Solar tariff decision a political blow to South Carolina governor

SOLAR: President Trump follows through on his threat to impose steep tariffs on imported solar panels, a move that puts thousands of installer jobs at risk and could increase the cost of projects for homeowners and utilities. (Reuters, Vox)

ALSO: The decision is a political blow to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who had lobbied the Trump administration against the tariff. (Post and Courier)

RENEWABLE ENERGY: South Miami’s mayor is one of the country’s greenest, fighting off attempts by Florida Power & Light to install high-power transmission lines while working to help homeowners boost their renewable energy efforts. (Southeast Energy News)

• The federal government gives its go-ahead to start construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia, marking the first time the project has met all the requirements for construction along its 303-mile route. (Roanoke Times)
• Meanwhile, FERC grants permission to begin clearing trees in West Virginia along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s path, even though the project hasn’t yet attained all of its required environmental approvals. (Metro News Service)
• More than 50 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia say they will monitor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s construction to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

Florida offshore drilling exemption not official, or final

OFFSHORE DRILLING: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s announcement that Florida would be exempt from an offshore drilling expansion plan was “not a formal action” nor a final decision, says the acting director of the federal agency in charge of offshore oil and gas leases. (New York Times)

ALSO: Zinke reportedly went “rogue” and made the Florida announcement without first clearing it or coordinating with the White House. The move exposes the department to legal risk because of strict federal policies on offshore leasing. Florida Democrats jumped on the news. (Axios, Tampa Bay Times)

UTILITIES: A bipartisan set of proposals in Virginia would lower rates and refund customers of the state’s two largest electric utilities, but critics say the bills amount to a massive giveaway to Dominion Energy.

Report: Westinghouse exec demoted after raising Summer nuclear concerns

NUCLEAR: A senior Westinghouse executive was reportedly demoted after raising concerns with a key contractor on South Carolina’s failed Summer nuclear project. (Post and Courier)

• Florida’s NextEra Energy is quietly watching the contentious debate about South Carolina’s energy future, though its plans are still hazy. (Post and Courier)
• NextEra and another Southeast utility, Louisiana-based Entergy, are cutting ties with the leading nuclear power trade group. (Southeast Energy News)

COAL: West Virginia, Alabama and Virginia led the U.S. in gains in coal mining jobs in 2017, while other states, including Kentucky, saw losses. (Reuters)

• Virginia’s U.S. senators call for public hearings on the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.

Virginia legislator blasts ‘corrupt’ rate-freeze law

POLITICS: Democratic Party gains in the Virginia General Assembly shift the odds for several energy-related bills, including a push to declare solar projects in the public interest. (Southeast Energy News)

UTILITIES: A Virginia legislator says the state’s 2015 law that suspended regulators’ authority to review electric rates is “corrupt” and should be repealed. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

• The CEO of Dominion Energy told South Carolina lawmakers this week that its proposal to buy SCANA is off the table if it cannot recover costs of a failed nuclear expansion from ratepayers. (Post and Courier)
• During the South Carolina hearing, a state legislator asks utility lobbyists and representatives present to stand, saying “that is what the people of South Carolina, the ratepayers, are up against.” (Energy & Policy Institute via Twitter) 

PIPELINES: Environmental groups ask a Baton Rouge judge to force Bayou Bridge pipeline developers to release various documents related to the proposed 162-mile crude oil pipeline project.

Virginia lawmakers reject ban on Dominion campaign cash

POLITICS: Dominion Energy’s political donations will continue in Virginia after lawmakers rejected a bill that would have barred campaign contributions from public service corporations. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

COAL ASH: North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says Duke Energy, not its customers, should pay for cleaning up coal ash dumps around the state. (Blue Ridge Public Radio)

• The governors of both North and South Carolina have separately urged U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reconsider his department’s offshore drilling expansion plans. (Coastal Review, Post and Courier)
• At a rally in Maryland, Chesapeake Bay Foundation president Will Baker said the plan would put half a billion blue crabs at risk. (Capital Gazette)
• Coastal businesses and commercial fishing families want more time to offer comments on the Trump administration’s offshore drilling expansion plan.

Dominion to regulators: accept our takeover or watch SCANA go bankrupt

NUCLEAR: South Carolina utility customers would owe another $2.8 billion over the next two decades for the now-failed Summer nuclear project if Virginia-based Dominion Energy buys the state-owned utility’s parent company. (The State)

• Dominion Energy’s top executive told South Carolina utility regulators in a presentation Thursday that state leaders either could accept Dominion’s proposed takeover of the SCANA utility company or watch it go bankrupt. (Post and Courier)
• South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wants utility customers to stop being charged, or be charged less, for the Summer project while policymakers work to make payment decisions. (Post and Courier)
• Some analysts say Virginia-based Dominion Energy’s plan to buy South Carolina utility SCANA shows shareholder gains and few ratepayer benefits. (Utility Dive)

• North Carolina regulators announced more setbacks for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, delaying a decision on its clean water certificate as well as other environmental permits.

Dems allege hypocrisy after Trump excuses Florida from offshore drilling plan

OFFSHORE DRILLING: After the Trump administration dropped Florida from its offshore drilling push, coastal state Democrats accused the White House of hypocrisy for not recognizing other states’ concerns about the potential impact on tourism. (Associated Press)

• Other states that want to be exempt from the offshore drilling plan including North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. (Washington Post, News & Observer, Post and Courier, Virginian-Pilot)
• The American Petroleum Institute criticized the Trump administration’s decision to remove Florida from its offshore drilling plan as “premature.” (Washington Examiner)

NUCLEAR: Virginia-based Dominion Energy is working to win over South Carolina lawmakers, regulators and electric customers less than a week after announcing its proposed takeover of the state’s SCANA utility company. (Post and Courier)

• Dominion Energy is investing $1 billion in its solar fleet in Virginia and North Carolina, making it among the country’s utilities with the largest solar portfolios. (WTOP)
• Solar companies are asking South Carolina’s new legislative energy caucus to lift the state’s cap on residential solar projects.

Trump administration drops Florida from offshore drilling plan

OFFSHORE DRILLING: After meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday he is removing Florida from the Trump administration’s plan to open nearly all U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. (Bloomberg)

• The removal of Florida from the White House’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas exploration underscores its deep unpopularity. (New York Times)
• Virginians are also protesting the proposal and Gov. Terry McAuliffe has asked the state not be included in the plan. (WVTF)

• Environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over its approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying FERC didn’t do enough to establish a need for the project. (Associated Press)
• Dominion Energy says recent cold weather reinforces the need for more natural gas pipelines in Virginia.

Solar manufacturer eyes Jacksonville for U.S. headquarters, manufacturing plant

SUBSIDIES: The GOP-controlled Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejects the Energy Department’s plan to boost coal and nuclear power plants. The decision is a victory for natural gas, wind, solar and others. (Associated Press, The Hill)

• An unnamed international solar manufacturer is negotiating $54 million in state and local incentives to establish a U.S. headquarters and manufacturing plant in Jacksonville, Florida, promising to bring 800 jobs and $410 million in investment. (Daily Record)
• Florida Power & Light has opened four of eight planned solar plants, while shutting down two of three coal plants it has slated for closure. (PR Newswire, press release)

• As part of its proposal to buy SCANA, Dominion Energy said it would refund South Carolina utility customers $1.3 billion, but ratepayers might have already been entitled to most of that money.