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FEDERALLY FUNDED STUDY CALLS FOR AGENCIES TO JOIN FORCES ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Three key agencies should join forces to track changes in the Earth’s temperature, according to a federally funded study on climate change released Friday.
NASA, the National Oceanic, and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey should implement “a coordinated approach for their space-based environmental observations to further advance Earth science and applications for the next decade,” according to a new study released by the National Academies of Sciences and funded by the three agencies.
The coordinated approach would help answer key scientific questions to reduce climate uncertainty, improve weather and air quality forecasts, predict geological hazards, and understanding sea-level rise, the report said.
Driven by humans: “Changes in climate, air quality, water availability, and agricultural soil nutrients are largely being driven by humans,” said Bill Gail, co-chairman of the committee that conducted the study. “Embracing this new paradigm of understanding a changing Earth and building a robust program to address it is a major challenge for the coming decade.”
The report recommends building a “robust, resilient, and balanced Earth observations program from space to enable the agencies to strategically advance the science and applications with limit budgets and resources, the study said.
Daily lives are affected: “Information about Earth science now plays a significant role in our daily lives, and we are coming to recognize the complex and continually changing ways by which Earth’s processes occur,” said Waleed Abdalati, the other co-chairman of the study committee.
The need to ‘progress as a society’: “In order to progress as a society, we must focus on understanding and reliably predicting the many ways in which Earth is changing,” he said.
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BILLIONAIRE TOM STEYER EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE POLITICAL BID MONDAY: The billionaire climate change activist and top impeachment pusher has scheduled an announcement Monday morning about his “political future and plans for 2018,” which has energy lobbyists who have followed Steyer’s career buzzing that the statement will fall into one of three categories.
First, uncertainty: “I have no idea, but count me in as someone anxious to find out,” one energy lobbyist said in an email.
Second, presidential: Another energy lobbyist pointed to reports on Steyer’s aspirations for a presidential bid in 2020. But even then it’s only speculation. “I think we can guess…,” a second lobbyist wrote in an email, linking to September’s article in The Atlantic.
Third, a Senate bid: Speculation over a likely Senate bid announcement is a bit more solid. “I think it's a Senate run he's announcing,” another lobbyist said, explaining that he is still trying to confirm that.
Impeachment campaign: Steyer is continuing his campaign to impeach President Trump in the New Year. “Whether Mr. Trump is well or not, his actions scream ‘Impeach Me Now,’” Steyer tweeted Thursday.
EPA SETS HARD DEADLINE FOR ENFORCING OBAMA-ERA OZONE RESTRICTIONS: The Environmental Protection Agency has set a hard spring deadline for listing regions of the country that cannot meet the Obama administration's strict rules for smog-forming ozone emissions.
The EPA plans to complete designations for all of the non-compliant areas no later than April 30, the agency published in the Federal Register Friday.
Attempted delay: The Trump EPA had tried to delay formally designating the regions as non-attainment zones, which would force some cities and other areas to establish special pollution control plans that critics of the rule have argued would deter development and economic growth.
Court block: A court blocked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's delay strategy and directed the agency to enforce the regulations.
The good: In November, the EPA said 2,646 counties, including Indian country in those counties, are meeting the ozone standards, and listed three other counties as unclassifiable.
The bad: The new notice means the EPA intends to designate all of the remaining areas as non-attainment regions.
And the sooty: In a separate action, EPA also proposes taking a large area that includes Missouri, including St. Louis, and Illinois off the non-attainment list for related rules for controlling soot pollution.
ENERGY GROUP CREATED BY CONGRESS LOOKING FOR NEW LEADERSHIP: A major energy efficiency group started by Congress to counter the energy shortage of the 1970s is searching for a new leader.
Kateri Callahan, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy for the last 14 years, said she is retiring from the post.
New opportunities: “While I am leaving to take advantage of a new professional opportunity, I also believe the time is right for new leadership and ‘fresh ideas’ as the Alliance begins the next chapter in its history,” she said.
The group has started a formal search for her replacement.
‘Fierce’ advocate moving on: The group described Callahan as “widely known” around the nation for her “fierce” advocacy of energy efficiency.
Her accomplishments include helping to include energy efficiency provisions in the last two comprehensive energy bills, including securing significant federal investment in energy efficiency in the economic stimulus bill of 2009. She also helped spearhead the creation of a regional energy efficiency organization called the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance and the European Alliance to Save Energy.
Energy efficiency includes a number of energy management practice and technologies, including more fuel efficient cars and trucks, smart meters, and energy-sipping appliances. It is an area of energy policy that crosses nearly every major sector of industry.
TRUMP PLAN WOULD ALLOW DRILLING IN ALMOST ALL U.S. WATERS: The Trump administration proposed Thursday opening up almost all U.S. federal waters for oil and natural gas drilling, offering a record number of offshore lease sales.
