Energy Brief: EPA Delays Chemical Safety Rule

Washington Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency will reassess a chemical safety rule, delaying its implementation at least until 2019. (The Hill)
  • The EPA’s inspector general said there was no wrongdoing in the agency’s accidental spill of toxic water in 2015 from the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado, but the agency had no rules on the time for dealing with assessing the mine. (Denver Post)
  • The Trump administration will justify changes to the Clean Power Plan by arguing the Obama administration overstepped its bounds in regulating greenhouse gas emissions broadly rather than from individual power plants, focusing on a key legal — rather than scientific — argument. (E&E News)

Business Brief

  • Saudi Arabian Oil Co. expects its sales to the U.S. will drop to 850,000 barrels a day in July, the lowest total for that month since 1988. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • President Donald Trump will make U.S. natural gas exports to India a focus of discussions when he meets with Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month. (Washington Examiner)
  • Montana coal mines produced less than a third in the first four months of 2017 than they did two years prior. (Billings Gazette)

Chart Review

Qatar’s Powerless Weapon
Julian Lee, Bloomberg Gadfly

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

EEI Annual Convention 7:30 a.m.
House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on watershed infrastructure 10 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on EPA and NRC nominations 10 a.m.
EEI Annual Convention 8 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee legislative hearing on Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on energy security 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee legislative hearing on SHARE Act 10 am.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee legislative hearing on hydropower and water bills 2 p.m.
Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on farm bill 9:30 a.m.
BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017 9:30 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Forest Service budget request 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on forest management 10 a.m.
Pruitt testifies at House Appropriations subcommittee 11 a.m.
BP Group Chief Economist Spencer Dale speaks at AGA’s Natural Gas Roundtable 12 p.m.
FERC staff Elizabeth Olson speaks at WCEE lunch 11:45 a.m.



EPA delays chemical safety rule until 2019
Devin Henry, The Hill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will delay implementation of an Obama-era chemical safety rule for nearly two years while it reassesses the necessity of the regulation. The EPA announced on Monday that Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a directive last Friday delaying the chemical plant safety standards until at least Feb. 20, 2019.

Inspector general clears EPA in investigation of Gold King Mine disaster
Bruce Finley, Denver Post

Nearly two years after the Gold King Mine disaster in Colorado, the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general on Monday concluded there was no wrongdoing, but that the EPA had no rules for dealing with blowout-prone toxic mines. That meant crews weren’t required to conduct a pressure test on trapped acid water inside the Gold King before trying to open it.

Details emerge about Trump’s planned rollback
Emily Holden, E&E News

The Trump administration will use a central argument from legal challengers of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan to rescind the Obama-era climate standards. EPA chief Scott Pruitt will argue that the agency went too far in setting carbon reduction goals by looking at what the broader power system could achieve instead of focusing solely on improvements at coal plants, an administration official told E&E News.

Trump slams media for failing to cover nonexistent energy stock boom
Matt Egan, CNN Money

President Trump unleashed tweets over the weekend slamming the “fake news” media for once again ignoring terrific economic news. Among other good economic and markets news, Trump said the “drilling & energy sector” is “way up” since the election.

Zinke Recommends Rolling Back Parts of Bears Ears National Monument
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended on Monday that President Donald Trump shrink the boundaries of Utah’s controversial Bears Ears National Monument and called on Congress to pass a bill on land management in the area. Zinke said on a conference call that he had submitted his report on Bears Ears to the White House on Saturday, under an executive order calling for reviews of 22 national monuments and five marine monuments around the country created by the Antiquities Act.

Oil rises on Saudi pledge to make real supply cuts
Stephen Eisenhammer, Reuters

Oil prices rose slightly on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia said it would make significant export cuts in July amid signs of a drawdown in U.S. crude inventories, though increasing U.S. output continues to weigh on the market. Brent crude futures were at $48.64 per barrel at 0833 GMT, up 35 cents, while benchmark U.S. crude was at $46.38 per barrel, up 30 cents.

Oil and Natural Gas

Saudi Arabia Cuts U.S. Oil Exports to Work Down Global Supply Glut
Alison Sider et al., The Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia is slashing its U.S. oil exports to a near three-decade low for this time of the year, intensifying its efforts to reduce a global supply glut that has been pummeling crude prices. The state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. expects its sales to the U.S. will drop below one million barrels a day in June, then slide to about 850,000 barrels a day in July, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump looks to boost natural gas exports to India
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

President Trump is expected to make U.S.-produced natural gas a key part of discussions when he meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “U.S. energy and technologies, including natural gas, are helping to build Prime Minister Modi’s vision for a new India in creating thousands of U.S. jobs in the process,” Spicer said.

