August 26 News: U.S. Energy Sector Braces for Direct Hit from Irene; Clinton Review of Keystone XL Ignores Risks

U.S. energy sector braces for direct hit from Irene

From nuclear plants to pipelines and refineries, energy companies braced on Thursday for a potentially devastating Hurricane Irene that is barreling toward the most populated part of the United States.

The storm has prompted energy suppliers from North Carolina to Maine to secure equipment, activate emergency plans and warn customers about potential power disruptions.

“We’re battening down the hatches,” said Alan Griffith of NextEra Energy (NEE.N), which operates the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.

Seabrook was designed to withstand hurricane and tornado-force winds, Griffith said.

Irene was still pummeling the Bahamas late on Thursday afternoon and was expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday.

While the East Coast region has no major offshore oil and gas production like the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast, the stakes are still daunting. The region has around a dozen nuclear plants, a massive oil delivery hub at New York Harbor, and its pipelines and power networks serve more than 100 million Americans.

Clinton Review of Canada Pipeline Ignores Risks, Groups Say

The U.S. State Department has failed to respond to environmental concerns over a proposed oil pipeline from Canada ahead of an assessment that may come as soon as tomorrow, environmental groups said.

There is “no evidence” the department is analyzing whetherTransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s proposed $7 billion Keystone XL project should be rerouted or may be prone to leaks, said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international program director at the New York- based Natural Resources Defense Council. The department in April found that the pipeline to carry Canadian oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.”

Should the project clear a final environmental assessment, it must still be found to “serve the national interest,” a review that will consider issues such as U.S. efforts to enhance energy security and the pipeline’s impacts on “broader foreign policy objectives,” according to the department. Opponents include Senator Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, who says the current route threatens a major water aquifer in his state.

“My sense is that the most important concerns will not be satisfied,” Casey-Lefkowitz said yesterday in an interview. “These are major pieces of analysis identified as being needed. We see no evidence that’s happening.”

UPS buying 100 EVI electric commercial delivery vehicles; Valence battery packs

UPS is purchasing 100 fully electric commercial delivery vehicles from Electric Vehicles International (EVI) for deployment in locations throughout California. This purchase marks the largest deployment of electric delivery vehicles in California, and one of the largest single deployments of commercial all-electric vehicles in the world.

EVI and UPS have been working for over two years on this project, including a successful 90-day demonstration in the fall of 2010. (Earlier post.) Through that demonstration, UPS used data collected to analyze the vehicle return on investment. Early next year 100 class 6 walk-in delivery trucks with a 90-mile range will be placed in service in the South Coast Air Basin, San Joaquin Valley, and the Sacramento Valley.

EPA Delays Mandate to Report Products Leading to Carbon Releases

The Environmental Protection Agency said it would put off reporting requirements for manufacturers and power plants on the products they use that lead to greenhouse-gas emissions.

In a Federal Register notice today, the EPA said that companies would have until at least 2013 to submit information about the raw materials. Representatives of chemical makers, oil refiners and other manufacturers have tried to scuttle the EPA’s proposal, saying it would force them to disclose confidential information.

The rules were set to take effect this year. The EPA proposed in December that they be deferred and today’s notice makes that decision final. The rules will be delayed until March 31, 2013, for some substances and two years later for others.

CFTC eyes September action on oil speculation limits

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission may vote next month on long-awaited final rules to impose new curbs on speculative trading in oil and other commodities markets.

Lawmakers including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who allege Wall Street speculators are driving up energy costs, haveassailed delays in finalizing rules required under last year’s Dodd-Frank law.

CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a speech Thursday that speculative-position limits will likely be among the rules that commissioners vote on at the next commission meeting, set for Sept. 22.

Bloomberg reported that Gensler said the rule will be considered in September or early October.

“I feel very good about the progress staff has made,” he said to reporters, according to Bloomberg, which has more on the rules here.

Inhofe calls out Romney on climate

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and a leading conservative voice in Congress on climate issues, said GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney should stop trying to “play both sides” on key environmental issues.

