We finally made it to August. Time to take a breath. I will say that traffic in DC was feeling the major effects of August recess – even with the African Leaders Summit in town. Coming into DC from Annapolis at normal peak rush hour this morning was a breeze. Too bad it’s not like this all the time…On the home front, with the field hockey season imminent, my girls are training hard. Adam on the other hand also seems to be only interested in the girls’ field hockey teams as well…I guess that is 14 for you. Hannah has made recruiting trips to Maine (Bowdoin, Bates, Colby) and Connecticut (Wesleyan, ConnColl, Trinity, Quinnipiac), and she is now headed west to Colorado College for a visit and altitude training (and maybe a little work on the NatGas ballot initiatives out there which now may be up in the air).
I also can’t believe that it is already time for football with yesterday’s Hall of Fame game – and closer to home – the start of the high school/college season. I have my new rule books out for both football and ice hockey getting ready for the season. It was nice to see former NY Giant/current TV Star Michael Strahan inducted into Canton alongside Buffalo WR Andre Reed, Walter Jones, linebacker Derrick Brooks, defensive back Aeneas Williams, defensive end Claude Humphrey and Oakland Raider legend Ray Guy, who became the first full-time punter to be selected. This week, we’ll also get to enjoy the PGA at Valhalla in Louisville, KY (boy, it might be nice to know some big names in Louisville, like a former member of Congress, to maybe get some tickets…) and the start of tennis’ US Open in NYC in the next couple weeks running up to September.
In case you missed the last crazy week because you were planning your August break, the EPA public meetings were very interesting. Both rule opponents and advocates were using lots of rhetoric and “facts”. Our colleagues at ERCC covered all the hearings with Segal hitting Atlanta, Holmstead handling DC, Josh Zive manning the table in Denver and Chris Burk in Steel City (he was not arrested). Holmstead also testified at the House Science Committee alongside former Obama DOE official Chuck McConnell who has been very critical of the GHG rules, the CCS provisions and the EPA collaborative process. On substantive issues, the Highway Trust Fund WAS temporarily patched until next spring, but a deal on the border control issues remained elusive and very political. I suspect we’ll being hearing a lot about immigration and border issues in August. And you may have missed it late Friday when 12 states files a challenge over the EPA’s existing coal-fired power plants GHG rule. NYT’s Coral Davenport reported on the issue over the weekend.
Speaking of the August agenda, what other things will likely be on the minds of voters while Congress is at home for the August District Work period. Because 2014 is a mid-term election year, the campaigns will hit full stride in August, especially since many vulnerable Senate members will be painting the air waves early to remind voters how great they are. We are sure the GHG rules will remain a high priority for both sides as they take their respective cases to the public.
FLASHBACK to 2010: Remember the 2010’s Midterms and global warming legislation that was approved in the Democratic-led House and sitting in the Senate? While approval was already a steep climb, the August recess and the opponents hard push in town halls and in member’s states/districts really cemented its failure in the Senate. One suspects you see a similar push from industry, free-market and conservative groups, while advocates for the rule will likely be more prepared to respond this August. Only time will tell which side will have the better of the debate or if it will matter at all. One thing you may remember from 2010 is that it wasn’t a very good November from Democrats. While there were many factors beyond climate legislation, some campaign experts are suggesting similar dynamics for this fall with the foreign policy challenges, healthcare arguments and immigration concerns (on top of the GHG rule issues). Other items might include weather/drought/fire issues in the west and the newly emerging water/agricultural runoff issues in the Midwest.
So that is what I’ll be watching as we head toward September. Finally, with August in place, we won’t have a regular update over the next few weeks. We will have updates as needed. Without updates though, it is important to remember the big SEJ event in the first week of September in New Orleans. It will be a great event, excellent policy/political discussions and good fun, of course centered around the big Bracewell reception on Thursday night. I hope you’ll consider attending.
IN THE NEWS
Miss Power to Repower Plants, Sierra to Drop Challenges – Southern Company’s Mississippi Power is planning to repower, convert to natural gas, or retire several units at plants Watson, Sweatt and Greene County to most economically comply with new federal environmental standards and meet obligations under a settlement with the Sierra Club. Mississippi Power will no longer use coal at Plant Watson, converting its two remaining coal-fired units to natural gas no later than April 16, 2015. The plant already has three units that operate on natural gas. At Plant Sweatt, the company commits to retire two of the existing natural gas units, repower with more advanced technology or convert to an alternative non fossil-fuel source, no later than Dec. 31, 2018. And at Plant Greene County, Mississippi Power will cease coal operations and convert two units to natural gas no later than April 16, 2016. As a part of the settlement agreement, the Sierra Club agrees to dismiss and withdraw all pending legal and regulatory challenges against the Kemper project and Plant Daniel while also refraining from formally intervening in all existing and anticipated regulatory proceedings at the plants for three years.
