Energy Brief: Senate Passes WRDA

By Asha Glover

Today’s Washington Brief

  • The Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act in a 95-3 vote Thursday. The $9 billion bill includes $270 million to address water infrastructure problems in Flint, Mich., and other cities. (The New York Times)
  • In a speech focused on economic policy on Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. Rule in order to save money. Trump said unlike President Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, his policies would lift restrictions on fossil fuel production on federal lands. (Washington Examiner)
  • During a House Science subcommittee hearing on Thursday, witnesses disagreed on the current rate of methane emissions for natural gas. The Environmental Protection Agency has also had trouble determining how much methane is released during the natural gas production process. (Morning Consult)

Today’s Business Brief

  • If the Dakota Access pipeline is paused, its backers could lose $430 million, the company’s lawyers said in a legal brief filed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The company could also face loss of customers and 8,000 people could lose work if the pipeline’s construction is blocked. (E&E)
  • Though Donald Trump has said he would protect the Renewable Fuel Standard as recently a Tuesday, a fact sheet published by his campaign on Thursday backed down on those promises and called for the elimination of a key part of the program because it threatens to bankrupt a some refiners. However, the campaign re-issued the fact sheet later in the day, without mention of renewable identification numbers. (Bloomberg News)
  • This year, gas prices could fall to their lowest point for autumn since President Obama was first elected. According to AAA, gas prices are currently averaging $2.18 per gallon, down from $2.33 a year ago. (CNBC)

Today’s Chart Review

Mark Your Calendars (All Times Eastern)

ICF holds a breakfast on energy technology 8 a.m.
WRI holds a forum on sustainability 8:30 a.m.
RFF holds a forum on carbon pricing 8:45 a.m.
AOPL holds annual business conference 9 a.m.
CSIS holds a book discussion on global sustainable development 1:30 p.m.


Trump would repeal Clean Power Plan, other big EPA regs
Kyle Feldscher, Washington Examiner

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said he would repeal four key Environmental Protection Agency regulations as president, leading one environmental group to call his plans a “dumpster fire.” During an economic policy speech in New York, Trump said he would eliminate the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.

European Shares Weighed Down by Deutsche Bank, Oil; Ruble Falls
James Regan and Kelly Gilblom, Bloomberg News

European shares were set for a weekly loss as a $14 billion U.S. Justice Department claim against Deutsche Bank AG and weakening oil prices dragged lenders and energy companies lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index was lower for the sixth time in seven sessions, while S&P 500 Index futures also fell.

Oil & Natural Gas

U.S. congressional panel to hold fuel rules hearing
David Shepardson, Reuters

A congressional panel will hold a hearing on Sept. 22 to look at the fate of U.S. fuel efficiency rules through 2025 amid growing concerns from automakers. An auto trade group representing General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) has said with lower gasoline prices it would be difficult to meet the requirements.

Gasoline prices could be the cheapest for any fall since Obama was first elected
Patti Domm, CNBC

Drivers may see the cheapest average fall gasoline prices since the year President Barack Obama was first elected, and home-heating fuel prices could be setting up for another 16-year low. Absent a spike in oil prices, the glut of refined products is creating a bonus for consumers, with gasoline inventories in the Gulf Coast area at the highest level since 2013 and diesel, including heating oil, at 2010 levels nationally, according to John Kilduff of Again Capital.

EPA waives summer-grade gasoline requirements for Atlanta, Nashville areas
Jessica Resnick-Ault, Reuters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waived certain requirements for gasoline in the Atlanta and Nashville areas Wednesday after a disruption on Colonial Pipeline in Alabama. The EPA issued an emergency fuel waiver of a federal standard requiring 7.8 psi Reid Vapor Pressure, in a response to a disruption in the supply of low-volatility fuel, according to a statement from an agency spokesperson on Thursday.

Natural Gas Erases Losses After Stockpile Data
Timothy Puko, The Wall Street Journal

Natural gas prices rose to a 2 1/2-month high Thursday, flipping up from losses after data showed a below-average storage addition last week. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said natural-gas stockpiles grew by 62 billion cubic feet last week.

Oil prices drop as growing supplies stoke glut concerns
Karolin Schaps, Reuters

Oil prices fell more than 1 percent on Friday as news of rising Iranian exports and returning supplies from Libya and Nigeria following interruptions fueled concerns that the global glut will persist. Benchmark Brent crude futures fell below the $46-a-barrel mark, trading down 1.4 percent at $45.95 a barrel, down 64 cents day on day, at 0825 GMT (05:25 a.m. EDT).

Utilities & Infrastructure

Senate Approves Funding for Flint Water Crisis
Coral Davenport, The New York Times

The Senate on Thursday approved legislation to spend $270 million to aid the residents of Flint, Mich., and other poor communities that have suffered from lead-contaminated water, attaching the funds to a broader bill authorizing $9 billion to repair ports, dams, levees and other water infrastructure in 17 states. The measure, the Water Resources Development Act, includes no immediate funding for that water infrastructure; rather, it maps out projects that would be eligible for future federal spending from Congress’s appropriations committees.

Dakota Access faces millions in losses if pipeline stalls – lawyers
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E

Dakota Access backers will face $430 million in losses and innumerable other harms if the contentious pipeline is paused, lawyers for the company said yesterday. With a legal brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Dakota Access LLC used the opportunity to list all the calamities it would encounter if project opponents succeed in blocking construction.

