Energy Brief: Florida AG Cites Complaints of Price Gouging at Chevron Gas Stations Ahead of Irma’s Arrival


Government Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency said in a court filing that federal officials expect to finalize their review of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan this fall. The agency is widely expected to order a formal repeal of the climate regulation. (The Hill)
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 to adopt an amendment that would provide $10 million to the United Nations’ climate change agency, defying President Donald Trump’s proposal to eliminate the funding. Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) joined all Democrats except Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in voting to include funding for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in a State Department spending bill. (Washington Examiner)
  • The Renewable Fuels Association and other lobbying organizations said the United States should intervene in a trade dispute with Brazil to revoke or ease the 20 percent tariff on U.S. ethanol imports. Trump has previously stated support for domestic ethanol production. (Bloomberg)

Business Brief

  • As fuel shortages worsen ahead of Hurricane Irma’s expected landfall in Florida on Sunday, the state’s attorney general said she received 45 complaints of inflated prices at Chevron Corp.-branded gas stations. Chevron has said throughout the week that it does not tolerate price gouging, while noting that it does not directly own gas stations in the state, where the average price of gas has jumped to $2.725 a gallon. (Reuters)
  • BMW said it will offer 12 all-electric cars and 13 hybrid models by 2025, while Jaguar Land Rover said all of its new vehicles will be electric or hybrid starting in 2020. Similar announcements from other auto companies are part of an effort to get ahead of government mandates, especially in Europe, that require low- or zero-emission vehicles. (The Los Angeles Times)
  • A group of first responders from the Arkema chemical plant fires on Aug. 29 is suing the plant’s owner for more than $1 million, alleging that the French company minimized the dangers of exposure to the chemical fires and failed to warn responders to move away from fumes beyond the 1.5 mile evacuation area. Arkema rejected any suggestion that it gave misleading information — to the responders or anyone else near its Texas facility — about the smoke from the fires. (The Washington Post)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
Atlantic Council panel discussion on U.S.-Iran science exchanges 12 p.m.
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General

In scathing lawsuit, first responders describe vomiting, gasping at Texas chemical plant fire
Steven Mufson and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The responders allege that the plant owner, Arkema, minimized the dangers of exposure to the fire and failed to warn the responders manning the perimeter of the mandatory 1.5 mile evacuation area to move farther away from the fumes after the first of nine trailers full of volatile organic peroxide burst into flames in the early nighttime hours of Aug. 29. The company said it regretted that anyone suffered harm, particularly first responders.

Senate approves bill doubling hurricane aid package, extending federal borrowing limit
Kelsey Snell, The Washington Post

The Senate approved $15.25 billion in disaster aid as part of an agreement struck by President Trump and congressional Democrats that will also raise the federal borrowing limit and keep the government open until Dec. 8. The bill passed by a vote of 80 to 17 on Thursday afternoon.

Trump Nominates Hunton & Williams Atty For EPA Air Job
Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Law360

President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated Hunton & Williams LLP administrative law group head William Wehrum to head up the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air office. Wehrum is a partner at Hunton & Williams and leads the firm’s administrative law group, which includes the environmental practice group.

Emmer, Nolan add amendment to defund mining study
John Myers, The Duluth News Tribune

Minnesota U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Rick Nolan late Wednesday successfully added an amendment to a House appropriations bill that would defund a proposed U.S. Forest Service study of all mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The study was proposed earlier this year, along with a moratorium on mining near the BWCAW, a move that would stifle the proposed Twin Metals copper mine along the Kawishiwi River southeast of Ely.

Putin jokes that Tillerson ‘fell in with the wrong crowd’
Miranda Green, CNN

In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson, then CEO of ExxonMobil, the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens. At the forum, however, Putin indicated that relationships between himself, the US and Tillerson were rocky, noting that in light of tensions between the two countries, his government still has connections with American companies, including energy giant Exxon.

Obama appointees negotiated for jobs while still in office
Kevin Bogardus and Michael Doyle, E&E News

Documents obtained by E&E News under the Freedom of Information Act show that more than a half-dozen of President Obama’s top-level Interior Department appointees drew interest from corporations, law firms and trade associations. Several landed at high-powered firms, where their Interior Department experiences could prove invaluable.

Ground-source heat startup ready to drill, announces partner for the ductwork
Megan Geuss, Ars Technica

Earlier this summer, a Silicon Valley startup called Dandelion was born out of Alphabet’s X Labs. Dandelion hoped to popularize an old and dusty, but energy-saving, technology—that is, ground-source heat pumps. Today, Dandelion announced a partnership with a local ground-source heat company in upstate New York called Aztech.

