Energy News for May 26, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 26, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 5/26/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with help from Alex Guillén

WITH THEIR POWERS COMBINED: Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is in Mérida, Mexico, this week for back-to-back ministerials, and he and energy officials in Canada and Mexico forged a new “working group” devoted to climate change and energy. The panel is an outgrowth of last year’s North American Energy Ministers Dialogue, which in part framed low-carbon energy as an economic driver. “The new trilateral Working Group supports implementation of clean energy and climate change goals of each of the three countries, including respective Paris targets,” the Energy Department said in a statement, which also noted several areas of technology collaboration including electric grid reliability, energy efficiency, and climate adaptation.
Moniz is participating in the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Ministerial, which wraps up tonight, and the two-day Sixth Clean Energy Ministerial that starts tomorrow.

Besides the ministerial gatherings, Moniz told reporters last week that he’s expected to meet with Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan José Guerra Abud as part of the U.S.-Mexico task force that was set up under Mexico’s greenhouse gas targets pledged to the United Nations in March. Moniz is in Mérida through Thursday.

Multi(nation)-tasking: Chinese Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang will attend this week’s ministerials alongside Moniz, who will travel to China this summer to discuss climate change and clean energy. Moniz, unsurprisingly, said that nuclear power is likely to be on the agenda of that trip. China is by far the largest market for nuclear power in the world, and Congress is currently reviewing a civil nuclear agreement the Obama administration is seeking to renew.

I’LL HUFF AND I’LL PUFF AND I’LL BLOW YOUR PROCESS EQUIPMENT DOWN: Hurricane season is about to begin and EPA wants to stress to big emitters that they have to do more prep than nail ply board over the windows. “EPA reminds owners/operators that various laws and regulations require that they minimize chemical releases during process shut down operations; and if reportable releases occur, they must be reported immediately upon constructive knowledge of occurrence,” the agency said Friday in a reminder to facility operators. Shutdown processes at industrial facilities usually mean lots of activity, potentially made all the more frenzied by an oncoming storm. Read:

Where is President Barack Obama? Speaking of hurricanes, the commander-in-chief is traveling to Miami this week to visit the National Hurricane Center to “to receive the annual hurricane season outlook and preparedness briefing,” according to the White House. But on Wednesday, he’ll also be in the Miami area to attend at least two Democratic National Committee events.

FLOTUS: CLIMATE IS AMONG THE ‘REVOLUTIONS OF YOUR TIME’: First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the commencement ceremony for Oberlin College graduates on Monday and name-checked climate change. Her speech happened to fall nearly 50 years after Martin Luther King’s commencement address at the school, and Obama included some references to the civil rights leader. “You see, in his speech to those Oberlin graduates 50 years ago, Dr. King urged them … not to sleep through the civil rights revolution that was raging across this country. And, graduates, climate change, economic inequality, human rights, criminal justice — these are the revolutions of your time,” she said, according to a transcript. “And you have as much responsibility and just as much power to wake up and play your part in our great American story.”

WELCOME BACK! IT’S A FOUR-DAY WEEK. I’m Darius Dixon and your host enjoyed his attempt at a BBQ this Saturday — an event that’s likely to be my last until summer starts to wane. And yeah, I know that summer hasn’t even officially started. My mom also experienced being hemmed in by Rolling Thunder for the first time on Sunday, so there was something of a culture shock. Send your energy news, tips and commentary to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

** A message from Fuels America: The EPA has a choice: Oil industry profits, or rural economies and American innovation? Congress designed the Renewable Fuel Standard to offer certainty to investors and employers. If the EPA caves to oil lobbyists, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be threatened: **

THE INS AND OUTS OF CONGRESS: The Senate and House are out the rest of the week. But if you were on the grid at all on Friday and Saturday, you know that the Senate will return on Sunday to do something with the reauthorization of PATRIOT Act. Early Saturday morning the Senate failed to pass either the USA Freedom Act, a House-passed reauthorization bill that reforms the government’s controversial bulk phone records program, or a two-month extension of the existing law, which expires on May 31. The House is out until Monday.

THE LATEST ON THE SANTA BARBARA OIL SPILL: More than 650 workers have been called up to assist with cleaning up oil that coated miles of Santa Barbara County beachfront last week. And on Monday morning, The Los Angeles Times reported that California officials relented and agreed to train cleanup volunteers that the state had previously been turning away.

