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Energy Brief: Court Rules EPA Must Enforce Methane Rule

Government Brief

  • In a victory for environmental groups, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must enforce its methane emissions rule that was issued during the Obama administration. (CNN)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke denied last week’s rumors that a phone call he had with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) about Obamacare included threats to diminish her state’s standing with the administration. (Washington Examiner)
  • Analysts suggested the recent court ruling on the Renewable Fuel Standard will not support program changes for lower prices to oil refiners, despite presidential advisor Carl Icahn’s push to lower biofuel credit prices. As an adviser, Icahn saw a profit in the first quarter for one of his investments, oil refiner CVR Energy. (Reuters)

Business Brief

  • Deepwater Wind LLC, the leading offshore wind developer in the U.S., proposed to partner with Tesla Inc. to back up the energy that would be generated in their proposed 144-megawatt project off of the coast of Massachusetts. Massachusetts will award the contracts in offshore wind in December. (Bloomberg)
  • Indiana’s Duke Energy subsidiary said in a regulatory filing that it signed four short-term deals with Peabody Coal Sales LLC to re-price coal — a change that will take effect in 2018 and is expected to benefit ratepayers. (Platts)
  • Weather forecasts through the first half of August showing cool weather disappointed traders. Without the promise of high summer heat, a key driver of high natural gas demand, prices hit a five-month low. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Energy Department’s SIMB annual meeting and exhibition 6:15 a.m.
EPA public hearing for proposed Renewable Fuel Standards for 2018, biomass-based diesel volume for 2019 9 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on the EPA’s Superfund program 10 a.m.
Energy Department’s SIMB annual meeting and exhibition 8 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on water security and infrastructure management 10 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on FBI HQ consolidation 10 a.m.
Green America Green Business Roundtable 11:30 a.m.
DOI presentation on oil spill response advances since Exxon Valdez 1:15 p.m.
CRES’s panel on the future of the solar industry, free trade 2:30 p.m.
Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative event 4 p.m.
Energy Department’s SIMB annual meeting and exhibition 8 a.m.
2017 Climate Justice Youth Summit 9 a.m.
No events

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Icahn’s biofuel bet faces significant headwinds
Jarrett Renshaw and Chris Prentice, Reuters

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s multimillion-dollar bet against U.S. biofuel prices is looking increasingly risky in the wake of a Friday court ruling that will likely boost the cost of complying with the program. The independent refiner lacks blending facilities and must buy biofuel credits, or RINs, exposing it and other refiners to market prices.

Zinke calls reports ‘laughable’ that he threatened Murkowski on healthcare
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said it is “laughable” that he threatened Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in a phone call last week after a vote on Obamacare repeal. Zinke made the statement Sunday in talking to reporters while on a tour of national monuments in the West. He refuted claims that he suggested his agency would make it difficult for Alaska because of Murkowski’s no vote on a procedural measure to begin debate on a bill to partially repeal and replace the Obamacare.

Oil trades near two-month high, but ample supply weighs
Alex Lawler, Reuters

Oil traded near $53 a barrel on Tuesday, close to a two-month high, supported by signs that a persistent inventory glut is starting to ease and strong global demand, although stronger OPEC production kept a lid on gains. U.S. inventory reports due on Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to show crude stocks fell by 2.9 million barrels last week, the fifth straight week of declines.

Oil and Natural Gas

Natural Gas Posts Worst Day Since February on Weather Outlook
Alison Sider, The Wall Street Journal

Natural-gas prices on Monday had their worst day since February as traders began to bet that summer is going to go out with a whimper. Natural gas for September delivery fell 14.7 cents, or 5%, to $2.794 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Even oil-company executives want electric cars
Leslie Josephs, Quartz

One side-effect of consumers’ shift to electric vehicles is that the world will need less oil. Now Royal Dutch Shell’s CEO is one of those consumers driving the change.

