Energy Brief: Exxon Applies for Waiver from Russia Sanctions

Washington Brief

  • Dow Chemical is urging the Trump administration to “set aside” the results of government studies showing that a group of pesticides are harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species. (The Associated Press)
  • Government-funded health benefits will be cut off for more than 20,000 retired miners, mostly in Appalachian states that supported President Donald Trump in the election, unless Congress passes legislation by late April. (The New York Times)
  • Travis Fisher, a political appointee at the Department of Energy who has expressed skepticism about the benefits of subsidies for renewable energy, will lead the department’s study on how baseload sources of power such as coal and nuclear plants are affected by environmental policies. (E&E News)

Business Brief

  • Exxon Mobil Corp. applied with the Treasury Department for a waiver from U.S. sanctions against Russia to resume a joint venture with oil producer Rosneft. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • More than 100,000 people were employed by the wind industry in 2016, according to an American Wind Energy Association report. (The Washington Post)
  • OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said the group’s cut in crude oil production has “already placed us on the path of recovery,” ahead of a May 25 meeting in which countries will decide whether to continue the cuts in order to reduce stockpiles. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum 8:30 a.m.
Energy Storage Association annual conference 9 a.m.
Texas conference focused on creating smart cities 9 a.m.
Texas Electric Power conference 9 a.m.
Aspen Institute event on natural resource economies 11:30 a.m.
U.S. Energy Association event on carbon capture and storage 12 p.m.
SAIS conference on women and climate change 8 a.m.
International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum 8:30 a.m.
Texas Electric Power conference 8:30 a.m.
Texas conference focused on creating smart cities 9 a.m.
John Holdren speaks at AAAS 5:30 p.m.



Pesticide maker tries to kill risk study
Michael Biesecker, The Associated Press

Dow Chemical is pushing the Trump administration to scrap the findings of federal scientists who point to a family of widely used pesticides as harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species. Lawyers representing Dow, whose CEO also heads a White House manufacturing working group, and two other makers of organophosphates sent letters last week to the heads of three Cabinet agencies.

Energy companies donated millions to Trump’s inauguration
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Energy companies and their executives donated at least $7 million to President Trump’s inauguration committee, according to newly released inaugural committee reports. Companies and executives in oil, natural gas and coal were some of the largest donors to Trump’s inauguration, which raised a total of $106.7 million, according to the committee’s Federal Elections Commission filing.

EPA Offers Early Retirement, Buyout Program
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

The Environmental Protection Agency is offering employees a buyout or early retirement package as it prepares to cut its workforce, according to a memo distributed among high-level employees. In the memo, Acting Deputy Administrator Michael Flynn said the agency is aiming to finish the program by October, in response to administration guidance requiring agencies to take steps toward “near-term workforce reductions.”

FERC’s environmental justice, climate review scrutinized
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News

Energy regulators’ review process for natural gas pipelines went under the microscope in federal court yesterday. More than 80 minutes of oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit featured debate over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s analysis of environmental justice and climate issues for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, a network of three projects that would transport natural gas in the Southeast.

EPA head vows to build trust during Indiana stop
The Associated Press

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt says he’s committed to restoring confidence in the Indiana community where about 1,000 residents were ordered evacuated from a lead-contaminated public housing complex. Pruitt on Wednesday visited a Superfund site for the first time in his tenure, something elected officials from both parties noted.

American Lung Association: US air quality improving
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Air quality in U.S. cities improved overall last year, a new report from the American Lung Association (ALA) concluded. The report, which measures ozone and particulate matter pollution levels as an indicator of air quality, found that the number of Americans exposed to dangerous levels of both pollutants decreased in recent years.

Ryan Zinke: National parks added $34.9 billion to economy
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

National parks are pulling their own weight by raising $34.9 billion in 2016 for the nation’s economy, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Wednesday while pitching the need for much-needed upgrades to support the parks’ success. That marked a $2.9 billion increase from the previous year, Zinke said in issuing a new economic report to mark National Parks Week.

Dollar Declines as European Stocks Erase Advance
Adam Haigh and V Ramakrishnan, Bloomberg News

The dollar fell and stocks gave up gains as strong corporate results in Europe failed to settle investor nerves before the start of the French election. The greenback slipped against most of its major peers.

Oil and Natural Gas

Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume Russia Oil Venture
Jay Solomon and Bradley Olson, The Wall Street Journal

Exxon Mobil Corp. has applied to the Treasury Department for a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Russia in a bid to resume its joint venture with state oil giant PAO Rosneft, according to people familiar with the matter. Exxon has been seeking U.S. permission to drill with Rosneft in several areas banned by sanctions and applied in recent months for a waiver to proceed in the Black Sea, according to these people.

EPA begins review of key Obama methane rule
Devin Henry, The Hill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday said it would begin a review of an Obama administration rule limiting methane emissions at oil and gas drilling sites. EPA’s action — the first step in the lengthy process of undoing the methane rule — was a component of the energy executive order President Trump signed in March.

