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TRUMP ADMINISTRATION MOVES TO PROTECT PIPELINES FROM CYBERATTACK: Just weeks after Energy Secretary Perry scolded Russia for attempting to hack the U.S. electric grid, the Energy Department held its first meeting with the nation’s security agencies on protecting pipelines from being hacked too.
The Energy Department, Transportation Safety Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security joined with the oil and natural gas industry on Wednesday for the first meeting of the Oil and Natural Gas Sector Coordinating Council.
Yes, pipelines can face cybersecurity threats, especially with the use of more digital sensors, controls, and even drones to remotely access and monitor pipeline facilities.
“The meeting was a key milestone in the partnership between the federal government and the oil and natural gas industry,” said DHS Under Secretary Christopher Krebs, with the National Protection and Programs Directorate.
Collaboration will only increase between agencies: “Collaborative efforts like this allow us to better understand the threat landscape and direct more targeted and prioritized risk management activities,” Krebs said.
Transportation Safety Administration chief David Pekoske said the meeting builds upon the recently updated Pipeline Security Guidelines the agency developed, and collaboration with the National Risk Management Center established in the summer “to minimize the consequences of an attack or disruption.”
The agencies’ collaboration through the “Pipeline Cybersecurity Initiative” will leverage all the resources and expertise of the federal government “to address the threats to our nation's pipelines," said Karen Evans, the Energy Department’s new head of cybersecurity.
By the way -- it’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Largest oil industry group sits down with Perry: Energy Secretary Rick Perry even had a private meeting Wednesday with the new CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, Mike Sommers.
“The Energy Department under Secretary Perry plays a critical role in energy policy, and API appreciates the opportunity to update him on industry efforts to build and maintain the safest and most reliable infrastructure to deliver the energy that Americans rely on,” API spokeswoman Sabrina Fang told John in an email.
SPEAKING OF PERRY… HE WANTS TO MAKE NUCLEAR ‘COOL AGAIN’: Perry said the Energy Department wants to “make nuclear power cool again,” during at interview at the Atlantic Festival in Washington on Thursday.
“We are trying to make nuclear power cool again,” Perry said. “We think it’s really possible again to do it with small modular reactors. With their ability to not have the waste problem we see with the big plants today.”
The Energy secretary also hyped the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” strategy.
“The world is so changed when you think about the geopolitics that have occurred the last decade,” he said. “Now we are the number one oil and gas producing country in the world.”
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TRUMP NOMINATES DOE ADVOCATE FOR COAL BAILOUT TO FERC: President Trump on Wednesday officially nominated Bernard McNamee, the head of the Energy Department’s Office of Policy, to fill an open seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The long-rumored move would replace an opponent of Trump’s efforts to subsidize money-losing coal and nuclear plants with someone involved in drafting the plan that the panel has so far rejected.
FERC is an independent agency that oversees wholesale electricity markets and reviews interstate pipeline applications.
The coal subsidy plan still lives, somewhere: In January, FERC unanimously rejected a proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to provide special payments to coal and nuclear plants for their ability to store fuel on-site for 90 days. McNamee helped write the proposal and sell it to Congress.
The commissioner he is replacing, Republican Robert Powelson, vehemently opposed the plan, saying it would hurt market competitiveness and cause utility bills to increase.
Now, the Energy Department, on the orders of Trump, is considering a new proposal that may come before FERC, potentially using executive national security powers to force wholesale power operators to buy power from a list of coal and nuclear plants deemed “critical” to the grid.
COAL GROUP SUPPORTS MCNAMEE’S NOMINATION TO FERC: The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a trade group supporting the industry, issued a quick declaration of support for McNamee on Wednesday, urging for his “swift” confirmation.
ACCCE has been outspoken in wanting FERC to approve changes to competitive electricity markets that would reward coal with higher payments because it can store fuel on-site, making it easy to access if the power grid was damaged by weather, or attacked.
