Energy Brief: Pruitt Brushes Off Climate Change Threats in New Research Findings

Government Brief

  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt expressed doubt over the validity of threats from the impact of climate change published in new federally funded research. He told conservative talk show host Scott Hennen that the “red team/blue team” debate proposal is moving forward, to challenge “so-called settled science.” (The Hill)
  • The Center for Biodiversity filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department for its unanswered Freedom of Information Act requests related to the ongoing review process of new national monuments that was ordered by President Donald Trump. (Daily Caller)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he supports adding more designated wilderness areas to extend access to hunting, fishing and recreation activities. Zinke said federal land managers are working to create a process for considering a private land donation that would extend a federally-protected wilderness area in New Mexico that could not be previously accessed without trespassing.  (The Associated Press)

Business Brief

  • Target Corp. announced it will buy 100 megawatts of wind energy from a Kansas wind project that will be used to power 150 stores in the surrounding area. (Bloomberg)
  • Rio Tinto’s deal to sell its Australian coal mines has been met with opposition from a minority shareholder in its buyer, Yancoal. The investor is concerned their own stake could be diluted once Yancoal issues new shares to finance the purchase. (The Telegraph)
  • Now that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has enough voting members, some hope the commission will be able to move forward on a controversial liquefied natural gas terminal in Oregon. Gary Cohn, President Trump’s chief economic adviser, said earlier this year that a top FERC priority would be to consider permitting the terminal. (Marketplace)

Chart Review

Early-season storms one indicator of active Atlantic hurricane season ahead
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

FERC seminar on environmental reviews in pipeline construction projects 8 a.m.
2017 Offshore Wind Executive Summit in Houston 8:30 a.m.
Boston Climate Action Network meeting 6 p.m.
International Food Policy Research Institute event on agricultural research and development 12 p.m.

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EPA head casts doubt on ‘supposed’ threat from climate change
Timothy Cama, The Hill

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt told conservative North Dakota talk radio host Scott Hennen on WHO-AM that that’s one of the reasons why he is organizing a “red team/blue team” exercise to try to challenge what the EPA chief called “so-called settled science” on climate change.

Environmentalists Sue Over Trump’s ‘Sham’ Monument Review
Tim Pearce, The Daily Caller

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit Wednesday against President Donald Trump’s administration for withholding documents related to the Department of the Interior’s ongoing review of national monuments designated by presidential authority under the Antiquities Act.

Zinke Supports Opening Access to New Mexico Wilderness Site
The Associated Press

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday that federal land managers will be working to finalize a process for considering whether to accept a donation of land that will allow public access to a landlocked parcel of federally protected wilderness in northern New Mexico. Zinke’s announcement comes nearly two weeks after he toured the area with members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation and local officials.

Scant oversight, corporate secrecy preceded U.S. weed killer crisis
Emily Flitter, Reuters

As the U.S. growing season entered its peak this summer, farmers began posting startling pictures on social media: fields of beans, peach orchards and vegetable gardens withering away. The photographs served as early warnings of a crisis that has damaged millions of acres of farmland.

Oil Hits 11-Week High on U.S. Stock Draws
Sarah McFarlane and Biman Mukherji, Wall Street Journal

Oil futures rose on Thursday, building on overnight gains, after declines in U.S. crude inventories added to evidence that the world stock overhang is finally falling. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, rose 0.6% to an 11-week high of $53.03 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. The Brent front-month contract traded at a premium to the second-month, a market configuration known as backwardation, indicating a tightening in supplies available for immediate delivery.

Oil and Natural Gas

Startup Permico joins crowded field looking to build Texas NGL pipelines
Ruthy Munoz, Reuters

Permico Energia LLC has become the sixth company in recent months to propose building a natural gas liquids pipeline from the nation’s largest oil field in West Texas to market hubs a few hundred miles away. The $1.8 billion project would carry 330,000 barrels per day and includes a fractionator to separate ethane, propane and other liquids.

