Energy Brief: Judge Calls for Further Environmental Review of Dakota Access

Washington Brief

  • A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration has to conduct further environmental reviews on the Dakota Access Pipeline, but he did not halt the pipeline’s operations. (The Washington Post)
  • The Department of the Interior is preparing to delay implementation of a rule on methane emissions on federal lands, following news that the Environmental Protection Agency would also pause implementation of its rule on methane emissions. (The Hill)
  • Senate Republicans and Democrats expressed mixed feelings about a bill to allow year-round blending of 15-percent ethanol fuels, whereas it is currently banned during the summer. (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and some partners plan to invest $8.4 billion in the country’s offshore energy industry in the next five years. (Reuters)
  • Oil supply will outpace demand in 2018, according to the International Energy Agency, thanks partly to the U.S. shale boom. (Financial Times)
  • Cities around the world have often hired Dutch engineering and water management firms to plan for the effects of climate change, as the Netherlands is seen as a country that has long managed the risk of flooding. (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on farm bill 9:30 a.m.
BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017 9:30 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Forest Service budget request 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on forest management 10 a.m.
Pruitt testifies at House Appropriations subcommittee 11 a.m.
BP Group Chief Economist Spencer Dale speaks at AGA’s Natural Gas Roundtable 12 p.m.
Friday
FERC staff Elizabeth Olson speaks at WCEE lunch 11:45 a.m.

 

General

Michigan health director Nick Lyon, 4 others charged with involuntary manslaughter over Flint water
Paul Egan and Elisha Anderson, Detroit Free Press

Attorney General Bill Schuette charged two high-ranking state health officials today in the fourth round of criminal charges in the Flint drinking water crisis. He also said he will be adding new, serious felony charges against four defendants who were charged earlier in the investigation.

Ducey operations chief lands Trump Administration EPA job
The Associated Press

President Donald Trump’s administration has tapped another Arizonan for a key government post. Gov. Doug Ducey’s chief operations officer is leaving his post to serve as chief of operations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence
Kate Kelland, Reuters

When Aaron Blair sat down to chair a week-long meeting of 17 specialists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France in March 2015, there was something he wasn’t telling them. The epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute had seen important unpublished scientific data relating directly to a key question the IARC specialists were about to consider: Whether research shows that the weedkiller glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling RoundUp brand, causes cancer.

Walden Calls for EPA to Focus on Basics, Downplays Climate
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) outlined his vision for a trimmed-down Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, saying the agency should return to its “core mission.” Walden said the EPA has gone too far in influencing energy policy, intruding on the Department of Energy’s authority, and he didn’t object to the White House’s proposal to cut the EPA’s budget by $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, from fiscal years 2017 to 2018.

Oil prices fall again, staying around 7-month low as ‘alarm bell’ goes off over U.S. supply
Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

Crude futures edged lower again Thursday, following sharp declines in the prior session, but investor sentiment continued to be battered by data showing that the market remains awash in surplus oil. On Thursday, oil prices tanked by nearly 4% to their lowest level since November, following U.S. Energy Information Administration data that showed the decrease in crude stockpiles last week was smaller than anticipated.

Oil and Natural Gas

Rosneft, partners to invest over $8 billion in Russia’s offshore energy sector
Olesya Astakhova, Reuters

Rosneft and its partners plan to invest 480 billion roubles ($8.4 billion) in developing Russia’s offshore energy industry in the next five years, part of a bid to boost output from new areas, the Russian oil major told Reuters. Most Russian oil output comes from western Siberia, where fields are depleting, pushing firms to look for new regions.

Interior set to delay methane pollution rule
Devin Henry, The Hill

The Interior Department is preparing to delay implementation of a rule limiting methane waste at oil and natural gas drilling sites. In a Federal Register notice set for publication Thursday, Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it would look to postpone the compliance dates for several parts of the Obama-era rule.

US shale resurgence will boost global oil supply, says IEA
Anjli Raval, Financial Times

A resurgent US shale oil industry will see global supplies grow faster than demand in 2018, the International Energy Agency forecast on Wednesday, dealing a blow to Opec and other rival producers that have cut output hoping to boost prices. The IEA expects global demand will increase by 1.4m barrels a day next year — up from 1.3m b/d in 2017 — as China and India take total consumption above 100m b/d for the first time in the second half of the year.

Saudis Cut Oil Exports to U.S. to Ease Global Glut
Alison Sider, et al., The Wall Street Journal

Saudi Arabia is slashing its U.S. oil exports to a nearly three-decade low for this time of the year, intensifying its efforts to reduce a global supply glut that has been pummeling crude prices. State-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. expects sales to the U.S. will drop below 1 million barrels a day in June, then slide to about 850,000 barrels a day in July, according to people familiar with the matter.