ETHANOL INDUSTRY RUNS AD URGING CONGRESS TO SUPPORT TRUMP’S E15 PLAN: A week before President Trump is expected to announce his plan pump up the nation’s gasoline supply with more ethanol, the industry group Growth Energy launched a new television ad urging Congress to support the effort.
“This ad is the latest in Growth Energy's ongoing push to secure E15, a renewable fuel blend made from 15 percent ethanol, sales year-round,” said Growth Energy in a statement.
The ad targets lawmakers who are poised to introduce legislation to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires oil refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol in the fuel supply.
The ad asks voters to urge lawmakers to support the president’s push for E15, which has been restricted from being sold during the summer driving months because of “outdated” regulations.
Trump is expected to announce the plan to allow E15 to be sold year-round while on a campaign trip next week in Iowa, one of the largest corn and ethanol producers in the nation.
A DOZEN STATES PUSH BACK AGAINST KING COUNTY’S CLIMATE LAWSUIT: A dozen states as far afield as Indiana rushed to join oil companies and other fossil fuel companies on Wednesday to push back against a climate lawsuit in Washington state.
The King County lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing legal push by local governments to sue fossil fuel companies for the damages caused by climate change. So far, judges have ruled against similar lawsuits in New York and California, but the legal actions keep coming up throughout the country.
The 12 attorneys general filed an amicus brief, joining with BP, Chevron and other defendants in the King County case before the federal District Court in Seattle.
The argument: The “public nuisance” argument the county is making in the lawsuit is not something a court should decide, according to the state attorneys general.
The questions of global climate change and its effects “are political questions not suited for resolution by any court,” reads the state AGs’ amicus brief. “Indeed, such judicial resolution would trample Congress’s carefully calibrated process of cooperative federalism where states work in tandem with EPA to administer the Clean Air Act.”
The industry groundwork: The National Manufacturers Association, which has set up a special arm to track and defend against these lawsuits, said the state attorneys general offers a “strong coalition” to aid in fighting against “a baseless lawsuit.”
“In contrast, only three state attorneys general have filed briefs in support of this litigation,” said Lindsey de la Torre, executive director of the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project. “There’s good reason for that: federal judges have already dismissed three similar lawsuits in California and New York.
STATE DEPARTMENT ACCUSES OPEC OF HOLDING BACK OIL: The State Department accused OPEC on Wednesday of holding back surplus oil from the market, asking the cartel to tap its supply buffer to help lower prices.
"The United States continues to engage with OPEC countries and we encourage them to utilize their spare capacity to ensure world oil supply meets the demand," a State Department spokesperson said, in comments reported by S&P Global Platts.
Trump administration officials are working with OPEC to produce spare capacity they are "not deploying,” the State Department said. The agency even provided a figure, saying OPEC could pump an additional 1.4 million barrels per day. Spare capacity is surplus oil production that can be brought online within 90 days.
The US is helping and hurting prices: The U.S. is “doing its part to add to the oil supply,” the State Department added.
But earlier this summer, the International Energy Agency warned that the world’s excess oil supply may be “stretched to the limit” because of output disruptions from major producers -- including Iran -- as a result of Trump’s oil sanctions and threat to punish countries that buy crude from Tehran.
PUTIN BLAMES TRUMP FOR HIGH OIL PRICES: Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Trump’s hardline policy on Iran for causing oil price to rise.
“President Trump considers that the price is high; he’s partly right, but let’s be honest,” Putin said at the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow on Wednesday. “Donald, if you want to find the culprit for the rise in prices, you need to look in the mirror.”
The Saudis and Russians claim to be doing their part: Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top two oil producers outside the U.S., struck a private deal last month to increase production, and informed the U.S. about it, according to a Reuters report this week.
Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that the Saudis are pumping about 10.7 million barrels of oil a day, slightly less than a record it set in November 2016.
Putin said Russia has already boosted production and has the capacity to add another 200,000 to 300,000 barrels to the market.
