Energy News for July 15, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 15, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 7/15/2015

By DARIUS DIXON and ALEX GUILLÉN, with help from Elana Schor and Nick Juliano

CLINTON’S BALANCING ACT: Hillary Clinton sought Tuesday to create — and then walk — a fine line between supporting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda while also emphasizing the need to protect coal workers and communities, Pro Energy’s Darren Goode reports. At the same time, just around the corner from Clinton’s closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders, her top rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, argued for his greener record. While climate change was just one of the myriad issues Clinton addressed on her first trip to Capitol Hill as a candidate for the White House, her nod to the coal industry showed the balancing act she’s undertaking to establish a broad appeal in her party, even as Sanders builds momentum to her left.
According to Sen. Brian Schatz, Clinton spoke “at length and with some passion about the need to recognize that as we go through this transition that we have to respect the contribution that the coal industry has made to American growth and that coal miners in particular, the sacrifices that they’ve made to create what is modern America.”

Cue Sanders: “I don’t believe we should be excavating or transporting some of the dirtiest fuel on this planet,” the Vermonter said, referring to the Keystone XL pipeline. “I think Secretary Clinton has not been clear on her views on that issue.” Darren has more for Pros:

OIL MAJORS STEP LIGHTLY ON DEAL: Washington proponents of relaxing the domestic ban on crude exports seized on the Iran nuclear deal as fodder for their push to give U.S. producers more market access. But multinational producers were relatively quiet about how opening up Iran’s economy might affect their bottom lines. With Iran’s oil minister on record for years about wanting to revive the industry’s interest in properties such as the vast South Pars natural gas field, spanning the Iran-Qatar border, expect more talk of what relief from oil sanctions might mean for future relations with Tehran. “Chevron is reviewing the agreement to fully understand its implications for the energy industry and the company,” spokeswoman Erika Conner said on Tuesday. “In the meantime, we remain in strict compliance with existing U.S. and international laws and regulatory frameworks that govern commercial activity with Iran.”

Speaking of the Iran deal:

— Obama team split over next steps with Iran:

— Key Democrats skeptical of Iran deal:

MURKOWSKI ANGLING FOR DRAFT ENERGY PLAN THIS WEEK: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said a draft four-tiered energy package is coming soon. “Hopefully by the end of this week,” the Alaska Republican told reporters late yesterday. She also predicted it’d move through her panel before lawmakers leave for the summer in August. Aides for Murkowski and panel ranking member Maria Cantwell have been trying to come up with a bipartisan draft to introduce. Murkowski said the talks are proceeding well.

HAPPY HUMPDAY! I’m Darius Dixon and this is shaping up to be quite a week. You know what helps though, a dose of 10-monther mini-ME, crawler/smasher/grabber extraordinaire: Send your energy news, tips, commentary and pick-me-ups all week to, and follow us on Twitter @dariusss, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

AS QUIET AS A HOUSE (PASSING AN EFFICIENCY BILL): You may have missed it, but the House passed legislation yesterday that was once tried to hitch a ride on the famed Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. The Private Investment in Housing Act would authorize HUD to enter into “budget neutral, performance-based agreements” to make publicly subsidized housing more energy- and water-efficient. The bill language ( largely mirrors Sec. 304 of the Shaheen-Portman bill, which was based on amendment language from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Republican Dennis Ross and Democrats Jim Himes, Emanuel Cleaver and John Delaney introduced the House bill, which passed 395-28. When he introduced the bill last week, Ross said it would encourage projects such as adding insulation, replacing drafty doors and windows, and updating inefficient light and water fixtures. Up to 20,000 units would be eligible for the upgrades and they would be subject to certain “affordability restrictions.” This is at least the fourth piece of the Shaheen-Portman measure that has detached from the larger bill. Back in April, President Obama signed three other bills into law — dealing with efficiency in buildings, electric water heaters and benchmarking — that hatched from Shaheen-Portman.

DOJ ENVIRO CHIEF STAFFS UP: The Justice Department’s top environmental prosecutor, John Cruden, has picked two veteran DOJ attorneys for top spots on his staff. Cruden’s chief of staff will be Varu Chilakamarri, who has been with DOJ for nine years and joined the department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division earlier this year. Chilakamarri previously clerked for judges on the sixth and federal circuits, got her law degree at Georgetown and studied environmental and political science as an undergraduate at Ohio State University. Cruden also selected Patricia McKenna for a new position, general counsel and attorney educational coordinator, meant to emphasize employee training at DOJ’s enviro division. She has been at DOJ’s environment section for 16 years and, to ME contributor Alex Guillén’s delight, got her law degree from the College of William and Mary.

THE WINDY CITY: The District of Columbia will draw about 35 percent of its electricity from a wind farm in southwestern Pennsylvania under a new power purchase agreement, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser. The 46-megawatt South Chestnut facility is operated by Iberdrola Renewables and the mayor’s office says the PPA is “the largest wind power deal of its kind ever entered into by an American city.”

