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Morning Consult Energy: EPA Changed RFS Waiver Policy Before Court Ruling


Top Stories

  • The Environmental Protection Agency changed its Renewable Fuel Standard biofuel blending waiver policy at least four months before a U.S. appellate court issued a decision in August 2017 that the agency has subsequently cited to justify the exemptions, according to court records and former EPA air official Mandy Gunasekara. Gunasekara said one of the goals of the policy change “was to put downward pressure” on the cost of the credits traded under federal biofuel law. (Reuters)
  • The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection concluded that PG&E Corp. transmission lines caused the destructive Camp fire last year. Testifying at the state Capitol, the bankrupted utility’s new chief executive Bill Johnson called the fire “a disappointment” and promised that the utility would have a greater commitment to safety under his leadership. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Williams Cos.’ proposal for a $1 billion shale gas pipeline, saying the project, which would provide fuel to people in New York City and Long Island, would also cause water quality violations. New York’s denial allows Williams to reapply for the pipeline, which the company has said it intends to do. (Bloomberg)

Chart Review

World Energy Investment 2019
International Energy Agency

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

05/16/2019
7th Annual Infrastructure Week
Defense Strategies Institute Expeditionary Power and Energy Summit
DNV GL Energy Executive Forum
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission open meeting 10:00 am
House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Hearing on Oil and Gas Development: Impacts of Water Pollution Above and Below Ground 10:00 am
Bipartisan Policy Center Event: EPA’s Role in Building Critical Infrastructure 10:00 am
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Hearing to Examine CCUS and to Receive Testimony on Legislation 10:00 am
Senate Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather Subcommittee Hearing on Atmospheric Science Research and Forecasting Innovation 10:00 am
Energy Department and Nuclear Energy Institute Atomic Wings Event on Advanced Manufacturing and Nuclear Energy Applications 11:30 pm
Atlantic Council Event: The Future of Energy Storage 12:00 pm
Atlantic Council Event on the Future of Energy Storage 12:00 pm
House Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee Hearing Examining the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Proposal for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey 2:00 pm
House Science, Space and Technology Hearing on the Future of Forecasting 2:00 pm
U.S. Energy Association Briefing on CCUS Deployment 2:00 pm
Stanford University Environmental Forum with David J. Vogel 3:30 pm
05/17/2019
7th Annual Infrastructure Week
05/18/2019
7th Annual Infrastructure Week
05/20/2019
7th Annual Infrastructure Week
Recharge Thought Leadership Forum 10:30 am
05/21/2019
American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference
DLA Energy Worldwide Energy Conference
LIGHTFAIR International Conference
House Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee hearing on U.S. transportation infrastructure and climate change 10:00 am
Atlantic Council Event on US Nuclear Energy Leadership: Innovation and the Strategic Global Challenge 2:00 pm
05/22/2019
American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference
DLA Energy Worldwide Energy Conference
LIGHTFAIR International Conference
CO2NNECT Conference
House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Hearing on Policies, Recommendations, and Impacts of the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request 10:00 am
Energy Secretary Rick Perry scheduled to testify at House Science, Space and Technology hearing on the FY2020 Budget Request 10:00 am
05/23/2019
American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference
LIGHTFAIR International Conference
U.S. Energy Association Membership Meeting and Public Policy Forum 11:00 am
View full calendar

Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings

The definitive ranking of every governor’s approval in America, based on over 470,000 survey interviews.

Morning Consult is also tracking every senator’s approval, as well as the 2020 Democratic primary and Donald Trump’s approval. See more.

General

House Democrats introduce climate-focused infrastructure bill with $33B for renewables
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

More than $33 billion would go to clean energy, including $8 billion for grid upgrades to accommodate and expand the use of more renewable energy. More than $2 billion would be used to install solar panels in low-income and underserved neighborhoods and communities.

Interior chief dismisses climate concerns in first Natural Resources hearing: ‘I haven’t lost any sleep over it’
Miranda Green, The Hill

Democratic House lawmakers on Wednesday pressured Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to commit to considering climate change in all future agency decisions, but the former energy lobbyist wouldn’t take the bait.

Republican blocked from testifying says Steny Hoyer doesn’t care about climate change
Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner

“His main concern is not solving climate change,” Curbelo told the Washington Examiner. “It’s blocking me from an opportunity he thinks could be beneficial to me in a future run for office that may not even happen. It’s really just short-sighted.”

BLM removes conservation language from press releases
Scott Streater and Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News

Specifically, BLM removed this sentence: “The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Lawmakers at odds over how to tackle spread of harmful chemicals in water
Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on energy and climate change discussed 13 different approaches to address the growing issue of the chemicals, technically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Brent oil hovers around $72 on Middle East tensions
Shadia Nasralla, Reuters

Oil prices rose on Thursday for a third day running as fears of supply disruption amid heightened tensions in the Middle East overshadowed swelling U.S. crude inventories.

Oil and Natural Gas

US EPA still aiming for June 1 approval of higher ethanol blend
Meghan Gordon, S&P Global Platts

The US Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it still plans to approve sales of higher ethanol blends before the US summer driving season starts June 1, when E15 would otherwise be banned.

