Energy Brief: Global Oil Companies Detail Effects of New U.S. Tax Law

Government Brief

  • The Interior Department rescinded the Bureau of Land Management’s 2015 rule that would limit environmental standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The agency estimated that repealing the Obama-era regulation, which faced opposition from the oil and gas industry and was tied up in court, would save between $14 million and $34 million annually in compliance costs for companies. (The Washington Post)
  • The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement published a proposal that seeks to reverse Obama-era offshore drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The agency estimates the proposed rule would save the industry $228 million over 10 years. (The New York Times)
  • The Trump administration is expected to continue working on rolling back Obama-era regulations in 2018. The White House is slated to make decisions on trade remedies, sanctions and trade negotiations — whether to impose tariffs on imported solar panel cells and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement — that are likely to affect energy production priorities. (Morning Consult)

Business Brief

  • Royal Dutch Sell PLC joined other global firms by disclosing what effects the U.S. tax overhaul will have on its bottom line, with the drop in corporate rates being viewed as a benefit in the long run despite big losses in the short term. Shell estimated a fourth-quarter earnings tax charge between $2 billion and $2.5 billion due to a sharp reduction in the value of its deferred tax assets after the newly enacted law reduced the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • BP PLC said it expects expectations a $1.5 billion one-off hit to its fourth-quarter earnings, as a result of the U.S. tax overhaul, while forecasting a positive overall impact from the law. BP said it would disclose more details about the law’s effect when it announces its fourth-quarter results on Feb. 6. (Financial Times)
  • SandRidge Energy Inc.’s board concluded that it wouldn’t receive shareholder approval for its proposed purchase of rival oil and gas explorer Bonanza Creek Energy Inc. Investor Carl Icahn, who owns a 13.5 percent stake in SandRidge, has opposed the deal, initially valued at about $750 million. (Bloomberg)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

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The International Conference on Sustainability, Energy & the Environment 4:30 p.m.
The International Conference on Sustainability, Energy & the Environment 8:30 a.m.

2017 Brands in Review

This year, Morning Consult conducted nearly 1 million survey interviews on nearly 1,000 brands. Get a never-before-seen look at how public perception changed for the world’s biggest brands.


2017 Rollback of Obama-Era Energy Rules Expected to Continue Into New Year
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

As the Trump administration worked to roll back Obama-era regulations this year, it took aim at ones that affected the energy industry, especially coal miners. And 2018 is likely to see another push to repeal as many regulations as possible before the midterm elections, according to Sarah Ladislaw, director of the Energy and National Security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

States sue EPA over cross-border smog pollution
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Eight northeastern states are suing the Trump administration for denying their request to further crack down on smog pollution from nearby states. The states, led by New York, had asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 to add eight states and part of another to an area known as the Ozone Transport Region.

Trump Administration to Grant Mining Leases That Will Benefit Landlord of President’s Daughter Ivanka Trump
James V. Grimaldi and Mark Maremont, The Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration said Friday it will renew mining leases to extract copper and nickel adjacent to a Minnesota wilderness area, reversing an Obama administration decision and giving a victory to a Chilean billionaire who is renting a mansion to the family of the president’s elder daughter. In a 19-page opinion made public Friday, ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend, Daniel Jorjani, the principal deputy solicitor of the Department of Interior, said Mr. Obama’s administration acted “improperly” in not renewing two key leases for the mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a 1.1 million-acre tract of lakes and forest first protected by the government in 1926.

Rob Bishop: Congress must cement Trump’s public lands agenda into law
Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner

Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, says he’s thrilled to finally be working with a president who supports the idea of returning the control of federal land to states and localities. But in an interview with the Washington Examiner, he said Congress needs to work quickly to make sure President Trump’s decisions to roll back national monument designations are locked into place, so a future president can’t reverse those moves.

Oil posts strongest year opening since 2014 as Iran unrest pushes up crude
Henning Gloystein, Reuters

Oil prices posted their strongest opening to a year since 2014 on Tuesday, with crude rising to mid-2015 highs amid large anti-government rallies in Iran and ongoing supply cuts led by OPEC and Russia. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $60.63 a barrel at 0747 GMT, up 21 cents, or 0.4 percent, after hitting $60.74 earlier in the day, the highest since June 2015.

