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Republican Governors Signal Their Intent to Thwart Obama’s Climate Rules


WASHINGTON — As President Obama prepares to complete sweeping regulations aimed at tackling climate change, at least five Republican governors, including two presidential hopefuls, say they may refuse to carry out the rules in their states.

The resistance threatens to ignite a fierce clash between federal and state authorities, miring the climate rules in red tape for years. The fight could also undermine Mr. Obama’s efforts to urge other nations to enact similar plans this year as part of a major United Nations climate change accord.

Republican strategists say that rejection of Mr. Obama’s climate policy at the state level could emerge as a conservative litmus test in the 2016 election. Two of the governors who have said that they might defy the regulations — Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana — are among at least four Republican governors who are expected to vie for the presidential nomination.

    Other governors who have issued threats over the rules include Greg Abbott of Texas, Mike Pence of Indiana and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma.

    The governors’ actions have come after the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, opened a campaign earlier this year urging all governors to refuse to carry out the climate change rules.

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    Will The ‘Just Say No’ Strategy To Thwarting Obama’s Carbon Plan Work?

    Ken Silverstein Contributor

    I write about the global energy business.

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    BUSINESS 7/05/2015 @ 9:35AM 1,822 views

    Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has curbed the Environmental Protection Agency efforts to enact mercury standards, the coal sector wants to carry forward the same winning mindset — and help kill the same agency’s proposed carbon standards. Will it work?

    That’s highly unlikely. But it will serve to delay the implementation of the rule that would cut carbon releases by 30 percent by 2030. At issue in both the mercury case decided last Monday and the Clean Power Plan to be finalized this summer is costs — and whether they would be rational in comparison to the benefits produced.

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    The Great American Natural Gas Surge

    Jude Clemente Contributor

    I cover energy, environment, security, & human development.

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    ENERGY 7/05/2015 @ 6:51PM 6,185 views

    Americans already know about the U.S. natural gas revolution based on shale, with production up from 58 Bcf/day in 2008 to 75 Bcf/day today. This incremental increase has been so large that, if standing as its own nation, our shale gas production surge since 2008 alone would be the world’s 3rd largest natural gas supplier in the world, behind Russia and the U.S. in supplies not from shale. This has enabled a huge shift in natural gas demand throughout the U.S. economy. Gas is an increasingly attractive fuel to help cut greenhouse gas emissions: gas is scalable, cleaner, cheaper, abundant, more flexible, and reliable.

    When combusted, natural gas emits 30% less CO2 than oil and 45% less than coal and has lower levels of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter. As easily the projected fastest growing U.S. fossil fuel, rising 1% per year, natural gas is the key source to a more sustainable energy future. Natural gas will be essential to allowing wind and solar power to assume a more significant role in our energy mix by backing up their natural intermittency. Although this is an added cost for wind and solar that is typically not included in costs estimates by those promoting renewables. The combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) technology makes gas an especially attractive fuel for electricity generation, able to be built in just 1-2 years, with lower initial investment and thermal efficiencies that can reach above 60%.

    The EIA’s projection shows that natural gas could supply 33% of U.S. electricity by as early as 2020, compared to 27% in 2014. And under the “Clean Power Plan” natural gas will become the primary fuel for electricity. The Clean Power Plan places an essentially non-retractable bet that wind and solar energy will provide 55% of our incremental power by 2030. But these two sources have never produced even 5% of America’s electricity, and cheaper gas will be what compensates for shortfalls. The IEA’s projection that U.S. gas power capacity will increase nearly 20% by 2030 seems conservative. The EIA’s average levelized costs for plants entering service in 2020 have gas plants at just $75 per megawatt hour, far below its main competitors. Since 1995, 75% of new power capacity has been gas-fired units. Gas prices for power generation was just $3.23 per Thousand Cubic Feet, a 40% drop year-over year.

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    Refracking is the new fracking

    Posted on July 7, 2015 | By Bloomberg

    The technique itself is nothing new. Oil crews across the world have been schooled on its simple principles for generations: Identify aging, low-output wells and hit them with a blast of sand and water to bolster the flow of crude. The idea originated somewhere in the plains of the American Midwest, back in the 1950s.

    But as today’s engineers start applying the procedure to the horizontal wells that went up during the fracking boom that swept across U.S. shale fields over the past decade, something more powerful, more financially rewarding is happening.

    The short life span of these wells, long thought to be perhaps the single biggest weakness of the shale industry, is being stretched out. Early evidence of the effects of restimulation suggests that the fields could actually contain enough reserves to last about 50 years, according to a calculation based on Wood Mackenzie Ltd and ITG Investment Research data.