12 States File Suit to Block EPA GHG Rules for Existing Power Plants – Already, a groups of Attorneys General have raised hackles about the EPA’s sue and settle approach for moving forward regulations. Now, 12 states are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to declare illegal a settlement agreement in which EPA promised to issue its now-pending rule concerning existing coal-fired power plants. Entered into in 2011, the settlement agreement committed EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The lawsuit contends that the agreement is illegal because coal-fired power plants already are regulated under a separate section of the Clean Air Act and the law expressly prohibits the double regulation of such plants. The group of states are challenging the settlement agreement now that EPA has chosen to follow through with its illegal promise. A ruling that EPA made an unlawful commitment could force EPA to abandon its currently pending rule. Other states include Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming. NYT’s Coral Davenport reports.
Murray Says Budget Issues, Climate Connected – Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray held a hearing late last week and released a memo urging Senate colleagues to start talking about how climate change impacts the federal budget. The memo reports on four key sectors that climate change will Impact national security, Infrastructure, disaster relief and agriculture. Our friend Juliet Eilperin reports in The Washington Post. My colleague Scott Segal challenged Murray’s approach saying the new EPA rules will do little to impact climate change. Segal added though there is no doubt that the proposed EPA rules will significantly raise the price of electricity in the United States. Segal: “This will directly impact the cost of operating the military, which accounts for more that 93 percent of US government energy consumption and is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States. Because energy consumed by active-duty military and civilian personnel is some 35 percent higher than per capita energy consumption of the general US population, raising energy costs can be expected to have a disproportionate impact on military spending.”
NAM Ozone Study Says Rule Will Be Most Expensive Ever – With much of the environmental world focused on the President’s Climate plan and GHG rules, it may be overshadowed a more difficult fight coming later this year or early next: new Ozone rules that if the President follows an EPA committee recommendation, could be nearly the entire country out of compliance. Now, a new study by NERA Economic Consulting for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) says that a more stringent ozone standard from the Obama Administration could reduce GDP by $270 billion per year and carry a compliance price tag of $2.2 trillion from 2017 to 2040. Those economic impacts would increase energy costs dramatically and place millions of jobs at risk. At this price, the NAM estimates that it would be the most expensive regulation the U.S. government has ever issued. In total, the study finds that revising the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb could: 1) Reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040; 2) Result in 2.9 million fewer job equivalents per year on average through 2040; 3) Cost the average U.S. household $1,570 per year in the form of lost consumption; and 4) Increase natural gas and electricity costs for manufacturers and households across the country.
EPA Delays Renewable Rule – EPA is extending reporting deadlines for the 2013 compliance period under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program again. The current deadline has already been extended to September 30 (one-month before the election), and the new move signals that the agency may be taking even longer than expected to finalize its 2014 RFS volume mandates. The annual compliance reports and attest engagement reports for the 2013 RFS compliance period will not be due until 30 days and 90 days, respectively, following publication of the final rule establishing the 2014 renewable fuel percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel in the Federal Register. Our friend Mark Drajem of Bloomberg reports some experts say the White House is looking to raise the requirements in part to boost the prospects of those on the ballot in November, including Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, who is in a tight race for the Senate in Iowa.
Kemper CCS Project Hits Milestones – The Kemper County energy facility has made significant progress, successfully achieving two major testing milestones: the testing of the combined-cycle unit and pressure testing of the plant’s two gasifiers. Testing of the combined-cycle unit included fueling it with natural gas to validate the unit’s ability to make electricity. Pneumatic pressure testing is necessary before the Kemper gasifiers can be placed into service to ensure the safety of the equipment’s assembled parts, check for leaks and confirm the gasifiers can handle the air and gas pressure associated with startup. Weighing 6.5 million pounds each, the gasifiers are the core of the integrated gasification process, which will convert Mississippi-native lignite into synthesis gas (syngas) to make electricity. They are so large that they had to be manufactured in multiple sections, shipped to the site and then welded together. Both gasifiers were tested successfully in May and June by SCS engineering and construction services, which has been instrumental in helping Kemper County reach its milestones. A combined-cycle unit is among the most efficient forms of generating electricity for large-scale power production. The innovative clean-coal technology at Kemper County is designed to deliver clean, safe, reliable, affordable electricity to Mississippi Power customers. The 582-megawatt generating facility is scheduled to begin operation in 2015. The project has received attention from industry groups, public officials and media outlets from the U.S. and around the world.
