Energy News for July 9, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on July 9, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 7/9/2015

By ERIC WOLFF, with help from Darren Goode, Alex Guillén, and Darius Dixon

SANTA BARBARA SPILL COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH WORSE: The 101,000 gallons of oil on a Santa Barbara beach is bad, but 165,000 gallons could have been disastrous. In an emergency response plan filed with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Plains All American Pipeline, the company that owns the ruptured pipeline, projected just such a worst-case scenario — and it warned that a spill could reach the Pacific Ocean, as it did in the case of the recent accident. The information had been redacted from the plan released to the public, but Pro’s Andrew Restuccia and Elana Schor acquired a fuller version of the document. “PHMSA routinely keeps key details such as worst-case scenarios out of public versions of companies’ response plans … Pipeline safety advocates balk at PHMSA’s policy of redacting information about worst-case discharges based on security concerns, and argue that there is no legitimate reason to keep the information from the public.” Get all the details here:

SANDERS AND O’MALLEY DIVE THROUGH KXL-SIZED GAP IN HILLARY’S RECORD: Hillary Clinton may be the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination, but her soft position on the Keystone XL pipeline has left the environmental grassroots looking for a leader. Pro’s Elana Schor has the analysis: “Many of those activists are without a standard-bearer in the Democratic field, and are still suspicious of Clinton because of her refusal to rule out the Keystone project. And they’ve demonstrated the capacity to put supporters in the streets, including more than 1,100 anti-Keystone protesters who went to jail after White House sit-ins four years ago. That’s offering an opening to the progressive [Bernie] Sanders, who has emerged as Clinton’s top rival in the polls, and [Martin] O’Malley, whose once-promising campaign has yet to gain traction.”

REPUBLICANS AIM TO UNDO CONFEDERATE FLAG AMENDMENTS: On Tuesday, the House approved three amendments to the Interior and EPA appropriations bill that would ban sale of confederate flags at national parks and prevent the use of national flags on graves at federal cemeteries. Late last night, Rep. Ken Calvert of California introduced an amendment that would nullify two of the previous amendments — both introduced by California Democrat Rep. Jared Huffman — and instead leave in place executive orders that accomplish similar goals. The move may have been prompted by Southern conservatives who were furious about the Huffman amendments. Mississippi Rep. Steve Palazzo told the AP in a statement: “I strongly oppose the inclusion of this amendment, which was slipped into the bill in the dead of night with no debate,” he said in a statement. “Congress cannot simply rewrite history and strip the Confederate flag from existence. Members of Congress from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics.” The house is expected to vote on Calvert’s amendment today. The amendment: The AP story:

Now Democrats are furious: Rep. Betty McCollum lambasted the last minute move in a Tweet: “GOP amendment just offered to lift ban on selling Confederate flags in National Parks. GOP support for symbol of racism & hate is shameful.”

INTERIOR APPROPS VOTE DELAYED TO TODAY: House Republicans punted a final vote until today on a 2016 spending bill for Interior and EPA, but that’s likely about all the drama there will be in the outcome. The bill is expected to pass largely on a party-line vote with stiff partisan divide over how it cuts EPA funding about nine percent and blocks a host of Obama administration greenhouse gas, ozone, water, hydraulic fracturing and other regulations. The White House has threatened to veto the bill and there is ample Democratic opposition to sustain that veto and to filibuster similar riders and cuts in the Senate.

No particular reason for delay … why do you ask? House Republicans said a final vote was simply delayed due to time management and the desire to finish an education bill Wednesday night. There are several amendments to the spending bill due votes today, including one from Democrats protecting an Obama administration executive order reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the federal government and one from Republicans that would block funding for endangered species protection for the gray wolf.

Amendments roll on: Yesterday, Republicans easily batted away several Democratic amendments to strip away some of those riders — including language barring funding for new EPA ozone controls until 85 percent of counties meet current standards finalized in 2008. Other failed amendments would have taken out language blocking funds for an Interior rewrite of a George W. Bush administration stream buffer rule for mountaintop mining, Bureau of Land Management fracking controls, and the calculating of the social cost of carbon when developing regulations. Republican amendments prohibiting funds next year for efforts to increase oil and gas royalty rates and for designating national monuments in certain counties in Western states were approved.

And on and on and on … Lawmakers last night resumed debate and set up several more amendment votes for today, including those from Republicans that even GOP leaders said went after EPA too aggressively. “You know, I understand that we’ve taken a lot of shots at EPA for their overreach. And I’m one of them,” House Interior-EPA Appropriations Chairman Ken Calvert said. “However, this amendment reaches just a little too far.” The California Republican was citing opposition to an amendment from Alabama GOP Rep. Gary Palmer repealing any funds for EPA’s criminal enforcement division.

ME-a Culpa: A bleary-eyed ME mistakenly reported the House had defunded the EPA’s truck rule in an amendment approved on a voice vote late Tuesday/early Wednesday. The amendment does not stop the full rule. Instead, the amendment “doesn’t allow the truck rule to regulate glider kits (which are truck chassis and cabs that lack an engine and transmission — a third party puts in a powertrain and sells them),” explained Jonna Hamilton with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

HAD ENOUGH EPA? WELL TOUGH: Congress may have spent a week debating EPA’s funding, but that doesn’t mean it’s through. EPA’s Gina McCarthy will testify before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today on the subject of EPA overreach. McCarthy has been over this ground before, and her opening statement will tread a familiar path: “The mission of EPA is protection of public health and the environment, and the Agency’s regulatory efforts are in furtherance of those goals,” McCarthy’s opening statement says. “We are guided in meeting those goals by science and by the law which serve as the backbone for each of the Agency’s actions. I will focus my comments today on providing more detail for three rules which will provide tremendous benefits to the public health and the environment.”

