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Energy Brief: EPA’s Environmental Justice Chief Steps Down

Washington Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice chief resigned, and afterward said he has not received any indication he will be replaced. (InsideClimate)
  • The White House intends to rescind the greenhouse gas-cutting Clean Power Plan without introducing a replacement. (E&E News)
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency will take action to rein in fuel economy regulations for cars and light trucks “very soon,” undoing an Obama administration decision to keep the standards in place through 2025. (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • Spanish oil company Repsol said it discovered 1.2 billion barrels of oil in Alaska, the largest onshore discovery in decades. (Business Insider)
  • Saudi energy officials told U.S. oil firms that OPEC may not extend cuts to oil production to offset rising production from U.S. shale fields. (Reuters)
  • Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden warned at CERAWeek that the public’s trust in the oil industry “has been eroded to the point where it starts to become a serious issue for our long-term future.” (Axios)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
CERAWeek 8:30 a.m.
Environmental Law Institute discussion on climate 12 p.m.

 

General

Chief Environmental Justice Official at EPA Resigns, With Plea to Pruitt to Protect Vulnerable Communities
Phil McKenna, InsideClimate

The head of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped down, departing the government with a lengthy letter to Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator, urging him not to kill the agency’s programs. Mustafa Ali, a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator at the agency, worked to alleviate the impact of air, water and industrial pollution on poverty-stricken towns and neighborhoods during nearly a quarter century with the EPA.

Obama’s clean car rules rolled back ‘very soon,’ EPA’s Scott Pruitt says
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said Thursday that he is set to rein in the agency’s fuel economy regulations for cars and light trucks “very, very soon.” Pruitt discussed the rules on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” saying they were rushed out at the end of last year without paying much attention to comments or conflicting opinions.

State Dept: Tillerson has recused himself from Keystone decision
Devin Henry, The Hill

The State Department says Secretary Rex Tillerson has recused himself from decisions related to the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil Corp., “recused himself from working on issues related to TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline,” a State Department ethics official wrote in a letter to Greenpeace on Thursday.

Panel Advances 2 Controversial Bills on EPA Science Transparency
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

The House Science Committee approved two bills touted as transparency measures for the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, over objections from Democrats and environmentalists who cast the bills as an attack on the agency. The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, which would require the EPA to publicly post scientific research it uses to justify its regulations, passed 17-2 along party lines.

Greenpeace prods ethics watchdog to force Rex Tillerson recusal on Keystone XL
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Greenpeace prodded a federal ethics watchdog on Thursday to force Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to recuse himself from signing off on the Keystone XL oil pipeline project. The environmental group sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics, the federal watchdog charged with ensuring against conflicts of interest in the executive branch, asking it to clarify how the pipeline’s approval, which Tillerson has direct authority over, doesn’t conflict with his previous employment as CEO of the oil giant Exxon Mobil.

Stocks Gain as U.S. Debt Stems Worst Run Since ’12
Samuel Potter and Cecile Gutscher, Bloomberg News

Energy stocks rallied, leading a third day of gains for European equities as crude prices bounced. Treasuries halted the longest losing streak in five years before a U.S. jobs report expected to bolster the case for a rate hike next week.

Oil and Natural Gas

Saudis tell U.S. oil: OPEC won’t extend cuts to offset shale – sources
Ron Bousso, Reuters

Senior Saudi energy officials told top independent U.S. oil firms in a closed-door meeting this week that they should not assume OPEC would extend output curbs to offset rising production from U.S. shale fields, two industry sources told Reuters on Thursday. Oil producers led by Saudi Arabia and top non-OPEC exporter Russia are in an uneasy truce with U.S. shale firms after a two-year price war that sent many shale producers to the wall.

The largest onshore oil discovery in America for at least 30 years just happened in Alaska
Akin Oyedele, Business Insider

Spanish oil company Repsol said Thursday that it discovered 1.2 billion barrels of oil in Alaska. It was the largest onshore find in the US in 30 years, according to a statement from the firm.

Shell CEO warns of “disappearing” public patience on carbon emissions
Ben Geman, Axios

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden offered a fretful and grim assessment Thursday of a dangerous disconnect between his industry and the public. “I do think trust has been eroded to the point where it starts to become a serious issue for our long term future,” he said at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston.

America May Be the World’s Biggest LNG Supplier in Two Decades
Ryan Collins and Robert Tuttle, Bloomberg News

By 2035, the U.S. may have surpassed Australia and Qatar to become the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas, according to the chief executive officers of Canadian energy giant Enbridge Inc. and LNG exporter Tellurian Inc. The U.S. already has about 70 million tons a year of LNG capacity coming online, Meg Gentle, Tellurian’s CEO, said in an interview at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit energy conference in Houston Wednesday.

The OPEC Deal Is Facing Its Biggest Test
Alex Longley, Bloomberg News

OPEC’s strategy to balance the oil market and bolster prices is facing its biggest test. The producer group is aiming to revamp the market by eroding a crude inventory surplus that’s depressed prices since 2014.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Bill aims to change utility regulation
Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

With a key lawmaker pointing to a need for “fresh thinking,” a House panel Wednesday approved a proposal that would revamp regulation of Florida’s electric utilities. The bill would require that members of the Florida Public Service Commission be appointed from five different regions of the state, move a consumer advocate’s office under the attorney general and create a performance-based incentive system for utilities.

