Overnight Energy: Virginia governor takes aim at power plant emissions

Overnight Energy: Virginia governor takes aim at power plant emissions
© Greg Nash

MCAULIFFE'S OWN CLEAN POWER PLAN: The governor of Virginia has ordered state regulators to craft a climate rule for the state's power plants after President Trump nixed a similar national regulation.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Tuesday signed an executive order asking regulators to form a commission, write a rule cracking down on electricity-sector carbon emissions, and begin the process of putting that in place by the end of the end of the year.

Trump in March signed an order of his own that is likely to eventually bring about the end of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule that would limit emissions from the United States' power plants. In a statement Tuesday, McAuliffe said his proposal would fill the vacuum left by Trump's order.

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"The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it," McAuliffe said.

"Once approved, this regulation will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the commonwealth's power plants and give rise to the next generation of energy jobs. As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void."

McAuliffe's order directs regulators to finish the plan by Dec. 31, by which time Virginia voters will have elected a new governor. Like the Clean Power Plan last year, the fate of McAuliffe's climate rule could come down to who wins the governorship.

Read more here.  

TRIBES TO DECLARE KEYSTONE OPPOSITION: Indigenous tribes on both sides of the United States-Canada border are planning to sign a declaration opposing the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Leaders of Canada's Blackfoot Confederacy, the Great Sioux Nation, and Ponca tribe in the United States will gather in Calgary, Canada, on Wednesday to sign the 16-page declaration, the Associated Press reports.

The tribes are calling the declaration historic, representing long-standing bonds among the groups, which together represent tens of thousands of indigenous people.

"There is a historic union between first Americans in Canada and Native Americans in the United States," Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca councilwoman, told the AP.

"Long before a border ever existed on a map, a fictitious line on a map, we were a united peoples in our approach to care of Mother Earth," she said.

"Greed knows no limits, and those in the way are simply collateral damage to corporate profits," said Brandon Sazue, chairman of the South Dakota-based Crow Creek Sioux, said in a statement.

Read more here.

RENEWABLES PUSH BACK ON PERRY REVIEW: Four leading renewable energy industry groups pushed back on a Department of Energy study into the electric grid on Tuesday.

In a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the groups said the study is "based on a faulty premise" that the growing renewable energy sector is to blame for the retirement of coal and nuclear plants that, in turn, puts grid reliability at risk.

They submitted a handful of reports to prove their broader point: that energy sector market forces are leading to the closure of traditional baseload power sources, not government regulations or policies favorable to renewables, two topics that the Energy Department's grid study focuses on.

"We believe that, taken together, these reports demonstrate that the U.S. electric power system is more diverse in its energy sources than ever before, and due to the flexible way these resources are now managed, becoming more reliable and resilient as a result," the groups -- made up of wind and solar industry producers-- wrote in their letter.

The message comes as Perry probes the reliability of the electric grid in light of the industry's move away from traditional baseload suppliers like coal and nuclear.

Not every clean energy sector opposes the review: a group of biomass and hydroelectric groups last week asked Perry to use his study to consider ways to help their industries.

Read more here.

A BAD DAY FOR COAL PLANTS: Tuesday brought two pieces of bad news for the coal industry.

First, DTE Energy, the largest electricity supplier in Michigan, announced that it would work to phase out all seven of its aging coal-fired power plants by 2050 as part of a plan that will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent.

Under the company's $15 billion proposal, consumers would eventually receive 40 percent of their power from natural gas-fired power plants, 40 percent from renewable energy and 20 percent from nuclear plants.

The company's CEO, Gerry Anderson, said economics dictated the decision, noting the need for major future upgrades for its aging coal-fired fleet.

But he said the company's concerns about climate change also played into the decision.

"Climate change is a big deal -- I think it's the defining policy issue of our era; certainly for the energy industry, it is the defining policy issue," DTE Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson said, the Detroit Free Press reports. "Both I personally and the senior leadership of this company believe we have a responsibility, and believe the country has a responsibility, to address this."

Secondly, in Florida, municipal utility JEA and state regulators agreed to JEA's plan to retire a 1,358-megawatt coal plant outside of Jacksonville by next year.

JEA announced its intent to retire the plant in March, saying the facility is producing less electricity than a decade ago thanks to energy conservation measures. Shuttering the plant will reduce the company's carbon footprint by 30 percent.

That closure, according to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, is the 253rd coal plant retirement since 2010, a tally that does not include DTE's facilities.  

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senators introduce bill to measure progress in opioid fight MORE (R-Alaska) will speak at an American Council for Capital Formation event on the energy industry.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: Two House Natural Resources Committee panels will hold hearings: the energy and mineral resources subcommittee will discuss the Rigs to Reefs Program, and the federal lands subcommittee will hold a hearing on "fire-prone National Forests."

AROUND THE WEB:

Scientists have discovered yet another coral reef -- this time in the Indian Ocean -- put at risk by climate change, the Washington Post reports.

Traders are anxiously watching this weekend's election in Iran for its potential impact on oil markets, CNBC reports.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye says he is nearing a deal to keep the Navajo Generating Station open for two more years, the Arizona Republic reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-US, Canada tribes to declare Keystone opposition
-Virginia governor calls for state carbon regulations
-Renewable groups push back on Energy Department electric grid study
-Dems propose scrapping law GOP used to overturn regulations
-Convicted ex-coal boss asks Trump to 'get to the truth' on mine disaster
-Trump triggers battle over energy nominees

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill