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PERRY TO FERC: GET CRACKING ON RESILIENCE: In a surprise move Friday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a proposed rule that he would like the commission to approve swiftly to ensure nuclear and coal plants are adequately compensated for the resilience they offer the power grid.
Typically, the energy secretary doesn’t send draft proposed rules to the FERC, especially since it already has a proceeding underway on price formation.
Just a nudge: But administration sources say FERC has been too slow and it is within Perry’s discretion to give the nation’s grid regulator a nudge even though it is an independent arm of the Energy Department.
Hurricane impact: Perry argued that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria underscore the need for FERC to act swiftly to approve new rules that would ensure the nation has electricity that can remain functioning during disasters.
Power diversity: “A diverse mix of power generation resources, including those with on-site reserves, is essential to the reliable delivery of electricity — particularly in times of supply stress such as recent natural disasters,” Perry said in a letter to the commission accompanying the proposed rule. “My proposal will strengthen American energy security by ensuring adequate reserve resource supply, and I look forward to the commission acting swiftly on it.”
Grid study: The need for FERC to propose regulatory fixes was made last month in a much-anticipated grid study from Perry. The study showed that nuclear and coal plants are being economically challenged by the low cost of natural gas, which is making gas-fired power plants the top electricity producer in the country.
FERC oversees the wholesale electric markets that compensate power resources based on the lowest cost resource. The low-cost energy gets access to transmission first, so it can sell into the market. This is done under the Federal Power Act to preserve fair and reasonable rates for consumers.
NEW INDUSTRY GROUP LAUNCHES AHEAD OF TRUMP’S ‘RED TAPE’ DAY: A new industry trade association was started Friday ahead of President Trump's “Cut The Red Tape Day” speech Monday.
Regulatory reform: The group, called the Coalition for Regulatory Reform, will focus on creating a business-friendly, pro-growth regulatory environment with the Trump administration.
“We launched the Coalition for Regulatory Innovation to help Americans understand this thicket of state and federal rules and champion common-sense reforms that remove unnecessary burdens on the economy. The coalition will highlight some of the most misguided rules and outline principles for reform.”
The coalition is the latest example of how businesses are reshaping their presence in Washington in response to Trump’s deregulation push.
The timing: The National Association of Manufacturers led the creation of the group with trade unions to underscore the White House’s “Cut The Red Tape Day.“
Big energy focus: Jay Timmons, president of the manufacturing group, in a Friday op-ed announcing the new group, outlined the group’s infrastructure focus, which includes prodding the Energy Department to speed up approvals of natural gas export terminals and major transmission lines needed to bring more electricity to the centers of demand.
“Case in point, the approval process to build an export terminal for liquefied natural gas in Oregon has stretched more than a decade, with no clear end in sight,” he said. “The Department of Energy initially authorized the $7 billion Jordan Cove project back in 2014, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stepped in last year, effectively stalling construction of the terminal, as well as a related pipeline.
Huge speech: President Trump will outline regulatory obstacles in his speech, which will cast his deregulation push as the signature initiative of his presidency, according to the White House.
The president will make his remarks while flanked by members of his Cabinet. He will outline his accomplishments as well as efforts still to come.
Trump will undoubtedly list the repeal of several environmental and climate rules from the Obama administration, including his June 1 decision to leave the Paris climate change agreement.
EPA didn’t make the list: The speech will be followed by breakout sessions at 10 federal agencies, including the department sof Agriculture, Energy, Interior and others. But the Environmental Protection Agency is not on the list, according to an agenda shared with the Washington Examiner.
’Til Tuesday: Sources close to the administration suggest a separate event is being organized at the EPA headquarters Tuesday while Trump is in Puerto Rico inspecting the hurricane damage there. Details are sparse on the EPA event.
ZINKE TO ADDRESS HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is set to deliver Friday a “major policy speech” at an event held at the conservative Heritage Foundation called “A Vision for American Energy Dominance.”
Making his voice heard: Zinke has been making the rounds in Washington this week, stirring controversy while trying to play down fears that he supports fossil fuels and not renewables.
Not a ‘fossil fuel guy:’ “People ask me if I am a fossil fuel guy? No. I’m all of the above,” Zinke told a National Clean Energy Week conference Tuesday.
“I don’t look at fossil fuel or alternate energy any differently. Everything should contribute,” but they have to be “competitive,” he added.
30 percent less loyal: That came the day after he told an oil advisory committee that he was looking to eliminate 30 percent of the Interior Department’s staff because they are “not loyal to the flag.”
Backing at Heritage: The later will resonate at the Heritage Foundation, which has been steadfast in advising the Trump administration to aggressively cut and close agencies.
Questions for Zinke: A public lands advocacy group, the Western Values Project, released a list of questions Friday that it wants the Interior chief to answer, including: “Why are you calling for more leases when there is little to no demand? Oil and gas companies have access to 90 percent of Western public lands, and there is a drilling backlog of several years.”
