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Energy Brief: House Rejects Trump’s Call for Significant Cuts to EPA Budget

Washington Brief

  • A House appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 would trim the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by $500 million, as opposed to the $2.6 billion cut requested by the White House. The spending measure also would provide the Interior Department and the Energy Department with more funds than the amounts in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. (Bloomberg)
  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the cybersecurity of U.S. nuclear labs continues to be prioritized. The federal government does not know if recent cyberattacks targeting such facilities were state-funded or carried out by individuals. (Fox Business)
  • The Coffee Group, comprised of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s former colleagues from his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general, has been lobbying on issues such as the Clean Air Act and biomass policies. One of the firm’s clients is the National Alliance of Forest Owners. (E&E News)

Business Brief

  • Saudi Arabia plans its biggest cuts to crude exports this year starting next month, when it aims to cut more than 600,000 barrels per day to counter the increasing domestic demand at crude-burning plants. The country is prioritizing its commitments to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after reporting to OPEC members that its oil production was slightly above target in June. (Reuters)
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it’s reconsidering the penalties for automakers that violate vehicle emissions standards. The agency said it is delaying enforcement of an Obama-era regulation that would increase such penalties. (The Hill)
  • Consol Energy Inc.’s board approved the separation of its coal business, which will seek a separate listing as Consol Mining Corp. The company is one of the world’s oldest in the industry and is now shifting its focus toward natural gas exploration and production. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Wednesday
National Environmental Health Association Education Conference 8 a.m.
Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference 9 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on infrastructure financing 10 a.m.
House Science Space and Technology subcommittee on research and technology hearing on U.S. Fire Administration grant programs reauthorization 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on offshore drilling and development 10 a.m.
House Appropriations Committee markup hearing on energy and water development appropriations bill 10:30 a.m.
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs legislative hearing 12 p.m.
Atlantic Council panels on the Ukraine’s Energy Sector 2:30 p.m.
Roundtable on Consequences of Climate Change on National Security hosted by House Science Space and Technology Ranking Member Bernice Johnson 3 p.m.
Thursday
National Environmental Health Association Education Conference 8 a.m.
Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference 9 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing on the Indian Reorganization Act 10 a.m.
Energy Department’s Better Buildings exchange on resilience and energy efficiency in low-income communities 1 p.m.
Friday
House Natural Resources subcommittee on federal lands legislative hearing on four bills 9 a.m.
Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference 9 a.m.
National Science Teachers Association STEM Forum workshop on EPA research 11 a.m.

 

General

House Republicans Reject Trump’s Bid to Slash EPA’s Funding
Ari Natter, Bloomberg

House Republicans rejected Donald Trump’s steep budgets cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency as members of the president’s party instead offered a trim in spending for the environmental regulator. Instead, congressional appropriators released a bill Tuesday that would slice the agency’s budget by 6.5 percent to $7.5 billion.

K Street work expands for Pruitt’s pals
Kevin Bogardus, E&E News

Business has been good for U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s friends from his political days in Oklahoma. The Coffee Group has signed several new clients in recent months, including the National Alliance of Forest Owners, according to lobbying disclosure records released by the Senate last week. The registration shows that the firm has been lobbying on the Clean Air Act, specifically biomass policies and regulations, since May 26.

Zinke gathers 1.2 million comments on plan to shrink Bears Ears, other monuments
John Siciliano, The Washington Examiner

The Interior Department received more than 1.2 million public comments on its plan to review and possibly curtail the last 20 years of national monument designations, including the controversial Bears Ears monument in Utah designated by former President Barack Obama.

Rick Perry to visit Mexico
Josh Delk, The Hill

Energy Secretary Rick Perry will meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mexican Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquín Coldwell in Mexico City on Thursday, the Department of Energy announced Tuesday.

Oil rises above $48 as API reports drop in U.S. fuel stocks
Alex Lawler, Reuters

Oil rose above $48 a barrel on Wednesday in response to a fall in U.S. fuel inventories and a cut in the U.S. government’s forecast for crude output next year which raised hopes that a supply glut is easing. U.S. crude inventories fell by 8.1 million barrels, industry group the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday, much more than the forecast.

Oil and Natural Gas

Saudis to cut August oil exports to lowest level this year – source
Rania El Gamal, Reuters

Saudi Arabia will cut crude oil shipments to its customers in August by more than 600,000 barrels per day to balance the rise in domestic consumption during the summer, while staying within its OPEC production commitment, a Saudi industry source said. Crude exports for August will fall to their lowest level this year at around 6.6 million bpd, the source added.

Forget about oil rising above $50 this summer, Barclays says
Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

Oil prices rising back above $50 a barrel this summer? Forget about it, says Barclays’ oil analysts in their latest outlook on the commodity. The U.K.-based bank, in the report out on Tuesday, cut its third-quarter Brent oil forecast to $49 a barrel, down from a previous forecast of $57. For West Texas Intermediate the analysts see prices trading around $47 for the quarter, down from around $55 expected previously.

Agency Report Projects U.S. Natural Gas Exports Will Quadruple This Year
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

A government report on Tuesday forecast U.S. liquefied natural gas exports will quadruple this year, a projection that could bolster the Trump administration’s promotion of American “energy dominance.”

Utilities and Infrastructure

Advanced Microgrid Solutions raises $34M from utilities, investment firm in Series B funding
Robert Walton, Utility Dive

California startup Advanced Microgrid Solutions has raised $34 million in a Series B funding round, bringing on board a wide range of investors looking to dip a toe into the distributed energy resource space. AMS officials say the future of energy is distributed, and judging by their investor list, many companies appear to have the same outlook.

