Energy News for May 4, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on May 4, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 5/4/2015

By DARREN GOODE, with help from Elana Schor and Alex Guillén

THE BODY ELECTRIC: The Supreme Court may announce this morning whether it will take up FERC’s appeal of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal’s 2014 ruling that struck down the agency’s demand response rule. The justices were scheduled to discuss the case at their weekly conference on Friday. But they’ve already punted on a decision once, so it’s possible they’ll do so again. Why the delay? It’s hard to say because the high court doesn’t explain itself. Justices always give cases brought by the solicitor general close scrutiny, and the complexities of this case could mean they need more time to review it.
The Justice Department has argued that a split D.C. Circuit appellate panel wrongly vacated FERC’s rule through a misinterpretation of the agency’s jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act. There were two pillars ripped from the demand response rule by the court: the calculation of compensation for consumers who cut their power use, and whether FERC has jurisdiction over demand response, which the lower court said should be considered a retail activity governed by the states.

The rule had been challenged by several utility groups, including the Electric Power Supply Association, American Public Power Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Edison Electric Institute. The Environmental Defense Fund is among those saying the denial of FERC’s rule would make it harder to strengthen the nation’s power grid, reduce air emissions from fossil fuel plants and maintain lower electricity prices.

SO THIS IS WHAT ME LOOKS LIKE: I’m your first-time host Darren Goode, filling in for Darius Dixon, who is trekking with his lovely family in the Land of Starbucks, otherwise known as the Goode Household (Amirite, fellow parents of young children?). For those not yet already annoyed, please send tips, advice and coffee samples to and tomorrow’s fill-in ME author Andrew Restuccia ( Follow us on Twitter @DarrenGoode, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

A FAREWELL TO KINGS: The House is not in session this week. The Senate, however, is back today.

GHOST OF A CHANCE: And senators may resume action this week on legislation regarding a potential Iran nuclear deal, but it appears highly unlikely that an amendment from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski on lifting the U.S. crude oil export ban will be taken up before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moves to close out the debate. “She’s already accomplished the main goal of bringing up the issue and continuing to further awareness of the export issue,” Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said. Murkowski “will seek further legislative paths … to take every opportunity to push the issue,” he said.

WITH THAT SAID: Don’t expect Murkowski to use an upcoming four-titled energy package to try to lift the export ban. After addressing a series of energy efficiency bills at a hearing last week, Murkowski is looking to hold hearings on the other three titles of her plan — infrastructure, supply and accountability — in May and possibly early June, with the goal of holding markups in June and possibly early July.

OIL TRAIN POLITICS HUMMING ALONG: Expect senators to stay active this week in the aftermath of Friday’s release of the Transportation Department’s final rules for crude-by-rail safety. While members of Congress largely welcomed the new rule — requiring the retrofit or phaseout of the oldest-model tank cars shipping fuel around the country by as soon as 2018 — several faulted DOT for not getting the most dangerous tank cars off the tracks faster. That includes top Senate Energy and Natural Resources Democrat Maria Cantwell, who said the new rule “is just like saying ‘let the oil trains roll.’” Cantwell said she would look for legislative options to mandate even tougher standards, perhaps through the appropriations process or an upcoming passenger rail authorization. Elana Schor laid out the reaction and implications Friday:

HILLARYLAND: Hillary Clinton is traveling in California this week, including headlining a fundraiser at Tom Steyer’s house Wednesday. Elana reported last week that the May 6 “Conversation With Hillary” will be followed the next night at the home of another Keystone XL foe, Susie Tompkins Buell, a longtime friend of Clinton’s and co-founder of Espirit clothing company. And as POLITICO’s Tony Romm notes, she’ll also make a swing through Silicon Valley, a traditional liberal haven that some Republicans think they can tap in 2016.

