By Sharon Kelly
Former Trump administration Energy Sec. Rick Perry, who resigned from his cabinet-level post effective last month, has joined the board of directors of the general partner of Energy Transfer LP, according to a filing made today with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Energy Transfer.
The Revolving Door Spins<p>The Trump administration has come under fire over revolving door concerns before — often involving the hiring of former corporate lobbyists for government roles. "At the halfway mark of President Donald Trump's first term, his administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made, welcoming a total of <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/trump-town/staffers/category/lobbyists" target="_blank">281 lobbyists</a> on board, a ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis shows," ProPublica reported in <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/we-found-a-staggering-281-lobbyists-whove-worked-in-the-trump-administration" target="_blank">October</a>.</p><p>Other former high-level Trump officials have also come under fire for accepting roles in industries previously under their purview, including former Interior Secretary <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/ryan-zinke" target="_blank">Ryan Zinke</a>. In July last year, <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-23/former-interior-chief-zinke-now-enlisting-energy-mining-clients" target="_blank">Bloomberg reported</a> that Zinke began working as a consultant for oil and mining firms after leaving the Interior Department, drawing criticism from good governance watchdogs. Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/john-kelly-new-role-will-profit-from-child-separation-policy-2019-5" target="_blank">similarly drew condemnation</a> when he joined the board of Caliburn International, operator of the largest U.S. center for housing migrant children, after playing a role in policy debates over the separation of migrant children from their families. And former Environmental Protection Agency chief <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/scott-pruitt" target="_blank">Scott Pruitt</a> was reportedly in talks in September 2019 to work as a consultant for a Kentucky coal mining executive, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/climate/pruitt-coal-consulting.html" target="_blank">according to</a> The New York Times.</p><p>A January 28, 2017 executive order issued by President Trump requires executive branch appointees to pledge that they will not lobby agencies where they previously worked for five years.</p>
'Historic' Fine for Energy Transfer Announced in Pennsylvania, Permitting Bar Lifted<p>Perry joins a company with a troubled track record when it comes to the law.</p><p>On the same day as the SEC filing announcing Perry's new role, Pennsylvania <a href="http://files.dep.state.pa.us/ProgramIntegration/PA%20Pipeline%20Portal/RevolutionPipeline/Consent_Order_and_Agreement_01-03-2020.pdf" target="_blank">announced</a> that it had reached an agreement with ETC Northeast Pipeline, LLC, an Energy Transfer <a href="https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1276187/000127618719000011/et-12312018xex211.htm" target="_blank">subsidiary</a>, over the 2018 explosion of the Revolution pipeline, part of the state's expanding network connecting the shale gas industry and the plastics and petrochemical industry.</p><p>The agreement includes a $30.6 million fine, one of the largest in commonwealth history — dwarfing the <a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/business/energy/2019/12/04/pennsylvania-prosecutor-accuses-energy-transfer-of-buy-a-badge-security-scheme/" target="_blank">$13 million</a> in prior fines <a href="https://www.naturalgasintel.com/articles/119459-pennsylvania-again-fines-me-2-total-penalties-exceed-13m?v=preview" target="_blank">issued as of September</a> last year by state regulators for environmental violations during Mariner East pipeline construction. It also lifts a permit bar that <a href="https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/governor-wolf-issues-statement-dep-pipeline-permit-bar/" target="_blank">blocked</a> Energy Transfer from obtaining new permits for its pipeline construction projects, including an ongoing expansion of its Mariner East pipeline system.</p><p>"The settlement announced Friday means the company can also begin the process of repairing the Revolution pipeline, which links shale wells in Beaver and Butler counties to an Energy Transfer gas processing plant in Washington County," the Pittsburgh Post Gazette <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/powersource/2020/01/03/Energy-Transfer-30M-penalty-pipeline-explosion-permit-ban-Revolution-Mariner-East/stories/202001030137" target="_blank">reports</a>.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has aggressively championed fossil fuels and expressed skepticism that the climate crisis is man-made, will step down from his post by the end of the year, The New York Times reported.
