Be more of an insider. Get the Washington Examiner Magazine, Digital Edition now.  

SIGN UP! If you’d like to continue receiving Washington Examiner's Daily on Energy newsletter, SUBSCRIBE HERE: http://newsletters.washingtonexaminer.com/newsletter/daily-on-energy/  

HELP IS ON THE WAY FOR STRUGGLING COAL, NUCLEAR INDUSTRIES: The spending bill that passed Congress in the wee hours of Friday morning and signed by President Trump could provide the forward movement for any Trump plan to assist the coal and nuclear power industries that have been struggling under the weight of low natural gas prices.

The two-year spending deal includes a deal to extend tax subsidies for both industries that fell to wayside in the Obama administration.

The nuclear industry was out Friday praising Congress for the subsidies, which the Nuclear Energy Institute says will prop up big conventional plants being constructed in Georgia, as well as the newer, small modular reactor types that are planned to be built out West.

"Both projects will serve as anchors for energy infrastructure in the Southeast and Mountain West, as they generate carbon-free electricity, spur economic growth and support a diverse and reliable electric grid for decades to come,” said the head of the nuclear industry group, Maria Korsnick.

The nuclear plants now receive a similar credit that wind farms get for producing electricity. The nuclear industry had been opposed to the wind credits for distorting the markets and causing their plants to less competitive. Now, with their own credits, the hope is that they can be just as, or more, competitive.

The spending deal that Trump signed also gives carbon capture technologies subsidies to make coal plants able to compete in a carbon-constrained world where emission reductions are expected to be the focus despite Trump exiting the Paris climate deal.  

But will it be enough? And is it good energy policy? That’s what Trump will have to decide.

Welcome to Daily on Energy, compiled by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writers John Siciliano (@JohnDSiciliano) and Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe). Email dailyonenergy@washingtonexaminer.com for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list.

‘CLEAN COAL’ GETS A BIPARTISAN BOOST WITH BUDGET DEAL: The spending deal would extend and expand a tax credit supporting a long-elusive and expensive technology that captures carbon emissions from power plants and stores it underground.

Broad support: The tax credit, created in 2008, was extended for 12 years, increasing the potential for broader deployment of carbon capture technology. The underlying measure expanding the credit was sponsored by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Shelley Moore Capito R-W.Va., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I, and John Barrasso. R-Wy.

Interpreting Trump: It’s not clear what Trump means when he frequently refers to “clean coal.” But he’s likely referring to coal plants that capture the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and store it underground as a way of limiting its impact on global warming.

The carbon can be cooled and injected as a liquid underground. Some technologies can use the captured carbon for other energy uses.

For example, the Petra Nova plant outside Houston, America’s only successfully running carbon capture facility, sends the carbon dioxide via pipeline to nearby oil fields, where it is used to assist in the extraction of crude oil.

‘First of a kind’ projects: “The tax credit can be used for industrial and power use of carbon capture,” Jeremy Harrell, policy director of ClearPath Foundation, told Josh. “By lowering the benchmark of what the credit can be used for, it could allow investments in potentially the next Petra Nova plant, these first of a kind carbon projects for gas, industrial and coal use."

Why it matters: Technologies such as carbon capture and storage will be key to fulfilling the goal of the Paris climate change agreement to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which many scientists say the world would see irreversible effects of climate change.

“I expect, and sincerely hope, that this bill will bring large investments into the carbon capture and carbon-to-value industries, which will help America meet its emissions reductions goals with more speed and less cost,” said Julio Friedmann, the CEO of Carbon Wrangler and former principal deputy assistant of the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy.

DEAL INCLUDES FUNDING FOR PUERTO RICO’S POWER GRID: The spending bill provides nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas, from three consecutive hurricanes last year.

Puerto Rico will get about $16 billion of that, short of the $94 billion that Gov. Ricardo Rossello told Congress is necessary for recovery.

Power play: The spending agreement provides $2 billion to repair the island’s energy grid, less than the $17 billion Rossello had requested.

Rossello last month announced a plan to privatize the island’s bankrupt, state-run power utility company, and is aiming to modernize the system to include more renewables.

In the dark: More than 400,000 power customers in Puerto Rico remain without electricity.

ZINKE TO VISIT UTAH FOR ‘MAJOR’ CONSERVATION ANNOUNCEMENT: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke plans to visit Utah Friday afternoon to sign an order to restore winter habitats and migration routes for animals such as mule deer, elk and antelope.

An Interior Department representative told Josh that Zinke’s order is focused on habitat restoration efforts to “create migration corridors and winter habitat for western big game.”

On the ground: Zinke will make the announcement during an appearance at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City.

The Interior Department has provided few other details on Zinke’s plans, touting it as a “major conservation announcement,” but he will take questions from local media at about 5 p.m. EST.

A spokesman said the order would affect New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, California and Colorado.

“This is very big for hunters and for improving the environment,” said Alex Hinson, the spokesman.

