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Washington Week: Deadline nears on PJM order; Trump trade deals touch on energy


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Washington Week: Deadline nears on PJM order; Trump trade deals touch on energy

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has a busy week ahead during which the agency is set to hold its next monthly open meeting and power market participants must have filed requests for rehearing on FERC's pivotal order to reshape the PJM Interconnection's capacity market.

The commission's next open meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23 and includes a healthy dose of power-focused items. The power agenda includes FERC docket EL19-47 involving a complaint from PJM's independent market monitor regarding capacity market offer caps.

The commission could also take action on several proceedings involving grid reliability standards developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. The meeting agenda includes FERC docket RM18-20 in which FERC sought input on whether to strengthen a proposed cybersecurity standard to ensure that communication lines remain open between control centers on the bulk electric system.

The Jan. 23 meeting agenda is lighter on natural gas-related items but includes docket CP18-137 regarding a certificate application for Columbia Gas Transmission LLC's 66-mile, 275 MMcf/d Buckeye XPress project located mostly in Ohio.

PJM capacity market order moves ahead

Jan. 21 is the deadline for parties to ask FERC to revisit its pivotal December 2019 order reshaping PJM's energy capacity market. Since parties can only seek judicial review of issues raised on rehearing, those requests will provide a preview of potential legal challenges to the order.

Proponents of the order, including FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee, said the order will help level the playing field among resources and should not prevent the development of renewable energy as costs for wind and solar power decrease. But critics dispute that claim and have also said the order intrudes on states' authority to craft their own energy policy goals and will raise PJM capacity clearing prices to the detriment of consumers.

Report: Trump to release new water rule

President Donald Trump is expected to announce a new rule in the coming days that could vastly reduce the number of federally protected wetlands and streams, according to a Jan. 14 story from Politico. Trump is scheduled to speak at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual convention in Austin, Texas, taking place Jan. 17-22 and could make the announcement there, Politico reported.

The new rule would update a proposal that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released in December 2018 to sharply limit the definition of federally protected waters. The pending regulation comes after the Trump administration in September 2019 formally repealed the Obama-era Clean Water Rule that gas companies and coal producers feared would subject a much larger number of water bodies to federal permitting requirements.

Trump secures trade deals

On Jan. 15, the U.S. and China signed a "phase one" trade agreement that includes Beijing's pledge to purchase more than $200 billion of additional American products and services over the next two years.

The deal could be a major victory for U.S. oil and gas exporters, with China committing to purchase at least an additional $50 billion worth of U.S. energy products in that time frame compared to 2017 levels. But reaching that target will be difficult. According to U.S. Census Bureau trade figures, Chinese firms bought $8.5 billion worth of U.S. energy exports in 2017 before that level shrank to $4 billion in the 12 months prior to November 2019 amid a trade war between the U.S. and China.

In other trade news, the U.S. Senate on Jan. 16 passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement following the U.S. House of Representatives' approval of the measure in December 2019. The agreement now heads to Trump's desk for signing. Canada also still needs to ratify the deal before the deal can be fully implemented.

Among other things, the new North American trade agreement will keep tariffs off North American oil and gas products and avoid a more extensive permitting process for gas export projects. But some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., opposed the USMCA for not explicitly addressing climate change.

The trade victories come as the Senate is set to begin Trump's impeachment trial Jan. 21. The trial stems from allegations that Trump placed pressure on Ukraine to investigate 2020 U.S. presidential rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in exchange for the release of congressionally approved aid from the U.S. military and State Department.

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Federal agencies
Jan. 23

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold its monthly open meeting at FERC's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Industry events

Jan. 21

Americans for a Clean Energy Grid will host a webinar on the 20th anniversary of FERC's Order 2000, which encouraged the formation of regional transmission organizations.

Jan. 20-23

The National Biodiesel Conference & Expo will take place in Tampa, Fla.

Jan. 22-23

The Washington Auto Show's Policy Makers sessions will take place in Washington, D.C.

Jan. 22

The National Petroleum Council will host a forum in Arlington, Va., on carbon capture, use and storage.

Jan. 22

Resources for the Future will host an event in Washington, D.C., on the implications of FERC's final order to expand the PJM Interconnection's minimum offer price rule.

Jan. 23

The U.S. Energy Association will hold its annual state of the energy industry forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Jan. 23

The Center for Strategic and International Studies is launching an event series on climate change solutions, with the first to focus on "Deep Decarbonization Pathways." The discussion will take place at CSIS' Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Notable stories from last week

9th Circuit dismisses youths' climate lawsuit against US federal government

Congress, feds aim to plug pipeline cybersecurity holes amid Iran hacking alerts

'Climate risk is investment risk': BlackRock exiting thermal coal investments

EPA, NHTSA send final vehicle efficiency standards rule to White House

Climate plans of US presidential hopeful Bloomberg, others, include resilience