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GEORGIA ALLOWS NEW NUCLEAR PLANT TO CONTINUE CONSTRUCTION: Construction can continue on the only nuclear power plant being built in the nation, after a decision by the state’s utility regulator Thursday.
The Georgia Public Service Commissioners voted unanimously to continue construction on Plant Vogtle reactors 3 and 4, with a completion date of 2020 and 2021, respectively.
The fate of the plant had been in limbo after the bankruptcy of one of the plant’s main developers, Westinghouse.
The plant is seen as the harbinger of the future of the U.S. nuclear power industry as the industry faces economic pressure from the market’s switch to low-cost natural gas-fired electricity. Only a handful of nuclear plants are planned in the country, mainly in the Southeast.
At the same time, a number of older nuclear power plants have announced, or are contemplating, closing down prematurely as financial losses mount.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is contemplating approving a plan proposed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to shore up the aging nuclear fleet by providing the nuclear plants with market-based incentives.
FERC is expected to approve the plan next month.
TRUMP’S FERC CHAIRMAN BEGINS ROLE BY LAUNCHING MAJOR PROBE: FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre held his first public meeting by opening investigations into the pricing of power plants that can ramp up fast to stop a blackout from occurring.
Three regional power markets may have been funding them in a way that is “unjust and unreasonable” because the power plants and other devices that make up “fast-start” resources are not fairly compensated.
Mandatory cyber order: McIntyre also is requiring electricity producers to report all cybersecurity incidents against the grid.
FERC proposed development of a revised Critical Infrastructure Protection Reliability Standard to improve “mandatory reporting” of cyber security incidents on the grid, “including incidents that might facilitate future attempts to harm reliable operation of the nation’s bulk electric system.”
Pledges to update pipeline policy: “I believe we in the government should constantly be examining our various processes and procedures to see if we can do anything better,” McIntyre said in announcing a process to review and update its pipeline development process.
“Much has changed in the energy world since 1999, and it is incumbent upon us to take another look at the way in which we assess the value and the viability of our pipeline applications.”
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TRUMP: BREAK CHINESE, RUSSIAN STRANGLEHOLD OVER MINERAL SUPPLIES: President Trump ordered the U.S. military and the Interior Department to take immediate action to "break" the nation's dependence on Russian and Chinese supplies of critical minerals as a matter of national security.
U.S. dependency: "This dependency of the United States on foreign sources creates a strategic vulnerability for both its economy and military to adverse foreign government action, natural disaster, and other events that can disrupt supply of these key minerals," read an executive order signed by the president Wednesday.
Permits and litigation: The order noted that mining the nation's own critical mineral resources has been hampered by permitting delays and the threat of litigation.
These minerals include such metals such as lithium, manganese, tin and others that are critical to state-of-the-art electronics and missile guidance systems. Many of the minerals listed by the U.S. Geological Survey are used in many consumer electronic devices, such as smartphones.
What’s next: The order directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to report back to the president with a list critical minerals within 60 days and disseminate it to the appropriate agencies. After the list is filed, the president's Cabinet is ordered to present a strategic plan "to reduce the nation's reliance on critical minerals" within 180 days.
Mining industry praise: The head of the national mining industry said the administration is right to acknowledge the foreign dependency.
“Today, less than half of the mineral needs of U.S. manufacturing are met from domestically mined minerals, and we are 100 percent import-dependent for 20 key minerals,” said Hal Quinn, the president of the National Mining Association. “These trends will only worsen if we do not advance policies that enable U.S. mining to perform to its potential.”
TRUMP CROWS ABOUT ARCTIC DRILLING: President Trump on Wednesday hailed the tax bill’s provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying he accomplished what no other Republican president since Ronald Reagan could do by opening up drilling in refuge, which he called a "big, big deal."
"Reagan tried to get it. Bush tried to get it. Everybody tried to get it. They couldn’t get it passed," Trump said in discussing the energy piece of major tax legislation before the House passed it Wednesday and sent to him for his signature.
After 40 years of failed attempts to open the Arctic reserve to drilling, "that just happens to be here," Trump said. "And we did that at the request of the two great senators from the state of Alaska, which is a very special place. But I will tell you, ANWR is a big, big deal."
PUERTO RICO STORMS D.C. FOR TAX PUSHBACK AND DISASTER AID: The governor of Puerto Rico is storming through Washington Thursday in an eleventh-hour bid to take the sting out of the just-passed tax reform that hits island businesses and to land a good share of disaster aid.
Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló told Paul Bedard’s Washington Secrets, “It will be critical for us to get the appropriate support on the supplemental; not only the dollar amount and fair treatment, but also flexibility, resources for healthcare, and important tax provisions form Puerto Rico that were not considered in the tax reform bill.”
Armed with a threat: Rosselló said he will tap the millions of Puerto Ricans in the 50 states to pressure or oppose mostly Republicans in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections if the island doesn’t get what it wants.
"Puerto Rico was devastated as a result of Hurricane Maria, the worst disaster in FEMA's recorded history, but we are determined to rebuild in a transparent and responsible manner. Regarding the supplemental relief package, I am not asking for anything more, or anything less, than what any other state would receive,” he added.
Two issues driving his election revenge threat: First, the tax bill treats businesses on the island as if they are foreign companies, even though Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. Tax laws treat the island differently than the rest of the nation and the tax bill includes a new 12.5 percent tax on profits derived from intellectual property held by overseas firms. The idea is to drive companies back to the U.S.
