Energy News for April 6, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 6, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 4/6/2015


ME FIRST: GAS GROUP FILES FOIA ON DOE REG: The American Gas Association wants a chance to dissect just how the Energy Department cooked up its proposed efficiency standards for residential furnaces. AGA is accusing the agency of “obscuring” several aspects of its rulemaking process, including the assumptions and methodologies at play, and filed a Freedom of Information Act for several documents. Despite the group’s efforts to obtain many of documents through written requests, AGA says that it’s so far been rebuffed. AGA’s FOIA request calls for information across a dozen different aspects of the draft rule, including the “consumer choice model” DOE developed to figure out the conditions under which homeowners and builders might switch to an electric system rather than install a new natural gas furnace that meets the proposed standard. In digging into the model, AGA wants to know how DOE’s regulation developers came up with the estimate that new appliances meeting the standard would take 3.5 years to pay for themselves in savings.

What’s all the huff about? The draft rule is expected to save consumers anywhere between $3.1 billion and $16.1 billion by 2050, according to DOE projections. But the 80-page draft rule also says the standard could drive up certain emissions. While the proposal notes projected reductions in CO2 and NOx emissions, it says that increases in other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and mercury are expected “due to projected switching from [non-weatherized gas furnaces] to electric heat pumps and electric furnaces under the proposed standards.” AGA is also arguing that the standard may not save as much energy as DOE expects, while imposing high costs.
On top of complaining about DOE’s conclusions, AGA argued that much of the analyses DOE seems to rely on are based on “methodologies that are proprietary or otherwise outside the public domain” and AGA noted its interest in documents potentially held by Navigant Consulting, which does work on DOE rulemakings. AGA isn’t alone that concern. For example, last year, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a trade group of manufacturers, criticized the “flawed” analysis that went into DOE’s commercial refrigeration rule and is suing ( the agency in federal court. AGA’s FOIA request:

THE SETTLEMENT ENVIROS WILL BE READING: New Jersey’s proposed $225 million environmental settlement with Exxon Mobil is slated to be made public today, according to The Associated Press and Reuters. The details of the controversial agreement will be posted on the website of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and published in the New Jersey Register with a 30-day comment period. New Jersey filed its lawsuit — originally seeking $8.9 billion in damages — against the oil giant 11 years ago over land and water pollution claims near two of the company’s plants in the state. News of the settlement was announced early last month and even though the settlement amount is less than three percent of what the state initially demanded, Gov. Chris Christie has called it “really good.”

NBC Philadelphia has a nice, simple timeline of how this moves forward:

WELCOME BACK, HAPPY MONDAY. I’m Darius Dixon, your morning host, and I hope everyone had a great weekend. And whether or not any nuclear agreement gets ironed out with Iran, I’m just glad that people outside the energy world may finally know Ernest Moniz for something other than his hairdo. Send your energy commentary, news, scoops and tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

** A message from Fuels America: After years of innovation and investment, the cellulosic biofuels industry is now deploying the lowest carbon, most innovative fuel in the world at commercial scale. A new Third Way report shows “reforming” or repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard could doom this potentially transformative sector. Find out how: **

WASHINGTON GOV. INSLEE’S CLIMATE BY ANOTHER NAME: Via The New York Times: “‘It’s not the flowers,’ he said. ‘It’s kids’ lungs.’ The line encapsulates Mr. [Jay] Inslee’s practical approach to advancing one of the most ambitious environmental programs in the country. He has proposed collecting a new charge on emissions from oil refineries, power plants and other industries that would reap an estimated $1.3 billion in the first year. But in contrast to similar systems in California and the Northeast, energy experts said, Mr. Inslee’s plan would use most of the new revenue for education and transportation rather than on climate or energy projects.”

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, the AP reports that Maine Gov. Paul LePage is “looking to open the door to more hydropower from Canada and natural gas to bring down Maine’s electricity costs. While many of LePage’s past energy efforts have fallen flat, he will have an opportunity to strengthen his influence this spring when he replaces the last remaining Democratic appointee to the agency that regulates the state’s utilities.”

