Energy News for May 18, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 18, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 5/18/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén

TODD STERN WALKS THE LINE: As the United States pushes for an historic deal at the Paris climate change summit later this year, President Barack Obama’s negotiators are working diligently to make sure they don’t turn out being dubbed Copenhagen, Part Two, Pro Energy’s Andrew Restuccia reports. That’s the challenge facing Todd Stern, the State Department’s special envoy for climate change, who has carefully tried not to over promise while also maintaining the momentum among major nations toward reaching a landmark international pact to begin slashing greenhouse gas emissions. “You have to strike a balance. You’ve got to balance not going too high and not going too low. You’ve got to build momentum. You’ve got to have people invested in the imperative of getting an agreement done in Paris,” he told POLITICO. “But you don’t want to deflate the will of countries to get something strong done.”
The Obama administration learned its lesson the hard way. Coming in Obama’s first year in office — and despite his last-ditch effort to salvage the negotiations by personally intervening — the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen produced a three-page text that didn’t bind countries to specific emissions cuts, and commentators roundly criticized the agreement as “weak” and “watered down.”

Now, nearly six years later, Stern seems confident that Paris won’t be another Copenhagen. The success of the negotiations won’t be determined by the specifics of the final agreement alone. It will depend in large part on the reactions of governments and green groups who are pushing hard to shape the talks — many of whom may be setting unrealistically high expectations about the deal that will emerge. Andrew has more for Pros:

FERC TO EPA: DON’T FORGET RELIABILITY: FERC’s five commissioners sent several suggestions to EPA on Friday to address reliability concerns related to the Clean Power Plan. In a four-page letter that is the result of a series of technical conferences held earlier this year, FERC diplomatically suggests that EPA’s final rule include a “reliability safety valve” to resolve potential conflicts between complying with EPA’s rule and FERC standards. FERC also suggest EPA give it the power to monitor reliability issues as states submit compliance plans. FERC says its role in overseeing such a valve should be “clearly defined,” as it is with EPA’s mercury rule. The commission also suggests a narrower valve oversight role that would have FERC simply review a proposed mitigation measure and make recommendations to EPA. The letter recommends the final rule include a process by which FERC or the North American Electric Reliability Corp. would review state plans to look for threats to reliability. The letter:

EPA TO FERC: UH, YEAH, WE KNOW: EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said the agency appreciates FERC’s letter and praised the commissioners for holding the technical conferences. “The information and insights that we’ve gleaned from these sessions and discussions have helped us in our continued focus on crafting a rule that provides sufficient time, flexibility and latitude for states, utilities and reliability organizations to take the necessary steps to ensure that all Americans continue to have access to clean, affordable and reliable energy,” she told ME. “EPA is committed to continuing the dialogue with FERC, as well as with DOE, to safeguard public health and the environment and maintain a strong electric grid. Over the past 45 years, EPA has never issued a rule that has threatened the delivery of affordable and reliable electricity to American families and the Clean Power Plan will not change that.”

WELCOME BACK! IT’S MONDAY. I’m Darius Dixon and your host had a great weekend with a nice “small world” moment. At a wedding party, I found out that the father-in-law to my wife’s best friend’s sister (got that?) is a member of The Rail World and happens to be an avid ME reader. I’ll admit that that was pretty much the highlight of my day. Send your energy news, tips and commentary to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

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THE INS AND OUTS OF CONGRESS: The Senate and House fly back today with votes at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively.

THE INS AND OUTS OF ME: I’ll remind you again on Friday, Dear Reader, but we might as well give you a heads-up now that there won’t be an edition of Morning Energy next Monday because of the Memorial Day holiday. Unlike Congress, however, ME will be back on the job the very next day.

COMPETES DAY: Last week’s House Rules Committee meeting on the America COMPETES Act reauthorization bill is scheduled to happen today at 5 p.m., which means there’s a good chance that the White House will announce today whether it plans to veto the measure should it make it to the president’s desk. The bill would cut funding for the DOE’s renewable programs while boosting spending on the National Science Foundation and DOE’s Science office.

If the White House doesn’t issue a veto threat, your host will have earned a 15-minute timeout in the corner. Keep in mind that there are two other bills on the session’s agenda, including an “emergency item” — Highway and Transportation Funding Act — so that may affect how much time is spent on COMPETES.

Democrats are still angry with Science Chairman Lamar Smith’s controversial COMPETES bill. And the measure hasn’t helped the Texas Republican make friends in the science community, whether it’s geologists (, physicists (, or all-encompassing organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science ( Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a former longtime MIT physics professor, has also chimed in ( Among the more than three dozen amendments filed ( are those seeking to boost ARPA-E funding, strike language barring the use of DOE R&D and commercial projects for developing regulations, as well as three efforts to insert stronger wording about manmade climate change. Despite the apparent delay, the COMPETES legislation actually lines up with the floor schedule House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy laid out at the beginning of the month.

