Energy Brief: Judge Rejects Request to Halt Dakota Access Construction

Washington Brief

  • A federal judge rejected a request by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux to halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. (The Associated Press)
  • The Senate voted 51-48 to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” land management rule finalized at the end of the Obama administration. (The Hill)
  • Environmental groups led by documentarian Josh Fox will announce a campaign today aimed at stopping the Trump administration from filling any of the open seats on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that 1,200 people in Europe will die prematurely because of excess emissions of nitrogen oxides from 2.6 million Volkswagen cars sold in Germany that cheated emissions tests. (The New York Times)
  • ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance said it “would be good for the U.S. to stay in the [Paris] climate agreement.” (Axios)
  • The manager of Norway’s government pension fund excluded 10 coal companies, including U.S.-based Great River Energy and Otter Tail Corp., from its investments. (Pensions & Investments)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Wednesday
CERAWeek 7:30 a.m.
20th Annual Transmission Summit 7:50 a.m.
C2ES discussion on microgrids 9 a.m.
House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee members’ day 10 a.m.
IEA Oil Market Report 2017 10 a.m.
Thursday
CERAWeek 7:30 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee on infrastructure in tribal and insular communities 10 a.m.
House Transportation subcommittee hearing on water infrastructure 10 a.m.
House Science subcommittee hearing on National Science Foundation 10 a.m.
House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on energy programs in farm bill 10 a.m.
Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs hearing on agency use of science in rulemaking 10 a.m.
EESI discussion on low-carbon economy 2 p.m.
Friday
CERAWeek 8:30 a.m.
Environmental Law Institute discussion on climate 12 p.m.

 

General

Senate passes bill ending Obama-era land rule
Devin Henry, The Hill

The Senate on Tuesday voted to end a land management rule finalized in the closing days of the Obama administration. Lawmakers scuttled the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Planning 2.0” rule, a measure to modernize federal land management strategies.

Volkswagen’s Emissions Fraud May Affect Mortality Rate in Europe
Steph Yin, The New York Times

From 2008 to 2015, Volkswagen sold 11 million diesel cars worldwide rigged with software that cheated emissions tests by running the full emissions-control system only if the car sensed a test was underway. Otherwise, the cars operated without emissions control, releasing more than four times the levels of nitrogen oxides, a class of harmful air pollutants, permitted by European regulation.

Watchdog to ask U.S. lawmakers to probe Icahn’s role with Trump
Chris Prentice, Reuters

A government watchdog group, Public Citizen, said on Wednesday it will ask lawmakers to investigate whether billionaire investor Carl Icahn should have been subject to lobbying disclosure laws when he advised President Donald Trump to overhaul the U.S. biofuels program. Icahn, an unpaid adviser to Trump on regulation, submitted a proposal to Trump last month to change the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard by shifting the burden of blending biofuels into gasoline away from oil refining companies, and further down the supply chain to marketers.

Greens Threaten Lawsuits Over Rollback of Environmental Regulations
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Environmentalists warned on Tuesday they’re likely to sue the Trump administration over its anticipated efforts to roll back several key environmental regulations, as groups launch a new front of attack to preserve green-friendly rules signed by former President Barack Obama. President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders that would call for a review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks, and start the process of rolling back the greenhouse gas-cutting Clean Power Plan, according to reports by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

States Attack U.S. Endangered Species Act Rules
Peter Urban, Scientific American

More than a dozen state attorneys general are asking Pres. Donald Trump to throw out recent federal rules regulating the environment for endangered or threatened plants and animals. The states claim the rules, which enlarge the definition of species habitat, give the federal government excessive power over state and private lands.

Activists Rush to Save Government Science Data — If They Can Find It
Amy Harmon, The New York Times

Reports last week that the administration is proposing deep budget cuts for government agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have fueled new fears of databases being axed, if only as a cost-saving measure. “We’ll probably be saying goodbye to much of the invaluable data housed at the NCEI,” Anne Jefferson, a water hydrology professor at Kent State University, wrote on Twitter Saturday, referring to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Treasuries On Worst Run Since 2012 as Pound Drops
Samuel Potter, Bloomberg News

Treasuries headed for the longest losing streak in five years before a U.S. debt auction on Wednesday and as the market prepares for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates as early as next week. The dollar rose, while sterling extended its decline ahead of the U.K. budget.

