Citing the critical importance of a modern grid to the deployment of advanced energy and U.S. energy security, President Obama last week called upon executive agencies to further refine the federal review, siting and permitting process for transmission projects. The call came in the form of a Presidential Memorandum focused on guidelines for the designation of energy corridors and other general provisions for integrated project planning. It also stipulates that the the Secretary of Energy should prepare a Transmission Corridor Assessment Report, delivered in two parts starting December 2013, separately addressing energy corridors for Western and all other states. In March 2012, the Administration issued its first Executive Order related to transmission planning which established an interagency rapid response team to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the siting process.On the Hill
Last Friday, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a white paper soliciting stakeholder input regarding the energy security benefits of the national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS is a federal mandate requiring refiners to blend 36 million gallons of biofuels a year into the motor fuel supply by 2022. Representatives Upton and Waxman note that “assumptions of falling domestic supply and rising demand” for oil at passage of the RFS in 2007 have “given way to a reality that is precisely the converse,” one of flat gasoline demand due to increased vehicle efficiency and booming domestic oil and gas production. The white paper is the fourth in a series that the duo has released this year exploring various aspects of the standard.
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, will also make his first public appearance on Capitol Hill today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Committee is holding a hearing regarding the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Chairman Upton said in a statement to E&E Daily that he is particularly focused on Moniz’s vision for fully utilizing domestic oil and gas sources and facilitating private sector leadership in pursuit of energy independence.
In the Agencies
The Interior Department provided details June 4 for its first ever offshore wind lease auction, a significant milestone in the U.S., which does not have a single utility-scale turbine operating offshore. Secretary Sally Jewell said “it will really be up to industry to decide the time frame on which they choose to develop wind-energy resources,” but that the Department “certainly [doesn’t] want to be a roadblock.” The competitive lease sale will be managed by the Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and take place July 31, with 164,750 acres available off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In a related development, the University of Maine launched the country’s first grid-connected offshore turbine and plans to connect it this week. The 65-foot tall prototype is also the first in the world to use a concrete-composite floating platform.
While the Senate continues to stall on Gina McCarthy’s appointment to head EPA, its Commerce, Science and Transportation panel voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Charlotte, NC, Mayor Anthony Foxx for the top post at the Department of Transportation and Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker to lead the Commerce Department, filling key cabinet posts for President Obama’s second term. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said the nominees, are relatively uncontroversial, and he hoped they would receive confirmation by the full Senate before the July recess.
Meanwhile, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) says she is still waiting on Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) documents in the wake of the San Onofre nuclear plant’s closing before she’ll allow a vote on agency Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane’s renomination. Sen. Boxer has closely followed the plant’s operational troubles in recent years and believes that any mishandling by plant owner Southern California Edison should be thoroughly investigated in order to avoid similar issues at other plants across the nation. Edison International, parent company of SoCal Edison, announced last Friday that it would permanently shut San Onofre, ending 16 months of debate and shifting the focus to cost recovery, decommissioning, and ensuring that California will have enough electricity supply without the nuclear plant.