Speaking of 2016 GOP candidates, three more are announcing their bids this week. That includes former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who unsuccessfully tried to topple Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010. Fiorina — who will follow her official announcement Monday with an online “town hall” event via the app Periscope — has argued California’s environmental laws hurt the economy and don’t mitigate climate change. And she has defended the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council against attacks from climate activists. Also announcing this week are two more conservatives: Ben Carson on Monday (after an unplanned unofficial announcement Sunday) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Tuesday.

WEEKEND AT…NEVERMIND: Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders followed his April 30 announcement that he would vie for the Democratic presidential nomination by appearing on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, telling host and former Bill Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos that his views on climate change and the Keystone XL pipeline might distinguish him from Hillary. “We need extremely bold leadership,” he said of climate change, adding he has “been leading the effort” against Keystone XL. He also ruled out a Ralph Nader-like independent bid that some still blame for Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 loss to George W. Bush. “No, absolutely not. I’ve been very clear about that,” Sanders said, adding he would support whoever is the Democratic presidential nominee.

TIME STAND STILL: After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans gave EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy an earful at a hearing last week over EPA’s budget, the legal implications of the agency’s greenhouse gas controls for power plants will get more scrutiny at a Senate Environment and Public Works Clean Air Subcommittee hearing Tuesday. The hearing features attorneys general from West Virginia and Oklahoma, former George W. Bush EPA General Counsel Roger Martella and Lisa Heinzerling, a former EPA policy chief who was one of the most aggressive advocates in the Obama administration for tackling climate change through the Clean Air Act. Her views likely will match those of McCarthy, who has said the upcoming power plant rules give states massive flexibility and will withstand legal scrutiny.

FLY BY NIGHT: The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is hosting its annual fly-in this week with CEOs and others descending on Capitol Hill and federal agencies to basically give EPA the business. They’ll voice support for Rep. Ed Whitfield’s Ratepayer Protection Act, which would essentially put EPA’s final carbon rule for existing power plants on hold until the courts have finished legal reviews of the rule. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote last week. NRECA members also don’t like EPA expanding the federal definition of regulated waters and want to make sure coal ash stays designated as non-hazardous. Conversely, they’ll thank supporters of the bipartisan energy efficiency legislation that the president signed into law last week.

INGLIS GIVEN JFK ‘COURAGE’ AWARD: Former Rep. Bob Inglis Sunday was awarded the annual Profile in Courage honor by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for his advocacy of a carbon tax even at the peril of his congressional career. “My political timing wasn’t great, but I wouldn’t change a thing,” the South Carolina Republican said in his prepared remarks “Given a choice between the law of love and the laws of politics, I know I chose the better.”

TRANSCANADA RESPONDS TO PIPELINE REPORT: After Friday’s ME featured a Freedom of Information Act find by DeSmogBlog shedding more light on the anomalies that caused TransCanada to shut down its first Keystone pipeline for five days in 2012, the company fired back at the liberal-leaning site for suggesting the episode showed systemic issues with the pipeline system that could ultimately include Keystone XL.

The company’s detection of worn-down areas on the pipeline — which the FOIA documents uncovered by DeSmogBlog identified as significantly corroded –“demonstrates our pipeline inspection systems worked as they were designed to,” TransCanada spokesman James Millar said by email. “It also shows how precise our monitoring system is in being able to pick up these small anomalies.” No leak happened on Keystone 1 before its 2012 shutdown, and Millar said the company linked the issues to “low-voltage electric currents from Keystone and a nearby pipeline interfering with one another.” Electric currents are often used to protect steel pipelines from corrosion.


— Poll: Democratic primary voters name climate change third biggest priority. Wall Street Journal:

—The Uphill Battle to Better Regulate Formaldehyde. New York Times:

—Myanmar awards Statoil, ConocoPhillips deep sea exploration contract. Reuters:

—The shale boom has already gone bust — at least for now. Bloomberg News:

—Russian oil production remains at post-Soviet high in April. Reuters:

chnology Conference, NRG Center, Room 306, 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX.

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