    Peak Shale Oil

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    California’s Distributed Energy Grid Plans: The Next Steps

    The DRPs are in. Now comes the hard part: building DERs into business-as-usual for the grid.

    Jeff St. John
    July 7, 2015

    Last week, after a year of behind-the-scenes work and much public debate, California’s big three investor-owned utilities turned in their long-awaited distribution resource plans (DRPs). Mandated by state law AB 327, these DRPs are essentially blueprints for how Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric are going to merge rooftop solar, behind-the-meter energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles and other distributed energy resources (DERs) into their day-to-day grid operations and long-range distribution grid planning and investment regimes.

    A lot of work has gone into these plans, much of which had never before been done. Each California utility has created mapping tools that show how much capacity is available on each distribution circuit for new DER interconnection, for instance -- something that could be very useful for distributed energy developers.

    All three utilities have also agreed on a common set of measures for how DERs could help shore up grid capacity, increase reliability, serve system-wide needs, and otherwise stand in for costly utility upgrades. And each has laid out how it plans to fold these DRP methodologies into their general rate cases (GRCs), the once-every-three-years process that determines how much each can charge its customers for its capital and operating costs for the coming years.

    But when it comes to actually turning these software tools and financial guidelines into real-world DER-grid integration, the hard work has just begun. Many questions remain about how to determine which combination of DERs will meet the least-cost models that utilities use to rank their distribution grid upgrades, and what kinds of new capabilities grid-supporting DERs will need to have to serve as replacements for utility investments.

    There’s also much uncertainty about how DERs serving as stand-ins for grid infrastructure should be paid for, and how their costs and benefits should be shared. As Patrick Hogan, PG&E vice president of asset management, said in an interview last week, “We need to make sure that as we have more DERs entering the system, that we’ve really thought through how each of the customers out there are paying for their part of the grid, if you will.”

    These issues are of major interest for solar-storage combinations from SolarCity and Tesla, SunEdison and Green Charge Networks, Sungevity and Sonnenbatterie, and SunPower and partners Stem and Sunverge, which see an opportunity for earning grid services revenues as stand-ins for distribution grid investments. They’re also important for the commercial building and residential energy management platform providers looking for ways to tap California’s emerging opportunities for distributed demand response.

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    White House Solar Plan Aims at Low- and Middle-Income People


    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce an initiative to help low- and middle-income Americans gain access to solar energy, part of a series of steps President Obama is taking to tackle climate change, according to administration officials.

    The administration will announce that it intends to triple the capacity of solar and other renewable energy systems it installs in federally subsidized housing by 2020, make it easier for homeowners to borrow money for solar improvements and start a nationwide program to help renters gain access to solar energy, the officials said.

    The actions are to be announced in Baltimore by Brian Deese, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser for climate issues, and Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the Democrat who represents the city.

    Mr. Deese, in a conference call with reporters, called the moves “part of a bigger-picture effort to try to drive innovation” toward cleaner, low-carbon energy solutions.

    Also to be unveiled on Tuesday are commitments totaling more than $520 million from charities, investors, states and cities to pay for solar and energy-efficiency projects for lower-income communities.

    Mr. Cummings said that he routinely receives calls at his congressional office from constituents who cannot pay all their utility bills, and that the programs would not only help the planet but also save money for those who could not otherwise gain access to renewable energy.

    “The difference in a monthly bill of $10 or $15 means a lot to the people who live on my block,” Mr. Cummings said.

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    JUICE: Harvesting Solar Dreams

    June 25, 2015

    I wish I had a backyard large enough to grow a variety of summer and winter vegetables and fruits. But that is not the case given my small, shady yard.

    So, I am doing the next best thing.

    I invest in a local farm in Suisun Valley. I pay a set amount each month in exchange for weekly home deliveries of organic fresh fruits and vegetables.

    I support a business I believe in though don’t know what the weekly produce mix will be. But, I know the farm, the growers and the cost. I can supplement the box as needed by going to the local farmers’ market or grocery store.

    I wish I had a rooftop that could harvest solar energy. But, that’s not an option. Much of my roof is shaded by neighboring trees.

    Even it if weren’t for the shade, I wouldn’t install photovoltaic panels because the cost doesn’t pencil out given my relatively low electricity bill—either with me as the owner of the panels or through a third-party solar energy company.

    I want to do the next best thing. That is, invest in a local sun farm to provide part or all of my home power.

    That unfortunately is not an option although I am one of many who want to directly support community renewable investments.

    Pending legislation and California Public Utilities Commission rulings on the private utilities’ proposed shared renewable programs, however, may make my—as well as others’—solar farm dream come true if it pencils out.