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Energy Sec. Rick Perry, who wants to bail out uncompetitive coal plants, quickly bopped up with a standing ovation. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, who wants to open federal lands to mining, stood up shortly after.
By Alex Formuzis
Federal regulators' rejection Monday of the White House's scheme to prop up the coal and nuclear power industries is a big win for electricity customers and renewable energy, said Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied a petition by Energy Sec. Rick Perry to require the use of electricity from coal and nuclear plants, even when cheaper sources are available—a move analysts said would drive up Americans' utility bills by billions of dollars a year.
Temperatures continue in their second week of freezing lows in much of the U.S. as the Northeast braces for an intense "bomb cyclone" storm expected to hit Thursday.
Science studies and models report that the outbreak of arctic air bringing freezing temperatures to the lower U.S. is consistent with a warming planet, while researchers also report the conditions fueling the current bomb cyclone are consistent with trends linked to climate change that intensify nor'easters.
By Joshua D. Rhodes
Editor's note: On or before Dec. 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is expected to take action on a controversial proposal by Energy Sec. Rick Perry that seeks to prevent noncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants from retiring prematurely. Depending on how such a rule is structured, analyses have estimated that it could cost ratepayers in affected regions up to several billion dollars yearly. Energy scholar Joshua Rhodes explains what FERC is and why it has so much power over energy markets and (indirectly) the prices consumers pay.
By Grant Smith and Bill Walker
The Trump administration's scheme to make utility customers subsidize dirty, dangerous and aging coal and nuclear power plants would result in 27,000 premature deaths and a net cost of $263 billion by 2045, according to projections by independent researchers. Another analysis estimates that the coal bailout alone would cause about 1,400 premature deaths and 23,000 cases of asthma each year.
Without Energy Sec. Rick Perry's scheme to make utility customers buy more expensive electricity from aging, dirty and dangerous coal and nuclear plants, utilities plan to close 75 coal and nuclear units in the next three years, according to federal data compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
A new EWG report, Picking Losers, analyzes data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that since 2009, solar power capacity has grown by a factor of 89 and wind power capacity has increased sixfold. But coal and nuclear capacity have declined or stagnated, as the rapidly declining cost of solar and wind power—among other factors, including the glut of natural gas and increased energy efficiency—are driving coal and nuclear plants out of the competitive wholesale market for electricity.
Two Philadelphia-area children are suing President Donald Trump and two of his climate skeptic cabinet members, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, to try to stop them from rolling back existing environmental protections including the Clean Power Plan.
The plaintiffs, ages 7 and 11, are backed by the Clean Air Council, Philadelphia's oldest environmental non-profit. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Monday.
While nearly 9 in 10 Americans support the development of more solar energy, electric utilities and fossil fuel-backed special interests are trying to hold off the inevitable renewable-energy future by promoting policies that would make rooftop solar harder to obtain.
By Andy Rowell
During his time at the Oil Week conference in the coastal city of Cape Town, Perry delivered the keynote address on global energy policy, telling his audience that the Trump Administration was keen on "strengthening our African energy partnerships."
This week, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) made national headlines by dramatically announcing his retirement on the U.S. Senate floor. Flake focused his speech on the erratic behavior of President Donald Trump and the nationalistic, anti-immigration turn taken by some Republican Party politicians in recent years.
"I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles," said Flake. "To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019."
By Steve Horn
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced a bill to fast-track the regulatory process for the export of small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The bill, titled "Small Scale LNG Access Act," was introduced on Oct. 18 and calls for amending the "Natural Gas Act to expedite approval of exports of small volumes of natural gas." The proposed legislation follows in the footsteps of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rule which would assume that all U.S. small-scale exports of LNG, with the gas mostly obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), is in the "public interest" as defined by the Natural Gas Act.