Energy News for August 18, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 18, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 8/18/2015

By ELANA SCHOR, ith help from Alex Guillen, Nick Juliano and Bob King

SPOILERS … EPA’S METHANE PLAN COMING TODAY: The centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan to slash methane emissions — its proposed regulations on emissions of the potent greenhouse gas from new sources in the oil and gas industry — is likely to be released by EPA today. The rules are part of a broader bid to slash oil- and gas-related methane by as much as 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, but green groups have long warned that cutting emissions by those levels will require the administration to tackle existing sources as well — a component that’s not expected to be part of today’s release.
Is this a ‘War on Oil’? The industry certainly thinks so, as your morning host explained in a recent preview of the methane rules. ICYMI:

Methane madness continues: Also out today is a new installment in the multipart study of natural gas-related methane emissions backed by the Environmental Defense Fund with cooperation from industry and academic partners. The new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technlogy, examines emissions from gas gathering and processing facilities using data from 130 separate sources. The study shows that natural gas collection and gathering facilities emit about 100 million cubic feet of gas per year, roughtly eight times EPA’s previous estimate, according to an EDF press release []. The full study is available here:

SHELL YEAH THEY DID: The Interior Department signed off on Shell’s bid to drill deeper into the Arctic sea floor on Monday, an expected move that nonetheless unleashed a torrent of criticism from environmentalists who were heaping praise on President Obama’s EPA not two weeks ago. For greens, the announcement was even more galling because it arrived only two weeks before Obama is due to talk climate change during his first visit to Alaska’s Arctic. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), for her part, hailed Shell’s development plans for helping to make sure her state remains “a major energy supplier well into the future.”

But in the long run, it’s Obama’s successors who will determine whether the industry can tap Alaska’s prized offshore oil. Your morning host has the full analysis:

HAPPY TUESDAY from Morning Energy, where Doctor Who’s been on heavy enough rotation for us to come up with a catchphrase. ME: It goes ding when there’s stuff. To help make the magic happen, send in your latest and greatest news, tips, and commentary to And follow us on Twitter @eschor, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

NO CALIFORNIA LOVE — STEYER FIRES BACK AT AP: The Associated Press got a lot of traction Monday with an investigation that found California’s “green jobs” ballot initiative, which was backed by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer to the tune of $30 million on its way to passage in 2012, has created far fewer jobs that originally estimated. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office circulated the story to reporters with the subject line “The Steyer Economy.” But the climate-minded Democrat pushed back at the AP on Monday, noting that the successful rollback of corporate tax benefits to pay for energy-efficiency projects in schools was a victory unto itself.

In a joint statement with Kevin de Leon, California’s state Senate pro tempore, Steyer also charged the AP with prematurely drawing conclusions about a program that has seen little more than a year’s worth of revenue being raised and distributed. “It’s irresponsible and more than a little misleading to prejudge a long-term, multi-year program this early in the process,” the duo said.

THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE BLM: The Bureau of Land Management comes to Colorado today for its fourth of five listening sessions on the state of the federal coal program. Among those set to call for coal-leasing royalty reform is Tom Sanzillo, finance director of the nonprofit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, who also plans to urge a moratorium on new leases and expanded lease applications in the Powder River Basin until the Interior Department can finish assessing core questions of fair market value and transparency.

If you’re in Mile High: The session will begin at 1 p.m. MST at the Marriott Denver West, located at 1717 Denver West Blvd. in Golden, Colo.

TRUCK EFFICIENCY RULE GOES LONG … BEACH: Two more agencies are taking their show on the road today, as EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hold a joint hearing on the fuel efficiency standards that they proposed in June. Things kick off at 9 a.m. PST at the Westin Hotel, 333 East Ocean Boulevard, in Long Beach, Calif. Refresh your memory of the proposed regulations with our coverage of their release:

** A message from The Sierra Club: Love Clean Air? You’ll love the Clean Power Plan. Nearly 70 percent of Americans support it, and 8 million submitted favorable comments. We’re going @BeyondCoal toward a clean energy economy that means cleaner air, healthier families, and new jobs. #ActOnClimate = #GoodForAmerica: **

SAFETY LIKE THE WOLF: Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, on Monday released an independent report making 27 recommendations to improve the safety record of crude-by-rail in the state. Among the proposed upgrades from University of Delaware professor Allen Zarembski are the installation of automatic speed-limit technology known as “positive train control” and closer sharing of information among the state, railroads and first responders. Check out the full report:

