Well, I have my Metallica tickets for the summer WorldWired Tour 2017 and I was thrilled to hear that Incubus will be touring this summer as well. Add the Iron Maiden Book of Souls Tour and you have one great (and expensive) summer concert series.
On the sports side, how about baseball… Yeah, Spring training launches in full this week and for the first time in over 100 years, the Cubs enter Spring Training as World Champions. First “real” exhibition games in the Grapefruit launch on Friday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL when the Red Sox host the Mets. Cactus action starts Friday as well with the Reds/Giants in Scottsdale. I hope you didn’t watch the NBA All-Star game last night, I spent about four minutes watching it before I realized that it was terrible. They ought take a page out of the NHL and MLB books and make it mean something. Finally, college lax gets going in full force. Hannah and her Wellesley teammates start at Bates on March 1st.
Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt was approved on Friday with a vote of 52-46 to become the 14th EPA Administrator. Maine R Susan Collins voted against, while Dems Joe Manchin (WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) were for. McCain (who went to Germany) and IN Democrat Joe Donnelly didn’t vote. Wow…that Donnelly vote is interesting, especially after he said he wouldn’t vote for Pruitt. Below we have a full array of comments from both sides. We expect the swearing in and signing of executive orders tomorrow at Noon. Our friend Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal conducted Pruitt’s first interview which clearly outlines his commitment to refocusing the agency on its statutorily-defined mission: working cooperatively with the states to improve water and air. He also has made a point of focusing on following the rule of law and Congressional intent saying the previous Administration “displaced Congress, disregarded the law, and in general said they would act in their own way. That now ends.” Enviro reaction was of course WAY over the top. Just check out the response on the social media in response to Pruitt’s new twitter account: @EPAScottPruitt. The comments are definitely NC-17 in some cases.
Two other big events this week: tomorrow morning at the Newseum, Third Way will host an Advanced Nuclear Summit that will feature ClearPath’s Jay Faison and examines the opportunities advanced nuclear offers, as well as the need for quick action. Then, Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in 2167 Rayburn, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and SAFE will hold a briefing on the benefits self-driving vehicles will have on improving everyday lives.
Today is President’s Day and that means Congress is in the District Work period. It also mean no votes on DOE nominee Rick Perry, Interior nominee Ryan Zinke and others still hanging out there until maybe early March at best. That is a little unfortunate since today President Trump hits the first month mark on his presidency. Speaking of that, our friend Mike Allen has a great first month analysis (good and bad) in his new outlet Axios (which you should check out). Another one of my awesome GWU SMPA graduates, Sara Fischer, is writing for Axios covering media trends and our friend Ben Geman moves over there this week to cover energy. Congrats Ben…
Finally, while President Trump may call it the failing New York Times, I am happy to share my friends’ interesting new interactive series called Changing Climate, Changing Cities that tackles how climate change is challenging the world’s urban centers. The first installment ran Friday and explores Mexico City, climate change didn’t cause a lot of their fragile infrastructure and social problems, but may now act as a threat multiplier. Expect more interesting coverage going forward.
We are around this week and it may be a good time to catch up. Call with questions…
“America’s abundance of clean natural gas is driving low prices for homes and businesses which is leading states to find new ways to extend natural gas to more communities. Efficient use of this domestic resource can help us achieve our national goals.”
AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy, discussing the group’s 2017 Playbook.
THE EPA VIEW
The Pruitt Vote – The Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to be administrator of EPA Friday by a 52-46 roll call vote. Voting yes were 2 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Voting no were 43 Democrats, 1 Republican and 2 independents. Democrats Yes: Heitkamp, N.D.; Manchin, WV. Republicans No: Collins, Maine. Not Voting: McCain (R-AZ) (who went to Germany) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN). The Donnelly vote is interesting, especially after he said he wouldn’t vote for Pruitt. Wonder what was going on there…
WSJ Interview First for Pruitt – Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal conducted Pruitt’s first interview which clearly outlines his commitment to refocusing the agency on its statutorily-defined mission: working cooperatively with the states to improve water and air. He also has made a point of focusing on following the rule of law and Congressional intent saying the previous Administration “displaced Congress, disregarded the law, and in general said they would act in their own way. That now ends.”
Platts Pruitt Factbox – Our friends Jasmin Melvin and Meg Gordon of Platts published a nice factbox on some of the energy impacts of Pruitt taking over at EPA. It looks at issues like biofuels, CAFE, environmental protections, cooperation with states, etc.
