Energy Brief: Jewell Accuses Army Corps of ‘Reneging’ on Dakota Access Environmental Review

By Jack Fitzpatrick

Washington Brief

  • Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell criticized the Trump administration for announcing its support for the Dakota Access pipeline, saying the Army Corps of Engineers is “reneging” on a commitment to conduct a more thorough environmental review. (The Washington Post)
  • Three liberal organizations sued over President Donald Trump’s executive order calling on agencies to rescind two regulations for every new one introduced. (The Hill)
  • The Trump administration is considering closing the EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance, according to a source familiar with the plan, which would rein in the agency’s enforcement of environmental laws. (Inside EPA)

Business Brief

  • The U.S. added 22 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity in 2016, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. (Time)
  • The Southern California Gas Co. agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit over its monthslong gas leak at its Aliso Canyon storage facility. (The Associated Press)
  • The European Commission proposed extending import duties on Chinese solar panels by 18 months, with a gradual phase-out. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

National Electric Transmission Infrastructure Summit 8 a.m.
National Electric Transmission Infrastructure Summit 8 a.m.



Trump EPA Weighs Shuttering Enforcement Office But Prospects Unclear

The Trump EPA is weighing a possible shuttering of EPA’s Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA) and returning civil enforcement to program offices, a move that sources say would significantly curb civil enforcement and be in line with Trump’s calls to limit the agency’s work — though its prospects are unclear.

Trump sued over ‘1-in-2-out’ regulations order
Tim Devaney, The Hill

Liberal groups are taking legal action against an executive order from President Trump that directs federal agencies to repeal two regulations for each new rule they issue. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and Public Citizen on Wednesday sued Trump in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to block the so-called 1-in-2-out executive order.

Soros-Backed Group Is Behind Lawsuit Targeting Trump’s EPA Pick
Chris White, Daily Caller

The watchdog group suing President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is financed in part by billionaire financier George Soros’s affiliated groups. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed a lawsuit accusing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt of violating his state’s Open Records Act by failing to release emails the group believes could show the Republican is in cahoots with various energy companies.

Investigation Confirms Ethical Violations, Misconduct by BLM Agent at Burning Man
Charles S. Clark, Government Executive

Among the 80,000 attendees at the September 2015 countercultural “Burning Man” festival in rural Nevada was a Bureau of Land Management supervisory agent, his girlfriend, father and a friend. After getting a deal on special-access tickets, the group used a government vehicle, according to an Interior Department inspector general’s report released last week.

Europe Stocks Rise on Earnings, French Bonds Gain
Samuel Potter and Natasha Doff, Bloomberg News

Positive momentum from earnings filtered through stocks after Societe Generale SA beat estimates, while Treasuries fell with German bunds and the debt of France and Italy gained amid ebbing political risk. Banks paced gains as the Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose for a third day. Societe Generale benefited from consumer banking, offering relief to lenders that have been dragged lower by anxiety over looming elections. Treasuries halted the longest stretch of gains since the weeks before June’s Brexit vote while bonds of peripheral countries and France rebounded.

Oil and Natural Gas

BHP Billiton signs off on investment in BP project
Rhiannon Hoyle, MarketWatch

BHP Billiton Ltd. said its board had signed off on a $2.2 billion investment for its share of a major deep-water project in the Gulf of Mexico led by BP PLC. U.K. oil major BP in December announced plans to press ahead with a project to expand production from the Mad Dog oil field, located off the coast of Louisiana, which it operates and in which it holds a 60.5% interest.

Africa-focused Tullow Oil seeks growth opportunities
Nathalie Thomas, Financial Times

Africa-focused explorer Tullow Oil said it was looking towards growth opportunities this year as it continues negotiations over reducing its $4.8bn of debt. Tullow has started discussions with lenders over refinancing its $3.3bn reserve-based lending facility, a form of funding where a company’s oil and gas reserves are used as collateral for loans.

Eni chief Claudio Descalzi charged with international corruption
James Politi, Financial Times

Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Eni, has suffered a setback after Italian prosecutors charged him with international corruption following a lengthy investigation into the Italian energy group’s 2011 purchase of a Nigerian exploration licence.  Mr Descalzi was asked to stand trial along with Paolo Scaroni, the former chief executive of Eni, as well as nine other individuals who were involved in the $1.3bn transaction, according to Fabio De Pasquale, the lead prosecutor on the case.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Former interior secretary Jewell says Army is ‘reneging’ on its commitments on Dakota Access pipeline
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

Former interior secretary Sally Jewell said in an interview Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers was “reneging” on its commitment to other federal agencies and tribal leaders to conduct a thorough environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline before granting an easement to the project’s sponsor. On Tuesday, Army officials said in court filings that they would grant the final federal permit that the pipeline’s sponsor, Energy Transfer Partners, needs to complete the 1,170-mile project.

North Dakota tribe says running out of options to stop pipeline
Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester, Reuters

The leader of a Native American tribe attempting to block the Dakota Access oil pipeline said on Wednesday the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe may have exhausted legal options to stop the project after the company building it won federal permission to tunnel under the Missouri River. Legal experts agreed the tribe faces long odds in convincing any court to halt the $3.8 billion project led by Energy Transfer Partners LP, which could now begin operation as soon as June.