State and federal officials have warned that working near crude oil can be dangerous for untrained workers, the paper noted, adding that inhaling oil fumes can cause headaches, vomiting, confusion and respiratory difficulties, among other problems. “Those warnings haven’t prevented a slew of volunteers from picking up shovels and buckets and heading to beaches throughout Santa Barbara County.” The Times reports that workers are preparing to send the ruptured section of pipe in for metallurgical testing this week.

The Associated Press also reports that there was no auto shutoff mechanism for the pipe that may have dumped as much as 105,000 gallons of crude oil: “The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three decades ago, a county official said.” AP:

The LA Times also describes the scene — and the 12-hour workdays — cleanup teams are faced with, including capturing animals for rescue:

And anti-fracking protestors who also want dispersants barred from cleanup efforts:

WILDFIRE SHUTS DOWN ABOUT 9 PERCENT OF ALBERTA CRUDE OUTPUT: Via Reuters: “A wildfire raging in northeastern Alberta has shut down around 233,000 barrels per day of production at three oil sands projects and is expected to remain out of control for ‘some while yet,’ a provincial government spokesman said on Monday.”

CALLING YOU REGULATION NERDS: Given the holiday weekend, you’ll be forgiven if you haven’t yet pulled up the latest edition of Energy Regulation Watch. Pro Energy’s Alex Guillén layouts out ramblings about the Supreme Court, court briefing updates, and legislation:

RIPPED FROM REGWATCH — TUESDAY SCREWSDAY? As court watchers know, we have now entered the period when two major court rulings on EPA regulations could come down, and today could prove to be a double-whammy. First, the Supreme Court will rule soon in the suit challenging its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. It’s been about two months since oral arguments in that case, so look for a decision any week now — though admittedly a ruling could come as late as the end of June.

Plus, the D.C. Circuit could rule any time on the lawsuit brought by coal companies and some states challenging EPA’s proposed carbon rule for existing power plants. There’s a good chance the circuit judges there are waiting to make sure the Supreme Court doesn’t throw an unexpected wrench into the proceedings with its MATS ruling — but they may release it before then as well. EPA is widely expected to prevail in both cases, though it eventually would face the same legal arguments against its carbon rule once that is finalized this summer.

Note: The Supreme Court usually releases opinions on Mondays — but given Memorial Day, well, you get the idea. And the D.C. Circuit mostly releases opinions on Tuesdays and Fridays. So this week, in theory, could see the release of both rulings at about the same time. Make sure you’re not late to work, just in case.

ARIZONA REGULATOR CHATTY WITH UTILITY, ‘DARK MONEY’: Elections for the Arizona Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulator, were highly contentious — and expensive — last year, and raged over solar power. And the drama is still unfolding. Via The Arizona Republic: “Extensive communications between the state’s top utility regulator, Arizona Public Service Co. and a non-profit that spent heavily on campaigns for two new regulators in 2014 have been uncovered by a non-profit clean-energy group. … During that time, Commission Chairman Bob Stump sent more than 50 private text messages to an APS executive and 46 to a political ‘dark money’ organizer, according to the non-profit investigating the commission … APS is widely believed to have contributed to groups that supported two Republicans in the Corporation Commission race, but utility officials will neither confirm nor deny such contributions.”

Election regulators to review utility regulator’s texts. More from The Arizona Republic:

ONCE UPON A SOLAR PANEL IN THE WEST: The Las Vegas Sun has done a much-needed overview of the net-metering debate churning in Nevada, which has solar companies and big business turning against the Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility NV Energy: “The future of solar energy in Nevada is at stake in a furious battle that likely won’t be resolved as the 2015 state legislative session nears an end next month. Solar advocates, Nevada businesses and solar industry reps are pushing for more rooftop solar, saying it’s unfair to force consumers to remain chained to the grid and warning that the state could lose thousands of jobs if it doesn’t adapt. State utility NV Energy claims more household solar means increased prices for traditional customers who can’t or won’t install solar panels on their houses or businesses … The Legislature seems to have sided with NV Energy.” The Sun:


— Oil Companies Look to Join Climate Debate. The Wall Street Journal:

— China warned over ‘insane’ plans for new nuclear power plants. The Guardian:

— Goldman Sachs targets $1 billion in Japan renewable energy bonds. Reuters:

— Tourism on the Gulf rebounds and some credit BP. The Washington Post:

— Atlanta phases in new energy policy. WXIA Atlanta:

— California oil spill despoils coastline in tar-blackened reprise of 1960s disaster. The Guardian:

— Partisan struggle over Maine energy policy persists. Bangor Daily News:

— Solar plane delays attempt at most challenging leg of epic journey. CNN:

— The Drifting World: Plankton, 98 percent of the ocean’s biomass. The New Yorker:

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