Activists build solar ‘blockade’ along Keystone XL pipeline route
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline have begun constructing a series of large solar arrays to block the path of the pipeline project in Nebraska. The solar panels, called the Solar XL project, are meant to serve as a “blockade” to stop the pipeline’s construction, according to environmental activists and senior members of the Democratic Party.

OPEC Says Crude Output Rose in July
Christopher Alessi, The Wall Street Journal

OPEC crude-oil production rose further in July, in the latest sign the cartel’s efforts to reduce output and drain a global supply glut are falling short. The uptick, which was smaller than the prior month’s increase, was driven by higher production in Libya, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, according to OPEC’s closely-watched monthly market report.

In political storm, Venezuela state-run oil company PDVSA drifts further
Alexandra Ulmer and Marianna Parraga, Reuters

To survive months of street protests and an economy in tailspin, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is trying to turn state oil company PDVSA into a bastion of support, further degrading an already vulnerable enterprise. The increasing focus on politics over performance is contributing to a rapid deterioration of Venezuela’s oil industry, home to the world’s largest crude reserves, and to a brain drain at the once world-class company.

Energy Lobby Heavyweights Pressure Pennsylvania GOP to Block Shale Tax
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

Some of the energy industry’s biggest trade organizations are throwing their weight against a new tax on users of the nation’s largest natural shale gas field in Pennsylvania, arguing that it would only hurt the local industrial economy and would do little to alleviate the state’s budget deficit.

Utilities and Infrastructure

What a West Coast gas terminal could mean for the Rockies
Dan Boyce, Marketplace

For the first time in nearly six months, the commission has enough members to vote on permitting major energy infrastructure projects. A proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal on the Oregon coast — twice denied a permit in 2016 — could have new life under a commission seen as friendlier to oil and gas interests.

Iowa Utilities Board Deregulates Landline Telephone Service
The Associated Press

The Iowa Utilities Board has voted to deregulate landline telephone service in the state, concluding that there’s enough competition now from cellphones, internet providers and other services to no longer justify forcing wired telephone companies to provide service everywhere. The deregulation frees traditional wired telephone providers from nearly all customer service requirements and service quality standards.

Utilities Retreat Amid Caution Over Interest-Rate Outlook
Rob Curran, Dow Jones Newswires

Shares of utilities, regarded as a proxy for bonds in the stock market, fell as investors hedged bets on the outlook for interest rates. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans said the U.S. central bank could hold off on raising rates at its September policy meeting and instead begin winding down its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.


Target Will Buy 100MW of Wind Energy to Power 150 Stores
Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

Target Corp. agreed to buy 100 megawatts of output from an Infinity Renewables wind project in Kansas. Power from the 474-megawatt Solomon Forks wind facility will help offset the energy used at 150 Target stores in the area, Santa Barbara, California-based Infinity said in an emailed statement Wednesday. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Amid fading oil boom, Canada’s roughnecks seek green energy jobs
Chris Arsenault, Reuters

After nearly a decade of riding Canada’s oil boom, drilling contractor Jennifer Turner found herself low on work, like thousands of other employees in the fossil fuel business left jobless following a plunge in oil prices. In fact, many require “minimal training” to repurpose their expertise for renewable energy projects, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Rio Tinto’s sale of coal mines hits a snag after hedge fund objects
John Yeomans, The Telegraph

The sale of Rio Tinto’s Australian coal mines may have hit a snag after a minority shareholder in Yancoal, the buyer of the operation, declared its opposition to the deal. Senrigan Capital, a hedge fund based in Hong Kong, has complained to the Australian Takeover Panel that Yancoal’s plans to fund the $2.69bn (£2bn) purchase by raising $2.35bn in a rights issue was “prejudicial” to the interests of minority shareholders, who could find their stakes diluted out of existence if they are unwilling to subscribe for more shares.

Governor Says Trump Interested in His Plan to Prop Up Coal Mining
Tim Loh, Bloomberg

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said Donald Trump is “really interested” in his plan to prop up Appalachian mining by giving federal money to power plants that burn the region’s coal. The plan calls for the Department of Homeland Security to send $15 to eastern U.S. utilities for every ton of Appalachia coal they burn.

