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EPA's memo details sharp budget cuts; White House prepping more energy orders

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EPA's memo details sharp budget cuts; White House prepping more energy orders

EPA details sharp budget, job cuts in leaked memo

In a leaked memo, the U.S. EPA fleshed out goals to slash spending, staffing and entire programs to satisfy President Donald Trump's budget proposal for the agency that was released in mid-March. EPA acting CFO David Bloom sent a memo to agency leaders asking them to detail how the EPA could fulfill Trump's request to cut its fiscal year 2018 budget 31% from the prior year, to $5.66 billion, the lowest level since 1990. That budget assumes a full-time equivalent employment ceiling of 11,547.6 positions, down from a workforce of 15,376 in fiscal year 2016 and 17,355 in 2006.

Clock running out for Congress to repeal recent Obama rules

Time is running out for the GOP-controlled Congress to overturn rules the Obama administration finalized in its last months, but the White House said agencies can act on their own after the deadline to undo regulations. The Trump administration has rescinded 11 recent Obama-administration-era rules using the Congressional Review Act, or CRA. The law allows Congress to repeal rules finalized during the previous 60 legislative days with backing from a simple majority of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as approval from the president. The CRA also prohibits agencies from creating substantially similar rules to those overturned through the review act.

Trump adviser: White House prepping more energy orders

The Trump administration is preparing more executive orders related to energy, including possible action on offshore development, the former head of the president's energy transition team said April 4. Michael McKenna, an energy lobbyist who headed Trump's transition teams for the U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission, spoke April 4 at the Energy Bar Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

EPA office to review Pruitt climate change comment after Sierra Club inquiry

The EPA's scientific integrity office is reviewing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's recent comments on climate change for potential violations of the agency's policies, Reuters reported. The comments were referred to the EPA's Scientific Integrity Officer by the EPA's Office of Inspector General after an inquiry was made by the Sierra Club, Reuters reported.

Supreme Court refuses feds' request to hold WOTUS case in abeyance

The U.S. Supreme Court will continue to consider if a challenge to the EPA's Clean Water Rule was brought in the appropriate venue, even while the agency looks for ways to dismantle that rule at the behest of President Donald Trump. In refusing to hold the case in abeyance, the Supreme Court essentially agreed to decide whether the legal battle over the Clean Water Rule — commonly referred to as the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule — should be fought in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit or in a federal district court, regardless of the ultimate viability of that rule.

PJM study concludes grid can handle more gas, renewable power

The largest U.S. grid operator, PJM Interconnection, found that it can maintain reliability with a diverse fuel mix, but reliable performance varied depending on how much natural gas and renewables it added to the system. The study, "PJM's Evolving Resource Mix and System Reliability," found that it can still meet reliability metrics with a large penetration of natural gas, but it cannot handle solar penetrations at 20% or higher.

Trump's order unlikely to sway competitive power market dynamics

Signing an executive order unwinding several major environmental regulations enacted under his predecessor, President Donald Trump said the move would help all forms of energy "compete and succeed on a level playing field." But the prospect of the order significantly altering the U.S. energy mix and jump-starting the coal industry appears unlikely based on initial reactions by utilities and in the view of power sector analysts, especially as investors continue to pursue new natural gas-fired and renewable capacity build-outs and as states look to preserve economically challenged nuclear capacity with subsidies.

Former Ford VP to be named deputy energy secretary

The Trump administration intends to nominate Dan Brouillette as deputy energy secretary, the White House announced late April 3. Brouillette, who, if confirmed, will be second in command at the U.S. Department of Energy under Secretary Rick Perry, is senior vice president and head of public policy for USAA Insurance Group.

Flow of US Treasury cash to renewables coming to end

The Obama-era U.S. Treasury Department 1603 "cash grant in lieu of tax credits program," which has reimbursed just over $25.6 billion to a host of renewable developers, effectively ended Jan. 1 for solar projects. As a Treasury official has noted, however, any company that placed a solar project into service late in 2016 now has until the end of June to submit its final application for the cash grant.

Zero emission credits debate not deterred by shift in federal policy

Though the administration has turned its back on climate programs, the power sector appears poised to continue the transition to a low-carbon economy, keeping tensions between state policies and competitive markets alive. Speaking at the Energy Bar Association's annual conference, Nick Martin, manager of environmental policies at Xcel Energy Inc., said the utility was continuing its decarbonization efforts, as they were driven by economics, customer choice and investor pressures.