Utility to Pay $8.5 Million to Settle Suit Over Gas Blowout
The Associated Press

The Southern California Gas Co. agreed Wednesday to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit over a well blowout that spewed natural gas for nearly four months and drove thousands of residents from their Los Angeles homes. The utility signed an agreement with the South Coast Air Quality Management District to fund a study about health impacts from the leak, which San Fernando Valley residents have blamed for headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, rashes and other ailments.


Renewable Energy Continues to Beat Fossil Fuels
Justin Worland, Time

Clean energy grew at a record pace as the United States added 22GW of capacity — the equivalent of 11 Hoover Dams — to the grid from renewable sources last year, significantly trumping new fossil fuel additions, according to a new report. The report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) cites the declining cost of wind and solar power, largely due to advances in technology, as prime reasons for the rapid adoption of renewables.

EU softens proposal on extension of Chinese solar duties
Philip Blenkinsop, Reuters

The European Commission has proposed extending import duties on solar panels from China by 18 months, a shorter period than initially planned, and with a gradual phase-out, Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said on Wednesday. Anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties have been in place on Chinese solar panels and cells since 2013 and are currently under review as to whether they should be maintained.

New Xcel program sells renewable energy directly to businesses and homeowners
Frank Jossi, Midwest Energy News

Minnesota’s largest utility this spring will offer businesses and ratepayers the opportunity to buy shares of power directly from two renewable energy sources. However, critics of the program say it could siphon customers away from the state’s growing community solar market.

Powershop reveals cash for renewable projects from customers who paid more
Michael Slezak, The Guardian

Amid fresh attacks on renewable energy targets from the federal government and large energy retailer ERM Power, smaller electricity retailer Powershop has raised $100,000 from its customers to be given out as grants to 10 community-owned projects around the country. Three months ago Powershop launched the Your Community Energy initiative, where they gave customers the opportunity to pay higher rates, which it said would then be distributed to renewable energy projects that were community-owned.

China to test giant solar-powered drone
Elizabeth Shim, UPI

China plans to test a large solar-powered drone in the mesosphere between outer space and the Earth’s atmosphere. According to China’s ministry of national defense on Wednesday, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics is to test an unmanned aerial vehicle with a wingspan of about 40 meters, in the uppermost levels of the atmosphere.


Mapped: EU coal plants ‘should all close by 2030’
Simon Evans, Carbon Brief

EU countries should close all of their coal plants by around 2030 if they wants to stick to the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is the conclusion of a new report by research non-profit Climate Analytics.

Chaos at Indonesian ports disrupts coal shipping
Fergus Jensen and Henning Gloystein, Reuters

Road blockages and bad weather in Kalimantan on the Indonesian side of Borneo island are being blamed for a disruption of coal supplies from one of the world’s most important export regions. Coal traders and ship operators cited several reasons for the loading delays.

Alabama Town That Fought Coal Ash Landfill Wins Settlement
Sabrina Shankman, Inside Climate News

The latest chapter of a long fight between the residents of Uniontown, Ala. and the coal ash landfill that they say is ruining their town resulted in a settlement approved by a federal court on Tuesday. The settlement resolves a $30 million defamation suit the landfill company filed in 2016 against four residents who had spoken out against it. The American Civil Liberties Union represented the residents, calling the suit an example of the “systematic racial and environmental injustice” that black people have faced throughout the nation’s history.


Japanese nuclear plant just recorded an astronomical radiation level. Should we be worried?
Anna Fifield and Yuki Oda, The Washington Post

The utility company that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan — the one that went into triple meltdown after the enormous 2011 earthquake and tsunami — has released some jaw-dropping figures. The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 has reached as high as 530 sieverts per hour, Tokyo Electric Power Co. — or Tepco, as it’s known — said last week.

‘No nuclear risk’ after explosion at EDF plant in France
Michael Stothard, Financial Times

An explosion occurred at French utility EDF’s Flamanville nuclear plant on Thursday in which some people were injured, but local officials and police said there was no nuclear risk. The Flamanville 1 and 2 reactors, each with a power of 1,300 MW, were built in the 1980s.


Former GOP Cabinet Members Pitch Carbon Tax to White House
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

A group of Republican former Cabinet members hope to persuade the Trump administration to act on climate change with a proposal to impose a carbon tax and dividend system. The group was scheduled to meet with White House “senior officials,” Ted Halstead, the group’s founder, said at a Wednesday morning press conference.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

A Conservative Answer to Climate Change
George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, The Wall Street Journal

Thirty years ago, as the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer was dwindling at alarming rates, we were serving proudly under President Ronald Reagan. We remember his leading role in negotiating the Montreal Protocol, which continues to protect and restore the delicate ozone layer. Today the world faces a similar challenge: the threat of climate change.

Research Reports

Sustainable Energy in America
Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy

The 2017 edition of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook – produced for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, provides up-to-date, accurate market information about the broad range of industries — energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy— that are contributing to the country’s move towards cleaner energy production and more efficient energy usage.