DEMOCRATS URGE TRUMP TO CANCEL METHANE RULE ROLLBACKS: More than 70 House Democrats urged Trump on Wednesday to cancel two moves by his administration to weaken regulations of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
“We write on behalf of the communities across the country who will suffer because of these recent decisions, and to urge you to reverse course and put public health and environmental responsibility ahead of the self-serving demands of the oil and gas industry,” the Democrats, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, wrote in a letter to Trump.
A one-two punch for methane regulation: The Interior Department last month proposed to relax a 2016 Obama-era regulation targeting venting and flaring, or burning, of methane from oil and gas operations on federal lands.
It was the second proposed action in two weeks by the Trump administration to soften oversight of methane leaks from oil and gas operations, after industry groups had complained about the cost of complying.
The EPA also proposed rolling back a similar 2016 rule by allowing companies to reduce how often they have to inspect and fix wells and pipelines that leak methane.
Methane, the main component in natural gas, is more potent than carbon dioxide because it traps more heat, although its greenhouse gas emissions are relatively short-lived in the atmosphere. The oil and gas industry has acknowledged that capturing leaking methane from its operations is critical to ensuring a future for natural gas beyond being a bridge to more use of renewables.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS ACCUSE DEMOCRATS OF BLOCKING FOREST MANAGEMENT REFORMS IN FARM BILL: House Republicans accused Senate Democrats on Thursday for delaying passage of the 2018 farm bill, which contains forest management reforms intended to combat wildfires.
Congress has missed a deadline to reauthorize the farm bill, which primarily sets and funds agriculture and food policy, as they seek an agreement on a long-term deal, rather than a short extension.
“Currently, nearly 1 million acres are burning nationwide,” Reps. Rob Bishop, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas said in a joint statement. “The 2018 Farm Bill contains bipartisan, commonsense forest management provisions to help prevent loss of life and property from these fires. Despite good faith efforts by the Farm Bill conferees, Senate Democrats refuse to even discuss these needed reforms.”
What Republicans want to help blunt fires: The Republicans say the farm bill contains provisions to expand the pace and scale of forest management projects through strategic thinning of overgrowth and dead trees.
Fires are bigger and lasting longer in part due to hotter and drier weather that most experts say is caused by climate change, and 2018 is on pace to surpass the year before as the most expensive firefighting season ever.
But Republicans are focused on making it easier to do prescribed burns, in which officials intentionally set fires to take away ignitable material like brush off the forest floor and give trees more space to breathe.
Another preventative method, called forest thinning, involves crews removing small trees to reduce the amount of fuel in dry forests.
Bloomberg Iran oil buyers craving Obama's waivers get Trump shock instead
Reuters Traders bet on $100 oil as Iran sanctions loom
Washington Post EPA excluded its own top science officials when it rewrote rules on using scientific studies
Wall Street Journal The rising costs of hurricanes
SPONSOR MESSAGE: Interested in learning more about pipelines and the important role they play in the energy industry? Check out this clip on the construction process and safe pipeline installation.
THURSDAY | October 4
All day, 902 Hart. The Carbon Utilization Research Council and Department of Energy co-host "Showcasing Advancements in Fossil Energy Technology."
6 p.m., 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Leaders in Energy and Resilient Virginia hold a discussion on "Utilities of the Future: How to Modernize the Grid and Decarbonize the Energy System."
FRIDAY | October 5
9 a.m., 4301 Wilson Boulevard, First Floor, Arlington, Va. Veterans in Energy holds its third annual national forum, focusing on supporting veterans transitioning from military life to careers in energy.
WEDNESDAY | October 10
9 a.m., 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE. The Global America Business Institute, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and the Heritage Foundation present forum on nuclear power called the “Multinational Nuclear Supplier Partnerships within the OECD: Ensuring Relevance and Competitiveness in the Global Nuclear Power Market.”
SUNDAY | October 14
All day, New Delhi. One of largest energy conference in the U.S., CERAWeek, is holding its second annual energy forum in India, October 14-16. Featured speakers will include: Saudi energy minister Khalid Al-Falih, OPEC ministers, and U.S. Energy Undersecretary Mark Menezes.