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ZINKE TRIES TO SAVE LARGEST COAL PLANT IN WEST WHILE PERRY TRIES TO SAVE COAL PLANTS IN GENERAL: The deliberations over the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona are beginning to heat up after months of confidential, behind-the-scenes negotiations to secure new owners.
The talks will continue into next year even after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signs off on a key environmental determination for the plant and approves a lease extension by Dec. 1.
At the same time, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to help coal and nuclear plants is making its way past the first milestone at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday as the public comment period closes at midnight.
Some coal groups see the Perry plan and the Navajo Generating Station tied together in some ways even though the FERC rule may not affect the plant directly.
Clean coal group: "We're looking at it more from an overall preventing the premature closure of coal plants because we think they're important to grid resilience and reliability," said Michelle Bloodworth, the chief operating officer of the pro-coal industry group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
"We were glad to see that the Department of Energy certainly recognizes the importance of grid resilience," Bloodworth said. "From that standpoint, we certainly think keeping that plant open is important to the overall national security of the grid."
Navajo reinforces need for Perry plan: Bloodworth's group will be working with the Trump administration on developing coal incentives proposed late last month by Perry that reinforce the value of coal plants such as the Navajo station, instead of scrapping them in favor of lower-cost natural gas plants.
Perry’s plan could spark wider debate: Although Perry’s plan affects plants only in the FERC-overseen restructured markets, which the Navajo station is not part of, state energy commission are beginning to look at keeping coal in the energy mix to enhance grid reliability. The FERC plan essentially would pay coal and nuclear plants for their ability to keep a 90-day supply of fuel onsite.
Arizona commissioner sparks conversation: Arizona utility commissioner Andy Tobin used the FERC plan in a letter to the power plant's owners this month to emphasize the Navajo Generating Station’s national security relevance and the need for the owners to maintain the plant as they prepare to leave in mid-December.
The owners include the consortium Salt River Project, Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, and utilities Tucson Electric Power, Nevada Power, and Arizona Public Service Co. The Salt River Project managed Interior's stake in the power plant. Peabody operates the coal mine that feeds the plant.
Peabody lobbies for Navajo: A member of her group, coal mining company Peabody, is heavily involved in the negotiations to save the plant.
Peabody Energy, the owner of the Kayenta Mine that feeds the power plant, is looking for a new consortium of owners, who would see a future in continuing to operate the coal-fired facility beyond 2019.
An official with Peabody said it found a potential owner, who will begin evaluating running the power plant. The news satisfies an Oct. 1 deadline with the plant owners to secure a buyer. But the negotiations on a final agreement won't be held until next year.
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PRUITT’S PRIVATE POLICE GARRISON IS GROWING: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s already large security team is getting larger.
Congressional scrutiny: CNN reported that the number of people on Pruitt’s security team has reached an unprecedented level, raising questions from members of Congress, who are asking if the costs are a "potential waste or abuse of taxpayer dollars."
Dozen more agents added: Citing a source close to situation, CNN reported that Pruitt's security team is hiring a dozen more agents.
Round-the-clock security force: The incoming agents are needed to provide for Pruitt’s around-the-clock security, which has set him apart from his predecessors. Salaries for the security team will cost $2 million per year, according to CNN’s calculations.
EPA CANCELS CLIMATE CHANGE SPEECH BY AGENCY SCIENTISTS: The Environmental Protection Agency has canceled the speaking appearance of three agency scientists who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference Monday in Rhode Island, the New York Times reports.
The main event: The last-minute canceled speeches at the State of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed program surprised agency scientists. That’s because the EPA helps to fund the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which is hosting the conference.
Climate change focus: The Times said scientists who had been expected to speak contributed substantial material to a 400-page report to be issued Monday on the health of the Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England. The report will have a strong emphasis on climate change.
Among the findings, the Times reported, will be that climate change is affecting air and water temperatures, precipitation, sea level, and fish in and around the estuary.
SENATE PANEL TO VOTE ON EPA NOMINEES AFTER DELAY OVER BIOFUEL MANDATE: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will move ahead this week with confirmation votes of key EPA officials, after some Republicans signaled they may not vote for them as retaliation for the Trump administration's plan to weaken the biofuel mandate.
Pruitt curbs concerns: Those concerns from Midwestern Republicans seem to be mollified for now, because Pruitt assured GOP senators late Thursday night he would keep intact the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires a certain amount of biofuels to be blended into the nation's fuel supply.
Republicans spark delay: The committee was scheduled to consider the nominations last week, but it postponed the vote shortly after Republicans threatened to oppose the nominees because of the administration's biofuels proposal.
On the hot seat: The new date for the vote will be Wednesday. The most scrutinized of the EPA nominees are Michael Dourson, chosen to run the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Bill Wehrum tabbed to run the agency's air office.