Survey Shows Growth in Gas Industry – A new Marcellus Shale Coalition survey says more skilled workers are being employed by natural gas operators in the Marcellus Shale that ever before. This year, companies intend to add 2,000 more employees, of which the largest group will be in engineering and construction. The findings – based on 2013 data – were provided by a large majority of MSC member companies, representing nearly 95% of Pennsylvania’s shale production. Key survey highlights include 1) 26.5% of new hires work in engineering and construction, 23% of new hires work in equipment operations, 15.2% in operations and maintenance, 8% in administration, 7% in land and 5% in environmental, health & safety; 2) 83% of new hires came from Marcellus Shale [Pa., Oh., W.Va., N.Y., Md.] states; 3) Positions most difficult to fill; 4) Workforce diversity; and 5) Recruitment methods and challenges, including educational and professional training needs. According to the survey data, MSC member companies expect to hire more than 2,000 new employees in 2014. The survey also indicates that the majority of new hires are in three sub-sectors and are weighted more so in southwestern Pennsylvania: engineering and construction; midstream and pipeline; and operations and maintenance.
New PA Gas Plants to Be Built – IMG Midstream, funded primarily by our private equity friends at Bregal Energy, plans to build 12 small, 25-MW generating stations in northeastern Pennsylvania that will burn Marcellus Shale gas. The company is planning two in Wyoming County, two in Susquehanna County and three in Bradford County. Each facility will use five Jenbacher J624 engines, a GE product, according to applications filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Air Quality. Each engine can produce about 4.4 Megawatts of electrical output.
ON THE SCHEDULE DURING RECESS
Africa Leaders Summit Set – President Obama, Members of Congress and other U.S. Government officials will welcome African heads of state and government leaders for the first-ever Africa Leaders Summit today through Wednesday. This historic summit, the first of its kind, will bring leaders from across the African continent to the nation’s capital and further strengthen U.S. ties with one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-growing regions. The theme of the summit is “Investing in the Next Generation.” The Summit will advance the focus on trade and investment in Africa, and highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and elevate the ideas of young people. At the same time, it will highlight the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent, advance our shared priorities and enable discussion of concrete ideas to deepen the partnership. At its core, this Summit is about fostering stronger ties between the United States and Africa.
Forum to Look at Solar, Role in Energy – Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., the CSIS Energy and National Security Program will host Ethan Zindler, Head of Policy Analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Sol Systems CEO Yuri Horwitz, acting Team Lead for DOE’s SunShot Solar Energy Technologies Program Elaine Ulrich to discuss innovation and its effects on the adoption of solar energy. The session, part of the Energy Program’s Frontier Energy Series, will focus on recent technological developments in the sector as well as changes in the market and policy environments that may together determine its market potential in the coming years. Sarah Ladislaw, Director and Senior Fellow in the CSIS Energy and National Security Program, will moderate. Solar energy is frequently lauded as a potential game changer in the energy landscape and with good reason: it is the fastest growing source of renewable electricity globally (albeit from a small base), and its average cost is quickly falling, with the cost per watt installed having declined over 17 percent in 2011 alone. Solar is now cost competitive without subsidy in a number of places throughout the world. Yet challenges still remain. Obstacles in areas ranging from financing to installation to grid integration to cost all indicate solar energy’s persistent dependence on innovation to launch it to its prospective more prominent role in the energy landscape.
USEA to Look at Carbon Scrubbing – The United States Energy Association will hold a forum tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. looking at technology options for scrubbing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. The forum will feature a discussion of the technical and economic hurdles that need to be overcome, Dr. Klaus Lackner will consider the policy implications of air capture in the current climate change debate. Capture of carbon dioxide from ambient air renders emissions from any source reversible and it defines the cost of unauthorized emissions. Rather than dwelling on the possibility that air capture could motivate a delay in action, the presentation will focus on the ability of air capture to create negative emissions, which the recent IPCC report considers necessary. Finally, Dr. Lackner will outline different pathways for development and implementation of air capture technologies.
