Energy News for May 13, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 13, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 5/13/2015

By DARIUS DIXON,w ith help from Alex Guillén, Darren Goode and Elana Schor

A FERC SANS MOELLER: FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller, a Republican who first joined the agency in 2006 and was appointed to a second term in 2010, says he will leave the agency this year. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve on the Commission every single day since I joined the Commission in July 2006,” Moeller said in a statement. “I send thanks to President Bush and President Obama for nominating me, as well as the members of the United States Senate who unanimously confirmed me to both terms. My plan as of now is to serve until a new Commissioner is confirmed.” Officially, Moeller’s term expires June 30 but he can stick around until Congress adjourns at the end of the year unless a successor is confirmed. No more than three of the five seats on the FERC leadership board can be from the same party, so Moeller’s successor will also be a Republican.
The politics of FERC are rarely cut and dry. Moeller has proven to be an unlikely ally on what will become a major Supreme Court case, demand response (Interesting side note: Moeller was sworn in at FERC by Chief Justice John Roberts). The Spokane native backs FERC’s authority to regulate demand response payments in the wholesale markets, but disapproves of the compensation scheme created by FERC’s 2011 rule. He argued it paid DR providers too much — a viewpoint ultimately agreed upon by the appellate court that struck down the rule. FERC’s jurisdiction and the compensation scheme will be reviewed by the Supreme Court this fall. On EPA issues, Moeller repeatedly pressed the agency to add a mechanism in its forthcoming carbon rule for existing power plants to address reliability issues. Before joining FERC, Moeller ran the D.C. office of Alliant Energy, a utility holding company, held jobs with Calpine and former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.). So far, he hasn’t shared his post-FERC plans yet.

Space considerations: Although Moeller hasn’t been chairman, his agency digs have actually been the Chairman’s office (it’s bigger) but Jon Wellinghoff and Cheryl LaFleur didn’t seek to boot him during their times leading FERC. Who knows, maybe recently minted Chairman Norman Bay will set things straight.

Where credit is due: SNL Energy’s Esther Whieldon first reported Moeller’s expected departure yesterday afternoon. She also reported that Republicans have sent Pat McCormick up to fill Moeller’s seat.

On McCormick: He’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s chief counsel for Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Republicans, and his resume includes a 1990s stint at FERC as a deputy assistant general counsel for electric rates and corporate regulations. If McCormick is the pick, those still traumatized by the 2013 fight around Ron Binz’s failed nomination might suffer a few flashbacks — and some might see an opportunity for revenge. McCormick is the main person Democrats blame for greasing Binz’s downfall, so expect some stiff opposition. But congressional math greatly favors McCormick. After the minority Republicans lined up against Binz, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s defection in 2013 was the only thing needed to stifle his nomination in the energy committee. Now, the party numbers have flipped and, on a potential McCormick nomination, don’t expect any ENR Republican to do anything but give their full-throated support. And now that Republicans control the Senate, there aren’t that many bottlenecks his critics can pinch.

Pure (though calculated) speculation: For those who work in this town, this will seem obvious. The play here seems to be setting up Pat McCormick to be FERC chair circa 2017, in the hopes of seeing a President Cruz/Paul/Rubio/Bush/Fiorina/Carson. Moeller missed his opportunity to lead the agency when Obama was reelected in 2012. But filling Moeller’s seat would give his replacement a term that ends in 2019. I’m just sayin’.

HAPPY HUMP DAY: I’m Darius Dixon, and I want to thank everyone who offered ME baby travel advice. I deployed almost everything, but one important factor for your fellow plane-mates is whether there’s another kid more upset than your kid. On that basis, mini-ME was a champ! Send your energy news, tips and commentary to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

** A message from the Nuclear Energy Institute: What is America’s energy future? Every day we depend on safe, clean, affordable, reliable electricity from nuclear energy. And as electricity demand continues to grow, clean-air nuclear energy is an essential component of America’s energy and environmental future. Get the facts at **

ANNNND … LIFT (THE OIL EXPORT BAN): Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and 11 of their Senate friends are unveiling legislation today seeking to lift the “outdated ban on crude oil exports.” Besides ending the ban, the bill directs the Energy Department to come up with a standard definition of “condensate.” Oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is exempt from the bill and there’s language directing DOE to lead an interagency effort to improve and coordinate information about energy distribution on shared infrastructure. It also supports a section of the Obama administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review asking for more integration of energy data across North America. So far, Heitkamp is the only Democratic co-sponsor. The bill:

OPEN THAT. SHARE THIS: MURKOWSKI OFFERS ALASKA REVENUE SHARING PLAN: Murkowski late yesterday also floated new legislation that would give her home state specific new destinations for revenue raised by offshore oil and gas development. For its first 10 years, the new bill would route guaranteed 2.5-percent shares of offshore drilling revenues to workforce development, new drilling and pipelines, and a new initiative aimed at tapping North Slope oil sources. For the longer term, the bill would send 12.5 percent of revenues to Arctic infrastructure, low-income heating aid, and weatherization. The bill:

But wait, there’s more revenue sharing: The bipartisan duo of Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Scott introduced the Southern Atlantic Energy Security Act, which an aide said, directs the Interior Secretary to hold three lease sales for the South Atlantic in the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf leasing program, and establishes “fair revenue sharing” that splits federal-state portions 50-50. Ten percent of the state funds must go to issues such as land and water conservation efforts, public transportation projects, or renewable energy generation. Another 2.5 percent of the state money must also to go to public-private partnerships to expand geoscience education.