Media Coverage – Here are links to a few of the articles on the vote: Los Angeles Times – New York Times – USA Today – Wall Street Journal – Washington Post – NPR – Associated Press – Reuters – Bloomberg
Electric Reliability Coordinating Council – ERCC director Scott Segal: ERCC was happy to endorse Mr. Pruitt before his hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works. Our members are glad to welcome a new leader to EPA. The Agency has a mission of tremendous importance to human health and the environment and Scott Pruitt’s dedication to the rule of law will be of material assistance to achieving these regulatory objectives. Environmental advocacy can be rough and tumble, but now is the time to set aside preconceived notions and allow Mr. Pruitt and his team the space needed to get underway. Responsible regulatory reform can make our shared environmental objectives all easier to achieve.”
Air Conditioning Heating and Refrigeration Institute – AHRI President Steve Yurek: “We congratulate Administrator Pruitt and we very much look forward to working with him and his team on important issues such as refrigerant policy.” AHRI
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association – NRECA CEO Jim Matheson: “We congratulate Scott Pruitt on his confirmation and look forward to working with him on proposals that protect our environment and promote a healthy economy. EPA regulations have an enormous impact on electric co-ops and small businesses throughout rural America. We hope the agency will work with us to review these impacts and ensure that future regulations allow cooperatives the freedom and flexibility to continue providing safe, affordable, and reliable power to families and businesses across the nation. NRECA
Securing America’s Future Energy — SAFE CEO Robby Diamond: “We applaud Administrator Pruitt for his successful confirmation, and we look forward to working with him and EPA on various policy options to improve our energy security, such as improved efficiencies and advanced transportation fuels. These measures are critical to enhancing economic and national security.” As the U.S. currently relies on oil to power 92% of its transportation system, the country remains vulnerable to global oil price shocks, undermining U.S. economic sovereignty and security. De-linking American transportation from oil, through improved efficiency and fuel choice diversity, will help insulate the U.S. economy from oil price volatility and OPEC’s efforts to manipulate the oil market. SAFE
American Chemistry Council – ACC CEO Cal Dooley: “We look forward to working with Administrator Pruitt, his team and the dedicated EPA staff to ensure that credible science and transparency are at the heart of regulatory decisions and that our nation’s key environmental statutes are implemented in a sensible manner. “The top priority for ACC is ensuring successful implementation of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, the landmark revision of the Toxic Substances Control Act passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress and supported by a wide range of stakeholders. Efficient and effective implementation of the Act will restore public confidence in EPA’s regulation of chemical safety, and will promote American innovation and competitiveness. With new and expanded access to natural gas feedstock supplies, the U.S. chemical industry is creating jobs and generating economic growth for the nation; it is critical that TSCA regulation of the products of chemistry continue to support that growth.” ACC
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity – ACCCE CEO Paul Bailey: Mr. Pruitt will make an exceptional head of EPA. Under his leadership, we expect EPA to return to sensible policies that both protect the environment and recognize the need for reliable and affordable coal-based electricity.” ACCCE
The American Energy Alliance – AEA President Thomas Pyle: “Scott Pruitt will be a true champion for the American people and our environment. Throughout his career, Pruitt has fought to uphold the rule of law and to protect the rights of Oklahoma families and communities. He will do the same for all Americans as EPA Administrator. In recent years the EPA has far exceeded its mandate and has used regulations as a cudgel to force states to adopt a political agenda. This agenda has upended whole communities—destroying jobs and subjecting Americans to higher energy costs. That will no longer be the case under Administrator Pruitt, who respects the rights of states and individuals and understands that clean air and water and a robust economy go hand in hand.” AEA
American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers – AFPM CEO Chet Thompson: “We congratulate Administrator Pruitt on his confirmation as the next Administrator of EPA. His experience and leadership skills will be an asset to EPA and the country. We are confident that Administrator Pruitt understands that environmental protection, economic growth, and energy security are not mutually exclusive, but rather require reasonable balancing. Under his leadership, we can realize the President’s America First Energy Plan, which embraces our country’s potential to be an energy superpower while simultaneously protecting the environment.” AFPM
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey – Morrisey: “Scott’s principled approach will respect the law and reinforce the EPA’s core mission to protect our air and water without unconstitutional and job killing overreach, which has brought tremendous harm to West Virginia during the past eight years. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt remained a steadfast partner with West Virginia in challenges to defeat the Obama EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, New Source Performance Standards, the Waters of the United States rule and regulations targeting oil and gas jobs. The Attorney General looks forward to working with Administrator Pruitt and the Trump administration in efforts to roll back the Power Plan and other regulations.” Attorney General Morrisey
