Energy News for May 22, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 22, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 5/22/2015

By DARIUS DIXON and ALEX GUILLÉN, with help from Elana Schor and Andrew Restuccia

EPA CARBON RULES GIVEN TENTATIVE AUGUST RELEASE DATE: Note to EPA World: Keep your August clear. That’s the date the administration has tentatively listed to finalize its major carbon rules for future and existing power plants in the spring Unified Agenda it released on Thursday. EPA for months has been saying “mid-summer” will be the release time for the package of rules, and the new agenda, which runs down when the administration thinks it will move the various regulations in the works, lists August as the projected finalization date. August is inarguably a tempting release time — the dog days of summer help sell the message to the public, while Congress’s month-long break makes for one of the best times to roll out the rule. Of course, that release date is tentative and could easily slip back, so stay on your toes.
OTHER RULES WE MINED (It’s like Christmas for regulations nerds):

— RFS still on track, for now: The agenda also notes the June 1 deadline to proposed RFS volumes for 2014 and 2015 (EPA threw in 2016 for free) from the agency’s consent decree with the oil industry. And with word on the street being EPA will actually stick close to that deadline, watch out for the proposed levels soon. That’s listed with a finalization date of Nov. 3, though it’s not technically due until Nov. 30. (ME’s conjecture: It’s a typo.)

— Streaming soon: Interior’s proposed rewrite of the stream buffer zone protection rule is now slated for a June release, two months later than the administration predicted last fall. Shipped to OMB for review in March, the regulation is a controversial measure meant to protect Appalachian streams from coal mining. Republicans have long been on the prowl to cut this rule down, and have once again started moving legislation designed to block it.

— New computer determination coming: The Energy Department had hoped to issue a final determination on writing efficiency standards for computers and battery backup systems by February. Well, February came and went. Now, however, the new Agenda says the determination will be out by the end of this month, which is basically next week. This sort of pre-rulemaking process has undergone quite a bit of alchemy since the agency first started nearly two years ago. Dockets were created, amended and destroyed after industry chimed in (an industry not that familiar with DOE’s regulatory process). Comment periods were also extended last fall, so it’s not a total shocker that the agency missed its deadline.

— Gas compressor timeline becomes an open question: As part of an administration-wide effort to rein in methane emissions under President Barack Obama’s climate action plan, DOE launched a rulemaking process in late July 2014 to consider writing up efficiency standards for natural gas compressors. There was a Request for Information in August, which got a comment period extension, and the hope that a proposed rule would be ready this November. But it looks like things are really up in the air. The new Agenda says, “Next Action Undetermined.”

— SEC puts off disclosure rule: Don’t expect the SEC to propose a new rule requiring energy and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments until next spring — unless a judge intervenes. The first rule was vacated in 2013, and the SEC hasn’t exactly been champing at the bit to move a rewrite. The new Unified Agenda lists April 2016 as the proposal goal, which matches up with what the agency told a judge earlier this year. Oxfam America has sued, hoping to force the agency to take action more quickly. That suit is still pending in a Massachusetts district court. For those keeping track, that means the proposal will come just before the three-year anniversary of the first version getting vacated, and close to five years after it was supposed to have been finalized.

— You may get a final federal buildings rule for Hanukkah: DOE’s rule calling for new federal buildings or major renovation projects to use 80 percent less fossil fuel-sourced energy compared to 2003 by 2020 is slated for a December release. The previous Agenda stopped with the comment period for the supplemental proposed rule. The initial draft was published in 2010 and the new supplemental NOPR was published in October. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required DOE to formulate a standard aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption compared to 2003 levels for certain new federal buildings and renovations costing at least $2.5 million. That reduction includes cutting fossil-fuel energy use by 100 percent compared to 2003 by 2030.

— Paging the ceiling fan delegation: DOE’s proposal for ceiling fan efficiency rules has spun out five months, from May to October. And the expectations for a final rule were blown from January 2016 to July 2016. Rep. Marsha Blackburn — who hails from ceiling fan country — and two of her colleagues, successfully attached an amendment to the 2016 fiscal energy and water spending bill that would prevent DOE from finalizing, implementing or enforcing new efficiency standards for ceiling fans.

If you just can’t get enough, read the Unified Agenda yourself!

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND IS UPON US: I’m Darius Dixon, and to kick things off on a fun note, I present you, Dear Reader, with my latest sense of awe and fear: Mini-ME’s forward translation. BEHOLD: (And ignore Mrs. ME talking about our stockpile of soy sauce). He’s turning nine-months on Monday and still isn’t a fan of rolling over, which sent our pediatrician into a tizzy a few months ago. Send your energy tips to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

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PROGRAMMING NOTE: Your host, and all his closest POLITICOs, are taking a long weekend in honor of Memorial Day so you’ll have to find something else to read first thing Monday morning. But we promise to show up in your inbox bright and early Tuesday. Congress, on the other hand, is out for the week. Have a great weekend!

