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ERNEST MONIZ ‘NOT THERE YET’ ON PERRY’S PLAN: Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s predecessor said Wednesday morning that more study needs to be done on the need for fuel to be stored on-site at power plants, which Perry is pushing through his plan to pay coal- and nuclear-fueled plants for their reliability.
“I’m not there yet” on the resilience arguments that Perry is trying to make, the nuclear physicist and former President Barack Obama’s energy secretary said.
Perry’s plan, which has become a proposed regulation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would pay coal and nuclear plants for maintaining the stability and security of the electric grid.
“I have not seen the studies” that support the reliability argument from a nuclear plant point of view, Moniz said at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“To me … the number one externality is low carbon,” not necessarily resilience, he said. Externality means it’s a factor that needs to be valued in the market.
“There are many attributes of the energy system that aren’t adequately being” addressed, including national security, he said. “All of which need to be internalized” eventually by the marketplace, Moniz added.
Perry’s approach with FERC: Moniz said it is within the purview of “the energy secretary to place items on the FERC agenda,” but it needs to be “done in the way of a conversation.”
He suggested that sending proposed rules to an independent agency, with a deadline, wasn’t the best way to start the conversation and that Perry would have benefited from talking to the commission first.
“A little spade work can help,” he said.
Moniz talked to the commission about addressing methane, which is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas, but there was never a regulation.
“Comes down to the externalities [like cutting greenhouse gas emissions] that one is trying to capture the social benefit” of, Moniz said.
However, none of those energy policy attributes will be valued by the FERC-overseen grid operators without direct federal action. “We don’t see that as happening without some form of federal action,” whether it’s cybersecurity, greenhouse gas emissions or national security, he said.
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PARIS WILL BE DELAYED BY TRUMP, BUT NOT MUCH ELSE: Moniz said the energy markets and the world are already in a low-carbon economy, despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate change deal.
There will be a “little bit of a delay, shall we say,” from Trump, Moniz said without mentioning the president. He said it would be “hard to believe” that the U.S. is going to be an outlier on climate change and clean energy development.
“We aren’t going back,” he said. “We are heading to a low-carbon future.”
Moniz cited a member of the Arkansas utility commission, noting that it was one of the litigants opposing the Clean Power Plan. Moniz said after the president made his decision on Paris, the head of Arkansas utility commission said “‘the reality is we aren’t going back’.” The official said the choices are “you are either prepared” or not prepared, Moniz said.
U.S. CREDIBILITY THREATENED: The Trump administration’s position on major international deals will make it harder for other countries to take the U.S. seriously on a range of topics, Moniz said.
It challenges the “cohesion of the U.S. and its allies,” he said.
“If we aren’t going to follow agreements ... from Paris to Iran … it’s kind of like, what’s the point.”
REPUBLICANS THREATEN TO BLOCK EPA NOMINEES OVER BIOFUELS MANDATE: Key Republicans from Midwest states are threatening to hold up President Trump's EPA nominations over the administration's proposal to reduce the amount of biofuels that is required to be mixed into gasoline and diesel.
Grassley leads charge: Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, from the major corn-producing state of Iowa, said Tuesday that "plenty of senators" would consider voting against the EPA nominees unless the agency backs off this plan. According to the Associated Press, Grassley, in a phone call with local reporters Tuesday, was asked what leverage he had to get EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to maintain the renewable fuel standard, or RFS, as it is.
Grassley replied: "Hold up EPA nominees. I think there's plenty of senators would do that."
Meeting of the minds: The Iowa senator met with Pruitt Tuesday to discuss his objection to the EPA's proposal to reduce targets for biofuels in 2017 and 2018 below current levels.
‘Hold accountable’: After the meeting, Grassley released a more subdued statement but still threatened to "hold the administration accountable" if he doesn't get his way.
"I'll oppose any effort to reduce blending levels or undermine the integrity of the RFS," Grassley said in a statement late Tuesday. "I'm watching this issue closely and plan to hold the administration accountable."
Trump supporter strikes back: Tom Pyle, the president of influential conservative Institute for Energy Research, lashed out at Grassley Wednesday for his tactics.
“Holding Trump’s EPA nominees hostage to protect the biodiesel lobby harms Iowa farmers. Enough is enough, @ChuckGrassley,” tweeted Pyle, who led Trump’s Energy Department transition team.