McCABE DEFENDS EPA FROM WSJ: Or, Is it Wise to Put Yourselves in the Shoes of Nazi Germany? Acting EPA air chief Janet McCabe isn’t particularly thrilled that the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board compared EPA regulations to the bombing of Dresden earlier this month — “a baffling comparison,” she writes in a letter to the editor. “The EPA, states, tribes and communities have implemented the Clean Air Act for nearly 45 years,” McCabe wrote. “The result? Fewer cases of pollution-related illnesses, including heart attacks, lung disease and premature death — while the economy has steadily grown.”

MARK YOUR CALENDARS — COAL ASH IN THE HOUSE: The House is slated to move Rep. David McKinley’s coal ash legislation as early as next week, according to a notice from the Rules Committee. Lawmakers must have their amendments in by 3 p.m. Monday. With the House returning for the week on Tuesday, that means the bill likely won’t hit the floor until Wednesday, July 22 at the earliest. McKinley’s bill was originally expected on the floor at the end of June.

UPDATE YOUR ROLODEX — BIOFUELS EDITION: The Advanced Ethanol Council is changing names, to the Advanced Biofuels Business Council. Executive director Brooke Coleman says that the name change is more about bringing the group’s public image in line with its members’ product lines, which run beyond just ethanol, and that there are no major changes to the group’s agenda. “Policymakers, when the see the name ‘advanced biofuels,’ they’re more comfortable,” Coleman told ME, adding, “There’s really no point in talking about one piece of your product portfolio when it’s more accurate and more effective to talk about your full product portfolio.” Coleman also denied the group is distancing itself from ethanol, which has become a target for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle interested in making major changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. “We’re not running away from the ‘ethanol’ word as much as we’re running towards the fact that our industry is increasingly integrated,” Coleman said.

— The newly renamed ABBC is bringing on a few new members, including Aemetis, a California-based biofuels and biochemicals producer, and Sweetwater Energy, a New York biochemical manufacturer.

SPEAKING OF BIOFUELS: The National Corn Growers Association will hold a rally today at noon in the Upper Senate Park to highlight EPA’s proposed 2014-2016 RFS mandates. Things could get a little awkward: Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat looking to unseat him in Illinois next year, are both slated to speak. North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp will also appear.

** 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: **

GREENS TO DOI, SHELL: NO SHIP, NO SERVICE: A cadre of environmental groups challenging Shell’s plan to drill for oil in the Arctic are now arguing that the company still takes too many shortcuts to be allowed to go exploring. In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Tuesday, ten organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity and NRDC, said “Shell’s failures to assess and mitigate risk were identified by DOI and the U.S. Coast Guard as primary causes of the problems the company had in 2012 that culminated in the grounding of the Kulluk.” Now, the groups said, citing damage to Shell icebreaker Fennica, “three years later, Shell continues to experience problems that evidence a lack of attention to detail and a willingness to take extraordinary risk in remote and dangerous Arctic waters.” Working the Chukchi Sea, greens add, without the Fennica “would be inconsistent with the terms of the Exploration Plan and [Interior’s] approval of it.” The letter:

CERAMIC DYNAMIC — GOP PRESSES EPA TO DROP EMISSIONS RULE: Congressional Republicans want EPA to scrub a forthcoming ceramic tile emissions rule. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and 18 other Republicans pressed the agency to decide against regulating hazardous air pollutants from ceramic tile manufacturers. Why? There are no major sources of ceramic tile emissions for EPA to regulate because manufacturers took voluntary actions to cut their emissions of toxins like acid gases and mercury. The rule thus carries neither implementation costs nor environmental or public health benefits. “In that case, it is our request that the standards for ceramic tile manufacturing not be finalized,” the lawmakers write. “Any additional time spent on an action that applies to no one would be a waste of federal government resources and taxpayer dollars.” Letter:

Turns out EPA sort of agrees: When it proposed the rule last December, EPA specifically asked for the public to weigh in on “whether we need to finalize the standards for ceramic tile manufacturing even though there currently are no major sources.” The tile emissions rule is linked to a separate rule governing emissions from brick manufacturers. EPA estimates the brick rule would carry $55.9 million in capital costs and $19 million in annual costs, while bringing net benefits of $26 million to $99 million, including through co-benefits related to particulate matter and ozone reductions. EPA is expected to finalize the rule as early as October.

Wait, why is EPA regulating tile emissions? Turns out it’s not because Gina McCarthy had the idea when she had her bathroom renovated. The Bush administration put out NESHAP rules for clay ceramics manufacturing, along with the connected brick rule, back in 2003. But in 2007, an appellate court tossed out those standards for violating the Clean Air Act. In 2012, EPA and the Sierra Club signed a consent decree to write these new standards.

COAL’S LUCKY NO. 7: The Energy Department intends to plug more than $7.5 million into seven projects working on advanced coal gasification technology, the agency’s announced. DOE’s contribution to each project represents 69 percent 80 percent of the overall price tag of the individual facilities, which are partnerships with universities and companies. DOE:


— Coal Miner Walter Energy Plans to File for Bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal:

— Facebook Wants More Green Energy. But Red Tape Is in the Way. Wired:

— New Oil Players Line Up to Bid on a Piece of Mexico. The Wall Street Journal:

— New Vermont State Energy Plan in the Works. The Burlington Free Press:

— Lawmakers push use of Illinois coal by resolution. WPSD:

— Switch to partner with NV Energy on 100MW solar project. FOX5:

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