Energy News for April 8, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 8, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 4/8/2015


THE LAST THING THE COAL INDUSTRY WANTS TO HEAR: Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and former New York City Mayor Michael “Coal is a dead man walking” Bloomberg are holding a press conference today and they’re promising a bit of news on the organization’s Beyond Coal Campaign. According the Campaign, the group has so far helped steer 187 coal-fired power plants to retirement, which includes those that have scheduled a future closure date. That’s not even halfway to their target of some 265 gigawatts.

Remember this: In January, former George W. Bush administration Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies amid news that the group planned to double-down on its investments in an anti-coal campaign. At the time, McConnell’s office told the Lexington Herald-Leader that “it was a respectful parting of ways.”
Whatever Sierra Club and Bloomberg Philanthropies have in store it’ll probably trigger a bit of drinking around town — of course, the reasons will be different depending on your particular position. The action unfolds at the Sierra Club’s D.C. offices, 50 F Street NW, at 9 a.m.

MORE THAN A HAIRDO: Hours after President Barack Obama strode to the Rose Garden to sell the Iran nuclear deal, one of Congress’ top foreign policy players picked up the phone to get more details. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) didn’t dial the White House or the State Department. He wanted to talk to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Corker had heard plenty of the political arguments from the administration and its supporters, who had warned that he could scuttle the Iranian deal with legislation he’s pushing to give Congress a say over any nuclear agreement. But he needed technical information, and details of what was in the deal. “I called him, he didn’t call me,” Corker said in an interview after his conversation with Moniz. “What he says to me matters more than what some of the politically-oriented folks in the administration say.” That’s all you get! Your morning host joined up with Congress teamer Burgess Everett for this one. Read it here:

OK, I have to share my LOL moment of reporting: Longtime associate and former DOE undersecretary for science Steve Koonin described the vibe Moniz gives off as not all that different from the Tappet Brothers of public radio’s “Car Talk” program, fellow Massachusetts natives who were both MIT graduates. “They’re expert in what they were doing but with that cynical, deprecating Boston sorta humor,” Koonin said. “Ernie’s a little like that.”

If you were wondering: Moniz’s wife, Naomi, is the one who has cut his hair for decades. That’s trust.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY. I’m your morning host, Darius Dixon, and how the heck is it only Wednesday?!? I think I’m experiencing some relativistic time dilation here. Or maybe it’s just sleep-deprivation. Pick one. Or both. 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: **

THE MANATEE DEFENSE: House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop is using a weapon his party rarely wields to take aim at EPA’s emissions rules for power plants: endangered species protection. In a letter obtained Tuesday by POLITICO, Bishop (R-Utah) encouraged the Fish and Wildlife Service to push EPA for Endangered Species Act consultations over the greenhouse gas rules’ impact on at-risk species, particularly the manatee, which GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush once called his “favorite mammal.” Bishop gave FWS until Friday to say whether it agrees with EPA’s rationale for not opening endangered species consultations on a power-plant rule that is the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Current law requires agencies to consult with FWS on whether proposed rules could negatively affect protected species or their habitat. Elana Schor has more:

This begs the question: What is Jeb Bush’s favorite reptile? Florida’s got plenty of those: (one of my favorite New Yorker reads)

PAUL KEEPS THE GOP FAITH ON ENERGY: Rand Paul likes to present himself as a different kind of Republican — but when it comes to energy and climate issues, he usually runs with the GOP pack. The senator from Kentucky, who officially announced his White House run today, has moved outside the Republican orthodoxy by calling for the removal of a cap on biofuels and voting for a measure saying humans play a role in climate change. But Paul’s voting history, his RandPAC’s attack on the EPA’s “green goons” and his calls to abolish the Energy Department put him in the same camp with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other far-right candidates. Darren Goode has the news:

MCCARTHY’S TIPS ON RECORDKEEPING: House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith sent a letter yesterday asking League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski to turn over communications between his group and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding the Keystone XL pipeline. A text message Karpinski sent to the EPA chief on Feb. 5 was the only one the agency turned over to the committee that it said qualified as a federal record. In the text, Karpinski complimented McCarthy on the agency’s comments on Keystone XL and said, “I feel like the end is very near … ,” according to the committee. McCarthy responded to the text via email, according to the committee: “Gene — I received your text message earlier today but I do not use text messaging for work purposes. Please make sure in the future to use my email address.” Five days later McCarthy forwarded the text message to her assistant to be preserved as a federal record. The request is part of an ongoing effort by Smith to get roughly 5,000 text messages sent by McCarthy that were not preserved by the agency as federal records.

