Up-To-the-Minute Energy

Real-time news updates from National Journal — Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A wind turbine stands in a landscape near Husum, northern Germany, on September 21, 2010. The Wind Energy 2010 fair is running in the northern city from September 21 to 25, 2010.
National Journal
Clare Foran and Jason Plautz and Ben Geman
July 15, 2014, 3:16 a.m.

5:18 p.m. - BOX­ER TAKES AIM AT MANCHIN’S EX-IM COAL PRO­VI­SION. Quick up­date from a skir­mish in the battle over the Ex­port-Im­port Bank’s reau­thor­iz­a­tion: Sen. Bar­bara Box­er is bash­ing Sen. Joe Manchin’s bid to weak­en the Ex-Im re­stric­tions on fin­an­cing con­struc­tion of coal-fired power plants abroad. “What his lan­guage does is just throws out prac­tic­ally everything that would lead to clean­er air,” Box­er, a Cali­for­nia Demo­crat who heads the En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee, told re­port­ers in the Cap­it­ol. See our daily “En­ergy Edge” post here for more. — BG

4:05 p.m. - SEN­ATE AP­PROVES LAFLEUR, BAY TO FERC. The Sen­ate cleared the nom­in­a­tions of Cheryl LaFleur and Nor­man Bay to the Fed­er­al En­ergy Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion. Bay, the head of FERC’s en­force­ment of­fice, was ap­proved by a nar­row 52-45 vote, with Re­pub­lic­ans op­pos­ing his nom­in­a­tion over a lack of ex­per­i­ence and for what they say is a his­tory of tar­get­ing car­bon-in­tens­ive busi­ness.

La­Flu­er, the act­ing chair­man of the board, was also gran­ted an­oth­er term by a 90-7 vote. Un­der an agree­ment between law­makers and the White House, Bay is ex­pec­ted to be­come FERC chair­man after nine months as a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion. — JP

2:30 p.m. - EPA SPEND­ING BILL CLEARS COM­MIT­TEE. The House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee ap­proved a $30.2 bil­lion In­teri­or and En­vir­on­ment spend­ing bill that in­cludes plenty of en­vir­on­ment­al riders to block Pres­id­ent Obama’s cli­mate plan. The bill passed 29-19, with Demo­crats say­ing the bill’s fund­ing level was too low and con­tained too many pois­on pill pro­vi­sions. Among those: lan­guage that would block the EPA’s rules lim­it­ing emis­sions from power plants, block­ing the EPA’s pro­pos­al to re­define its Clean Wa­ter Act jur­is­dic­tion and delay an En­dangered Spe­cies Act list­ing of the sage grouse.

Among the amend­ments that were at­tached to the bill was one that would block the EPA from fi­nal­iz­ing a rule per­mit­ting the col­lec­tion of fines and pen­al­ties by gar­nish­ing wages. The com­mit­tee also ad­ded lan­guage that would re­quire all iron and steel in drink­ing wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture be sourced do­mest­ic­ally and des­ig­nat­ing Feb­ru­ary 22 as the cel­eb­ra­tion of George Wash­ing­ton’s birth­day. — JP

12:56 p.m. - SEN­ATE EAS­ILY AD­VANCES LAFLEUR TO­WARD AN­OTH­ER FERC TERM. The Sen­ate voted 85-10 Tues­day to ad­vance the nom­in­a­tion of Cheryl LaFleur, a Demo­crat, to an­oth­er term on the Fed­er­al En­ergy Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion. It was a pro­ced­ur­al vote and fi­nal con­firm­a­tion is ex­pec­ted later this af­ter­noon.

LaFleur is act­ing chair­wo­man of FERC and is ex­pec­ted to re­main in that role for nine months be­fore Nor­man Bay, an­oth­er Demo­crat, moves in­to that po­s­i­tion. Bay, who cur­rently heads FERC’s en­force­ment of­fice, is also slated for con­firm­a­tion as a FERC mem­ber later today over the op­pos­i­tion of Re­pub­lic­ans. Earli­er, on the Sen­ate floor, Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell al­leged that he doesn’t have enough ex­per­i­ence and has “shown a his­tory of tar­get­ing car­bon-in­tens­ive busi­nesses.” — BG

12:32 p.m. - SEN­ATE MOVES FERC CHAIR­MAN-IN-WAIT­ING CLOSER TO CON­FIRM­A­TION. The Sen­ate ad­vanced Pres­id­ent Obama’s nom­in­a­tion of Nor­man Bay to the Fed­er­al En­ergy Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion Tues­day in a 51-45 pro­ced­ur­al vote that broke down mostly along party lines. A fi­nal vote is ex­pec­ted later this af­ter­noon. Bay cur­rently heads FERC’s en­force­ment of­fice, and the White House wants him to be FERC chair­man.

