A long-in-development House Republican effort to update the federal government’s energy policy faces new obstacles after the White House threatened to veto the legislation and Democrats indicated they plan to stand firm against the bill unless significant changes are made.
The North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, authored chiefly by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., is set for floor debate as early as Wednesday, with plans for a vote on Thursday. It includes updates to energy infrastructure permitting, a process to streamline liquefied natural gas exports and changes to energy efficiency policies.
The Office of Management and Budget, however, contended that many of those changes would undermine federal efforts to boost energy efficiency, promote clean energy and protect the environment.
The Obama Administration on Monday threatened to veto a House energy reform bill that it said would "undermine already successful initiatives designed to modernize the nation's energy infrastructure and increase our energy efficiency."
In a Statement of Administration Policy, the Office of Management and Budget cited a wide range of objections to the bill, drafted by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. OMB said the bill would stand in the way of enforcement of efficiency standards, would weaken efforts to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned to power federal buildings, would interfere with the way officials evaluate permit applications for natural gas pipelines and natural gas exports, and would interfere with environmental protections for hydropower projects.
The Environmental Protection Agency's final 2016 Renewable Fuel Standard blending levels drew plenty of criticism Monday, as the ethanol industry accused the agency of putting the future of biofuels in the “hands of the oil companies” and the oil sector said consumers would be the “ultimate victim” of the push for higher biofuel blends.
In releasing final volume obligations for 2014, 2015 and 2016, the agency called for 18.11 billion gallons, or 10.10 percent, of the nation's transportation fuel to come from biofuels next year.
While the final rule breaks the 10-percent “blend wall” oil companies see as dangerous, it also invoked EPA's waiver authority to set blending levels well below the 22.25 billion gallons outlined in the 2005 law that created the standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday moved to increase the amount of biofuels it will require under next year's Renewable Fuel Standard, calling for more than 18 billion gallons—more than 10 percent—of the nation's transportation fuel supply to come from biofuels.
The 18.11 billion gallon figure is up from the 17.4 billion gallons the agency proposed for its 2016 RFS earlier this year, but it's well under the 22.25 billion gallons envisioned by the 2005 law that created the standard.
Janet McCabe, EPA acting administrator for air and radiation, defended the move to use EPA's waiver authority, saying the agency still set a strong growth path for the biofuels industry.
“With today’s final rule, and as Congress intended, EPA is establishing volumes that go beyond historic levels and grow the amount of biofuel in the market over time,” she said. “Our standards provide for ambitious, achievable growth.”
She highlighted the agency's move to go “beyond the blend wall,” referring to the 10-percent threshold where the oil and refining sector believe the market becomes saturated with biofuel, to the detriment of engines and fueling infrastructure.
The agency also finalized standards for 2014 and 2015, based on actual biofuel production in those years. It also finalized its production levels for biomass-based diesel through 2017.
Nearly five months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency acted “unreasonably” in not considering industry costs before drafting its mercury standards for power plants, the agency has proposed a fix that could allow the rules to remain intact.
The supplemental finding, proposed late Friday, states that the agency has considered several different cost metrics, concluding those costs still don’t outweigh the benefits of the regulation. The agency will take comment on the proposal for 45 days, with plans to finalize the fix in May.
The high court didn’t strike down the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, designed to slash emissions of mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions, when it ruled on June 29, instead sending the case back to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for a further action.
The new version of the unified regulatory agenda, which sets the schedule for the Obama administration’s new rules, promises an August date to issue a model for carbon trading schemes that states could use to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, E&E reports.
With three years' worth of Renewable Fuel Standard blending levels set to be finalized as early as next week, the ethanol and oil industries are making their last pitches to the White House—and trading barbs with each other.
EPA plans to finalize late standards for 2014 and 2015 and complete its 2016 volumes by Nov. 30. The rules are currently under final review from the Office of Management and Budget, which is also meeting with industry stakeholders.
The Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, at a Wednesday meeting with OMB, urged the government to break the “monopoly Big Oil has on the liquid fuels transportation market” and move the program forward.
Many of the changes made to the final version of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule may have been due to the influence of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, although they appeared to do little to pacify angry farming interests, E&E reports.
Montana PSC Commissioner Travis Kavulla is the new president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, having been elected to a one-year term, succeeding Lisa Edgar of Florida.
Kavulla, a Republican, “brings to NARUC a reasoned, logical perspective,” Edgar said.
In a speech in Austin, Texas following his election, Kavulla spoke of the challenges facing state regulators in an era where the energy sector is undergoing massive shifts, urging his colleagues to “focus on making sure that whatever future is the most affordable and reliable will ultimately prevail in the regulatory setting we create.”
Drillers would have to submit plans for capturing natural gas generated from well operations and report the volumes, but those flaring up to 60,000 cubic feet of gas a day would still not need a permit under reforms proposed by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, the Casper Star Tribune reports.
Pioneer Natural Resources is the second U.S. firm, after Enterprise Products, to begin exploring how to take advantage of the end of the U.S. oil export ban and could begin shipments by the middle of next year, The Hill reports.
Two competing initiatives designed to give Florida residents a constitutional right to rooftop solar energy are running out of time without enough signatures yet to make next November's ballot, the Naples Daily News reports.
SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive joined Sen. Charles E. Schumer in Buffalo this week to call the five-year extension of a federal tax subsidy "super important" to the continued growth of the solar power industry, The Buffalo News reports.
Continued concerns about oversupply forced oil prices downward early Wednesday, nearing an 11-year low already reached once this week. London Brent fell 31 cents to $37.05 a barrel while U.S. crude remained unchanged at $37.50, Reuters reports.
A group of researchers at MIT, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Colorado have developed a new computer microchip that uses optical technology and creates the potential to make future computer data centers more energy efficient, the journal Science reports.
A Japanese court on Thursday rejected safety concerns and approved letting Kansai Electric Power, the country's second biggest utility, restart four nuclear reactors shuttered since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Reuters reports.