Energy Brief: White House Postpones Decision on Paris Agreement

Washington Brief

  • The White House will not make a decision on whether the U.S. should stay in the Paris climate agreement until after the G7 Summit May 26-27, press secretary Sean Spicer said. (The Hill)
  • Eight Democratic senators called for an investigation into whether billionaire Carl Icahn violated securities trading laws after advising President Donald Trump. Icahn, who has a stake in an oil refining company, advised Trump to change regulations regarding biofuels. (Reuters)
  • Part of a storage tunnel for radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state collapsed. Officials did not detect a release of radiation, and no workers were injured. (The Associated Press)

Business Brief

  • Tesla Inc. will begin taking orders today for its solar roof tiles, CEO Elon Musk said. (CNBC)
  • Board members for NRG Energy Inc. may recommend selling the company’s renewable-energy business, as the company looks to cut costs. (Bloomberg News)
  • Saudi Arabia’s plan to sell a 5-percent stake in state-owned oil company Aramco has met some public resistance, as residents have complained on social media that the government is essentially selling a cash cow. (Financial Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on the Endangered Species Act 10 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on water resources legislation 2:30 p.m.
Department of Energy exchange on Home Energy Management Systems 1 p.m.
No events scheduled.



Democratic Senators call for probe into Icahn’s biofuel credit dealings
Timothy Gardner, et al., Reuters

Eight Democratic Senators on Tuesday asked U.S. regulators to launch an investigation into billionaire Carl Icahn’s activities in the U.S. biofuels blending credit market, saying the activist investor may have violated securities trading laws since becoming an adviser to President Donald Trump. “We are writing to request that your agencies investigate whether Carl Icahn violated insider trading laws, anti-market manipulation laws, or any other relevant laws based on his recent actions in the market for renewable fuel credits,” the senators said in a letter to the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

McMaster vetoes gas tax, Legislature poised to override
Cassie Cope, The State

Making good on his promise, Gov. Henry McMaster vetoed a proposal Tuesday to raise taxes and fees to pay to repair South Carolina’s crumbling roads. However, both the S.C. House and Senate passed the plan by super-majorities, meaning they easily should override the Republican governor’s veto.

Forest Service to decide on Rosemont Mine in early June
Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star

After a decade of planning, debates and numerous studies and reports on the Rosemont Mine, one of two key decisions on the proposed project is due early next month. The U.S. Forest Service announced in the Federal Register on Monday that it expects the Coronado National Forest supervisor will sign the decision then on the $1.9 billion project proposed for the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson.

In Trump era, conservation advocate preaches collaboration
Geoff Koss, E&E News

When Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee rallied in January against the nomination of then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be U.S. EPA administrator, National Wildlife Federation President Collin O’Mara was on hand to explain why his group was opposing an executive branch nominee for the first time in its 80-year history. In contrast, O’Mara joined the leaders of other sportsmen’s groups at the Interior Department for a March ceremony in which Secretary Ryan Zinke reversed a number of Obama-era policies.

Sealed inside
Courtney Humphries, Politico

The increase in indoor air pollution is in part an unfortunate side effect of well-meaning efforts to reduce energy use. It takes a lot of energy to bring in outside air and then heat or cool it, and so architects and engineers have made buildings more and more airtight over the past few decades, a trend that’s only accelerated with the so-called green building movement.

What broke the Safe Drinking Water Act?
Annie Snider, Politico

It was 1997 when Californians began to worry in earnest about a chemical called perchlorate. For decades, the ingredient in jet fuel had been seeping from missile factories and rocket testing sites into groundwater across the state and, thanks to a new testing method, it was suddenly clear it had reached hundreds of drinking water wells.

Stocks Edge Lower as Dollar Stalls; Oil Advances
Robert Brand, Bloomberg News

European shares slipped with U.S. index futures and the dollar’s rally faltered after Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Oil climbed following an industry report that showed American stockpiles declining for a fifth week.

