Friday, August 18, 2017

Federal Briefs

NYU Will Help AGs Fight Trump Environmental Rollbacks

The New York University School of Law plans to launch a new center to help state attorneys general fight federal efforts to roll back renewable energy, environmental protections and climate policies.

The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, funded by a nearly $6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, will provide assistance to states regardless of party.

David J. Hayes, who served as the Interior Department’s deputy secretary under the Obama and Clinton administrations, will serve as the center’s executive director.

More: The Washington Post

NRC Greenlights Uprate for Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved Tennessee Valley Authority’s request for a 14.3% increase in generating capacity for all three of its Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant reactors.

The change will raise each reactor’s capacity by about 155 MW.

TVA plans to implement the extended power uprate during the spring 2018 refueling outage for Unit 3, the fall 2018 refueling outage for Unit 1 and the spring 2019 refueling outage for Unit 2.

More: The News Courier

Report: North American Tx Market Exceeds $31.6B

The North American electric transmission market topped $31.6 billion in 2016, growing 1.2% from 2015, according to a report released Tuesday by The C Three Group.

The “2017 North American Electric Transmission Market Forecast” found the market’s U.S. component grew 5.5% during the 2015 to 2016 period.

Substations were the fastest growing segment, with U.S. substation spend up 16.9%.

More: The C Three Group

Judge Blocks Expansion of Montana Coal Mine


A federal court issued an order Monday blocking Signal Peak Energy from mining in an 11-square-mile expansion area at is Bull Mountain coal mine in Montana pending further environmental studies.

The order by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy says the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining must consider the environmental impact of shipping the fuel to customers in Asia and from the greenhouse gases and other pollutants emitted when burning the coal.

Montana Environmental Information Center, Sierra Club and Montana Elders for a Livable Tomorrow filed suit in 2015 claiming the government did not properly examine the effects of the 176-million-ton coal mine expansion on waterways, air pollution and the health of people who live along the coal’s shipping routes.

More: The Associated Press

DC Circuit Rejects Challenge to Freeport LNG Export Terminal

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that the Energy Department conducted the necessary environmental and economic reviews before it approved the Freeport LNG export terminal in Texas, due to come online in 2018.

The Sierra Club challenged the agency’s review of the project, claiming the agency didn’t comply with federal environmental laws before issuing its approval in 2014 and that it erroneously determined the project was in the public interest.

The court found the agency followed procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act even though it declined to make specific projections about environmental impacts, and it properly considered domestic economic impacts, foreign policy goals and energy security measures in its public-interest determination.

More: The Hill

Sierra Club Sues Energy Dept. for Info on Grid Study Experts

The Sierra Club sued the Energy Department on Monday in the hopes of identifying groups and experts the department consulted in preparing its electric grid study that has yet to be released.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, says the agency ignored a Freedom of Information Act request Sierra Club filed in May. The request sought the release of communications between staff and outside groups the department consulted, in the belief it relied primarily on fossil fuel backers.

A draft of the study that was leaked to the media last month said intermittent renewable power hasn’t harmed the grid. But a department spokeswoman said the draft was “outdated” and had not been reviewed by political or career staff.

More: Reuters; Washington Examiner

Fitch: Solar Projects Beating Projections; Wind Missing the Mark

PJM DC circuit capacity performance rules

Utility Scale Solar in Maryland | Constellation

Solar projects around the world are exceeding estimates for electricity generation, while wind projects are failing to meet them, according to a report released Monday by Fitch ratings.

The ratings agency found solar projects across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North and South America since 2010 met or exceeded their early estimates 70% of the time. But about 75% of wind projects failed to meet early projections.

Fitch attributed the success of solar to “better-than-expected solar irradiance and plant availability.” It attributed the underperformance of wind to technological challenges in forecasting, natural resource volatility and equipment problems.

More: Houston Chronicle

EPA Plans to Revise Rule Increasing Treatment for Plant Wastewater

EPA plans to revise 2015 guidelines mandating increased treatment for wastewater from steam electric power plants, according to a letter it filed Monday as part of a legal appeal.

The letter by Administrator Scott Pruitt was filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing legal challenges to the Obama-era rule. Because Pruitt wants to rewrite the standards, EPA is asking the court to put the litigation on hold.

EPA estimates that if the rule is implemented, power plant pollution would decrease by 1.4 billion pounds a year. About 12% of U.S. steam electric power plants would have to make new investments to meet the higher standards.

More: Associated Press

Vogtle Nuclear Plant Backers Ask Trump for Help

Backers of the Vogtle nuclear plant are asking the Trump administration for financial support to build the project’s two reactors in the wake of Westinghouse Electric’s bankruptcy. The request comes after Energy Secretary Rick Perry turned down a request for $3 billion in aid for SCANA’s V.C. Summer nuclear plant.

A Georgia regulator was in D.C. to make a case for the Vogtle project, which Southern Co. estimated would cost it at least $11.5 billion to complete, excluding $1.7 billion in guaranteed payments from Westinghouse parent Toshiba. Southern has hosted congressional staff members at the construction site.

Southern is set to tell Georgia regulators by the end of the month whether it will continue with its construction plans for the plant.