HE’S IN IT FOR THE MONIZ: Chris Davis has been tapped as a new deputy chief of staff to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, according to an agency memo. Davis, formerly of the Energy Department’s congressional and intergovernmental affairs office, is taking the spot of Jonathan Levy, who left the agency late last month. Before DOE, Davis was in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Prior to that, he was worked on two high-profile House committees: Oversight and Government Reform, and Energy and Commerce. Break a leg! … Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

TSCA TIME: The House Energy and Commerce Committee is officially introducing its update to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act today. Panel leaders plan to debate the bill as soon as they get back from next week’s recess. E&C Chairman Fred Upton said that he also hopes to markup the bill and bring it to the House floor before the Independence Day recess. Only technical corrections will distinguish today’s bill from the draft version that was unanimously approved by Rep. John Shimkus’ Environment and the Economy Subcommittee last week. “No major changes,” he told reporters Thursday. “We’re pretty locked down on our side,” Shimkus said. “You can only screw it up now,” he said. “You start tinkering with it, things could fall apart.”

“Shimkus Week”: Shimkus also told reporters that a coal ash bill to be on the House floor during that last full week of June.

KERRY TALKS CLIMATE AT ARCTIC RECEPTION: At the Arctic Council Reception at the State Department Thursday night, Secretary of State John Kerry pressed several points about climate change as the U.S. takes the body’s two-year chairmanship. “I begin by being very clear that every nation that cares about the future of the Arctic has to be a leader in taking and urging others to move forward with bold initiatives and immediate, ambitious steps to curb the impact of greenhouse gases,” he said, according to State Department transcript. “A few minutes ago we were talking in the back room with my fellow foreign ministers about the importance of our responsibility on climate change and the difficulty of getting people in public life to link in reality to the daunting impacts that the potential catastrophe that comes with that change could bring to people. It’s hard to fathom and it’s hard to grab on, and for a lot of people it’s easier to shove it off and either pretend it’s not happening or let it — somebody else is going to take care of it. It’s not going to work that way.” He also urged for the implementation of an effort to reduce emissions of black carbon and methane in the Arctic while fostering economic development.

MOVER, SHAKER: The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners picked up Jennifer Murphy as its new assistant general counsel. Murphy, formerly a staffer at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, will help represent NARUC’s interests before FERC, DOE and in federal courts.

COMING TODAY — NEW EPA RULE ON SSM EMISSIONS: Today is the settlement agreement-imposed deadline for EPA to issue a final rule updating an old regulation regarding industrial facility emissions during startup, shutdown and malfunctions, when pollutants can greatly exceed normal limits and affect the surrounding communities. EPA had already proposed dropping so-called affirmative defenses — essentially a shield from civil penalties for SSM-related emissions violations — from startup and shutdown periods. Then last year a federal court ruling on a similar but separate issue prompted the agency to expand that proposal to include malfunctions as well. A few dozen states will have to update their implementation plans to reflect the change, which could mean more citizen lawsuits over emissions from industrial facilities.

RECESS WEEK WATCH: CHEVRON SHAREHOLDER MEETING: While Congress is on its Memorial Day vacation, Chevron’s annual confab on Wednesday is expected to bring a vote on a resolution from activist shareholders that urges the oil giant to increase stockholder dividends rather than pursue new spending on Arctic drilling, oil sands, and other “high cost, unconventional” projects that green groups warn pose a heightened risk of becoming “stranded assets” in the event of further progress on a global climate pact.

The sustainable investment nonprofit As You Sow and Arjuna Capital, a green-minded investment firm, joined forces to press the resolution past opposition from Chevron, which the groups say filed an unsuccessful Securities and Exchange Commission challenge to its consideration in March.

ME BAD: An item in Thursday’s edition about whether the EPA had dropped the carbon capture and sequestration requirement from its carbon rule for new power plants should’ve read “natural gas” rather than “gasoline.” Please don’t hold it against ME.

I’LL TAKE PIPELINE SAFETY HEARING WITH MY FRUSTRATION: Sen. Ed Markey is calling on the leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee to conduct a hearing on pipeline safety in light of this week’s Santa Barbara oil spill. “Given the need to reauthorize pipeline safety legislation this year, we must understand the current state of pipeline infrastructure and the effectiveness of the agency charged with overseeing it,” Markey wrote in a letter Thursday. Read the letter:


— Murray Energy to Lay Off Around 1,800 Workers. The Wall Street Journal:

— Cleanup of oil-fouled California beach could take months. Reuters:

— EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran defends EPA’s proposed restrictions on mining at the Pebble site in Alaska. The Wall Street Journal:

— BOEM director defends Shell Arctic drilling decision. Platts:

— CPUC approves plan to replace San Diego County natural gas power plant. The Los Angeles Times:

— Santa Barbara oil spill: Pipeline operator has long record of problems. The Los Angeles Times:

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