Energy Brief: Power Companies Say CPP Repeal Won’t Affect Their Investment Strategy for Renewables

Government Brief

  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation designed to curb greenhouse emissions from power plants, says the agency would consider a new rule to reduce emissions. The EPA said it would seek public comment for an alternative rule, but since it didn’t specify a time frame, industry leaders and environmental activists said it’s possible no action will be taken on that front for several years. (The New York Times)
  • The Justice Department is attempting to stop a lawsuit that would block the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, with government attorneys saying a federal judge has no authority to second-guess a presidential permit. In March, the Trump administration approved the 1,179-mile pipeline that would transport Canadian crude oil to an existing system of lines connected to Gulf Coast refineries. (The Associated Press)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke attended at least two previously undisclosed political fundraisers while traveling on government business. News of Zinke’s attendance comes amid scrutiny of his travel expenses and his habit of mixing political activities with official business. (Politico)

Business Brief

  • Companies such as American Electric Power Co., NRG Energy Inc. and Southern Co. said they are pushing ahead with renewable and gas-fired electricity regardless of the Trump administration’s plans to roll back federal limits on carbon emissions at power plants. The companies said cheap fuel, better technology and consumer demand are driving the move toward clean energy, and the repeal of the Clean Power Plan will have only a marginal effect on their planning. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • French lender BNP Paribas said it would no longer finance new shale and tar sands projects or work with companies whose primary activity involves such projects. Chief Executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafé said the international bank, which supports the decarbonization of the economy, would continue working with energy companies whose business policy is more focused on environmental issues. (Financial Times)
  • British Columbia’s finance minister said the region is welcoming of liquefied natural gas exporters despite the province’s opposition to Kinder Morgan Inc.’s $5.8 billion oil pipeline expansion. British Columbia is a participant in the pending legal challenge against the Kinder pipeline, which won federal approval in November. (Bloomberg)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

IPFM hosts report launch on highly enriched uranium use of fuel in Russia 10 a.m.
House Agriculture Committee on the 2017 agenda for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee legislative hearing on federal lands bills 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on oil and natural gas leasing on the OCS 2 p.m.
House Natural Resources Committee marks up Antiquities Act legislation 4 p.m.
ACORE Finance West 8:45 a.m.
CSIS hosts IEA renewable energy report launch 9:30 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee on water, power and oceans holds legislative hearing 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing with Energy Secretary Rick Perry 10 a.m.
Bloomberg’s Sustainable Business Summit 1:30 p.m.
2017 Energy Efficiency Forum 1 p.m.
Women’s Energy Network October happy hour 5:30 p.m.
Bloomberg’s Sustainable Business Summit 9 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee legislative hearing for onshore energy policy 9 a.m.
Forum on Mexico’s energy outlook hosted by Woodrow Wilson Center 4:30 p.m.

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Zinke’s travels: Ski resort and Alaskan steakhouse
Esther Whieldon and Ben Lefebvre, Politico

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has attended at least two additional political fundraisers while traveling for official business, including a weekend ski getaway less than three weeks after he was sworn in where donors paid up to $3,000 to attend, according to sources and documents reviewed by POLITICO. Zinke’s previously undisclosed attendance at the events adds to scrutiny he is facing over his habit of mixing political activities with official business when traveling outside of Washington, D.C., and to questions over travel expenses incurred by members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

The next big battlegrounds
Robin Bravender, E&E New

Pruitt’s signature kicks off a lengthy regulatory process and sets up another court fight for a rule that’s already been at the center of some precedent-setting legal decisions. The move also becomes political fodder for friends and foes of the Trump administration’s climate policies, and could potentially surface on the campaign trail in contests for Congress and the White House.

Oil rises on signs of tighter market, but 2018 looks more uncertain
Libby George, Reuters

Oil prices rose for a third day on Wednesday on signs that markets are gradually tightening after years of oversupply, though the outlook for 2018 remained less certain. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were trading at $56.94 per barrel at 0948 GMT, up 33 cents.

Oil and Natural Gas

Federal court can’t suspend Keystone XL pipeline decision, Trump administration says
Matthew Brown, The Associated Press

Attorneys for the Trump administration said a federal judge has no authority to second-guess a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline as they seek to stop a lawsuit that would block the project. Justice Department attorneys are due in U.S. District Court in Montana on Wednesday to defend the administration’s March approval of the 1,179-mile pipeline — a lightning rod in the debate over what to do about climate change.

BNP to cut links with shale and tar sands groups
Andrew Ward and David Keohane, Financial Times

BNP Paribas is to stop doing business with companies whose primary activity involves oil and gas extracted from shale deposits or tar sands in one of the most aggressive steps so far by an international bank to reduce exposure to fossil fuels. The French lender said it would no longer finance new shale or tar sands projects nor work with companies mainly focused on those resources.

British Columbia Shuns Oil Tankers in Favor of Gas Exporters
Meenal Vamburkar, Bloomberg

British Columbia’s opposition to Kinder Morgan Inc.’s $5.8 billion oil pipeline expansion won’t stop Canada’s westernmost province from welcoming natural gas exporters. Kinder’s plan to haul more crude to the Pacific shore threatens coastal fisheries and tourism, Carole James, the province’s finance minister, said in an interview Tuesday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Power Companies to Stick With Plans Despite EPA’s Emissions Repeal
Timothy Puko, The Wall Street Journal

Some sizable power companies, such as American Electric Power Co. , NRG Energy Inc. and Southern Co. , said Tuesday the move will have only a marginal effect on their planning. Cheap fuel, improving technology and consumer demand are creating a market for cleaner energy that is largely unaffected by what is happening in Washington.

