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MORE THAN 44,000 GALLONS OF OIL RECOVERED FROM KEYSTONE SPILL, TRANSCANADA SAYS: Energy company TransCanada Corp announced that it recovered 44,400 gallons, or 1,057 barrels, of oil following a spill from the Keystone pipeline in Amherst, S.D. Roughly 5,000 barrels of oil spilled in the region due to a leak this month, which shut down the pipeline. TransCanada has not announced when the pipeline will reopen.
THE PIPELINE LEAKS MORE THAN PREDICTED TO REGULATORS: The Keystone pipeline has leaked more oil, and more often, than TransCanada projected to regulators before the project began operating in 2010, according to Reuters.
Three big leaks so far: The existing 2,147-mile Keystone system from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Texas coast has had three significant leaks in the U.S. Those include the spill this month and two others, each about 400 barrels, in South Dakota in 2016 and North Dakota in 2011. Before constructing the pipeline, TransCanada provided a spill risk assessment to regulators that estimated the chance of a leak of more than 50 barrels to be “not more than once every seven to 11 years over the entire length of the pipeline in the United States,” according to its South Dakota operating permit.
License at risk? Members of South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission said they could revoke TransCanada’s operating permit if a probe of last week’s spill shows it violated the terms of its license.
Key moment: Nebraska regulators last week approved a key permit for the Keystone XL expansion of the pipeline network, and TransCanada is expected to decide next month whether to proceed with the project.
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TRUMP BACKS OBAMA DEAL ON COOLANT POLLUTANTS: The Trump administration supports an international accord limiting emissions of climate pollutants called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are refrigerants used in cooling systems from air conditioning to refrigerators, a top State Department official said..
"The United States believes the Kigali Amendment represents a pragmatic and balanced approach to phasing down the production and consumption of HFCs, and therefore we support the goals and approach of the amendment," said Judith Garber, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, at a conference in Montreal on Thursday.
Potent pollutant: HFCs are considered more potent than greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane.
Obama’s deal: World nations, led by the U.S. under the Obama administration, agreed in October 2016 to the Kigali amendment of the Montreal Protocol, which would phase out HFC emissions. The deal, negotiated in Kigali, Rwanda, recently reached a key threshold because it is now endorsed by 21 member countries, which will allow it to go into force in early 2019.
Senate weighs in: The Trump administration must send it to the Senate for ratification.
ADVOCACY GROUPS GRAPPLE WITH WHY TRUMP OVERRULED ADMINISTRATION ON ELEPHANTS: Individuals and groups who have played primary advocacy roles in the debate over trophy elephants are grappling with how President Trump arrived at the decision to override a new rule proposed by his administration to allow hunters to import “trophy” elephants killed in Zimbabwe.
Perplexing lesson: “This is a lesson that public pressure can be effective in some instances with President Trump, but then again, I can think of so many other environmental issues where that hasn't been the case,” said Elly Pepper of the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose organization sued the administration for the proposed rule change.“So I am a little perplexed.”
The proposed change: The Fish and Wildlife Service, in justifying the decision, announced Friday that killing elephants in Zimbabwe on or after Jan. 21, 2016, and on or before Dec. 31, 2018, "will enhance the survival of the African elephant," according to the notice published in the Federal Register.
The Obama administration had determined the country's conservation practices were not strong enough for the U.S. to allow trophy imports from there, and placed a suspension on trophy exports from Zimbabwe.
In the dark: A White House aide said Trump did not know about the administration’s decision to lift the trophy ban until he saw news reports, which were mostly critical of the move.
What now? Questions persist about whether the Trump administration can take down its Federal Register notice allowing the imports, and if Fish and Wildlife will issue a new rule.
As of now, the Federal Register notice remains online.
WHITEFISH RESUMES WORK IN PUERTO RICO AFTER PARTIAL PAYMENT: Whitefish Energy, the company hired for $300 million to help Puerto Rico restore power after two devastating hurricanes, has resumed repairs after stopping work because it says it was not paid.
‘Good faith’: A Whitefish Energy spokesman said the company returned to work Wednesday after the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority paid some of what it owed under the contract, enough to show its “good faith intent to pay” for service.
Whitefish had suspended work on the island’s electric grid Monday, 10 days earlier than expected.
Up to speed: Whitefish signed a $300 million contract with PREPA last month to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria.
The deal was canceled amid growing outrage from U.S. lawmakers over concerns about the contract and Whitefish, including the small size of the company and that it is from the same hometown as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Additionally, Whitefish faced criticism for charging up to $240 an hour for workers and requiring a 16-hour, seven-day work week.
CLIMATE CHANGE A ‘DIRECT THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY,’ DEFENSE BILL SAYS: The 2,400-page National Defense Authorization Act that Congress sent to President Trump contains a warning about climate change.
Terrorist risk: Changing climate is a “direct threat” to U.S. national security, endangering 128 military bases with sea rise and global destabilization that could fuel terror groups, according to the NDAA, which is a bipartisan compromise struck by the House and Senate. The bill orders a Pentagon report on the top 10 at-risk bases and what should be done to protect them.
Trump backs bill: Trump, who has described himself as a climate change skeptic, indicated he will sign the $700 billion policy bill, calling it an historic boost for the military that “could not come at a better time for our nation.”
Big picture: The language on climate change, almost certain to become law, is a sign that under the new Republican administration, Congress is moving toward more acceptance of the phenomenon being a serious security issue, and that the military will continue efforts to assess and plan for the risks.
