Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 25, 2014

McConnell Says Coal Country Kentuckians Will Invade Washington

“The EPA plans four public hearings on its proposed “Clean Power Plan” for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, but none of them are in ‘coal country’ — much to the chagrin of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY),” Roll Call reports.

“The hearings, which the EPA expects to be well attended, are planned for Atlanta, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh next week.”

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell said that Kentuckians will just have to come to the U.S. capital instead.

Said McConnell: “Apparently, the Obama administration isn’t all that interested in what Kentucky thinks. Well, if Washington officials won’t come to Kentucky, then Kentuckians will come to Washington. I plan to testify. And so do several of my constituents. Even though they’ll have to travel hundreds of miles to get here, these Kentuckians will make Washington understand that they are more than just some statistic.”

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How to Prevent a Nuclear Disaster

“Despite advances in protecting U.S. nuclear plants, more work must be done to make sure they can withstand such natural catastrophes as the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan,” National Journal reports.

“That’s the recommendation from a federal report released Thursday that investigated the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which forced the evacuation of 300,000 people from the region and drew renewed attention to the dangers of nuclear power.”

“The National Academy of Sciences, which was commissioned to investigate the incident, found that U.S. plants are designed to withstand crises such as equipment failures, loss of power, or an inability to cool the reactor core. But it’s the ‘beyond-design-basis events,’ like natural disasters, that pose the greater risk and have been behind meltdowns at Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl.”

Energy Department Nominee Highlights Nuclear Weapons Expertise

“Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told senators Thursday that she has vast experience with defense and nuclear weapons, which would be a major part of her responsibilities as the second highest-ranking official at the Department of Energy (DOE),” The Hill reports.

“At her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sherwood-Randall made it clear that she is committed to the DOE’s domestic energy missions as well. She is currently one of President Obama’s top advisors for defense.”

Transportation Dept. Unveils New Crude Transport Rules

Fuel Fix reports that “tank cars that carry crude oil across the United States would have to meet stringent new standards to improve safety and make them more resilient in an accident under proposed new rules unveiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday.”

“The proposals call for phasing out rupture-prone cars built before October 2011 for the shipment of flammable liquids, including ethanol and crude oil, unless those cars are retrofitted to meet sweeping new design standards that could include thicker shells, better brakes and rollover protection.”

“The proposed tougher standards would alter the way high-hazard flammable substances such as crude and ethanol are shipped across the country at a time of massive growth in crude transport by rail. Last year, 415,000 rail-carloads of crude moved across the U.S. compared to 9,500 rail-carloads in 2008, according to the transportation department.”

Newest TX Energy Source: Wind

The New York Times reports that “the wind is so relentless that a week can go by before it is calm enough for a crane operator to install the 30-ton blades atop the 260-foot towers at the Panhandle 2 wind farm here. It’s worth the wait; a single turbine at the farm can produce 40 percent more energy than an average one.”

“But turning wind into electricity is one thing; moving the energy to a profitable market is another. For years, the wind industry has been hampered by such a severe lack of transmission lines that when the wind is strong, a local power surplus forces some machines to be shut down.”

“Now, Texas is out to change that by conducting a vast experiment that might hold lessons for the rest of the United States. This year, a sprawling network of new high-voltage power lines was completed, tying the panhandle area and West Texas to the millions of customers around Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston.”

State Report Criticizes DEP Oversight of PA Natural Gas Industry

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a withering review Tuesday of the Department of Environmental Protection‘‍s oversight of the shale gas industry and the regulatory agency’‍s practices for responding to citizens’‍ complaints that drilling has affected their drinking water.”

“The long-promised performance audit details the agency’‍s shortcomings, including failing to consistently issue enforcement orders to drilling companies after regulators determined that gas operations had damaged water supplies, even though the state’‍s oil and gas law requires it.”

“Mr. DePasquale said during a news conference that although DEP merits criticism for its performance, the dedication of DEP’‍s employees to protecting the environment is not in question.”

Court Rules IL Can Force Consumers to Purchase Energy from ‘Clean Coal’ Facility

The Chicago Tribune reports that “state regulators have the right to force Illinois consumers to purchase electricity from a proposed “clean coal” facility for the next 20 years in order to help fund the $1.6 billion federal project, according to an appellate court decision handed down Tuesday.”

“The 2-1 decision could represent a potential leap forward for the federal FutureGen 2.0 project, which has been stalled through two Presidential administrations in various forms.”

“The plan is to retrofit an existing coal-fired power plant in Meredosia in western Illinois to prove that coal-fired power can exist in a carbon-free world. The plant’s carbon dioxide emissions would be sequestered underground and would burn Illinois coal beginning in 2017.”

Landrieu Pushes for New Offshore Drilling Model

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) “used a Tuesday hearing to advocate for legislation that would remove the cap that Gulf Coast states have on the revenue they can receive from offshore drilling royalties and fees,” The Hill reports.

“Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said her previous legislation allowed Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama to receive 37.5 percent of the revenues that come from Gulf of Mexico drilling, while the federal government receives the rest. But revenues are capped at $500 million per year.”

Said Landrieu: “No other state or group of states in the country operates under such a cap. Our next step is to lift the cap to accelerate these payments, and to make this more in-line with interior states.”

How Should Climate Change Be Taught?

“The battle over climate science in schools is heating up,” National Journal reports.

“Earlier this month, a coalition of national science-education advocates released a students bill of rights asserting that students across the country should be taught the scientific consensus on climate change. The consensus view held by 97 percent of scientists, according to reviews of the academic literature, holds that the planet is heating up and human activity is the primary cause.”

“Currently, however, a patchwork of state science standards exist that do not mandate the consensus view is taught, leaving the door open for controversy over climate change to get equal airtime in many classrooms.”

“Should there be a national set of science-education standards that mandate the teaching of the climate change consensus? Or is this a question best left to individual states, counties, schools, or teachers to decide? Are there risks involved if we don’t standardize climate science education?”

Industry Groups Slam New EPA Rules

“On Tuesday, leading industry groups laid out their grievances in a united front against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) signature climate rule,” The Hill reports.

“Groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said earlier this month that lobbying against the EPA’s regulations to cut carbon dioxide from existing power plants would not be a priority, joined the push against it Tuesday.”

“API said on a call with six other industry groups that the regulations would have “adverse consequences” and a “chilling effect” on investments across the entire energy sector. A main point of contention for the industry is that the rule allows broad flexibility, which would allow states to regulate “beyond the fence” of the fossil-fuel plants in question.”

German Most Energy Efficient Country; U.S. Ranks 13th

The Guardian reports that “Germany is the world’s most energy efficient country with strong codes on buildings while China is quickly stepping up its own efforts…”

“The study of 16 major economies by the Washington-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Mexico last and voiced concern about the pace of efforts by the United States and Australia.”

“The council gave Germany the top score as it credited Europe’s largest economy for its mandatory codes on residential and commercial buildings as it works to meet a goal of reducing energy consumption by 20% by 2020 from 2008 levels.”

Transportation Secretary Says Improving Oil Transport to be Handled ‘Comprehensively’

Fuel Fix reports that “Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx suggested Monday that coming mandates to boost the safety of hauling oil by train will take a comprehensive approach, going beyond requiring changes to the tank cars that carry crude across the country.”

“The issue ‘has to be dealt with comprehensively,’ Foxx said, after a speech at the National Press Club. ‘So many folks out there say ‘just figure out what the tank car should look like,’ and that’s one piece of it, but speed is an issue and there are several other components that matter.’”

“Transportation officials already have drafted their plan to enhance standards for the tank cars that carry oil and to bolster operational controls for trains hauling high-hazard, flammable substances. The Office of Management and Budget is now reviewing the proposal, which could be unveiled later this year.”

New Efforts to ‘Corral’ and Bury Carbon

The New York Times reports on a modernized Canadian coal plant whose “smokestacks still emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, the invisible heat-trapping gas that is the main contributor to global warming. So this fall, a gleaming new maze of pipes and tanks — topped with what looks like the Tin Man’s hat — will suck up 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from one of the boilers so it can be shipped out for burial, deep underground.”

“If there is any hope of staving off the worst effects of climate change, many scientists say, this must be part of it — capturing the carbon that spews from power plants and locking it away, permanently. For now, they contend, the world is too dependent on fossil fuels to do anything less.”

Did Obama Just Signal That He’ll Open the Atlantic Coast to Drilling?

“The Interior Department said Friday that it will allow companies to use seismic air guns and other methods to gauge oil-and-gas resources underlying Atlantic Coast waters,” National Journal reports.

“The department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finalized a plan that lays out a series of environmental restrictions—aimed at protecting marine life, such as whales, dolphins, and sea turtles—for companies seeking to look for oil in mid- and South Atlantic waters. A number of companies have applied for permits for testing that would update old estimates of oil and gas underlying the waters that have long been off-limits to drilling.”

“The plan is a blow to environmentalists who say that the underwater blasts will wreak havoc… Opponents of oil-and-gas development fear that the plan is a step toward allowing companies to start drilling off the Atlantic Coast.”

New Energy Policy Center Launches at Penn

“The University of Pennsylvania has received a $10 million donation to create a center that aspires to develop new energy policy by reframing the relationship between research and practice,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

“The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy will be named for donor Scott Kleinman and his wife, Wendy. He is a Wall Street private-equity manager and 1994 Penn alum.

“It will be directed by Mark Alan Hughes, a professor of practice at Penn’s School of Design. Hughes was the city’s first director of sustainability and is a former adviser to Mayor Nutter. He was architect of the city’s Greenworks sustainability plan. Hughes envisions the center as a forum where leading industry, environment, and government leaders can resolve some of the nation’s most vexing energy-policy stalemates through compromise and consensus.”

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