Energy News for March 6, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on March 6, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 3/6/2015

NEW MONTH, NEW OIL TRAIN DERAILMENT: This time it was in Illinois. A BNSF Railway train with 103 cars of crude oil derailed outside Galena, and two of the eight cars that went off the tracks burst into flames. No injuries were reported, and the Federal Railroad Administration had a team of investigators heading to the scene. Galena City Administrator Mark Moran told that Associated Press that that out of 500 families in the 1-mile radius voluntary evacuation area, only one had agreed to leave their home. He said the evacuation was prompted by the presence of a propane tank near the derailment, which occurred in a rural area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi. BNSF said it doesn’t know what caused the derailment.

About 40 to 50 oil trains come through the area each week, Jo Daviess County Emergency Manager Charles Pedersen said, reports Reuters:


— Center for Biological Diversity: “The only thing more mind-boggling than three such accidents in three weeks is the continued lack of action by the Obama administration to protect us from these dangerous oil trains,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

— Earthjustice: “Yet another fiery accident — this is not a game — people’s lives are at risk. We are fortunate no one was hurt, but how many wake-up calls do federal regulators need before they put bans and strong regulation in place to protect our communities?” said Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice attorney based in Seattle.

BURNING QUESTIONS ABOUT CHEMICALS BILL ABOUND: A new bipartisan Senate proposal has intensified divisions among Democrats about a sweeping overhaul of federal oversight of dangerous chemicals. Squabbling between Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Tom Udall of New Mexico is complicating the already-complex deliberations on updating the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, a landmark law administered by EPA. And that tension may grow because of an upcoming New York Times story, which the bill’s supporters allege will include material that was leaked to make it appear that the chemical industry is driving the effort. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding a hearing on the TSCA law March 18, and drafters hope by then to release the latest proposal from Udall and David Vitter (R-La.) — though the bill’s details and timing are still fluid, sources told POLITICO.

The new bill — with the blessing of the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s widow— will be named the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Udall and Bonnie Lautenberg will be among those testifying at the March 18 hearing. Darren Goode takes you behind the scenes:

WELCOME TO FRIDAY, but we think the week would’ve gone by a lot smoother if it had a little bit more llama. I’m your host, Darius Dixon, and I hope that all of our Jewish readers enjoyed Purim. Speaking of days I got off from school, I think it’s pretty neat that New York City is adding two Muslim holidays to the academic calendar. Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energyand @POLITICOPro.

FREEZE-THAW CYCLES: We’re done with the snow here but it’s supposed to dip to temperatures nearing single-digits tonight. But temperatures are on the rise over the weekend and could hit 50 degrees on Sunday.

CHRISTIE FIRES BACK, THIS TIME ABOUT EXXONMOBIL SETTLEMENT: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended himself yesterday against complaints his administration approved a sweetheart deal for ExxonMobil to settle an environmental contamination case for a fraction of the money the state had sought. New Jersey officially announced Thursday that it had reached a settlement agreement in which Exxon would pay $225 million in damages related to pollution from its refinery facilities in the Garden State, a figure far less than the $8.9 billion originally requested.

In a statement, Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts blasted a New York Times op-ed piece by Bradley Campbell, a former commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, that was critical of the deal, saying it was “irresponsible, disingenuous, and baldly political.” Alex Guillén has more:

CENTRUS SCORES BIG: The uranium enrichment firm formerly known as USEC scored a big hire: former Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman. Poneman resigned from the Energy Department’s No. 2 spot in October after more than five years and began a stint at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. But after markets closed yesterday, Centrus Energy Corp. announced that Poneman will become its president and CEO this month. Last October, John Welch, who led USEC for nine years, resigned just as the newly restructured company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Centrus is still hoping to secure a $2 billion loan guarantee from DOE to build out its Ohio enrichment project, the American Centrifuge Project. And recruiting Poneman is a pretty smart move all in all since he has the connections, the policy chops and won’t need to do any homework. Still, nothing personal, the revolving door makes the whole thing seem a little creepy.

