Energy Brief: Grijalva, Environmental Group Sue Over Border Wall

Washington Brief

  • Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, and the Center for Biological Diversity are suing the Trump administration over its U.S.-Mexico border wall. (The Guardian)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency plans to first repeal the Clean Water Rule, then think about its replacement and how to define “the waters of the U.S.,” an EPA official said. (E&E)
  • The White House could nominate Kathleen Hartnett White, who says carbon emissions are harmless, to run the Council on Environmental Quality. (Politico)

Business Brief

  • The International Energy Agency said the global oil market is nearly balanced between supply and demand, but that demand for crude was lower than it expected. (Financial Times)
  • Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio are rushing to finish pipelines that could see the three states supply a third of U.S. natural gas. (Reuters)
  • Oil companies, pipeline operators and foreign governments don’t like President Donald Trump’s plan to use only U.S. steel in pipelines. (The Hill)

Chart Review

Renewable energy
The Economist

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Electric Power Conference and Exhibition 8:30 a.m.
Wilson Center discussion on China’s energy finance 9:30 a.m.
Atlantic Council discussion on advanced energy and national security 12:30 p.m.
R Street discussion on fuel economy standards and emissions regulations 12 p.m.



Trump’s border wall plan hits snag as congressman backs environmental suit
Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian

A US congressman and environmental group have filed the first lawsuit targeting Donald Trump’s plan to build a 30ft wall on the US-Mexico border. The suit, brought by Congressman Raúl M Grijalva of Arizona and the Center for Biological Diversity in the US district court for Arizona, seeks to require the government to undertake a comprehensive environmental impact analysis before beginning construction.

EPA to use 2 rulemakings to repeal and replace WOTUS
Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News

U.S. EPA plans to repeal and replace the Clean Water Rule with two separate rulemaking processes, an EPA official told the Association of State Wetland Managers yesterday. In a talk to the association’s annual winter meeting, Mindy Eisenberg, acting director of the EPA wetlands division, said that the agency plans to first rescind the Obama administration’s contentious regulation and then work on a new definition for “waters of the United States,” according to multiple people who attended the meeting.

Scientists to file motion to defend chemical plant rule, fearing Trump admin won’t
Miranda Green, CNN

Fossil fuel lobbyists and environmentalists are set for a legal battle over whether the Trump administration will defend regulations on chemical plant safety.

EPA Employees Organize Against Proposed Budget Cuts
NPR News

The Environmental Protection Agency is a big target as President Trump aims to cut back the federal budget and workforce. Now some agency employees are organizing to defend the agency’s work.

Ozone Review Could Be Part of Larger Energy Policy Overhaul
Patrick Ambrosio, Bloomberg BNA

The EPA directive to review regulations that hamper domestic energy production did not specifically target ozone pollution standards, but the agency’s ongoing review of the Obama-era requirements could aim to do away with pollution control and permitting requirements opposed by the energy sector.

Judicial Watch sues EPA over use of software to undermine Trump
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday to disclose all communications made by EPA officials using special encryption software to undermine President Trump’s environmental agenda.

Trump’s EPA is seeking a 24/7 security detail for its new leader
Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The Trump administration has proposed whacking the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly a third, eliminating thousands of employees and scrapping dozens of programs, including climate-change research and cleanup efforts in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. But a detailed budget plan obtained by The Washington Post last week includes a request to add positions within the agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance  “to provide 24/7 security detail” for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

EPA seeks public input on Trump’s regulatory reform agenda
Tim Devaney, The Hill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is searching for Obama-era regulations to repeal. The EPA’s regulatory reform task force, established by President Trump’s Feb. 24 executive order, is seeking public input on which climate rules to roll back, the agency said Wednesday in the Federal Register.

Oil Slides as U.S. Production Rises and Holiday Approaches
Christopher Alessi and Jenny W. Hsu, The Wall Street Journal

Oil prices drifted mainly lower for a second day on Thursday as data showed U.S. crude production continues to rise, even as other oil producers touted production cuts.

Oil and Natural Gas

Oil market ‘very close’ to balance – IEA
David Sheppard, Financial Times

The global oil market is “very close” to coming into balance, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday, but cautioned that weaker demand growth and strong US production mean Opec’s attempts to curb supplies remains challenging.

New U.S. pipelines to drive natural gas boom as exports surge
Scott DiSavino, Reuters

U.S. energy firms are scrambling to finish a slew of pipelines that will unleash rich reserves of shale gas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio as the nation prepares to become one of the world’s top natural gas exporters.

Industry assails Trump’s ‘Buy America’ steel plan
Timothy Cama, The Hill

President Trump is facing criticism from oil companies, pipeline operators and foreign governments for his proposal to require that domestically produced steel be used in pipelines that are built in the United States.

Venezuela Staves Off Default, but Low Oil Prices Pose a Threat
Clifford Krauss, The New York Times

Venezuela has put off a reckoning on its tens of billions of dollars in debt, but its ability to avoid a disastrous default will probably require much higher oil prices than appear likely in the next year or two, financial experts say.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Chromium spill near Lake Michigan brings new attention to cancer-causing pollutant
Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribune

While federal environmental officials scrambled to protect Lake Michigan from a cancer-causing metal spilled into a northwest Indiana tributary, their political bosses in President Donald Trump’s administration are pushing a new budget that would scuttle efforts to crack down on the pollutant nationwide.


