Energy Brief: Head of U.S. Forest Service Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Top Stories

  • Tony Tooke, the head of the U.S. Forest Service, resigned amid an Agriculture Department investigation into sexual misconduct complaints filed against him. A department spokesman said Tooke wrote in an email to agency employees that he would “make way for a new leader” while he cooperated with the investigation. (The New York Times)
  • White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said that Canada and Mexico would get initial exemptions from proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, but the two countries would be subject to the tariffs if they don’t agree to a new North American Free Trade Agreement that is acceptable to the United States. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the tariff proclamations today. (Bloomberg)
  • House Republicans rejected an attempt by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) to prevent Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt from flying on first-class flights, a move that came during a routine debate over a bill that would delay EPA air emissions rules for brick manufacturing facilities. Castor’s motion to recommit and send back to the committee the bill with the first-class travel ban failed by a 186-227 vote. (Politico)
  • A severe storm that covered parts of the Northeast with over 2 feet of snow has left more than 1 million utility customers from Maryland to Maine without power this morning. The storm is expected to intensify later today as it moves north through New England. (NBC News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

CERAWeek energy industry leaders’ conference 7:30 a.m.
House NEI Nuclear R&D Summit 8 a.m.
Blockchain in energy forum 8 a.m.
Middle East Geosciences Conference 8:30 a.m.
R Street forum on market-driven clean energy 12 p.m.
CERAWeek energy industry leaders’ conference 7:30 a.m.
Business Council for Sustainable Energy/EESI 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook briefing 12 p.m.

The Most Polarizing Brands in America

From the NFL to CNN, here are the brands that divide Democrats and Republicans the most.


U.S. Forest Service Chief Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Accusations
Emily Baumgaertner, The New York Times

The head of the United States Forest Service stepped down Wednesday amid an investigation into sexual harassment accusations against him, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department said. The resignation of the agency’s chief, Tony Tooke, comes days after “PBS NewsHour” reported that the Agriculture Department was investigating sexual misconduct complaints against him, including that Mr. Tooke had relationships with subordinates before his appointment to the top role.

Canada, Mexico to Get Initial Exemption From Trump Tariffs
Jennifer Jacobs et al., Bloomberg

The Trump administration will initially exclude Canada and Mexico from stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, an exemption they would lose if they fail to reach an updated Nafta agreement with the U.S., White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Wednesday.

Republicans block Democratic bid to halt Pruitt’s first-class flights
Anthony Adragna, Politico

A congressional debate over brick kiln and wood heater emissions rules turned into a referendum on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s penchant for pricey plane travel. Ultimately, House Republicans rejected a proposal today from Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) to bar Pruitt from flying first-class, calling it a purely political tactic that was unrelated to the underlying legislation.

House votes to delay EPA air pollution rules for brickmakers, wood heaters
Timothy Cama, The Hill

The House voted Wednesday to delay air pollution rules that the Obama administration had written for brickmakers and residential wood-burning heaters. Lawmakers voted 234-180, mainly along party lines, to pass the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns (BRICK) Act.

Energy chief Rick Perry on Trump’s tariffs: ‘Does it have unintended consequences? It may’
Tom Benning, Dallas Morning News

Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Wednesday offered a degree of caution about President Donald Trump’s plans to impose steep steel and aluminum tariffs, saying that “strategically deploying tariffs and messaging regulations is the key here.” The former Texas governor, speaking at an energy conference in Houston, added that the trade talks are an “ongoing conversation.”

USGS Nominee Calls Scientific Integrity a High Priority
Randy Showstack, Eos

During his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Trump administration’s choice to lead the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), James Reilly II, promised to uphold scientific integrity at the agency.

Democrats seek probe into whether Zinke violated Hatch Act
Anthony Adragna, Politico

Two senior House Natural Resources Democrats are asking the Office of the Special Counsel to investigate whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the Hatch Act with an event close to the boundaries of the upcoming special congressional election in Pennsylvania.

China plans to create energy ministry in government shake-up – sources
Josephine Mason and Benjamin Kang Lim, Reuters

China plans to create an energy ministry to oversee the country’s vast oil, natural gas, coal and power sectors, part of a government shake-up to make policymaking more efficient, four sources with ties to the country’s leadership said this week.

Oil Capped by U.S. Stock Build, Record Output
Sarah McFarlane, The Wall Street Journal

Oil prices steadied on Thursday, under pressure from rising U.S. crude inventories and record domestic output.

Oil and Natural Gas

U.S. steel tariff could affect Shell Gulf of Mexico project decision – executive
Ron Bousso, Reuters

A potential tariff on U.S. steel imports could affect Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to go ahead with a major oil field development in the Gulf of Mexico, a company executive said on Wednesday.

The Next Entrant in the Shale Revolution? OPEC’s Saudi Arabia
Wael Mahdi and Bruce Stanley, Bloomberg

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil exporter, is set to join the shale revolution with plans to start producing unconventional natural gas this month and exploit a deposit that could rival the Eagle Ford formation in Texas.

Shell CEO: Climate deal would help oil demand peak early
Amy Harder, Axios

The world’s demand for oil could peak as soon as 2025 if nations keep to a global deal curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told Axios in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of an energy conference here Wednesday.

