Energy Brief: Senate to Vote on Pruitt Despite Court Order for Emails

Washington Brief

  • The Senate voted 54-46 to advance to a final vote on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Shortly after the cloture vote, an Oklahoma court ordered the state attorney general’s office to turn over thousands of emails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies. (NBC News)
  • Some EPA employees called their senators, urging them to oppose Pruitt’s confirmation. (The New York Times)
  • President Donald Trump signed a resolution blocking the Obama administration’s stream-protection rule affecting coal mines. (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • TransCanada Corp. filed its application for the Keystone XL pipeline with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, starting a review process that could take up to a year. (Omaha World-Herald)
  • All of Michigan’s utilities met the requirement of 10 percent renewable electricity generation in 2015, a public commission found. (UPI)
  • BP is considering updating as many as 200 wind turbines in a major investment in renewable energy. (Bloomberg News)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

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Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s EPA Nominee, Ordered to Release Thousands of Emails
Phil McCausland, NBC News

On the eve of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s confirmation vote to be head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a judge from the Sooner State ordered the release of thousands of emails between his office and fossil fuel companies. Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons told Pruitt’s office that it would have to hand over the emails to the Center for Media and Democracy, or CMD, which requested the first batch of documents in 2014, or to the court.

E.P.A. Workers Try to Block Pruitt in Show of Defiance
Coral Davenport, The New York Times

Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency have been calling their senators to urge them to vote on Friday against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s contentious nominee to run the agency, a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages turbulent times ahead for the E.P.A. Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in E.P.A. offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting — by a president who has vowed to “get rid of” it.

Dem Sens. Heitkamp, Manchin to support Trump EPA pick
Devin Henry, The Hill

Two red-state Senate Democrats on Thursday said they will vote for President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. In a statement, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) said she supports Scott Pruitt’s nomination to EPA administrator.

Stocks Decline With Commodities as Pound Slumps
Robert Brand and Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg News

European stocks dropped for a second day as commodity producers tracked declines in oil and metal prices, while the pound weakened after a report showed U.K. retail sales fell in January. French bonds retreated and the euro weakened after two left-wing presidential hopefuls discussed a potential single candidacy that would bring about a showdown with Marine le Pen’s anti-euro National Front.

Oil and Natural Gas

TransCanada files for approval of Nebraska route for Keystone XL pipeline
Paul Hammel Omaha World-Herald

TransCanada followed through on its promise to move forward with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, filing Thursday for approval of a pipeline route across Nebraska. “The thousands of Nebraskans we have met over the last eight years understand the value of this project and what it means to the state,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release.

TransCanada Results Beat Expectations; Company Raises Dividend
Anne Steele, The Wall Street Journal

TransCanada Corp. posted a loss Thursday for its latest quarter on a hefty charge related to the sale of its Northeast U.S. renewable power generation business. Results, however, came in better than Wall Street expectations, and the company also raised its quarterly dividend 11 percent to 62.5 Canadian cents per share.

Cenovus Energy Posts Surprise Quarterly Profit
Ezequiel Minaya, The Wall Street Journal

Cenovus Energy Inc. swung to a profit in the latest quarter, boosted by increased oil production. Total oil production climbed 10 percent to 291,551 barrels a day compared with the same period a year ago.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Minnesota Senate Approves Natural Gas Power Plant In Becker
Associated Press

The Legislature moved Thursday to sidestep utility regulators and approve a new Xcel Energy power plant in central Minnesota. The natural gas-fired plant in Becker is meant to offset losses from two coal-fired generators when they close in 2023 and 2026.


BP Weighing Upgrade of U.S. Wind Turbines to Compete With Gas
Jennifer A Dlouhy and Joe Ryan, Bloomberg News

BP Plc is weighing plans to update as many as 200 of its U.S. wind turbines with newer, higher-capacity equipment, a move that would represent the company’s biggest investment in renewable energy since its last wind farm came online in 2012. If the company green lights the project — a decision that could be reached by mid-year — it would represent about 400 megawatts of capacity.