Rosselló has said the tax provision would be “a huge blow” that would hurt 50 percent of the island’s gross national product, 30 percent of the government’s revenue and more than 250,000 jobs.
Second, Puerto Rico is concerned it will not get its fair share of the disaster funding bill. It is competing with Texas and Florida, also hit by hurricanes this year.
CALIF. COUNTY’S CLIMATE LAWSUIT IS SEEN AS NEW TREND IN ACTIVISM: The California city and county of Santa Cruz filed multiple lawsuits on Wednesday against Exxon Mobil, arguing that its fossil fuel development is a contributor to climate change.
The National Association of Manufacturers, which has set up a group to begin pushing back against these suits, said the action was the latest in a growing trend of activist influence on climate change.
Wealthy activist game: “Sadly, this is just the latest in a long line of actions taken by wealthy activists and plaintiff’s attorneys with an agenda to undermine manufacturing in America and rake in millions of dollars through the courts by politicizing natural disasters,” said Linda Kelly, senior vice president and counsel for the industry group.
Courts are not the place for climate change: She believes the “place to solve these issues is not in the courts.”
The industry does not see these lawsuits as genuine, but as part of climate activism to hold the fossil fuel industry responsible for the Earth’s rising temperature. Kelly’s mission is to “expose these coordinated attacks on manufacturers from activists, public officials, and plaintiffs’ attorneys.”
But Santa Cruz officials don’t see it that way.
Enough is enough: “We believe enough is enough,” said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend. He represents the city of Capitola and the area of shoreline along Monterey Bay.
“These types of weather events are going to become more common and we can expect more of the fires we saw in Wine Country and Southern California,” Friend said. “It is directly related to fossil fuel-based climate change.”
EPA LASHES OUT OVER STORY OF TASK FORCE’S LACK OF PAPER TRAIL: The Environmental Protection Agency is lashing out at the Associated Press for its coverage of one of Scott Pruitt’s task forces and its lack of evidence of ever meeting.
“The statement in the Associated Press story is not accurate, nor was EPA contacted by the AP or given an opportunity to confirm the accuracy of the statement,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an email to the Washington Examiner.
The EPA says the news organization incorrectly reported which federal agency responded to the group that sued about getting information about the task force meeting.
The EPA Superfund task force in June issued a report containing 42 recommendations that Pruitt adopted. The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility later sued to get the details of the meeting that led to the report.
Six months after the report was released, AP reported that an EPA lawyer wrote PEER to explain that there was nothing to hand over in response to its Freedom of Information lawsuit because there was no agenda for its meetings, no minutes kept, and the task force used no reference materials.
Wilcox said the Justice Department, not the EPA, communicated with PEER, and AP did not seek to clarify the details of what was communicated with EPA.
“The communication at issue was sent by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office of D.C., as part of an ongoing effort to resolve litigation,” Wilcox said.
TRUMP THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO CONFRONT EMP GRID ATTACK: Trump became the first national leader to call for protecting the U.S electric and communications grid against an electromagnetic attack like one practiced in North Korea.
Deep in his new national security strategy released this week, he made good on a campaign promise to move quickly to make the fixes that proponents have long called for.
Two of the chief advocates, William R. Graham and Peter Vincent Pry,executives of the nation’s first Congressional EMP Commission, said in a statement, “President Trump understands, even if everyone in his administration does not, that ‘strategic stability’ and ‘longstanding strategic relationships with Russia or China’ are best maintained — not by a policy of mutual vulnerability — but by a policy of ‘Peace Through Strength.’ Protecting the nation from all missile threats and EMP should be the cornerstone of a ‘Peace Through Strength’ policy.”
The duo claim that protecting the grid would not be expensive and could done fast and with commercial products, a solution Trump endorsed in his strategy.
An attack, according to a past EMP Commission report, could lead to the deaths of 90 percent of the population in a year.
FRANCE’S OIL BAN: SYMBOLISM OVER SUBSTANCE? The French Parliament this week passed a law banning fracking and all production from new oil and gas wells by 2040.
Symbolism over substance: It is not clear if France can pull off the production ban when it is dependent on imports of petroleum, natural gas and oil-based fuels.
What about U.S. imports?: It is also not entirely clear if the move is a harbinger for moving forward with past proposals to ban natural gas and oil from the U.S. that is produced by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The French ban on oil and gas production affects new permits or renewals of existing ones that allow fracking in the country or its territories.
Other actions: France also is looking at banning cars that run on liquid fuels in some of its cities within a similar time frame.
MERRY CHRISTMAS! Daily on Energy is going to enjoy the long Christmas weekend with our families. We’ll be back on Tuesday, Dec. 26.
Reuters OPEC starts working on supply cut exit strategy
NPR Battle over ANWR ends, but drilling not a given
Wall Street Journal Saudi Arabia hunts for assets in the U.S.
Utility Dive: New FERC chief wants more transparency.
OilPrice.com What’s next for U.S. shale giants?
The Hill Poll: Hike in national park fees likely to reduce visits
THURSDAY, DEC. 21
9 a.m., Georgia. The Georgia Public Service Commission will decide whether to allow construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Plant Vogtle site to proceed or to call for the cancellation of the project.
FRIDAY | DEC. 22
Deadline for Congress to pass a government spending bill before funding runs out.