DOE to Host Webinar on “National Energy Literacy” – Tomorrow at 3:00 p.m., the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy respectfully invites you to join a virtual town hall featuring ongoing national, local and new media efforts from across the country in utilizing the Department of Energy’s Energy Literacy Framework to address one of our nations’ biggest national challenges, “Energy Illiteracy. The purpose of the webinar is to share ongoing energy educational materials and literacy efforts from across the country and how to engage diverse learners in energy. The webinar will include rapid fire sessions to showcase energy literacy efforts and resources for teachers and STEM professionals.
ELI to Look at Peru Mining Regs – On Wednesday at Noon, the Environmental Law Institute will hold a forum on a recent decision by the government of Peru to ease environmental protections on mining and energy activities. A law passed earlier this month by the Peruvian Congress has raised key questions about environmental implications of the reforms, including within the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector. ASGM activities in Peru and globally raise a host of complex environmental and social challenges, and formalization of the sector is viewed as a critical step to addressing such challenges. Monica Nuñez Salas with the Peruvian Agency for Assessment and Environmental Control and Hannah Stutzman with the Amazon Conservation Association will address 1) the implications of the new law for biodiversity and protected areas, 2) the effects of the law on the ASGM sector, including strategies to promote formalization and voluntary compliance with environmental measures and 3) the future of environmental institutions in Peru
SNL to Hold Webinar on Coal-Fired Generation Issues – Trade Media group SNL Financial will hold a webinar on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. focused on finding a path for coal in the current regulatory climate. It’s no secret that coal has been under fire for some time. To say that the regulatory environment for coal-fired generation has become challenging over the past few years, would be a drastic understatement. Starting with CSAPR and MATS, plus the EPA’s proposed new rules on carbon, coal has had a very hard time indeed. Add to that the recent, high-profile problems with coal ash and potential increases in regulation and it’s hard to imagine anyone that sees owning coal generation in a positive light. The event will explore the issues surrounding this beleaguered fuel source and discuss how the future of coal-fired generation may unfold. Panelists will include energy attorney Steve Farkas, TVA’s Joe Hoagland, John Ward of the American Coal Ash Association and SNL Energy’s Steve Piper, who will moderate.
TX Enviro Superconference Set for Austin – The 26th annual Texas Environmental Superconference will be held on Thursday and Friday at the Four Seasons. Several Bracewell attorneys will be speaking on panels with speakers including Lowell Rothschild, Rich Alonso and Tim Wilkins. TCEQ’s Bryan Shaw and EPA’s Ron Curry will also speak.
Forum to Discuss Utility Sector Report –Next Tuesday, August 12th at 10:00 a.m., the U.S. Energy Association will host a forum on the US electricity industry and technological change. Traditional electric utility operations are transforming to address rapid changes in market dynamics and technology. Factors from aging infrastructure, regulation and resiliency concerns to the natural gas revolution and growth in renewable energy are among the issues forcing market participants to adapt. The 2014 Black & Veatch Strategic Directions: Electric Report offers critical insight and analysis of these key issues and more as industry leaders seek pathways to greater growth and efficiency. Speakers will include Black & Veatch Energy Business CEO Dean Oskvig and John Chevrette, President of Black & Veatch’s Management Consulting Business.
SEIA Webinar to Focus on CA ISO Energy Imbalance Market – Next Tuesday, August 12th at 4:00 p.m. EST, the Solar Energy Industry Assn will host a webinar on the California Independent System Operator (ISO) real-time market to include other balancing authorities in the West in its implementation of the Energy Imbalance Market. EIM is the automated system that balances electricity supply and demand every five minutes by choosing the least-cost resource to meet the needs of the grid. The webinar will provide an overview of the EIM, the current status of its implementation and a look to the future – including anticipated work following the October start date and an overview of the Transitional Committee which is an advisory body to the ISO Board on EIM issues. Speakers will include Cal ISO’s Stacey Crowley, Mark Rothleder and Don Fuller.
CNG Station to Open in VA – Next Wednesday August 13th at 11:00 a.m., the Clean Energy Fuels will host a grand opening for a new Dulles Virginia public Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station in Sterling. This fast-fill public station will enable Northern Virginia area fleets and the local community to take advantage of America’s cleaner alternative fuel at a fraction of the cost of gasoline and diesel. Refreshments will be provided.