Hawaiian Electric takes first steps to utility-scale commercial energy storage
Peter Maloney, Utility Dive

Hawaiian Electric Co. has big plans for energy storage, but is wary of moving too quickly. The utility is looking for better storage technology and economics before moving too much on deployment.


Michigan’s ‘largest solar park’ will produce enough energy to power 11,000 homes
Anmar Frangoul, CNBC

It experiences harsh, cold winters, but Michigan is now home to a 200,000 panel solar array on a 250-acre site. It is one of the largest utility-owned solar parks east of the Mississippi River, Detroit based DTE Energy said in a statement.

10,000 Electric Cars Highlight Steep Path to India’s Ambitions
P.R. Sanjai and Rajesh Kumar Singh, Bloomberg

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kicked off India’s race to turn all new passenger car sales electric by 2030. The largest order has gone to a company that hasn’t commercially started producing the vehicles.


New Mexico Utility Continues Plan to Stop Burning Coal
The Associated Press

New Mexico’s largest utility says it will stop using coal as a power source in 2031, despite a move by the Trump administration to make it easier for coal-fired power plants to operate by repealing a federal policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said this week it intends to dismantle the Clean Power Plan that set state-specific limits for the emissions that contribute to global warming.

Rick Perry’s plan to save coal
Ed Crooks, Financial Times

Rick Perry, the energy secretary, wrote to FERC last month, asking the commission to act within 60 days to draw up new regulations “to ensure that certain reliability and resilience attributes of electric generation resources are fully valued”. What that means is creating a new system of payments that would be available only to coal and nuclear plants, in an attempt to prevent closures under the pressure of competition from lower-cost gas-fired and renewable generation.


Watchdog Group Allowed to Weigh In on Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant Review
Jason Moon, NHPR News

Federal regulators will allow the non-profit nuclear watchdog group C-10 to weigh in on a regulatory review of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. C-10 has raised concerns about how the plant’s owner, NextEra Energy, is addressing concrete degradation caused by a chemical reaction.

With no plan for replacing Millstone, what are CT’s options?
Jan Ellen Spiegel, The Connecticut Mirror

For the third time in less than a year-and-a-half, the Connecticut legislature has come close, but still hasn’t okayed a plan to boost the finances of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station. Millstone’s owner Dominion is arguing it needs help because cheap power produced from natural gas is forcing it to consider shutting Millstone down.

France’s nuclear spent-fuel pools major security risk: Greenpeace
Geert De Clercq, Reuters

The spent-fuel pools of French utility EDF’s nuclear reactors are highly vulnerable to attacks, Greenpeace said in a report published on Tuesday. Written by a group of nuclear experts and delivered to French authorities, the report says that spent-fuel pools, which typically contain the equivalent of one to three nuclear reactor cores, have not been designed to withstand external aggression.


E.P.A. Says It Will Write a New Carbon Rule, but No One Can Say When
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times

When Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, signed a blueprint Tuesday to eliminate a major Obama-era climate change regulation, the text said the agency would at some point consider a new rule to ratchet down greenhouse gas emissions. But those adept at reading between the lines of dense federal documents say the subtext reads more like: “Don’t hold your breath.”

Trump admin avoids discussing climate change while rolling back emissions rule
Miranda Green, CNN

When Hurricane Harvey had just dumped so much rain on Houston it dented the earth’s surface, and Hurricane Irma was still threatening the entire state of Florida, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said it was “insensitive” to talk about climate change. Now less than two months since those catastrophes, as a number of wildfires rage in California, the administration is still reluctant to even use the phrase.

Republican leaders back EPA’s proposed repeal of Obama climate plan
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Republican congressional leaders on Tuesday endorsed the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan climate rules for coal plants. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said repealing former President Barack Obama’s climate plan is the “right move for the economy and the rule of law.”

It’s Not Regulation That’s a Threat to Jobs, It’s Climate Change
Kate Aronoff, The Intercept

The United States shed 33,000 jobs in September, ending a seven-year streak in U.S. jobs growth — the longest-ever in U.S. history. As Economic Policy Institute Senior Economist Elise Gould wrote, the drop-off in unemployment “was almost certainly due to Hurricane Irma, which struck smack in the middle of the reference period, and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.”

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Mr. Trump Nails Shut the Coffin on Climate Relief
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

The Trump administration formally proposed on Tuesday to roll back yet another of President Barack Obama’s efforts to position the United States as a global leader in the fight against climate change. The move, though widely anticipated, was deeply disheartening.

The GOP wants to repeal Obama’s climate plan. Like health care, it’s going to be a fiasco.
David Roberts, Vox

Political observers will be experiencing a bit of deja vu. Pruitt’s announcement comes just weeks after the dumpster-fire conclusion (at least for the time being) of Republican efforts to repeal another of Obama’s signature accomplishments, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Renewing America’s commitment to nuclear energy
David Perdue, The Hill

Today, nuclear energy produces 20 percent of America’s electricity, but it’s increasingly sidelined in our domestic energy portfolio. To realize our full energy potential, we need a renewed commitment to domestic nuclear energy.

Antiquities Act is a menace to constitutional government
Rep. Rob Bishop, Washington Examiner

Checks and balances have no teeth when our leaders can disregard the laws and rule according to their whims. There is no more flagrant violation of this principle of our government than the repeated abuse of the Antiquities Act in the designation of national monuments.

Research Reports

Formation of most of our coal brought Earth close to global glaciation
Georg Feulner, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The bulk of the coal driving the Industrial Revolution and contributing to global warming today has been deposited during the Carboniferous period (359–299 million years ago), resulting in a significant drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide at that time. These findings highlight the climatic importance of the fossil carbon stored in Earth’s coal deposits and thus have implications for climate policy.