Thursday, January 19, 2017

Federal Briefs

BPA Communications Upgrade Prompts Debate over Mountain’s Fate

The Bonneville Power Administration’s plans to upgrade its communications equipment on the highest mountain in the Oregon Coast Range have prompted calls to relocate the facility.

At 4,097 feet above sea level, Marys Peak, 15 miles west of Corvallis, is a major recreation site, with views that reach the Pacific. The mountain also is a communications hub for a dozen government agencies, providing two-way voice communications for law enforcement officers and firefighters as well as utility workers.

BPA’s desire to upgrade its communications equipment triggered a review under the National Environmental Policy Act and a debate over whether the summit should be restored to a more natural state.

More: Corvallis Gazette-Times

DOE: Wind Energy Responsible for 100,000 Jobs

The Department of Energy released figures showing that the wind energy industry employees 100,000 workers in the U.S., more than the number that work at either nuclear, natural gas, coal or hydro plants. And that number could climb to 380,000 by 2030, according to the department’s Wind Vision report

Kiernan | LinkedIn

“Wind means opportunity and job security for over 100,000 Americans,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “The Department of Energy’s new jobs data underscore the incredible impact of wind power in creating American jobs. Wind workers directly contribute to our nation’s energy independence and economic success story.”

More: American Wind Energy Association

TVA Promotes Balduzzi to Chief Nuclear Officer

The Tennessee Valley Authority last week appointed Mike Balduzzi to senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, effective Jan. 23.

Balduzzi | TVA

Balduzzi joined the agency as senior vice president of nuclear operations in January 2014 after serving in a similar role at Entergy Nuclear. He has 34 years of experience in nuclear power, having also served in management positions overseeing the Vermont Yankee, Nine Mile Point and Pilgrim nuclear plants.

“His expansive industry experience and success in his prior role make Mike an excellent choice to lead the nuclear organization in achieving and sustaining top industry performance,” said Joe Grimes, TVA’s previous CNO and current executive vice president of power generation.

More: Times Free Press

Interior Dept. Recommends Coal Program ‘Modernization’

The Interior Department issued a report Wednesday calling for “modernization” of the federal coal program by which the U.S. manages the leasing of 570 million public acres for exploration and production. The program was last updated in the 1980s.

Quinn | NMA

The report sets forth changes that include charging a higher royalty rate to companies, leveling an additional charge on firms for the climate impact of the coal being burned and setting a carbon budget for the nation’s coal leasing permits.

“Today’s report represents the outgoing administration’s last step to delegate its energy and land management responsibilities to the ‘keep-it-in-the-ground’ crowd,” said Hal Quinn, CEO of the National Mining Association. He said he is looking forward to President-elect Donald Trump overturning the Obama administration’s coal policies.

More: The Washington Post

Study: Fracking Communities Reap Net Economic Benefits

A recent study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago found that communities near fracking benefit economically, but they are harmed in other ways.

Published in December, the report found that after quality-of-life costs were factored in, shale development raised the average household price by $1,300 to $1,900 per year. The study also noted a 10% increase in employment and a 7% increase in average income.

On the other hand, the study also found the typical household’s quality of life was reduced by $1,000 to $1,600 annually because of noise and air pollution, beliefs regarding negative health effects and higher levels of crime.

More: Charleston Gazette-Mail

Top Dem Demands Info from Trump’s EPA Pick Before Hearing

A top Democrat on the panel considering President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head EPA said he has “grave concerns” about Scott Pruitt and that the Oklahoma attorney general should not get a hearing until he responds to questions and completes an FBI background check.


Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Pruitt has not responded to 50 questions he sent to him nearly two weeks ago. The questions ranged from general topics, such as his views of the EPA’s mission, to more specific subjects, such as the funding history of the attorney general’s office.

Pruitt has completed his ethics review and financial disclosures.

More: The Hill

Obama Makes Case for Clean Energy in Scientific Journal Article

In an article for the journal Science, President Obama makes the case for clean energy in language President-elect Donald Trump understands: profit.

Obama argued that as clean energy prices drop, businesses see the benefit of going green. He also argued that as CO2 emissions fell by 9.5% since 2008, the economy grew by a similar amount; the coal industry isn’t coming back; and the world will commit to carbon reductions with or without the U.S.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to bring back the coal industry and dismantle Obama’s environmental regulations. More recently, he’s suggested he would keep an open mind about climate change and the 2015 Paris Agreement.

More: The Associated Press; Gizmodo; Science

Walden Taking Helm of House Energy and Commerce Committee

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will be taking over as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, replacing U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who held the post since 2011, when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.

Under House GOP rules, lawmakers need a special waiver to hold a top party committee seat for more than six years. Upton did not request a waiver and will now serve as chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Energy.

More: MLive

US, Mexico Sign Agreement for Cross-Border Electricity Market


Citing the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was in Mexico on Saturday to sign an agreement aimed at building a cross-border electricity market.

Wind turbines in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula have already sent power to the U.S., and Mexico has started relying on U.S. imports of natural gas.

NERC will oversee or implement the agreement, Mexican Energy Department officials said.

More: The Associated Press



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