Energy News for July 14, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 14, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 7/14/2015

By DARIUS DIXON, with lots of help from Elana Schor and Alex Guillén

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING — HISTORIC NUCLEAR DEAL REACHED WITH IRAN: Just after 3 a.m. The New York Times: “Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States have agreed to a historic accord to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran, a senior Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said on Tuesday.” NYT: A formal announcement will be made at 6 a.m., according to The Guardian’s helpful live feed ( Obama is, unsurprisingly, expected to make a public statement today as well.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming…

PHMSA: WE’RE SIX FOR TEN: The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy and power subpanel today plans to dig into the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Transportation Department agency charged with safeguarding the nation’s 2.6 million-plus miles of oil and gas pipelines. In the three months since POLITICO published an investigation of the agency’s spotty record in fulfilling congressional and National Transportation Safety Board mandates, PHMSA has picked up the pace on long-delayed standards and regulations. The agency has now finished 26 of the 42 mandates in the bipartisan 2011 pipeline safety law, or about 61 percent, according to testimony set for delivery from PHMSA’s interim executive director, Stacy Cummings.

FOR ME EYES ONLY — WHAT OMB TOLD PHMSA: Many pipeline rules that have languished in recent years were mired in review at the White House Office of Management and Budget, which has faced criticism for holding up other regulations over cost-benefit concerns. So when Energy and Commerce’s top Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone, got a hold of OMB’s comments on Cummings’ testimony for today’s hearing, he was not pleased to see the budget office telling PHMSA to have “a planned response to a question” about why it had kept reviewing major proposed rules “for so long.” In his opening statement today, Pallone plans to say that “OMB’s comments clearly show concern over being called out over this outrageous delay” and to ask committee leaders whether “we need to get OMB up here to explain to the American people and this committee as to why they have held up these proposed rules for so long.” Check out a copy of the edited testimony that alarmed the New Jersey Democrat:

Refugio readiness: Expect Rep. Lois Capps and other lawmakers to focus on PHMSA’s ability to prevent oil spills like the 101,000-gallon May 19 leak that befouled California’s Refugio Beach and ultimately reached the Pacific Ocean. Dianne Black, assistant director for planning and development in Santa Barbara County, where the spill occurred, is set to testify that the operator behind the spill was the only one running major transmission pipes through the county that didn’t install automatic shutoff valves which could trigger in the event of a rupture, halting the release of oil. The company in question, Plains All American, has said automatic valves were not the safest option for a high-pressure and high-volume oil pipeline such as the one that failed in Santa Barbara.

If you go: The hearing starts at 10:15 a.m. in Rayburn 2123.

MEANWHILE, IN ILLINOIS…: Plains could also see fresh scrutiny in Washington this week for a smaller oil leak it experienced Friday along an Illinois pipeline, about 40 miles northeast of St. Louis. Although “only” 4,200 gallons are estimated to have spilled in the company’s latest episode, some of that crude reached a local creek. Plains said in a cleanup update yesterday that boom has been set up in the creek to prevent any fuel from getting to a nearby lake that houses a local water treatment facility.

WELCOME TO TUESDAY! I’m Darius Dixon and for those of you who gave ME Austin restaurant recommendations late last month, seriously, thank you. We only made it one real Lone Star eatery, by the name of Salt Lick, which was later described to me as “one of the High Temples of Texas BBQ.” There was so much animal I thought it was all going to collapse into a meat singularity. Send your energy news, tips and commentary all week to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

ME FIRST: BISHOP RAMPS UP SPECIES ANGLE ON EPA CARBON PLAN: House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop has been digging in for months on an apparent lack of Endangered Species Act consultations by EPA about the impact of its landmark proposed power-plant emissions rules on threatened species such as the Florida manatee ( Bishop upped the ante late Monday in a letter to White House Council on Environmental Quality chief Christy Goldfuss, seeking any documents or communications by July 27 that would “help the committee to better understand CEQ’s role in EPA’s determination” that engaging the Fish and Wildlife Service about the climate regulations’ potential species impact “was unnecessary.” Check out the letter: The full committee also intends to have a hearing not long after the July 27 response deadline.

WALKER, REGS AS DANGER: During his campaign kick-off last night, Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker called for a moratorium on new regulations and vowed to end other Obama-era rules. “As governor I called for a moratorium on new regulations. We can do the same in Washington and then we can repeal all the other bad Obama regulations to get this economy going again,” he said in Waukesha, Wis. He also promised to approve Keystone XL on his first day in office and institute an “all of the above” energy policy “that uses the abundance of what God has given us here in America and on this continent.” And Walker chastised President Barack Obama for saying climate change is the greatest threat to future generations. “The greatest threat to future generations is radical Islamic terrorism and we need to do something about it,” Walker said to raucous applause.

If a “Scott Walker Facts” meme starts up (look up “Chuck Norris Facts” if your eyebrows just went up), we submit: Scott Walker traveled to the future and built the Keystone XL pipeline — using only his thumbs.