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    Breaking: California Reaches Compromise on Utility Residential Rate Reform

    Two tiers, but a “super-user” charge for energy hogs; plus, no fixed charges, and TOU plans required

    Jeff St. John
    July 3, 2015

    California regulators have passed a major utility residential rate reform plan, one that doesn’t give solar and energy efficiency advocates everything they wanted, but does sock it to energy hogs in a way previous proposals did not.

    The new plan also keeps the pressure on the state’s big three investor-owned utilities to create time-of-use (TOU) rates to charge more when electricity demand is at its peak. That could provide new incentives for technologies that can manage hour-by-hour energy consumption.

    It also denies utility requests for broad permission to impose fixed monthly charges that could make rooftop solar less cost-competitive, opting for a minimum bill approach instead, at least as a default for future rate plans.

    In a unanimous vote, the California Public Utilities Commission on Friday approved a proposed decision (PDF) that will flatten out the state’s existing four-tier rate structure to two tiers, with a 25 percent difference in cost between the two.

    That move, part of a proposal released in April, has been opposed by solar companies and environmental groups, since it will reduce financial incentives for the state’s highest-electricity-using households to invest in rooftop solar and energy efficiency. The existing four-tier structure was set in place after the state’s 2001 energy crisis, and has gradually grown to a difference of about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour for the lowest tier to as high as 42 cents per kilowatt-hour for the highest tier.

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    2 new warrants served in CPUC case

    Agents seek documents at headquarters for Edison, utilities commission

    By Jeff McDonald | 6 a.m. July 6, 2015

    The criminal investigation of the California Public Utilities Commission appears to be intensifying, with state agents serving a fresh round of search warrants at the regulators’ headquarters in San Francisco and at Southern California Edison offices outside Los Angeles.

    The Attorney General’s Office wants details about a settlement agreement that assigned Southern California ratepayers to cover $3.3 billion in shutdown costs for the San Onofre nuclear plant, which closed on an emergency basis in January 2012 after Edison installed faulty replacement steam generators that caused a radiation leak.



    Search warrants for Edison, CPUC

    Download .PDF

    According to documents obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune, investigators executed a warrant at the commission offices on June 5, seeking “any and all records” pertaining to the San Onofre settlement between the day of the leak — Jan. 31, 2012 — and January 2015.

    They also requested records of any communications about the commission’s internal investigation of the San Onofre closure and any correspondence regulators had with two consumer groups that negotiated the settlement with Edison.

    “With respect to the categories of documents specified in the search warrant, CPUC will search for, review and produce responsive documents,” the warrant orders.

    It was not the first search warrant served on the commission, a quasi-judicial agency charged with ensuring “just and reasonable” utility rates for tens of millions of Californians.

    Agents seized computers, files and other materials from its San Francisco office in November, focused at that time on the commission’s relationships with Pacific Gas & Electric after a deadly pipeline blast in 2010. The latest warrants show a more recent focus on Edison, majority owner of the San Onofre plant north of Oceanside.

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    After Settlement, Relief at a Diminished BP




    The Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by BP and positioned less than 50 miles southeast of the tip of Louisiana, exploded and caught fire on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers, and then sank.

    Credit Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    LONDON — BP’s future no longer has a giant cloud ahead. But it will take years, if not decades, for the company to approach its size of five years ago, before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

    Since the 2010 blowout of the Macondo well killed 11 rig workers and dumped millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has vigorously fought in court and on American television to salvage its image and minimize the costs. But in preparation for a settlement to resolve legal wrangling over economic and environmental damages, in which it eventually agreed to pay $18.7 billion, the British-based company also had pruned its global operations to save itself.

      To shore up its finances, it gave up its former ambition to reach the size of Exxon Mobil, the giant of global oil giants. It sold refineries and natural gas fields in the United States, and trimmed its reach across Russia, Central and Southeast Asia, and the North Sea. From the time of the accident through 2012, it sold off $38 billion in assets, and raised $12 billion more in cash from selling its stake in the Russian company TNK-BP.

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      Heat Motivates Conservation Call

      July 02, 2015

      Soaring summer temperatures led the California Independent System Operator to call for demand response negawatts and energy conservation across the state for the first time in three years.

      So-called “Flex Alerts” were called for June 30 and July 1, with forecasted peak demand estimated at 44,700 MW, the grid operator announced June 30.

      That is well below the all-time peak of 50,279 MW, which occurred during the heat storm of 2006.

      The actual peak loads midweek were below the forecast, hitting 41,197 MW on June 30 and 38,729 MW on July 1.

      “The peak came in less,” according to grid operator spokesperson Steven Greenlee, “as demand response and Flex Alert conservation kicked in.”

