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Capital Report


August 2013 Issue

BSEE Director James Watson Resigns to Join ABS in September
James Watson announced that he will depart the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to take on a new role as president and chief operating officer for the Americas division of the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) in September.

Watson has directed BSEE since December 2011 after serving as the U.S. Coast Guard director of prevention policy for marine safety, security and stewardship. He was the federal on-scene coordinator for the government-wide response to the 2010 Macondo well incident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Under his direction, BSEE developed a final drilling safety rule, completed a final safety and environmental systems rule to improve offshore workplace safety, and established the Department of the Interior’s safety culture policy statement.

Bipartisan Letter from US Senators to Energy Secretary Asks for Faster LNG Export Approvals
More than two dozen U.S. senators from both parties, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), wrote a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz asking for a faster review process regarding proposals for U.S. LNG exports, Reuters reported. “We are concerned that the time line for considering these applications may jeopardize our ability to retain a competitive position against other natural gas exporting nations,” the letter said.

The senators are responding to the Department of Energy’s indication that its review process for 20 LNG export proposals could take eight weeks. This time frame could, the senators wrote, make the U.S. weak competitively in the international LNG market.

They propose that the Energy Department review several applications simultaneously and prioritize commercially viable projects.

The Energy Department has previously put LNG export decisions on hold for two years before approving in May Freeport LNG Development L.P.’s (Houston, Texas) Quintana Island, Texas, LNG terminal.

Pending applications include a joint one from BG Group plc (Reading, England) and Southern Union Co. (Houston).

The Energy Department set up an application queue in December, with preference given to filings for a license from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Lawmakers who are hesitant to push the review process forward warn that unlimited LNG exports could lead to higher energy prices in the U.S.

House Democrats Push for More Support for Weather Forecasting Initiatives
The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment held a markup of H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013, which would reprioritize research initiatives at NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), among other things.

“Our experts need to have the full knowledge and expertise about [the] impacts [of climate change on weather] so that there can be better forecasting, so that it works for our farmers and our industries,” Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said.

The subcommittee held two hearings on the legislation. At the second hearing and at the markup, Democratic members expressed concerns, including that the distinction between weather and climate research in the bill is counterproductive; that the National Weather Service (NWS) is largely ignored, with the focus instead on OAR, the line office responsible for research within NOAA; that the bill does an inadequate job of bringing better coordination across OAR and NWS; and that the bill appears to authorize unnecessary expenditures, such as $20 million for OAR to spend on a joint technology transfer initiative, while NWS currently spends almost $80 million on research for operations activities.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) offered two amendments to ensure a continued focus on hurricane forecasting enhancement, both of which were accepted.  

US Senate Passes FY 2014 Energy, Water Budget Including $43.5 Million for MHK
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed its fiscal year (FY) 2014 Energy and Water Development budget proposal, which includes $43.5 million for marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technology research.

The U.S. has significant marine energy resources. Approximately 1,420 terawatt hours per year, or roughly one-third, of the total U.S. annual electricity usage could be met by the electricity generated from waves and tidal currents, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE is developing a strategy to support its vision of producing at least 15 percent of U.S. electricity from water power by 2030.

Commercialization of technologies to harness marine renewable energy resources will require federal funding to augment research, development and deployment efforts already underway in the private sector, the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition said. 

US House Cuts Funding From DOE’s Water Power Programs
The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year (FY) 2014 Energy and Water Development budget proposal, which cuts $911 million for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Programs.

The Water Power research and development program received $24 million, a 60 percent reduction from the funding level set by Congress in FY 2013.

The EERE program is charged with supporting efforts to research, test and develop innovative technologies capable of generating clean and affordable electricity from water resources.

“This is disappointing news for the U.S. water power industry and the country as a whole,” said Sean O’Neill, president of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition. “Marine and hydrokinetic technologies, including wave, current and tidal, have demonstrated substantial progress and offer the promise to deliver clean, affordable and American-made energy, jobs and economic development.”


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