Nov
09
2017

Responsible Natural Resources Policy Makes U.S. More SECURE

While many eyes are on tax reform, the DOE-FERC Section 403 conversation, and Tuesday’s off-year election results, a House committee is quietly and persistently advancing legislation that can help assure diverse and reliable energy supplies and shore up the U.S. economy.

Natural Resources Committee’s SECURE American Energy Act

On November 7, the House Natural Resources Committee marked up several key pieces of legislation, including the SECURE American Energy Act (H.R. 4239), aimed at “Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy.”

Without comprehensive energy legislation on the horizon, and with many key federal agency teams still forming, bills like the SECURE American Energy Act become even more important for advancing common-sense ideas.

The bill tackles an extraordinary set of long overdue tasks, reforming “existing regulatory frameworks for energy development on America’s Outer Continental Shelf and the vast onshore acreage under federal ownership,” according to a Committee summary.

The SECURE Act has developed over time and with opportunity for stakeholder input. It was introduced with bipartisan support and strong majority champions in House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT).

Offshore Provisions

This summer, PACE supported a reinvigorated planning process for offshore resources. The SECURE Act’s offshore title (also known as the ASTRO Act) could help achieve those goals and much more.

The Committee record notes that the “Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that 89.9 billion barrels of oil and 327.5 trillion cubic feet of gas are contained, but undiscovered, on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). However, 94 percent of the OCS is excluded from oil and gas leasing.” Amazing but true – it’s 94 percent because the Atlantic, Pacific and nearly all the Alaskan offshore areas are off-limits.

Accessing only 6 percent of our potential OCS resources hits consumers pocketbooks twice or more – at the point of sale for many energy sources, and when oil and gas tax revenues aren’t flowing into state and federal coffers.

The ASTRO Act improves the historic partnership between states and the federal government, increasing the revenue share for specific coastal states. It also continues the push for needed regulatory certainty by limiting Presidential authority to take away OCS lands’ leasing eligibility, as occurred under the previous Administration.

While opponents harshly criticized the bill as an oil and gas wish list, the ACTRO Act provisions seeking to streamline OCS permitting and set deadlines for agency decisions can enhance opportunities for significant offshore wind projects.

Onshore Provisions

Although the onshore title lacks a memorable acronym, it also contains good news for energy development and security. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within the Department of Interior oversees oil, gas and coal leases on about 700 million acres of federal lands, but in the previous Administration, active leases had dropped to a 30-year low. Considering the many regulatory hurdles, such as multiple environmental reviews and wait-times of over 200 days for permits, it’s surprising even those 27 million acres are producing much domestic energy.

The onshore title reinvigorates the states’ role in deciding how BLM lands within their borders can be developed, by allowing qualifying states to assume responsibility for permitting decisions and deferring to states’ regulatory oversight of hydraulic fracturing.

Next Steps

The House may vote on the SECURE American Energy Act next week. The Senate doesn’t yet have an official companion, but in the last weeks of the legislative year, the Senate should do its part to advance energy dominance and consumers’ interests by considering this important legislation.

Nov
07
2017

PACE Supports Vogtle 3 and 4

Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy

Statement in Support of Plant Vogtle Continued Construction

Docket 29849:

Georgia Power Company’s Seventeenth (17th) Vogtle Plant Construction Monitoring (VCM) Report

Georgia Public Service Commission

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) strongly supports continued construction at Vogtle Units 3 and 4. Nuclear energy is already a critical resource in Georgia, boosting the economy and providing emission-free, base load power for 60-80 years. As a lifelong Georgian, I am proud of the efforts the co-owners have made and will continue to make to expand the state’s nuclear generation fleet.

For nearly a decade, PACE has observed and commented upon the energy policy landscape in a variety of public forums. Our rallying cry is Energy Fairness, and that’s also the web address where anyone can find hundreds of commentary pieces we’ve put our name to. I want to use PACE’s time with the Commissioners today to focus on consumers.

PACE believes consumers need and deserve a strong nuclear portfolio in Georgia. Nuclear generation provides our country with environmental, economic and national security benefits.

Consumers benefit when utilities can fulfill the obligation to serve on a least-cost basis by depending on adequate fuel supplies and with absolute confidence in having the flexibility to rotate among supply options on a daily basis and for the long haul.

Some people want utilities to shelve nuclear and coal generation in favor of only natural gas and renewables. Those advocates have a short memory, as it has been only slightly over a decade since consumers bore the brunt of natural gas commodity prices at 8, 10, 12 and even 14 dollars per MM BTU.

Others dream of a 100 percent renewables future and insist that cities, counties and consumers everywhere zoom toward their dream as fast as possible.

Unfortunately, physics and technology will not allow that dream yet. While, as is frequently said in energy policy forums, storage will be a game-changer, it is an incredibly brand-new industry. We are more than 15 years away from mature development. There are many supply chain, technology and pricing issues to work out with storage, and until then, renewables can only be a slice of the generation pie.

It would be irresponsible for Georgia to kick aside or significantly curb the nation’s most prevalent form of clean energy, nuclear.

Finally, a point that is very personal to me, first as a mother and then as an energy advocate. The world is increasingly dangerous. Over the last 15-20 years, other superpowers and emerging economies have formed alliances around economics, technology and geostrategic goals. China and Russia are building nuclear plants rapidly and taking the United States’ place in guiding other countries to do so. For example, according to a recent piece in Forbes, China has 22 nuclear reactors under construction and is breaking ground on a new nuclear power plant every month. Finishing Plant Vogtle and then allowing other U.S. plants to stay online is critical to keeping our country at the global nuclear table.

Thank you for your time today and for convening this important public hearing.

Nov
02
2017

Use Nuclear Energy to Address Climate Change

Dr. David K. Gattie is an Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Georgia. Earlier this year, he co-authored PACE’s paper on net metering. We thank him for providing a guest blog drawing our attention to a smarter way forward on climate change policy. 

I recently posted a commentary in The Hill explaining why the U.S. could do better than the Clean Power Plan (CPP). As always, I try to implore others to look at the bigger picture and see global climate change as the global issue it actually is and not just a U.S. issue only. From time to time, I share these ideas and short, digestible research and analysis at https://davidgattieblog.wordpress.com/.

In addition, I try to emphasize that without nuclear power we can’t meet future global energy demands and global carbon objectives simultaneously. While regulatory efforts to curb emissions from the U.S. electric power sector will continue over the years in forms we can’t yet predict, data trends point to the east and to emerging economies as where we must focus our attention. In order to succeed, we can’t lecture them to curb their energy consumption, but instead should engage with them in pursuing technologies that will help them meet their economic objectives.

The 4 charts below show the significant results the U.S. power sector has achieved in curbing carbon emissions and place the U.S. in context with other nations.


The International Atomic Energy Agency is in the beginning of its International Ministerial Conference entitled, “Nuclear Power in the 21st Century.” Around the world, emerging economies in need of more energy-dense resources, not less, are pleading their case for more nuclear power to meet those needs without compromising climate objectives. America can be a great ally in these efforts, but U.S. industry cannot compete with state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in countries such as China and Russia, which are stepping into these regions and providing the needed nuclear expertise and technology. We need comprehensive energy policy that will allow U.S. industry to compete with SOE’s and maintain U.S. strength and geopolitical leverage in the global nuclear supply chain. This is something we don’t want to cede to China or Russia.

The U.S. has the technology, the innovation and the industrial heft to engage with the world in civilian nuclear power technology. What we need, but seem to lack, is the political resolve to do something creative, big and impactful.