Clean Air Watch – Clean Air Watch President Frank O’Donnell: “It is unconscionable that the Senate would ram this nomination through without knowing all the relevant facts — facts that may be known within a few days. It is a bipartisan triumph of special interests over the broader public interest.” Clean Air Watch
The Independent Petroleum Association of America – IPAA CEO Barry: “IPAA congratulates Scott Pruitt on his confirmation to lead the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration. Coming from the energy-producing state of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt understands the critical importance of implementing policies that both support our economy and protect the environment. Having a clear and fair regulatory framework is critical for independent producers, companies that work every day to safely produce the energy we all rely upon to power our everyday lives while ensuring the environment is protected, conserved, and restored in a balanced, commonsense manner. We look forward to working with Mr. Pruitt in his new role as EPA Administrator.” IPAA
Natural Resources Defense Council – Rhea Suh, president of the NRDC: “Scott Pruitt is the worst pick ever confirmed to lead the EPA. He’s being sent there to hobble the agency we depend on to protect our health and environment. All the worse, Senate Republicans forced the confirmation vote before the public can know the truth about Pruitt’s ties to industrial polluters. We’ll use every tool in the kit to stop him from harming our air and water, endangering our communities and surrendering our kids to climate catastrophe.” NRDC
IN THE NEWS
Duke Hires Renjel to Head DC Office – Duke Energy has appointed our friend Louis Renjel as its new vice president of federal government affairs and strategic policy, overseeing federal affairs; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and gas policy; environmental and energy policy; and sustainability initiatives. Renjel joins Duke Energy from CSX Corp., where he has served as vice president of strategic infrastructure and delivered critical infrastructure, growth and productivity initiatives through public sector engagement, since 2009. Renjel’s public sector experience includes positions as deputy staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, legislative assistant to U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and staff member on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. Renjel replaces another good friend, Cari Boyce, who led Duke’s federal affairs team on an interim basis since August 2016 and will move into a new role at Duke.
Reed Bill Will Reinstate, Extend Federal Clean Energy Tax Credits – The geothermal heat pump industry and several other clean energy technology industries are a step closer to saving thousands of jobs with the reintroduction of tax credit legislation by Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY), Mike Thompson (D-CA), and 18 additional cosponsors (12 Republicans and 6 Democrats). HR 1090 will reinstitute and extend through 2021 commercial and residential installation tax credits geothermal heat pumps, fuel cells, microturbines, small wind and combined heat and power. Included are a 10% commercial Investment Tax Credit under Sec. 48 of the tax code, and a 30% residential Income Tax Credit under Sec. 25D. The legislation is meant to remedy the inequity created in December 2015 when Congress extended similar tax credits for commercial solar energy and residential solar energy installations, but neglected to include geothermal heat pumps and other qualifying clean energy technologies. Tax credits for the “orphaned” clean energy technologies ended at midnight on Dec. 31, 2016.
Natural Gas Utilities Lead a Fact-Based Energy Conversation – Calling for an honest debate about how American homes and businesses use energy, the American Gas Association (AGA) today released its 2017 Playbook. Filled with new data and detailed graphics, it is the essential handbook about the role natural gas plays in American’s daily lives. Page 6 highlights a new AGA report which found that clean, affordable natural gas has led to $76 billion in savings for American businesses since 2009. Page 11 shows that households that use natural gas for heating, cooking and clothes drying save an average of $874 per year compared to homes using electricity for those applications and page 46 notes that those same homes produce 37 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions. Page 25 highlights the growing concern in New England over critically constrained natural gas pipeline infrastructure. The average price for natural gas for all users in that area was 27 percent higher than the national average in 2015.
Greenhouse Gases Decline – U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were down 2.2% between 2014 and 2015, according to a new draft inventory released by EPA. Total emissions were almost 6.6 billion metric tons in 2015, or about 20.5 tons per person. The report says emissions were down for three primary reasons: switching from coal to natural gas; warmer winter conditions that drove down demand for heating fuel; and a small decrease in demand for electricity. The two years preceding 2015 saw increases in emissions of 2.2 percent and 0.9 percent; the greatest decrease since 1991 was 2009, the height of the economic recession, when emissions dropped a whopping 6.2% But on average over that time, emissions have increased annually 0.2 percent. Public comments are due by March 17.