HICK ON McCONNELL’S ‘JUST SAY NO’ PLAN: NO THANKS: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper turned down Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for governors to resist complying with EPA’s carbon rules for power plants as a way to buy more time to stymie the regulation, writing in a snarky letter that Colorado has made “immense strides” in cleaning up air “while keeping energy rates affordable.” He adds: “Although complying with the Clean Power Plan will be a challenge, states tackle problems of this magnitude on a regular basis. We think it would be irresponsible to ignore federal law, and that is why we intend to develop a compliant Clean Power Plan.” Read:


— The Senate: The two big-ticket items this week are happening Tuesday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee will embark on its third hearing to review several bills that might get folded into the Alaska Republican’s forthcoming legislative package. The hearing will sift through 27 bills, which range from FERC to geothermal power. Later the same day, Sen. Lamar Alexander’s energy and water appropriations subcommittee will markup its fiscal 2016 spending bill. On the latter, observers will be looking for what spending levels are included for Energy Department and NRC work on Yucca Mountain, as well as bipartisan language for a temporary waste storage program. The Environment and Public Works Committee has a hearing set for Wednesday morning to discuss scientific advisory panels at the EPA.

— The House: Today’s Rules Committee meeting on the Science Committee’s America COMPETES Act bill suggests the measure could reach the House floor this week. The Energy and Commerce Committee has two subpanel hearings this week related to its Architecture of Abundance legislative initiative. An E&C subcommittee will first discuss draft legislation on reliability and security ( Tuesday, while Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has been graciously invited to testify to the same subpanel on Thursday about the administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review and related legislative discussion drafts. The Natural Resources Committee is rather busy this week: A sage grouse hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, and two draft energy-related bills and the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule will be discussed at separate hearings on Wednesday.

INDIAN POINT OIL UPDATE: Tapping The Associated Press: “Cleanup crews working on an oil spill following a transformer failure and fire at a New York nuclear reactor have accounted for 8,300 gallons of leaked fluid. Entergy Corp. said Friday that about 16,000 gallons of machinery fuel remain unaccounted for following the fire last week at Indian Point Unit 3. The reactor shut down automatically and is safe and stable. It’s not clear yet how many remaining gallons leaked into the Hudson River, or seeped into the ground at a containment moat on site. The transformer takes energy generated by the reactor and sends it to the grid providing power to homes and businesses. The Unit 2 reactor on site continues to run. Entergy says it expects to announce what caused the failure by June 30.”

REPORT: EPA CARBON RULES HAVE LOW COST, EFFICIENCY IS BEST BET: Six economic models of EPA’s Clean Power Plan indicate the cost for the average U.S. household would be around $87 per year, according to a report out today from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. The report also concludes that energy efficiency “is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and results in lower power consumption,” and it says that efficiency helps minimize natural gas price increases. “Without energy efficiency, compliance will be more costly,” C2ES writes. “It would also result in even greater declines in coal generation and greater increases in natural gas generation as well, compared to the case where energy efficiency programs count.” The report also concludes that EPA’s carbon rules won’t do much to boost renewable or nuclear generation beyond a business-as-usual scenario. C2ES’s report (this goes live at 7 a.m.):

THE BRITISH ‘NO SPIN’ ZONE: New British Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said something that might’ve been music to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s ears: Local Britons will soon have veto power over onshore wind farms. Rudd’s not opposed to renewables (last week she said she wants to “unleash a new solar revolution” in the U.K., and in an interview with The Sunday Times, she said she likes the look of windmills, but added “We can’t have them on a scale in areas where people don’t want them.” Those new powers would be included in the “Queen’s Speech,” slated for May 27, Rudd told the paper. Subsidies for onshore wind farms are also out of favor. In writing about the interview, The Telegraph says that Rudd mentioned that the government would pass additional legislation that would allow shale gas extraction under national parks. Because drilling would still be banned, the wells would “have to be outside areas of groundwater and outstanding natural beauty.” The Telegraph:


— Court Ruling Raises Questions for Energy Partnerships. The Wall Street Journal:

— Reid takes shots at GOP campaign talk on Yucca. Las Vegas Review-Journal:

— US says decade-old Gulf oil leak could last another century. The Associated Press:

— Bill Nye talks climate change, racial conflict at Rutgers graduation. NJ Advance Media:

— Oil drilling controversy stirs old bitterness between Alaska and Washington. The Alaska Dispatch News:

— “March of the Penguins” director to close Cannes with climate change film “Ice and the Sky.” The Independent:

— Seattle ‘kayaktavists’ plan civil disobedience against Shell Oil (+video). The Christian Science Monitor:

— Natural Gas Set To Play Major Role In Michigan’s Energy Mix. The Associated Press:

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