Natural gas plant may rise where coal once fell in Masontown
Anya Litvak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hatfield’s Ferry, a large Greene County coal plant shuttered in 2013, has drawn the attention of a New Jersey power developer that plans to build a large natural gas plant on the site. APV Renaissance Partners, a subsidiary of American Power Ventures, said it plans to submit a permit to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection within the next month for a combined-cycle power plant.

Renewables

US solar market sets record breaking year in 2016, says new report
Anmar Frangoul, CBNC

The U.S. solar market had its biggest year in 2016, with more than 14 gigawatts (GW) of solar power installed, according to a new report released on Thursday. Other key findings from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) U.S. Solar Market Insight 2016 Year-in-Review report include: a new megawatt of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity going “on-line”, on average, every 36 minutes; and the expectation that the total amount of installed solar PV in the U.S. will almost triple over the next five years.

Wind Power Blows Through Nuclear, Coal as Costs Drop at Sea
Jess Shankleman and Brian Parkin, Bloomberg News

Water and electric power plants don’t mix well naturally, unless you add some wind. Water tends to corrode and short out circuits.

Scotland approves innovative floating offshore wind farm
Anmar Frangoul, CNBC

The Scottish Government has granted planning consent for an eight turbine, six megawatt (MW) offshore wind farm off the coast of Aberdeen. In an announcement on Thursday, authorities said that the floating facility will have a capacity of as much as 50 MW and is set to support roughly 110 jobs through assembly, installation and “ongoing operations and maintenance activities.”

Tesla batteries power new Kauai solar power plant
Hawaii News Now

Some 50 acres of land just north of Lihue are now home to a state of the art solar power plant running on Tesla technology. Governor Ige and Mayor Carvalho were among the dignitaries who attended a blessing ceremony for the new facility Wednesday.

Llanberis hydro power plant given go-ahead
BBC News

Work could start next year on a multimillion pound hydro power plant in Llanberis, Gwynedd, its developers have said. The Snowdonia Pumped Hydro (SPH) project received consent from the UK Planning Inspectorate on Wednesday.

Coal

China leaves size, timing of coal output restrictions to local authorities
Cecilia Jamasmie, Mining.com

China’s has decided to eliminate recently set restrictions on coal production from local miners, which decreased global supplies and helped prices last year, and has instead vowed to adopt more market-friendly measures in the sector and other oversupplied industries. The announcement doesn’t mean the country’s top planning agency has abandoned its intention to cut 150 million tonnes of coal mining capacity this year.

Nuclear

Congressman’s effort to move nuclear waste out of S.C. is a tough sell
Donovan Harrell, McClatchy

Rep. Joe Wilson pleaded Wednesday for congressional support for moving more nuclear waste out of South Carolina. But he left the House energy and water development subcommittee without any firm commitment.

Climate

The Clean Power Plan is gone — and there’s no ‘replace’
Evan Lehmann, E&E News

The White House intends to unravel the Clean Power Plan without providing a replacement, according to a source briefed on the issue. An executive order expected to be released next week also instructs the Justice Department to effectively withdraw its legal defense of the climate rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Trump aides weighing staying in Paris deal, but rejecting Obama pledge
Andrew Restuccia, Politico

Trump administration officials are considering a plan to remain part of the nearly 200-nation Paris climate change agreement, while weakening former President Barack Obama’s pledge to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, multiple sources told POLITICO. The plan has not yet won the buy-in of key Trump aides and the president has not signed off.

Proposed NOAA cuts would disarm our coasts in the face of rising seas, scientists say
Chelsea Harvey and Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

A proposed White House budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could put coastal communities throughout the nation at a major disadvantage as they struggle to adapt to threats from sea-level rise, severe storms and other climate-related events, scientists and other experts said. That’s because the budget, revealed by The Washington Post last week, targets a handful of programs that provide important resources to help coastal states prepare for the coming effects of climate change.

On climate change, Scott Pruitt contradicts the EPA’s own website
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

EPA chief Scott Pruitt, speaking on CNBC Thursday morning, made one of his strongest statements yet rejecting the science of human-caused climate change. “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said on the program “Squawk Box.”

A Message from American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers:

American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers help U.S. agriculture produce the food that supports health and human development worldwide. AFPM provides the fuels powering farm equipment and the petrochemicals used to construct greenhouses, irrigation pipes, bailing twine and silage bags — even packaging that keeps food from spoiling. Learn about how American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers are making lives easier, healthier, safer and more productive at afpm.org. At AFPM, we make progress.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Toshiba’s Radioactive Liabilities
David Fickling, Bloomberg Gadfly

Radioactive material can generate plenty of energy, used properly. The problem comes when you need to dispose of it.

A Message from American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers:

American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers are fueling the things that take us further — from the cars and buses we rely on every day to the farm equipment, jets and delivery trucks that support the 24/7 global economy. Learn about how American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers are making our lives easier, healthier, safer and more productive at afpm.org. At AFPM, we make progress.

Research Reports

Use of North American woody biomass in UK electricity generation: Assessment of high carbon biomass fuel sourcing scenarios
UK DECC/Ricardo Energy & Environment

Large scale biomass electricity generation plants in the UK import wood pellets from around the world but particularly from North America. The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) commissioned a study in 2014 to assess the potential impact of these imports on carbon emissions, which resulted in the development of the Biomass Emissions and Counterfactual model.