October 20, 2020 at 4:51 am

Joe Biden put some space between his clean energy plan and that of the Green New Deal during last night’s town hall

By Sandesh Ilhe

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— Joe Biden put some space between his clean energy plan and that of the Green New Deal during last night’s town hall, while also pitching renewables and carbon capture.

— Federal regulators accepted part of PJM Interconnection’s compliance filing on how the grid operator would implement a strict price floor, but remanded another section.

— The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund is pouring millions more into the 2020 cycle in the waning weeks until November, bringing its overall spending to an unprecedented $115 million.

GOOD MORNING AND HAPPY FRIDAY! I’m your host, Kelsey Tamborrino. Jack Bagley of the Bagley Group gets the trivia win for knowing China’s Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydroelectric plant with a generating capacity of 22,500 megawatts. For today: How many U.S. state capitals are there west of Los Angeles? Send your tips, energy gossip and comments to ktamborrino@politico.com.

Check out the POLITICO Energy podcast — all the energy and environmental politics and policy news you need to start your day, in just five minutes. Listen and subscribe for free at politico.com/energy-podcast. On today’s episode: How trade could help fight climate change

BIDEN’S ENERGY FUTURE: Former Vice President Joe Biden pitched a future dependent on renewables and carbon capture, while repeating his position that he would not ban fracking during last night’s town hall in Philadelphia. “The future rests in renewable energy,” Biden said, when asked what industries he supported that are not harmful to the environment or human health. “I’m going to say something that’s going to sound self-serving, but I managed the Recovery Act and I was able to invest billions of dollars into bringing down the cost per Btu of wind and solar,” Biden said. “So, now it’s cheaper than coal, it’s cheaper than oil right now.” The Democratic nominee’s comments come as President Donald Trump has tried to tout his own energy credentials on the trail — despite his repeated criticism of renewables.

Biden also again tried to walk the line on his fracking stance in the crucial swing state that employs thousands in the industry. “I do not propose banning fracking,” he said. “I think you have to make sure that fracking is, in fact, not emitting methane or polluting the well, or dealing with what can be small earthquakes in how they’re drilling. So, it has to be managed very, very well.” Trump has repeatedly tried to tie Biden to a ban on fracking, although Biden’s plan calls only for ending new oil and gas leasing on public lands.

The former vice president also tried to put some distance between his $2 trillion climate plan and the progressive-backed Green New Deal. “The difference between me and the New Green Deal, they say automatically by 2030 we’re going to be carbon free. Not possible,” Biden said, adding that the Green New Deal calls for elimination of all non-renewable energy by 2030. “You can’t get there,” he said. “You’re going to need to be able to transition, to get to the place where we invest in new technologies that allow us to do things that get us to a place where we get to net-zero emission.” (Fact check: The Green New Deal resolution, S.J. Res. 8 (116), calls for using “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources.”)

The other notable thing: Biden highlighted using carbon capture and sequestration for eliminating emissions from electricity generation by 2035, while still using natural gas. “We should be moving toward finding the new technologies that are going to be able to deal with carbon capture so ultimately as the transition, we move from a net-zero emission of carbon, that we’re still going to be able to use, if we find the right technology, some gases. … And I think we’re going to be able to move in a direction where, by the year 2035, we’ll be able to have net-zero emissions of carbon from the creation of energy.”

Eyes emoji: Democratic former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a name being floated as a possible Energy secretary in a Biden administration, responded: “I just love that @JoeBiden is talking about EV batteries, carbon negative strategies, transmission challenges, BTUs, weatherizing buildings, capturing methane and all manner of clean energy job opportunities … does @realDonaldTrump even know what any of that is?” At Trump’s town hall event over on NBC, the topic of climate never came up, as he took questions on the pandemic, immigration and the Supreme Court.

DOE SECURITY TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19: Two members of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette’s security detail tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday, spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement late Thursday night. The secretary tested negative and is not exhibiting symptoms of the virus, Hynes added, but “out of an abundance of caution” Brouillette and his traveling staff will return by vehicle to D.C., following CDC guidelines. The secretary was expected to participate in a roundtable today in Ohio at Youngstown State University, as well as meet with local officials on the proposed Ohio Petrochemical Complex Project. Earlier this week, Brouillette was in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he was joined by Gov. Bill Lee. A staffer from Lee’s security detail has since tested positive for Covid-19.