More: Bloomberg

EPA Collecting Less Money from Polluters than Prior Administrations

EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt has collected 60% less in civil penalties from polluters compared with the previous three administrations, according to a report released Thursday by Environmental Integrity Project.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group found the Trump administration has collected $12 million so far, compared with the Obama administration’s $36 million, the Bush administration’s $30 million and the Clinton administration’s $25 million at this point in their terms.

Under Pruitt, EPA is waging 26 lawsuits, compared with the previous three administrations’ respective 34, 31 and 45.

More: Business Insider

EPA Chief Information Officer Leaving

EPA’s chief information security officer is leaving his job of only a few months to take a position in the private sector.


Sean Kelley is one of four senior cybersecurity officials stepping down from their U.S. government positions. The others are from the Department of Homeland Security, the Navy and the Office of Personnel Management.

Ann Dunkin, the CIO of EPA under President Barack Obama who was asked to leave by President Trump’s transition team, said the four departures in such a brief time raise red flags. “There appears to be a concerted effort to remove the career CIOs who were there during the Obama administration,” said Dunkin, who is now CIO for Santa Clara County, Calif.

More: BuzzFeed

DOE Recommends Permit Approval for Northern Pass

The Department of Energy issued a report Thursday concluding the Northern Pass project in New Hampshire wouldn’t have a significant impact on the environment, recommending approval of a permit.

The department issued a draft environmental impact study two years ago but re-evaluated the project after Eversource Energy changed its proposal to call for burying 60 miles of the line instead of 8.

The project, which would run a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield would require permits from the Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers. New Hampshire’s Site Evaluation Committee will vote on the project later this year.

More: The Associated Press

DC Circuit Hits ‘Pause’ Again on Clean Power Plan

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday granted a petition to hold litigation over the Clean Power Plan in abeyance for another 60 days.

In April, the court granted a 60-day pause in the litigation to allow the Trump administration to consider whether to roll back the rule. In June, EPA sent its Clean Power Plan review proposal to the Office of Management and Budget.

In a statement concurring with the order, Circuit Judges David Tatel and Patricia Millett wrote that EPA has an “affirmative statutory obligation to regulate greenhouse gases” and expressed concern that an indefinite delay in the litigation could impede the agency from complying with that obligation.

More: American Public Power Association; Environmental Defense Fund; POWER Magazine

Solar Market Funding Rises in First Half of 2017

Overall corporate funding in the solar market — including venture capital, debt funding and public market financing — reached $4.6 billion in the first half of 2017, up from $4.5 billion in the same period last year, according to information published by Mercom Capital Group.

The $4.6 billion was raised in 97 deals, compared with $4.5 billion in 79 deals. But funding dropped from $3.2 billion in 60 deals in the first quarter this year to $1.4 billion in 37 deals in the second quarter.

More: pv magazine

TVA Increases Estimate for Repairing Boone Dam


The Tennessee Valley Authority has increased its estimate for repairing the 65-year-old Boone Dam in Northeast Tennessee by at least 50% and says the work will take an additional five years.

When the work began in 2015, TVA estimated the repairs would cost between $200 million and $300 million and could be finished by 2020. TVA now estimates the work will cost $450 million.

“As we got farther into the work there, we learned more about what is actually happening and that provided us the data to make a more robust estimate,” TVA President Bill Johnson told analysts during a conference call last week.

More: Times Free Press

NRC Begins ‘Information Gathering’ for Yucca Mountain

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday it will spend $110,000 from previously appropriated funds to gather documents and other information related to the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository site.

The commission voted 2-1 to dip into its $634,000 Nuclear Waste Fund to support the information gathering activities.

The Trump administration has requested $120 million in funding next fiscal year to begin laying the groundwork for the waste disposal site, which the Obama administration abandoned in 2010. NRC Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki said the information gathering amounted to “appropriate steps to develop the agency’s readiness to execute the budget requested” by Trump.

More: The Associated Press; The Hill

Suniva, SolarWorld Say Trade Case Will Spur US Job Growth

An economic analysis released Tuesday on behalf of trade case petitioners Suniva and SolarWorld Americas finds that imposing new tariffs on imported solar products would result in a net increase of at least 114,800 new jobs across all segments of the U.S. solar industry.

The report, released by law firm Mayer Brown, finds as many as 45,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs would be created, along with an increase of 98,020 U.S. nonmanufacturing jobs, including 65,830 U.S. installer jobs.

The report contradicts findings by the Solar Energy Industries Association, which determined that a tariff and minimum pricing requirement requested by the two companies in a trade case before the U.S. International Trade Commission would result in the loss of 88,000 solar jobs in 2018. The association found the utility-scale market would see a 60% reduction in jobs, while residential and commercial employment would drop by 44% and 46%, respectively.

More: Greentech Media

Study: Keeping Obama’s Climate Rules Will Save $300B Yearly

Wentz | Columbia University

A new study finds keeping the Obama administration’s climate-change regulations, which the Trump administration has been working to undo, would save nearly $300 billion a year by 2030.

Jessica Wentz, a staff attorney at Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and one of the study’s authors, found the total costs associated with the Obama-era rules were projected at about $84 billion per year in 2030. For that same year, the researchers found the benefits — including savings from lower carbon emissions, improved public health and new jobs — were expected to be worth nearly $370 billion.

The researchers also concluded the rules would prevent the emission of the equivalent of nearly 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2030.

More: InsideClimate News


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