Investors Are Cherry Picking the Assets of a Fallen Renewable Energy Giant
Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg News

The spectacular failure of what was once the world’s biggest renewable-energy company has turned into a smorgasbord of wind and solar farms being gobbled up by infrastructure investors, clean-power developers and even a vegan soccer team.


Coal lobby says it is exploring building new U.S. plant
Emily Holden, E&E

The coal lobby is in the market to build a new plant, a prospect that would have been unthinkable just months ago. Emboldened by President Trump’s efforts to roll back climate regulations on fossil fuels, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) says it is in talks with an unnamed state’s governor and lawmakers about providing incentives for a power company to plan a new coal-fired facility.

Trump’s coal push grinds into high gear
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

The Trump administration could call Thursday “National Coal Day. Several Cabinet officials are spreading out to push clean coal, coal power plants and coal mining.

Battle to Save a Dying Arizona Coal Plant Goes to Washington
Catherine Traywick, Bloomberg News

For more than four decades, the Navajo generating station in the dusty Four Corners area of Arizona has been the region’s economic engine, generating jobs and vital government revenue along with 2,250 megawatts of power. Now its utility owners want to start the process of closing the plant as early as July.

China’s coal-conversion plants surge back to life
Lucy Hornby, Financial Times

Water-guzzling coal-conversion projects are springing to life in arid western China, setting the stage for the large-scale deployment of what was previously a niche industry. A three-year downturn in coal prices has revived projects that convert coal to motor fuel, petrochemical feedstock or gas, after many were shelved in 2008 because of concerns about water supply and pollution.


Oregon’s Walden to Trump: Fill key nuclear oversight positions
Gordon R. Friedman, The Oregonian

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden and two other congressmen on Wednesday sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to fill vacancies on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. … Two commission seats are already vacant and the term of Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki is due to expire this year.


Trump eyes climate skeptic for key White House environmental post
Alex Guillen and Andrew Restuccia, Politico

President Donald Trump may tap a vocal critic of climate change science to serve as the highest-ranking environmental official in the White House.

Malloy Says State May Ask Courts To Force Western And Southern States To Reduce Air Pollution
Gregory B. Hladky, Hartford Courant

Connecticut appears likely to be involved in a court battle against President Donald Trump’s administration over air pollution coming in from the Midwest and South, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday.

Climate change dominates U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s 8th town hall
Maddie Forshee, MLive

In a departure from recent events hosted by U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, his 8th town hall of the year featured one common discussion point: climate change and global warming.

Scott Pruitt Faces Anger From Right Over E.P.A. Finding He Won’t Fight
Coral Davenport, The New York Times

When President Trump chose the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, his mission was clear: Carry out Mr. Trump’s campaign vows to radically reduce the size and scope of the agency and take apart President Barack Obama’s ambitious climate change policies. … But now a growing chorus of critics on the other end of the political spectrum say Mr. Pruitt has not gone far enough.

Climate Change Deniers Have President Trump’s Ear. But Now They Want Results
Justin Worland, Time

The past eight years have not been kind to people who dispute that the climate is changing. … As with so much else, the election of President Trump has ushered in a new day.

Will National Park Service continue to care about climate?
Brittany Patterson, E&E

Marcy Rockman started fielding excited calls from other federal agencies soon after the National Park Service created her unique position in 2011 to address how climate change will affect buildings and other cultural resources embedded in America’s recreation meccas. … Now, as the Trump administration prepares for massive budget reductions that target climate change, Rockman and others worry cuts to the program could stymie years of hard-fought progress to weave climate planning into the federal agency.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Why did Scott Pruitt refuse to ban a chemical that the EPA itself said is dangerous?
Aseem Prakash and Nives Dolšak, The Washington Post

On March 29, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, denied a  petition asking for a ban on the use of an insecticide called Chlorpyrifos. … Understanding why the EPA denied this petition means focusing on two related factors: the relative powerlessness of the communities affected by Chlorpyrifos and the relative invisibility of the health problems associated with it.

President Trump, it’s time we left coal behind
Danny Kennedy, The Guardian

In the wake of President Trump’s latest executive orders to undo Obama’s efforts on climate and energy, it has become clear that climate science denial isn’t the only blind spot of this administration. It also suffers from what Australian commentator Waleed Aly calls “commercial denialism” – an attempt to fulfill the campaign promise to protect the dying coal industry all while ignoring the market forces that are leading to its demise.

Research Reports

Public perception: Distrust for fracking
Philip Macnaghten, Nature Energy

Oil and gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing is controversial, with government support but mixed public opinion. Deliberative research shows that securing public support may be difficult because citizens in the United States and United Kingdom are sceptical of government and industry motives.

Windscapes and olfactory foraging in a large carnivore
Ron R. Togunov et al., Scientific Reports

We examined satellite-linked telemetry movement data of adult female polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Hudson Bay, Canada, in relation to modelled winds, in an effort to understand olfactory search for prey. … Arctic wind speeds are projected to increase due to climate change and could impede polar bear hunting success.