Energy News for August 5, 2015

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  • August 5, 2015
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POLITICO Morning Energy for 8/5/2015

By ANDREW RESTUCCIA, with help from Alex Guillén and Darius Dixon

SHOWDOWN IN THE ARENA: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will respond today to the Obama administration’s climate rules for power plants by approving a GOP bill targeting those regulations. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s ARENA Act would repeal the administration’s carbon rules and make it harder to write new ones. Among other things, the legislation would require that any emissions standard have been met by at least six commercial units for a year; allow governors to opt out of such a regulation if they determine it hurts the economy or electric reliability; block an option to sanction federal highway dollars for noncompliance; and require EPA in future rules to explain exactly how each state can reduce emissions. It’s unclear whether Republicans can land enough Democratic votes to overcome a filibuster, and a veto threat is all but certain. The vote is at 10 a.m. in Dirksen 406.
Pre-buttal alert: The League of Conservation Voters and Environment America have rounded up four EPW Democrats — Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Brian Schatz and Ed Markey — for a 9:30 a.m. press call to oppose the bill.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING ENERGY! I’m your temporary host, Andrew Restuccia. I finally caught up with Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and I’m going to leave this segment on DC statehood here without editorial comment: [http://bit.ly/1E4nS7r]. I’ll be filling in on ME duty until Monday, so go easy on me. Send your news, tips and commentary to arestuccia@politico.com. And follow us on Twitter @AndrewRestuccia @Morning_Energy and @POLITICOPro.

HOW MUCH FURTHER CAN EPA STRETCH THE CLEAN AIR ACT? EPA has stretched the Clean Air Act as far as it’s ever been stretched to implement an ambitious plan to reduce electric utilities’ carbon footprint. Legal experts and supporters of the Clean Power Plan say it may be just the first step on a long road toward squeezing heat-trapping gases out of the atmosphere. However, opinions are split over how far EPA would eventually be able to stretch its novel application of the Clean Air Act. Alex Guillén, who has been churning out smart analysis of the climate rules all week for Pros, explains: http://politico.pro/1N8vjQ7

TEN STATES DOING BETTER THAN UNDER CARBON RULE, EPA SAYS: Turns out a few states don’t really need EPA’s power plant carbon rule to lower their emissions. According to EPA, 10 states have higher 2030 goals in terms of pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than in the agency’s reference case. Most of those ten aren’t a big surprise, including California, Oregon and New York. Two notable states: South Dakota and Nevada, both of which get significant portions of their power from renewables (wind in South Dakota, geothermal and solar in Nevada). Also on the list is Virginia, which has lots of nuclear and recently started side-eyeing offshore wind. EPA’s blog post: http://1.usa.gov/1DrC4MO. Spreadsheet: http://1.usa.gov/1UlLm1n

WHEN WILL THE EPA RULES BE PUBLISHED? EPA isn’t saying precisely when it will publish its climate rules for power plants in the Federal Register — a move that will officially open the floodgates for lawsuits. “We’ll be publishing as soon as practicable,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in an email, explaining, “Typically publication can take anywhere from two weeks to a month. The bigger the print job, often times, the longer the time between signature and publication.” While EPA wouldn’t give an exact date, it has said it will not delay in publishing the rule, as some had previously speculated.

DEMS TO GOP: WHERE IS YOUR CLIMATE PLAN? Democrats in Congress are increasingly confident that their Republican colleagues will pay a political price for opposing President Barack Obama’s climate plan — and they intend to hammer the GOP over the issue at every opportunity. Democrats took to the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon to make the case that Republicans have no alternative to the president’s climate plan. “So you don’t like the actions that we propose or that the president proposes. Ok, what do you propose?” Sen. Chuck Schumer asked during floor remarks, holding up a sign that said: “Wanted: a GOP plan to combat climate change reduce dangerous air pollution.” But Republicans counter that they do have a plan: the energy bill that lawmakers are working on. Robert Dillon, a Republican spokesman for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, tweeted this during the Democrats’ floor speeches: “.@SenSchumer the bipartisan #energy bill is what you’re looking for. It reduces #emissions w/o costing taxpayers.”