Coalition Opposes Carbon Tax; Requests Meeting with White House – The American Energy Alliance (AEA) and a coalition of free-market and conservative organizations sent a letter to White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn to request a meeting with the Administration on the issue of a carbon tax. The signers of the letter include Thomas Pyle of AEA, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Michael Needham of Heritage Action for America, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks. The letter says, “Our organizations have significant concerns regarding any prospective carbon tax proposal. Such a policy would place undue economic burdens on American families and businesses by intentionally increasing the cost of the energy they rely on every day. A carbon tax would also be regressive – doing the most harm to our nation’s economically disadvantaged – and would destroy American jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector.”
ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
RFA Ethanol Conference Set of San Diego – The Renewable Fuels Association hold its 2017 National Ethanol Conference on today through Wednesday at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. The forum will address policy and market issues and what industry can do to develop both domestic and foreign markets, including expanding infrastructure, blends above E10, high octane fuels and exports. At a key Panel on the first day, AFPM President Chet Thompson will join RFA CEO Bob Dinneen for a future of fuels policy discussion. Our friend Rachel Gantz will also host a panel of journalists including WSJ’s Amy Harder to discuss media coverage of the policy issues.
Faison, Crane, Browner Headline Nuclear Summit – Third Way will host an Advanced Nuclear Summit tomorrow starting at 8:00 a.m. at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The event will examine the massive opportunities that advanced nuclear offers the U.S., and the need for quick action in Washington to capture those opportunities. We’ll explore benefits like economic growth and competitiveness, job creation, and global leadership on issues like climate change, security, and poverty with a wide variety of leaders in this space. Speakers will include ClearPath Foundation Jay Faison, CEO Exelon CEO Chris Crane, NuScale CEO John Hopkins, Nobel-Prize winning physicist Burton Richter, the AFL-CIO’s Liz Shuler and former EPA Administrator and Obama climate advisor Carol Browner.
SAFE, CTA to Discuss AV Benefits – The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), in partnership with Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), will hold a lunchtime briefing on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in 2167 Rayburn on the benefits self-driving vehicles will have on improving everyday life. The panel discussion features CTA CEO Gary Shapiro, SAFE AV Safety Commission member and former GM exec Bob Lange and Toyota’s Hilary Cain. SAFE CEO Robbie Diamond will moderate.
Heritage looks at CRA Actions – The Heritage Foundation holds a discussion on Wednesday at Noon on the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA). The program features one of the key architects involved with the drafting and passage of this bill, former congressman Dave MacIntosh who sponsored the legislation, and a Heritage legal expert as they discuss what has been termed a possible “regulatory game changer.”
USEA Looks At Distributed Energy Valuation – On Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., the US Energy Association hosts a briefing the various dimensions of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) valuation (with a particular focus on locational value), current efforts to employ these valuation methodologies, and the implications for utilities and regulators. The speaker will be Vazken Kassakhian, Research Analyst at the Smart Electric Power Alliance.
Webinar Looks at Capacity Market Reforms – On Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., Power Markets Today hosts a timely and insightful webinar looking at new capacity reforms. Speakers will include PJM Independent Market Monitor and Monitoring Analytics President Dr. Joseph Bowring, New England Power Generators Association President Dan Dolan, NEPOOL Representative and Energy Market Advisors Principal Brian Forshaw and Advanced Energy Management Alliance Representative and Achieving Equilibrium Founder Tom Rutigliano. Our friend James Downing hosts.
Panel Looks at Trump Energy Policy – The Cato Institute will host a lively look at energy policy in the new administration on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. The event will feature IER Founder Robert L. Bradley, Institute for Energy Research; Adele Morris of Brookings and Catrina Rorke, of the R Street Institute.
WCEE to Look at Wholesale Capacity Markets – On Friday, the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE) hosts a lunch discussion with Emma Nicholson, Ph.D., an economist at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Policy and Innovation, and a WCEE member. Nicholson will provide an overview of capacity markets in the FERC-jurisdictional RTOs/ISOs that have them (Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO)/Independent System Operators (ISO)). This overview will also explain the general concept of capacity as a product and explain recent changes to the design of FERC-jurisdictional capacity markets. The event will be held at FERC.