EXXON, SHELL, BP PLEDGE TO REDUCE METHANE EMISSIONS FROM NATURAL GAS: Several major energy companies have signed onto a pledge to reduce emissions of methane from natural gas production, part of an effort by the industry to show it is committed to combating climate change even as the Trump administration rolls back regulations forcing them to.
What’s in a pledge: The companies didn't make any specific emissions reductions targets, but they promise to “continually reduce methane emissions; advance strong performance across gas value chains; improve accuracy of methane emissions data; advocate sound policies and regulations on methane emissions; and increase transparency.”
Regulatory battle: The vow by the companies to “advocate sound policies and regulations on methane” is especially noteworthy because the Trump administration has tried -- and so far, failed -- to repeal Obama-era methane regulations.
Why methane matters: Energy companies have promoted natural gas as an important component of addressing climate change because it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal. They also view natural gas as increasingly important to the stability of the power grid as renewables increase their share, since wind and solar require the sun to be shining and wind to be blowing. But methane, the main component in natural gas, is more potent than carbon dioxide, although methane emissions are relatively short-lived.
EPA REJECTS CHANGES TO BIOFUEL MANDATE SOUGHT BY REFINERS, CARL ICAHN: The Trump administration is rejecting a proposal backed by oil refiners and billionaire Carl Icahn to change biofuel policy,
Point taken: The Environmental Protection Agency denied petitions by Valero Energy and other refiners to change the rules regarding the "point of obligation" so that refiners wouldn't be responsible for blending corn-based ethanol into gasoline.
Pressure point: Icahn, a former special adviser to Trump, also pressed the administration to change the requirement. One of his investment firms, Icahn Enterprises, owns a large stake in an oil refinery business, CVR Energy. Icahn resigned as special adviser to the president in August after the New Yorker published an article about the conflicts created by his advisory role.
Commitment to RFS: The decision to keep the rules as they are comes after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to Midwestern senators that he would not change the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires refiners and importers to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into gasoline and diesel. Pruitt had previously proposed weakening the fuel standard at the behest of oil refiners, but he changed course after protests from Midwestern states.
Final decision coming: The EPA must release its RFS requirements by Thursday.
ATTORNEYS GENERAL OPPOSE TRUMP PLAN TO RAISE NATIONAL PARK FEES: A bipartisan group of attorneys general say they oppose the National Park Service's proposal to more than double visitor fees for 17 popular national parks.
The attorneys general include Xavier Becerra of California, a Democrat, Mark Brnovich of Arizona, a Republican, Democrat Eric Schneiderman of New York, and eight others.
‘Beauty or bread’: “The service’s proposed fee increases, which double or even triple existing entrance fees, threaten to put many Americans to the choice of beauty or bread and to distance them from the places in which so many experience the natural wonder of our great and unique nation,” they wrote in comments filed last week in which they quoted famed conservationist John Muir.
The other states signing the comments are Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Park pitch: Under the proposal, the entrance fee for the Grand Canyon and other parks would rise from $30 to $70 per vehicle.
The increases are meant to fund the $12 billion maintenance backlog at national parks and other infrastructure upgrades, the Interior Department says.
The agency originally planned to accept comments through Thanksgiving, but its new deadline is Dec. 22.
TOM STEYER SAYS AMERICAN PEOPLE WANT TRUMP IMPEACHED: California billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer on Sunday defended his campaign to encourage Congress to impeach Trump, calling the president an “urgent threat” and accusing him of violating the constitution.
“To sit here and wait doing absolutely nothing is the wrong thing to do. The American people want this man impeached,” Steyer said on CNN’s "State of the Union."
Big money play: Steyer is funding a $20 million advertising campaign calling for Trump's impeachment. Steyer, who made his fortune as co-founder of a hedge fund, has spent more than $170 million on Democratic politics over the past three years.
He focuses especially on environmental issues, such as defeating the Keystone XL pipeline, and promoting efforts to combat climate change.
New York Times In Peru’s deserts, melting glaciers are a godsend (until they’re gone)
Wall Street Journal FBI investigates energy firm EnerVest over Ohio shale-drilling lease
Washington Post Oil and gas industry is causing Texas earthquakes, a ‘landmark’ study suggests
Bloomberg Shell joins automakers to offer charging stations across Europe
Reuters Exxon Mobil chief revamps refining, chemical operations
Wall Street Journal Venezuelan military general with no oil-industry experience to lead state sector
MONDAY, NOV. 27
All day, Toronto. The Energy and Mines World Congress holds 5th annual conference, Nov. 27-28, for senior mining, alternative energy, government and finance experts exploring cost-effective, reliable, and low-carbon energy for mines.
Senate in session. House not in session.
TUESDAY, NOV. 28
The EPA will hold a public hearing on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan in Charleston, W. Va., on Tuesday and Wednesday.
9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts an event about the “Status of Carbon Capture 2017.”
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 29
10 a.m. 496 Dirksen. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has scheduled a vote on the nominations of Kathleen Hartnett White for Council on Environmental Quality chairwoman and Andrew Wheeler for deputy EPA administrator.
THURSDAY, NOV. 30
Deadline for the EPA to announce the Renewable Fuel Standard requirements for 2018.
12:30 p.m. 1135 16th St. NW. The Natural Gas Roundtable hosts FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee at its luncheon.