** A message from The Pew Charitable Trusts: This is our last chance to protect the sage-grouse and our Western way of life. The Bureau of Land Management must include strong science-based protections in final plans for sagebrush habitat that supports wildlife like sage-grouse, elk, pronghorn, and golden eagles. Let’s keep our Western landscapes iconic: **

THIS OIL AND GAS GROUP’S BEEN BUSY: The Western Energy Alliance has been pulling 2016 presidential candidates in for private meetings at the group’s Denver, Colo., office and Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to put in some facetime with its members today. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the first White House hopeful to stop by, Sen. Lindsey Graham came in about two weeks ago, and Sen. Ted Cruz made the trip Monday, WEA President Tim Wigley told ME last night. “They’re not fundraisers,” he said after being asked about story on a website called PR Watch that said Cruz was “raising cash” at the “secret” meeting. “They’re meetings for our members and we sit around asking questions about oil and gas. ‘If you’re president, how will you act on this? How will you act on Keystone?’” Wigley said. WEA counts more than 400 companies among its membership and Wigley said about 40 to 50 show up to discuss oil and natural gas issues with presidential aspirants. “We’re trying to meet with every single one of them, D’s and R’s,” he said, noting that he’s getting “positive responses” from other candidate and hopes Sen. Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Hillary Clinton will make visits as well.

Tying Walker and Nevada together, the Wisconsin governor will be in Las Vegas early this afternoon as part of his 16-city, 6-state primary tour.

REID ON YUCCA-MONUMENT CONNECTION: WHO ME? Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said that the notion that the new Basin and Range national monument in Nevada would create another bureaucratic hurdle to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site didn’t motivate his actions. During a lengthy interview with KNPR’s State of Nevada, Reid said the idea that a proposed railroad link from Caliente, Nev., to Yucca would actually get built was “ridiculous.” He added: “That would cost billions of dollars. Billions… Not going to happen. First of all, there’s going to be no Yucca Mountain so why would you build a railroad?” To build that railroad, Reid said, amounted to “…weirdness.” As for the new 700,000-plus acre monument creating another way to thwart Yucca, he said, “That did not enter into my calculations at all.” Reid’s KNPR interview:

Well, it entered the mind of Nevada anti-Yucca attorney, Marta Adams. Adams, who is retiring, spent 18 years fighting the project and told the Las Vegas Sun that the monument designation created another roadblock to the repository.

MURKOWSKI, OTHERS EGG ON INTEL CHIEF ON ENERGY: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski is sending Director of National Intelligence James Clapper a letter today not-so-subtly floating a security angle for lifting the U.S. crude oil export ban, among other issues. “We agree that energy independence within North America and, perhaps, the Western Hemisphere is not only an attainable goal, but also increasingly the economic reality,” Murkowski wrote with Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, as well as Sens. John Thune and Mark Kirk. The letter:

RGGI BRINGS BILLIONS IN NET BENEFITS — ANALYSIS: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative generated $1.3 billion in net economic benefits across the nine participating states, according to a new report from the Analysis Group at NARUC’s summer meeting in New York. That’s potentially good news both for RGGI members and for states considering RGGI or RGGI-like state compacts in order to comply with EPA’s forthcoming power plant carbon rules. There were costs to power generators, but most of the billion dollars states collected in allowance proceeds during the 2012-2014 period went back into the economy in the form of energy efficiency programs, renewable power projects, bill payment assistance, according to the report. “[T]he design, administration, and implementation of a multi-state, market-based carbon control mechanism can be an effective way to control carbon emissions, while potentially providing additional economic and policy benefits to member states,” the report concludes. Read:

POWER PROVIDERS CUT EMISSIONS — REPORT: A new report backed by Bank of America, a quartet of utilities and the NRDC concludes that the nation’s 100 biggest power providers cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 12 percent between 2008 and 2013. The detailed analysis — you’re going to want to break out the magnifying glass to catch all the detail — fingers Big Rivers Electric, a Kentucky-based rural co-op with a total of 1.8 gigawatts of power capacity, as the biggest producer of CO2 per megawatt-hour. But overall, and particularly among the biggest power providers, emissions have dropped in recent years, the report says. It also found major reductions in emissions sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury, pollutants with significant environmental and public health risks. More:

THE NEW KING COAL: It may seem redundant but Rep. David McKinley was crowned the new chairman of the Congressional Coal Caucus at the group’s first meeting of the 114th Congress. The caucus’ more than five dozen members are devoted to opposing several Obama administration environmental regulations (including the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, no doubt) and the increasingly challenging task of “revitalizing” the coal industry. The Coal Caucus started in 2010 with six members, including Rep. John Shimkus, who passed the leadership of the group to McKinley Monday. The group has three Democrats, Tim Ryan of Ohio, Sanford Bishop of Georgia, and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania.


— NY farmer group proposes gas well fracking using propane. The Associated Press:

— States Take Aim at Power-Plant Rules. The Wall Street Journal:

— Battle over rooftop solar, clean-energy mandate brews in California. The Palm Springs Desert Sun:

— Energy Companies to Merge in $15.8 Billion Deal. The Wall Street Journal:

— Unraveling the Relationship Between Climate Change and Health. The New York Times:

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