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Energy Brief: EPA Walks Back Ozone Rule Delay


Government Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced a walk-back of its intended one-year delay to enforce an Obama-era ozone pollution rule. The EPA previously announced a delay of their decision for which areas meet the rule’s standards due to insufficient information, which was met with environmental lawsuits. (The Hill)
  • The Interior Department announced the Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana as the fourth of 21 sites that will remain fully protected under its federal designation as a national monument. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said this and three monuments from and Idaho, Washington and Colorado would be spared from size reduction. (The New York Times)
  • The Trump administration and GOP lawmakers have overhauled the Obama-era energy and environment agenda while working to put in place an “America First” focus, despite various legal challenges from conservation groups.(CNBC)

Business Brief

  • Southern Company said its preliminary estimates show the cost to complete the Georgia-based Vogtle Electric Power Plant, the only nuclear facility under construction in the U.S., has risen to more than $25 billion. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • German political leaders and auto executives announced a plan to invest in software that will reduce emissions in diesel-engine vehicles. Other European countries have committed to greater investments in electric vehicles. (BBC News)
  • Wyoming Environmental Quality Council members voted to send back the mine permit application to developer Ramaco over concerns of well water contamination for the state’s first major new coal mine in decades. Their decision could delay the application by several months. (The Associated Press)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
Energy Department’s SIMB annual meeting and exhibition 8 a.m.
2017 Climate Justice Youth Summit 9 a.m.
Friday
No events
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General

Trump’s energy agenda is plowing ahead as other initiatives stall
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

President Donald Trump may be fuming over Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he can certainly take solace in the GOP’s swift overhaul of the Obama administration’s energy and environmental agenda. In just half a year, Trump and his appointees have dismantled many of President Barack Obama’s policies to combat climate change and reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

EPA walks back delay of Obama air pollution rule
Timothy Cama, The Hill

The Trump administration is reversing course on its plan to delay by one year enforcement of the Obama administration’s ozone pollution regulation. In a statement announcing the decision, the EPA emphasized that it will continue to work with states on implementing the ozone rule, which could include more targeted enforcement delays.

Interior Dept. Reaffirms Protection of National Monument in Montana
Eric Lipton, The New York Times

The Interior Department announced on Wednesday that the Upper Missouri River Breaks, a famous chunk of river in central Montana that holds a national monument designation, would remain fully protected by federal land-use restrictions. The others no longer at risk are Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado.

German carmakers reach emissions-cutting deal
BBC News

German carmakers have agreed with top politicians to cut harmful emissions by updating software in five million diesel vehicles. The industry is under pressure since a diesel emissions scandal exposed cheating to manipulate test readings.

Thrust into spotlight, Murkowski goes fishing
Geof Koss, E&E News

The day after joining two of her Republican colleagues in casting the decisive votes that sank the Senate Republican health care bill last week, Lisa Murkowski got on a plane to Alaska. The outing was a stark and welcome contrast compared with recent events, when the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee simply couldn’t escape the media spotlight she’d rather avoid.

Oil up on tighter U.S. market, but OPEC supplies weigh
Christopher Johnson and Henning Gloystein

Oil prices rose on Thursday, lifted by signs of a tightening U.S. market, although high supplies from OPEC producers weighed on sentiment. Benchmark Brent crude was up 20 cents a barrel at $52.56 by 0920 GMT. U.S. light crude was 20 cents higher at $49.79.

Oil and Natural Gas

OPEC wants oil above $50, but US shale producers won’t play along
Sri Jegarajah and Dan Murphy, CNBC

Growth in U.S. oil production is slowing, but will continue to blunt OPEC’s efforts to cut supply and normalize global inventories, keeping benchmark prices capped at around $50 a barrel this quarter, according to a CNBC poll of energy strategists, traders and economists.

Sanctions gap lets Western firms tap Russian frontier oil
Nerijus Adomaitis and Katya Golubkova, Reuters

A gap in U.S. sanctions allows Western companies to help Russia develop some of its most technically challenging oil reserves, and risks undermining the broad aim of the measures, a Reuters review of company results and media releases has found. When Washington imposed the sanctions on Moscow in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and role in the Ukraine conflict, the U.S Treasury said it wanted to “impede Russia’s ability to develop so-called frontier or unconventional oil resources”.

How the Wild Shale Race May Be Harming the U.S. Oil Trove
Giacomo Tognini, Bloomberg

As production from wells rapidly declines, drillers are rushing to add new ones at a faster pace in order to keep increasing output. The problem is that drilling multiple wells closer together is contributing to the drop in established ones, and sometimes causing harm that can’t be fixed.

As the oil patch demands more water, West Texas fights over a scarce resource
David Hunn, The Houston Chronicle

A West Texas land baron and oilman is on the verge of pumping 5.4 million gallons of water a day from far under the desert mountains here and piping it 60 miles to the nation’s most bountiful oil field, the Permian Basin, where hydraulic fracturing has fueled a renaissance of U.S. oil and gas production. With water in short supply and high demand, Dan Allen Hughes Jr., one of the largest landowners in the United States and president of his father’s eponymous oil company, plans to tap an aquifer under his 140,000-acre Apache Ranch.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Montana’s regulators are putting public at risk of high energy prices, NorthWestern says
Tom Lutey, The Billings Gazette

Montana’s Public Service Commission is “losing touch” and putting the state’s largest utility, and half the public, at risk of high energy prices, NorthWestern Energy has told legislators. NorthWestern, which provides electricity to 500,000 Montanans, told state lawmakers this week that recent decisions by the PSC had prompted analysts to recommend the utility’s investors consider selling or reducing stock in NorthWestern.

