Energy News for August 19, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 19, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 8/19/2015

By NICK JULIANO, with help from Elana Schor, Alex Guillén and Matt Daily

METHANE ON THE BRAIN: EPA has unveiled its plan to curb methane from oil and gas that represent the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s widely touted plan to slash the industry’s emissions of the potent greenhouse gas by as much as 45 percent from 2012 levels over the next decade. But the proposed new standards for “green completions” of fracked oil wells and more state-of-the-art technology to capture drilling-related methane only get the administration about two-thirds of the way to its broader goal, and EPA isn’t saying anything about any next steps that would finish the job.
The oil and gas industry slammed the rules, saying they’ve made good progress in cutting methane voluntarily, and congressional Republicans were equally incensed. “The oil and gas industry has taken many welcome steps to deploy technologies to reduce methane emissions, but the EPA seems intent on handcuffing the industry,” Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), a top lieutenant on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

Greens left wanting more: Environmental groups hailed the methane proposal but made like J.C. Brooks & the Uptown Sound [] and called for more — specifically, an EPA commitment to tackling methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations, in addition to the standards for new and modified sources that led the way in Tuesday’s rollout.

The methane rules released Tuesday will not be finalized until at least next year, and it is unlikely that EPA would have time to complete additional ambitious regulations on the oil and gas sector before the president leaves office. The full story, from Elana Schor:

Clinton, Sanders would expand the rules: Hillary Clinton’s senior policy adviser, Maya Harris, tweeted [] that the rules are a “major step” and said that Clinton “will defend and build upon these measures to protect our climate.” Bernie Sanders tweets [] that the rules are an “important step but we must do more to tackle the crisis of climate change.”

ARE WE SURE IT’S REALLY AUGUST? It’s been tough to tell given the non-stop stream of energy news this month. Welcome to Wednesday, I’m your temporary Morning Energy host Nick Juliano, and I just wish the methane rules had come out in time to squeeze in that J.C. Brooks reference before their great show at the Black Cat last weekend. Be sure to catch them next time they swing through — you won’t regret it, unless you hate fun. Elana Schor is back at the helm tomorrow, so send her your tips, And follow us on Twitter @nickjuliano, @eschor, @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

DEBRIEF INTERVIEW WITH FEMA HEAD: As the 10th anniversary of Katrina quickly approaches, current FEMA head Craig Fugate explains how the agency rebuilt after its huge fumble in New Orleans — and reveals the natural disaster he’s most worried about now. Find out on this week’s Debrief video from The Agenda:


— Carson in Colorado: On the way to a campaign rally in Durango, Colo., yesterday, Ben Carson visited the nearby Animus River, into which EPA inadvertently spilled 3 million gallons of water contaminated with mining waste earlier this month. Carson warned, “We don’t understand the long-term environmental impacts,” and promised to overhaul EPA if elected, according to the Durango Herald.

More from the paper: [] “Carson described the EPA as dominated by “a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t know a bunch of anything” and who try to “control people’s lives” and promised under his administration, Americans would see “a different kind of EPA.”

‘Under my administration, you wouldn’t have to sue the EPA, because I would get rid of all the old people and bring in people who understand the Constitution,’ [Carson said].

“In an interview after the event, he seemed to walk back his comments about firing everyone who works for the EPA.

“’Not everyone,’ he clarified. ‘But people who don’t understand the purpose of the EPA, which is not to make businesses miserable. I think they should be working along with industry, not as adversaries but as allies.’”

— Clinton in Las Vegas: The big Hillary Clinton energy news came on Twitter yesterday, when Clinton planted herself firmly to Obama’s left on the issue of Arctic drilling, which she opposed. She gave a longer-than-140-characters explanation at an appearance in Las Vegas later in the day: “I have been to the Arctic, I have been to Barrow [Alaska] … and I think we should not risk the potential catastrophes that could come about from accidents in looking for more oil in one of the last remaining pristine regions of the world,” Clinton said.

