Morning Consult Energy: California Enacts 22 Laws Targeting Wildfire Prevention and Response


Top Stories

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed 22 bills into law that would increase the state’s regulation of utilities’ wildfire prevention work, encourage communities to increase their resilience to fires and build upon the $1 billion that California has budgeted for wildfire preparation. The laws, Newsom said, will also help the state reach clean energy targets. (The Associated Press)
  • A U.S. bankruptcy court in West Virginia approved the sale of Milton, W.V.-based Blackjewel LLC’s Belle Ayre and Eagle Butte coal mines to an affiliate of FM Coal LLC, after an earlier agreement stalled for weeks when federal agencies raised concerns over the lease transfers. FM Coal said it will pay $16.2 million in cash, fund a $24 million payment to Blackjewel lender Riverstone Credit Partners, take on reclamation obligations and offer employment to former Blackjewel workers. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Murray Energy Corp. was unable to make several payments to lenders this week and may be moving toward default, while creditors have said they will not take legal action against the coal giant until Oct. 14. The St. Clairsville, Ohio-based company’s chief executive, Bob Murray, has hosted fundraisers for Donald Trump and worked to shape the president’s energy agenda. (Bloomberg)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

10/03/2019
2019 Utility Broadband Alliance Summit
S&P Global Platts Houston Oil and Energy Forum 8:00 am
World Resources Institute Event on the Ocean as a Solution for Climate Change 9:00 am
10/08/2019
Smart Cities Connect Fall Conference and Expo
CSIS Event on How Climate Change is Upending our View of Maritime Sustainability, Sovereignty, and Security 8:45 am
CSIS Event on Oil and Gas Industry Engagement on Climate Change 1:00 pm
View full calendar

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General

Bipartisan Report Says Trump’s Abuse Has Pushed Federal Science to a ‘Crisis’
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times

The report is the second in a series of studies issued by a democracy task force that was launched last year at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. Both Mr. Bharara and Ms. Whitman have been critical of Mr. Trump, but they emphasized that stronger laws against financial conflicts, political interference with law enforcement and the suppression of science were needed to curtail the impulses of any president from either party.

Impeachment inquiry digs deeper into Perry, DOE
Kelsey Brugger and George Cahlink, E&E News 

The Democrats are also seeking records from “current or former employees or officials of the Department of Energy” relating to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy.

EPA issues violation notice to San Francisco
The Associated Press

The Trump administration ratcheted up its feud with California on Wednesday as the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice accusing San Francisco of violating the federal Clean Water Act.

White House denied air regulators meetings
Maxine Joselow, E&E News

The rejection came after OMB had already met with seven other groups, including industry heavyweights such as the American Chemistry Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chemours Co., according to Reginfo.gov.

Toxic lead, scared parents and simmering anger: A month inside a city without clean water
Marisa Iati, The Washington Post

The problem inched closer to a permanent resolution last week, when Newark and New Jersey officials announced residents could return to drinking their tap water with city-distributed water filters. 

Oil Near Two-Month Low on Swelling U.S. Stockpiles, Demand Woes
Sharon Cho and Grant Smith, Bloomberg

Oil held near the lowest level in almost two months as American crude inventories expanded the most since May and disappointing U.S. economic data added to pessimism over the demand outlook.

Oil and Natural Gas

California fines Chevron over Kern County oil leaks
The Associated Press

California regulators have fined Chevron $2.7 million for violations at a facility in Kern County where there have been multiple oil leaks. The Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources said Wednesday that Chevron illegally allowed uncontrolled oil releases at Cymric Oil Field.

American Energy-Permian Basin Locks Down Out-of-Court Restructuring
Luis Garcia and Alexander Gladstone, The Wall Street Journal

Private-equity-backed American Energy-Permian Basin LLC rounded up enough support from creditors to restructure about $2 billion in debt without resorting to bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mass. hits NiSource utility with new probe of post-explosion work after gas leak
Tom DiChristopher, S&P Global Platts

Massachusetts regulators opened a formal investigation into a gas leak on Columbia Gas of Massachusetts’ system, marking the second time in less than a month the state has initiated a probe into the NiSource Inc. subsidiary’s restoration work following the 2018 Merrimack Valley disaster.

2 Dakota Pipeline Protesters Face Federal Charges Over 2017 Damage
Jacey Fortin, The New York Times

On Wednesday, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa announced that a federal grand jury had charged the women with conspiracy to damage an energy facility, along with four counts each of malicious use of fire and the use of fire to commit a felony.

