Axios Generate

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February 16, 2018

Good morning and welcome back.

A quick housekeeping note: Generate will be off on Monday for Presidents Day. Have a good weekend and we'll see you on Tuesday. Ok let's get to it...

Trump's courtroom battles over global warming

Adapted from Adler, "U.S. Climate Change Litigation In the Age of Trump: Year One"; Note: Lawsuits studied are from 2017; Chart: Axios Visuals
Adapted from Adler, "U.S. Climate Change Litigation In the Age of Trump: Year One"; Note: Lawsuits studied are from 2017; Chart: Axios Visuals

A newly published paper from the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law looks carefully at the many legal battles over climate change that got underway during President Trump's first year. Nearly three-fourths seek to uphold or advance climate policies.

Why it matters: The courts are an important battleground for climate policy, in part because unwinding or freezing a predecessor's policies often requires careful bureaucratic and legal spadework that provides opponents with avenues for litigation.

The study: Columbia Law School fellow Dena P. Adler explored 82 cases, most of which were filed last year, while a few were prior cases that "pivoted" in response to Trump's deregulatory push.

  • The study breaks down the cases in numerous ways, including a look at the different policy areas the cases address (see chart above).
  • Overall, 73% are what she calls "pro" cases — that is, plaintiffs are seeking to advance or uphold climate policies and safeguards. The balance are "con" cases that she says are designed to "undermine climate protection or support climate policy deregulation."

What's next: "Though courts have issued a few decisions and litigation has pressured agencies to publish some outstanding rules, the 'stickiness' of these outcomes remains uncertain. Neither of these results preclude an agency from subsequently rolling back the policies at issue through the rulemaking process," she writes.

Read the full story here.

Quoted: GOP regulator responds to conservatives' ire on coal decision

“I understand conservative frustration with it. It was a tough issue. Part of that stems from the judicious role that FERC plays. We’ve got to abide by the statutes that govern us. … I can understand how that’s frustrating to people. We are not betraying conservative principles. We are in fact following the law.”
— Neil Chatterjee, member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The quote above is what Chatterjee, a Trump appointee, told my colleague Amy Harder in defense of FERC's recent rejection of Energy secretary Rick Perry's push to guarantee higher revenues for coal-fired and nuclear plants in some markets.

Buzz: Amy notes that conservative websites like Townhall and Redstate have criticized the decision, claiming it was like President Obama hadn’t stopped running FERC. One of the articles also called wind and solar “fake energy.”

  • Chatterjee said he did not agree with that.

Big in power: FERC moves on energy storage

Unanimous: FERC yesterday approved rules that are designed to allow batteries and other power storage technologies to better compete in wholesale power markets by removing barriers to participation.

The details: The policy requires regional transmission organizations and independent system operators to revise pricing systems to create a "participation model" that will "properly recognize the physical and operational characteristics of electric storage resources," per a FERC summary.

  • Storage advocates are hopeful that the new rules, once implemented, will pave the way for larger growth of storage capacity than has already been occurring (see chart above).

The big picture: Storage technologies can help bring more intermittent renewable power sources onto the grid, lessen the need to bring more fossil fuel plants online to meet peak demand periods, and improve grid resilience.

Go deeper: "FERC’s new rule will expand the scope of energy storage’s participation beyond frequency regulation and into larger ancillary services and wholesale energy and capacity markets," reports Greentech Media in a detailed piece on the regulations.

One useful thing: Tracking Tesla's Model 3

Bloomberg has built an interesting tool to track the number of Tesla's mass-market Model 3 electric vehicles that are emerging from the company's California factory.

Driving the news: Check out their Model 3 production tracker here, which as of Friday morning was showing 7,535 built and a current rate of 956 per week.

Why it matters: The Model 3 is vital for Tesla's future but also for the market penetration of EV technology. But the production ramp-up has unfolded more slowly than founder Elon Musk initially pledged.

  • The company now hopes to be producing 5,000 per week by the end of the second quarter.

Bloomberg's methodology: Tesla does not provide real-time production figures, so Bloomberg says it is using multiple methods to obtain its estimates after gathering and analyzing the Vehicle Identification Number data.

  • The Bloomberg Model 3 tracker "relies on data from official U.S. government resources, social media reports, and direct communication with Tesla owners."
  • They created a tool that lets consumers report them directly.

OPEC and Russia's long game

The long game: Via S&P Global Platts, “OPEC is drafting an agreement that would institutionalize the producer group’s oil market cooperation with Russia and other allies beyond their current output cut agreement, which expires at the end of the year.”

Measuring success: Bloomberg has an interesting piece that asks whether OPEC and Russia (and allied producers) will craft a new target outcome for their supply deal now that they’re near the goal of reducing oil stockpiles to their 5-year average.

  • From their piece: “Choosing a different measure of success could further reinforce the need for supply curbs to continue for the whole of 2018 — something Saudi Arabia is keen to ensure as it prepares the historic initial public offering of its state oil company. Other methods might indicate the rebalancing of the market is already complete, potentially allowing some producers to end their self-imposed restraint."
  • Options include projecting how quickly stocks will be drawn down in the future and seeking a more complete global picture of supplies on hand.

On my screen: solar lobbying, climate change, EPA travel

Latest in lobbying: The Chinese-owned solar panel maker JinkoSolar, which plans to build a manufacturing plant in Florida, has registered to lobby U.S. officials and retained outside representation too.

  • The newly posted filings are here, here and here. The company is "seeking tariff-free access for solar cells and extruded aluminum frame imports into the United States," its lobbying registration states.

Climate change: "The top US intelligence official warned Congress this week about the threat of 'abrupt' climate change, contradicting the Trump administration’s efforts to drive climate out of national security discussions," Vox reports.

Pruitt's travel: Via Politico, "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s security team decided last year he should fly first class to avoid confrontations with angry individuals on planes and in airports, an agency official said Thursday as EPA sought to explain the chief’s penchant for pricey travel."

DOE: Via The Hill, "The Trump administration must carry out the implementation of four energy efficiency regulations that it has delayed for more than a year, a federal court ruled Thursday."

  • The case involves standards for portable air conditioners, air compressors, commercial packaged boilers and uninterruptible power supplies, the story states.