Oil and Natural Gas

Alaska underwater pipeline leak may have started in December
Dan Joling, The Associated Press

A pipeline spewing natural gas into Alaska’s Cook Inlet may have started leaking in December, two months before the leak was spotted from the air, according to a federal pipeline safety office. The estimate of when gas started leaking into winter habitat for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales was issued in a proposed safety order last week by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration that the agency confirmed on Tuesday.

Oil imports lift U.S. trade deficit to near five-year high
Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

The U.S. trade deficit jumped to a near five-year high in January as rising oil prices helped to push up the import bill, pointing to slower economic growth in the first quarter and posing a challenge for the Trump administration. President Donald Trump took office with a pledge to boost annual economic growth to 4 percent and renegotiate trade deals in favor of the United States.

Saudi Aramco to Pay Royal Dutch Shell $2.2 Billion in Motiva Breakup
Summer Said, The Wall Street Journal

State-oil giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co. will pay Royal Dutch Shell PLC $2.2 billion to finalize the breakup of their two-decade Motiva Enterprises refining partnership in the U.S.

Saudi says Opec deal invigorating US shale industry
Gregory Meyer and Anjli Raval, Financial Times

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister told executives in Houston that its participation in an international agreement to cut crude output was reinvigorating rivals in the US shale patch, a development that could undermine efforts to stabilise a weak oil market. The comments of Khalid al-Falih at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference stood in stark contrast to those of his predecessor at the same venue a year ago.

BP seeks growth by polishing its US gas assets
Ed Crooks, Financial Times

For most of the past 15 years BP was a spectator to the energy revolution in the US. As smaller companies led by Devon Energy cracked the code for commercial production from previously intractable shale reserves, BP — like most other big international oil companies — did little to follow their breakthroughs. Until in 2014 it decided to make a change. “We knew we were not where we wanted to be, and we needed to do something different,” says Dave Lawler, who was hired in August of that year to run BP’s US onshore operations outside Alaska.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Judge won’t stop construction of Dakota Access oil pipeline
The Associated Press

A federal judge declined Tuesday to temporarily stop construction of the final section of the disputed Dakota Access pipeline, clearing the way for oil to flow as soon as next week. The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux had asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington to direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permission for Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners to lay pipe under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

Environmentalists to try to extend crisis at grid watchdog
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Environmental groups are switching gears from opposing single pipeline projects, such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL, to opposing the agency that is charged with approving them. A coalition of environmental groups will announce a nationwide campaign Wednesday to stop the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from gaining new members required for it to approve pipelines and other energy projects.

NPPD doesn’t have to release records showing how much it costs to generate electricity, judge says
Cole Epley, Omaha World-Herald

A Platte County district judge says the Nebraska Public Power District does not have to turn over records that would show how much it costs to generate electricity at its power plants. The release of such information would not serve a public purpose and could give regional electric utilities an edge against NPPD, which buys and sells electricity as a member of a regional power pool, Judge Robert Steinke wrote in an opinion dated Feb. 28.

Company wants to reopen Hatfield’s Ferry as natural gas power plant
Bob Niedbala, Observer-Reporter

A New Jersey company is considering developing a natural gas power plant at First Energy’s closed Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station in Monongahela Township. APV Renaissance Partners Opco LLC of Bernardsville, N.J. indicated in a public notice published in an area newspaper that it intends to apply to the state Department of Environmental Protection for an air quality permit for the plant.

Renewables

Solar power growth leaps by 50% worldwide thanks to US and China
Adam Vaughan, The Guardian

The amount of solar power added worldwide soared by some 50% last year because of a sun rush in the US and China, new figures show. New solar photovoltaic capacity installed in 2016 reached more than 76 gigawatts, a dramatic increase on the 50GW installed the year before.