BLM METHANE ROLLBACK CLEARS FINAL WHITE HOUSE REVIEW: John has learned that the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era methane regulations has passed final review at the Office of Management and Budget. That could mean only one thing: the rule could become law any day, as the Trump deregulation agenda takes another step forward.

Environmental groups are “abuzz” and presumably ready to sue, as they await the decision to move from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to the Federal Register.

The BLM rule under the Obama administration would require fracking companies to capture the leaking methane gas that comes from oil and gas wells. But the industry says it is already doing it without government mandates. There is also the issue of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency having separate, duplicative, regulations to do virtually the same thing on methane emissions.

Controlling methane was part of President Barack Obama’s climate change agenda, as methane is a short-lived, yet potent, greenhouse gas.

EXXON, OIL INDUSTRY SIT DOWN WITH WHITE HOUSE ON ROLLBACK OF OFFSHORE RULES: John also has learned that the White House has begun sitting down with the oil industry, including oil giant Exxon Mobil, as its rollback of offshore drilling safety rules goes through the perfunctory proposed rule review phase at the Office of Management and Budget.

The Interior Department announced it would be rolling back the rules in a proposed rule earlier this year. The White House meeting is to begin finalizing the language on what that will exactly look like when it is formalized as a regulation.

The meetings opened with the oil industry on Feb. 1, according to meeting documents perused by John. The meeting was called for by the American Petroleum Institute, according to the White House meeting record.

Big guys represented: Both the big and independent leaders of the industry were there, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron and BP, representing the vertically-integrated major oil companies.

Independents there too: On the big independent company-side were Anadarko, Hess, among others.

The rules that Interior is looking to roll back were proposed by the previous administration in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill in the gulf of Mexico, the largest offshore oil spill in history.

ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGN PETITIONS PHILADELPHIA EAGLES NOT TO VISIT TRUMP: An environmental campaign group has started a petition to sway Super Bowl champs the Philadelphia Eagles to stay clear of the White House.

"NFL Champs Shouldn't Bend a Knee to Trump! Ask entire Eagles team to skip White House visit," is the way the Care2 petition header put it on Thursday in announcing the campaign on its website.

The Eagles won a "thrilling game" against the New England Patriots on Sunday, and should celebrate "by declining the traditional trip to the White House — as long as Trump is the resident," the petition read.

The petition goes on to suggest the team instead visit Disneyland or spend a few well-deserved days in Hawaii or the Caribbean.

JUDGE WHO TRUMP CALLED ‘HATER’ TO HEAR BORDER WALL ENVIRONMENTAL CASE: A federal judge who President Trump once called a “hater” and derided for being Hispanic will hear a case Friday challenging the government’s authority to waive environmental laws to build Trump’s border wall.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel will take oral arguments in U.S. District Court for San Diego. During the campaign, Trump said Curiel was not qualified to hear a lawsuit involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage and opposition to Trump’s border wall.

Off the wall: The case concerns whether laws passed by Congress give the Department of Homeland Security the power to lift federal and state environmental statutes for border security projects.

Last year, California, environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s use of the waivers to build parts of its proposed border wall, including prototypes constructed near the border with Tijuana.

The key question: The key question for Curiel, legal experts say, is whether Congress intended to give the executive branch broad authority to waive environmental laws for border security purposes, or if the powers can be used only for specific projects authorized by Congress.

COAL PLANT OPERATOR DENIES KNOWING WHETHER A TRUMP BAILOUT IS COMING: A major operator of utilities whose coal plants are at risk of shutting down denied Friday that he knows about a potential emergency action by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to keep the plants alive.

Bloomberg reported Thursday night that Perry is considering using his authority under Section 202 of the Federal Power Act to order coal plants run by FirstEnergy Solutions to remain online “to serve the public interest.”

Try, try again: Last year, the Trump administration declined a request from FirstEnergy and its main supplier, Murray Energy, the largest privately own coal company in the U.S, to use the little-known emergency powers to stop coal plants from closing.

But Perry may be reconsidering, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied his request to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants to reward them for their ability to store energy for 90 days on-site.

‘Preserve baseload’ power: Both FirstEnergy and Murray Energy denied knowing of any impending action, but said they would welcome the support.

“Though we support actions that would help preserve baseload coal and nuclear plants, I am not aware of any Section 202 effort involving FirstEnergy,” Jennifer Young, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman, told Josh.

Pick me up: Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray has advocated for the Trump administration to take action.

He met with Perry on March 29 to discuss the Energy Department’s forthcoming grid study that later became part of the justification for the proposed rule that FERC help coal and nuclear plants, and expressed disappointment when it failed to pass the commission.

“We are unaware of any current action by the Department of Energy to invoke Section 202 of the Federal Power Act to secure the reliability and resiliency of our electric power grids,” a Murray spokesman, Gary Broadbent, told Josh. “However, invoking this provision would be an excellent action by the DOE, in light of the failure of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address the lack of reliability and resiliency in the electric power grids, and to preserve low cost electricity in America.”