Oil and Natural Gas

Trump Takes Aim at Western Monuments That May Hold Oil Riches
Jennifer A Dlouhy, Bloomberg News

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah boasts stretches of red-and-yellow sandstone so brilliant they appear to be ablaze and rock structures so precarious they appear to defy gravity. The rugged terrain south of the Colorado River also has reserves of oil and natural gas that are currently off limits to new leasing — restrictions that may end as the Trump administration reviews 27 large-scale monuments his predecessors set aside for protection.

Saudis fear Aramco flotation amounts to selling the cash cow
Simeon Kerr and Ahmed Al Omran, Financial Times

Saudis often liken Aramco, the kingdom’s state oil company, to a fat cow or productive hen. The company has for decades been the bedrock of the economy and the enabler of the government largesse to which Saudis have grown accustomed.

US shale groups roar back to life after oil slump
Ed Crooks, Financial Times

Members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet have a new catchphrase for how they see the future role of the US: not just “energy-independent”, but “energy-dominant”. As Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, put it at an industry conference in Houston last week: “Dominance is what America needs.”

Utilities and Infrastructure

LePage’s Democratic nominee clears hurdle to utility watchdog post
Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News

Barry Hobbins, a Democrat with more than two decades of past legislative service, won a unanimous committee endorsement Tuesday to serve as the state’s next utility ratepayer watchdog. The vote advances his nomination, by Gov. Paul LePage, to the Senate.


Tesla begins taking orders for its glass solar roof tiles with a roll out in the US this year, Elon Musk says
Arjun Kharpal, CNBC

Tesla will begin taking orders for its solar roof tiles on Wednesday which will be rolled out in the U.S. this year, Chief Executive Elon Musk said in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The glass roof panels were announced last year and come in four styles: smooth, textured, slate and Tuscan.

NRG Review Said to Include Potential Sale of All Renewables
Mark Chediak, et al., Bloomberg News

A committee of NRG Energy Inc. board members is considering a recommendation to sell the company’s entire renewable energy business as the U.S. power generator faces pressure from billionaire investor Paul Singer to cut costs, people familiar with the situation said. A potential sale, being weighed by a panel that NRG formed in February, could include wind and solar projects that NRG’s developing on its own and plants run by NRG Yield Inc., a unit it created and controls, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Bats Massacred by Wind Turbines May Get Reprieve in Sweden
Jesper Starn, Bloomberg News

Halting Swedish wind turbines at still summer nights would save almost all of the tens of thousands of bats killed by the rotating blades every year. Every turbine kills 10-15 bats annually on average as the creatures are struck when they hunt insects attracted by the spinning unit, according to a study by Sweden’s Energy and Environmental Protection agencies.

Texas wind farm to be built by team from Broomfield, China
Cathy Proctor, Denver Business Journal

Broomfield’s Renewable Energy Systems (RES), a wind and renewable energy developer, is teaming with Goldwind Americas to build the 160-megawatt Rattlesnake Wind Project in McCulloch County, Texas. Goldwind, a subsidiary of Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. Ltd, bought the Rattlesnake wind farm project from RES in May 2016.


Congress, White House Drag Feet on Support for Carbon Capture Expansion
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

The coal industry and outside groups are pushing Congress and the White House to support a key technology that achieves the “Holy Grail” of both lowering greenhouse gas emissions and potentially creating jobs in fossil fuels. But it’s not clear that the legislative and executive branches are keen to act as quickly as stakeholders want, before industry investment in carbon capture infrastructure could taper off.

Coal mining cleanups: hundreds of millions went to other uses, federal watchdog claims
George Russell, Fox News

Obama-era federal bureaucrats who were supposed to oversee hundreds of millions of dollars of coal mining cleanups across the U.S. failed to do their jobs properly, while a large percentage of the money was used for other types of mining cleanups or “administrative expenses,” according to a Department of the Interior watchdog report. The controversial report, issued late last month by Interior’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), also charged that neither the federal overseers nor states singled out in the document were keeping a proper inventory of their cleanup priorities, lacked the tech tools to do so, and hadn’t updated their cleanup plans in years — or in some cases, decades.


Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses at Hanford Site
Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press

A portion of a storage tunnel that contains rail cars full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday morning, forcing an emergency declaration at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state. Officials detected no release of radiation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.

Trump Administration Revives Nevada Plan as Nuclear Waste Piles Up
Kris Maher, The Wall Street Journal

Communities across the country are rallying behind the Trump administration’s push for a nuclear repository in Nevada, hoping their decades-old wait to ship radioactive material could be coming to an end. Yucca Mountain was designated 30 years ago as a final resting place for used fuel and other nuclear waste.


Obama Sees New Front in Climate Change Battle: Agriculture
Stephanie Strom, The New York Times

Michelle Obama has long been one of the world’s best-known advocates for healthier food production and better eating, but it was her husband who showed up here on Tuesday to talk about climate change and the challenges it presented to feeding the world’s growing population. Former President Barack Obama gave his first speech outside the United States since leaving office at the Seeds & Chips conference, an annual gathering of policy makers, investors and technology entrepreneurs focused on innovations to improve the food chain.

China’s Xi pledges to support Paris climate agreement
Al Jazeera

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he will uphold the Paris agreement on curbing climate change, in a telephone conversation with French President-elect Emmanuel Macron. The Chinese leader’s comments on Tuesday came as climate negotiators entered their second day of meetings in Bonn, Germany, aiming to start drafting a guide on how to implement the landmark deal amid fears the United States may pull out of it.

Gore presses Trump on climate pact
Ben Geman, Axios

Former Vice President Al Gore personally urged President Trump not to abandon the Paris climate accord in a phone conversation on Tuesday morning, Axios has learned. The chat between Gore, the world’s best-known climate activist, and Trump occurred as the divided administration nears a decision about whether to abandon the 2015 international pact that’s aimed at preventing runaway global warming.

Paris climate deal stronger without U.S., experts say
Daniel J. Graeber, UPI

The Paris climate agreement may be better without the United States given the president’s skepticism on the issue, international experts said. U.S. President Donald Trump was expected to water down commitments to some of the targets in the global climate pact or pull out of it altogether later this week.

Earth could break through a major climate threshold in the next 15 years, scientists warn
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

Global temperatures could exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above their preindustrial levels within the next 15 years, according to a new scientific study, crossing the first threshold under the Paris climate agreement and placing the world at a potentially dangerous level of climate change. The report comes as climate agreement participants are watching the United States — where the Trump administration is debating whether to withdraw from the Paris accord — and as scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are working on a special report about the 1.5-degree goal (equivalent to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and the consequences of overshooting it.

Giant Air Tanker Used to Attack Growing Georgia Wildfire
The Associated Press

Jessica Boldin and her family evacuated 15 horses, six dogs and other animals from their ranch in rural Georgia as a vast wildfire emerging from the Okefenokee Swamp blackened trees behind their home. Flames that pushed within 3 miles (5 kilometers) of St. George over the weekend continued spreading Monday after jumping a state highway not far from the center of their southeast Georgia community.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

EOG’s Appliance Of Science in Shale
Liam Denning, Bloomberg News

It is a good idea to be wary when a non-IT company gets rebranded — either by itself or an exuberant investor — as a ‘tech’ company. However, it is intriguing when a company you don’t associate with technology demonstrates a real affinity for it that shows up in good results. Enter EOG Resources Inc.

Mr. LePage goes to Washington
Marian McCue, The Forecaster

Intent on fighting the last battle, Gov. Paul LePage visited the nation’s capital last week to boost a Trump administration effort to curtail the federal powers that created the new Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument. LePage has long opposed the new national monument established by President Obama on land east of Baxter State Park.

Research Reports

Paying for Utility Politics
David Anderson, et al., Energy and Policy Institute

This report explores how regulated utility companies are including their Edison Electric Institute (EEI) annual payments, along with payments to other trade associations, in their operating expenses. The widespread practice forces ratepayers to pay for political and public relations activities with which they may not agree, and from which they do not benefit.