Energy Brief: White House Memo Proposes Faster Environmental Review Process for Infrastructure Projects


Top Stories

  • The White House has drawn up a draft memorandum of understanding that would accelerate the environmental review process for infrastructure projects, according to a document. The streamlined permitting process outlined in the draft memo, which is being reviewed by 17 federal agencies and is expected to be finalized shortly, would help support President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan, which is scheduled to be released today along with his fiscal 2019 budget. (Politico)
  • Trump is expected to unveil a proposal to offer $100 billion in federal incentives to encourage cities and states to invest in infrastructure projects as part a wider initiative to encourage $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next decade. However, the infrastructure proposal has already encountered skepticism from lawmakers of both parties because of a lack of dedicated new funding sources. (The New York Times)
  • According to travel vouchers and receipts, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt often sits in first or business class when flying on official trips, which departs from the general practice of previous administrators, and frequently travels without public notice, also unlike his predecessors. EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said that federal ethics officials approve all of Pruitt’s travel expenses and that Pruitt’s schedule isn’t publicized in advance “due to security concerns.” (The Washington Post)
  • In its monthly oil market report, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries raised its production forecast for non-OPEC countries, which are now expected to increase their output by 1.4 million barrels a day this year, with 1.3 million barrels of that coming from the United States. OPEC also raised its 2018 forecast for world oil demand to 98.6 million barrels a day, which is 60,000 barrels more than last month’s forecast. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Coal, Natural Gas, and Pipelines: 10 Years of Fossil Fuels in the NSEE
University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Monday
Renewable Fuels Association’s National Ethanol Conference 7 a.m.
Platts LNG Conference 7:15 a.m.
Solar Energy Industries Association and Energy Storage Association discussion on solar’s grid benefits 7:30 a.m.
Ocean Sciences Meeting 8 a.m.
ARC Industry Forum 8:30 a.m.
EcoAgriculture Partners panel discussion on integrated landscape strategies 3 p.m.
Tuesday
Renewable Fuels Association’s National Ethanol Conference 6:30 a.m.
Ocean Sciences Meeting 6:45 a.m.
ARC Industry Forum 7 a.m.
Platts LNG Conference 7:45 a.m.
Environmental and Energy Study Institute briefing on benefits of investment in electric transmission 11 a.m.
Atlantic Council discussion on Iraq’s energy potential 12 p.m.
Wednesday
Ocean Sciences Meeting 6 a.m.
Renewable Fuels Association’s National Ethanol Conference 6:30 a.m.
ARC Industry Forum 7 a.m.
House Natural Resources Committee markup 10:15 a.m.
House Water, Power and Oceans Subcommitte oversight hearing on water and power infrastructure 2 p.m.
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment hearing on new source review permitting 2 p.m.
Senate National Parks Subcommittee hearing on several bills 3 p.m.
Thursday
Ocean Sciences Meeting 6 a.m.
ARC Industry Forum 7 a.m.
House Natural Resources Oversight Subcommittee hearing on Border Patrol access 10 a.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on nominee for assistant secretary of state for energy resources 10 a.m.
FERC meeting 10 a.m.
House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing on minerals bill 2 p.m.
House Federal Lands Subcommittee hearing on five bills 2:30 p.m.
Friday
Ocean Sciences Meeting 8 a.m.

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General

Draft White House memo would speed up infrastructure project permitting
Andrew Restuccia, Politico

The White House is circulating a draft memo to more than a dozen federal agencies that would dramatically speed up the time it takes to secure environmental permits for infrastructure projects, according to a document obtained by POLITICO.

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan: Modest Federal Incentives, Facing Long Odds
Julie Hirschfeld Davis, The New York Times

President Trump on Monday will propose offering $100 billion in federal incentives to encourage cities and states to invest in road, bridge and other building projects, the centerpiece of a plan to spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next decade without devoting significant federal money.

First-class travel distinguishes Scott Pruitt’s EPA tenure
Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

Just days after helping orchestrate the United States’ exit from a global climate accord last June, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt embarked on a whirlwind tour aimed at championing President Trump’s agenda at home and abroad. On Monday, June 5, accompanied by his personal security detail, Pruitt settled into his $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight from the District to New York City.

Oil’s Bounce From Worst Week in Two Years Capped by Shale Fears
Heesu Lee and Grant Smith, Bloomberg

While oil is rebounding from its biggest weekly decline in two years, a surge in U.S. shale still looms over the market.

Oil and Natural Gas

OPEC Revises Crude Supply Forecasts on Higher U.S. Production
Christopher Alessi, The Wall Street Journal

Booming U.S. shale production forced the OPEC oil cartel to revise upwards its crude supply forecasts for this year, even as it said strengthening global demand would continue to help eat up the excess supply.

Drillers turn to big data in the hunt for more, cheaper oil
Ed Crooks, Financial Times

Under pressure from renewables, energy groups are again looking to tech for answers.

Big Oil takes stage for post-austerity beauty contest
Ron Bousso, Reuters

With years of austerity in their rear-view mirrors, the world’s biggest oil companies are locked in a beauty contest to lure investors with promises of growth and greater rewards.