New LNG vessel en route to South Korea, making first solo icebreaking trip
Stuart Elliott and Wyatt Wong, Platts

The world’s biggest icebreaking tanker has set sail from Norway’s Hammerfest LNG plant headed for South Korea, according to cFlow, S&P Global Platts trade flow software, on its first commercial voyage and the first solo icebreaking journey eastward via the Northern Sea Route.

Activist Group Claims California’s Cap And Trade Gives New Lease To Keystone XL-Like Projects
Chris White, The Daily Caller

Activists have chained themselves to oil pumping equipment in California to protest an energy pipeline that some environmentalists and American Indians have dubbed the “Standing Rock of the North.” Demonstrators argue that California’s most recent cap and trade legislation paved the way for the project, which would shuttle nearly 900,000 barrels of oil from Edmonton, Calgary to Burnaby, British Columbia.

Utilities and Infrastructure

White House: Infrastructure bill remains Trump priority
Melanie Zanona, The Hill

President Trump remains committed to working with Congress on a massive infrastructure bill, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday. The reassurance from the White House comes as GOP leaders have signaled that the timeline for Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure package — which has yet to be unveiled — will likely slip to next year.

Only in Miami-Dade do voters have the power to lower FPL bills. But will they?
Douglas Hanks, The Miami Herald

Sometime during the next two years, Miami-Dade leaders need to ask voters to renew a fee that adds about 3 percent to hundreds of thousands of electric bills across the county and delivers about $26 million a year to the government. Florida Power and Light collects a “franchise fee” for cities and counties across the state, and the for-profit utility turns over the money to local governments as a pass-through tax.

Ardian Buys €300M PE Infrastructure Portfolio From UniCredit
Benjamin H0rney, Law360

Ardian has agreed to buy a €300 million ($353.8 million) portfolio of limited partnership interests in European infrastructure private equity funds from Italian banking and financial services giant UniCredit SpA, the companies said on Monday. The deal represents one of the largest secondary infrastructure transactions thus far in 2017, according to a statement.


Tesla Batteries May Back Up Wind Farm Off Massachusetts Coast
Joe Ryan, Bloomberg

Deepwater Wind LLC is proposing to pair Tesla Inc. batteries with massive offshore wind turbines as part of a bid to supply the state of Massachusetts with clean energy generated at sea. The 144-megawatt development would stockpile electricity produced late at night, then deliver it when the grid needs it most, Deepwater Chief Executive Officer Jeff Grybowski said in an interview Monday.

Multimillion-dollar solar energy park in Annapolis gets green light
Carley Milligan, The Baltimore Business Journal

It has taken eight years, but a renewable energy park is at last on the way in Annapolis. When completed, it will be the largest non-federal solar project on a closed landfill the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Alphabet Sees Power in Molten Salt, a New Moonshot
Jack Nicas, The Wall Street Journal

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is pitching an idea to store power from renewable energy in tanks of molten salt and cold liquid, an example of the tech giant trying to marry its far-reaching ambitions with business demand. Alphabet’s research lab, dubbed X, said Monday that it has developed plans to store electricity generated from solar panels or wind turbines as thermal energy in hot salt and cold liquids, such as antifreeze.

Montreal-based green investment company raises $2 million
Jacob Serebrin, The Montreal Gazette

A Montreal-based online investment platform that gives loans to support green energy projects has raised some capital of its own. The investment is a sign that established investors are starting to buy into “the idea of climate wealth, the idea that the shift to a low-carbon economy is an enormous wealth creation opportunity,” said David Berliner, the CEO of CoPower.

California Mobile Home Park Gets Cutting Edge Renewable Energy System
Erik Anderson, KPBS News

The California Energy Commission is bank-rolling a plan to bring renewable energy to a mobile home park near Bakersfield, California. The idea is to make the technology available to communities that otherwise could not afford it.


Duke buys more coal from Peabody, signs four short-term deals
Bob Matyi, Platts

Duke Energy Indiana is to buy additional coal from Peabody Coal Sales as part of a contract price renegotiation and will also purchase coal this summer under four deals that run through the fall, according to a regulatory filing. Brett Phipps, managing director of fuel procurement for Duke Energy Progress, an affiliate of Duke Energy Indiana, told the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission the utility will buy an extra 500,000 st/year from Peabody in 2018 and 2019 after the renegotiation.