FERC REMANDS PART OF PJM COMPLIANCE FILING: FERC accepted just part of PJM Interconnection’s compliance filing on how the grid operator would implement a Minimum Offer Price Rule, and remanded other sections during Thursday’s open meeting, Pro’s Eric Wolff reports. PJM’s proposal for implementing the price floor in its capacity auction had left space for renewables, nuclear power, and other beneficiaries of state subsidies to find their way into the 13-state power market’s auction.

FERC’s decision on Thursday almost certainly delays PJM’s capacity auction even further. In its compliance filing, PJM said it would hold its auction 6-1/2 months after FERC provided its approval, which would have set an auction for May. But FERC has now given PJM 30 days to respond to its concerns, and then the commission would need to approve those changes, pushing the auction into June or beyond.

Read for yourself: FERC finally released the text of the rule Thursday evening.

We’re open to it: FERC commissioners approved a policy statement that they are open to establishing market rules that will allow for putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions. The statement, which was not immediately released publicly, does not take action to implement a carbon price, but states that FERC would be open to a carbon price inside the RTOs and ISOs that it oversees. “It it is the policy of this Commission to encourage efforts to incorporate a state-determined carbon price in RTO/ISO markets,” the proposal says.

The agency’s willingness to accommodate a price on the greenhouse gas stands in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s opposition to implementing policies to combat climate change, Eric reports for Pros. The statement comes on the heels of last month’s FERCs technical conference on carbon pricing, where utility lawyers, power company investors and company executives agreed that the commission could account for carbon pricing under tariffs sought by grid operators.

LAWSUIT QUESTIONS ‘CLANDESTINE’ DOE COAL COUNCIL: The Western Organization of Resource Councils sued the Energy Department over its National Coal Council, an advisory panel, which the suit alleges “has operated in secret and works to advance the goals of only one interest: the industries that profit from the development and combustion of coal.” The suit — filed in federal court in Montana, the hot new venue for lawsuits against Trump actions on fossil fuels — alleges the council lacks competing views to counter pro-coal voices and has little “meaningful” public engagement, in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. WORC asks that DOE be ordered to release various records and materials used to prepare reports over the past four years and be blocked from meeting or advising the energy secretary until it operates more publicly.

DIRTY DOZEN: EPA proposed additional restrictions on nitrogen oxide pollution from power plants in 12 states on Thursday, Pro’s Alex Guillén reports. The proposal follows a 2019 court ruling that said part of the original Obama-era version was unlawful and fell short of the Clean Air Act’s “good neighbor” provision, which requires “upwind” states to reduce ozone-forming emissions that float across state lines and cause air quality problems elsewhere.

The revised Cross-State Air Pollution Rule update rule (Reg. 2060-AU84) imposes additional emissions reductions requirements on power plants in the states, which will have to optimize their already-installed pollution controls for the 2021 summer ozone season and install or upgrade low-NOx burners for 2022. EPA estimated the revised update would curb summertime NOx pollution by 17,000 tons next year, down to 26,000 tons, or about 20 percent, below the amount emitted in 2019.

CFTC FINALIZES POSITION LIMITS: Commissioners on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission approved a final rule Thursday on 3-2 party-line vote to set limits on the number of derivatives contracts traders can hold, ending a fight 10 years in the making, Pro’s Kellie Mejdrich reports. Congress called for the limits after the 2008 global financial crisis exposed how a large amount of speculative trades contributed to the collapse of the derivatives markets.

Recall: Concerns about excessive speculation in commodities were renewed this April, when crude oil futures prices plunged into negative territory briefly following the coronavirus-induced economic shock.

The opposition: Democratic Commissioners Dan Berkovitz and Rostin Behnam dissented Thursday on the final rule because they said it didn’t go far enough in limiting speculative trades, with the market upheaval in oil futures further demonstrating existing vulnerabilities. “It is another disappointing chapter in the Commission’s 10-year saga to implement Congress’s mandate in the Dodd-Frank Act to impose speculative position limits in the energy, metals, and agricultural markets,” Berkovitz said in his dissent.

Sandesh Ilhe

With an Engineers degree in Advanced Database Management and Information Security, Sandesh brings the deep understanding of the digital world to the table. His articles reflect the challenges and the complexities that come along with every disruption in the industry. He carries over six years of experience on working with websites and ensuring that the right article reaches the right reader.

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