Energy News for August 26, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 26, 2015


POLITICO Morning Energy for 8/26/2015

By ERIC WOLFF, with help from Alex Guillén and Jenny Hopkinson

BILLIONAIRE NEWS: WARREN BUFFET DRIVES GREENS TO DISTRACTION: Liberals normally love Warren Buffet, who supports Hilary Clinton and high taxes on the super rich. But the environmental policies of some of his businesses are making greens crazy. On the one hand, Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy is one of the biggest wind and solar power owners in the country. On the other hand, his NV Energy is pushing to rollback rooftop solar incentives in in sun-soaked Nevada, and his BNSF railway is lobbying against tighter rules on oil trains. Pro Andrew Restuccia has the story: “Greens in regions like the Pacific Northwest, as well as the top Democrat on the Senate’s energy panel, are also criticizing Buffett-owned Berkshire Hathaway Energy for trying to weaken a 1978 federal incentive program for wind, solar and other renewable power. And Buffett supports approving Keystone … Most Democrats hesitate to publicly criticize Buffett. But privately, some green-minded Democrats acknowledge that Buffett’s business priorities often conflict with Clinton’s and Obama’s renewable energy agendas.” One theory for the disparate policies held by Berkshire Hathaway businesses: Each business can make its own decision. “While Warren Buffett often offers his ‘personal’ opinion on politics, legislation, taxes, elections and the economy, they do not represent the opinion of his vast network of subsidiary companies,” said Robert Miles, the author of two books on Buffett and a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder. “Each company has a manager that is free to run their business as best they see fit.”
ALSO IN BILLIONAIRE NEWS: CHARLES KOCH IS FURIOUS OVER OBAMA ENERGY SPEECH: Charles Koch had hot words for after President Obama took a potshot at him and his brother David in his energy speech on Monday. The Kochs have invested heavily in Republican politicians and particularly oppose clean energy programs like the EPA’s carbon rule for power plants. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has blasted the Kochs for years, and Obama, speaking at the event Reid co-hosted, hit the brothers in his speech. Charles Koch told POLITICO’S Mike Allen, “It’s beneath the president, the dignity of the president, to be doing that.” He added: “I was absolutely flabbergasted that he could say so many things about us that were the opposite of the truth,” Koch said. “I was really dumbfounded.”

STATES HOPE SCOTUS WILL TAKE UP WOTUS TO SPITE POTUS: States and industry groups are pushing back against an effort by EPA to consolidate the more than half a dozen lawsuits against its new definition of “Waters of the United States,” dubbed the Clean Water Rule, a move that could help the case gain the attention of the Supreme Court yet again. Almost all of the groups that have challenged the rule for what the parties say is regulatory overreach have opposed the move to consolidate, arguing that each has separate interests at stake. “It’s important to have litigation from multiple circuits” in a case like this as it “provides disparity to show the Supreme Court that [the issue] needs to be addressed,” says Scott Pruitt, attorney general for Oklahoma, one of 31 states challenging the rule. Pruitt, for an example, points to state challenges to the Affordable Care Act, which were allowed to proceed where they were first filed before the case was taken up by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court already has twice weighed in on the Clean Water Act provision.

A federal judicial panel is set to hear arguments on EPA’s request to consolidate the lawsuits at an Oct. 1 hearing in New York City:

STILL NO INJUNCTION: The clock is ticking toward the implementation date for the Clean Water Rule on Friday, and no word yet from the courts. ME recommends checking out the panda cubs at the National Zoo while you wait:

ME FIRST: CAP CALLS ON FEDS TO IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY OF FEDERAL LANDS: The Center for American Progress will release a report today calling on the Obama administration and Congress to make it easier to develop federal lands for wind, solar, and geothermal power. The liberal organization has a four-point plan: Make permanent recent permitting reforms, designate renewable energy zones, develop more community-based distributed generation on public lands, and create a revolving loan fund to finance these projects. A little deeper in the text, CAP also calls for the extension of the production tax credit and the investment tax credit, which boosted development for wind and solar, respectively.

REP. SMITH VERY DISAPPOINTED IN EPA OVER SPILL DOCS DISCLOSURE, NOT THAT HE EXPECTED ANY DIFFERENT: House Science Chairman Lamar Smith says EPA missed his deadline for handing over a series of documents and emails related to the Aug. 5 Gold King mine spill into Colorado’s Animas River. Smith called the delay “disappointing, but not surprising,” and noted that EPA chief Gina McCarthy is on a weeklong trip to Japan while President Barack Obama — whom he notes has not visited the spill zone — is making climate change a priority on several trips in the coming weeks. EPA has released some documents on its website (, but the committee says it has yet to turn over most of the materials it requested earlier this month.

