Energy Brief: Interior to Review Sage Grouse Protection

Washington Brief

  • The Trump administration will review a 2015 agreement to protect the greater sage grouse, a rare Western bird. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The Trump administration may place restrictions on the length of environmental reviews, as part of an effort to promote its eventual $1 trillion infrastructure package. (The Hill)
  • A group of business leaders including oil and utility executives sent a letter to lawmakers on the House and Senate Appropriations committees asking them to maintain the Department of Energy’s basic research funding, which was cut in the White House budget proposal. (The Washington Post)

Business Brief

  • A German court ruled that the country’s tax on utilities’ use of nuclear fuel rods was illegal, meaning the companies may receive billions of euros in refunds. (BBC News)
  • Five workers at a Japanese state-run nuclear research facility near Tokyo were exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive material, stoking more fears about the safety of nuclear power in the country. (Nikkei Asian Review)
  • A Navajo Nation committee endorsed tribal legislation to extend the lease on a coal-fired power plant, which is a major employer in the area, so it can operate through 2019. (The Associated Press)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Air & Waste Management Association annual conference 7 a.m.
Clean Energy Ministerial in Beijing 9 a.m.
House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Interior Department’s budget 9:30 a.m.
House Natural Resource subcommittee legislative hearing on land reclamation and marine mammal protection 10 a.m.
House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on SNAP technology and modernization 10 a.m.
Hudson Institute panel on strengthening infrastructure 11:30 a.m.
Energy Department Better Buildings’ exchange on sustainable energy communities 1 p.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on forest management roadblocks for wildfire prevention 2 p.m.
Energy Department course on wind turbine design and construction 8 a.m.
Energy Department stakeholder listening session for the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium 8 a.m.



Trump administration to reconsider protections for rare sage grouse
William Yardley, Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration’s plan to save the greater sage grouse was widely heralded as a landmark moment in collaborative conservation when, nearly two years ago, former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the effort to protect the rare Western bird. Republican and Democratic governors expressed support.

Trump may restrict length of environmental reviews under infrastructure plan
Melanie Zanona, The Hill

The Trump administration may enforce restrictions on the length of environmental reviews as part of an effort to streamline the project approval process in his $1 trillion infrastructure package. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, speaking at a Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) dinner Wednesday evening, outlined some of the broad details of Trump’s rebuilding proposal.

Utahns Unsure What to Expect From Interior on National Monument
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Some supporters of Utah’s controversial Bears Ears National Monument met with an administration official last month, after the department initially turned down requests for a meeting, an attendee told Morning Consult. But neither supporters nor opponents of keeping the site a national monument are sure what to expect ahead of the Department of the Interior’s Saturday deadline to review its designation.

Oil crawls off one-month lows, but supply gloom caps gains
Amanda Cooper, Reuters

Oil edged up on Thursday, having hit one-month lows the previous day after an unexpected surge in U.S. inventories and the return of more Nigerian crude to an already oversupplied market. The oil price has slipped below $50 a barrel despite a pledge by the world’s largest exporters to extend an existing output cut of 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) into next year in an effort to reduce bulging global inventories.

Oil and Natural Gas

Trump brings ‘reality’ to Middle East by backing ‘wake-up call’ to Qatar, says Saudi oilman
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

President Donald Trump is bringing “reality to the situation” in the Middle East by backing a Saudi-led coalition’s tough stance against neighboring Qatar, said Sadad al-Husseini, a former executive at Saudi Arabia’s state oil company. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other Muslim-majority nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, alleging the small Gulf monarchy supports terrorism.

Trump’s plan to cut basic energy research finds an unlikely opponent: oil executives
Steven Mufson, The Washington Post

A group of business leaders has sent a letter to the top Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations committees urging them to maintain basic research funding, especially in energy, that President Trump has proposed to slash or eliminate. The letter signed by 14 senior figures from the business world — including trade group leaders and current or former executives in technology, finance, utilities, oil exploration, and military and civilian aerospace — said Congress should “invest in America’s economic and energy future by funding vital programs in energy research and development at the Department of Energy.”

Digging the Graveyard of Oil’s Past
Stanley Reed, The New York Times

Moored off the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, Pioneering Spirit looms so large that it is difficult to recognize as a ship. The crew of 450 is dwarfed by the cranes and pipes that dominate the sprawling layers of decks.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Four plead innocent to charges in utility-based bribery case
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

A former utility regulator, his wife, a water company owner and his lobbyist all pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges of bribery and fraud. Gary Pierce denied taking money through his wife, Sherry, for his vote on two issues before the Arizona Corporation Commission while Pierce was chairman.

