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PRUITT, PERRY MOVE TO BOOST COAL: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will sign his proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan on Tuesday, he said Monday morning in the coal-mining state of Kentucky.
He will lay out the financial gain of killing the Obama administration's climate rules for the coal industry.
“Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers,” Pruitt said.
The plan, which required states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2030, has been on ice since February 2016, when the Supreme Court blocked it as it worked its way through the courts. He said the withdrawal of the plan would come on Tuesday. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from more than two dozen states and over 100 industry groups challenging the Obama-era rules in September 2016, but has not ruled on the case.
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed rule to give the industry incentives for the reliability it provides to the electric grid is working its way through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at a fevered clip.
Those two moves by the Trump administration would provide a major, two-pronged plan to boost coal-fired power plants.
Heavy-handed approach: “Certainly the administration’s intent behind both policies is to help coal in a heavy-handed way through government mandates and policies -- so much for free markets and limited government,” said John Shelk, president the Electric Power Supply Association. Shelk is part of a broad coalition of industries, including natural gas, fossil fuels, utilities, wind and solar, that oppose the FERC proposal.
The FERC proposal would essentially pay coal plants for their ability to keep 90 days of coal at power plants. Perry argues that would ensure that electricity continues to flow during a major power outage from a natural disaster or cyber attack. The same market incentives would be given to nuclear power plants.
Coal piles up: But Shelk isn’t convinced it would help the grid become more resilient. “The result of all this could be, in part, coal plants with big coal piles just sit there, with customers picking up the tab,” he told the Washington Examiner in an email.
Coal, coal everywhere: He said moving more coal from mines to power plants “doesn’t necessarily mean more coal burn.” That would require a change in how the FERC-overseen markets choose which resources to dispatch ahead of others, which is based on price.
It isn’t clear how far the Energy Department wants to go, he said. If coal and nuclear plants were allowed to get around the dispatch rules, owners of these “subsidized plants” would be allowed to bid below their true costs, Shelk said.
Perry to testify Wednesday: Perry’s FERC plan is expected to dominate at least part of the discussion when he testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
Perry will be the sole witness at a hearing meant to assess the Department of Energy’s “missions and management priorities.”
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PERRY’S NUCLEAR VISION FOR PUERTO RICO: Perry has a vision for the future of nuclear power plants that could become a reality if a few regulatory and oversight hurdles would fall in line.
The Perry plan came up last month while addressing National Clean Energy Week. The energy secretary proposed the idea of flying in C-130 cargo planes carrying mini nuclear reactors the size of hot tubs to restore power to Puerto Rico’s power grid.
The proposal was more of what-if scenario to underscore the direction the administration wants to go on energy innovation.
A number of companies are looking to build the small reactors, which are not to be confused with the small light-water reactors that caught attention under the Obama administration.
The Perry reactors are cooled by liquefied metal and can act more like nuclear batteries that are more efficient than conventional power plants and easier to keep stable.
Air Force’s idea: William C. Anderson, the former assistant secretary of the Air Force under George W. Bush, had been an advocate in Washington a decade ago trying to get more support for these small reactors as a way to make military installations safer and reduce dependence on vulnerable fossil fuel supply chains.
Nuclear power in a trash can: "The conversations we had when I was back in the Air Force, we were talking about the potential for these small reactors being the size of a trash can, and then being able to be loaded in the back of a Humvee," Anderson told the Washington Examiner. "The weight is a little bit overwhelming, it's a solid chunk of metal, but small enough to be able to power a forward-operating base."
Flying reactors: He also had the idea of a slightly larger nuclear power unit, the size of a shipping container, which could be easily loaded into the back of a C-130, he said.
PERRY VS. MUSK: Tesla’s billionaire electric carmaker Elon Musk entered into informal talks over the weekend with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello on how to use Tesla technology to restore power to the U.S. territory using solar energy.
Next steps coming: Rosello tweeted that the two had a "great" conversation and "next steps" will soon follow. Musk retweeted the tweet.
Musk’s plan: Tesla, in addition to making cars, has created a line of energy storage batteries that work with solar panels to provide continuous 24-hour electricity even when the sun isn’t shining.
REFINERS, LAWMAKERS LASH OUT AT ETHANOL MANDATE: Independent refiners and a bipartisan group of lawmakers joined together Monday to call on President Trump to fix the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The RFS is the EPA’s renewable fuel program that requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel supply.
Icahn is back: But the independent refiners, including those represented by billionaire and former Trump adviser Carl Icahn, see the targets as burdensome and a hit to their bottom lines.
Employees of refiners Monroe Energy, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and PBF Energy joined with lawmakers at a press conference in Pennsylvania to call on Trump “to fix” the EPA’s biofuel program.
Jobs on the line: “Collectively, these refineries support tens of thousands of jobs and contribute billions of dollars annually to the greater Philadelphia region's economy,” said the organizing group Fueling American Jobs Coalition. “However, a federal government program is preventing these refineries from creating new jobs and it threatens refining jobs and those who depend on these facilities across the country.”
