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Energy Brief: EPA Sets Aside Millions for Buyouts

Washington Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced the allocation of $12 million in carry-over funds for government buyouts and early retirement options. (The Washington Post)
  • The Trump administration delayed enforcement of the greenhouse gas reporting requirement for certain highways that was implemented at the end of the Obama administration. (The Hill)
  • After deputy Interior secretary nominee David Bernhardt’s Thursday confirmation hearing Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she will push for a vote as soon as possible, despite contentions over Bernhardts’s fossil fuel lobbying experience. (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • Saudi Arabia plans to sign deals between Aramco and energy services companies represented during a business forum coinciding with President Trump’s visit. (The Houston Chronicle)
  • To meet the state’s new renewable energy goals, the Maryland Public Service Commission will take on a large offshore wind project as a way to boost manufacturing jobs. (E&E News)
  • Chinese engineers have extracted frozen fuel from the South China Sea. Chinese authorities plan to expand on this breakthrough to commercially extract the “flammable ice” by 2030. (The Straits Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
House Energy & Commerce Hearing on Drinking Water Infrastructure 9:30 a.m.
NCAC-USAEE event on horizontal wells 12 p.m.

 

General

EPA to set aside $12 million for buyouts in coming months
Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to set aside $12 million for buyouts and early retirements in coming months, as part of an effort to begin “reshaping” the agency’s workforce under the Trump administration.

Lisa Murkowski vows to move Interior Department pick David Bernhardt to a vote quickly
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski vowed Thursday to move President Trump’s nominee for Interior deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, to a vote as soon as possible, despite opposition raised by Democrats over his past experience.

Republican senators press Trump against research cuts
Geoff Koss, E&E News

Top Senate Republicans are urging President Trump not to slash funding for Department of Energy research programs, following reports that the full fiscal 2018 budget will seek deep cuts at the department.

Democrats prod Trump Interior nominee over lobbying work
Devin Henry, The Hill

Senators dug into the background of an Interior Department nominee on Thursday, raising concerns about conflicts of interest and his time in the George W. Bush administration.

Stocks Steady After Volatile Week; Crude Rises: Markets Wrap
Benjamin Purvis et al., Bloomberg News

Global equities showed signs of stabilizing at the end of a turbulent week in which investors confronted political crises in Washington and Brazil. Oil headed for a second weekly gain as OPEC members supported Saudi Arabian and Russian pledges to extend supply cuts.

Oil and Natural Gas

Trump’s Saudi Arabia visit will tout ties to Houston energy companies
Jordan Blum, The Houston Chronicle

Donald Trump’s first overseas trip as president kicks off this weekend with a visit to Saudi Arabia, where participants will tout the kingdom’s growing ties to Houston energy companies.

China extracts gas from ‘flammable ice’ mined from South China Sea
The Straits Times

China has successfully extracted gas from an ice-like substance mined from the South China Sea in a development that will help secure the country’s energy security, a minister has been quoted by media reports as saying.

OPEC panel to conclude meeting Friday -sources
Alex Lawler, Reuters

An OPEC panel reviewing scenarios for next week’s policy-setting meeting is looking at the option of deepening and extending an OPEC-led deal to reduce oil output, OPEC sources said on Friday.

Cheap Gas Drilling Rouses Canada’s Permian of the North
Robert Tuttle and Kevin Orland, Bloomberg News

Drilling rigs and roughnecks are hot commodities once again across the Montney shale formation in northern British Columbia and Alberta, and companies like Grimes Well Servicing Ltd. are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

Texas Gas wants to raise El Paso rates again
Vic Kolenc, The El Paso Times

Texas Gas Service is seeking to bring in an additional $4.2 million in revenue by increasing rates in El Paso and other areas of West Texas for the seventh consecutive year.

Utilities and Infrastructure

LaGrange sued for policy that cuts off utilities for unpaid court fines
The Associated Press

A federal lawsuit says a Georgia city’s policies illegally restrict access to utility services and that those policies disproportionately affect black and Latino residents. The lawsuit against the city of LaGrange was filed Thursday in federal court in Atlanta.

Coal state lawmakers look to new sources of jobs in infrastructure bill
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Coal state lawmakers will be looking to another source of jobs for Appalachia on Thursday by promoting a bill to remake the region into a hub for the chemical ethane.

San Jose is latest, largest city in California to embrace community choice
Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Community choice aggregation (CCA) is growing in popularity in California, as the state’s utility sector embraces more forms of customer choice. A recent report estimated that by the mid-2020s, up to 85% of retail load could be supplied through CCAs, rooftop solar and direct access providers.

