Energy Brief: EPA Employees Protest Pruitt

Washington Brief

  • More than 400 former employees of the Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to senators urging them to oppose Scott Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and about 30 current employees in Chicago joined a protest on Monday. (Reuters)
  • The House Science Committee will hold a hearing today on “Making the EPA Great Again,” with testimony from former EPA assistant administrator Jeff Holmstead, American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO Rush Holt, and others.
  • The U.S. Global Change Research Program, which is scheduled to release a national climate assessment in 2018, appears to have flown under the radar as members of the Trump administration scrutinize agencies that focus on climate science. (Climatewire)

Business Brief

  • Domestic oil and gas prices will likely drop due to President Donald Trump’s focus on increasing output, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s head of commodities research wrote. (Bloomberg News)
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) proposed a tax on wind power, at 0.5 cents per kilowatt hour, in her executive budget for the state. (The Oklahoman)
  • BP reported an underlying replacement cost profit of $400 million in the fourth quarter of 2016, about twice as much as in the same quarter of 2015, but falling short of analysts’ expectations. (Financial Times)

An earlier version of this brief misspelled Fallin’s name.

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

CSIS discussion on sustainable food security 9 a.m.
House Science Committee hearing on EPA 11 a.m.
House Natural Resources Commitee organizational meeting 11 a.m.
National Press Club discussion on ocean conservancy 1 p.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on modernizing infrastructure 10 a.m.
Shaheen speaks at energy-efficiency event 2 p.m.
National Electric Transmission Infrastructure Summit 8 a.m.
National Electric Transmission Infrastructure Summit 8 a.m.



U.S. EPA employees protest Trump’s pick to run agency
Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

Former and current employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressed opposition to President Donald Trump’s pick to run the agency on Monday – in an open letter and a small street protest – reflecting divisions over the new administration’s plans to slash regulation. In Chicago, around 30 employees of the EPA’s regional office there joined a protest organized by the Sierra Club environmental group and the American Federation of Government Employees to protest Pruitt’s nomination.

In Age of Trump, Scientists Show Signs of a Political Pulse
Amy Harmon and Henry Fountain, The New York Times

Michael Eisen, an evolutionary biologist, is among the elite of American scientists, with a tenured position at the University of California, Berkeley, and generous funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for his research on fruit flies. But late last month, dismayed over the Trump administration’s apparent disdain for evidence on climate change and other issues, Dr. Eisen registered the Twitter handle @SenatorPhD and declared his intention to run in the 2018 election for a seat in the United States Senate from California.

Dollar Jumps, Gold Falls as Demand for Havens Ebbs
Natasha Doff, Bloomberg News

The dollar strengthened against its major peers and gold fell as demand for some haven assets ebbed. The weaker euro helped European stocks advance.

Oil and Natural Gas

U.S. Oil and Gas Prices May Tumble On Trump’s ‘Energy Revolution’
Bailey Lipschultz, Bloomberg News

President Trump’s vow to “unleash an energy revolution” by reversing regulations may send oil and natural gas prices tumbling in 2018, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Domestic oil and gas prices will likely suffer as the U.S. continues to increase its output, analysts including Francisco Blanch, head of commodities research, wrote in a note dated Feb. 3.

Hedge funds make record bet on rising oil prices
Anjli Raval and Dan McCrum, Financial Times

Hedge funds have amassed the biggest ever bet on rising oil prices as investors back Opec’s bid to tighten the crude market and seek protection against fears of inflation. Data from regulators and exchanges showed speculators have built long positions equivalent to almost 1bn barrels of crude across the major contracts, while short positions amount to just 111m barrels.

North Sea oil explorer Ithaca agrees $1.24bn takeover
Nathalie Thomas, Financial Times

North Sea oil explorer Ithaca Energy has agreed a $1.24bn takeover by Israel’s Delek Group, in the latest of a flurry of acquisitions in the region as more stable oil prices fuel a revival of confidence. Delek, which has been seeking to increase its presence in the North Sea, already held a 19.7 per cent stake in Ithaca, which is listed in both Toronto and London.

