Energy Brief: EPA Delays Portions of Toxic Waste Rule for Coal-Fired Power Plants


Government Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency said it is postponing for two years portions of an Obama-era rule governing water pollution from coal-fired power plants. The EPA tried to delay implementation of the rule in April, a move that led to a currently pending lawsuit from environmental groups who accused the agency of suspending the 2015 rule without public notice or comment. (The Associated Press)
  • Ukraine received the first-ever U.S. shipments of anthracite coal, part of an $80 million deal brokered by President Donald Trump. The shipments, made by Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy & Resources, are meant to support U.S. jobs, a top priority for the Trump administration, according to Energy Secretary Rick Perry. (Financial Times)
  • Congressional investigators are examining allegations that former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s business secretly promoted a plan during the presidential campaign and while serving in the White House to build U.S.-Russian nuclear power plants in the Middle East. Investigators are also examining if the Trump administration is still promoting the deal. (The Guardian)

Business Brief

  • The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection plans to re-examine EQT Corp.’s proposed Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline that the agency previously approved. The department, which withdrew its approval of the pipeline last week, told a federal court that it needs to further evaluate the information it used to approve the project. (The Hill)
  • Tesla Inc.’s vice president of business development is stepping down, marking the latest in a string of high-level departures at the electric car maker. Diarmuid O’Connell was with the company for more than 11 years. (CNBC)
  • A consortium of oil companies led by BP and Azeri state energy SOCAR signed a contract extending until 2050 their production-sharing deal for Azerbaijan’s offshore oilfields. Shareholders in the consortium include Chevron, ExxonMobil, Statoil and others. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions event on innovations in carbon capture and use 8:30 a.m.
Green Energy Efficiency Day II 8:30 a.m.
EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2017 presentation 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on energy reliability 10 a.m.
Politico Pro Policy Summit event on energy and innovation in the Trump era 10:30 a.m.
Friday
The Midwest Energy Storage Summit 7:30 a.m.
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General

Doug Little Leaving Corp Comm For Trump Energy Position
Will Stone, KJZZ News

One of Arizona’s top regulators is leaving his post for a job with the Trump administration. On Wednesday, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Doug Little announced he will be joining the Department of Energy where he will serve as deputy assistant secretary for Intergovernmental and External Affairs.

Oil holds gains, buoyed by stronger demand
Christopher Johnson, Reuters

Oil prices steadied on Thursday, holding on to recent gains after forecasts for stronger oil demand by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was up 20 cents at $55.36 a barrel by 0930 GMT, after rising 89 cents or 1.6 percent on Wednesday.

Oil and Natural Gas

West Virginia officials to re-examine controversial pipeline
Timothy Cama, The Hill

West Virginia environmental officials are planning to take a new look at a natural gas pipeline that they previously approved amid national controversy. The agency told a federal court Wednesday that the information it used to approve the project “needs to be further evaluated and possibly enhanced.”

BP-led group signs Azerbaijan oilfield extension deal
Nailia Bagirova, Reuters

British oil major BP and Azeri state energy SOCAR on Thursday signed a contract extending its production sharing deal for Azerbaijan’s biggest oilfields until 2050. The existing deal is due to expire in 2024 and BP-led consortium and SOCAR pledged to continue developing the giant Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) offshore fields, the largest in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian basin.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Burgeoning legal movement pits landowners against pipelines
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News

Justin Lugar is more familiar with white-collar criminal defense than the intricacies of pipelines and eminent domain law. And yet the Roanoke, Va.-based Gentry Locke attorney recently found himself at the center of a potentially precedent-setting battle over a gas project slated to sweep 300 miles across Appalachia.

CAISO Regionalization, 100% Clean Energy Bills Stall
Jason Fordney, RTO Insider

State legislation that would regionalize CAISO and mandate 100% zero-carbon retail electricity sales statewide by 2045 sputtered with just days left in the legislative session and will not pass this year, a key legislator told RTO Insider on Wednesday. State Assemblymember Chris Holden (D), who sponsored two bills that would regionalize CAISO, said he plans to go forward with the regionalization effort next year.

Renewables

Tesla’s vice president of business development leaves
Robert Ferris, CNBC

Tesla’s vice president of business development is leaving the company. This is another of several departures at the California electric-car maker over the last several months, a critical time for the company.

EPA head: No renewable fuel promise made to ex-Trump adviser
Tom Krisher, The Associated Press

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has told a group of senators he never made any promises to billionaire investor Carl Icahn about renewable fuel credits that were costing one of Icahn’s companies millions of dollars. Pruitt was responding to letters from five senators looking into potential conflicts of interest involving Icahn, who resigned in August as a special adviser to President Donald Trump on regulatory reform.

Maryland groups launch campaign for 50 percent renewable energy
Josh Hicks, The Washington Post

Maryland environmental advocates have begun a push to require state utilities to buy half of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2030, promising to make the issue a top focus of the 2018 legislative session and election. The Maryland Climate Coalition and the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative, which are leading the effort, plan to announce the campaign at a Baltimore church on Wednesday.

