Energy Brief: Interior Ends Obama’s Ban on Seismic Testing in the Atlantic

Washington Brief

  • The Department of the Interior will start reviewing applications for leases to conduct seismic testing for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, ending an Obama administration ban. (Argus Media)
  • California, New Mexico, New York and Washington state filed a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s decision to resume the sale of coal leases on federal lands without an environmental review. (The Associated Press)
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a memo to employees saying he will centralize the agency’s decision-making process away from regional administrators, and focus the agency on the mission of cleaning up Superfund sites. (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission blocked Energy Transfer Partners from continuing work on a natural gas pipeline in Ohio after the company reported 18 leaks. (The Washington Post)
  • JGC will construct Japan’s biggest solar plant, with a capacity of 260,000 kilowatts, for an estimated $438 million. (Nikkei Asian Review)
  • Occidental Petroleum will test whether a massive supertanker can dock at its Corpus Christi Bay, Texas, terminal, to see if it could become the first onshore terminal in the U.S. to receive vessels that large. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
Department of Energy exchange on Home Energy Management Systems 1 p.m.
Friday
No events scheduled.

 

General

EPA’s Pruitt asserts his authority to clean house
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Wednesday told agency staff that it’s time to get serious about cleaning up the nation’s most contaminated sites, giving himself more power over regional chiefs to make sure it gets done quickly. “I am making it a priority to ensure contaminated sites get cleaned up,” Pruitt said, ensuring that federally designated cleanup sites under the Superfund program will be given top priority.

BHP Finds Staying Together Is Hard to Do
Nathaniel Taplin, The Wall Street Journal

Despite a big rebound in profit last year, it has been a rough few weeks for the world’s largest miner, BHP Billiton . Prominent shareholders Tribeca Investment Partners and Elliott Management have both called for it to shed some or all of its prized U.S. oil business.

Europe Stocks Slip as Oil Leads Commodity Rebound
Samuel Potter and Cecile Gutscher, Bloomberg News

European stocks drifted lower for the first time in three days as gains for mining and energy shares struggled to offset a broader mood of caution. Gold was poised to snap its six-day losing streak amid a wider commodity bounce.

Oil and Natural Gas

US revives requests for Atlantic seismic surveys
Argus Media

President Donald Trump’s administration plans to resume considering requests to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic ocean in a first step to opening the area to oil and gas exploration. The move reverses the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s BOEM to deny all six seismic applications about two weeks before former president Barack Obama left office.

U.S. blocks major pipeline after 18 leaks and a 2 million gallon spill of drilling mud
Steven Mufson, The Washington Post

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has curtailed work on a natural-gas pipeline in Ohio after the owner, Energy Transfer Partners, reported 18 leaks and spilled more than 2 million gallons of drilling materials. The pipeline regulator blocked Energy Transfer Partners, which also built the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, from starting horizontal drilling in eight areas where drilling has not yet begun.

Occidental Petroleum to Test a Massive Ship for U.S. Oil Exports
Erin Ailworth, The Wall Street Journal

Occidental Petroleum Corp. this month plans to test whether a massive supertanker named Anne can dock at its oil terminal along Texas’ Corpus Christi Bay. If it works, the company plans to turn its onshore terminal into the first in the U.S. to receive vessels that size to export U.S. crude.

John McCain just delivered Trump a rare loss in his bid to roll back energy rules
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

The Trump administration and Republicans suffered a rare loss in their bid to roll back Obama-era energy regulations on Wednesday, as three GOP senators voted against revoking a rule to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas production. Sen. John McCain cast a surprise vote against the measure, joining Democrats and fellow Republicans Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins to defeat the repeal attempt in a 49-51 vote.

Timing was everything on surprise methane defeat
Amy Harder, Axios

The GOP-controlled Senate’s surprise failure to pass a rule repealing an Obama-era methane rule comes down to one simple thing: time. “I think the worst influential force was time,” said one well-connected oil-industry lobbyist who backed passage of the repeal.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Mississippi regulator links to utility employment pages
The Associated Press

The agency that regulates Mississippi utilities says people looking for work can now go to its website for links to dozens of utilities’ employment pages. Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown says every community in the state needs well-qualified utility workers, and the new links offer a one-stop shop for people who are looking for a job.