Russian oil groups brave cold of western sanctions to explore Arctic
Henry Foy, Financial Times

His fur coat heavy with snow and protecting him from temperatures of minus 18C, Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian oil company Rosneft, clutched the radio in his thick gloves and relayed to his engineers the simple order he had just been given by Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Start drilling.” A rig operator confirmed his request.

OPEC Chief Sees Oil Producers Closer to Re-Balancing Market
Mahmoud Habboush et al., Bloomberg News

Oil-producing nations are moving closer toward ending a global glut and re-balancing the crude market, and OPEC will decide next month whether to extend its cuts in output beyond June, the group’s Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers are committed to reducing oil stockpiles, and all countries participating in a six-month deal to pare output are committed to restoring the market’s stability, Barkindo said at a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Chevron Not Interested in Access to Arctic Drilling
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Supporters of Arctic offshore drilling are hopeful President Donald Trump will undo a ban on oil production in U.S. waters there, but a change in regulation may not revive interest among companies. Chevron dropped its plans to drill in Canadian waters in the Arctic Ocean in 2014, amid a steep fall in crude oil prices.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Subsidy skeptic tapped to lead Perry’s grid study — sources
Hannah Northey, E&E News

Travis Fisher, a political appointee at the Department of Energy, will lead a high-profile study that Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered this week on what role environmental policies are playing in recent coal and nuclear plant closures, according to multiple sources. Fisher will help analyze the way baseload power is dispatched and compensated and the effect of “regulatory burdens” past administrations introduced to decrease coal-fired generation.

Last stand: Nebraska farmers could derail Keystone XL pipeline
Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

When President Donald Trump handed TransCanada Pipeline Co. a permit for its Keystone XL pipeline last month, he said the company could now build the long-delayed and divisive project “with efficiency and with speed.” But Trump and the firm will have to get through Nebraska farmer Art Tanderup first, along with about 90 other landowners in the path of the pipeline.


The U.S. wind industry now employs more than 100,000 people
Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The fastest-growing occupation in the United States — by a long shot, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — might surprise you: wind turbine technician. The number of workers maintaining wind turbines, a job with a median pay of about $51,000 a year, is set to more than double between 2014 and 2024, the agency estimates.


Retired Miners Lament Trump’s Silence on Imperiled Health Plan
Noam Scheiber, The New York Times

Donald J. Trump made coal miners a central metaphor of his presidential campaign, promising to “put our miners back to work” and look after their interests in a way that the Obama administration did not. Now, three months into his presidency, comes a test of that promise.

Duke Energy CEO doubts coal industry ‘revival’ despite current political winds
John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good says despite talk of “reviving the coal industry” in the Trump administration, coal remains economically and environmentally challenged — and Duke won’t change its move away from the fuel. “We have to look through the changes of administration, the changes in politics and set our vision on where we want our company to be and what strategy we are pursuing,” she told more than 70 attendees during the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club Luncheon at The Palm Wednesday.


Shenzhen nuclear plant declares war on shrimp
Ernest Kao, South China Morning Post

Operators of a nuclear power plant in Shenzhen have surrounded water intake pipes with gill nets to prevent the accumulation of shrimp that caused a minor safety incident last year. The Nuclear Safety Consultative Committee, a Hong Kong-based watchdog that monitors the plants in Daya Bay and Ling Ao, reported six “below scale”(Level 0) incidents at the power stations last year, three of which occurred in a single month.


We’re about to test out hacking the Earth’s climate. That should scare and inspire you.
Andrew Freedman, Mashable

With the U.S. backsliding on climate progress under President Donald Trump, and scientists issuing increasingly dire warnings about the quickening pace and sweeping impacts of global warming, the possibility that we can somehow engineer our way out of the climate crisis is becoming a more attractive option. Geoengineering, which refers to taking steps to deliberately alter the planet’s climate, is the most controversial of all climate solutions.

Scientists have discovered vast systems of flowing water in Antarctica. And that worries them.
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

The surface of the remote Antarctic ice sheet may be a far more dynamic place than scientists imagined, new research suggests. Decades of satellite imagery and aerial photography have revealed an extensive network of lakes and rivers transporting liquid meltwater across the continent’s ice shelves — nearly 700 systems of connected pools and streams in total.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Highway From the Endangerment Zone
Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Scott Pruitt has emerged as a leading voice in the Trump Administration for U.S. withdrawal from the Paris global climate deal, so it’s ironic that the Environmental Protection Agency chief is being assailed from the right for being soft on carbon. Too many conservatives these days are searching for betrayals where none exist.

Research Reports

Colloidally prepared La-doped BaSnO3 electrodes for efficient, photostable perovskite solar cells
Seong Sik Shin et al., Science

Although perovskite solar cells (PSCs) can have power conversion efficiencies exceeding 20%, they can have limited stability under ultraviolet irradiation. This is in part because the mesoporous TiO2 used as an electron-transporting layer can photocatalyze unwanted reactions in the perovskite layer.