Anglers Seek Quick Win In Bid To Block $43M NY Wind Farm
Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Law360

Seafood industry groups, companies and several towns asked a D.C. federal judge Tuesday to block a $42.5 million lease awarded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to Statoil Wind for a wind farm off the coast of New York. The site, 13 miles off the coast of Long Island, is an important habitat for a wide range of fish and other marine life, including North Atlantic right whales and sea turtles, the plaintiffs said in a motion for summary judgment.

M&Ms’s New Ad Is Selling Renewable Energy And Wind Power
Jeff Beer, Fast Company

This week, just ahead of Climate Week, Mars’s M&Ms launched a new consumer campaign called “Fans of Wind” to spread the word and raise awareness around fighting climate change–and what the company itself is doing to fight it. M&Ms says it’s the first major food business to source all of its electricity for its U.S. operations from renewable sources, with wind farms in Mesquite Creek, Texas, and Moy, Scotland, that source enough wind power needed to make all of the M&M’s in the world.

Coal

EPA delays rules limiting wastewater from coal power plants
Tammy Webber, The Associated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it’s postponing portions of an Obama-era rule to curb water pollution from coal-fired power plants while it considers whether to rewrite the measure. It’s the second time the agency, at the behest of the electric utility industry, has tried to delay implementation of the 2015 requirements for steam electric power plants to control the amount of coal ash-contaminated wastewater flushed from their plants.

Trump-Poroshenko brokered deal brings first US energy coal to Ukraine
Roman Olearchyk, Financial Times

Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy & Resources on Wednesday delivered the first ever US shipments of anthracite coal to Ukraine as part of a geopolitically-important $80m deal brokered this summer by the administration of US President Donald Trump and Kiev’s pro-western leadership. Pointing to the first 62,000 tonne shipment arriving Wednesday out of 700,000 tonnes envisioned before the end of this year, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, posted a photo on Twitter of himself shaking hands with the US president in the Oval office during a meeting earlier this year.

Energy market operator says Liddell doesn’t have to stay open, as Tony Abbott casts doubt on Paris pledge
Nicole Hasham. The Sydney Morning Herald

The Turnbull government’s insistence that the ageing Liddell coal-fired power plant must stay open longer has been cast into doubt by the operator of Australia’s electricity market, who says there are other ways to head off a predicted power shortfall. Appearing at a hearing in Canberra on Thursday, Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Audrey Zibelman said battery storage, renewable energy, management of consumer demand and upgrading existing power plants could all help meet a predicted 1000-megawatt shortfall in flexible, dispatchible capacity – power that can be created on demand – when energy giant AGL closes its Liddell power plant in 2022.

Coal Seeks New Life as Carbon Fiber for Submarines
Tim Loh and Patrick Martin, Bloomberg

The 30-foot hull of an experimental mini-sub is helping to show how the U.S. may be able to redeploy the mountain of coal that power plants are no longer burning. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee used carbon fibers to build the submersible for the U.S. Navy with a 3-D printer, demonstrating the promise of new manufacturing techniques that are faster, cheaper and more flexible.

Nuclear

Michael Flynn ‘promoted US-Russian nuclear project from White House’
Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian

US congressional investigators are examining whether Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, secretly promoted a plan by private business interests to build US-Russian nuclear power plants in the Middle East while he was serving in the White House. Among startling new details unearthed by investigators working for a congressional committee is that the nuclear power plan Flynn was allegedly secretly promoting, during the campaign and once he joined the White House, involved a Russian state-owned company currently under US sanctions.

TEPCO gets OK to restart Niigata reactors, with conditions
Masanobu Higashiyama, The Asahi Shimbun

The nation’s nuclear watchdog gave conditional approval Sept. 13 to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s application to resume operations of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. It marks the first time that reactors operated by TEPCO, which manages the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have passed more stringent reactor regulations imposed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority after the triple meltdown in 2011.

Climate

Fire on the Mountain: 2 Forests Offer Clues to Yellowstone’s Fate in a Warming World
Michael Price, The New York Times

This is a tale of two forests, Densetown and Stumptown, whose paths diverged after a succession of wildfires. One illustrates the historic resilience of the dense Yellowstone pinelands; the other portends a much sparser future for these forests under climate change.

The Rockies’ largest glaciers are melting with little fanfare
Benjamin Storrow, E&E News

A new world is emerging in the wake of the receding ice. In a vast, glacially carved basin, where towering spires of granite dominate the skyline, a small colony of stunted Engelmann spruce has taken up residence in a pile of rocky debris, some 500 feet above the tree line.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Trump’s Folly
Thomas Friedman, The New York Times

America faces two serious national security threats today that look wildly different but have one core feature in common — they both have a low probability of happening, but, if they did happen, they could have devastating consequences for our whole country and the world. The other low-probability, high-impact threat is climate change fueled by increased human-caused carbon emissions.

How China Should Go Electric
Editorial Board, Bloomberg

With China’s decision to phase out gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles, the end is nearer for the internal combustion engine. For their nation to reap the full benefits of this revolution, Chinese leaders will need to continue to be bold.

Research Reports

Detecting recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer
Martyn Chipperfield et al., Nature

As a result of the 1987 Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the atmospheric loading of anthropogenic ozone-depleting substances is decreasing. However, short data records and atmospheric variability confound the search for early signs of recovery, and climate change is masking ozone recovery from ozone-depleting substances in some regions and will increasingly affect the extent of recovery.