Mr. Inhofe spoke to The Washington Times a day after he endorsed the presidential bid of Mr. Romney’s top rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow climate-change skeptic.

“I think people need to make up their minds,” said Mr. Inhofe. “You know, we’ve had a lot of time, 10 years we’ve been thinking about this. We ought to decide where we are and not try to play both sides.”

For conservatives like Mr. InhofeMr. Romney has a checkered history on issues such as global warming. As governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney signed on to a regional “cap-and-trade” carbon-reduction plan, though he later withdrew, citing a lack of economic safeguards. WhileMr. Romney now opposes federal cap-and-trade legislation, he has said repeatedly that he thinks greenhouse-gas emissions are a “contributing factor” to climate change.

EPA’s Regulating Authority Targeted By Republicans In Appropriations Bills

House Republicans are looking to appropriations bills they plan to debate when they return from recess in September as an opportunity to curb the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulating authority.

The 2012 appropriations bills for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency contain a number of anti-environmental “riders,” provisions attached to bills that have little or nothing to do with the primary measure under consideration.

The office of Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who introduced a number of the riders, defended the provisions an attempt to prevent over-regulation. Of one rider that would block the EPA from designating which streams and wetlands are protected, Simpson’s spokeswoman Nikki Watts told HuffPost, “They are already being regulated through the United States Department of Agriculture and the Congressman feels there is no need to be regulated by two different departments.”

Watts also cited economic reasons for the provisions, going so far as to suggest the EPA has affected the labor market.

“It’s not just the Interior Committee that has these concerns,” she said. “It’s just a frustration that Congress is hearing from across the country about the EPA either over-regulating, or changing the rules, or being a huge hindrance on job creation.”

The riders have met a high degree of opposition from environmental groups. In a memorandum, the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and oldest environmental advocacy group, called the riders “the worst single attack on our nation’s air, water, wildlife and land to date.”

20 Responses to August 26 News: U.S. Energy Sector Braces for Direct Hit from Irene; Clinton Review of Keystone XL Ignores Risks

  1. Robert In New Orleans says:

    My understanding is that James Hansen said if we burn the Alberta tarsands, it’s game over. How come he not at the Keystone pipeline protest delivering an impassioned speech about what he truely believes?

    And does Hansen still believe in light of this summers record heat that 2012 will even warmer still?

  2. Sasparilla says:

    Robert I think you are correct about what Hansen said regarding the tar sands (it makes driving a car worse than if we ran them on coal).

    Of course the Obama administration has already approved a tar sands pipeline to the midwest (to Wisconsin in 2009) – so we’re already well on that path even without the XL.

    Hansen has already weighed in directly on the XL pipeline:

    As to why he’s not down there giving a speech or getting arrested, he may have other commitments – but since he’s been arrested previously as a protester, I’m sure its not for lack of wanting to be there.

  3. Sasparilla says:

    Just to fix an error in my prior post on the existing tar sands pipeline the Obama administration previously approved – it routes to two different refineries in Illinois (routing through other states and other refineries as well) and is already operational!

    Folks in the midwest have been burning tar sands gasoline in their cars (without knowing it) for months (it officially opened in June 2010 although it was still being added to at that point, it appears). It (without XL) represents 9% of current US petroleum imports – tar sands oil.

    Stuff like this makes me really question whether the game (practically) is already lost.

  4. Chris Winter says:

    “My sense is that the most important concerns will not be satisfied,” Casey-Lefkowitz said yesterday in an interview. “These are major pieces of analysis identified as being needed. We see no evidence that’s happening.”

    Ironic this. We stumbled into the war in Iraq in large part because Rumsfeld’s Defense dDepartment ignored analysis done by the State Department — as Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City makes clear. Now it is the State Department that’s ignoring the analysis.