DELAWARE REGULATORS PREPARE TO MOVE ON EXELON-PEPCO: The Delaware News Journal: “With terms still disputed but tentatively settled, Delaware’s Public Service Commission will hear a final round of testimony Tuesday on an Exelon-Pepco Holdings Inc. merger that will make Delmarva Power part of the region’s largest electric and gas utility.

The merging companies already have tentatively agreed to share benefits of the deal with Delmarva’s Delaware customers through credits on bills or other provisions… PSC members are expected to take a final vote later this month.”

The detractors: “Some parties in the Delaware case have reservations, including an independent market analyst monitoring the process for the region’s power grid, Chesapeake Utilities, NRG Energy, the Partnership for Sustainability in Delaware and Jeremy Firestone, a University of Delaware professor and energy researcher. Concerns about the merger range from excessive concentration of control over regional transmission lines to inadequate provisions for renewable energy and energy efficiency.” The News Journal:

The settlement agreement was announced in February and hashed out with the PSC staff, Delaware’s public advocate, and department of natural resources and environmental control as well as three efficiency and renewable energy advocacy groups. If you’re interested, the agreement:

MONIZ BECOMES THE WHITE HOUSE’S IRAN MAN: The White House is calling in the geek squad to sell its Iran deal. Skeptical members of Congress — and the general public — might not trust the administration when it says it will prevent the Islamic Republic from building a nuclear weapon. And they certainly don’t trust the Iranians. So the White House is asking them instead to put their faith in science. The president’s top nerd, MIT-nuclear-physicist-turned-Energy-Secretary Ernest Moniz, is already emerging as the face of the effort to describe exactly how the framework agreement prevents Iran from building a nuclear weapon and would give the world a one-year lead time if they renege. Sarah Wheaton has more:

Moniz has done mass media hits on NPR’s “Science Friday” and “All Things Considered,” as well as CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and probably elsewhere, trying to explain the work that DOE’s weapons labs have done on calculating the “breakout time” — the period it’s believed it would take Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

There can be only one: What does Obama science advisor John Holdren — wielder of advanced degrees in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics from MIT and Stanford — think of Moniz being called the president’s top nerd? I’ll bring the Star Trek fight music.

GETTIN’ ON THE BAKKEN-CHI-TOWN EXPRESS: The Chicago Tribune: “More highly volatile crude oil passes through the Midwest, specifically the Chicago area, via railroad tank cars than anywhere else in the country, according to newly released data from the federal government. The latest information on crude-oil-by-rail movements, the government’s first accounting of such shipments, showed that 437,000 barrels of Bakken shale crude oil were shipped daily in January from North Dakota to East Coast refineries. Since freight moving across the nation is funneled through Chicago, the nation’s busiest rail hub, that crude oil is passing through the city and suburbs, experts say. The volume of crude oil is enough to fill as many as 42 mile-long ‘unit trains,’ each with a hundred or more tank cars, traveling through the area each week.

“The Energy Information Administration data track the movement of crude oil by rail across five regions of the country. While the data don’t show the exact routes taken by each shipment, industry experts point to Chicago as the transfer point for rail shipments from the west to the East Coast. Documents obtained by the Tribune last year showed that as many as 40 crude oil trains roll through the Chicago area weekly.” The Chicago Tribune:


— Big energy’s campaign cash keeps solar down in Florida. The Miami Herald:

— This conservative group is tired of being accused of climate denial — and is fighting back. The Washington Post:

— A Reckoning With Weak Oil Prices. The Wall Street Journal:

— Duke Energy to pay Virginia $2.5 million for Dan River coal-ash spill. Charlotte Business Journal:

— East Village Gas Explosion Reveals Problems in City’s Inspection System. The New York Times:

— France plans to lobby for agricultural tech at COP 21. SciDevNet:

— Alcoa Redefines What It Makes — And Where. The Wall Street Journal:

— Five Bonneville Power officials lost their positions over veteran-hiring scandal. The Washington Post:

— ‘Tea Party’ protesters opposed to Florida land deal were mostly actors hired by Big Sugar. Raw Story:

— Hawaii regulators set timetable for NextEra Energy-Hawaiian Electric sale case. Pacific Business News:

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