Thursday, March 30, 2017

Federal Briefs

Energy Projects on List of Infrastructure Priorities Given to Trump

Trump

Responding to a request from President Trump, North America’s Building Trades Unions sent him a list of infrastructure priorities — and the 26-item list includes $80 billion worth of energy transmission lines, water and wind projects, and pipelines across the U.S.

Trump is searching for projects to greenlight that require little if any federal funding, and more than half on the list are privately financed. All but one would benefit from regulatory relief by the Trump administration.

One of the projects, the Chokeberry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project in Wyoming, aims to become one of the world’s largest wind energy facilities. Although the project has received local, state and federal permits, it could face problems with new federal regulations and possibly weak White House support for wind power.

More: McClatchy

Pruitt: Trump Will Undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan Tues.

scott pruitt epa

Pruitt

Stating he “absolutely” believes it will bring back U.S. coal and manufacturing jobs, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said President Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday undoing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The 2015 Clean Power Plan, which aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, has sat on hold since last year, while a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly Republican-led states and more than 100 companies.

More: CBS News

Trump Approves Keystone Pipeline Construction

President Trump on Friday approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, doing an about-face on former President Barack Obama’s decision.

The pipeline would run 1,200 miles across the U.S. and connect the oil sands fields in Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. TransCanada still needs approval by state regulators of the pipeline’s route through Nebraska.

In approving the pipeline, the State Department relied upon previous environmental studies under the Obama administration and did not cite new material other than communications with TransCanada. Environmentalists are hoping that could open the permit to litigation.

More: Politico

Smith Wants Vote on Bill to Open EPA Climate Research

Smith

The chairman of the House Science Committee is hoping the House will vote on a bill within the next few weeks that would require EPA to open to the public any research used to justify climate change regulations.

The bill was passed by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas)’s committee earlier this month over objections from Democrats who said EPA’s research already needs to be peer reviewed and that the bill unnecessarily requires independent scientists to be able to replicate the studies.

The committee has a hearing scheduled Wednesday in which four climate scientists, three skeptics and a scientist who has warned of climate change’s potential effects, will testify.

More: Morning Consult

Nuclear Subsidies Could Cost US Ratepayers $3.9B

If plant owners for 28 GW of nuclear power across the northeast and Mid-Atlantic states win subsidies at the same level as New York, ratepayers may see a $3.9 billion hike, according to a report by Bloomberg Intelligence.

In August, New York regulators approved subsidies totaling $500 million a year for Exelon’s R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants, and the James A. FitzPatrick plant it is purchasing from Entergy. Illinois approved subsidies of about $235 million for 10 years for Exelon’s Quad Cities and Clinton reactors.

Exelon now wants aid for its three Pennsylvania reactors and one New Jersey plant, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. FirstEnergy is seeking subsidies in Ohio to keep its Davis-Besse and Perry reactors open.

More: Bloomberg

Bill to License Advanced Nuclear Reactors Clears Senate Panel

A Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would enable the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop a framework for licensing advanced nuclear reactors that could come into development in 10 or 15 years.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, which passed 18-3 in the Environment and Public Works Committee, has support from Republicans who don’t want to see the U.S. fall behind China and Russia in nuclear innovation and Democrats who want to encourage technologies that do not emit gases blamed for climate change.

Whether the full Senate will debate the bill or if it will be absorbed into broader energy legislation is unknown.

More: Reuters

Trump Says ‘No’ to Carbon Tax to Fight Global Warming

The Trump administration is not considering a carbon tax to fight global warming, a White House official said Tuesday.

In February, Trump administration officials met with a small group of elder Republican statesmen who pitched a $40/ton tax on carbon emissions. The Republicans’ 2016 party platform rejected global warming taxes, arguing they would increase energy prices.

More: Reuters

9th Circuit Rejects 2 Cases on Navajo Generating Station

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected two cases related to the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station. The plant’s owners announced last month it will cease operations after 2019.

A three-judge panel rejected an argument by environmental groups that EPA cut corners when it developed its plan to regulate nitrogen oxide emissions from the plant to reduce regional haze.

The court also rejected a separate claim by the Hopi Tribe that it was excluded from discussions on the federal emissions plan, which calls for the plant to close by 2044.

More: Cronkite News

Moody’s: Cost-Effective Wind Threatening Coal Plants

Cost-effective wind energy is threatening to force gigawatts of coal plants into early retirement, according to a report released last week by Moody’s Investors Service.

The report, “Rate-Basing Wind Generation Adds Momentum to Renewables,” suggests market forces and state-level action may dull the impact of removing environmental regulations.

According to Moody’s, average wind PPA prices in the Great Plains are now around $20/MWh compared with an operating cost of $30/MWh for most coal plants.

More: Greentech Media

Google: 79% of US Rooftops Viable for Solar

Seventy-nine percent of all U.S. rooftops are solar viable, according to Google’s Project Sunroof.

Launched two years ago, the project has surveyed more than 60 million rooftops in 50 states. Google calculated the amount of sunlight on each roof by using 3D modeling of the roof and nearby trees, weather patterns, the sun’s position in the sky during the year, and shade from buildings, trees and other obstructions.

Google found that more than 90% of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are technically viable, with northern states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota registering at more than 60%.

More: Engadget

First Tribal Land Solar Project Begins Operations

The first utility-scale solar project approved by the Interior Department on Native American land began operations last week.

The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, located about 30 miles north of Las Vegas, will generate 250 MW that will go to Los Angeles. The project, which was approved in 2012, is owned by First Solar.

The Moapa tribe, which has about 350 members, got the go-ahead last September from then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to build another 100-MW plant in partnership with First Solar. It also has another 200-MW solar plant planned with a separate company on a different part of its reservation.

More: The Associated Press

Trump Budget Resurrects Yucca Mountain for Nuclear Waste Storage

The Trump administration’s budget plan for the Department of Energy includes $120 million for nuclear waste programs, including restarting licensing for nuclear waste storage at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Budget money would also be used to support programs for storing waste at interim sites before Yucca would open.

Overall, the White House is proposing a 5.6% cut to the department’s budget, including cuts to programs that have supported public-private partnerships to bring new nuclear technologies to market.

More: Reuters

Texas Challenges New Safety Standards for Natural Gas Storage

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a petition in federal court arguing a new regulation requiring stricter safety standards on underground natural gas storage facilities oversteps federal authority.

In December, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the tougher regulations, which are based on the American Petroleum Institute’s voluntary guidelines.

Texas has more than 30 underground natural gas storage facilities that are regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission.

More: FuelFix

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