What’s the problem?: The group explained that the RFS requires local independent refineries to buy expensive credits from their rivals, the large multinational oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, to demonstrate that renewable fuels are being blended into the gasoline supply, despite not having the capability or resources to blend the fuels themselves.
Unfair competition: The bigger companies own both the production and distribution side of the fuel business, and can both generate the credits and blend the ethanol into fuel.
“This system subsidizes large, multinational oil companies at the expense of independent, local refineries. This is a flaw that President Trump can and must fix,” the coalition said.
The refiners are pushing the EPA to make substantial changes to the RFS that would augment how credits can be generated to give the independent refiners a leg up.
Congress: Pennsylvania Reps. Pat Meehan and Ryan Costello, both Republicans, and Democrat Bob Brady gathered with the refinery workers Monday to call Trump to fix the RFS.
GREENS PUSH TO FIRE ZINKE: A push by activist groups and Trump opponents to oust Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke intensified over the weekend with the #FireZinke movement swinging into full force.
The push looks to put pressure on the administration to consider firing Zinke for his chartered flights on the taxpayers’ dime, which involved travel to talk to sports teams owned by campaign contributors.
Environmental groups intensified their campaign against Zinke through @EcoUprising and other coalitions that want Zinke gone because of his public lands policy that looks to revamp national monuments and other protected areas for mining and fossil fuel production.
EPA INSPECTOR GENERAL EXPANDS PROBE OF PRUITT’S TRAVEL: The EPA’s inspector general on Friday said it plans to expand its investigation of Pruitt's travel. The office will examine all of Pruitt's travel through Sept. 30, not just his frequent travel to and from his home state of Oklahoma.
Focus of probe: Recent disclosures have shown that Pruitt has taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, at a cost of more than $58,000. "We will review supporting documentation and conduct interviews with management and staff to determine whether the EPA followed applicable policies and practices, and complied with federal requirements," Friday's letter from the inspector general's office says.
Flightgate: Pruitt is one of many Cabinet members to face scrutiny over their travel habits, including all of Trump’s energy-related heads including Zinke.
Perry took a private chartered flight to visit a uranium-processing facility in Ohio the day before HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned for his frequent use of commercial travel.
Perry takes offense: The Energy Department sought to get out ahead of scrutiny about Perry’s travel, issuing a statement Friday that Perry flies almost exclusively on Southwest and United Airlines.
His defense: The department said Perry has not used a chartered or military flight unless it comports with agency rules. "Secretary Perry has never flown on a private non-commercial aircraft for official business as Secretary of Energy," according to the agency. "The rules and regulations makes a distinction between private aircraft and the government chartering from a company."
PRISONERS HELP FIGHT WILDFIRES IN ARIZONA: Arizona is starting a program to help newly released prisoners assimilate into communities through fighting wildfires.
It’s a creative way to help address what has been an extreme year for wildfires, which have become larger, more frequent, deadlier and costlier.
Arizona’s wildfire problem: More than 400,000 acres across the state had been hit by this year's season fire season, the largest area burned since 2011.
Enter ‘The Phoenix Crew’: To help respond, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, jumpstarted the prisoner program, called “The Phoenix Crew.” The program, set to begin in the next two months, is a $1.5 million joint initiative between Arizona's Department of Corrections and Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
Competitive process: Through the program, non-violent, low-risk ex-prisoners will be taught to fight wildfires and undertake fire prevention tasks. Interested prisoners must undertake a competitive application process.
Trail of fire: The idea of tapping prisoners to serve in fire crews is not new. But although California, Oregon and Washington state sporadically integrate ex-inmates into public or private contractor firefighting teams, Arizona is one of the first to start a former-prisoner-only crew.
New York Times Tokyo preparing for floods “beyond anything we’ve ever seen”
Bloomberg Oil companies wade back into Gulf of Mexico as Hurricane Nate fizzles
Reuters ‘Extraordinary measures’ may be needed in 2018 to rebalance oil market, says OPEC secretary general
Washington Post Nominee for EPA’s No. 2 spot once wrote Trump was a ‘bully’
New York Times Germany’s shift to green energy stalls, despite huge investments
Bloomberg Flint’s river of poison, Three years after water crisis
MONDAY, OCT. 9
Columbus Day federal holiday.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 11
11 a.m.-1 p.m., webinar, The National Association of State Energy Officials and U.S. Energy Information Administration hold the Winter Energy Outlook Webinar.
2 p.m., 1334 Longworth. The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on amending the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to distribute revenue from oil and gas leasing on the outer Continental Shelf to certain coastal states, and for other purposes.
11 p.m., PBS’s Frontline airs the documentary “War on the EPA.”
THURSDAY, OCT. 12
10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee holds a hearing on “Department of Energy Missions and Management Priorities.” Energy Secretary Rick Perry will testify as the sole witness.
FRIDAY, OCT. 13
All day, Las Vegas. National Clean Energy Summit 9.0, hosted by former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada at the Bellagio Resort and Casino. Speakers include Al Gore and John Kasich, among others.