Utility’s plan to build natural gas plant in Wis. draws Republicans’ ire
Dan Kraker, MPR News

Duluth-based Minnesota Power announced plans Wednesday to partner on the construction of a $700 million natural gas plant in Wisconsin, while at the same time adding more wind and solar power capacity. The utility and Dairyland Power Cooperative, based in La Crosse, Wis., are proposing to partner to build a 525- to 550-megawatt natural gas plant in Superior, Wis., dubbed the Nemadji Trail Energy Center.


Renewable Energy Push Is Strongest in the Reddest States
Justin Gillis and Nadja Popovich, The New York Times

Two years ago, Kansas repealed a law requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources by 2020, seemingly a step backward on energy in a deeply conservative state. Yet by the time the law was scrapped, it had become largely irrelevant. Kansas blew past that 20 percent target in 2014, and last year it generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind.


2nd Navajo Nation Panel Backs Lease Change for Power Plant
The Associated Press

A second Navajo Nation Council committee has endorsed tribal legislation to extend the lease on a coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona so it can operate through 2019 and preserve jobs held by Native Americans. Tribal officials say the Resource and Development Committee voted 3-2 Tuesday to recommend passage of the legislation.

Idaho Officials Approve Utility’s Plan to Close Coal Plant
Keith Ridler, The Associated Press

State officials have approved an Idaho utility company’s plan to close a coal-fired power plant in Nevada about 10 years ahead of schedule and raise monthly bills for customers to cover depreciation costs. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission announced Monday a settlement with Idaho Power to close the North Valmy Generating Station near Valmy, Nevada, by 2025.


Court rules that Germany’s nuclear tax is illegal
BBC News

Germany’s energy utilities look set to receive refunds of billions of euros after the government’s tax on their use of nuclear fuel rods was declared illegal by the country’s top court. Between 2011 and 2016, nuclear power operators made payments of more than 6bn euros (£5.2bn) to the government.

Irradiation of workers exposes lax oversight at Japan’s nuclear labs
Nikkei Asian Review

Five workers at a state-run nuclear research facility near Tokyo have been exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive material, raising allegations of poor management and safety compliance that could significantly set back efforts to rebuild the Japanese public’s trust in nuclear technology. The exposure occurred Tuesday at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research & Development Center, when a plastic bag covering a container for powdered nuclear material tore open during an inspection, according to the agency.


EPA’s Scott Pruitt wants to set up opposing teams to debate climate change science
Jason Samenow, The Washington Post

Multiple scientific assessments have concluded that man-made climate change is real and poses risks to human health and the environment. Even so, Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, told Breitbart News on Monday that he would like to essentially re-litigate the science of climate change.

Senate Democrats push DeVos on climate change statement
Devin Henry, The Hill

Four Senate Democrats are criticizing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for her comments on President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal. In a Wednesday letter to DeVos, the Democrats point to a statement last Thursday in which she praised Trump’s decision as an “example of his commitment to rolling back the unrealistic and overreaching regulatory actions by the previous administration.”

Scientists just linked another record-breaking weather event to climate change
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

Last year, a remarkable April heat wave shattered all-time temperature records across Southeast Asia, prompting public health concerns, killing at least one elephant and making international headlines. Now, scientists believe the event was driven by the combined influence of a strong El Niño event and human-caused climate change.

The U.S. Can’t Leave the Paris Climate Deal Just Yet
Brad Plumer, The New York Times

Last week, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But it will take more than one speech to pull out: Under the rules of the deal, which the White House says it will follow, the earliest any country can leave is Nov. 4, 2020. That means the United States will remain a party to the accord for nearly all of Mr. Trump’s current term, and it could still try to influence the climate talks during that span.

North Korea: Trump’s decision on Paris Agreement ‘poses great danger’
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

North Korea on Wednesday officially criticized President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate change agreement. Trump’s decision represents “the height of egoism and moral vacuum seeking only their own well-being, even at the cost of the entire planet,” the North Korean government said, according to CNN.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Trump and the EPA Should Stay Out of Point of Obligation Fight
Gary Baise, Morning Consult

The guessing game continues on what direction the Trump administration will push Environmental Protection Agency policy on the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal law requiring biofuels such as ethanol to be blended into gasoline and diesel fuel. It remains an open question whether the EPA will pursue a policy shift.

The Mayors of Pittsburgh and Paris: We Have Our Own Climate Deal
Anne Hidalgo and William Peduto, The New York Times

Last week, President Donald Trump tried to pit our two cities against each other when he announced, in pulling out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” As the mayors of Pittsburgh and Paris, we’re here to say that we’re more united than ever.

Research Reports

Increasing probability of mortality during Indian heat waves
Omid Mazdiyasni et al., Science Advances

Rising global temperatures are causing increases in the frequency and severity of extreme climatic events, such as floods, droughts, and heat waves. We analyze changes in summer temperatures, the frequency, severity, and duration of heat waves, and heat-related mortality in India between 1960 and 2009 using data from the India Meteorological Department.