Permian Methane Mystery Is Focus of Green Group’s New Study
Simon Casey, Bloomberg

The Environmental Defense Fund said Wednesday in a statement it’s overseeing a year-long program to monitor methane released across the Permian. The project will start measuring emissions in November using towers and mobile readings, and will begin publishing data early next year.

Chevron’s shale allies are its secret weapon in Exxon race
Jennifer Hiller, Reuters

It is now in a race with Exxon Mobil to be the first to pump a million barrels of shale oil a day from the field in the U.S. southwest, using a strategy that depends on a host of partners sharing their expertise and their output.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Solo GOP FERC nomination threatens precedent of bipartisan pairings, critics say
Molly Christian, S&P Global Market Intelligence

The omission coincides with partisan divides at FERC and on Capitol Hill over the proper way to assess the climate change impacts of proposed natural gas infrastructure and how to accommodate state clean energy goals within competitive power markets.

Renewables

Brookfield Explores Sale of Wind Energy Stake in Texas
Gillian Tan and Scott Deveau, Bloomberg

Brookfield Asset Management Inc. is considering selling its stake in Wind Energy Transmission Texas, which could fetch $400 million to $500 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

Tesla’s 3Q car sales accelerate, but miss analysts’ target
The Associated Press

The performance increased Tesla’s sales for the first nine months of the year to nearly 255,000 cars. That means it will need to deliver about 105,000 vehicles during the final three months of the year to hit the low end of Musk’s sales target of 360,000 to 400,000 cars for all of 2019.

Minnesota-based solar-energy firm sold to national investor in renewable energy
Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune

A pioneer of the Minnesota solar industry has sold most of his stake in IPS Solar to SmartPitch Ventures, a recently formed private-equity firm focused on the fast-growing renewable-energy industry. Terms were not disclosed, but SmartPitch is investing several million dollars, company officials said.

Coal

Coal Plant On Potomac River Violated Environmental Regulations, State Inspector Says
Jacob Fenston, WAMU

Polasi found three violations on the site related to coal ash. The facility failed to “minimize the contamination of surface water runoff,” to notify Maryland of what it was doing with the coal ash, and to maintain equipment in “good working order,” as required by its state permits.

Nuclear

Healy sues Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Rich Saltzberg, The Martha’s Vineyard Times

The suit seeks relief from NRC staff decisions last month to approve the transfer of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s license from Entergy Corp. to Holtec International, and to establish greater checks and balances over a decommissioning trust fund connected to the plant. 

Climate

Courts say EPA not doing enough to fight cross-state smog
Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill

Federal judges dealt a blow to the Trump administration late Tuesday, finding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t done enough to limit cross-state air pollution.

In Houston, a Rash of Storms Tests the Limits of Coping With Climate Change
Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times

The misfortune of the Houston area, combined with its relative wealth and experience with disasters, has made it a test case for climate resilience. The result could be a model for other places threatened by climate change — or a lesson in the limits of cities’ ability to adapt.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

SBIR: The Most Impactful Energy Program You’ve Never Heard Of
Lynn Abramson and Gary Cola, Morning Consult

Small businesses are the fabric of the U.S. economy. They make up 99 percent of American companies and employ nearly half our private-sector workers. They define our national character of entrepreneurship, innovation and opportunity.

I’m committed to helping Kentucky’s coal families. My record proves it
U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), The Courier Journal

Once again, this shrinking paper has confused its news and opinion pages. Instead of professional reporting, The Courier Journal published on its front page a 2,400-word liberal smear of my record of fighting for Kentucky.

Energy efficiency can help America’s economy work for all
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Crain’s Chicago Business

An economy that works for all Americans depends on access to safe jobs that pay well, builds up communities and protects the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate we live in. And that just happens to describe the fastest-growing jobs sector in the entire energy industry: energy efficiency.

New EPA plan to reduce animal testing will protect animals, the environment and taxpayers
U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), The Hill

This is a watershed moment for animal welfare, public health, and environmental protection, and I’m proud to have led the efforts on Capitol Hill for over two decades to help get us here.

The movement to take climate action has begun – but we have a long way to go
António Guterres, The Guardian

On the eve of the September UN climate action summit, young women and men around the world mobilized by the millions and told global leaders: “You are failing us”. They are right.

Climate change is the apartheid of our times
Desmond Tutu, Financial Times

Boycotts, sanctions and divestment proved effective in South Africa, but that required a mindset shift.

Research Reports

Coal-fired power generation collapsing across Southeast U.S., longtime bastion of the industry
Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

The ready availability of low-cost natural gas has led to a freefall in coal generation across the region over the past 10 years that has outpaced even the national drop in coal-fired generation. 

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