From coast to coast: The draft proposal, spanning the years 2019 to 2024, would allow offshore drilling for crude oil and natural gas on the Atlantic Coast and in the Arctic, reversing the Obama’s administration’s block in those areas. It also permits drilling along the Pacific Coast as well as more possibilities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the plan, more than 90 percent of the total acres on the Outer Continental Shelf would be made available for leasing.
Sales pitch: Zinke said the Interior Department has identified 47 potential lease sales, including 19 off the Alaska coast, 12 off the Gulf of Mexico, seven in the Pacific and nine off the Atlantic coast.
By comparison, the Obama administration offered 11 lease sales in its five-year plan, Zinke said.
Time crunch: Some experts say it could take more than two years for the Trump administration to finish and implement the plan, especially if environmental groups or states file lawsuits, as expected.
COASTAL GOVERNORS OPPOSE DRILLING PLAN: Trump’s plan is facing strong bipartisan opposition, with governors along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts among the loudest critics.
Threat to tourism: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican and ally of President Trump, said he does not want drilling off the Sunshine State’s coast, citing drilling as a threat to his tourism industry. He requested a meeting with Zinke.
Other governors who are opposing offshore drilling on their coasts include the leaders of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, and Washington.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has previously said he is “not in favor of offshore drilling.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and Trump ally, in August sent a letter to the Interior Department saying he “strongly opposes any waters off our coastline being considered for inclusion in this leasing program,” citing the state’s $44 billion beach tourism industry.
BLIZZARD SHUTS DOWN MASSACHUSETTS NUCLEAR PLANT: The 688-megawatt Pilgrim nuclear plant in eastern Massachusetts shut down Thursday after the failure of one of its power lines connecting to the New England electric grid.
Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman at ISO New England, which operates the region’s power grid, told Reuters the plant shut down “due to storm conditions.”
“There are no immediate reliability issues to the local area,” Blomberg said.
The company that owns and operates the plant, Entergy Corp., said it was investigating the cause of the line loss.
Test for nuclear: The shutdown comes as the nuclear energy industry has been touting its role in providing heat to much of the East Coast and Midwest during the prolonged cold snap, arguing its fleet of 99 reactors is helping to moderate electricity prices that are experiencing record highs.
But energy analysts note that coal and nuclear, so-called baseload power sources, are not immune to failures during cold weather.
Big picture: Next week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is set to rule on whether to give subsidies to coal and nuclear plants for their ability to provide around-the-clock power and capacity to store 90 days of fuel on site.
“It looks like having all that nuclear fuel on-site isn’t helping this plant serve customers during the current blizzard,” said Alison Silverstein, a energy consultant who helped write a Department of Energy study last year on the health of the power grid, in an email to the Washington Examiner. “A generator can’t do much for the grid (or reliability or resiliency) if it loses transmission. I fear other plants may soon have to shut from other cold, flood or wind-related conditions.”
PJM SAYS NO FUEL SUPPLY CONCERNS DURING COLD STRETCH: PJM, the operator of the grid in 13 states from Illinois to the District of Columbia, says it has not had problems with fuel supply during the cold streak.
“There have been no concerns with fuel availability,” PJM said Thursday. “No reliability issues are expected through the weekend."
Green groups pounce: Conservation advocacy groups are using PJM’s statement to bolster their view that FERC should not be propping up coal and nuclear plants for their ability to store large amounts of fuel.
“Despite the coal industry's claims that coal plants need to be subsidized to remain online because otherwise the grid could come crashing down in extreme weather like this, it has been performing well, with plenty of reserves even as the mercury dips to record levels,” said Pat Remick, a senior energy strategist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Washington Post Without fanfare, oil companies just received a tax break on New Year’s Day
New York Times Global warming’s toll on coral reefs: as if they’re ravaged by war
Wall Street Journal Why did New England gas prices jump nearly 90 percent? Blame severe storm
Reuters Investors sense opportunities in Big Oil — but mind the gap
Financial Times Insurers faced record $135 billion in costs from natural disasters in 2017
Washington Post Interior rescinds climate, conservation policies because they’re ‘inconsistent’ with Trump’s energy goals
FRIDAY, JAN. 5
3 p.m., 2415 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, Va. National Science Foundation holds a meeting of the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education to provide advice, recommendations and oversight concerning support for environmental research and education.
SUNDAY, JAN. 7
All day, Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Transportation Research Board holds its 97th Annual Meeting, Jan. 7–11, where the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is planning to issue a new report on how roads contribute to climate change. A number of sessions and workshops will focus on the spotlight theme for the 2018 meeting: “Transportation: Moving the Economy of the Future.”
MONDAY, JAN. 8
TUESDAY, JAN. 9
Noon, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard delivers the 2018 “State of American Energy” event, previewing the U.S. oil and natural gas industry’s top priorities for the year ahead.