IN THE FUTURE
WAPA, CR to Announce Top 2017 Picks – WAPA and Consumer Reports will holds its February luncheon at the National Press Club on February 28th at Noon to announce the organization’s 2017 Top Picks and Brand Reports Cards. The event is one of the highlights of the year for WAPA. Each spring, consumers and auto-industry insiders alike look to Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Issue and website for its Top Picks in cars and trucks. From best and worst in fuel economy, reliability and safety to tips on how to get the best deal, CR provides consumers unbiased ratings, recommendations, and advice that help consumers make informed decisions with their next car purchase.
ARPA-E Forum Set – The annual ARPA-E Innovation Forum will be held on February 27th through March 1st at the Gaylord at National Harbor. Summit is an annual conference and technology showcase that brings together experts from different technical disciplines and professional communities to think about America’s energy challenges in new and innovative ways. Now in its eighth year, the Summit offers a unique, three-day program aimed at moving transformational energy technologies out of the lab and into the market. Among the speakers will be Duke’s Lynn Good (who will be interviewed by our friend Bill Loveless), Sen. Cory Gardner and Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs, as well as somebody from the new Trump Administration.
ACCF Panel Hosts former Commissioners to Look at FERC Challenges – The American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research will moderate a discussion on Tuesday, February 28th at 12:30 p.m. in 485 Russell. The event will feature former FERC Commissioners Philip Moeller and James Hoecker on a wide range of policy issues facing FERC. The discussion comes at a particularly interesting time for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which entered the new year with a full plate of issues, including the challenge of ensuring electric reliability in the face of increasing environmental pressures from outside advocacy groups. And the Commission does so without its full complement of commissioners, having now just two of its five seats filled after the sudden resignation of Norman Bay. Our friend Glen Boshart will moderate.
CERAWeek Set for Houston – The 36th CERAWeek by IHS Markit will be held on March 6th through 10th in Houston at the Hilton Americas. CERAWeek is the premier annual international gathering of energy industry leaders, experts, government officials and policymakers, leaders from the technology, financial, and industrial communities – and energy technology innovators. Midst the turbulence and uncertainty in energy markets this year, CERAWeek 2017 will provide new insights and critically-important dialogue – and a very cost efficient way to engage on the most urgent questions with decision-makers from around the world. A laundry list of other key energy speakers/CEOs will speak. See the list here.
Southern NextEra Execs Address Transmission Summit – The 20th Transmission Summit will be held March 6-8th at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. The event brings together policy makers with transmission industry leaders to develop strategies that will take advantage of opportunities created by emerging policy, regulatory and technological changes. Topics will include post-election policy shifts and potential new opportunities for transmission infrastructure investment, dealing with the impacts of revisions to FERC’s Order 1000 processes on regional planning and competitive projects, integrating and interconnecting ever more renewable energy assets and using non-transmission alternatives and storage to defer new builds and replace aging infrastructure. Key speakers include former FERC Chair Joe Kelliher of NextEra, Southern’s Bruce Edelston, and Georgia PSC Commissioner Tim Echols, among others.
GEA to Host DC Meeting – On March 7th, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) will hold its International Geothermal Forum in Washington, DC.
ACORE Policy Forum Set – ACORE holds its annual national renewable policy forum on March 16th at the W Hotel in Washington D.C. Industry leaders and senior officials offer a pragmatic perspective on challenges and opportunities for the renewable energy industry in the new political alignment. Key topics include renewable energy’s importance to the American economy, the timing and outlook of the upcoming push for comprehensive federal tax reform, the prospects for a large-scale infrastructure initiative and the benefits of increased investment in renewables, grid expansion, resiliency, and modernization and the important role of state policy in the energy sector, and the potential for new and innovative state initiatives that promote renewable energy investment and deployment. Speakers include Brightsource Energy’s Joe Desmond BNEF’s Ethan Zindler, AWEA’s Jim Reilly, SEIA’s Tom Kimbis and several others.
Heartland Climate Conference Set – The 12th International Conference on Climate Change, taking place on Thursday and Friday, March 23–24 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. ICCC-12 is hosted by The Heartland Institute. See the speakers, including Myron Ebell, here.
Pollution Control Agencies Set Spring Meeting – The Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies’ 2017 Spring Meeting will be held in Tucson, Arizona from March 27 – 29 at the Hilton Tucson East Hotel. More on this in the future.