Energy Brief: Pruitt Says EPA Won’t Try to Regulate Coal ‘Out of Business’

Washington Brief

  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agency is no longer focused on “regulating an entire industry out of business,” referring to the coal industry. (Washington Examiner)
  • The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the Trump administration over the repeal of regulations protecting predatory animals that live on Alaska’s nature preserves. (The Hill)
  • Scientists and activists will march in Washington and hundreds of other cities on Saturday in the “March for Science.” (The Washington Post)

Business Brief

  • The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused $17.2 billion in damage, according to a financial accounting published by Science magazine. (Bloomberg News)
  • Russian experts will help Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization build two 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants, beginning construction soon, Iran’s energy minister said. (OilPrice.com)
  • Arizona Public Service is testing a $2 million battery system meant to stabilize the supply of electricity when clouds pass over solar panels. (Arizona Republic)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
SAIS conference on women and climate change 8 a.m.
International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum 8:30 a.m.
Texas Electric Power conference 8:30 a.m.
Texas conference focused on creating smart cities 9 a.m.

 

General

EPA Unions to Hold Talks on Stress, Free Speech Amid Possible Job Cuts
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

Two major unions representing Environmental Protection Agency employees will hold seminars next week on stress management and First Amendment rights in reaction to news about possible staffing cuts and controversies over federal agencies’ social media pages. The events will be held by local chapters of the American Federation of Government Employees and National Treasury Employees Union, which represent thousands of EPA employees.

Green group sues Trump admin over repeal of wildlife protections
Lydia Wheeler, The Hill

An environmental group is suing the Trump administration for repealing protections for wolves, bears and other predatory animals that live on Alaska’s national preserves. The Center for Biological Diversity is challenging the constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which Congress used to pass legislation that Trump signed repealing the Department of Interior’s Refuges Rule.

Why scientists are marching on Washington and more than 400 other cities
Joel Achenbach et al., The Washington Post

The March for Science is not a partisan event. But it’s political. That’s the recurring message of the organizers, who insist that this is a line the scientific community and its supporters will be able to walk.

Senior Dem: Rejecting Russia sanctions waiver for Exxon Mobile ‘a no-brainer’
Mark Hensch, The Hill

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said the Trump administration must not let Exxon Mobil Corp. resume a joint venture with Russia’s state-run oil company. “This is a no-brainer,” he said in a statement Thursday. “The Administration’s answer to Exxon Mobil should be an unequivocal no.”

Gaza’s only power plant has shut down. Who will pay the bill?
Hazem Balousha and Ruth Eglash, The Washington Post

A 10-year blockade and three wars have hardened the people of the Gaza Strip, but now they face a new challenge: a lone power station without fuel. The problem means long hours without electricity for the 2 million Palestinians living in the coastal enclave.

Mining threatens Chinese fossil site that revealed planet’s earliest animals
David Cyranoski, Nature

Palaeontologists are fighting to save a site in China that contains fossils of some of the earliest animals on record. This month they gained a temporary halt to the phosphate mining that has already destroyed some fossil beds.

Bonds Rise as Stocks Languish Before French Vote
V. Ramakrishnan, Bloomberg News

France led gains in the region’s government bonds before the nation goes to the first round of voting that puts the future of the common currency at play. Stock volatility scaled its highest level in nine months while European equities swung between gains and losses.

Oil and Natural Gas

BP Gulf Oil Spill Damage Valued at $17.2 Billion in New Study
Alex Nussbaum, Bloomberg News

BP Plc’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused damage to beaches, animals, fish, and coral that the public values at $17.2 billion, according to a financial accounting released on the seventh anniversary of the disaster. The tally, published Thursday in the journal Science, is based on a survey of thousands of Americans that asked what they’d be willing to pay to prevent the kind of impacts unleashed by the spill, which began with an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010.

Oil Producers Deliver Cuts. Oil Market Delivers Nothing.
Brian Wingfield, et al., Bloomberg News

OPEC and its allies are little more than a month away from taking a decision that will define the short-term future of the oil industry: extend crude-output cuts that haven’t really lifted prices, or return to pump-at-will policies that caused a crash. With a third full month of production data now available, the petro-states can at least say they tried to prop up the market.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Utilities experiment with big batteries in Phoenix to tackle one of solar’s major problems
Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic

A small building on the outskirts of the Festival housing developments in the far West Valley could help utilities better understand how to stabilize the power grid amid fluctuations caused by solar panels. Arizona Public Service Co. is testing a $2 million battery system at the facility to see if it can smooth out the power hiccups caused when clouds pass over solar panels, and also to meet the energy demand after sunset, when Arizonans continue to use air conditioners but solar panels stop making electricity.

Renewables

Red States Rank among Renewable Energy Leaders
Kavya Balaraman, E&E News

Wyoming might be in coal country, but it’s also leading the country in renewable energy capacity, a new report finds. Wyoming’s expanding wind sector has placed it at the top of a ranking of states’ clean energy development by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Gigantic Wind Turbines Signal Era of Subsidy-Free Green Power
Jess Shankleman, et al., Bloomberg News

Offshore wind turbines are about to become higher than the Eiffel Tower, allowing the industry to supply subsidy-free clean power to the grid on a massive scale for the first time. Manufacturers led by Siemens AG are working to almost double the capacity of the current range of turbines, which already have wing spans that surpass those of the largest jumbo jets.

