Congress moves to aid Georgia’s nuclear plant, project’s fate decided today

NOTE TO READERS: Southeast Energy News is taking a break for the holidays and the daily digest will return on Tuesday, January 2. Also, donations through Dec. 31 will be doubled via the NewsMatch program, click here to contribute. Thanks for reading! NUCLEAR: U.S. lawmakers lay the groundwork to guarantee $800 million in federal tax credits to Georgia’s long-delayed and over-budget Vogtle nuclear project, while state regulators meet today to determine if the project will continue.

EPA cites North Carolina as ‘useful example’ to limit emissions

REGULATIONS: In a document proposing rulemaking to replace the Clean Power Plan, the EPA cites North Carolina’s draft rule to comply with the Obama-era climate rules as possibly a “useful example” to limit emissions. (E&E News)

• A U.S. Senator from Georgia says he is “personally confident” Congress will quickly approve money for the troubled Vogtle nuclear project after a provision was left out of the new federal tax plan. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
• Meanwhile, the chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission writes in an email obtained by E&E News that House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress will take up a key nuclear tax credit needed to help the Vogtle nuclear project. (E&E News)
• One of five Public Service Commission members is speaking publically about the upcoming decision to continue construction of Georgia’s long-delayed, significantly over-budget Vogtle nuclear project. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
• After an 11-hour blackout delayed thousands of flights Sunday at the Atlanta airport, Georgia Power’s CEO stressed that this and its troubled nuclear plant are “separate issues” as regulators prepare to decide the project’s fate.

Oil plumes found at site of 13-year-old leak off Louisiana’s coast

OIL & GAS: Federal regulators find new evidence of an ongoing oil release stretching for miles at the site of a 13-year-old leak off Louisiana’s coast. The owner of nearby wells denies oil is seeping from unplugged wells on the seafloor. (Associated Press)

• President Trump is expected to decide by next month whether to implement solar import tariffs, which would put at risk as much as $5.6 billion in solar investments and nearly 15,000 jobs in four Southeast states, an analysis finds. (Southeast Energy News)
• Duke Energy wants to keep South Carolina solar contracts closed to the public, which is in contrast to S.C. Electric & Gas utility company’s stance. (Charlotte Business Journal, subscription)
• A look at solar panel installation at schools in Georgia.

Fate of only U.S. nuclear plant under construction to be decided Thursday

NUCLEAR: Georgia’s Public Service Commission is expected to decide Thursday whether to cancel the Vogtle nuclear project amid the growing calls to do so. The decision carries high stakes for the local economy and fate of new nuclear around the county. (Washington Examiner, Savannah Morning News, Augusta Chronicle)

• Critics of the Vogtle project say the power isn’t even needed, citing less-than-anticipated growth in demand in recent years. (WABE)
•Federal agents are looking into whether South Carolina utility officials concealed information from investors about the now-failed Summer nuclear project and whether their actions constitute fraud or securities violations. (The State)
• The head of South Carolina’s utility watchdog agency is retiring in the wake of the failed Summer project, for which he has faced criticism.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline gets Army Corps permit in Louisiana

PIPELINES: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grants the controversial Bayou Bridge Pipeline a permit to cross southern Louisiana, including wetland areas across the Atchafalaya River Basin. (Times-Picayune)

• Meanwhile, a Louisiana environmental group files a lawsuit against the governor’s office and a sheriff’s office for meeting notes and other communication related to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. (Associated Press)
• The National Park Service awarded another key approval to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, authorizing its construction and operation under the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

GENERATION: A report from North American Electric Reliability says generation from natural gas and renewables will provide enough electricity to offset the closures of U.S. coal and nuclear plants in the next decade. (Power)

• Toshiba promised to cover debt from its now-bankrupt subsidiary, Westinghouse, and has now paid nearly $3.7 billion dollars to Georgia utilities.

Rising coal exports boost ailing industry but may not last

COAL: Rising coal exports are giving a short-term boost to the nation’s struggling coal industry, though coal-fired power plants continue to close despite promises from the Trump administration. (New York Times)

CLIMATE: Two independent research teams say rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, which affected Texas and Louisiana, was significantly heavier than it would have been before the era of human-caused global warming. (Washington Post)

• FERC denied a rehearing request to reconsider its approval of the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline. (Landcaster Online)
• Pipeline opponents are confused after Virginia regulators granted approval to one pipeline project but asked for further review on another. (Virginia Public Radio)

• Georgia utility regulators have pitched ideas that could end up part of a deal with Georgia Power to complete its long-delayed and over-budget Vogtle nuclear project.

Virginia board approves Atlantic Coast water permit with a caveat

PIPELINES: Virginia’s State Water Control Board approved a certification for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project Tuesday but delayed its effective date. The board reserved the option to vote again after environmental reviews are completed. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

ALSO: Construction of Louisiana’s controversial Bayou Bridge Pipeline could begin in a matter of weeks, pending permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a final permit from the state. (Greater Baton Rouge Business Report)

• SCANA told South Carolina regulators Tuesday it would go bankrupt if it’s forced to stop collecting $37 million a month from customers for the failed Summer nuclear project. (Post and Courier)
• The Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Florida Power & Light Co.

Trump to unveil plan that opens door to oil and gas drilling off East Coast

OIL & GAS: The Trump administration is preparing to formally unveil a plan for selling new oil and gas drilling rights in Atlantic waters — territory that former President Obama had put off limits. (Bloomberg)

ALSO: The Center for Biological Diversity plans to sue the EPA for allowing oil and gas rigs to flush waste liquids into Gulf waters. (The Advocate)

• The Georgia Public Service Commission will decide by Dec. 21 whether Georgia Power will be allowed to charge ratepayers for the troubled Vogtle nuclear project. (WABE)
• South Carolina’s state-owned utility Santee Cooper is cutting $1 billion from its budget and won’t fill some jobs after its failed Summer nuclear project.

Confidential report warned of problems with Georgia, South Carolina nuclear projects

NUCLEAR: The Charleston Post and Courier publishes a confidential 2011 report warning that contractor Westinghouse wasn’t prepared to build new nuclear reactors in Georgia and South Carolina. (Post and Courier)

• South Carolina regulators could cut utility customers’ monthly bills at a hearing Tuesday to discuss whether South Carolina Electric & Gas’ parent company should stop collecting for the now-abandoned Summer nuclear project. (Post and Courier)
• An analysis shows how utilities changed the rules to make big bets with ratepayers’ money, including the failed Summer project and others around the country. (Post and Courier)
• South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says he will fire the chairman of Santee Cooper unless Leighton Lord responds to requests for documents related to the Summer project. (Associated Press)
• A look at why the race for nuclear never took off in North Carolina.

Virginia water board approves Mountain Valley Pipeline, opponents shout ‘shame’

PIPELINES: As protesters shouted “shame,” Virginia’s water control board approved permits for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, the project’s last major regulatory hurdle. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces the same review next week. (Washington Post)

• The Atlantic Coast Pipeline cleared a key regulatory hurdle this week in West Virginia but is still waiting on water quality certifications and other permits in Virginia and North Carolina. (Natural Gas Intel)
•Utilities behind the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline are confident they will have the necessary approvals by the end of the year despite regulatory hurdles in North Carolina. (Triangle Business Journal, subscription)
•Environmental groups want officials with the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline to release project records and internal company communications.