EPA PLAYS UP FINES AND JAIL TIME ASSESSED AGAINST POLLUTERS:

The EPA boasted Thursday that it assessed nearly $3 billion in fines against polluters in 2017 and imposed 150 years of jail time.

“A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes,” said Susan Bodine, the recently confirmed assistant administrator for EPA's enforcement office, as she issued the report.

Timing of report: The EPA enforcement report came out as the agency is defending against Democratic critics who say Trump's EPA is out to reward polluters by looking the other way. Bodine received a lashing from Democrats before being confirmed by the Senate in December.

‘3 Stooges:’ One of her more noteworthy critics, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., was busy on the Senate floor Thursday morning calling her boss, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, one of the "Three Stooges" for the fossil fuel industry, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Ain’t chump change: However, Bodine's report showed significant enforcement actions, although some extended from proceedings started in the Obama administration. It reported an increase in the total amount of criminal fines to $2.98 billion, which also included restitution and mitigation activities by companies for violations.

LAWSUITS COMING IN AS TRUMP'S SOLAR TARIFFS GO INTO EFFECT:

A number of solar panel companies from Canada sued the U.S. this week through a court set up to address grievances under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Meanwhile, the European Union said it is seeking compensation through the World Trade Organization, citing Germany's significant production of solar panels for the North American market.

Germany miffed: Trump approved the new 30-percent tariff on solar imports based on a U.S. International Trade Commission recommendation, which was made in response, in part, to a petition by the U.S. subsidiary of the German company SolarWorld.

Tariff made official equates lawsuits: The Canadian lawsuit was filed Wednesday with the U.S. Court on International Trade.

The tariffs formally went into effect Wednesday.

PENNSYLVANIA AGENCY LIFTS PERMIT SUSPENSION OF PIPELINE: Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has lifted a suspension it had placed on the construction of the Sunoco Logistics Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

The project’s permit was suspended and Sunoco was issued a $12.6 million penalty on Jan. 3 for violating performance obligations outlined by the DEP.

Payment plan: The paid penalty, which, according to the DEP, is one of the largest civil penalties ever collected in a single settlement, will go to the Clean Water Fund and the Dams and Encroachments Fund.

Construction was able to resume after Sunoco submitted all relevant materials to the DEP to prove the project met all the requirements to fulfill law and permit conditions. Sunoco also entered into a consent order and agreement with DEP.

Routed: The pipeline is important for carrying natural gas within the Keystone State and exporting it to the northeast region of the U.S., where natural gas demand is high but supply has been constrained.

RUNDOWN

Reuters Trump 'energy dominance' policy pits Washington against Moscow

Wall Street Journal Canada rolls out tougher oversight of energy projects

New York Times To power the future, carmakers flip on 48-volt systems

Bloomberg U.S. gas drillers are missing out on Asia’s oil-driven boom

Washington Post Bill to restore state oversight of electric utility rates advances in Va. House, Senate

Desert Sun Trump administration opens millions of acres of California desert to mining

Lexington Herald Leader Is the sun setting on solar energy in Kentucky? Lawmakers take their first vote

Calendar

FRIDAY, FEB. 9

All day, 2401 M St. NW. State energy officials representing governors’ energy agendas descend on Washington this week for the 2018 National Association of State Energy Officials’ “Energy Policy Outlook Conference: The Power of Energy Policy and Public-Private Partnerships” at the Fairmont hotel.

energyoutlook.naseo.org/

Noon, Carmines at 425 Seventh St. NW. The National Capital Chapter of the U.S. Energy Economists hosts a lunch with featured speaker Wood MacKenzie’s Anne Keller, research director for natural gas liquids.

ncac-usaee.org/event-2796122

9 a.m.-5 p.m., 1619 Massachusetts Ave. NW. John Hopkins hosts D.C. Area Climate and Energy Research Workshop 2018.

eventbrite.com/e/dc-area-climate-energy-research-workshop-2018-tickets-42009794426

SUNDAY, FEB. 11

All day, 999 Ninth St. NW. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners holds its annual Winter Policy Summit, Feb. 11-14.

naruc.org/winter-policy-summit/2018/

MONDAY, FEB. 12

7:30 a.m., 999 Ninth St. NW. The Solar Energy Industries Association and the Energy Storage Association hold a breakfast panel discussion on Distributed Energy Resource valuation, interconnection, and benefits to the local grid.

seia.org/events/right-place-right-time-grid-benefits-solar-storage

All day, San Antonio. The Renewable Fuels Association opens the National Ethanol Conference, Feb. 12-14.

nationalethanolconference.com/

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 14

2 p.m., 1324 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power & Oceans will hold an oversight hearing titled “The State of the Nation’s Water and Power Infrastructure.”

naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=403880