Renewables

JGC to build Japan’s largest solar farm
Nikkei Asian Review

JGC will construct Japan’s biggest photovoltaic power station under an order from the local arm of U.S. utility Virginia Solar Group for an estimated 50 billion yen ($438 million). The plan is to complete the solar farm with a capacity of roughly 260,000kw — enough to power some 80,000 homes for a year — in the Okayama Prefecture city of Mimasaka in the autumn of 2019.

Tesla’s Solar Roof Sets Musk’s Grand Unification Into Motion
Tom Randall, Bloomberg News

Tesla has begun taking orders for its transformative new solar roof. The pricing is competitive, and it marks the final piece in Elon Musk’s vision for a grand unification of his clean-energy ambitions—combining solar power, home batteries, and electric cars.

Coal

Washington state suing over Trump decision to restart coal-lease program
Matt Volz, The Associated Press

Four U.S. states, including Washington, filed a lawsuit Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s decision to restart the sale of coal leases on federal lands, saying the Obama-era block of the leasing program was reversed without studying what’s best for the environment and for taxpayers. The attorneys general of California, New Mexico, New York and Washington, all Democrats, said bringing back the federal coal-lease program without an environmental review risks worsening the effects of climate change on those states while shortchanging them for the coal taken from public lands.

Convicted coal CEO challenges Manchin to debate after leaving prison
Devin Henry, The Hill

Disgraced former coal boss Don Blankenship challenged West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), considered one of 2018’s most vulnerable incumbents, to a debate and reiterated his claims of innocence on Wednesday, the day his federal prison sentence formally ended. Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, served a one-year prison sentence after his conviction on a federal conspiracy charge stemming from the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 workers in 2010.

As the World Cuts Back on Coal, a Growing Appetite in Africa
Jonathan W. Rosen, National Geographic

Few places in the world exude a sense of timelessness as Lamu, an island off of Kenya’s northern coast home to the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Lamu’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an epicenter of Indian Ocean trade for centuries, is a maze of narrow winding streets that cut through neighborhoods of limestone and coral houses, past elaborately carved mahogany doors and several dozen mosques and churches.

Nuclear

White House Says No Emergency at Nuclear Site
The Associated Press

The White House said Wednesday that the response to a tunnel collapse at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state “is moving from the emergency phase toward the recovery phase.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House deputy press secretary, says the federal government remains confident there was no airborne release of radiation and no workers were exposed after Tuesday’s collapse of an underground tunnel containing waste.

Nuclear plant executives face skeptical crowd at Columbia session
Sammy Fretwell, The State

Apologizing for a breach of safety standards at a Columbia nuclear fuel plant, Westinghouse Electric Co. leaders said Tuesday they’ve instituted new procedures and installed equipment they believe will prevent any more hazardous accumulations of uranium on the site. The company said it has made “extensive” improvements to an air pollution control device that last year had accumulated enough uranium to potentially cause a small nuclear explosion.

Climate

Stay In or Leave the Paris Climate Deal? Lessons From Kyoto
Brad Plumer, The New York Times

The architects of the Paris climate accord deliberately designed it to be supple, adaptable to the differing political and economic environments of the nearly 200 countries that signed it. The authors were mindful of its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, which was roundly rejected by the United States because it set binding emissions targets for wealthy countries while letting most developing nations, including China, off the hook.

US glaciers disappearing, federal geologists say
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

The nation’s largest glaciers are rapidly disappearing because of the effects of climate change, the U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday. A new report released by the agency looked at the glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park, some of which have shrunk by as much as 85 percent over the last 50 years.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The US is no longer worthy of the Paris agreement
Joseph Curtin, Climate Home

As the latest round of climate negotiations kick off in Bonn this week, a tug of war in the White House on climate protection may have profound impacts for future international cooperation. But it’s not about what you might think.

Research Reports

Why Risk and Reliability Matter More Than Fuel Diversity
Devin Hartman, R Street Institute

This policy brief examines the conceptual basis for supply diversity as a policy objective; diagnoses ongoing economic and political trends relevant to the subject; and reaches conclusions through the lens of policy analysis. Over the past 15 years, the nationwide trend actually has been toward greater fuel diversity.

Briefings

Energy Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

A special science section of the National Climate Assessment and a separate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show the severe effects of climate change on the United States, potentially making it more difficult for President Donald Trump to roll back his predecessor’s environmental regulations.

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