Energy News for April 2, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 2, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 4/2/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Elana Schor

STEYER GROUP WRAPS UP CLIMATE ARM, RAMPS UP POLITICAL OPS: The nonprofit launched by environmentalist Tom Steyer is shutting down its climate and energy program in a likely signal that the billionaire is shifting resources to his organization’s political arm ahead of the presidential elections. Next Generation, co-founded by Steyer in 2011, plans to end its climate policy work and continue as a “nonprofit incubator,” energy program leader Kate Gordon wrote in an email obtained by POLITICO. The move doesn’t mean Steyer is giving up on his pledges to make the environment and climate change major campaign themes in 2016. In fact, it indicates that Steyer will probably shift more resources away from his organization’s policy arm and toward its political efforts, including his super PAC NextGen Climate Action. Steyer contributed more than $65 million of his own money toward the super PAC’s efforts to sway seven key gubernatorial and Senate races last year, though most of his favored candidates lost.
In announcing the decision by the nonprofit’s board to dismantle its energy program, Gordon said in her email that the group’s California-based energy policy operations would shift to NextGen Climate America, a nonprofit led by Natural Resources Defense Council climate advocacy veteran Dan Lashof and “co-located with Tom Steyer’s political organization, NextGen Climate Action.” Elana Schor and Andrew Restuccia explain:

GOP’S INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE GAMBIT: DOUBT: Republican attacks on President Barack Obama’s climate policies are seeking to capitalize on one of the biggest obstacles to reaching an international pact on global warming — skepticism among other countries that the U.S. is seriously committed to doing its part. Some who follow the issue worry that the GOP strategy could work. The White House and environmentalists dismiss Republicans’ influence on the negotiations, saying other world leaders understand that Obama calls the shots on U.S. climate policy. But some involved in the climate effort say the GOP assault, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could undermine progress in getting major polluters like China to agree to serious actions before this year’s summit in Paris. Our A-team, literally, of Andrew Restuccia and Alex Guillén have more:

HAPPY THURSDAY. I’m your morning host, Darius Dixon, and as promised, here are the D.C. history book recommendations I received: “Dream City,” “Washington at War,” “Worthy of a Nation,” Empire of Mud,” “The Last Great Senate,” “Grand Avenues,” “City of Magnificent Intentions,” “Best Addresses,” “Anacostia: Death and Life of an American River,” and the “WPA Guide to Washington.” Send your energy tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

CALIF. WATER ORDER INCLUDES ENERGY PROVISIONS: By now you’ve no doubt heard about California’s increasingly dire water shortage problem and Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision yesterday to impose a statewide 25 percent cut in potable water use through the end of next February. Well, along with changing millions of square feet into drought tolerant landscapes, Brown’s executive order included a couple of energy-related directives. First off, your morning host noticed that Brown’s order attempts to stave off a secondary problem: electricity disruption. Considering the quantities of water needed for power plant cooling systems — and their expected water levels — the executive order waives most of the state’s regulations for a utility that wants to modify a facility “for the purpose of securing alternate water supply necessary for continued power plant operation.” The California Energy Commission “shall expedite the processing” of such applications and the agency is empowered to implement a fast-tracking system for them. A jaunt through EIA data shows that among plants with a capacity of more than a megawatt, 27 — about a quarter of the state’s total — use the Pacific Ocean for cooling (for you nuclear watchdogs, that includes Diablo Canyon) so they’re not likely to need modification but many of the rest use rivers and other sources.

Another element in the order that seemed interesting was the language directing state agencies to establish a “Water Energy Technology” program that would “achieve water and energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions by accelerating use of cutting-edge technologies such as renewable energy-powered desalination.” Brown’s executive order:

NRDC SOUNDS OFF ON EPA ANALYSIS: NRDC weighed in yesterday on a recent EPA analysis of fracking chemical disclosures using data from FracFocus, the industry-backed reporting portal that green groups have long criticized for insufficient transparency. EPA’s report is “the most complete look we’ve gotten to date” at the identity and breadth of chemicals used in fracking, NRDC’s Matthew McFeeley wrote, but it also “highlights how much we still don’t know” given gaps in the scope and timeframe of data provided to the agency by drillers that reported to FracFocus. Here’s a link to EPA’s original analysis:

EPA TO GOP: WE’LL GET BACK TO YOU. PROMISE: Following a tense exchange between Sen. Jeff Sessions and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy early last month, the agency has assured lawmakers that it plans to reply to their questions about the accuracy of climate models. “We will respond to the senators, but we stand by science and our models,” EPA Spokeswoman Liz Purchia said in an email. “The scientific record and numerous lines of evidence all point to the reality of climate change — projecting with specificity the severity and location of various impacts notwithstanding, climate change is real, it threatens our health, security, or environment and our economy, and that’s why the administration is moving forward with solutions that both address the threat, increase our communities’ resilience, and leave a better world for future generations.”