North Dakota governor hopes for quick pipeline resolution
Ernest Scheyder, Reuters

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said on Thursday he hopes federal officials will soon lay out a path for how the Dakota Access Pipeline can obtain regulatory approval, adding he believes recent delays by the Obama administration are not an attempt to block the controversial project. The remarks in an interview come as more than 7,000 protesters from around the world have descended on the sparsely populated state to protest the pipeline, amplifying concerns from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that it would disrupt nearby historical Native American sites.

Tesla wins energy storage contract with California utility
Nichola Groom, Reuters

Tesla Motors Inc said on Thursday it won a contract to provide a 20-megawatt energy storage system at a substation owned by California utility Southern California Edison Co (SCE_pe.A). The deal is part of Tesla’s effort to expand its business beyond electric vehicles into supplying batteries to store energy for homes, businesses and utilities.

Pallone Pushes Infrastructure Investment in House Panel Hearing
Asha Glover, Morning Consult

House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) on Thursday stressed how important it is for infrastructure investment to be included in energy legislation coming out of the conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate energy bills. “I’ve made it clear that one of my top priorities in any final energy conference report is providing investments in our energy infrastructure to address some of the needs outlined in the [Energy Department’s Quadrennial Energy Review] such as grid modernization,” Pallone said during his opening statement.


Trump Caught Between Corn, Oil Interests on Renewable Fuels
Jennifer A Dlouhy and Mario Parker, Bloomberg News

Donald Trump is trying to walk a fine line between Iowa corn interests and the oil industry. The Republican presidential candidate’s struggle to appease the antagonistic industries was in the spotlight Thursday when his campaign published a fact sheet calling for the elimination of a slew of regulations, including a scandal-marred system of buying and selling biofuel blending credits that some oil refiners hate.

Lawmakers Probe Tax Incentives Received by Solar-Energy Firms
Brody Mullins et al., The Wall Street Journal

Congressional lawmakers have launched a formal investigation into whether solar-energy companies improperly received billions of dollars in tax incentives from the Obama administration. The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday sent letters to seven foreign and domestic companies in the solar industry, expanding a more limited probe started earlier this year.


AEP’s remaining Ohio power plants: What’s next?
Tom Knox, Columbus Business First

Now that American Electric Power Company Inc. has unloaded four Midwestern power plants for $2.17 billion, attention turns to its remaining assets in Ohio. The Columbus-based electric utility is exploring two paths for those four coal plants, whose 2,671 megawatts of power is about half of what was sold on Thursday.

TVA proposes new coal waste handling at Kentucky coal plant

Editors of Electric Light & Power, Powergrid International

The Tennessee Valley Authority is taking another step to change the way ash and other coal products are stored at Shawnee Fossil Plant near Paducah, Kentucky. TVA is proposing to build a dewatering facility to remove moisture from bottom ash created by the burning of coal at the plant.


Nuclear Energy May Rise Again
Ken Silverstein, Environmental Leader

A different kind of nuclear reactor may be in the offing now that Terrestrial Energy has cleared a hurdle to get financing. The US Department of Energy has just asked it to submit the second part of an application to get a loan guarantee.


Methane Emissions Too Confusing for Congressional Hearings
Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult

President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and scientists have touted natural gas as a bridge fuel away from less clean-burning coal-fired power plants. Still, a Thursday House Science subcommittee hearing on methane emissions from natural gas systems got tripped up by a seemingly simple question: Is natural gas really cleaner than coal, or not?

Obama: Climate change now discussed in the Situation Room

John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

President Obama gave credit to Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday for making climate change a national security priority at the White House, saying the issue is now discussed in the White House’s Situation Room. “He has elevated the profile of climate change, ocean protection to the point where we have conversations about this not just in the Oval Office, but in the Situation Room,” Obama said.

Obama says facing climate change ‘personal’

John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

President Obama said Thursday that protecting the world’s oceans from the threat of climate change is “personal” for him. That is one of the reasons he announced the creation of the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday.

Opinions, Editorials & Perspectives

Standing Rock Sioux on the front lines of the climate emergency
Dr. Jill Stein, The Hill

The fight by the Standing Rock Sioux to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline has emerged as one of the defining climate justice fights in the United States. It has also become a central focal point of the ongoing worldwide struggle by indigenous peoples to have their treaty and land rights respected by other governments and corporations.

Iowa celebrates clean, renewable biofuels on E15 day
Emily Skor, The Des Moines Register

Iowa has long been a leader in fueling the green energy revolution that has swept America and is improving the way we fuel our vehicles. From the fields that characterize the state’s iconic landscape to the labs where scientists turn kernels into fuel, Iowa is helping power America towards a greener, cleaner 21st century.

Research Reports, Issue Briefs & Case Studies

Lower oil prices and the U.S. economy: Is this time different?
Christiane Baumeister and Lutz Killian, The Brookings Institution

In “Lower oil prices and the U.S. economy: Is this time different?” Christiane Baumeister of the University of Notre Dame and Lutz Kilian of the University of Michigan write that while many observers expected the recent drop in global oil prices to boost the U.S. economy, average U.S. economic growth since June 2014 has been disappointingly low because higher consumer spending from cheaper gasoline has been offset by a dramatic drop in oil-related nonresidential investment—reducing the net stimulus for the U.S. economy effectively to zero. The authors find that lower oil prices were passed on to the consumer and that consumers did spend their windfall income, raising real GDP by about 0.7 percent since June 2014.

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