Federal Update–December 24th, 2012
The U.S. House and U.S. Senate will return on December 27th to continue work on averting the fiscal cliff. Negotiations came to an impasse last week with Speaker Boehner attempting to bring a proposal to the floor that would allow taxes to increase for those with incomes over $1 million per year. The package would also extend capital gains and dividend rates, and provide a fix to the AMT and Medicare reimbursement. The proposal could not secure support from the House, and the bill was pulled from consideration. Other issues still to be resolved include the impending sequestration and reauthorization of the nation’s farm programs.
DOE Announced $9 Million in Energy Efficiency Projects
On December 21st, the Department of Energy announced a $9 million investment in leading-edge building envelope technologies, including high-efficiency, high-performance windows, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment. This new investment supports six advanced manufacturing projects in California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Missouri and Tennessee that advance whole home energy performance. This includes: about $6.5 million in four projects to develop highly-efficient, cost-effective heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; and about $3 million to two projects that focus on building envelope materials.
DOE and ArcelorMittal Announce Partnership to Promote Energy Efficiency
On December 17th, the Department of Energy announced a partnership with one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world to promote energy efficiency. ArcelorMittal unveiled a new, energy recovery and reuse boiler that recycles waste gas generated through its ironmaking process and uses it to generate electricity to help power the plant. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded ArcelorMittal $31.6 million for their boiler project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which was matched by the company. The company expects this energy recovery boiler to generate 333,000 megawatt hours of power annually of its own electricity, the equivalent of powering 30,000 American homes per year, and to save the facility nearly $20 million in energy costs each year.
DOI Announces Milestone on McCoy Solar Energy Project
On December 20th, the Department of Interior announced the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the McCoy Solar Energy Project, a proposed 750-megawatt facility in Riverside County that would be one of the largest solar energy projects on public lands in the California desert.
If approved, the project will join 34 renewable energy projects that the Administration has green-lighted for construction on public lands since 2009. Together, the projects have the potential to produce approximately 10,400 megawatts of energy.
DOI Announces Additional Development in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska
On December 19th, the Department of Interior announced the availability of the Integrated Activity Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final IAP/EIS) for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The preferred alternative identified in the EIS would allow for the development of 72 percent of the estimated economically recoverable oil in the Reserve while protecting the vital subsistence resources of Alaska Natives and the habitat of world-class wildlife populations. Secretary Salazar also issued a memo to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) confirming that the preferred alternative will allow for the potential construction of pipelines carrying oil or gas from operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas through the NPR-A. After receiving more than 400,000 public comments and following two days of meetings and visits with North Slope leaders, Salazar first announced the key elements of the Preferred Alternative (Alternative B-2) for the IAP/EIS in August. Release of the Final IAP/EIS paves the way for the Secretary to issue a Record of Decision that adopts the final management plan in the first quarter of 2013.
BLM Announces Annual Revenues Generated from Onshore Oil and Gas Lease Sales in 2012
On December 17th, the Bureau of Land Management announced that onshore oil and gas lease sales generated $233 million in revenues for 2012. In calendar year 2012, the BLM held 31 onshore oil and gas sales and received bids on more than 1.4 million acres of public land in 1,707 parcels. The BLM offered 2,315 parcels of land in calendar year 2012, which is 32 percent more than in 2011 and 41 percent more than in 2010. The parcels offered in 2012 covered more than 6 million acres, which is 38 percent more than the acres offered in 2011, and more than twice the number offered in 2009. The 1,707 parcels of land receiving bids in 2012 was 32 percent more than in 2011, 57 percent more than in 2010, and 30 percent more than in 2009. The largest sale was held on January 24 in Billings, Montana, in which 59 parcels covering 14,762 acres of public land brought in more than $36 million – an average price of $2,437 per acre. The BLM has scheduled 33 oil and gas lease sales in calendar year 2013, including auctions in California, Colorado, the Eastern States, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Alaska.
BOEM Announces Potential Research Lease Sale Offshore Virginia
On December 20th, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced it has received an unsolicited request for a research lease in the Wind Energy Area (WEA) off Virginia identified for commercial wind leasing. The research would inform future renewable energy production within and around the WEA off Virginia. BOEM seeks public input on the research proposal. Virginia’s Department of Mines Minerals and Energy submitted the request to conduct wind energy-related research activities, including installation of two meteorological and ocean monitoring platforms to collect data on wind velocities, water levels, waves, and bird and bat activities. BOEM published a “Public Notice of an Unsolicited Request for an OCS Research Lease, Request for Competitive Interest, and Request for Public Comment” in the Federal Register on Dec. 21 to obtain public input on the research proposal, its potential environmental consequences, and the use of the area in which the proposed project would be located. BOEM is also asking whether there are federal agencies or state entities interested in obtaining a research lease within the same area identified by DMME that would support potential wind energy development.
BSEE Announces Meeting of Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Jim Watson announced that the Ocean Energy Safety Advisory Committee (OESC) will hold its sixth public meeting on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 and Thursday, January 10, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The OESC is a public federal advisory body including some of the nation’s leading scientific, engineering and technical experts. Chaired by former Sandia National Laboratory Director Dr. Tom Hunter, the group consists of members from federal agencies, the offshore oil and gas industry, academia, and nongovernmental organizations. The Committee provides critical policy advice to the Secretary of the Interior through the BSEE Director on improving all aspects of offshore energy safety. The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting will address the OESC Subcommittees’ activities to date on oil spill prevention, spill containment, spill response and safety management systems, the Arctic and the proposed ocean energy safety institute.
EPA Finalizes Clean Air Standards for Industrial Boilers, Incinerators and Cement Kilns
On December 21st, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators that will achieve extensive public health protections by slashing toxic air pollution, including mercury and particle pollution, while at the same addressing feedback provided by industry and labor groups, increasing the rule’s flexibility and dramatically reducing costs.
EPA Releases Update on Hydraulic Fracturing Study
On December 21st, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided an update on the ongoing hydraulic fracturing study being conducted. Results of the study, which Congress requested EPA to complete, are expected to be released in a draft for public and peer review in 2014. The update provided outlines work currently underway, including the status of research projects that will inform the final study.
Appeals Court Upholds EPA Authority Over Emissions
On December 21st, Politico reported An appeals court on Thursday denied a request from industry groups to rehear a case in which the court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change regulations. The industry challenge failed to win a majority vote by judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for an en banc (before the entire bench) rehearing of Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, which sought to challenge the EPA’s power to address greenhouse gas emissions.