And still more revenue sharing: Senators along the Gulf of Mexico — Sens. Bill Cassidy, David Vitter, John Cornyn, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker — also unveiled the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act to expand oil and gas exploration and bring “greater equity” in revenue sharing.

CAPITOL COMMUNION: Sen. Susan Collins said she doesn’t have any expectations ahead of a closed-door briefing she and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse are co-hosting this afternoon with Catholic bishops ahead of Pope Francis’ encyclical next month on climate change and environmental stewardship. “The bishops asked us to host this briefing,” Collins told ME yesterday. “I don’t know what they’re going to say … so I look forward to finding out.” Collins isn’t expecting a big crowd at the meeting for senators in the Capitol Building featuring Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Bishops. But as a Catholic and one of the greenest Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Maine Republican is curious about what the bishops “are going to say that the pope will be proclaiming because this is not an issue that I think of the pope speaking out on,” she said. “But of course one of the refreshing aspects of the new pope is that he does speak out on a lot of issues which the church has been silent traditionally.”

TSCA THURSDAYS IN THE HOUSE: House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders in both parties announced a deal yesterday to update federal oversight of dangerous chemicals and set a markup for noon on Thursday. The latest version ( of the House plan to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act has won the backing of panel Chairman Fred Upton, Rep. Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the committee, and the leading lawmakers on E&C’s Environment and the Economy Subcommittee. “We have all spent a great deal of time studying the law and negotiating solutions, and we have reached a strong bipartisan agreement that works to improve both chemical safety and commerce,” all four said in a joint statement. The broad support on the House panel mirrors the backing for a version that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved last week. EPW ranking member Barbara Boxer has led a mini-revolt, objecting to measures that would preempt future action by California to address high-priority chemicals.

Racking up the co-sponsors: The TSCA bill on the Senate side, led by Sens. David Vitter and Tom Udall, already includes more than three dozen senators, and now Sen. Bob Casey, David Perdue and Dan Coats have signed on.

NOT AS EASY AS 123: Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee had a hard time yesterday getting over their security concerns amid discussions of renewing a civilian nuclear agreement with China — despite the economic benefits of keeping a hook in the world’s largest nuclear energy market. “The president’s transmission letter to Congress states that this agreement is based on a mutual commitment to nonproliferation, but I have some misgivings,” Chairman Bob Corker said of President Barack Obama’s decision last month to re-up the so-called 123 agreement. “The commitment may not be so mutual.” Corker pointed to nonproliferation assessments highlighting China’s strategy for strengthening its military through foreign technology. He was also concerned about China’s supplying of power reactors to Pakistan and said China’s proliferation of missile technology should be considered.

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman argued that the deal is in the interests of the U.S. “This agreement is not a favor we give to China or that China gives to us.” He also said that the Chinese “do not have a long track record in controlling exports as effectively as the U.S. and other nations,” but “I do believe they are trying. I do believe that they need a higher level of political commitment to meet the standards to which they aspire.”

MARKEY’S BACK TO THE FUTURE MOMENT: Corker was hardly the only lawmaker concerned about not trying to get stronger nonproliferation commitments out of China. Sen. Robert Menendez pressed on similar issues and Sen. Ben Cardin was concerned that there wasn’t language aimed at addressing potential Fukushima- or Chernobyl-like disasters. But it was Sen. Ed Markey — who was a major voice on the same issue in 1985, when the original agreement was approved, and again in 1998 — who positioned himself as the biggest thorn in the bill’s side yesterday. “I am not confident that I can support this agreement,” Markey said. “I think that it’s absolutely critical that safeguards be put in place to make sure that there are conditions that are attached to this agreement that ensure that there is not continued recurrence of dangerous activity that will come back to haunt our country and the world because of China’s unwillingness to actually police the export of these very dangerous technologies into the hands of those who we know will endanger the world if they gain access to it.”

“It’s deja vu all over again,” one Hill staffer told ME.

Countryman acknowledged Markey’s concerns about Li Fang Wei, aka Karl Lee, for his role as a “missile proliferator” ( who has aided Iran’s weapons program and offered some shared frustration that the Chinese government hasn’t gone after him. But Markey was unconvinced that China was “trying” to improve their weapons nonproliferation enforcement. “I think it’s preposterous to conclude that the Chinese government is incapable of shutting this down,” he said. “I think it exists at the sufferance of the Chinese government.” Sen. David Purdue later said he agreed with some of Markey’s comments and added, “I’ve done business in China and if it was consistent with their strategic initiatives and objectives, I believe they could police this.”

THE FUSION EVENT OF THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY: While the nuclear industry absorbs the hurdles to seeing the 123 agreement with China going through, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual meeting really kicks off today. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Exelon chief Chris Crane, IHS vice chairman Dan Yergin, and Entergy CEO Leo Denault are among the morning highlights, while NRC Chairman Stephen Burns speaks in the afternoon. NEI leader Marv Fertel starts things off at 8:30 a.m. The program:


— State Dept. can’t fulfill your FOIA because it’s overwhelmed by Hillary e-mails. The Washington Post: (Well, that’s convenient!)

— North Dakota’s other hot commodity…caviar. Reuters:

— Restrictions on Centrus’ Poneman may not apply to DOE contractors. The Center for Public Integrity:

— Antitrust Questions Cast Doubt on G.E. Deal for Alstom’s Energy Unit. The New York Times:

— How New York’s Microgrid Prize Is Testing New Energy, Market Relationships. Greentech Media:

— Alaska’s Tricky Intersection of Obama’s Energy and Climate Legacies. The New York Times:

— LePage, clean-energy advocates clash over governor’s agenda. The Portland Press Herald:

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