COURT WON’T HELP POWER PROVIDER WITH MERCURY RULE, FOR NOW: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals won’t step in to help a power provider seeking a special exemption from part of EPA’s mercury rule, at least for now. Just hours after the Supreme Court formally issued its judgments sending the mercury rule back to the agency, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association asked the circuit for special relief for an infrequently used plant in Colorado from a part of the rule that limits hydrochloric acid emissions. Tri-State had gotten a compliance extension, but would have to decide by Sept. 1 whether to shutter the station or spend millions of dollars on the control. It argued that it should get extra time to decide as EPA redoes its “appropriate and necessary” finding, per the high court’s ruling. But the court wasn’t buying it. Judges Merrick Garland, Judith Rogers and Brett Kavanaugh said that Tri-State should try and get more time to make the decision from EPA or the state of Colorado first. Should those efforts fail, the company can come back to the court, they ruled:

ONLY GOT 100 HOURS TO SAVE THE WORLD: EPA has until May 1, 2016 to write a new threshold exemption for an air pollution rule for mostly diesel-powered backup generators used at industrial facilities (known as RICE NESHAP, for you acronym lovers). A 2013 update to the rule provided an exemption to the emissions controls for generators that are used for up to 100 hours annually in emergency demand-response programs, an increase from the previous threshold of 15 hours annually. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in May said EPA’s decision to raise the threshold was based on faulty evidence and told the agency to rewrite just that part of the rule. EPA in turn asked the court to keep the 100-hour exemption in place until next spring to avoid reliability concerns this summer, to give generator owners time to install controls and to give capacity markets time to correct for a new threshold. The court apparently agreed: on Friday, a three-judge panel said the 100-hour threshold can stay in place until May 1, 2016. The order:

FROM ME’S MAILBAG: House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton and his panel lieutenant Ed Whitfield say in a letter to NRC Chairman Stephen Burns that they worry agency staffers are using “inappropriate … qualitative factors” in writing cost-benefit analyses for two rulemakings. “The expansion of this practice threatens to undermine NRC’s long established practice of conducting rigorous, quantitative, cost-benefit analysis,” they write. “These actions could undermine the commission’s credibility as a fair and thorough regulator.” Read:

DOE BOMB SCARE LOCKDOWN TURNS OUT TO BE FALSE ALARM: The Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina near the Georgia border was locked down for about three-and-a-half hours yesterday afternoon when a bomb-sniffing dog and electronic scanner detected possible explosive residue on a delivery truck. A more thorough investigation did not turn up any explosive and DOE gave the all-clear in time for employees at the site to make it home for dinner.

The scare started at Savannah River Site’s H Canyon, which marked its 60th year of service last week, according to local news reports. H Canyon spent the Cold War manufacturing nuclear weapons-grade material, and it more recent years it has been turning weapons-grade material into low-enriched uranium suitable for use in nuclear power plants. Over the past decade, the Tennessee Valley Authority has used fuel produced there to generate electricity. H Canyon has blended down 600 nuclear weapons’ worth of uranium, which produced enough fuel to power every home in the United States for 47 days, according to a DOE news release commemorating the 60th anniversary [].

LOW GAS PRICES MIGHT BE DRIVING UP HIGHWAY DEATHS: Traffic deaths jumped by 15 percent during the first half of this year compared with 2014, and the nonprofit National Safety Council reported Monday that falling prices at the pump could be playing a role. The 30-percent jump in serious traffic injuries versus the first half of last year “could be due to many factors,” the public service organization reported, but “an improving economy with lower gas prices and unemployment rates herald increases in vehicle miles traveled,” which in turn can drive up traffic incidents. More from Pro Transportation’s Jennifer Scholtes:


— EPA to propose rules cutting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling. WSJ:

— Algeria pressing for cut in non-OPEC oil production to help combat sliding prices. Bloomberg:

— Coal industry set to hear from Kentucky’s gubernatorial candidates behind closed doors. WFPL:

— Accenture set to buy consulting business from Schlumberger. Houston Chronicle:

— What Wikipedia edits can tell us about the politicization of science:

— Climate change could wipe out the Internet’s favorite animal. Grist:

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