Renewables

Mid-Atlantic wind project bound to U.S.-made steel and ports
Saqib Rahim, E&E News

Maryland’s new offshore wind policy is more than a play for windmills. It’s also a play for manufacturing jobs. The Maryland Public Service Commission considered a smaller project but decided that the larger one was justified by its forecasted economic benefits: almost 9,700 jobs and $1.8 billion of in-state spending over 20 years.

Sunrun CEO: ‘Long-term growth rate’ for residential solar still strong
Krysti Shallenberger, UtilityDive

Facing maturing markets, increased competition and rising customer acquisition costs, residential solar companies like Vivint and SolarCity are curtailing operations out of less promising states to focus on profitability, according to a recent report from GTM Research.

Coal

Weekly US coal production rises, but estimates remain weak
Andrew Moore, S&P Global

Weekly US coal production was an estimated 13.49 million st in the week that ended May 13, up 1.2% from the prior week and 17.6% above the year-ago week, US Energy Information Administration data showed Thursday.

Oklahoma-based coal company claims FirstEnergy perpetrated a fraud
Anya Litvak, The Post-Gazette

What started as a dispute over a coal contract two years ago has escalated to claims of fraud that stretch all the way to the executive suite of Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp.

Nuclear

French ecology minister says nuclear will be 50 percent by 2025
John Irish, Reuters

New Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot said on Thursday France would seek to reduce the share of nuclear in the power mix to 50 percent by 2025 and would close its oldest nuclear power plant.

More than 1K metric tons of spent uranium fuel still in temporary storage in Nebraska
Nicholas Bergin, The Lincoln Journal Star

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station powered kitchen blenders, cash registers and televisions in eastern Nebraska for more than four decades by harnessing the energy released by splitting uranium atoms. Deemed too expensive to keep running, the power station’s generators ceased spinning Oct. 24. Yet a highly radioactive legacy remains.

‘Hot spot’ in nuclear waste shipment underscores Yucca Mountain concern
Keith Rogers, The Las Vegas Review-Journal

A radioactive “hot spot” discovered in a nuclear waste shipment in South Carolina is being cited by Nevada’s top nuclear safety official as fresh evidence of the folly of plans to transport thousands of tons of even-more-dangerous material to Yucca Mountain if a repository is built there.

Climate

Trump admin delays greenhouse gas measurement rule for highways
Timothy Cama, The Hill

The Trump administration is delaying enforcement of an Obama administration regulation that would have required state and local officials to measure greenhouse gas emissions related to the use of specific highways.

Energy Companies Urge Trump To Remain In Paris Climate Agreement
Samantha Raphelson, NPR News

President Trump is expected to face pressure from European Union leaders at the G-7 summit in Italy next week to keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Treaty.

Miles of Ice Collapsing Into the Sea
Justin Gillis, The New York Times

We went to Antarctica to understand how changes to its vast ice sheet might affect the world. The acceleration is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration.

Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, but it’s going to drown Mar-a-Lago
Sarah Frostenson, Vox

President Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and a very expensive “tax” on American businesses that make the US less competitive. He has threatened to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, in which countries around the world pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to keep temperatures from rising past the critical 2°C mark.

Climate change is greening Antarctica
Jeff Nesbit, Axios

The entire Antarctic Peninsula is undergoing “fundamental and widespread” ecological change, a new study finds. Recent research discovered ice melting on the surface across Antarctica – even at higher elevations. Now, scientists have found moss and microbes growing on the continent.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Embracing The Coal Closure Trend: Economic Solutions For Utilities Facing A Crossroads
Hallie Kennan, Forbes

A flurry of federal policies designed to loosen environmental regulations of coal-fired generation and roll back emissions reduction targets aren’t having their intended effect: Utilities across the United States continue to announce coal plant closures and reaffirm previous plans to remove coal from their generation fleets.

Keep focus on cleanup of Hanford
The Editorial Board, The Yakima Herald-Republic

There is plenty to occupy attention just down Interstate 82 at the Hanford nuclear reservation, especially massive amounts of nuclear waste stored in tanks and the long-delayed effort to deal with it. So it has been relatively easy to overlook the shortcomings of a tunnel that stored radioactive waste in rail cars — and the decades-long developments that led to its collapse last week.

Why national monuments deserve protection from Trump
Tommy Hough, The San Diego Union-Tribune

As if Donald Trump hasn’t already done enough to ensure his place as the most anti-environmental president in U.S. history, he recently ordered the Interior Department to undertake an unprecedented review of the status of 27 national monuments established in the U.S. since 1996.

Research Reports

United States’ Implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General 

OIG inspected progress being made in the United States to meet the requirements of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which currently has 56 participating nations concerned about worldwide corruption and mismanagement of extractive resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, gold, and renewable energy .