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JETGATE WIDENS WITH ZINKE IN THE CROSSHAIRS: Zinke is the latest to join at least three other Cabinet officials to use private jets or military aircraft for personal transportation.
Zinke's travel logs show a $12,000 charter plane for an event in his home state of Montana and private flights between two islands in the Caribbean, Politico reported Thursday evening.
Then there’s Pruitt: Before that, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was the second official to be found to have used chartered and military aircraft to move across the country. But the EPA has managed to effectively push back against the idea that it is normal for the current EPA chief to move about the country this way on the taxpayer’s dime.
The Washington Post reported that Pruitt took four non-commercial flights since February, costing $58,000.
EPA’s narrative is that there were extenuating circumstances that led Pruitt to use a chartered flight. And after exhausting all other options was forced to take a federal chartered flight to New York, to make a connection at JFK for a delegation trip to Europe.
The big fish: But Zinke and Pruitt are small fry, when considering that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent $400,000 on at least two dozen private flights. The Price revelation stirred the pot that resulted in the Pruitt and Zinke news.
SAGE GROUSE GETS ANOTHER LOOK: The Trump administration intends to publish this week a notice of intent to overhaul an Obama-era plan to protect sage grouse, a chicken-sized Western bird.
The details: The Interior Department will publish a formal notice of intent to change 98 sage grouse habitat management plans across 10 states, the New York Times reported.
The backstory: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this year ordered a review of former President Barack Obama's sage grouse plans to see if they were limiting energy production. A special sage grouse Interior Department task force issued recommendations last month in a 53-page report, focusing on giving states more flexibility under Obama's protection plan.
Industry opposition: The recommendations came in response to complaints from oil and natural gas drilling companies, as well as farmers, ranchers and other land developers over the sage grouse policy.
A compromise: Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell described the Obama administration’s plans, set in 2015, as a compromise meant to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list, which would have imposed greater restrictions on land occupied by the birds.
Broken commitment: Environmental groups criticized Zinke for moving to unwind the plans, which Jewell negotiated with the input of conservationists, sportsmen, energy industry officials, and federal, state, local and tribal authorities.
“Secretary Zinke has seemingly walked away from his own commitment to listen to western governors, state wildlife agencies and those who rely on this habitat before taking action, instead setting down a path toward benefitting oil, gas and mining companies who see these public lands as simply a source for profit,” said Nada Culver, senior director of policy and planning at the Wilderness Society.
‘Slap in the face’: Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, bashed Zinke’s efforts. “It’s a slap in the face to the West and to Americans across the country who sat down together to build these conservation plans,” Grijalva said.
Bottom line: Expect environmental groups to challenge Zinke’s changes in court and perhaps move to try to get the sage grouse added to the endangered species list.
SENATORS WANT PERMANENT JONES ACT RELIEF FOR PUERTO RICO: Republican Sens. John McCain and Mike Lee are not satisfied with the Trump administration’s delayed decision to grant a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico.
Forever fix: The Republican senators introduced legislation Thursday to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act to help rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria and encourage long-term economic growth on the bankrupt island.
Their complaint: McCain, of Arizona, and Lee, of Utah, have long called for repeal of the Jones Act, which they view as protectionist and anti-competitive, driving up the costs of fuel and other important supplies such as food, clothing, and medicine. The nearly century-old law prohibits shipments between U.S. ports unless those vessels are American-made, flagged and manned by a crew that is made up of 75 percent U.S. citizens.
WHITE HOUSE DEFENDS JONES ACT DELAY: White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert defended the Trump administration's decision not to immediately waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico, saying criticism that it took too long to issue the waiver is an "unfounded complaint."
Sufficient ships: Bossert said there were enough U.S.-flagged vessels to bring diesel fuel and commodities to Puerto Rico.
Governor’s call prompts action: He said the White House acted after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello called Wednesday night to ask for a Jones Act waiver.
‘We should listen’: "Once the governor calls and says proactively as I see out into the future on the horizon, then I think that we should listen to him," Bossert said. "The president completely agreed."
ROB BISHOP WANTS TRUMP TO REVIEW OBAMA MINING RULE: The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Zinke to review an Obama administration order blocking mineral access on more than 100,000 acres of federal land.
Economic harm: “Under the prior administration, mineral access on federal land was regularly and systematically blocked, harming our nation's economic and strategic potential," the Utah Republican wrote in a letter Thursday to Perdue and Zinke.
What Obama did: The Obama administration in January issued a 20-year ban on new mining projects across 100,000 acres of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains in southwest Oregon. The withdrawal had been pushed for years by environmentalists, politicians and local officials worried about nickel mining tainting water that drains into nearby streams.
Resource potential: Bishop contends the land affected by the order contains significant quantities of minerals, including nickel, scandium, and cobalt. The U.S. imports 100 percent of its scandium (mostly from China), 90 percent of nickel, and 76 percent of cobalt, Bishop said.