Midwest Flooding Exposes Another Oil Pipeline Risk — on Keystone XL’s Route
Neela Banerjee, InsideClimate News

Now, the catastrophic spring flooding that devastated parts of Nebraska has swept that threat into the spotlight, as the Trump administration works to fast-track construction by overriding environmental reviews.

Occidental’s $56bn gamble to find value in shale
Ed Crooks, Financial Times

Buying Anadarko, one of the largest US independent oil and gas groups, with assets around the world from Texas to Mozambique, will double the size of Occidental. It will also saddle the company with debts of around $50bn, in return for a business that has been failing to cover its capital spending from its operating cash flows.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Texas lawmakers may stiffen penalties for pipeline damage
Clarice Silber, The Associated Press

Lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill that would stiffen penalties for damaging or trespassing around oil and gas operations despite opposition from environmental groups who say it would quell peaceful protests and overly criminalize offenses.

Renewables

Electric Car Tax Credit Bill Will Cost $16 Billion, Critics Say
Ari Natter, Bloomberg

The analysis of legislation by Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, to grant automakers a $7,000 tax credit for an additional 400,000 vehicles was commissioned by American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a Washington trade group.

VW Will Make Its Own Batteries to Power an Electric Future
Alex Davies, Wired

Four years after getting caught cheating emissions standards with millions of diesel-powered cars, Volkswagen has become the most (outwardly, at least) zealous of converts to an electric future. By 2028, it intends to offer 70 battery-powered models.

Coal

Utilities Charging Customers For Coal Clean-Up Face Blowback
David R. Baker and Jim Efstathiou Jr., Bloomberg

Officials from Virginia to North Carolina to South Carolina are pushing back on utilities’ plans to charge customers for the costs of shuttering coal-ash ponds, long the primary way of storing residue from burning the fuel.

Coal Companies to Ask Energy Department for More Support
Stephen Lee, Bloomberg BNA

Some of the nation’s biggest coal companies are preparing to ask the Energy Department to pour more money into researching new ways of using coal beyond fuel, like making building materials or medical prostheses and implants.

Coal Market’s Rare Bright Spot Tempts Yet Another U.S. Producer
Will Wade, Bloomberg

Contura is at least the third U.S. coal company since February to announce plans for a mine. While the market for thermal coal remains moribund as utilities shun the fuel in favor of cheap natural gas and renewables, prices remain high for coal used to make steel.

Nuclear

Democrats walk out on nuclear bill hearing
Jim Provance, The Toledo Blade

Democrats on Wednesday temporarily walked out of a House hearing on a controversial bill sought by Ohio’s two nuclear power plants and major industrial companies when a member wasn’t allowed to ask a question of a witness.

Climate

Carbon Pricing Reaches U.S. House’s Main Tax-Writing Committee
Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News

A coalition of business and environmental groups, working with the support of some major oil companies, took a carbon pricing plan to the U.S. House’s main tax-writing committee on Wednesday. It was the Ways and Means Committee’s first climate-related hearing in a dozen years, and members of both parties treated the topic with kid gloves.

Mnuchin says carbon capture tax credit guidance will be out soon
Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday said he hopes to soon roll out interim guidance on a tax credit for companies that capture their carbon pollution.

Louisiana Unveils Ambitious Plan to Help People Get Out of the Way of Climate Change
Chrisopher Flavelle and Mira Rojanasakul, Bloomberg

In flood-prone areas across southern Louisiana, residents such as Braud risk running out of choices: living in homes that are hard to leave but put them in harm’s way. In response, the state on Wednesday issued a sweeping blueprint—the first of its kind in the U.S.—for managing the ongoing population movement away from its coastal areas, and preparing inland communities to receive an infusion of people.

Landmark hearing exposes climate change gulf among Republicans and Democrats
Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner

Republicans have undergone a shift in recent months in saying that climate change is a problem worth addressing. But Republican committee members threw cold water on a carbon tax, a measure many climate hawks and economists view as essential.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Wake up, Republicans. Even corporations are calling for action on climate change.
The Editorial Board, The Washington Post

The Republican Party’s global-warming denial is becoming the fringe view it always deserved to be. It is not just environmentalists who want to move on climate change. Big corporations — even oil companies — are increasingly calling for action, too.

Tougher PSC is long overdue
The Editorial Board, The Post and Courier

A lot of factors went into SCE&G and Santee Cooper spending $9 billion on two nuclear reactors that will never be completed: the Legislature’s decision to upend state law in order to facilitate the construction project, SCE&G’s efforts to conceal problems with the project from regulators and the public, Santee Cooper’s refusal to blow the whistle on its construction partner.

Green New Deal activists dismiss nuclear power
Amy Harder, Axios

Backers of the Green New Deal say climate change is the world’s most urgent threat, but supporters of that cause are not embracing the largest source of carbon-free power in America: nuclear energy.

Research Reports

Declines in mental health associated with air pollution and temperature variability in China
Tao Xue et al., Nature Communications

Mental disorders have been associated with various aspects of anthropogenic change to the environment, but the relative effects of different drivers are uncertain. Here we estimate associations between multiple environmental factors (air quality, residential greenness, mean temperature, and temperature variability) and self-assessed mental health scores for over 20,000 Chinese residents.