Oil and Natural Gas

To round out a year of rollbacks, the Trump administration just repealed key regulations on fracking
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

On the last business day of the year, the Interior Department rescinded a 2015 Obama administration rule that would have set new environmental limitations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands. The regulation from the Bureau of Land Management, which had been opposed by the oil and gas industry and tied up in court, would have tightened standards for well construction and wastewater management, required the disclosure of the chemicals contained in fracking fluids, and probably driven up the cost for many fracking activities.

U.S. to Roll Back Safety Rules Created After Deepwater Horizon Spill
Lisa Friedman and Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times

The Trump administration is poised to roll back offshore drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in American history. A proposal by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which was established after the spill and regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, calls for reversing the Obama-era regulations as part of President Trump’s efforts to ease restrictions on fossil fuel companies and generate more domestic energy production.

Shell, Barclays Detail Billions in Charges Related to U.S. Tax Changes
Sarah Kent and Max Colchester, The Wall Street Journal

Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Barclays Bank PLC said they would take large charges attributable to the U.S. tax overhaul—joining a parade of global firms in recent days disclosing how American tax-bill changes will affect their bottom line. Shell estimated its U.S. tax-related charge in the fourth quarter could amount to between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, stemming from a reduction in the value of its deferred tax assets.

BP forecasts $1.5bn hit from Trump tax reforms
Adam Samson, Financial Times

BP has become the latest large company to warn that it will experience a one-time hit to its fourth quarter earnings due to the new US tax regime that was signed into law last month by President Donald Trump. Overall, BP said it reckons “future US after-tax earnings to be positively impacted by the recently-enacted changes to US corporate taxes” as a result in the reduction of the federal corporate income tax rate to 21 per cent from 35 per cent.

Icahn Wins Tussle With SandRidge as Bonanza Deal Scrapped
Carlos Caminada and Elizabeth Fournier, Bloomberg

SandRidge Energy Inc., succumbing to a campaign led by activist investor Carl Icahn, gave up on its proposed purchase of rival oil and natural gas explorer Bonanza Creek Energy Inc. After consultation with its largest shareholders, the company’s board concluded it wouldn’t receive approval for the transaction at its planned special meeting, SandRidge said Thursday in a statement.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Officials: Nearly half of Puerto Rico clients still without power
The Associated Press

Puerto Rico authorities said Friday that nearly half of power customers in the U.S. territory still lack electricity more than three months after Hurricane Maria, sparking outrage among islanders who accuse the government of mismanaging its response to the Category 4 storm. Officials said 55 percent of the nearly 1.5 million customers have power, marking the first time the government has provided that statistic since Maria hit on Sept. 20 with winds of up to 154 mph.

America’s Deep Freeze Is Helping Oil and Coal
Tim Loh et al., Bloomberg

Plants are using the most fuel oil in three years to produce the electricity that’s powering heaters across New England. In the PJM market, which stretches from Illinois to Washington, D.C., coal has once again surged past natural gas to become the biggest fuel for power generation.

FERC Sets Hearing on SCE Tx Rates; Glick Dissents
Rich Heidorn Jr., RTO Insider

FERC last week ordered hearing and settlement proceedings on Southern California Edison’s proposal to revise its transmission formula rate, while approving an incentive for RTO participation over the objections of new Commissioner Richard Glick. The commission accepted the company’s filing effective Jan. 1 subject to refund.

New York Governor Seeks Fossil-Fuel Divestment, But Comptroller Has Other Plans
Thomas MacMillan, The Wall Street Journal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will push for the state pension fund to divest from fossil-fuel companies, but the official who controls the fund says the best way to address climate change is by leveraging shareholder power. The governor is creating a plan for divesting the New York State Common Retirement Fund from fossil-fuel investments as part of his 2018 agenda, he said.


Trump Administration Reverses Obama-Era Policy on Accidental Bird Deaths
Jennifer A Dlouhy, Bloomberg

The Trump administration, reversing an Obama-era policy, said it won’t prosecute oil drillers, wind-farm developers and others who accidentally kill migratory birds. The Interior Department said accidental deaths of those birds will no longer be considered a violation of a federal law meant to protect them, whether they are struck by a spinning wind turbine, vaporized by a solar array or sink in a drilling waste pond.