After Trump meeting, Ukraine to import U.S. thermal coal for the first time
Alessandra Prentice, Reuters

Ukrainian state-run energy company Centrenergo said on Monday it had struck a deal with U.S. trader Xcoal to import 700,00 tonnes of thermal coal this year – the first time Ukraine has imported the commodity from the United States. The contract is a result of an agreement between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. President Donald Trump, who has promised a “golden era” of U.S. energy business by boosting exports.


How to Clean Up Hundreds of Tons of Melted Nuclear Fuel
Stephen Stapczynski and Adrian Leung, Bloomberg

Japan’s biggest utility and owner of the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., last week released images that for the first time showed what’s likely melted fuel inside the No. 3 reactor. If confirmed, the nation will have to devise a way to remove the highly radioactive material, a mixture of melted nuclear fuel and reactor debris known as corium.

U.S. Nuclear Comeback Stalls as Two Reactors Are Abandoned
Brad Plumer, The New York Times

In a major blow to the future of nuclear power in the United States, two South Carolina utilities said on Monday that they would abandon two unfinished nuclear reactors in the state, putting an end to a project that was once expected to showcase advanced nuclear technology but has since been plagued by delays and cost overruns.

Appeals court set to hear nuclear-cost law
Jim Saunders, The Gainsville Sun

A federal appeals court is poised to hear arguments in a class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that has led to Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida collecting money from customers for nuclear-power projects. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled Aug. 22 to take up the case, which stems from a long-controversial 2006 law designed to help encourage the development of nuclear power in Florida.


Forget That Big Iceberg–A Smaller One in the Arctic Is More Troubling
Scott Waldman, E&E News

The world saw headlines about one of the largest icebergs ever calved a few weeks ago. But a smaller one on the other end of the globe might have bigger consequences.

We only have a 5 percent chance of avoiding ‘dangerous’ global warming, a study finds
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

In recent years, it has become increasingly common to frame the climate change problem as a kind of countdown — each year we emit more carbon dioxide, narrowing the window for fixing the problem, but not quite closing it yet. This outlook has allowed, at least for some, for the preservation of a form of climate optimism in which big changes, someday soon, will still make the difference.

Greens ask court to reinstate EPA methane pollution rule
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Environmentalists are asking a federal appeals court to reinstate immediately the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methane pollution rule for oil and natural gas drillers. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled earlier this month that the Trump administration broke the law when it tried to delay the methane rule’s enforcement in June.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Energy, Mistruths and Tax Reform
Jack Rafuse, Morning Consult

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — America’s best-known tax policy wonk — delivered a speech in June to the National Association of Manufacturers in which he addressed the need for comprehensive tax reform, problems with the current tax code, its impact on U.S. manufacturers and a vision for enacting true reform. He concluded, “we are going to get this done in 2017.”

Minnesota bridge collapse 10 years ago shows bipartisan path forward
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, USA Today

I know we can find a bipartisan response to pressing challenges — like repairing, modernizing and adding to the infrastructure on which we all rely. I know it because I’ve seen it happen in my own state of Minnesota.

A much-needed study of our electrical grid is coming soon
Tony Clark, Washington Examiner

The dependability of our energy supply is essential to our way of life. But the public often doesn’t think about the reliability of our nation’s electrical supply, even though that reliability is just as critical to our nation’s economy.

Research Reports

Less than 2 °C warming by 2100 unlikely
Adrian Raftery, Nature Climate Change

The likely range of global temperature increase is 2.0–4.9 °C, with median 3.2 °C and a 5% (1%) chance that it will be less than 2 °C (1.5 °C). Population growth is not a major contributing factor. Our model is not a ‘business as usual’ scenario, but rather is based on data which already show the effect of emission mitigation policies.