Coal

Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global excludes another 10 coal companies
Sophie Baker, Pensions & Investments

The in-house manager for Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, Oslo, has excluded 10 companies based on its coal guidelines for observation and exclusion. The move by Norges Bank Investment Management follows its third round of analysis of companies that may be affected by the criteria, and includes all companies’ private subsidiaries that issue bonds.

Beijing to avoid radical coal shift after 2016 turmoil
Meng Meng and Josephine Mason, Reuters

China will not force coal mines to cut output on a large scale if prices remain stable, the government said on Tuesday, a sign Beijing may try to avoid radical policy shifts after the upheaval caused by efforts last year to tackle excess capacity. In a statement, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said provincial governments and relevant agencies would be free to decide whether to implement cutbacks at inefficient mines.

Nuclear

FirstEnergy rate increase for nuclear still shadowy but opponents lining up
John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer

FirstEnergy’s plan to convince Ohio lawmakers they should save the company’s nuclear reactors by funneling more money from customers to the company has still not seen the legislative light of day. But for certain, the company has shopped its proposal to key lawmakers with a full-color, professional-looking, authoritative brochure that looks very much like an investor presentation.

Climate

ConocoPhillips CEO says U.S. should stick with Paris climate deal
Ben Geman, Axios

“It would be good for the U.S. to stay in the climate agreement,” ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance told reporters as he walked offstage at the big CERAWeek industry conference in Houston. The Trump administration still hasn’t said what it’s going to do about U.S. involvement in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

By 2030, half the world’s oceans could be reeling from climate change, scientists say
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

More than half the world’s oceans could suffer multiple symptoms of climate change over the next 15 years, including rising temperatures, acidification, lower oxygen levels and decreasing food supplies, new research suggests. By midcentury, without significant efforts to reduce warming, more than 80 percent could be ailing — and the fragile Arctic, already among the most rapidly warming parts of the planet, may be one of the regions most severely hit.

Exxon’s Auditor Could Hold Key Piece of Climate Fraud Investigation
David Hasemyer, Inside Climate News

A high-stakes legal battle between ExxonMobil and the New York attorney general’s office is roiling around documents held by the company’s auditors. Those documents, usually dry disclosures that hold little public interest, could afford a candid—and perhaps damaging—glimpse into Exxon’s private calculations of the business risks posed by climate change.

A Message from American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers:

American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers help U.S. agriculture produce the food that supports health and human development worldwide. AFPM provides the fuels powering farm equipment and the petrochemicals used to construct greenhouses, irrigation pipes, bailing twine and silage bags — even packaging that keeps food from spoiling. Learn about how American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers are making lives easier, healthier, safer and more productive at afpm.org. At AFPM, we make progress.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

A Lesson Trump and the E.P.A. Should Heed
William D. Ruckelshaus, The New York Times

In March 1983, President Ronald Reagan asked me to return to Washington to run the Environmental Protection Agency. I had been the E.P.A.’s first administrator, from 1970 to 1973, and over the agency’s first 10 years, it made enormous progress in bringing the country’s worst pollution problems under control despite resistance from polluting industries and their lobbyists.

Don’t Roll Back the Vehicle Fuel Standards
Jody Freeman, The New York Times

One of the signal achievements of the Obama administration was reaching an agreement with the auto industry to dramatically increase fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, doubling them to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The industry now wants to renege.

A Message from American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers:

American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers are fueling the things that take us further — from the cars and buses we rely on every day to the farm equipment, jets and delivery trucks that support the 24/7 global economy. Learn about how American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers are making our lives easier, healthier, safer and more productive at afpm.org. At AFPM, we make progress.

Research Reports

Deep Decarbonization of the Electric Power Sector: Insights from Recent Literature
Jesse D. Jenkins and Samuel Thernstrom, Energy Innovation Reform Project

There is a strong consensus in the literature that reaching near-zero emissions is much more challenging — and may require a very different mix of resources — than comparatively modest emissions reductions (50-70% or less). Planning and policy measures should therefore focus on long-term objectives (near-zero emissions) in order to avoid costly lock-in of suboptimal resources.