For those unfamiliar with USEC: First of all, if you know nothing about USEC, consider yourself lucky. It’s not for the faint-hearted. In the privatization craze of the 1990s, Congress thought it’d be great to spinoff the part of DOE that enriched uranium for nuclear power plants and produced weapons material. But after two decades of fumbling in the private sector, while having some quasi-governmental roles, USEC’s struggles worsened with its failure to get a DOE loan guarantee for the Ohio project and when the Fukushima nuclear disaster depressed demand — and prices — for uranium prices. DOE and several top lawmakers on Capitol Hill have spent about three years throwing it lifelines because of military needs. And, as DOE’s chief operating officer, a lot of those arrangements passed through Poneman’s office.

WHAT’S ALASKAN FOR WIMP? Sen. Lisa Murkowski stuck to holding her Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing about the Arctic yesterday but she also took a few seconds to rib us Southerners for letting yesterday’s snow rule the day. “It is Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C., 2:48 in the afternoon and I’m here in the Dirksen Senate office building…and there’s nobody here,” the Alaska Republican said in a video posted to her Facebook page as a camera pans up and down the hallway. Part of me was sort of hoping Murkowski would do a cartwheel just to emphasize her point but, spoiler alert, she keeps it professional. But senator, there’s no snow resilience pride in D.C. to wound. The video:

RFS BACKERS ‘CELEBRATE’ OIL TAX BREAKS: Boosters of the Renewable Fuel Standard at Fuels America are launching a weeklong online ad campaign today on CQ Roll Call and to “congratulate the oil industry by ‘Celebrating 102 Years of Oil Spills and Pollution.’” The group’s “Clean, Secure, American Energy” campaign intends to build up to the tenth anniversary of the RFS in August.

ANTI-KEYSTONERS TO E-HOUND CLINTON: The anti-Keystone XL pipeline opposition at CREDO Action is launching a write-in campaign this morning calling on Hillary Clinton to return foreign donations made to the Clinton Foundation. “Rejection of the tar sands pipeline by President Obama is looking more likely every day. So you can bet foreign oil companies are setting their sights on the next president of the United States hoping for approval in two years,” the campaign header says. CREDO Action pointed to contributions made by the governments the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman before turning to our neighbor to the north: “Ominously for our fight to block the Keystone XL pipeline, the Clintons’ foundation has also accepted contributions from the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development agency of Canada.” The petition:

DOE NUCLEAR STANDOFF IN IDAHO: Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz got served yesterday with a threat to sue the Energy Department if planned shipments of commercial spent fuel are made to Idaho National Lab. The source: two ex-governors of Idaho. “Small amounts of further naval and DOE spent fuel shipments to INL are permitted by the Batt Agreement, but the Agreement is explicit that ‘DOE will make no shipments of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants to INEL,” wrote Laird Lucas, an attorney with Advocates for the West retained by Cecil Andrus and Philip Batt, former Democratic and Republican Idaho governors. “Governors Andrus and Batt are so concerned about these proposed shipments that they have engaged my legal services to prepare and prosecute federal court litigation … in the event that a successful resolution cannot be achieved in response to this letter.” The Notice of Intent to Sue letter:

But DOE hasn’t gone rogue. Current Idaho Gov. Butch Otter agreed to waive the agreement cited by his predecessors in order for DOE to make two shipments of 25 spent fuel rods in June 2015 and January 2016. Andrus and Batt said “Keeping the public in the dark about new spent fuel shipments to INL is contrary to the spirit and intent of the Settlement Agreement.” Letter to Otter:


— Washington state House passes, sends Senate bill to improve safety of oil movement in state. The Associated Press:

— Cambridge wants to cut ties with TransCanada over Keystone XL. The Boston Globe:

— Michigan GOP leader proposes bills to guarantee DTE, Consumers Energy dominance. The Associated Press:

— Vermont AG and DPS join request for NRC investigation of Entergy finances. The Rutland Herald:

— For vacationers, an app to guide them to federal destinations. The Washington Post:

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