The key vote: Sen. Joni Ernst, from the corn-producing state of Iowa and a major supporter of the Renewable Fuel Standard, had criticized Wehrum for being insufficiently supportive of the biofuel industry. Ernst's vote could swing the fortunes of Wehrum because Republicans hold an 11-10 majority over Democrats on the committee, so just one GOP defection would defeat his nomination. She later said she was satisfied with Pruitt's assurance that he would not lower next year's annual requirements for blending renewable fuel in the nation's gasoline and diesel supply, and vowed to work “collaboratively” with EPA.
Dems united: Democrats uniformly oppose both Dourson and Wehrum, citing their close ties to industry.
OIL REFINERS STRIKE BACK AT PRUITT AFTER BIOFUELS REVERSAL: The oil industry is striking back at Pruitt after he reneged on the EPA’s biofuels proposal. Oil companies charged that Democratic and Republican senators from Midwestern states unfairly intervened in the regulatory process, and pressured the EPA to keep the Renewable Fuel Standard intact.
‘Bullying opposition’ “The only unifying principle of their bullying opposition seems to be a desire to maintain the status quo at all costs and to protect windfall profits associated with unregulated trading of renewable identification numbers, or RINs,” Valero Energy Corp. said Friday. “Their position advances neither the goals nor the efficient implementation of the RFS, and places U.S. manufacturing jobs at risk."
Pressure points: Of course, it was the oil industry that pressed for Pruitt to weaken the biofuels mandate.
What oil wants: The Renewable Fuel Standard requires refiners to blend ethanol or other biofuels into their products or buy credits, known as Renewable Identification Numbers, from refiners that do. The prices of those credits, which had been stable, have jumped in recent years, which oil refiners say drive up pump prices for consumers.
To respond to those concerns, Pruitt had said he would curtail the program's biofuel targets while allowing ethanol exports to qualify as part of the annual production goals.
But on Thursday, Pruitt changed course and said he would not pursue regulations on the ethanol export idea suggested by refiners.
ON THE OTHER SIDE... TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY FEARS BIOFUELS MANDATE CHANGE: The transportation industry has been a surprising force in lobbying against change to the biofuels mandate.
Convenience store owners and truck stop operators, who interact directly with the users of fuel, say they have plenty at stake if the Renewable Fuel Standard were weakened.
The fuel of concern: The EPA had proposed cutting the already established 2018 volumes of biodiesel, which was set at 2.1 billion gallons, by up to 315 million gallons, which would be 15 percent. Biodiesel, a type of biofuel, is primarily used to fuel trucks. The Renewable Fuel Standard has made the fuel cost competitive with traditional diesel, and cutting the mandate for biofuels could raise the price of it.
‘Just pay more’: "Lowering the renewable fuel mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard would disincentivize many truck stop operators from blending biodiesel and selling biodiesel," said David Fialkov, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Truck Stop Owners. “If the EPA discourages us from blending biodiesel in a manner that raises the price of fuel, invariably we will blend less biodiesel, which will raise the cost of fuel. Truckers will continue to drive, but just pay more."
Truckers fret cost uncertainty: The trucking industry, meanwhile, is not taking an official position on the proposal. But Glen Kedzie of the American Trucking Associations says his trade group, which represents companies such as UPS, FedEx and Walmart, is watching the debate closely. Kedzie says trucking companies have small profit margins and compete for jobs primarily on costs. Uncertainty about fuel supply policy could complicate planning efforts, he says.
‘Better be accurate’: "Everyone is competing to haul a load from Point A to Point B," Kedzie said. “You need to nail down what the cost of fuel is. The low bidder would get that load. You better be pretty accurate in predicting what the price of fuel will be."
Convenience store owners also worried: Paige Anderson, director of government relations at the Association for Convienience and Fuel Retailing, has similar worries. Her trade group represents more than 154,000 convenience stores across the U.S. that sell 80 percent of the country's motor fuel, she said.
Lots of questions: "Uncertainty makes me ask a lot of questions," Anderson said. "Uncertainty means, are we going to be able to get a product we need to blend? Are we going to be able to get product at a competitive price? Is product going to become scarce? Are we going to be raising the cost of blending biofuel? If that's the case, will it raise costs for consumers? Ultimately, that's what uncertainty does."
What happens now: The EPA must finalize the biofuels regulations by Nov. 30, so it still has time to adjust its plans again. And uncertainty promises to remain.
TOM STEYER, CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE ‘NEED TO IMPEACH’: Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer kicked off a campaign to impeach President Trump on Friday with an advertising push that calls on Congress to begin beating the drum for impeachment.
Climate doesn’t make list of gripes: “Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments," Steyer said, calling the president a "clear and president danger."
Widening the environmental scope: Steyer’s climate change activism appears to be relegated these days to his group NextGen Climate, which often ventures into non-environmental areas of policy. Green groups see social justice issues, the minimum wage debate, and, of course, the president’s handling of the nation’s credibility as part of their activism.
