Energy Brief: Collins Opposes Pruitt’s EPA Confirmation

Washington Brief

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she will vote against Scott Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture vote on Pruitt’s confirmation this morning. (Maine Public)
  • EPA staffers have been told to prepare for executive orders once an administrator is confirmed. (Reuters)
  • A councilman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said the federal government only gave the tribe an opportunity to comment on the Dakota Access pipeline after they seemed to have settled on a route. (Morning Consult)

Business Brief

  • China is considering reinstating a limit on its output of coal to avoid a supply glut. (Bloomberg News)
  • A group of Exelon’s competitors filed a lawsuit saying new state subsidies for nuclear power infringe on the federal government’s authority to regulate energy prices. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Companies aiming to build new power plants in the U.K. will be required to offer electricity at prices 15 to 20 percent below those approved for the controversial Hinkley nuclear plant last year, making it more difficult to finance the projects. (Financial Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
Al Gore speaks at climate and health meeting 9 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on infrastructure and environmental laws 10 a.m.
House Science Committee hearing on NASA 10 a.m.
CSIS event on oil and gas markets 10 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

 

General

‘I Will Vote No’ — Susan Collins Says She’ll Oppose Scott Pruitt to Lead the EPA
Susan Sharon, Maine Public

After careful consideration, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she will oppose the confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Collins tells Maine Public Radio she met at length with Pruitt and reviewed testimony from his confirmation hearing.

EPA staff told to prepare for Trump executive orders: sources
David Shepardson, et al., Reuters

Staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been told that President Donald Trump is preparing a handful of executive orders related to the agency, to be signed once a new administrator is confirmed, two sources who attended the meeting told Reuters on Wednesday. The sources, who asked not to be named, said a senior EPA official mentioned the executive orders at a meeting of staffers, but did not provide details about what the orders would say.

GOP considers ways to ‘modernize’ endangered species law
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Senate Republicans considered ideas Wednesday to “modernize” the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and solve the problems they and their constituents have long decried. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said at the hearing that he hopes to change the law to give more voice to landowners, industry groups and others who think species protections hamper businesses and other land uses.

Pope appears to back native tribes in Dakota Pipeline conflict
Philip Pullella, Reuters

Pope Francis appeared on Wednesday to back Native Americans seeking to halt part of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying indigenous cultures have a right to defend “their ancestral relationship to the earth”. The Latin American pope, who has often strongly defended indigenous rights since his election in 2013, made his comments to representative of tribes attending the Indigenous Peoples Forum in Rome.

Equity Rally Falters as Traders Turn to Havens
Eddie Van Der Walt and Blaise Robinson, Bloomberg News

Investor appetite for risk abated as European shares dropped on concern the longest rally since July 2015 went too far, while havens including the yen, bonds and gold advanced. An index of Europe’s 600 biggest shares fell for the first time in eight days. Nestle SA lost the most since November after saying it will target lower growth.

Oil and Natural Gas

Tribe Leader: Government Offered ‘Check-in-the-Box’ Consultation on Pipeline
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

The federal government only allowed the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to consult in superficial ways on the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, a tribal councilman said at House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. Chad Harrison, a councilman at-large for the tribe, testified that the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of the Interior had effectively settled on a route for the pipeline before giving the tribe an opportunity to object.

Keystone pipeline builder signs lobbyist
Timothy Cama, The Hill

The company hoping to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline has signed on a lobbying firm to push for the project. CGCN Group, a Republican firm, filed paperwork with Congress on Wednesday to disclose that it is lobbying on behalf of TransCanada Corp. to secure Trump administration approval for Keystone.

A Canadian City Thrives on Gas, Like a ‘Wealthy Little Country’
Craig S. Smith, The New York Times

The city of Medicine Hat is setting up the equivalent of Norway’s famous sovereign wealth fund, a pool of money that should make more money for generations to come. “We could separate from the world, and we’d be totally self-sufficient,” said Ted Clugston, the mayor, sipping coffee in Medicine Hat’s award-winning, architectural designed brick-and-glass City Hall.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Demand for power price cuts puts UK nuclear plants’ viability in doubt
Andrew Ward, Financial Times

Companies vying to build nuclear power stations in the UK have been told they must offer a price for their electricity sharply lower than that approved for the Hinkley Point plant last year, raising further questions about the viability of Britain’s plans for a new generation of reactors. Government officials have indicated that future projects will be expected to deliver a discount of at least 15-20 percent on the price of electricity from the $22.5 billion Hinkley plant in Somerset, a settlement widely criticised for its high cost.

Walden cites Prineville power pinch in grid upgrade call
KTVZ

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., cited a power squeeze facing the city of Prineville on Wednesday as he spoke of the importance of updating America’s energy infrastructure at a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy. Walden spoke of a meeting he held recently with the Bonneville Power Administration in Prineville, and the outdated electrical grid in the city that is hampering economic development.

How federal tax reform could complicate prospects for renewable energy
Peter Maloney, UtilityDive

There is a great deal of concern about the prospects of renewable energy under the Trump administration, but the prospects may not be as dire as some have suggested. Financial analysts point to a complicated scenario with many moving parts that is still coming into focus, but they see benefits as well as pitfalls for renewables under the new regime.