The exchange between the pair repeatedly cutting each other off as Sessions pressed McCarthy about whether droughts and hurricanes have become more frequent and extreme, and whether actual temperature increases have matched prior projections. Sessions, along with Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe and two other GOP senators sent a letter to McCarthy yesterday giving her “one more chance to answer”:

While we’re talking about letters to EPA, Rep. Ed Whitfield sent a letter to the agency about a proposal to ban certain refrigerants:

OIL SLUMP TAKES A LITTLE OF THE TOP: The Energy Information Administration is out with a report saying that OPEC nations took an 11 percent hit in oil export profits in 2014, compared with the previous year. The leading cause of the dip from $824 billion to $730 billion is the slump in oil prices and “to a lesser extent from decreases in the amount of OPEC net oil exports.” EIA projects that OPEC net oil export revenues will fall further this year, to about $380 billion, as a result of lower annual crude oil prices. EIA’s analysis didn’t include Iran’s contributions or revenue because of “difficulties associated with estimating Iran’s earnings, including the country’s inability to receive payments and possible price discounts Iran offers its existing customers.” Saudi Arabia represented the largest portion of the earnings: $246 billion in 2014 — about a third of total OPEC oil revenues.

Despite the claims of those like Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson, who thinks oil prices will be under $55 a barrel well into 2017, EIA expects OPEC’s revenues next year will “rebound to $515 billion with the expected rebound in crude oil prices.” The report:

CHICAGO GROUP MAKES SAFE PICK: The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago is announcing today that it has tapped Sam Ori to be the organization’s new executive director. Ori, a Chicago public policy alum, is currently the executive VP of Securing America’s Future Energy here in D.C., a spot he’s held since 2012, after initially joining the group to be its policy director in 2007. Institute director Michael Greenstone is a former economic adviser to Obama and Pete Ogden, another ex-aide to the Obama White House, became a senior advisor there in February.

ENVIRO CALLS ON NRC TO NOT SCRAP SAN ONOFRE REVIEW: Friends of the Earth is pressing Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Stephen Burns to reverse a staff decision and persist with a review of the installation of faulty steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, KPBS reports. The agency took almost three years to respond to a petition filed by Friends of the Earth asking for an examination of regulatory procedures leading up to the installation of steam generators that subsequently crippled the plant and led to its closure. But NRC staff issued a draft decision saying that a more thorough review isn’t necessary because the plant is now shuttered. NRC spokesman David McIntyre said the commissioners may decide to review the staff’s final decision once it’s made, but not in response to requests. KPBS:

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to hold a hearing with the NRC commissioners on April 15, and this is certain to come up.

GORE-REID MASHUP IN THE OFFING? Retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told the Las Vegas news station KLAS that he doesn’t plan to seek employment once he leaves office in January 2017 but he joked around about possibly teaming up with former Vice President Al Gore: “I want to do something to keep me busy. I’ve written three books. Maybe I will write another book,” said Reid. “I might even want to become a channel 8 newscaster. I don’t know what I want to do; a lot of things. I got a call from Al Gore, my pal, my friend. I love Al Gore. I supported him when he ran for president the first time. Maybe I can do something with Al Gore.” In true Reid fashion he said he spends more than enough time with his family and isn’t leaving office for that.


— These Florida Republicans are busy protecting their coasts. The Washington Post:

— Oil Glut Is a Boon to Shippers, as Buyers Stock Up at Low Prices. The New York Times:

— Don’t panic, Heller says of future without Reid. KSNV MyNews3 Las Vegas:

— Coal export terminal gets water-quality approval from Oregon. The Associated Press:

— The public energy connector. Capital New York:

— A geoscientist’s take on new U.S. fracking rules. Science:

— Cheap oil, sanctions take toll on Russian energy. The Christian Science Monitor:

— Hawaii’s Utility Is Approving a Backlog of More Than 3,000 Solar Installations. Greentech Media:

— German Cabinet Approves Anti-Fracking Draft Law. The Wall Street Journal:


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