NRG Completes Solar Farm for Cisco’s California Headquarters
Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg News

NRG Energy Inc., the largest independent U.S. power producer, completed a 20-megawatt solar farm in California that supplies power for Cisco Systems Inc.’s headquarters. The Blythe II solar farm in the Sonoran Desert has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Cisco, Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG said in a statement Thursday.

Tesla Prepays Solar Bonds, But Not to Musk or Rives
Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg News

Tesla Inc. paid off some solar bonds early, except to three key investors — its chairman and the co-founders of SolarCity, according to a person familiar with the matter. While Tesla repaid $19.7 million, plus $1.2 million in full interest, from three series of bonds to almost 1,500 other investors, Elon Musk, Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive saw their approximately $100 million of bonds converted to private SolarCity debt, according to the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Philippines wind farm generates power, jobs and curious tourists
Ronn Bautista and Martin Petty, Reuters

Wind turbines are helping the Philippines diversify its energy sources beyond fossil fuels and generating not only power, but jobs, revenue and interest among thousands of curious tourists. On the hills of Rizal province east of the capital Manila, 340,000 visitors have hit the viewing deck of Pililla town’s wind farm since it opened to the public last year, photographing and marveling at its 27 white wind turbines that stand 125 meters (410 feet) high on a 4,500-hectare site.

Coal

Pruitt: EPA no longer about killing off coal
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

The Environmental Protection Agency is no longer about “regulating an entire industry out of business,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday, visiting a large coal-fired power plant in Missouri that likely would have been forced to close under the Obama EPA’s climate plan. The visit was part of a tour of coal country by Pruitt and other senior officials that began last week to show the Trump administration’s support for the industry, after years of neglect that critics commonly refer to as former President Barack Obama’s “War on Coal.”

Power-starved Africa develops appetite for coal, dismisses environmental concerns in West
Geoff Hill, The Washington Times

If there’s a “war on coal” in Africa, coal may be winning. The concerns about coal expressed by environmentalists and climate researchers in the West are voiced here mostly by white expatriates and foreign nongovernmental organizations.

N.D. governor says ‘carbon is good’
Daniel Cusick, E&E News

Buoyed by the election of a coal-friendly president, North Dakota’s leaders gave fresh assurances to the state’s mining industry by casting coal as vital to national energy security.

Nuclear

Russia To Help Build 2 Nuclear Power Plants In Iran
Irina Slav, OilPrice.com

Russian experts will help the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran build two 1,000-MW nuclear power plants, Iran’s Energy Minister told media. Construction will start soon, Hamid Chitchian also said, adding that a third joint power plant construction project with Russia, which will have a capacity of 1,400 MW, has already begun.

Unions threaten to delay Hinkley Point power plant over bonus pay
The Telegraph

Britain’s largest unions are taking aim at the Hinkley Point nuclear project by threatening industrial action over a dispute over bonus rates. Unite and GMB are yet to consult their 700 members working at the Somerset site on whether to proceed with an strike ballot.

Climate

How a Melting Arctic Changes Everything
Eric Roston and Blacki Migliozzi, Bloomberg News

The world as a whole has warmed about 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. Arctic temperatures have risen twice that amount during the same time period.

As coral reefs die, huge swaths of the seafloor are deteriorating along with them
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

U.S. government scientists have found a dramatic impact from the continuing decline of coral reefs: The seafloor around them is eroding and sinking, deepening coastal waters and exposing nearby communities to damaging waves that reefs used to weaken. The new study, conducted by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, examined reefs in Hawaii, the Florida Keys and the U.S. Virgin Islands, finding seafloor drops in all three locations.

Bloomberg Adds Climate Change Site To Its Financial News Empire
Alexander C. Kaufman, Huffington Post

Bloomberg, the titan of business and financial journalism, is adding a site devoted to climate science and the future of energy to its sprawling news empire. The data and media giant on Thursday launched ClimateChanged.com, a hub for coverage of how rising global temperatures are changing the planet and moving financial markets.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Toshiba Should Reject Handcuffs of Convenience
Tim Culpan, Bloomberg Gadfly

Western Digital Corp. really wants Toshiba Corp.’s chip business. It just doesn’t want to pay for it.

Research Reports

Greater role for Atlantic inflows on sea-ice loss in the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean
Igor V. Polyakov, et al., Science

Arctic sea-ice loss is a leading indicator of climate change and can be attributed, in large part, to atmospheric forcing. Here, we show that recent ice reductions, weakening of the halocline, and shoaling of the intermediate-depth Atlantic Water layer in the eastern Eurasian Basin have increased winter ventilation in the ocean interior, making this region structurally similar to that of the western Eurasian Basin.

Briefings

Energy Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The Environmental Protection Agency asked for a 52-day delay from having to enforce the Obama-era regulation for the venting and flaring of methane, a critical greenhouse gas, after a court ruled against the agency. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a 14-day stay while the EPA considers further legal action.

Energy Brief: Senate Panel Approves Nominees for NRC, EPA

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved two Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominees and an Environmental Protection Agency nominee, advancing the candidates to the full Senate for confirmation votes. Two Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominees and the Energy Department’s deputy secretary nominee are also awaiting Senate confirmation.

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