Energy Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Oil and natural gas

  • President Donald Trump signed into law a $1.5 trillion tax package, the first major overhaul of the U.S. tax code since 1986. The measure allows for drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and includes provisions benefiting wind energy and electric vehicles.
  • The Nebraska Public Service Commission denied TransCanada Corp.’s request to retroactively change the route application for the Keystone XL pipeline, creating a potential setback for the company as it seeks to prevent legal challenges from delaying the project.
  • Kinder Morgan Inc. said it’s ready to move forward with its $1.7 billion Texas gas pipeline, expected to begin operation by October 2019, after signing Apache Corp. as an anchor customer. Construction is slated to start in the first quarter of 2018, and the pipeline is one of more than 15 proposed projects to move fossil fuel products from the Permian Basin to Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont.
  • Saudi Arabia’s state-owned energy company is reportedly seeking its first international oil-and-gas production investments in U.S. shale country. Saudi Aramco has inquired about buying assets in two U.S. oil-and-gas basins and has had initial conversations about buying a stake in the Houston-based gas developer Tellurian Inc., as well as future natural gas export deals with Tellurian and other undisclosed U.S. companies.
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre said the agency will review its natural gas pipeline approval process, a policy that was last revised in 1999. The other four commissioners welcomed the initiative, and the announcement was viewed as a victory for environmentalists who say FERC approves too many gas lines.

Energy regulations

  • The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order demanding a report from the Environmental Protection Agency by Jan. 12 about its plan to implement a 2015 smog pollution rule. Environmentalists and several blue states sued the EPA after it missed a deadline to say which areas do not comply with the ground-level ozone rule.
  • The EPA issued a notice seeking public input on a potential replacement for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The agency has already decided that any replacement standards would apply only to coal- and natural gas-burning power plants.
  • The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ordered the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to halt a review of offshore oil rig safety inspections, according to the science academy. The move followed an August decision by the Interior Department to halt the group’s study of pollution deaths caused by mountaintop mining.
  • Researchers and public health groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in an effort to stop an EPA policy that blocks EPA grant recipients from serving on the agency’s advisory committees. Administrator Scott Pruitt wrote the policy to address possible conflicts of interest, but the plaintiffs say the policy violates ethics standards and laws governing the committees.

Climate change

  • The White House released a strategy document that dropped climate change as a national security threat. The new plan places climate under a section focused on “energy dominance” that promotes America’s leadership to counter “an anti-growth energy agenda.”
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said that while climate change will not be addressed in the National Defense Strategy, set to be released next month by the Pentagon, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a priority for the U.S. military.

What’s Ahead

  • The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on Jan. 3, followed by the House on Jan. 8.
  • FERC is due to rule by Jan. 10 on the Department of Energy’s proposed rule to boost coal and nuclear power plants that keep a 90-day fuel supply on site by requiring utilities to pay a subsidy to those plants.
  • Trump has until Jan. 26 to determine whether to impose tariffs on imported solar panels. In October, the International Trade Commission recommended tariffs as high as 35 percent on imported solar panels, even as solar manufacturers and developers have warned that tariffs could upend the $29 billion U.S. solar industry.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

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The Energy Port of the Americas

Two years ago, Congress lifted the ban on exporting crude oil—a recent yet major factor in the U.S.’s current global energy leadership. At the heart of it all is the Port of Corpus Christi—as the nation’s most active crude exporting port, the port has moved 61 percent of the 478 million barrels sold from the U.S., representing $5.5 billion in trade this year. Watch more about the energy port of the Americas!

Morning Consult Energy Top Reads

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