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Zinke to step down from Interior post; US EPA moves to limit protected waters


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Zinke to step down from Interior post; US EPA moves to limit protected waters

Dominion asks to recover about $114M for upgrades at coal plants

Dominion Energy Virginia is asking state regulators to approve cost recovery on more than $300 million of environmental upgrades at three coal-fired power plants. The Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary said the improvements are necessary to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Coal Combustion Residuals rule and certain Clean Water Act requirements.

Fossil fuel foes cheer Zinke's exit from Interior but worry about successor

The departure of U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke at the end of the year will clear the way for Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, to at least temporarily lead the agency that oversees the use of public lands.

Bernhardt is expected to continue his predecessor's deregulatory agenda, perhaps even more effectively given his experience from years of lobbying the agency he may now helm.

US interior secretary to step down at year-end

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will step down at the end of 2018, President Donald Trump tweeted Dec. 15, amid a series of investigations into Zinke's travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

US Senate Democrats urge McNamee to avoid coal, nuclear rescue efforts at FERC

A group of U.S. Senate Democrats asked new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Bernard McNamee to recuse himself from any matters at FERC that touch on his past work as a U.S. Department of Energy lawyer to save financially struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

The lawmakers also expressed concern over McNamee's past criticisms of renewable energy, viewpoints they said showed "a strong bias against" those resources.

Supreme Court takes case with possibly big implications for federal agency power

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that raises an issue several of the justices have indicated they want to tackle head-on given the right opportunity: whether courts grant federal agencies too much power to establish rules and regulations.

The court granted certiorari in Kisor v. Wilkie (Case No. 18-15), which is on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and involves a Vietnam War veteran who reopened a claim for disability benefits based on new evidence showing he has post-traumatic stress disorder. The court will hear the case in 2019, with a decision likely in late spring or early summer of that year.

Trump administration moves to limit definition of federally protected waters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers unveiled a new definition of federally protected waters Dec. 11 that would reduce the number of wetlands covered by the Clean Water Act.

The proposed rule would retain the Clean Water Rule's definitions of "traditional navigable waters" while maintaining protections for the tributaries that flow into them. It also would cover seasonal or "intermittent" streams that contribute to the flow of a navigable water in a typical year. The proposal would maintain federal jurisdiction over ditches, lakes and ponds that contribute to the flow of navigable waters. Unlike the Clean Water Rule, however, the proposed replacement would not protect ephemeral streams or features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall.

FERC's Glick says resilience debate is 'not dead yet' but end result is unknown

Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Richard Glick said the U.S. debate over subsidizing uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants is far from over, but he is "not entirely sure" where FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee wants to go with proceedings to consider valuing the resources' resilience attributes.

Glick also said grid resilience should be cost-effectively resolved and emphasized that the issue should not be used as a roundabout way to save uneconomic generation that is losing out in an energy transition to renewables and natural gas.

McNamee sworn in as FERC commissioner

Republican Bernard McNamee now is officially a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, having been sworn in Dec. 11 to fill the seat vacated by then-Commissioner Robert Powelson in August.

FERC now is up its full contingent of five members, although Commissioner Kevin McIntyre has not voted on any agency orders since Oct. 17 due to ongoing health issues.

DOE issues request for proposed designs of coal 'plants of the future'

The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking conceptual designs for "coal-based power plants of the future" through a request for proposal supporting an initiative to develop smaller, more flexible coal plants capable of competing with other fuels. Proposals are being accepted online through Jan. 15, 2019.