US Officials Say They Wrongly Announced Coal Mine Expansion
Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

U.S. officials said Thursday that they misspoke when they recently announced they had approved an expansion of a Montana coal mine that would keep it operating for another 19 years. U.S. Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said the 60-million-ton mine expansion is under review.

Coal company downplays role in Trump pro-coal rule
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp. slammed a trio of green groups Tuesday for saying that it played a central role in the writing of a Trump administration proposal to require higher payments for coal-fired power plants. The fiery response from the country’s largest privately-held coal mining company came in response to a letter that the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week.

State: Timeline, rate hike overstated in federal ash cleanup
Jonathan Matisse, The Associated Press

State environmental regulators say it shouldn’t cost ratepayers more money or take as long as the nation’s largest public utility has estimated to complete a massive, court-ordered coal ash cleanup at a Tennessee power plant. The state also believes the Tennessee Valley Authority might save money by following the court’s order at Gallatin Fossil Plant.


SCE&G asks feds to withdraw licenses for unfinished nuclear reactors
John McDermott, The Post and Courier

South Carolina Electric & Gas is seeking to surrender the operating licenses for the two unfinished reactors at the V.C. Summer site under a plan to preserve a valuable tax write-off that would cushion the financial blow to ratepayers. SCE&G parent company SCANA Corp. said the filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission followed its July 31 notification to the federal agency “that the company stopped construction activities” on the units.


Democrats force Trump administration to reconsider nominee for top White House environmental post
Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner

The Trump administration has to decide whether to renominate Kathleen Hartnett White, or choose somebody else, to be the top environmental official in the White House after the Senate declined to consider her nomination before the end of Congress’ current session. Democrats have successfully stalled White’s confirmation, with the Senate returning her nomination to the White House rather than automatically tabling her nomination into 2018 with other pending nominations.

Government scientists blocked from the biggest meeting in their field
Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post

Hundreds of U.S. Geological Survey scientists were missing from the biggest conference in their field this month. Typically, some 450 researchers from the nation’s top natural resources and natural hazards agency attend the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the largest gathering of Earth, space and climate scientists in the world.

Scaramucci: Trump doesn’t deny climate change
David Cohen, Politico

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s tweet last week on climate change as a common-sense statement. Critics observed that the president didn’t seem to understand the distinction between weather and climate — or that a few days of freezing cold were not going to prove anything about climate.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

North Dakota’s Pipeline Payoff
Editorial board, The Wall Street Journal

The Dakota Access Pipeline marks six months of operations on New Year’s Day, and new data show that North Dakota is already enjoying major benefits from the $3.8 billion project. The pipeline has significantly lowered energy transportation costs and energy companies to move their oil to the Gulf Coast, where it fetches a higher price.

Don’t squander America’s leadership in nuclear energy
Warren F. Miller et al., The Hill

Our nation wins when our private sector commercializes technologies that address national needs like energy independence, fuel diversity and environmental priorities. In the unique case of nuclear energy, there is also a crucial national security rationale.

Ryan Zinke is destroying the Interior Department
Raul Grijalva, The Durango Herald

During his confirmation hearing and throughout his time in office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has presented himself as an admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and a believer in conservation. But less than a year into his tenure, his leadership has produced an existential crisis at the Department of the Interior.

Scott Pruitt’s Reformation
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review

Stewardship, Pruitt says, is making responsible use of our national blessings, including our natural resources: “Feed the world and fuel the world,” he says, over and over. But the Left — and the EPA, which has long been dominated by it — is not interested in stewardship.

How refiners can lower the high price of renewable fuel credits: Invest
James C. Greenwood, The Hill

The refiners want to lower the price of renewable identification numbers, or RINs, which are the credits they must accumulate to prove compliance with the program — every gallon of biofuel that is blended into transportation fuel generates one of these RIN credits. Refiners that made modest investments in blending capacity, or in advanced and cellulosic biofuel technologies, have been able to comply with the program by generating their own RIN credits.

Research Reports

Linking models of human behaviour and climate alters projected climate change
Brian Beckage et al., Nature Climate Change

Although not considered in climate models, perceived risk stemming from extreme climate events may induce behavioural changes that alter greenhouse gas emissions. Our results suggest that policies emphasizing the appropriate attribution of extreme events to climate change and infrastructural mitigation may reduce climate change the most.

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