Total chief told Trump to stick with Iran nuclear deal
David Keohane and Andrew Ward, Financial Times

The chief executive of French oil company Total has urged Donald Trump to keep faith with the Iran nuclear deal and told the US president that oil and gas investment would help Iranian reformers in their struggle against hardliners in Tehran.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Parts of Puerto Rico hit with blackout after explosion at power station
Brett Samuels, The Hill

An explosion at a power station in Puerto Rico left the northern part of the island and portions of San Juan without power Sunday night, according the island’s power authority.

Utilities continue to increase spending on transmission infrastructure
Energy Information Administration

Spending on infrastructure to deliver power to homes and businesses has increased steadily over the past 10 years as utilities build, upgrade, and replace station equipment, poles, fixtures, and overhead lines and devices. Based on information compiled from utility reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)—filed by utilities representing about 70% of total U.S. electric load—those utilities spent about $21 billion on capital additions in 2016.

Arenko Taps GE for 41-Megawatt UK Battery Project
Jason Deign, Greentech Media

GE has entered the grid battery big leagues after being selected to provide a 41-megawatt plant in the U.K. The deal is part of a new strategic partnership with Arenko, a British energy infrastructure developer.

TVA plots new future with stagnant or declining demand for power
Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press

January brought the coldest streak of weather in the Tennessee Valley in a decade, setting three of the top 12 all-time winter peaks for TVA and the biggest one-day consumption of electricity in TVA’s 85-year history. But last month’s weather-induced boost in power consumption probably won’t last.

Bitcoin Mania Triggers Miner Influx to Rural Washington
Alison Sider, The Wall Street Journal

Small towns confront surge in power demand as firms that generate new cryptocurrency units ask to set up shop.

Renewables

Inside America’s first solar-powered town – but is it a vision of the future?
David Millward, The Telegraph

By his own admission, Syd Kitson’s  50-game American football career was a modest one. But while sporting fame eluded him, Mr Kitson has made his mark by creating America’s first solar-powered town, Babcock Ranch in Florida, about 170 miles north west of Miami.

Ford Will Pump Out More Profitable Big SUVs to Fund Its Future
Keith Naughton and Jamie Butters, Bloomberg

Ford Motor Co. is spending $25 million more at its Kentucky factory to pump out more of the profitable big sport utility vehicles that are critical to funding its ambitious — and expensive — electric and self-driving vehicle plans.

A Farm Town’s Electric Dreams Threatened With Chinese Billionaire’s Fortune
Blake Schmidt and David Ramli, Bloomberg

Jia Yueting promised to take on Elon Musk with his Faraday electric-car factory in California. Then his business empire crashed.

There’s a Global Race to Control Batteries—and China Is Winning
Scott Patterson and Russell Gold, The Wall Street Journal

Miners push bicycles piled high with bags of a grayish-blue ore along a dusty road to a makeshift market. There, they line up at wholesalers with nicknames such as Crazy Jack and Boss Lee.

In a Change of Mind, China to Retain Local EV Subsidies
Bloomberg News

China’s government is leaning toward allowing provinces continue with local subsidies for electric vehicles to sustain the rising demand for new-energy automobiles in the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

Coal

Vietnam Pulls Request for U.S. Help to Build a Coal-Fired Power Plant
Mike Ives, The New York Times

A Vietnamese company is no longer seeking American financial support to build a coal-fired power plant in Vietnam, bringing to an abrupt end a closely watched test of whether Washington would back international projects that could potentially contribute to climate change.

In China’s Coal Country, a Ban Brings Blue Skies and Cold Homes
Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times

A monument to China’s efforts to wean itself from coal rises on the outskirts of this village deep in the heart of the nation’s coal country. Scores of old coal stoves have been dumped in a lot, removed by government decree in recent months in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas furnaces.

Nuclear

Nuclear power, research bills set for votes
Christa Marshall, E&E News

The House this week is scheduled to vote on legislation that would boost advanced nuclear power and support research facilities at national laboratories.

Climate

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan May Ignore Climate Change. It Could Be Costly.
Coral Davenport, The New York Times

President Trump wants to spend $1.5 trillion on rebuilding roads and bridges, but experts say failing to account for climate change will add to costs.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The left’s civil war over climate change
Amy Harder, Axios

America’s Democratic Party, environmental groups and clean-energy leaders pushing action on climate change are at odds over how best to address it.

OPEC’s Oil Price Nightmare Is Coming True
Julian Lee, Bloomberg

The latest surge in U.S. oil output will probably hasten the country’s rise to the top of the producer pile. More important, it’s starting to look as though at least half of OPEC’s nightmare scenario for 2018 — a surge in shale output and slowdown in demand growth — is coming true.

Cheap Solar Makes a Big Bet in Nevada
Nathaniel Bullard, Bloomberg

Two recent energy deals highlight innovations in technology, business and marketing.

Research Reports

Effects of a $0.25 Federal Gas Tax Increase on U.S. Economy, Fuel Use, Fleet Composition
Energy Innovation

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s proposal to raise the United States federal fuel user fee (aka gas tax) $0.25 per gallon has driven contentious debate over the future of U.S. transportation funding. The Chamber’s proposal would increase the current $0.18 per gallon gasoline tax five cents per year.

Mangroves protect coastlines, store carbon – and are expanding with climate change
Samantha Chapman, The Conversation

With the help of technology, humans can traverse virtually every part of our planet’s surface. But animals and plants are less mobile. Most species can only live in zones where temperature and rain fall within specific ranges.