Smith asked Karpinski to provide “all documents and communications between Administrator Gina McCarthy and the League of Conservation Voters, including yourself, regarding Keystone XL, from January 2013 to the present, including text messages, emails, and phone records by noon on April 21.

PHYSICISTS PONDER CLIMATE STATEMENT: The American Physical Society, a large professional organization for physicists, released its draft Statement on Climate Change to its membership yesterday and Reddit has posted it for all to see. The statement is broken down into three sections for climate change, science and action. The section on Climate Change reads, in part: “Earth’s changing climate is a critical issue that poses the risk of significant disruption around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on the climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century.” Georgia Tech professor Judith Curry, a critic of some climate science and APS member, said the paragraph “seems to come from the Guardian.” APS members can submit a comment until May 6. Read the draft statements:

MURKOWSKI PUSHES BACK ON PUBLIC LANDS AMDT: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski is pushing back on environmental organizations that said an amendment she got into the 2016 budget resolution would “allow the states to take control of some of our most treasured places and sell them off to private interests for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging and other development.” The groups, Murkowski said in a lengthy statement, were “misrepresenting the facts.”

Murkowski: “This amendment doesn’t sell, transfer, or exchange any piece of property. It provides a general budgetary mechanism that would apply to future legislation. Any actual transfers or exchanges of land would still need to go through the regular order legislative process and be signed into law. Also, this amendment specifies that lands within a national park, national preserve, or national monument do not qualify.” During last month’s Vote-a-rama, Murkowski’s amendment was poised for a 50-50 defeat until Sen. Susan Collins was persuaded to switch her vote. The rest of Murkowski’s statement:

ON THAT D.C.-MARYLAND POWER OUTAGE YESTERDAY: First off, the Department of Homeland Security says that it wasn’t terrorism. The Washington Post: “A dozen people were trapped in stalled elevators, passengers were left searching for exits in darkened underground Metro stations, and a building full of Department of Energy employees and the main campus of the University of Maryland closed their doors. Thousands of visitors at Smithsonian museums on the Mall had to leave for hours. While the outage caused little more than a blip for many others, it took most of the afternoon to fully restore electricity.” The outage was blamed on the failure of a “simple” piece of transmission equipment in southern Maryland.

WJLA has the story as well, with some video snippets, including when the outage interrupted Oprah Winfrey’s speech at Warner Theatre:

Don’t let a “crisis” go to waste: The Diesel Technology Forum took yesterday’s outage as an opportunity to highlight that diesel backup generators used at hospital and government buildings kept things going. “No other energy source provides full-strength backup power within ten seconds of a failure by the primary electricity grid.”

NOT WHAT UTILITIES WANT TO SEE: Bloomberg reports on a new study from the Rocky Mountain Institute: “Utilities in the U.S. Northeast stand to lose as much as half of residential sales by 2030 as customers install solar and battery-storage systems and generate their own power, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain Institute. Residential and commercial customers who opt for alternatives to traditional, utility-supplied electricity could erode power sales in the region by as much as $34.8 billion.”


— Jeb Bush talks energy in visit to battleground Colorado. The Denver Post:

— Bat-Preservation Rules Rile Oil and Gas Industry. The Wall Street Journal:

— Cheap Oil Is Squeezing Property Owners in Energy Hubs. Bloomberg:

— Shell in Advanced Talks to Buy BG Group. The Wall Street Journal:

— Steyer comes to Sacramento, clashes with businesses over climate change bill. The Sacramento Business Journal:

— Solar energy advocates lobby for fewer restrictions in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe:

— The Battery Breakthrough We’ve Been Waiting for? The Wall Street Journal:

— Southern California Desalination Plant to Be Largest in Western Hemisphere. NBC San Diego:

— Low oil prices push Noble Energy to cut 100 jobs in Denver, Greeley. The Denver Post:

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