Steyer used his TV advertisement to call on elected representatives "who will stand up for justice, come forward and call for impeachment.”
‘Need to impeach’: The campaign is called "Need to Impeach," which seeks to encourage Americans to "demand that Congress take a stand on behalf of voters and act now on removing Trump from office," according to a statement by the campaign.
The one-minute ad spot, called "Join Us," has Steyer seated and making an appeal to the public as fellow Americans to get behind the impeachment effort.
GREENS TAKE TO THE SKIES TO GET PRUITT TO RESIGN: Environmentalists are going to great lengths to keep the Trump administration's private jet scandal alive by flying planes of their own and buzzing members of the Cabinet with the goal of having them resign.
Charter plane scandal trails behind Pruitt: Friends of the Earth flew a single-engine plane Thursday night over an oil and gas conference as part of a campaign to pressure Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to pay back $58,000 he spent in taxpayer dollars on private chartered flights since becoming the agency's chief.
The ghost of Tom Price: Pruitt and a number of other top Cabinet officials are being scrutinized by congressional committees and their agencies' independent inspectors general for using private chartered aircraft to attend events. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over the scandal, in which it was revealed he spent close to $1 million on private flights in a just a few months.
MURKOWSKI STRIKES UP RARE ALLIANCE WITH D.C.: She may not be making friends with the White House, especially on healthcare legislation, but it’s a different story when it comes to the city of Washington itself.
Props from the mayor: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, and the city’s non-voting member of Congress, Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, say they couldn’t be more thrilled to have the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in their corner.
Murkowski introduced legislation Friday to restore the nation’s capital’s parks by striking up a new management relationship with the National Park Service that will help it fund improvements across the city.
The bill “will enable the District to move forward on projects that will improve Washington, D.C., for residents, visitors and businesses, and we are pleased to collaborate with Senator Murkowski on this legislation,” Bowser said.
House is ready to score a ‘win’: The House version of the bill has been passed by two committees and is heading to the floor for a vote, Norton said. “This legislation is a big win for the federal government and the District and will allow residents and visitors alike to enjoy green space and amenities right in downtown D.C.”
Murkowski’s bill would allow the city to enter into cooperative management agreements with the National Park Service to more efficiently manage park sites across the District.
Murkowski and Bowser noted that Franklin Park, which has been in a state of disrepair, is first on the list for restoration.
MUSK MOVES ONE STEP CLOSER TO ‘HYPERLOOP’ REALITY: Maryland became the first state to grant electric carmaker Elon Musk permission to begin digging tunnels to build his high-speed transportation tube called a hyperloop.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the decision to allow Musk to begin digging via Twitter on Friday. Musk's "Hyperloop" would rocket passengers from Washington to New York in less than 30 minutes.
A boring project: Musk started the project this year through his latest venture, called the Boring Co., which has been in negotiations with the District of Columbia and states along the path to connect the nation's capital to Wall Street.
What Maryland did: The Maryland Department of Transportation granted Musk, who also owns carmaker Tesla, a conditional permit to begin digging a tunnel underneath one of the more congested roadways that connects D.C. to Baltimore, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The permit is for digging a 10.3-mile tunnel under a part of the parkway that Maryland owns. The federal government owns the rest of it.
New York Times An industry insider helps call the shots on hazardous chemical policy at EPA
Bloomberg Puerto Rico’s energy future could include Tesla, microgrids and privatization
Wall Street Journal Electric-car maker Tesla strikes deal with Shanghai to build factory in China
Reuters London introduces vehicle pollution levy in new blow to diesel
New York Times In China’s coal capital, Xi Jinping’s dream remains elusive
MONDAY, OCT. 23
Midnight. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s deadline for public comments on Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid plan.
TUESDAY, OCT. 24
10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a joint subcommittee hearing on "Regulatory Reform Task Forces Check-In."
11 a.m., teleconference, States and others looking to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement hold a press conference to announce new growth in the “We Are Still In” coalition. They will explain the role that non-federal leaders will play at COP 23, the next round of U.N. climate negotiations taking place in Bonn, Germany from Nov. 6-17.
1 p.m., Capitol. President Trump addresses Republican weekly policy lunch to discuss the fall legislative agenda.
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.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 25
10 a.m., 1324 Longworth. House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on "Empowering State Based Management Solutions for Greater Sage Grouse Recovery."
10 a.m., 406 Dirksen. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the "Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017."
10 a.m., 406 Dirksen. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a meeting to vote on the following nominees: Michael Dourson to be EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention; William Wehrum to be EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation; Matthew Leopold to be EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of General Counsel; David Ross to be EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Water; Paul Trombino III to be administrator for the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation; Jeffery Baran to be a reappointed member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
THURSDAY, OCT. 26
10 a.m., 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on "Examine Cyber Technology and Energy Infrastructure."