COMMITTEE POSTPONES NOMINATION VOTE: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was scheduled to consider the nominations of some key EPA officials Wednesday morning, but it postponed the hearing Tuesday night. It's not clear if the postponement had to do with the threats to hold up the nominations. A spokesman for the committee declined to comment on the reasoning.
Nominee fate in question: Grassley does not serve on the Environment and Public Works Committee, but some of his Republican colleagues who do suggested Tuesday they could vote against Bill Wehrum's nomination to run EPA's air office, citing concerns about his support for Pruitt's proposed biofuels policy.
Second Iowa Republican ‘not comfortable’: "I'm not comfortable with [Wehrum] right now," said Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa’s other Republican senator, who attended the meeting with Grassley and Pruitt.
Ernst later released a non-committal statement after the Pruit meeting.
‘Need to see it’: "Our meeting today was another clear demonstration that biofuel-producing states will never stop fighting to protect the RFS," Ernst said. "Administrator Pruitt again claimed today that he will not do anything to undermine the program. However, we have heard this before. We now need to see it.”
More trouble?: In addition to Wehrum, the nominees scheduled for consideration included Michael Dourson, nominated to run the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Democrats are uniformly opposed to both nominations, citing the candidates’ close ties to the energy industry.
‘Dangerous’ nominee sparks petition: More than 130,000 people have signed a petition organized by CREDO Action, a progressive organization, opposing Dourson’s nomination.
Dourson “may be the most dangerous Trump administration nominee you've never heard of,” the petition says, citing his “long history of greenwashing the deadly effects of toxic chemicals to protect corporate profits.”
State of play: Republicans hold an 11-10 majority over Democrats on the committee, so just one GOP defection would defeat the nominations of Wehrum and Dourson.
E&E News reported on Wednesday that Dourson is already working as an “adviser” for Pruitt. EPA confirmed the report
PRUITT TO RESTRICT GRANT FUNDING TO EPA SCIENCE ADVISERS: Pruitt said Tuesday he plans to issue a directive next week to limit research grants provided by the agency to scientists serving on the agency's boards.
Ensuring ‘independence and transparency’: "If we have individuals who are on those boards receiving money from the agency, sometimes, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, that calls into question the independence of the recommendations that come our way," Pruitt said at a Heritage Foundation event. "Next week, I will issue a directive that addresses that, to ensure the independence and transparency and objectivity with respect to the scientific advice that we are getting at the agency."
Question abound: Pruitt didn't make clear if he would block scientists who receive grants from serving on the agency's scientific advisory committees or if he would simply impose restrictions on how grants are distributed. An EPA spokeswoman would not provide further details.
Fidelity to science: Depending what it looks like, Pruitt’s proposal could have great impact and provide ammunition to environmentalists and Democrats who says the EPA administrator does not respect science.
Pruitt already has overhauled the EPA's advisory boards. He dismissed half of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors earlier this year.
Some of the more than 130 candidates Pruitt is considering for the agency's Science Advisory Board question the legitimacy of climate change and promote the use of fossil fuels.
Not a new issue: Republicans have long complained that the Obama administration favored filling EPA's advisory boards with scientists who backed its views on climate change.
House Republicans have unsuccessfully pursued legislation in recent years that would prevent recipients of agency grants from serving on EPA's boards.
DEMOCRATS AIM TO BLOCK GOP BUDGET PUSH TO ALLOW ARCTIC DRILLING: Senate Democrats said Tuesday they aim to block their GOP colleagues from passing a 2018 budget that includes a provision to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas drilling.
The budget resolution contains instructions for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to recommend policies to save $1 billion over the next decade, likely to be served by drilling in the refuge, a longstanding Republican goal.
‘Big Oil polar payout’: "Tucked inside the Republican budget is a poison pill, one more massive corporate handout, a giveaway of the Arctic Refuge to Big Oil," said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., in a press conference Tuesday. "This is nothing more than a Big Oil polar payout.
Markey said Democrats intend this week to introduce an amendment to remove the drilling proposal from the budget.
Not their first rodeo: Republicans in Congress have long pressed to allow energy exploration in a 1.5 million-acre section of the Alaskan refuge, where billions of barrels of oil lie beneath the refuge's coastal plain. But Democrats have blocked those efforts.
Different playing field: This year could be different, however. The Senate plans to use the process of reconciliation to pass its budget blueprint so that it can be approved by a simple majority, requiring 50 votes, rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
The Trump administration is on board and is trying to study how much oil exists under the refuge.