EPA: We’re working on it: EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison told ME that the agency has been “inundated” with document requests since the spill, and noted the ones it had posted online. “EPA is continuing to identify additional documents responsive to the request and will provide them to the committee as soon as they are available,” she said.

WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY: I’m your host, Eric Wolff, and I’m wondering who I need to call out to get someone flabbergasted with me. In the meantime, send tips, quips, and comments to, or follow us on Twitter @ericwolff, @Morning_Energy, and @POLITICOPro.

EXELON HAS OPPORTUNITY FOR SCROOGE MCDUCK-ESQUE VAULT OF GOLD COINS: In a quick take published today, Bernstein Research analyst Hugh Wynne pointed out that Exelon is sitting on about $8 billion in cash as part of its now-stalled effort to merge with Pepco. If aftershocks from the deal’s rejection by the D.C. Public Service Commission lead to a total collapse of the merger, the utility will clear some debts but still have $5 billion “for which it has no evident need.” ME calculates that the money would buy 4.4 million American Eagle gold coins, which ought to fill out a vault nicely for an afternoon money swim. Wynne, who is of a more practical turn of mind than ME, believes the company will instead use the cash stockpile to sweeten the deal for D.C., which in turn would force it to improve its offers to states and localities that have already approved the merger.

CO2 RULES DRIVE DEAL MAKING: Southern Company’s $12 billion plan to buy gas company AGL Resources may have been about more than just expanding into the natural gas business. CEO Tom Fanning told investors that the extra gas pipes could help the company move out of coal generation in favor of natural gas as part of its compliance with the EPA’s carbon rules. “We’ve always viewed [the Clean Power Plan] in terms of more infrastructure development, moving probably away from coal and building more generation to supplant that. To the extent you add more renewables, you will require, just rule of thumb, megawatt for megawatt, base backup generation in order to support the intermittent generation that is largely spoken for with wind and solar resources,” Fanning said. SNL Energy’s Dan Testa has the details:

MANUFACTURER’S ARE NOT AMUSED: The National Association of Manufacturer’s found nothing funny in the Sierra Club’s offer to rebrand the association as the National Association of Polluters, complete with social media presence and logo. “It is Communications 101 that when you are losing the fight, you create a diversion. That’s all Sierra Club hopes to do with today’s stunt,” Erin Streeter, a senior VP with the association, told ME in a statement. “Manufacturing has long, rich history of innovation, job creation, economic growth and development in the United States. We at the NAM we are proud of that history and will use every resource and tool to ensure manufacturers in America will continue to thrive. A new restrictive ozone regulation would freeze manufacturing growth at a time when communities are struggling to comply with the last regulation.”

OH NO OZONE! NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce are continuing their tours of Rust Belt states to try to derail the EPA’s ozone standard. NAM is hosting a press call today to launch their campaign against the rule in Wisconsin. And next week, the U.S. Chamber and African American Chamber will host an event in Pittsburgh featuring Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle and other luminaries from the public and private sector.

CONGRESS LEANS INTO FOREIGN EMBASSIES ON CLIMATE: Staffers from the offices of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are battling it out to try to influence foreign embassies before they strike a deal with the U.S. to reduce carbon pollution in Paris in the fall. Republicans hope to persuade other countries that Obama can’t meet his obligations, while Democrats hope to show that the Republicans are toothless tigers. E&E’s Jean Chemnick had the story:

VENTING ABOUT VENTING: As noted by the Western Values Project and Taxpayers for Common Sense, companies that pay royalties on natural gas extracted from federal lands pay nothing on vented or flared gas. The two groups are launching a print and online ad campaign to persuade the Bureau of Land Management to tighten rules in an effort to stop gas leakage. Western Values Project made a six-figure ad-buy with video on Hulu and YouTube and a three-week social media ad buy on Twitter and Facebook in New Mexico, Colorado, and North Dakota. Taxpayers for Common Sense bought print ads in Santa Fe, Grand Junction, Fargo, and Denver.

MOVER, SHAKER: Joe Mendelson III, the former Democratic Chief Climate Counsel on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has joined SolarCity as a Director of Policy and Energy Markets. He previously worked for the National Wildlife Federation and the Center for Food Safety & International Center for Technology Assessment.


— Boulder County to offer discounted solar panels, electric cars. Boulder County News:

— California’s 40 Years Of Energy Efficiency Efforts Have Saved $90 Billion In Utility Costs. Clean Technica:

— In just three years, all Dutch trains will run on wind power. Popular Science:

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