** A message from Green for All: The Clean Power Plan lets us all breathe easier. It cuts carbon pollution from power plants by 40 percent and is the greatest action the U.S. has ever taken in the fight against climate change. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/1SoO34t **

ME FIRST — POLL SHOWS PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR CLIMATE PLAN: A new Public Policy Polling survey being released later today by the progressive group Americans United for Change shows that the majority of voters in eight battleground states (Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania) support Obama’s climate plan and wouldn’t view elected officials less favorably for supporting it. The poll surveyed 4,517 registered voters in the states from July 31 to Aug. 3. It has a margin of error of +/- 1.5%. Read a summary of the survey: http://bit.ly/1SLrAyI

A FERC (SORTA) DIVIDED: All FERC commissioners are concerned about the reliability of the power grid. But that doesn’t mean they agree on what points to highlight when it comes to controversial issues like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Of course, Commissioner Tony Clark used the more colorful terms, referring (http://1.usa.gov/1IFOoFl) to unicorns and leprechauns to frame his concerns about the cost of the rule and state jurisdiction, which Pros saw Monday. FERC Chairman Norman Bay praised EPA’s openness to changing the rule, added more references to reliability and said his agency “is ready to assist.” The other commissioners took a little longer to issue their statements. Commissioner Colette Honorable echoed (http://1.usa.gov/1W0rTov) many of Bay’s sentiments saying that “Now the hard work begins” while pressing for collaboration going forward. Her colleague Cheryl LaFleur emphasized (http://1.usa.gov/1N8SObX) the need for gas and electric infrastructure. Meanwhile, outgoing commissioner Philip Moeller offered a lengthy statement (http://1.usa.gov/1T1sS3t) saying that his “biggest concern is that individual state plans could disrupt existing competitive wholesale markets, causing inefficiencies that would actually increase emissions.” He is also concerned about state air regulators and other officials without a background in the power sector being charged with developing state compliance plans.

THE WATER HEATER RULE, REBORN: The Energy Department released a new version of its water heater efficiency standards late yesterday, (hopefully) bringing an end to a long-standing and wide-ranging gripe several groups had with the regulation, which went into effect this April. The agency was directed to rework its final rule after Congress passed legislation this spring following the Senate’s all-night budget vote-a-rama. The new rule includes an exemption that was backed by electric co-ops, environmentalists and efficiency advocates, and it is designed to allow manufacturers to resume making certain large water heaters that couldn’t meet the new standards but are used in thermal storage and rural demand response programs. DOE’s new rule creates the new product category of grid enabled water heaters. However, the agency says that it will require manufacturers to report their sales data on grid-enabled heaters to make sure they’re not being used to get around the standard finalized a few months ago. Also, as DOE contemplates standards for electric water heaters in general, it will consider the impact on storage and efficiency programs. The rule takes effect once it’s published in the Federal Register. The rule: http://1.usa.gov/1IiXwCB

PATAKI BASHES RGGI: Former New York Gov. George Pataki distanced himself from a regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade plan he helped found, while also questioning the extent of which human activity is contributing to climate change. Pataki, who is near the bottom of polls in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, told Bloomberg BNA that the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative he helped originate wasn’t handled well after he left office. “I’m extremely disappointed,” he said. “Within months after I left, the administration that came in completely changed the approach.” He said “human activity is increasing” carbon dioxide emissions. “The question is to how much and to what extent other things, other atmospheric variances or solar flares or other things have an impact. I can’t tell you,” he said. Read the Bloomberg BNA story here: http://bit.ly/1K16a71

ADVENTURES IN NEW ENERGY LEGISLATION:

— Sen. Martin Heinrich introduced legislation on Tuesday that would, among other things, permanently reauthorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Read the bill here: http://1.usa.gov/1hid94s

— Sens. Bob Corker and Ben Cardin reintroduced their Electrify Africa Act, which according to a statement will “will leverage public and private sector resources … to help 50 million Africans with first-time access to electricity and to add 20,000 megawatts of electricity to the grid by 2020.”

QUICK HITS:

— “Hidden in Obama’s new climate plan, a whack at red states,” POLITICO’s Michael Grunwald reports: http://politi.co/1UlHX2q

— Climate researcher James Hansen calls Obama’s climate plan “practically worthless. MSNBC: http://on.msnbc.com/1IKSXT3

— “These days it seems whatever can be burned to power a car, heat a home, make electricity or ship people and goods around the globe is being sold at bargain basement prices,” Jonathan Fahey at the Associated Press reports: http://bit.ly/1JL997N

— Vox’s Brad Plumer has a nice step-by-step explainer on how EPA’s climate regulations work: http://bit.ly/1gI5qwv

— “Obama Didn’t Kill Coal, the Market Did,” Michael Bloomberg says in a new column: http://bv.ms/1DqdawU

— “Why the Group Most Affected by Obama Power Plan Doesn’t Hate It,” Bloomberg reports: http://bloom.bg/1KOG90a

— Two people were injured during a natural gas pipeline explosion in Texas. The Associated Press: http://abc13.co/1OPaslu

— The New York Times reports: “Russia formally staked a claim on Tuesday to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole,” a move that — if approved — could give the country some control over oil drilling in the region. The story: http://nyti.ms/1P5tfK5

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