EPA says Decatur Utilities exceeds water quality goals
Bayne Hughes, The Decatur Daily

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified Decatur Utilities recently that its water treatment plant surpassed state and federal regulatory treatment standards for water quality. This means DU’s water treatment plant exceeded goals set by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for the treatment of turbidity, or the cloudiness caused by microscopic suspended solid particles in the water.

Renewables

Tesla’s Quarterly Loss Widens as It Rolls Out the Mass-Market Model 3
Bill Vlasic, The New York Times

The electric-car maker Tesla faces challenges in introducing its first mass-market vehicle, but the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, sought to reassure investors on Wednesday that the company was up to the task. Tesla may experience some fluctuations in production rates, Mr. Musk said, but “people should have zero concerns” about the company’s ability to increase production of the new offering, the Model 3.

Hydro-powered smelters charge premium prices for ‘green’ aluminum
Peter Hobson, Reuters

Producers of “green” aluminum – made using renewable energy rather than fossil fuels – are starting to charge premium prices thanks to rising demand from industrial customers under pressure to reduce their carbon footprints. Operators of smelters powered by hydro-electricity in the likes of Norway, Russia and Canada are promoting their environmental credentials – and stealing a march on others that rely on coal or gas, notably in China and the Gulf.

Coal

1st new Wyoming coal mine in decades faces strong opposition
Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

Wyoming is among the coal-friendliest states, but ongoing worries about how the state’s first major new coal mine in decades could affect the environment and people living nearby dealt a serious setback to the project Tuesday.

The visual story of what humans sacrifice in our relentless hunt for coal
David Yanofsky & Akshat Rathi, Quartz

To picture today’s version of coal mining, imagine massive machines that shave vegetation from the land, millions of pounds of explosives that blow off mountain tops, and huge cranes, called draglines, which can carry more than 100 metric tons of dirt and coal in a single scoop.

Germany’s long goodbye to coal despite Merkel’s green push
Vera Eckert, Reuters

Burning coal for power looks set to remain the backbone of Germany’s energy supply for decades yet, an apparent contrast to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ambitions for Europe’s biggest economy to be a role model in tackling climate change. Merkel is avoiding the sensitive subject of phasing out coal, which could hit tens of thousands of jobs, in the campaign for the Sept. 24 election, in which she hopes to win a fourth term.

Nuclear

Tab Swells to $25 Billion for Nuclear-Power Plant in Georgia
Russell Gold, The Wall Street Journal

It will cost more than $25 billion to complete a Georgia nuclear power plant, according to a new estimate released Wednesday, raising new questions about whether the sole remaining nuclear facility under construction in the U.S. will get built. The disclosure from utility Southern Co. comes two days after Scana Corp. pulled the plug on a similar nuclear plant in South Carolina following years of delays and rising costs that also put final completion of that facility above $25 billion.

China’s nuclear export ambitions run into friction
Matthew Cottee, The Financial Times

China is using infrastructure exports to build strategic relationships with a range of countries in Asia, eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Chinese companies are constructing reactors in Pakistan and Romania. China is scheduled to build nuclear facilities in Argentina, the UK and Iran and is bidding for further projects in Turkey, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

NRC issues second order to TVA to correct nuclear safety concerns
Brittany Crocker, Knoxville News Sentinel

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a second confirmatory order to the Tennessee Valley Authority to correct safety concerns in its nuclear fleet. The order, issued July 28, includes an extensive list of corrective actions TVA must perform to address the poor safety culture record at Watts Bar and other nuclear plants in the fleet.

Climate

Chief of staff handled disasters touched by warming
Zack Colman, E&E News

New White House Chief of Staff John Kelly defended funding to confront natural disasters that he believed eroded stability and fueled migration in Latin America and the Caribbean as head of U.S. Southern Command. It’s a signal that he may bring a global view about the threats of climate change to the West Wing, according to observers.

Climate change may cause 60,000 extra premature deaths in 2030, study says
Anmar Frangoul, CNBC

If future climate change is not addressed, then its effect on global air pollution could result in 60,000 extra premature deaths in the year 2030, according to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This bleak picture highlights how climate change could wreak havoc over the coming years, estimating 260,000 extra deaths for the year 2100.

Nations Will Start Talks to Protect Fish of the High Seas
Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

More than half of the world’s oceans belong to no one, which often makes their riches ripe for plunder. Now, countries around the world have taken the first step to protect the precious resources of the high seas.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Buyers Bet on Infrastructure, With or Without Trump
Brooke Sutherland, Bloomberg

Industrial acquirers are doing what President Donald Trump can’t when it comes to infrastructure: putting their money where their mouth is. When it comes to the U.S., the potential growth in water infrastructure is even higher, executives said, noting the state of neglect of infrastructure management in the West and Midwest in particular.

An oil embargo against Venezuela is wrong approach
Ken Blackwell, Chron

Venezuela is in an economic and humanitarian free-fall and it’s getting worse for the socialist nation. But what most people don’t realize is how Venezuela’s astounding political and social collapse could negatively affect America if the United States imposes rushed or ill-advised sanctions against the struggling nation.

Trump’s Unconventional Stance On Nuclear Power Could Bigly Benefit The Environment
Elizabeth Muller, Forbes

By supporting nuclear power, Trump may be doing more to stop global warming than would any Paris Accord. He is one of the few global leaders taking this stance, and setting an example that I hope other countries will follow.

Research Reports

Changes in the soil organic carbon balance on China’s cropland during the last two decades of the 20th century
F. Zhang et al., Nature Scientific Reports

Agro-ecosystems play an important role in regulating global changes caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Restoration of soil organic carbon (SOC) in agricultural soils can not only improve soil quality but also influence climate change and agronomic productivity. With about half of its land area under agricultural use, China exhibits vast potential for carbon (C) sequestration that needs to be researched.