Operator of Big Montana Coal Plant Will Keep on Running It
Matthew Brown, The Associated Press

The operator of one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the Western U.S. plans to keep running the 2,100-megawatt plant, a spokesman said Wednesday, in an abrupt reversal from its declaration last year that a new operator would be needed by mid-2018. The co-owners of the Colstrip Generating Station have decided Pennsylvania-based Talen Energy will keep running the southeastern Montana plant for the foreseeable future, said Talen spokesman Todd Martin.

Clean coal utility giant sued over claims it misled investors
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Utility giant Southern Co. is being sued by a company engineer who says the company misled shareholders and may have violated federal law about the safety and timeline for opening an advanced clean coal power plant in Mississippi. The whistleblower, Brett Wingo, worked on the clean coal project in Kemper County, Miss., from 2007 to 2016.


Federal agency gives go ahead for Yucca Mountain licensing process
Andrew Craft, Fox News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 2-1 Tuesday to restart and resurrect the licensing process for the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site project. The decision gives the go ahead for the “information gathering” stage that will eventually allow the Department of Energy to secure the license to build a nuclear waste facility more than 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Could ‘piddle packs,’ volcanoes bring down Yucca Mountain?
Sam Mintz, E&E News

Amid the ongoing political fight over the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, it’s easy to forget there’s a daunting legal battle looming, too. If the Trump administration secures funds to resume licensing for the long-stalled project, it would kick off a legal process that some say could take up to five years and as much as a billion and a half federal dollars.


Hurricane season in Atlantic expected to be ‘above-normal,’ with 2 to 5 ‘major storms,’ forecasters say
Travis Fedschun, Fox News

A robust start to the Atlantic hurricane season shows no signs of slowing down, forecasters said Wednesday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s updated hurricane forecast now predicts 14 to 19 named storms as part of an “above-normal” season, an increase from projections in May of 11 to 17, with five to nine hurricanes.

Sen. Jim Inhofe wonders what all the fuss is about on climate report
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

The Senate’s leading climate change skeptic doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to a federal climate change draft report that the New York Times inaccurately reported on earlier this week. When it comes to the National Climate Assessment itself, it doesn’t say all that much that is urgent, according to Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., in an email to the Washington Examiner.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Biggest Power Plants In The World — Hydro And Nuclear
James Conca, Forbes

The usual, but somewhat incorrect, measure of what’s biggest is the so-called Nameplate Installed Capacity, which is the maximum power a plant could produce at any moment when everything is running perfectly. But the real measure of big is what the power plant actually produces.

The Utilities Knew, Exxon Knew, Shell Knew, They All Knew
Javier Sierra, The Huffington Post

Just a few days ago, an exhaustive report by the Energy and Policy Institute revealed that public utilities have been aware of the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions and the use of coal as an energy fuel since the 1960s. Several of these companies joined forces with the fossil fuel industry in a successful push for the U.S. to renounce the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.

Cronyism ruled Obama’s Energy Department
Kevin Mooney, Washington Examiner

Is solar energy now suddenly affordable and reliable despite its checkered history? Up until now, it has not been able to stand on its own two feet without substantial subsidies. The authors of a two-year, taxpayer-funded study acknowledge that the answer to that question is: not quite.

Turning Waste into Fuel: Q&A with SEaB Energy
Aubrey Sanders, Unreasonable Group

Organic waste travels over 300 million miles every day, with municipal waste collection creating a massive carbon footprint and leaving a gaping missed opportunity for energy renewal in its wake. Sandra Sassow co-founded SEaB Energy to work towards a future in which cities or remote communities can capitalize on their waste to create renewable sources of energy and curb the negative impacts of waste collection processes.

Research Reports

Global patterns of drought recovery
Christopher R. Schwalm et al., Nature Journal

Drought, a recurring phenomenon with major impacts on both human and natural systems, is the most widespread climatic extreme that negatively affects the land carbon sink. Although twentieth-century trends in drought regimes are ambiguous, across many regions more frequent and severe droughts are expected in the twenty-first century.