Every two weeks Viohl & Associates publishes an Energy Update, which provides summaries of significant federal and state energy news.
In the States
ND – The North Dakota Industrial Commission, which regulates the State’s energy resources, including the drilling and production of oil and gas in the State, will hold public hearings to gather input on how to “reduce volatility at a well site before oil is stored or transported.” Governor Jack Dalrymple, who sits on the Commission, said state officials are considering treating the crude oil that is pumped from the Bakken Shale prior to transport. Federal officials are also considering whether to require the crude, which has proven to be more combustible, to be stabilized before it is shipped. The stabilization process involves boiling and removing certain hydrocarbon molecules from the crude oil. Amid federal safety push, North Dakota considers new energy regulations – TIME and North Dakota considers requiring treatment of Bakken crude – The Wall Street Journal
WY – The State’s Industrial Siting Council voted unanimously to approve Power Company of Wyoming’s plan to build a 1,000-turbine wind farm in the State’s Carbon County. The proposal, which is called Chokecherry and Sierra Madre, still requires several federal approvals and environmental assessments. If built, the $5 billion-project would be the largest onshore wind installation in the United States and is expected to produce up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity, or 10 million megawatt hours annually. Chokecherry and Sierra Madre is also projected to create almost 1,000 construction jobs and to employ more than 100 workers after completion. Wyoming board gives key OK for Carbon county wind farm – The Casper Star Tribune
Governors Jerry Brown of California, John Kitzhaber of Oregon, and Jay Inslee of Washington recently wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell requesting a ban on any new oil and gas drilling off their coasts. In their letter, the Governors also discussed their efforts to promote and expand clean energy projects and technologies and their interest in working with the Obama Administration to “invest in energy efficiency, alternative renewable energy sources, and pricing carbon.” The Governors’ letter was offered as formal comment on the Interior Department’s proposal for oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf from 2017 through 2022. “We must meet the environmental and economic imperative of climate change, and in so doing,” said the Governors, “seize the opportunity for our region and our nation to build a low-carbon economy that can be the envy of the world.” A copy of the letter can be found here.
According to a new report by Environment America, 10 States, including Arizona, California, and Colorado, are responsible for about 89% of solar energy capacity in the United States. The same States, however, according to the report, account for only 26% of the total U.S. population and 20% of electricity consumption nationally. In addition to the aforementioned States, the report finds Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and North Carolina also possess strong solar energy markets and/or policies. The report also found that the amount of photovoltaic capacity increased from 97 megawatts in 2003 to 12,000 megawatts in 2013. A copy of the report can be found here.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy awarded more than $18 million in grants to 32 projects to research, expand, and advance geothermal energy development. For example, $10 million will be granted to research and development projects to study geothermal energy reservoirs and extraction processes. The remaining $8 million will be evenly split between projects that will help to map subsurface geothermal energy resources and explore power generation and mineral extraction “as a path to developing commercially viable, low- to moderate- temperature geothermal resources. More information can be found here.
Kansas Republican Representative Mike Pompeo and 53 other House members wrote to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to ask them to let certain federal energy subsidies, namely the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), expire. The House Members said “Ensuring that our nation’s patchwork tax code undergoes significant reform is a noble goal and, as part of this process, we believe Congress should stop picking winners and losers and finally end the wind PTC.” In their letter, they also asserted the PTC costs too much, inflates energy costs, and distorts the overall energy market’s prices. House Republicans: End ‘harmful’ wind tax credit – The Hill
In the States
CA – Governor Jerry Brown and Mexico’s Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell signed a bilateral nonbinding agreement to support and to collaborate on clean energy projects, research, and infrastructure. The pact calls for California and Mexico to “work together in developing and deploying renewable energy, biofuels, and other clean energy technologies.” Under this agreement, the State and Mexico will also collaborate on climate adaptation strategies, air quality, and fuel efficiency standards. Governor Brown also recently signed an agreement with other Mexican energy and environment officials to align their efforts to stem greenhouse gas emissions. “By this agreement, we intend to work together to dramatically increase solar, wind and other renewable investments,’’ Governor Brown said in a written statement. California joins Mexico in clean-energy pact – Bloomberg
KY – Governor Steve Beshear called a new carbon capture project at a coal-burning power plant “a big step forward for solving one of the biggest challenges facing the Commonwealth,” namely carbon emissions. The new $19.5 million facility at the E.W. Brown Generating Station, which is located in Harrodsburg, will capture and separate carbon dioxide emissions after the coal is burned. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) contributed approximately $14 million to the carbon capture projects, and is sponsoring another 15 similar projects across the United States. John Litynski, carbon capture program manager at the DOE’s fossil energy division, said carbon capture "technologies are going to be necessary and commercially available for coal to play a significant role while addressing greenhouse gas issues." Project at Ky. Coal plant to catch carbon dioxide – The Houston Chronicle
PA – According to a new report by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), natural gas and oil extraction operations damaged the Commonwealth’ water supplies and infrastructure more than 200 times since the end of 2007. State regulators, in the DEP’s report, list 209 water supplies at both the country and municipality level that were disrupted. State law requires regulators to determine and disclose within 45 days of receiving a drilling-related water complaint. According to both the DEP and the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, only a small percentage of the total number of new oil and gas projects, estimated to be roughly 20,000 wells, disrupted or damaged Pennsylvania’s water supplies. Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the coalition, said this data further demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of oil and natural gas wells in Pennsylvania – over 99 percent – have been developed without any impact on ground or well water.” DEP: Oil and gas operations damaged water supplies 209 times since end of ’07 – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Federal and Regional
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently said the Pentagon, specifically the Navy, requested biofuels to be included in its “annual request for fuels that are delivered to facilities in the eastern and inland United States.” The EIA noted this was the first time the Pentagon has made such a request. Biofuels, according to the Navy, can be blended in a range of 10 to 50 percent with conventional petroleum products and have already been approved for use in Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, ships, and other equipment. The Navy hopes to reduce its reliance on petroleum and generate 50 percent of its energy from alternative sources by 2020. Currently, the Navy generates 17 percent of its energy from renewable sources, though no biofuels are, at this time, being consumed. The Navy, states EIA, is primarily interested in “drop-in biofuels, or “fuels that can be used as direct replacements for petroleum-based gasoline and distillate fuels.” Navy includes biofuels in annual fuel request – The Hill and Biofuels are included in latest U.S. Navy fuel procurement – Energy Information Administration
Thirteen western State air regulators met in private recently to discuss the Obama Administration’s new carbon emission standards and regulations for power plants and how States could work together to meet the new benchmarks. The new policy seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also encourages States to develop “regional carbon-trading systems.” The roundtable discussion was led by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and was organized by the Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy. “The meeting provided a forum for us to get a better understanding of how the proposal works,” said Camille St. Onge, spokeswoman for Washington’s Department of Ecology. According to John Chatburn, interim administrator of the Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy Resources, the discussion laid “the groundwork for exploring the potential of either a regional or multi-state or bi-state program.” Meeting of western states lays regional carbon groundwork – Bloomberg