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      Drought Sends U.S. Water Agency Back to Drawing Board




      Officials from the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of the Interior took in the view of new construction at the Folsom Dam in California. Water levels there have been dropping.

      Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

      FOLSOM, Calif. — Drew Lessard stood on top of Folsom Dam and gazed at the Sierra Nevada, which in late spring usually gushes enough melting snow into the reservoir to provide water for a million people. But the mountains were bare, and the snowpack to date remains the lowest on measured record.

      “If there’s no snowpack, there’s no water,” said Mr. Lessard, a regional manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that built and operates a vast network of 476 dams, 348 reservoirs and 8,116 miles of aqueducts across the Western United States.

      For nearly a century, that network has captured water as it flows down from the region’s snowcapped mountains and moves to the farms, cities and suburbs that were built in the desert. But as the snow disappears, experts say the Bureau of Reclamation — created in 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt to wrest control of water in the arid West — must completely rebuild a 20th-century infrastructure so that it can efficiently conserve and distribute water in a 21st-century warming world.

      “The bureau is headed into a frightening new world, an uncertain new world,” said Jeffrey Mount, an expert on water resource management with the Public Policy Institute of California.

      For most of the 1900s, the bureau’s system — which grew into the largest wholesale water utility in the country — worked. But the West of the 21st century is not the West of Roosevelt. There are now millions more people who want water, but there is far less of it. The science of climate change shows that in the future, there will be less still.

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      Drought Pushes Nevada Ranchers to Take On Washington




      Max Filippini moved cattle in mid-June into a grazing area in Battle Mountain, Nev., that was once off-limits because of drought restrictions. The Filippini family agreed to pay a fine to let their cattle graze on the land.

      Credit  Kim Raff for The New York Times

      BATTLE MOUNTAIN, Nev. — Around here they call it “going Bundy”: allowing cattle to graze illegally on federally owned land. For months, ranching families in this tiny community have itched to do it — both because of the relentless drought, which has left their own land dry and their animals hungry, and because of the anti-Washington streak that runs deep in this part of the rural West, where people fervently believe that the government owns too much land.

      Last month, the Filippini family finally did it: They released hundreds of cattle onto federal land here at the border of Lander and Humboldt Counties, an arid patch that straddles part of the old Pony Express cross-country mail route of 1860 and 1861. Drought has reduced the grass cover here to less than four inches of stubble in some creek beds, a level that leads to a ban on grazing.

      The Filippinis drew inspiration from another Nevada rancher who did the same thing and, so far, has won. In the spring of last year, Cliven Bundy, from the southern Nevada town of Bunkerville, about 450 miles from here, became a household name when hundreds of his supporters faced down rangers from the Bureau of Land Management in an armed standoff.

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      Is Iran worth the risk for foreign oil companies?

      The deadline for Iran nuclear talks is looming, and a successful deal would mean must more Iranian oil on the world market. As Nick Cunningham writes, Western oil majors are among those clambering to invest.

      By Nick Cunningham, JULY 1, 2015 Save for later


      1. The deadline for the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program is finally here, raising the possibility that the OPEC member could finally see sanctions removed from its economy.

      That could open up new opportunities for Iran to not only sell the large volume of oil that it has sitting in storage and boost output at some of its existing oil fields, but also to bring in international oil companies to develop some new fields.

      Iran has somewhere around 158 billion barrels of oil reserves, the fourth largest in the world. It's also sitting on the second largest reserves of natural gas. But much of that has not been developed yet, due to the isolation it has faced in recent years. U.S. oil companies have been largely blocked from the country since Iran’s 1979 revolution, and as sanctions tightened over the last several years, other exploration companies have been unable to operate there. Russia’s Gazprom and China’s CNPC have helped develop some oil and gas projects, but they too have run into trouble, mostly over disagreements with the Iranian government over delays in investment levels, which were tied to fears over international sanctions.

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      Gazprom Halts Natural Gas Deliveries to Ukraine

      By ANDREW ROTHJULY 1, 2015



      Analysts say Ukraine has enough gas to last through summer.


      Roman Pilipey/European Pressphoto Agency

      MOSCOW — The Russian energy giant Gazprom announced on Wednesday that it had halted deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine because of a pricing dispute.

      Gazprom has not received advance payment for deliveries of natural gas in July, Alexey B. Miller, the chief executive of Gazprom, said in a statement on Wednesday, and had cut the flow of natural gas to Ukraine immediately.

      “Gazprom will not deliver gas to Ukraine at any price without prepayment,” Mr. Miller said.

      One day earlier, Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state energy company, said it would cease buying Russian gas because of disputes over prices and the breakdown of talks mediated by the European Union to negotiate a new contract.

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