Overnight Energy: Lawmakers say Russia tried to disrupt energy markets through Twitter | EPA rule gives states new power over coal ash disposal | Exxon pushes back on climate criticism

Overnight Energy: Lawmakers say Russia tried to disrupt energy markets through Twitter | EPA rule gives states new power over coal ash disposal | Exxon pushes back on climate criticism
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RUSSIA SOUGHT US ENERGY MARKET INFLUENCE THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA: Russia used several American social media accounts in an attempt to disrupt U.S. energy markets, according to a House committee report released Thursday.

The report from the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology concluded that Russia exploited social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in an effort to influence the United States' domestic energy policies, sometimes taking conservative positions to stir up tensions.

Looking at information provided to them by U.S. social media companies, the committee found that between 2015 and 2017 there were about 9,097 Russian posts or tweets about U.S. energy policy and events on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

During the same time period, the report found an estimated 4,334 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a company established by the Russian government that engages in online influence operations for the Russian government and businesses.

The Internet Research Agency posts and tweets specifically targeted pipelines, fossil fuels and climate change, the report found.

The committee surmised that the disinformation campaign on social media is connected to Russian fears that a strong U.S. energy economy could negatively impact Russia's oil and natural gas economy.

Eastern and central European countries currently get about 75 percent of their natural gas from Russia, with southeastern European countries receiving nearly all of their natural gas from Moscow. However, those numbers are slowly changing. For example, Poland recently signed a five-year deal with the U.S. to import liquefied natural gas to decrease dependency on Russian energy supplies, according to the report.

"Russia benefits from stirring up controversy about U.S. energy production. U.S. energy exports to European countries are increasing, which means they will have less reason to rely upon Russia for their energy needs. This, in turn, will reduce Russia's influence on Europe to Russia's detriment and Europe's benefit," the committee's chairman, Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithFive Republican run-offs to watch in Texas GOP lawmaker says rocks falling into ocean to blame for rising sea levels Singer Jason Mraz: Too much political 'combat' in Washington MORE (R-Texas), said in a statement.

"That's why Russian agents attempted to manipulate Americans' opinions about pipelines, fossil fuels, fracking and climate change. The American people deserve to know if what they see on social media is the creation of a foreign power seeking to undermine our domestic energy policy."

The U.S. embrace of fracking technology is another issue that has Russia on edge, the report found.

Read more here.

 

IN OTHER RUSSIA NEWS: Exxon Mobil Corp. is exiting some of its joint ventures with Russia's state-owned oil company, citing sanctions first imposed in 2014.

Exxon had originally tried to fight the sanctions, which were imposed in retaliation for Russia's annexation of Crimea, internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

The United States's largest oil company reached the deals with Rosneft starting in 2012 under the leadership of former Exxon chief Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTina Fey returns to ‘Saturday Night Live’ as Sarah Palin with advice for Trump staffers Trump nominates Pacific Command head as ambassador to South Korea Trump’s offer could be just what Pyongyang was seeking MORE, who is now secretary of State under President TrumpDonald John TrumpWH aides intentionally compose Trump tweets with grammatical mistakes: report Holder: DOJ, FBI should reject Trump's requests Ex-Trump campaign adviser rips claims of spy in campaign: It's 'embarrassing' MORE.

But it told investors late Wednesday that its position had changed.

One joint project off the eastern coast of Russia will not be affected by the exit, spokesmen for both companies told Reuters.

Read more here.

 

EPA RULE GIVES STATES FLEXIBILITY ON COAL ASH DISPOSAL: The Trump administration announced a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule Thursday aimed at giving states the independence to determine how to best dispose of coal ash, the toxic metal left from burning coal.

The EPA said that the deregulations would save utilities nearly $100 million per year in compliance costs and the regulated community between $31 million and $100 million per year.

"Today's coal ash proposal embodies EPA's commitment to our state partners by providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs based on the needs of their states," EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittDems expand 2018 message to ‘draining the swamp’ Dems to target GOP corruption in midterms: report Keeping Pruitt could cost GOP Congress, Trump in the fall MORE said in a statement.

"We are also providing clarification and an opportunity for public comment – something that is much-needed following the public reaction to the 2015 coal ash rule."

More than 110 million tons of coal ash are produced annually by coal-fired power plants, according to the EPA.

The move is a sharp departure from the Obama administration, which sought to better regulate disposal of the toxic metal.

In 2015, following a number of coal ash leaks that led to severely clogged waterways, the Obama administration proposed regulations that would increase inspections and monitoring as well as impose new requirements for storage liners. They would have also required companies to conduct water quality tests.

The rule met significant opposition from utility industry groups and was never implemented. Litigation against the regulations remains pending.

Pruitt announced in September that the Trump administration would be reconsidering the rule.

Read more here.

 

EXXON PUSHES BACK AT #EXXONKNEW STUDY: Exxon pushed back in a report released Thursday against claims from a study last year on its public statements on climate change.

The August study from two Harvard University -- one of whom, Naomi Oreskes, is an outspoken Exxon critic -- used content analysis on decades of Exxon advertisements and statements to conclude that it misled the public about climate change.

But Exxon retained Kimberley Neuendorf, a Cleveland State University content analysis expert, to rebut the conclusions.

"I have concluded that [the authors'] content analysis does not support the study's conclusions because of a variety of fundamental errors in their analysis. [The authors' content analysis lacks reliability, validity, objectivity, generalizability, and replicability," she said.

"These basic standards of scientific inquiry are vital for a proper content analysis, but they are not satisfied by the [authors'] study."

Neuendorf wrote the book that laid out the methods that the Harvard researchers cited.

In her report for Exxon, Neuendorf argues that the study suffered problems with sampling, coding, consensus measurement, lack of disclosure and other issues.

Read the study here.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

Microsoft is buying rooftop solar energy in Singapore to power its operations, CNN Money reports.

British Columbia, Canada, is moving forward with its plans to create a new oil spill response program, CBC News reports.

South Korean officials are considering whether to replant a forest it bulldozed for the Olympic Games, the Associated Press reports.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

Mike Carr of New Energy America says Trump's policies, like cuts to clean energy programs, are an attack on American workers.

Former Labor Department official Seth Harris says the fight over the renewable fuel standard is about far more jobs than those at Philadelphia Energy Solutions.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Thursday's stories ...

-New EPA rule gives states power to determine coal ash disposal

-Energy companies warn about effect of steel tariff on US industry

-Regulators to consider allowing private nuclear waste site

-House panel: Russia aimed to disrupt US energy markets using social media

-Exxon to end Russia joint ventures

-Pruitt: My next flight will be coach