Un­der an agree­ment between law­makers and the White House, Bay is ex­pec­ted to be­come FERC chair­man after nine months as a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion. Cheryl LaFleur, the act­ing chair­wo­man, is slated to be con­firmed to an­oth­er FERC term later today and will re­main in the chair­man’s seat un­til Bay takes over. — BG

12:12 p.m. — SHELL AN­NOUNCES GULF OF MEX­ICO DIS­COV­ERY. The on­shore frack­ing boom gets a lot of the spot­light, but the Gulf of Mex­ico re­mains a big draw for oil com­pan­ies with the cap­it­al for the costly pro­jects. Like Shell, which on Tues­day an­nounced a “ma­jor dis­cov­ery” in the Gulf. The com­pany said its Ry­dberg ex­plor­a­tion well, in wa­ters nearly 7,500 feet deep about 75 miles off the Louisi­ana coast, hit pay­dirt.

“Shell is com­plet­ing the full eval­u­ation of the well res­ults but ex­pects the re­source base to be ap­prox­im­ately 100 mil­lion bar­rels of oil equi­val­ent,” the com­pany said. It joins two oth­er Shell dis­cov­er­ies in re­cent years in what’s known as the Norph­let play. “To­geth­er with the Ap­po­mat­tox and Vicks­burg dis­cov­er­ies, this brings the total po­ten­tial Norph­let dis­cov­er­ies to over 700 mil­lion bar­rels of oil equi­val­ent,” Shell said. — BG

11:50 a.m. — DEMS FAIL IN AT­TEMPT TO STRIP RIDERS FROM SPEND­ING BILL. Rep. Jim Mor­an, the rank­ing mem­ber on the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee on In­teri­or and the En­vir­on­ment, said he thought the com­mit­tee’s EPA spend­ing bill could pass, were it not for a slew of con­tro­ver­sial riders. Mor­an offered an amend­ment that would have stripped 24 policy pro­vi­sions, in­clud­ing lan­guage that would block EPA’s rules lim­it­ing pol­lu­tion from power plants and EPA’s pro­pos­al to re­define its Clean Wa­ter Act jur­is­dic­tion; it also would delay an En­dangered Spe­cies Act list­ing of the sage grouse.

The amend­ment failed by a 29-19 party line vote, but Demo­crats said they would of­fer up oth­er amend­ments on spe­cif­ic policy riders. — JP

7:14 a.m. — LOB­BY­ING TUSSLE OVER CRUDE-OIL EX­PORTS ES­CAL­ATES. Look for en­ergy com­pan­ies’ second-quarter lob­by­ing dis­clos­ure re­ports to provide a glimpse in­to the grow­ing fight over wheth­er the U.S. should lift the dec­ades-old ban on ex­port­ing crude oil. Valero En­ergy, the na­tion’s largest re­finer and an op­pon­ent of lift­ing the ban, lists crude ex­ports among its vari­ous lob­by­ing areas in a newly filed second-quarter re­port.

The com­pany spent $310,000 on total lob­by­ing in the April-June peri­od, more than the $200,000 it spent in the second quarter of 2013 and among its highest quarterly totals ever. Valero also lis­ted the ban in last quarter’s fil­ing. The dead­line for com­pan­ies to file second-quarter re­ports is Ju­ly 21. — BG

7:14 a.m. — GLOB­AL GREEN-EN­ERGY FUND­ING CLIMBS IN SECOND QUARTER. World­wide in­vest­ment in clean-en­ergy sources grew to $63.6 bil­lion in the second quarter, a 33 per­cent jump from the pri­or three-month peri­od, ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased data from Bloomberg New En­ergy Fin­ance. In­vest­ment re­mains be­low levels reached a few years ago but is on the up­swing, the com­pany said in the re­port that tal­lies fin­an­cing of wind, sol­ar and oth­er pro­jects.

“The past two years have seen in­vest­ment de­cline by over 20 per­cent from its 2011 peak, driv­en equally by the European fisc­al crisis, policy un­cer­tainty and plum­met­ing costs for re­new­able en­ergy equip­ment. Now, what we are see­ing is the new com­pet­it­ive­ness of re­new­able en­ergy win­ning through, driv­ing a surge in de­mand,” said Mi­chael Liebreich, ad­vis­ory board chair­man at Bloomberg New En­ergy Fin­ance. — BG

7:14 a.m. — CAR­BON-CAP­TURE PRO­JECT BREAKS GROUND IN TEXAS. The En­ergy De­part­ment said Tues­day that con­struc­tion has be­gun on a fed­er­ally backed pro­ject to trap car­bon emis­sions from a coal-fired power plant in the Hou­s­ton area. It’s the first com­mer­cial-scale pro­ject un­der­way to ret­ro­fit an ex­ist­ing coal-fired power plant with car­bon-cap­ture tech­no­logy, DOE said.

The $1 bil­lion Petra Nova Pro­ject by NRG En­ergy and JX Nip­pon, backed by $167 mil­lion in DOE fund­ing, aims to cap­ture car­bon from part of the power plant and pipe it 80 miles to a de­pleted oil­field. It will be in­jec­ted to help boost the aging field’s pro­duc­tion. Re­u­ters has more on the pro­ject here. — BG

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