WCEE to Look at Gas Pipeline Project, Issues – The Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE) continues its Brown-bag Luncheon Series on Monday August 18th at Noon looking at energy extraction and the environment with an in-depth look at the Camisea Gas Pipeline Project. The event will feature Elizabeth Brito, Lead Environment Specialist on the Camisea Project. The Camisea Gas pipelines carry natural gas from the Camisea gas fields near the Urubamba River in central Peru, through the Andes, and across the Peruvian Amazon. The project was built through fragile environments that are also home to indigenous tribes. Nevertheless, the project was lauded in the April 26 issue of The Economist as a success story for how energy extraction projects can coexist with people and the environment. A portion of the Camisea project was developed with a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which set rigorous environmental safeguards for the project. This event will provide a closer look at the project from IDB’s perspective, including IDB’s role in ensuring that the environment and people are protected, the challenges, and key takeaways that other projects should consider and implement to limit social and environmental impacts.
FUTURE EVENTS AFTER RECESS
SEJ Conference Set for NOLA – On September 3-7, the Society of Environmental Journalists will hold its annual Meeting in New Orleans. Usually later in October, this year the conference comes in early September due to scheduling and availability. Nonetheless, it will be a great time and feature all the usual events, including the famous Bracewell reception on Thursday night. Tours will include natgas drilling, chemical corridor, offshore drilling, marshlands and many other tours. Look for broad panel discussions on the EPA’s GHG rules as well as lots of other great stuff.
Reid Clean Energy Summit Set – Harry Reid’s 7th annual National Clean Energy Summit will bring together clean energy visionaries and leaders, public officials, business executives, energy policy experts, entrepreneurs, investors, citizens, and students, to discuss empowering Americans to develop our massive clean energy supplies, secure greater energy independence, and create jobs. The day-long clean energy summit will be cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Reid, the Center for American Progress, the Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Giuliani, Segal Headline Shale Law Conference – The Institute for Energy Law and the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation (EMLF) the 5th Law of Shale Plays Conference on September 4 – 5th in Pittsburgh at the Omni Hotel. My colleagues Jason Hutt and Lowell Rothschild are among the speakers. The event will also feature a keynote conversation with former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, hosted by PRG’s Scott Segal. Other speakers include Cabot’s Kevin Cunningham, Baker Hughes’ Will Marsh and SW Energy’s Mark Boling.
Women Energy Leaders to Discussion Issues, Challenges – The WCEE Women in Leadership Committee will hold a forum on September 9th at Clyde’s Gallery Place at Noon to discuss women in Washington Leadership on energy issues. Panelists will include Tasha Parker, Senior Vice President and Digital Energy Lead at Edelman; Liz Sidoti, Head of U.S. Communications at BP; Elizabeth Thompson, Vice President of US Climate & Political Affairs, and President at Environmental Defense Action Fund; and Heidi VanGenderen, Director of Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Richardson, Perino, Ridge to Headline Shale Insight Conference – The Marcellus Shale Coalition will hold SHALE INSIGHT 2014 on September 23 – 25 in Pittsburgh focusing on shale development, featuring some of the most prominent industry and government leaders. The event will feature three days of pre-conference workshops, technical and public affairs insight sessions, major keynote addresses, and a dynamic exhibit hall featuring all the major shale players. Speakers will include former Energy Secretary and NM Governor Bill Richardson, former PA Gov and first Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former White House Press Secretary and Fox News Personality Dana Perino, XTO President Randy Cleveland and many more.
Inglis to Headline Midwest Energy Conference – The Midwest Energy Policy Conference will be held in St. Louis on September 30th and October 1st. The event will address the 2014 environmental and energy rulings of the SCOTUS, the path forward following the EPA greenhouse gas 111(d) ruling and what makes successful state energy plan programs relevant and successful in several key focus areas (economic development, education, research, regulations, portfolio mix, biofuels, and more) The Keynote speaker will be former SC Rep. Bob Inglis.
USEA Forum Set – The US Energy Assn will host its 7th annual Energy Supply Forum at the National Press Club on October 2nd.
Shale Water Expo Set – On October 14 and 15, Shale Water Expo 2014 will be held in Houston at the Stafford Convention Centre. The event is focused on shale play water management is the only national fluids-specific event for the oil and gas industry. It will present timely, in-depth insight from industry leaders sharing their expertise on water management, logistics, sourcing, recycling, market forecasting and industry trends.