BILL TO LIFT CRUDE OIL BAN IS READY FOR ITS AUDITION: After weeks of anticipation, a subcommittee for the House Energy and Commerce Committee will take up a bill to lift the ban on crude oil exports. The committee will hear from an ambassador from the Czech Republic and a trio of consultants. Ambassador Petr Gandalovic’s prepared testimony says that a U.S. decision to export oil would “send a strong signal to the world community that democracies stick together.”

It’s complicated — Or is it? Rep. Frank Pallone, ranking member for the full committee, wants to make sure the committee takes its time before voting to lift the ban. His opening statement asks many questions, including whether lifting the ban would overwhelm U.S. refinery capacity or change gasoline prices. Pallone might consider reviewing a GAO report released yesterday, which was of two minds on the refinery capacity question but said that gasoline prices would drop.

HAPPY THURSDAY: I’m Eric Wolff, and I find counting appropriations amendments helps me get to sleep at night. I usually drift off when I get to the mouse one. Send tips, quips, or comments to, or follow us on Twitter @ericwolff, @Morning_Energy, and @PoliticoPro.

DOE WANTS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: Earlier this year, the Obama administration pitched the idea of creating a National Power Transformer Reserve as part of its Quadrennial Energy Review, and now the Energy Department is taking its first step towards the concept. DOE is publishing a request for information in today’s Federal Register looking for ideas about the “design and implementation” of such a reserve of the critically important-but-difficult-to-replace components of the electric grid. Although utilities usually have spare transformers, getting more can be challenging: They’re typically custom made and sometimes manufactured outside the country. That means the grid could be in danger if “a relatively large number of existing [large power transformers] are damaged or destroyed,” the agency writes. DOE’s taking comments through Aug. 24.

Utilities hope FERC can help: In June, eight utilities pitched the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the idea of creating a specialized company dedicated to supplying transformers and related equipment. SNL Energy had the rundown:

NRC BRASS TO TAKE IN POST-FUKUSHIMA DETAILS: Leaders at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are getting a rundown of the mitigation of beyond design basis events rulemaking (it doesn’t quite roll of the tongue, does it?), which seeks to address a number of post-Fukushima regulations and orders. The 164-page proposed rule was publicly released in mid-May and mainly codifies two 2012 orders: One established new requirements for addressing accidents that end up being more extensive than textbook problems, while the other ensures that plant operators have plans to cool reactors and spent fuel pools in case they lose power. The briefing will split its time hearing from outside experts and NRC staff. Yet, it’s the Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Lochbaum that has one of the more interesting questions, asking whether certain accident scenarios should “be drilled less often than 7-year locusts appear?” The proposed rule: The presentations:

If you go: 9 a.m. at NRC headquarters.

De Facto at Diablo? The agency’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel is holding oral arguments at 1 p.m. today to discuss a Friends of the Earth allegation that regulators approved a “de facto” license amendment related to earthquake hazards near PG&E’s Diablo Canyon plant without going through the normal hearing process. The hearing order:

GET IN LINE, TSCA: Sen. Tom Udall says a bipartisan bill with Sen. David Vitter updating the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act is ready for floor debate, as long as possible action on cybersecurity, abortion and transportation don’t get in the way. “There’s a lot of competing issues,” Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said yesterday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday called the bill “important” cited its “broad ideological spectrum of supporters,” and called it an example of an issue in which Republicans and the White House can collaborate. Udall said he and others are pushing for an open amendment process that could stretch debate to a week or more.

Boxer has another vision: Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Barbara Boxer wants to take up a narrower House bill that doesn’t go as far in preempting toxic controls in California and other states. In a statement yesterday, she said a letter [] spearheaded by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families “confirms my view that taking up H.R. 2578, with a few additional changes, is the best approach for meaningful TSCA reform.” Udall said the Senate version “is a much better bill” and conforms with six EPA “essential principles” [] for updating TSCA. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy essentially told Upton the same at an April 29 hearing.

ME FIRST — GROUP SAYS TIGHTER OZONE STANDARD THREATENS CHICAGO-AREA JOBS: EPA’s proposal to tighten ozone standards threatens economic development in major swaths of Illinois that are home to the vast majority of the state’s jobs, according to a report out today from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s Center for Regulatory Solutions, which opposes lowering the ozone standard. EPA is proposing to lower the standard from 75 ppb to between 65 ppb and 70 ppb. The Illinois study said the lower standard would put 21 Illinois counties in non-attainment. Those counties represent 80 percent of the state’s jobs, primarily from six counties near Chicago. The study does not examine potential health benefits for those counties’ residents from reduced ozone pollution. Read:

MOVER, SHAKER: Susanna Murley will be providing communications help to the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative as a part of the Hannon Group. Murely had previously worked in digital comms for the Solar Energy Industries Association and SmartPower.


— A Colorado Coal Mining Town Struggles to Define Its Future. New York Times:

— McConnell rules out gas tax increase. POLITICO:

— Southern California motorists could see gasoline prices soar by 30 cents per gallon. San Gabriel Valley Tribune:

— Proposed solar energy amendment has cities feuding. Miami Herald:

— Justices refuse to hear coal magnate’s defamation appeal. Columbus Dispatch:

— One Direction launch Action/1D climate change campaign.

Tags: , , ,