Renewables

Colorado renewable energy company expands in Hawaii
HJ Mai, The Denver Business Journal

SynTech Bioenergy LLC, a Douglas County-based renewable energy company, has opened its first office in Hawaii. The sales and field service office, located in Honolulu, will support local installations of SynTech Bioenergy’s technology for delivering clean energy through advanced thermal conversion of biomass and other waste materials, the company said.

‘Steel for fuel’: Xcel CEO Ben Fowke on his utility’s move to a renewable-centric grid
Gavin Bade, Utility Dive

By 2021, Xcel expects wind to be its single largest energy resource — and that means big changes to grid operations. Last week, Minnesota regulators approved a portion of Xcel’s wind energy expansion in the upper Midwest — a total investment of 1.55 GW of wind that also includes Iowa and the Dakotas.

Coal

Consol Energy Files to Spin Off Coal-Mining Business
Ezequiel Minaya, The Wall Street Journal

Consol Energy Inc. one of the world’s oldest coal miners, said Tuesday its board has approved plans to spin off its coal business, cementing its identity as a natural-gas exploration and production company. Consol Energy said in December it planned to separate itself from the coal business, but the makeover for the Pennsylvania company began earlier this decade amid a boom in domestic natural-gas exploration.

In an economic death spiral: West Virginia is America’s worst state for business in 2017
Scott Cohn, CNBC

The decline in state GDP of 0.9 percent for the year was not the biggest in the nation, but West Virginia did not have much to lose. And according to U.S. Commerce Department statistics, it was almost entirely due to the decline in mining.

Investors shine spotlight on coal groups over climate change risk
Henry Sanderson, The Financial Post

The world’s largest coal mining companies need to show how they will reduce their carbon emissions to meet global climate targets under the Paris accord, according to an investor-backed group led by the Church of England.

Nuclear

Cyber threat to America’s nuclear facilities is real: Rick Perry
Matthew Wisner, Fox Business

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a report alleging hackers are targeting key parts of America’s infrastructure including nuclear power facilities. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry responded to the report, telling the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, “Well, obviously it’s real, it’s ongoing and we shouldn’t be surprised.” According to Perry, the government doesn’t know yet if it is state-sponsored or individual cyber criminals.

Experts Think France’s Plans To Close ‘Up To 17 Nuclear Reactors’ By 2025 Won’t End Well
Andrew Follett, The Daily Caller

Experts worry France’s plans to replace “up to 17 nuclear reactors” with wind and solar power by 2025 could be extremely costly and make the country vastly more dependent on imported energy. The country invested heavily in nuclear since the 1973 oil crisis with the goal of increasing its energy independence.

Climate

An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Off a Major Antarctic Ice Shelf
Jugal K. Patel, The New York Times

A chunk of floating ice that weighs more than a trillion metric tons broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula, producing one of the largest icebergs ever recorded and providing a glimpse of how the Antarctic ice sheet might ultimately start to fall apart. A crack more than 120 miles long had developed over several years in a floating ice shelf called Larsen C, and scientists who have been monitoring it confirmed on Wednesday that the huge iceberg had finally broken free.

EPA chief wants scientists to debate climate on TV
Valerie Volcovici, Reuters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the early stages of launching a debate about climate change that could air on television – challenging scientists to prove the widespread view that global warming is a serious threat, the head of the agency said. The move comes as the administration of President Donald Trump seeks to roll back a slew of Obama-era regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, and begins a withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement – a global pact to stem planetary warming through emissions cuts.

EPA to reverse Obama decision to block Alaskan gold mine
John Siciliano, The Washington Examiner

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday took a major step forward on reversing the Obama administration’s restrictions on opening a gold mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The EPA released its proposal to remove the 2014 Obama-era plan that blocked the Pebble Mine on the basis of the potential impact it would have on water quality and the number of salmon that indigenous populations rely upon in that part of the state.

Should we change Earth to halt warming? Scientists say maybe
John Fialka, E&E News

On most days here, a small team of scientists uses a global climate model to explore a scenario that begins 23 years from now. It starts in 2040 after a series of shocks have finally roused the world to take immediate action against the escalating effects of climate change.

A Message from the Center for Western Priorities:

America protects its most iconic land for all time, from the Grand Canyon to Acadia, and from the Statue of Liberty to Zion. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is planning to eviscerate America’s treasured national monuments, ignoring the more than 9 out of 10 Americans who’ve told Secretary Zinke: Keep your hands off of American public lands. Visit Monuments to America to learn more.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Consumers Fare Better With Competitive Electricity Markets
Darrin Pfannenstiel, Morning Consult

Policymakers across the country are grappling with a stunning transition underway in the United States’s $380 billion electricity sector. Electricity consumption is flat, cleaner energy sources are dramatically increasing market share while nuclear and fossil fuel generation plants struggle to maintain economic viability, and new consumer-empowering technology innovations promise to transform how households and businesses use energy.

Tesla shows us how to think big on renewables, but there’s a long road ahead
Sam Hardy, The Guardian

Tesla gave the world two glimpses of the future last week. First, the company confirmed its long-awaited Model 3 would hit the market this summer. Yet this was only one half of the renewables story last week.

A Message from the Center for Western Priorities:

By a 9-to-1 margin, Utah residents are telling Interior Secretary Zinke to keep Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante national monuments. These lands are sacred to tribal nations, enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts, and critical to local Utah economies. Will he listen to Utahns or just special interests? Visit Monuments to America to learn more.

Research Reports

Management Quality of Coal Mining Companies
Simon Dietz et al., The Transition Pathway Initiative

This report contains our assessment of the management quality of the world’s 20 largest publicly-listed coal mining companies, a group that includes both diversified miners as well as companies focused on the mining of coal. The results suggest that there is significant variation in how coal mining companies are managing the risks and opportunities presented by climate change.