Offshore Drillers Are Still Seeking Recovery Enjoyed by Shale
Bailey Lipschultz, Bloomberg News

While oil drillers in U.S. shale basins are starting to see business come back, their offshore brethren will have to wait for prices to surge well above $60 a barrel. U.S. offshore operators like Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. and Atwood Oceanics Inc. are down more than 15 percent in the last month, as companies focus on onshore oil that reaps better returns. With oil trading near $53 a barrel, firms are looking toward booming plays like the Permian Basin in West Texas and the Scoop and Stack formations in Oklahoma, according to Marc Edwards, Diamond Offshore’s chief executive officer.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Pipeline Companies Struggle to Contend with Reinvigorated Protests
Christopher M. Matthews, The Wall Street Journal

Pipeline companies are bracing for a new round of volatile protests by environmentalists and other activists in the U.S., a sobering reality that is tempering the industry’s excitement over President Donald Trump’s moves to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access projects.


Gov. Mary Fallin proposes tax on Oklahoma wind production
Paul Monies, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma would become the second state to impose a tax on wind power, and its tax would be the nation’s highest, under a proposal announced Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin. In her executive budget, Fallin proposed a 0.5 cent per kilowatt hour tax on electricity from wind generation.

Scotland’s last fossil fuel power station threatened with closure
Emily Gosden, The Times of London

Scotland could be left without a fossil fuel power station after SSE confirmed yesterday that it was reviewing the future of its Peterhead gas plant, putting 120 jobs at risk. The 1.2-gigawatt power station failed last week to secure a subsidy contract to help to keep the lights on next winter, losing out to other sites that could provide the electricity generation capacity Britain needs at a lower cost.

Work to begin on Swansea Mynydd y Gwair wind farm
BBC News

Work on a wind farm at a beauty spot in Swansea is due to start this week following a public inquiry and opposition from local people.
Ground works will begin on the Mynydd Y Gwair site at common land near Felindre.


As Demand Ebbs, U.S. Coal Has New Playbook to Dig Itself Out
Tim Loh, Bloomberg News

Boosted by higher prices and presidential promises of aid, U.S. coal is having a comeback season. Yet a looming quandary remains: Demand continues to shrink.

Northeast B.C. mining restarts stall because CN Rail hasn’t maintained tracks for shipping coal
Andrew Kurjata, CBC News

Coal mines are restarting in Tumbler Ridge, but companies can’t ship to market because train lines maintained by CN Rail have fallen into disrepair. Mayor Don McPherson says it appears the railway stopped looking after the track sometime in 2015 after the community’s last coal mine shut down.


Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear plant sets 2016 generation record
Tim Hennagir, Monticello Times

Xcel Energy’s Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant in Minnesota generated more electricity than ever before in the plant’s 45-year history, the company stated in a recent news release. A series of equipment upgrades, including a 13 percent increase in the plant’s maximum electrical output, and operating at full power for nearly all of 2016 resulted in topping the site’s previous record.

Inspectors Find Safety Flaws Remain a Concern at French Nuclear Supplier
Matthew Dalton, The Wall Street Journal

A team of international inspectors described extensive management weaknesses at a key supplier for the global nuclear power industry, finding that safety failings are still a worry months after investigators revealed a decadeslong coverup of manufacturing problems at a French factory owned by the supplier.


A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months
Jugal K. Patel, The New York Times

A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break. The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable to warming temperatures.

Climate Scientists Challenge Conservatives’ NOAA Suit, Fearing More to Come Under Trump
Lisa Song, Inside Climate News

Three scientific advocacy groups have filed a legal brief in support of federal climate scientists who are being sued by the conservative organization Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch has sought to force the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to release 8,000 pages of researchers’ communications regarding a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Science in June 2015.

Shh, scientists hope Trump overlooks major climate report
Erika Bolstad, Climatewire

Its acronym is just obscure enough to be benign, so little-known that even people in the know stumble over the name of the federal program that guides much of the country’s climate research. That’s exactly what the U.S. Global Change Research Program appears to want right now, as Congress and the Trump administration go on the prowl for places to cut federal money for climate research.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Snagging Aramco Won’t Be Easy, Singapore
Nisha Gopalan, Bloomberg Gadfly

Singapore’s desire to host the IPO of Saudi Arabian Oil Co. is understandable. Whether the city-state is the best venue for what could be the world’s largest ever share sale is another matter.

Research Reports

Spatially resolved air-water emissions tradeoffs improve regulatory impact analyses for electricity generation
Daniel B. Gingerich et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Coal-fired power plants (CFPPs) generate air, water, and solids emissions that impose substantial human health, environmental, and climate change (HEC) damages. This work demonstrates the importance of accounting for cross-media emissions tradeoffs, plant and regional emissions factors, and spatially variation in the marginal damages of air emissions when performing regulatory impact analyses for electric power generation.