Uncertain prospects: It's not clear if enough Senate Republicans would back the proposal for it to pass. If all Democrats oppose the budget, just two Republican no votes could derail it, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a moderate who has previously voted against drilling in the refuge, told reporters Tuesday he's undecided about this year's proposal.
TOP DEMOCRAT WANTS DETAILS ON LOST MONEY FROM CANCELED COAL STUDY: Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday to say what happened to $400,000 in funding for a coal study that the Trump administration canceled.
The canceled study: In August, the Interior Department ordered the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to halt a study of health risks for residents near surface coal mining sites in the Appalachian Mountains.
Lost money: Grijalva said Tuesday that Congress had appropriated $400,000 for the study in fiscal 2016, but it appears the Interior Department did not spend it.
Fear of ‘uncomfortable results’: “Cutting off funding for a scientific study because it will likely produce uncomfortable results for powerful administration allies is unconscionable, especially when these political games are affecting public health,” Grijalva said. “Sadly, as we have seen so far this year, this administration routinely suppresses science that doesn’t agree with its ideology.”
Grijalva said the Trump administration has repeatedly refused to answer his and his staff’s questions about the study or where the funds have gone.
DEMOCRATS PRESS FERC TO ‘REJECT’ PERRY PLAN: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must “reject” its “ill-conceived proposed rule” to prop up coal and nuclear plants and return to overseeing the electricity market that benefits all consumers, according to a group of Democrats led by Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state. The group sent a letter to FERC sent earlier this week, but made it public Tuesday night.
Oversight issue: Cantwell is the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has direct oversight of FERC.
Cease all action: The letter demands that the commission stop all activities related to the plan from Energy Secretary Rick Perry “and return” to a previous process on pricing energy resources that had been under way for the last two years that “truly benefits consumers.”
The senators argue that the rule would cause consumers to pay coal and nuclear power plant companies more based on an unfounded premise that they will be more "fuel secure" than other types of generation and more“resilient” to grid disruptions.
Wait for a full commission: The Democrats don’t want FERC to rush forward with the Perry plan without a full commission. Currently, the commission has three members instead of five, including two Republicans and one Democrat.
GRID PLAN WOULD RAISE ENERGY PRICES FOR 30 STATES, PODESTA’S THINK TANK SAYS: More than half the country would see higher electricity bills under Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed rule to prop up coal and nuclear power plants, according to an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta.
30 states bear the brunt: “The Center for American Progress analyzed the proposal and found that electricity customers in 30 states across four electricity markets are at risk of bearing the brunt of its costs,” a summary of the study released Tuesday read.
Perry’s plan replaces climate rules: “Launched within weeks of the Trump administration’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, Perry’s coal bailout would, in essence, replace the first carbon pollution standards for power plants with a proposal to subsidize these same carbon-emitting plants — paid for by electricity customers.”
New York Times Iraqi forces retake all oil fields from Kurds
Bloomberg America’s miners are digging for hotter coal as old plants shut
Axios Conservative group: Tax overhaul could help clean energy
CNBC Iran sanctions uncertainty puts major oil companies in ‘wait-and-see’ mode
Washington Post Ancient Egypt’s rulers mishandled climate disasters. Then the people revolted
Reuters Canada's oil sands survive but can't thrive in a $50 oil world
Bloomberg Future bleak for deepwater oil drilling
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 18
House is not in session until Oct. 23.
2 p.m., Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St. NW. The Environmental Law Institute holds its 2017 Corporate Forum and ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum.
THURSDAY, OCT. 19
8 a.m., 700 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore. The American Bar Association's Section of Environment, Energy and Resources holds its 25th Fall Conference Oct. 19-20.
8:30 a.m., 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, The Woodrow Wilson Center's Global Sustainability and Resilience Program, the Munich Re Foundation, the UN University-Institute for Environment and Human Security, and the International Center for Climate Change and Development hold the 2017 Resilience Academy Capstone Conference, Oct. 19-20.
FRIDAY, OCT. 20
10:30 a.m., 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The Brookings Institution holds a discussion on "Can Trump's ambitious deregulatory agenda succeed?"
TUESDAY, OCT. 24
All day, New York. Financing U.S. Power conference held at the Crowne Plaza Times Square in Manhattan, Oct. 24-25, focuses on investment in the electric generation industry.