Fatal explosion threatens more upheaval over drilling in Colo.
Mike Lee, E&E News

Critics of oil and gas drilling are redoubling their efforts to stop development in the wake of an oil-field-related explosion that killed two people in April. Broomfield, a fast-growing suburb about 20 miles north of Denver, exemplifies some of the trend.

Ineos to spend €2bn on expanding petrochemicals capacity
Andrew Ward, Financial Times

Ineos is to invest €2bn expanding its European petrochemicals capacity in a sign of the benefits of cheap US shale gas spreading across the Atlantic. The privately owned UK group said it planned to build a new plant, probably in Belgium, to produce propylene — a raw material used in many plastics and other chemical products — using US gas as a feedstock.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Appeals court ruling lets challenge to Arizona utility’s pricing stand
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

An Arizona utility can’t escape being sued for anti-trust violations for the rates it sets solely because it’s a quasi-governmental entity, at least not now — if ever, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by attorneys for Salt River Project that SolarCity cannot challenge its pricing system. The appellate judges said they have no authority to consider the finding of a trial judge in Phoenix who said the challenge should be allowed to go ahead.

Western Ky. Power Plant Seeking to Convert Coal Ash Storage
The Associated Press

The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking public input on a western Kentucky power plant’s proposal to change the way it stores coal ash. The Shawnee Fossil Plant in West Paducah is planning to covert from wet to dry storage of the ash, a byproduct of burning coal.


Goldman’s Green Push Comes With a Trading Twist
Liz Hoffman, The Wall Street Journal

A wind farm in Scranton, Pa., sitting over ancient coal seams, will soon power Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s data centers in New Jersey. The Wall Street bank said Monday that it has agreed to buy 68 megawatts of electricity from the plant, which will come online in 2019.


Coal mines on track for lowest production in a decade
Tom Lutey, Billings Gazette

Montana coal mines are entering a second straight year of historically low production, industry records show. Coal numbers through the first four months of 2017 show Montana mines producing a third less coal than they did just two years ago.


New cracks discovered at Belgian nuclear plant
Power Engineering International

Three years after its last inspection, new microfractures have been discovered at the Tihange nuclear power plant in Belgium. Experts using ultrasonic technology found the latest cracks on the high pressure boiler at the facility, confirmed by Belgian interior minister Jan Gambon, whose government added that the security of the plant was not threatened.

France to close some nuclear reactors, says ecology minister Hulot
Stephen Jewkes and Geert De Clercq, Reuters

French environment and energy minister Nicolas Hulot said on Monday that the government plans to close some nuclear reactors of state-controlled utility EDF to reduce nuclear’s share of the country’s power mix. He gave no indication of timing.


Trump lawyers try ‘extraordinary trick’ to quash youth climate case
Megan Darby, Climate Home

The US federal government has invoked a rarely used legal tool to try and quash a climate lawsuit brought by 21 young people. After district court judge Ann Aiken last week stood by her decision that the youth lawsuit deserved a hearing, the Trump administration went over her head to the 9th circuit court of appeals on Friday to get the case dismissed.

This is what the U.S.’s new global isolation on climate change looks like
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

Now that the Trump administration has withdrawn from the Paris climate deal, we’re starting to see concretely what that means on the world stage. In particular, it seems to suggest the United States is increasingly isolated as other nations reiterate their commitment to climate action in group statements and the United States, via footnote, says it isn’t part of all that.

‘We’re still on fast-track to trial’: Kids’ climate lawsuit against Trump administration stays alive
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

Late last week, a federal judge denied a Trump administration move to prevent a major climate change lawsuit from going to trial. The case, being brought by 21 young people against the federal government, is now closer to a full-fledged trial that will pit the Trump administration against children and young adults who insist the government is undermining their future through climate change inaction.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Qatar’s Powerless Weapon
Julian Lee, Bloomberg Gadfly

Oil and gas exports are key to Qatar’s prosperity, and the restrictions imposed earlier this month by its neighbors on vessels could create some real problems for crude.For gas, there will be limited impact. However the key weapon in Qatar’s arsenal — its gas supplies to Abu Dhabi — can’t be compromised without escalating a battle the nation would seem destined to lose.

Research Reports

Decline in Chinese lake phosphorus concentration accompanied by shift in sources since 2006
Yingdong Tong et al., Nature Geoscience

Domestic wastewater and agricultural activities are important sources of nutrient pollutants such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Upon reaching freshwater, these nutrients can lead to extensive growth of harmful algae, which results in eutrophication.