Renewables

In Central Europe, Germany’s Renewable Revolution Causes Friction
Zeke Turner, The Wall Street Journal

A battle is raging in Central Europe over the balance of power—the electrical kind. Poland and the Czech Republic see Germany as an aggressor, overproducing electricity and dumping it across the border.

The Most-Hated Bear in Solar Isn’t Backing Down
Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg News

When Elon Musk’s SolarCity hosted stock analysts about a year ago to gush about its prospects in the solar industry, Gordon Johnson was nowhere to be found. It seems that Johnson, a 36-year-old analyst at boutique advisory shop Axiom Capital Management Inc., wasn’t invited.

Coal

China Mulls Resuming Coal Output Curbs for Six Months
Bloomberg News

China may not be done trying to manage coal prices. The world’s biggest producer and consumer is considering reinstating output restrictions to avoid the return of a glut after it eased limits during winter, according to people with knowledge of the plan.

Teck shares slide on coal demand woes despite earnings beat
Susan Taylor and Nicole Mordant, Reuters

Canadian miner Teck Resources Ltd reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, lifted by a surge in the price of coal for steelmaking, but weaker demand at the start of the year spooked investors, sending its shares lower. Teck, North America’s largest producer of steelmaking – or coking – coal, said that inquiries from buyers had picked up recently and that it expects sales to be weighted toward the second half of this quarter after a slow start.

Nuclear

Exelon competitors file lawsuit to stop nuclear subsidies
Ally Marotti, Chicago Tribune

Energy giant Exelon is confident that an attempt to derail a law that could help subsidize two of its downstate nuclear power plants won’t hold up in federal court. A group of the Chicago-based company’s competitors filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Illinois regulators, alleging the new state law that created the subsidies intrudes on federal authority to regulate wholesale energy prices.

Copeland byelection: May accused of ducking issue of support for nuclear plant
Helen Pidd, The Guardian

The prime minister has been accused of ducking the issue of whether the government supports a new nuclear power station in west Cumbria on a visit to Copeland ahead of the constituency’s byelection. The accusation was levelled after Theresa May said the Conservative party was “committed” to nuclear, but did not offer state support following huge losses reported by one of the backers of a deal to build the Moorside nuclear plant near Whitehaven.

Climate

Trump’s likely science adviser calls climate scientists ‘glassy-eyed cult’
Hannah Devlin, The Guardian

The man tipped as frontrunner for the role of science adviser to Donald Trump has described climate scientists as “a glassy-eyed cult” in the throes of a form of collective madness. William Happer, an eminent physicist at Princeton University, met with Trump last month to discuss the post and says that if he were offered the job he would take it.

Air pollution ‘final warning’ from European Commission to UK
BBC News

The European Commission has sent a “final warning” to the UK over breaches of air pollution limits. It said limits had been repeatedly exceeded in 16 areas including London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow.

UK to use carbon cuts as Brexit bargaining chip – envoy
Megan Darby, Climate Home

The UK may use its faster than average emissions cuts for leverage in negotiations to leave the EU, according to a foreign office climate envoy. Under domestic legislation, Britain is set to slash greenhouse gases 57% from 1990 levels by 2030, going deeper than the bloc-wide target of “at least” 40%. That gives poorer member states space for some carbon-fueled growth.

EPA Says U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dipped in 2015
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped slightly in 2015 from the previous year, according to a draft report released this week by the Environmental Protection Agency. Emissions dropped 2.2 percent — from 6,736 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent in 2014 to 6,586 million metric tons the following year — according to the EPA’s draft Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

A Message from the American Wind Energy Association:

Wind energy powers over 100,000 American jobs, including more than 25,000 made-in-the-USA manufacturing jobs in over 500 factories. Wind works for America, powering new factory orders across the Rust Belt with tens of billions of dollars a year in private investment across rural America. Learn more about how wind energy powers the Rust Belt comeback at awea.org/windworksforamerica.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

When the power of protest works
Rep. Raul Grijalva, High Country News

On Jan. 24, my colleague, Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced a bill mandating the sale of more than 3 million acres of federally protected land to private buyers. In a dramatic turnaround little more than a week later, he announced that the bill, which he had introduced during each successive Congress for a decade now, “dies tomorrow.”

A Message from the American Wind Energy Association:

Wind energy powers over 100,000 American jobs, and American wind companies hire veterans at a 50% higher rate than the average U.S. industry. Wind powers the rust belt comeback with more than 25,000 made-in-the-USA manufacturing jobs in over 500 factories, and tens of billions of dollars a year in private investment across rural America. Learn more about wind-powered American jobs at awea.org/windworksforamerica.

Research Reports

Decline in global oceanic oxygen content during the past five decades
Sunke Schmidtko, et al., Nature

Ocean models predict a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of one to seven per cent by the year 2100, caused by a combination of a warming-induced decline in oxygen solubility and reduced ventilation of the deep ocean. It is thought that such a decline in the oceanic oxygen content could affect ocean nutrient cycles and the marine habitat, with potentially detrimental consequences for fisheries and coastal economies.