Michigan meets renewable energy targets
Daniel J. Graeber, UPI

All electric service providers in Michigan met their renewable energy targets, with wind contributing most to the green economy, a public commission found. “The combined efforts of the electric providers, renewable energy project developers, communities hosting renewable energy projects, renewable energy advocates and many others have contributed to the effective implementation of Michigan’s renewable energy standard,” Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Sally Talberg said.

The South Has Been Slow To Harness Its Wind, But That’s Changing
Sarah McCammon, NPR

Wind power is the largest source of renewable energy in the United States. But a broad swath of the country has had no large, commercial wind farms — until now. A new one with 104 towers is up and running near Elizabeth City, N.C., where it spans 22,000 acres.

Indiana Senate panel OKs bill to reduce solar incentives
Brian Slodysko, Associated Press

An Indiana Senate panel gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill backed by the state’s investor-owned power utilities that critics contend is an effort to muscle out smaller companies from the emerging solar energy market. The measure by Republican state Sen. Brandt Hershman was approved by the Senate Utilities committee on an 8-2 vote.

Alabama company buys closed biomass power plant in northern Maine
J. Craig Anderson, Portland Press Herald

A shuttered, 24-megawatt power plant fueled by wood chips in Penobscot County is expected to come back on line by the end of June, bringing an estimated 300 jobs to the area. An Alabama-based company called 42 Railroad Ave LLC has signed a deal to purchase the biomass power plant in Stacyville, formerly operated by Sherman Development, for an unspecified amount from Niagara Worldwide LLC after four years of negotiations.


Trump signs bill undoing Obama coal mining rule
Devin Henry, The Hill

President Trump on Thursday signed legislation ending a key Obama administration coal mining rule. The bill quashes the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste that officials finalized in December.

Ukraine’s president vows to resume coal supply from east
Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press

Ukraine’s president on Thursday pledged to resume coal supplies from separatist-controlled parts of the country after it was blocked by volunteer battalions, threatening to disrupt the country’s power supply. Fighting in Ukraine’s industrial east between government troops and Russia-backed rebels has killed more than 9,800 people since April 2014.


Toshiba brought to its knees by two US nuclear plants
Ed Crooks and Kana Inagaki, Financial Times

Waynesboro, Georgia, population 5,942, advertises itself as “the bird dog capital of the world”. It seems scarcely believable that anything in this quiet US rural town, about 30 miles south of Augusta, could have brought one of Japan’s greatest industrial companies to its knees.


Germany Prepares for Climate Clash With Tillerson at G-20 Talks
Brian Parkin and Patrick Donohue, Bloomberg Politics

Germany fixed climate change as a key topic for foreign ministers from the Group of 20 nations meeting Thursday, according to an official in Berlin, setting up for a clash with Donald Trump’s lead Cabinet minister on the issue. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet envoys from the rest of the G-20 in Bonn to discuss Agenda 2030, a United Nations catalogue of global sustainability goals agreed on in 2015, Germany’s Foreign Office said Wednesday in a statement.

Antarctic sea ice used to be the darling of climate doubters. Not anymore.
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post

In recent years, one of climate change doubters’ favorite arguments has involved the floating sea ice around Antarctica. It’s growing, they contended — and that raises doubts about our understanding of human-induced climate change.

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

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Oil Doesn’t Care About Your So-Called Data
Liam Denning, Bloomberg Gadfly

On Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration released its usual roundup of oil inventory numbers. These came in somewhat wide of expectations: 9.5 million barrels of crude oil flowed into U.S. storage tanks last week, versus a median expectation of 3.5 million.

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

Research Reports

Seagrass ecosystems reduce exposure to bacterial pathogens of humans, fishes, and invertebrates
Joleah B. Lamb, et al., Science

Seagrass meadows, a prominent feature of most healthy coastal ecosystems, are often also associated with shallow coral reefs. Many plants have bioremediation qualities, and seagrasses, of which there are 60 or so species, produce natural biocides.