  5. steve says:

    All too development projects end up being debated on grounds of how well (clean) they can pull it off, and rarely on grounds whether we should be doing it at all. I know and love the Yellowstone River where the recent spill took place, but frankly, I have zero interst in legitimizing the plan to build the pipeline with debate whether it will leak. Compared to carbon emissions from the resource, who gives a &^&#&#^%@^@ if a mid-continent river is buried in oily muck? If we don’t stop emissions there might not be anything but spring runoff in them anyway.

    Oops, sorry preaching to the choir here. Sigh

  6. Sasparilla says:

    British crew become first to row to magnetic north pole

    So the first group floats in their human powered boat over the magnetic north pole in the summer. The leader of this group had previously walked to the north pole in 92.

  7. Spike says:

    Hansen’s latest website publication has a footnote on tar sands

    “Tar sands (renamed oil sands by greenwashing governments) are a current target of the fossil fuel industry and an
    appropriate place for the public to take a stand. Known tar sands resources contain about 300 GtC, equivalent to
    about 150 ppm CO2 at time of injection into the atmosphere.”

    So it would indeed be game over.

  8. B Wouk says:

    James Hansen WILL be at the Tar Sands protest on monday.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Time for some distinctly odd humor:

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    This speaks for it’s self , where they plan to run the pipeline –
    HOUSTON— This weekend contains a heat advisory, ozone watch and high fire danger as triple-digit temperatures bring more sweltering weather, said KHOU 11 News Meteorologist Chita Johnson.

    Saturday is expected to see a low of 76 degrees and a high of 107 degrees, with no rain chances in sight.

    “We are going to be flirting with the all-time record here in Houston, which was 109, so really impressive Saturday and Sunday, so take mini-breaks if you have to be outside,” she said.

    Sunday’s high is projected to hit 105, with lows in the mid-70s.

    Those triple digits are expected to continue on Monday and Tuesday.–128490173.html

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    August 2010 was the hottest month ever recorded in Houston. Till this summer.

  12. John Tucker says:

    That looks like a photo from the Nebraska “meltdown” that wasn’t. How many fake nuclear “crisis” is this for us now.

  13. John Tucker says:

    Look, everything in this universe, including all “renewable” energy comes ultimately from nuclear energy. Its just how it is. Its probably something we are going to have to learn to deal with scientifically and responsibly. One way or another, sooner or later.

    If it can help the environment by delaying climate change and excess pollution then its worth it to do now. Even if not we should still be becoming competent working with it

  14. Doug Bostrom says:

    I wonder if somebody (that would be the Joe Romm of “somebody” could help Andy Revkin understand that the impact of a hurricane landfall is due separate consideration from the probability of its occurrence?

    Please take a look here:

    As Revkin says:

    “The author and climate campaigner Bill McKibben, fresh from protests over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, wrote today, “Irene’s got a middle name — and it’s global warming.”

    McKibben and his source for data on the storm, Wunderground meteorologistI Jeff Masters, are right when they say this storm is being fed by extremely warm sea temperatures and will be producing extraordinary rainfall (as I wrote on Wednesday).”

    For some reason, Andy then goes into a discourse on landfall probability, ignoring McKibben’s salient point which is about impact of storms that do make landfall, whatever the likelihood of that. There’s a lot of tut-tutting about inaccurate framing, etc., all of which misses the point that if and when hurricanes -do- strike landmasses, expectations are that they’ll be more destructive, a completely different issue.

    This matter of attribution seems to be a tripping point.

  15. John Tucker says:

    I like that they call it EcoShale™. I better leave before I start cussing.

  16. John Tucker says:

    Incidentally the process involves strip mining – placing the shale in a lined area – heating it with site supplied NG to around 900 degrees – draining off the “black gold” hydrocarbons – then cooling the leftovers and rehabilitating the landscape.

    I would think carbonates in the shale decomposing (since its not pressurized it seems) as well as combustion of heating gases would add very significant amounts of CO2 to the extraction process.

  17. prokaryotes says:

    You can now buy “Climate Change” T-Shirts designed by me :)