Oil and Natural Gas

Florida cites complaints over Chevron gas prices as shortages mount
Devika Krishna Kumar and Jessica Resnick-Ault, Reuters

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said on Thursday her office had received 45 complaints of inflated prices at Chevron Corp branded gasoline stations in the southern part of the state, as shortages worsened ahead of Hurricane Irma’s expected U.S. landfall this weekend. Gasoline prices in Florida have risen sharply in the last week, with the average cost of a regular gallon of gas hitting $2.725 on Thursday, according to motorists advocacy group AAA.

Oil steady as Irma heads for Florida, Saudi Arabia cuts supply
Dmitry Zhdannikov, Reuters

Oil prices steadied on Friday after almost a week of sharp rises as Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms in a century, drove towards Florida after tearing through the Caribbean. Brent crude  was up 5 cents at $54.54 a barrel by 0900 GMT, after earlier reaching its highest since April at $54.80.

Exxon CEO: We’re making ‘good progress’ on Harvey recovery and ready for Irma
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

Exxon Mobil is making progress restarting the nation’s second largest refinery in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and is preparing to keep Florida supplied with gasoline as Hurricane Irma takes aim, Exxon CEO and Chairman Darren Woods told CNBC. Refiners must gradually resume operations to avoid damaging equipment.

TransCanada asks NEB to halt federal review of Energy East pipeline
Jeff Lewis and Shawn McCarthy, The Globe and Mail

TransCanada Corp. is seeking to halt a federal review of its $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline, raising the possibility the project could get scrapped in a move that would spare Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from having to make a politically charged decision on the project’s fate. Under a toughened review unveiled last month, the NEB said it would assess how construction of the contentious pipeline would affect GHGs from the production of the crude flowing through it.

Russia’s Novak says it is premature to extend global oil deal
Vladimir Soldatkin and Olesya Astakhova, Reuters

It is premature to decide on extending the global deal to reduce oil production as the oil market has been rebalancing, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday, according to the ministry’s Twitter feed. He also said that if the market struggles to reach balance, “we would discuss the option of the deal extension” after it expires after March 31.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Space scientists track new solar eruptions
Peter Behr, E&E News

U.S. space scientists are monitoring a series of high-energy eruptions from the sun to determine if they will threaten power grids as Hurricane Irma bears down on the Eastern Seaboard. Solar storms threaten emergency communications and GPS satellites and, in extreme cases, would trigger ground currents that would shut down power grids over a large area.

Renewables

BMW plans 25 all-electric and hybrid vehicles by 2025; Jaguar shows off electric E-type
Russ Mitchell, The Los Angeles Times

In case anyone still questions whether the world’s automakers are taking electric cars seriously, BMW said Thursday that 12 all-electric cars and 13 hybrids will be on the market by 2025. Jaguar Land Rover, also on Thursday, said its entire fleet of new vehicles will be electric or hybrid-electric starting in 2020.

U.S. Ethanol Industry Asks Trump to Intervene in Brazil Dispute
Mario Parker, Bloomberg

U.S. ethanol producers will ask the Trump administration to intervene in a trade dispute with Brazil as tensions between the industry and foreign competitors continue to escalate. The Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the U.S. Grains Council — all Washington-based lobbying organizations — said in a statement Thursday that the government should “take immediate action and consider all avenues to encourage Brazil” to revoke or at least ease the 20 percent tariff on ethanol imports from the U.S. it announced last month.

Renewables developers ‘gaming’ PURPA should force reforms, utilities tell Congress
Gavin Bade, Utility Dive

Renewable energy developers are manipulating key provisions of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA), electric utilities and a state regulator told an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, demanding reforms from Congress. Large renewable energy suppliers are abusing the “one-mile rule” separating qualifying facilities under the law to compel utilities to purchase their power, they said, defying the spirit of a law meant to support small energy suppliers.

British companies reap almost half of UK’s renewables deals
Nathalie Thomas, Financial Times

British companies are securing almost half of the billions of pounds spent each year on offshore wind farms in the UK, according to a report that aims to counter criticism that the vast majority goes overseas. About 48 per cent of the money spent planning, building and operating the projects, which are supported through UK government subsidies, benefits British companies, research by the RenewableUK trade body found.

Coal

Trump’s FERC nominees assure senators they won’t prop up coal
Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner

President Trump’s nominees to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stressed on Thursday that they would adhere to the commission’s basic duties of approving and regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil, without favoring one energy source over another. Nominees Kevin McIntyre, Trump’s Republican FERC chairman-in-waiting, and Rich Glick, a Democratic attorney, testified at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that they would base their decisions on science.

Kentucky Power offering custom contracts to help coal
The Daily Independent

Earlier this year, Kentucky Power sought and received permission from the Kentucky Public Service Commission to launch the Coal Plus program to alter its rate structure to offer custom contracts to coal businesses struggling to stay open or reopen their mines and put miners back to work in eastern Kentucky. Mark Jenson, chief executive officer of Quest Energy, said the company has benefited from the program.