FERC COMPLIES WITH COURT ON CLIMATE CHANGE: FERC is now officially accounting for the climate change effects of burning natural gas at power plants in its environmental reviews for pipelines.
The commission issued an updated draft supplemental environmental review Wednesday after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said FERC must account for downstream greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas power plants in pipeline permit decisions. The decision concerned FERC’s permit for the proposed Southeast Market Pipeline in Florida.
Precedent: FERC had not accounted for the emissions from a power plant, or another secondary source, in permitting a new pipeline project since the commission was created 40 years ago.
What’s in the draft?: The new draft supplement now "estimates the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the [Southeast Market Pipelines] Project's customers' downstream facilities," according to a commission statement.
Social cost of carbon: The new draft also describes "the methodology used to determine these estimates, discusses context for understanding the magnitude of these emissions, and addresses the value of using the social cost of carbon tool," according to FERC. The social cost of carbon metric is a metric created under Obama that the Trump administration is trying to remove from regulations.
Trump policy: FERC oversees the wholesale electric markets and permits interstate natural gas and pipeline projects as part of its principal duties. It is considered by industry to be a key agency in achieving many of Trump's infrastructure goals and energy dominance agenda.
Green victory: Environmental groups took the decision as a major win. The ruling would be used to fight and delay pipelines based on whether or not the commission adequately addresses greenhouse gas emissions that are secondary to a pipeline's construction.
Many scientists blame the burning of fossil fuels for causing the Earth's temperature to rise and accounting for climate change.
FERC’s legal strategy: FERC has not made a decision on whether it will seek to overturn the ruling in court.
"The commission has not announced what it plans to do," said FERC spokeswoman Mary O'Driscoll.
The draft environmental impact review will be available for public comment until Nov. 20. It is not a final action.
COULD THE NEXT FASCINATION WITH GLOBAL WARMING BE GIANT RATS?: A new giant rat species was discovered in the Solomon Islands this week, raising the question of whether climate change is to blame.
Gigantism is more common in rodents living on an island. It is something known by biologists as “the island rule.” But could a tie be made to giant animals as the result of a hotter planet?
Past science: Studies as far back as 2004 suggest the answer is yes. But it’s not exactly what it seems. Rats don’t grow larger from a hotter climate. The hotter climate when combined with the island rule slows the pace at which species have shrunk in size since the Ice Age.
So, giant rats such as the Vika on the Solomon Islands, which have been large for centuries, will continue to remain giant as they begin to diminish in size in the coming centuries.
Rise of the giant vika: The Vika was documented in the Journal of Mammalogy on Wednesday. The rat averages 18 inches long with scaly tail and strong jaws that can bite through a coconut. It is the first new rodent species to be discovered on the island in almost 100 years.
RICK PERRY TOUTS ‘COAL TO BE REVIVED’: The energy secretary promoted coal during a visit to a Pennsylvania mine Thursday to announce funding for abstracting rare earth elements out of coal.
Long ‘reviled’: "For too long, coal has been reviled. It is time for coal to be revived," Perry tweeted from Jeddo Coal Co.'s mine in Ebervale.
In their element: The Energy Department announced it will distribute nearly $4 million in funding among nine projects for using coal to obtain scandium, yttrium and 15 other elements used in electronics, military systems and other technologies. The U.S. typically imports the earth elements from China.
Coal commitment: Perry visited the mine with Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., and the two touted Trump’s “all of the above” energy strategy. "Making sure these guys know [President Trump's] commitment to unlocking the region's resources," Perry tweeted.
Associated Press Zinke wants smaller national monuments, but not in his home state of Montana
E&E News Gina McCarthy, former EPA administrator, says Pruitt will ‘lose’ attacks on science
Bloomberg Storm-ravaged Caribbean eyes solar, but it won’t come cheap
Wall Street Journal China sends jolt through auto industry with plans for electric future
Reuters Tesla races to building world’s biggest battery to help keep the lights on in Australia’s most wind-dependent state
Washington Post Power failures in Puerto Rico spur push for renewable energy
Newsweek Scientists discover technology that could power 70 percent of U.S.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 29
11:30 a.m., 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. The Heritage Foundation holds a discussion on "A Vision for American Energy Dominance" with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
MONDAY, OCT. 2
11 a.m., White House hosts Cut Red Tape Day to highlight deregulation agenda.
TUESDAY, OCT. 3
9 a.m., National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW. The Global CCS Institute hosts “Carbon Capture: A Business Opportunity in the Global Low-Carbon Economy.”
10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee holds a hearing called, “Resiliency: The Electric Grid’s Only Hope.” The purpose of the hearing is to define resiliency, examine electric resiliency from both physical and cyber threats and to study the effectiveness of private and government coordination on resiliency across the electricity delivery sectors.
10 a.m., 1334 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands holds a hearing on a bill to promote innovative approaches to outdoor recreation on federal land and to open up opportunities for collaboration with non-federal partners, and for other purposes.
FRIDAY, OCT. 6
10 a.m., 11555 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md. Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting with Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.This meeting will be webcast live.