Byrd rule? A bid to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling faces a hold up over an arcane budget rule, a development that may mean it can’t be included in the tax overhaul legislation. Senate Democrats objected to the provision opening Alaska’s pristine coastal plain to oil drilling, saying measures to fast-track environmental approvals violate the so-called Byrd rule, according to congressional aides. That rule, named after former West Virginia Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, is designed to limit budget procedures to provisions that are mainly fiscal in nature. While its fate is unclear, stripping out that measure would be a blow to Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, a key swing vote and champion of Arctic drilling. Easy Fix in Murkowski’s view.
When will the bleeding stop? The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development states that the number of jobs in the Prudhoe Bay region dropped this year to the lowest levels since 2007. Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Wednesday that the region had a record 13,485 jobs in March 2015, but that number has since dropped to 8,923. The region is dominated by the oil sector and the industries that support it and has been hit hard by the oil price crash that began in 2014. Oil prices have gone up recently, but state economist Neal Fried said it’s hard to predict whether the increase in prices will restore jobs. Fried said sectors like fisheries, tourism and the military could help add jobs to the region, even if the oil industry doesn’t start adding jobs again.
New FERC Commissioner. Democrat Richard Glick formally joined the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Wednesday, bringing the board one step closer to being fully staffed. The Senate confirmed Glick and Republican Kevin McIntyre to FERC on Nov. 2, though neither were sworn in to the panel until Glick was formally added on Wednesday. McIntyre, Trump’s pick to lead the commission, has yet to join FERC, though acting Chairman Neil Chatterjee said Tuesday that it’s “simply a matter of timing, prioritization, getting documents signed” before McIntyre is sworn in.
Alaska’s Christmas List. One by one, the items on Alaska’s wish list are being checked off as the first Christmas of the Trump administration nears. With Republicans appearing to gather enough votes in the Senate to secure passage of their tax overhaul bill, we could see President Trump signing legislation that will finally open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Also in December we’ll see Italian oil major Eni begin drilling exploratory wells into the federal Arctic Outer Continental Shelf from its Spy Island in state waters following the Nov. 28 approval of the plan by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. On Dec. 6 in Anchorage, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska bids will be opened after the Interior Department made all 10.3 million acres currently available part of the annual lease sale. That will follow the third-largest amount of bids ever received in the 2016 sale and reflects the commitment of the administration to unlock Alaska’s energy potential.
Russian LNG. After more than five years of construction, Novatek’s $27 billion Yamal LNG project has received state permission to commission the first liquefaction train, 58 gas wells, and the respective infrastructure. The first shipment of liquefied natural gas, expected before the end of the year, will be destined for China in a symbolic move previously announced by Novatek. Yamal LNG constitutes Russia’s second LNG plant, after Sakhalin II, and its first in the Arctic. The facility will receive natural gas from the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoye field and other fields on the Yamal Peninsula. In its final configuration the plant will consist of three production lines, or trains, and have an annual capacity of 16.5 million tons of LNG. The completed first production line has a capacity of 5.5 million tons and trains 2-3 are expected to open by 2021.
From the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Energy:
EPA KEEPS ETHANOL MANDATE INTACT: The Environmental Protection Agency will keep next year’s Renewable Fuel Standard intact with only minor changes, the agency announced Thursday.
Pruitt seeks stability: “Maintaining the renewable fuel standard at current levels ensures stability in the marketplace and follows through with my commitment to meet the statutory deadlines and lead the agency by upholding the rule of law,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.
Keeping Iowa’s promise: Thursday’s final RFS targets for 2018 underscore a promise that Pruitt and President Trump made to lawmakers who opposed an earlier EPA proposal that sought to cut the biofuel program by 2.5 percent. Although Pruitt said that the agency was only contemplating potential cuts, the ire of biofuel supporters from Iowa was felt at the White House and led to Pruitt sending a letter assuring Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst that he would follow the law and not seek reductions in the annual goals.
The requirements: The RFS requires refiners to blend ethanol and other renewable fuels in the nation’s gasoline and diesel supplies by ever-increasing amounts through 2022. The 2018 total renewable fuel blending requirement will be 19.29 billion gallons, which includes both the conventional and more advanced blending standards. That’s a slight bump from the original proposal of 19.24 gallons. The bulk of the standard is met by corn ethanol.
Rest of RFS kept low: The biomass-based diesel standard will be kept at the same level of 2.1 billion gallons for 2018 and 2019, which the cellulosic requirement is set at 288 million gallons for next year.
Oil Drilling in Alaska Refuge Hits Snag Over Budget Protocol
Bloomberg, Ari Natter and Eric Wasson, November 29, 2017
Number of jobs in Prudhoe Bay region drops to decade low
KTUU/Associated Press, November 30, 2017
Democratic commissioner sworn in to energy regulatory board
The Hill, Devin Henry, November 29, 2017
AJOC EDITORIAL: Alaska’s wish list getting shorter
Alaska Journal of Commerce, Andrew Jensen, November 29, 2017
Novatek’s Yamal LNG to be commissioned and begin production
Arctic Now/High North News, Malte Humpert, November 30, 2017