Saudi Aramco IPO Plans Slowed Over Where to List
Ben Dummett et al., The Wall Street Journal

A divide between Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and executives of the kingdom’s state oil company over where to list the company’s shares is slowing the march toward a planned 2018 initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter. Executives at Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, are pushing Saudi Arabia’s king and his son, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, on the merits of listing the giant state-owned oil company on the London Stock Exchange .

Utilities and Infrastructure

Federal judge orders environmental review of Dakota Access pipeline
Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post

A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday ordered the Trump administration to conduct further environmental reviews of the Dakota Access pipeline but stopped short of halting oil-pumping operations pending further hearings beginning June 21. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg handed a limited victory to Native American tribes in North Dakota that had challenged the administration’s effort to speed the project, and his dense, 91-page opinion directed both sides to appear before him next Wednesday to decide next legal steps.

Renewables

Senate environment leaders lukewarm on bill to allow higher ethanol blends
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Republican and Democratic leaders on the Senate environment committee said they are on the fence about a bill to allow year-round blending of 15-percent ethanol fuels. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Wednesday that his state does not support the higher E15 blends, but is willing to listen to the bill’s supporters.

Wind, solar surpass 10 percent of power production
David Hunn, Houston Chronicle

Wind farms and solar panels generated more than 10 percent of the total monthly electricity in the U.S. for the first time in March, the U.S. Department of Energy reported on Wednesday, up from 7 percent on average in 2016. Wind power varies widely by state, said the department’s Energy Information Administration.

Wind power group’s new ad campaign aims to win over Trump
Timothy Cama, The Hill

The wind power industry is launching a major new advertising campaign to convince the Trump administration and lawmakers of the industry’s benefits to the economy. American Wind Action (AWA), launched last year to advocate for pro-wind policies, said it is spending millions of dollars on what it’s calling an education campaign.

Coal

Glencore boss to pitch directly to Rio Tinto board on Hunter Valley coal mine bid
Scott Murdoch, The Australian

Glencore Australia chief executive Peter Freyberg will pitch directly to the Rio Tinto board tomorrow on its $US2.55 billion bid to buy its Hunter Valley coal mines. The Rio Tinto board will hold a two-day meeting in North America starting tomorrow, North American time, to decide on the bid, which emerged on the weekend.

Nuclear

Tepco to work with local government on nuclear plant review
Osamu Tsukimori, Reuters

Tokyo Electric Power Co will work with local government to review the safety of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, which could mean a later restart date than planned originally, the company’s incoming CEO said. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, has been completely offline since 2012 while its safety procedures are reviewed.

Enter the Nimble Dragon: China looks to small reactors for nuclear edge
David Stanway, Reuters

China is betting on new, small-scale nuclear reactor designs that could be used in isolated regions, on ships and even aircraft as part of an ambitious plan to wrest control of the global nuclear market. Within weeks, state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is set to launch a small modular reactor (SMR) dubbed the “Nimble Dragon” with a pilot plant on the island province of Hainan, according to company officials.

Climate

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.
Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times

The wind over the canal stirred up whitecaps and rattled cafe umbrellas. Rowers strained toward a finish line and spectators hugged the shore.

Scientists just documented a massive recent melt event on the surface of Antarctica
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

Scientists have documented a recent, massive melt event on the surface of highly vulnerable West Antarctica that, they fear, could be a harbinger of future events as the planet continues to warm. In the Antarctic summer of 2016, the surface of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest floating ice platform on Earth, developed a sheet of meltwater that lasted for as long as 15 days in some places.

Trump calls mayor of shrinking Chesapeake island and tells him not to worry about it
Travis M. Andrews, The Washington Post

James “Ooker” Eskridge was crabbing off the coast of Virginia’s Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay on Monday when he noticed a boat approaching him. Behind it was another. Eskridge, mayor on the island, steeled himself for the worst. After all, as his wife said to him, “The only thing that could make you come inside from crabbing on a Monday morning is a call from President Trump.”

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Zinke leaves Bears Ears dispute unsettled
Editorial Board, The Salt Lake Tribune

The best thing that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke could have done about the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah was absolutely nothing. He could have made a firm recommendation to the president to leave the monument designation in place and allow the process of managing, and adapting to, the new status of all that already-federally owned land to go forward at its own pace.

Research Reports

January 2016 extensive summer melt in West Antarctica favoured by strong El Niño
Julien P. Nicolas et al., Nature Communications

Over the past two decades the primary driver of mass loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) has been warm ocean water underneath coastal ice shelves, not a warmer atmosphere. Yet, surface melt occurs sporadically over low-lying areas of the WAIS and is not fully understood.