Oil and corn tout dueling studies on future of U.S. biofuel program
Ayenat Mersie, Reuters

Big oil and big corn are touting opposing studies released this week on proposed biofuels policy reforms under consideration by the Trump administration, part of an ongoing clash between the two sides over the future of the program.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Nor’easter slams East Coast with heavy snow, cuts power across Northeast
Ethan Sacks And Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News

A blustery nor’easter that dumped more than 2 feet of gloppy snow across pockets of the Northeast has left more than 1 million utility customers from Maryland to Maine without power Thursday morning.

PUC orders Sunoco pipeline shutdown after sinkholes expose bare pipe near Exton
Andrew Maykuth, Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Wednesday ordered the immediate shutdown of Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East 1 system after sinkholes exposed the bare pipeline in Chester County, which PUC investigators said “could have catastrophic results” if not repaired.


GM is increasing Chevy Bolt EV production, says CEO Marry Barra   
Fred Lambert, Electrek

GM CEO Marry Barra reiterated the company’s commitment to zero-emission vehicles and announced that they are increasing Chevy Bolt EV production.


Trump’s Energy Department pursuing small coal power plants
Amy Harder, Axios

The Trump administration is set to ask companies to help the government develop small-scale coal-fired power plants, a top agency official told Axios Tuesday on the sidelines of a major energy conference here.


Richland’s nuclear power plant under extra federal scrutiny
Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald

The nuclear power plant near Richland will keep getting extra government scrutiny for now. The Columbia Generating Station failed to be removed from the 2018 list of plants requiring increased oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the federal agency completed its annual assessment.


Court denies Trump admin’s plea to stop kids’ climate lawsuit
Timothy Cama, The Hill

A federal appeals court Wednesday rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of kids who want to force the government to do more to fight climate change.

Trump official said scientists went ‘outside their wheelhouse’ by writing climate change ‘dramatically’ shrunk Montana glaciers
Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

A U.S. Geological Survey study documenting how climate change has “dramatically reduced” glaciers in Montana came under fire from high-level Interior Department government officials in May, according to a batch of newly released records under the Freedom of Information Act, as they questioned federal scientists’ description of the decline.  

How Air Pollution Has Put a Brake on Global Warming
Richard Schiffman, Yale Environment 360

Pollution particles emitted by diesel cars and trucks, coal-fired power plants, factories, rudimentary cook stoves, and the burning of forests are major contributors to the unhealthy pall of smog that blankets many cities and regions, particularly in the developing world. Scientists have long known that these aerosols serve to block incoming solar radiation and temporarily cool the planet, but now an international team of scientists has quantified that cooling effect, saying the earth would be 0.5 to 1.1 degree C (0.9 to 2 degrees F) warmer if that pollution were to suddenly disappear.

More of the Bay Area Could Be Underwater in 2100 Than Previously Expected
Troy Griggs, The New York Times

The ground around San Francisco Bay is sinking to meet the rising sea, another reason for Bay Area residents to worry about the impact of climate change on their region.

Federal court will hold first-ever hearing on climate change science
Stuart Leavenworth, McClatchy

A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered parties in a landmark global warming lawsuit to hold what could be the first-ever U.S. court hearing on the science of climate change. The proceeding, scheduled for March 21 by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, will feature lawyers for Exxon, BP, Chevron and other oil companies pitted against those for San Francisco and Oakland — California cities that have accused fossil fuel interests of covering up their role in contributing to global warming.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The U.S. is about to be the world’s top crude oil producer. Guess who didn’t see it coming.
Charles Lane, The Washington Post

The authoritative International Energy Agency announced on Monday that the United States will overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest crude oil producer in five years. To celebrate this once-unimaginable news, how about taking a trip down memory lane?

The Next Standing Rock? A Pipeline Battle Looms in Oregon
Don Gentry and Emma Marris, The New York Times

Each spring and fall in the old days, Chinook salmon swam up the Klamath River, crossing the Cascade Mountains, to Upper Klamath Lake, 4,000 feet above sea level. For millenniums, the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians fished salmon from the lake and the river. The Klamath had agreements with the downriver tribes — the Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok among them — to let fish pass so that some could swim all the way back to their spawning grounds.

Trade tariffs do not put America First – low barriers, expanded access do
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Fox News

President Trump’s America First strategy has been working. From his aggressive deregulation of burdensome and unnecessary Obama-era regulations to the continuing success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the president’s agenda is securing much-needed economic victories on behalf of Americans. But his recent tariff proposals would stall and ultimately undermine the progress he has made.

How a Trade War Escalates
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The European Union on Wednesday released its target list of retaliatory tariffs on American exports worth $3.5 billion if President Trump pushes ahead with his steel and aluminum tariffs. This is how Mr. Trump’s trade irruptions could imperil American exporters and become a destructive spiral.

Research Reports

Science & Technology Highlights in the First Year of the Trump Administration
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Since President Trump’s inauguration, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has built a robust team of over 50 staff members, including a corps of scientists and engineers, policymakers, and academics to advise the President on science and technology (S&T), support the President’s agenda, and ensure that S&T efforts across the Executive Branch are effectively coordinated.

Average U.S. coal mining productivity increases as production falls
Energy Information Administration

Coal mining productivity in the United States increased 26% over the past five years, reaching 6.8 tons per miner hour in 2017, up from 5.4 tons per miner hour in 2012, according to EIA’s Annual Coal Report and data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Coal productivity ranges significantly across production regions, with productivity in the Powder River Basin far exceeding productivity in the Interior and Appalachian regions.