Queensland government allocates $25m to protect against black lung
Shae McDonald, The Age

The Queensland government will invest $25 million over two years in a bid to better protect the state’s coal workers from black lung disease. Mines Minister Anthony Lynham has finally responded to a parliamentary report into the disease, officially known as pneumoconiosis, four months after it was tabled.

Nuclear

Nuclear plants in Hurricane Irma’s path are shutting down
Matt Egan and Cheri Mossburg, CNN

Two Florida nuclear power plants in the path of Hurricane Irma are shutting down to brace for the Category 5 storm’s devastating wind and rain. Florida Power & Light announced on Thursday it will shut down the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear plants ahead of Irma’s expected arrival this weekend.

Ready for Irma: Officials confident that reactors at two nuclear plants in Florida will stand firm as the deadly hurricane heads for landfall
Charlie Moore, The Daily Mail

But bosses are confident the power plants can weather the 185mph storm, as they both have a track record of surviving hurricanes. But bosses are confident the power plants can weather the 185mph storm, as they both have a track record of surviving hurricanes.

Climate

Senate committee defies Trump, approves $10 million for UN climate change fund
Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner

A handful of Republicans joined the Democrats in a Senate committee vote on Thursday to give $10 million to the United Nations’ climate change agency, defying President Trump, who had proposed eliminating the funding. By a vote of 16 to 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment providing funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change in a spending bill for the State Department.

The science behind the U.S.’s strange hurricane ‘drought’ — and its sudden end
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

With the destruction from Hurricane Harvey, now closely followed by the extraordinary intensity of Hurricane Irma as it wreaks havoc in the Caribbean and heads toward Florida, Americans can be forgiven for feeling like it’s 2005 all over again. Since 2005, though, we’ve experienced no major U.S. landfalls until Harvey this year.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Natural Disasters Are No Longer Natural. So Who’s Paying for It?
Sweta Chakraborty, Morning Consult

We impacted the speed at which the planet is warming, ocean temperatures are rising, polar ice caps are melting, and ultimately the frequency and consistency at which more extreme-weather events are occurring. Within the lifetime of our mortgage cycles, 450 million people worldwide will be exposed to a doubling of flood frequency.

How Not to Run the E.P.A.
Christine Todd Whitman, The New York Times

I have been worried about how the Environmental Protection Agency would be run ever since President Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, to oversee it. As a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush to run the agency, I can hardly be written off as part of the liberal resistance to the new administration.

Coal is gone, let’s diversify
Editorial Team, The Salt Lake Tribune

In his January State of the State address, Gov. Gary Herbert announced his plan to create 25,000 jobs throughout rural Utah in the next four years. The need for rural jobs is especially acute in former coal counties, like Carbon and Emery.

How nuclear waste deal can save San Diego
Michael Aguirre and Maria Severson, The San Diego Union-Tribune

The U.S. has been the world’s largest producer of nuclear power. They have also produced 76,430 metric tons of radioactive spent nuclear fuel, 1,800 tons of which is located at the San Onofre nuclear power plant on San Diego County’s beach.

Research Reports

The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers
B. Ekwurzel et al., Climactic Change

Researchers have quantified the contributions of industrialized and developing nations’ historical emissions to global surface temperature rise. Recent findings that nearly two-thirds of total industrial CO2 and CH4 emissions can be traced to 90 major industrial carbon producers have drawn attention to their potential climate responsibilities.

Briefings

Energy Brief: White House Denies Reports That U.S. Is Rethinking Paris Withdrawal

Three months after President Donald Trump said the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord without more favorable terms, the Trump administration is said to be considering remaining in the agreement. National security adviser H.R. McMaster denied that Trump is reconsidering his decision to pull out of the international accord, while noting that the door remains open for a better deal down the road.

Energy Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn will convene a meeting of energy and climate ministers from about a dozen countries on Monday, ahead of the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week, for an informal discussion on how they can “move forward productively” on international climate change negotiations.

Energy Brief: Valero ‘Significantly Underestimated’ Harvey-Related Benzene Leak at Houston Plant

Valero Energy Partners informed the EPA that the company thinks it “significantly underestimated” the amount of chemicals and benzene that leaked after a light crude storage tank’s roof was damaged at its Houston refinery as a result of Hurricane Harvey, according to a state official. Valero initially reported to the state that the spill released seven pounds of benzene, a carcinogenic chemical, into the air.

Energy Brief: Top White House Official to Discuss Climate Change With Ministers From About a Dozen Countries

The White House said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn will convene a meeting of energy and climate ministers from about a dozen countries next week ahead of the U.N. General Assembly meeting. The event will involve officials from the world’s largest economies for an informal discussion on how they can “move forward productively” on international climate change negotiations.

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