ICYMI, Elana Schor, Katie Glueck and Andrew Restuccia have the story:

— Walker faces questions over RFS stance: The pro-biofuels campaign America’s Renewable Future says Scott Walker’s Monday comments calling for a two-year repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standard have left his position a little murky. Walker, speaking at the Iowa State Fair, said he would like to see “all the different standards and mandates bunched together and phased out … over the next couple years. Because I believe if you get market access, which would be the goal over that time, you don’t need the standard. Market access is really the issue.” (See Walker’s full remarks on the RFS here, starting at the 20-minute mark:

ARF, which noted farmers and biofuels companies made investments with the idea that the RFS would last through at least 2022, wants Walker to be clearer, in particular about whether he means repeal two years from now, two years from taking office or two years after biofuels achieve market access. Repealing before biofuels achieve “full market access” would be “a catastrophic blow to America’s farmers and rural economies,” ARF said. “Ending the RFS prematurely will only strand capital and punish the pioneers who invested in clean, home grown renewable energy.” Walker’s campaign didn’t respond to questions on Tuesday.

** 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: **

INTERIOR TO HEAD INQUIRY INTO EPA SPILL: Speaking of the Colorado mine spill, EPA announced yesterday that the Interior Department will run an independent investigation into the incident. Interior began its assessment Tuesday and is expected to complete it within 60 days. EPA’s inspector general is also conducting a preliminary inquiry into the spill at the Gold King Mine.

MENENDEZ FLOATS ‘STRATEGIC’ CRUDE EXPORTS TO COUNTER IRAN: In his speech announcing opposition to the Iran nuclear deal yesterday, Sen. Bob Menendez also slipped in an apparent shift of his position on crude oil exports. The New Jersey Democrat has traditionally been skeptical of calls to lift crude export ban, along with most other items on the oil industry’s wish list. But he opened the door to supporting limited exports yesterday — provided they follow a return of sanctions on Iran and other policy shifts. The U.S., he said, should “consider licensing the strategic export of American oil to allied countries struggling with supply because Iranian oil remains off the market.” (h/t Platts:

THE SUMMER OF OIL’S DISCONTENT: Nervous oil companies got a reprieve yesterday when the NYMEX crude oil futures popped up about 75 cents a barrel, but that doesn’t mean producers are getting back into a comfort zone. Just a year ago, oil prices were hovering in the mid-$90s, a far cry from the $42 a barrel level now. And as much pain as the oil producers in the U.S. are feeling, it’s worse north of the border: the Western Canadian Select grade (the kind of crude that Keystone XL could carry) may average in the $20s during the third quarter []. Today, all eyes will turn toward the Energy Information Administration’s weekly inventory data to see if it matches the larger-than-expected 2.3 million barrel drop in oil inventories that API data showed. For oil producers who are looking at a global market awash in oil, that demand — which the IEA says has been rising at its fastest pace in five years [] — may be the only factor that can keep them from breaking below the 6-1/2 year low they touched last week.

SENATE DEMS PRESS SEC ON OFFSHORE DRILLING RISK DISCLOSURE: In the wake of Shell’s Arctic approval, a dozen Senate Democrats led by Maryland’s Ben Cardin want the SEC to review disclosure requirements for companies that drill offshore to make sure “that companies fully and fairly disclose the risks from proposed offshore oil and gas activities.” Shell, they write, “did not disclose risks inherent to its Arctic Ocean exploration program,” despite offshore drilling carry significant risk. “Full and timely disclosure of material risk is necessary to protect investors by enabling them to make informed investment decisions.”

The letter:

LEASING IN THE BIG EASY: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management plans to hold a lease sale for nearly 22 million acres of offshore Texas land today at the Superdome in New Orleans. At the close of bidding on Tuesday, the agency had received 33 bids from five companies for tracts of land included in the sale, which is the eighth that the Obama administration has held under its Outer Continental Shelf leasing program for 2012-2017.

VIRGINIA IS FOR LOVERS (OF CO2 REDUCTIONS): The Natural Resources Defense Council is releasing a fact sheet today outlining how the Old Dominion State could hit its carbon-reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan with an approach that emphasizes renewable energy and efficiency. Read it here:


— Northern Pass proposes new route that would bury more of a controversial power line through New Hampshire. Concord Monitor:

— Calif. legislators have floated $4.7 billion worth of proposals for their $2.7 billion cap-and-trade fund, according to a critic’s analysis. Sacramento Bee:

— The UK’s top polluter wants to be its biggest renewable energy producer. Quartz:

— Big Oil’s Shadow War on Billionaire Tom Steyer. Bloomberg:

— Companies that make leak-detection and pollution control technology see an upside in EPA’s new methane rules. Reuters:

— Washington Post editorial says criticisms of methane rule will be unconvincing at least as long as there’s no price on carbon.

— Obama’s Wind-Energy Lobby Gets Blown Away. Wall Street Journal:

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