefinite storage onsite.” But, alluding to the central domino of the nation’s nuclear waste saga, he added, “There are some responsibilities that the Department of Energy has in repository development under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that are their responsibilities and not ours.”

That’s a polite way of saying “Yucca Mountain.” And whether or not you support resurrecting the crippled nuclear waste project, its rapid dismantling early in the Obama administration is at the center of all three problems. There were plenty of barriers to the much-delayed Yucca Mountain, of course, including the need for Scrooge McDuck-levels of cash, stubborn congressional politics and more site studies. But it’s hard to avoid the fact that if there were at least a path to Yucca — or any other site, for that matter — there would be a plan for removing waste from Feinstein’s state. And it would save the NRC from trying to write around a project it’s not responsible for building and get spent fuel rods into dry casks because the nuclear industry wouldn’t have to sue the federal government to cover the expenses DOE was supposed to provide. The situation is quite circular, as I explained more than a year ago, ( but your host wanted to make an attempt to sort a few things out.

PUTTING ENERGY INTO WATER: The Energy Department is seeking to spend $12.5 million on a cost-share partnership focused on water-related aspects of energy production as part of the agency’s U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center. The one-to-one cost-share program will provide funds over a five-year period from the U.S., while that figure will be matched by counterparts in China, to the tune of $50 million total. The new funding is targeting efforts to reduce the amount of water needed by power plants, and to improve hydropower systems. There will be an informational webinar on March 18 and applications are due May 4. More information: and the Funding Opportunity Announcement:


— Exelon, Pepco sweeten package for utility customers in Maryland. The Washington Post:

— Christie’s Office Drove Exxon Settlement, Ex-Official Says. The New York Times:

— Murkowski hires Sullivan consultant for 2016 campaign. The Alaska Dispatch:

— Oregon Gov.: Investigate $12 million in tax credits for solar scheme. The Oregonian:

— U.S. Refiners, Striking Workers Digging In for Protracted Battle. The Wall Street Journal:

— Narrow Media Coverage of Study linking Climate Change to Syria Conflict Misses Fractious Debate on a Field’s Scholarship. Discover Magazine blog:

— Oregon House narrowly passes clean-fuels bill, now headed to governor. The Oregonian:

— California’s Underground Injection Program is a Mess, See for Yourself. NRDC blog:

— Perry Misses Point on Texas CO2 Cuts.


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