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  • Illinois Gov. Vetoes Nuclear Moratorium Repeal // DOE Proposes New Transmission Review Process // US Steel Eyes Sale and Selling Assets

Illinois Gov. Vetoes Nuclear Moratorium Repeal // DOE Proposes New Transmission Review Process // US Steel Eyes Sale and Selling Assets

Welcome to Grid Brief! Here’s what we’re looking at today: Illinois Governor JB Pritzker vetoed a popular nuclear moratorium repeal, the DOE proposes faster review process for transmission projects on federal land, US Steel considers selling its business, and more.

Illinois Gov. Vetoes Nuclear Moratorium Repeal

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker vetoed a popular bi-partisan repeal (SB76) of the state’s de facto moratorium of new nuclear reactor construction.

Pritzker’s office released a statement scaremongering about nuclear safety despite the fact that fission is one of the safest energy sources in the world, according to Our World in Data.

“The bill is vetoed because the vague definitions in the bill, including the overly broad definition of advanced reactors, will open the door to the proliferation of large-scale nuclear reactors that are so costly to build that they will cause exorbitant ratepayer-funded bailouts,” Pritzker’s office said. “Additionally, it provides no regulatory protections or updates to address the health and safety of Illinois residents who would live and work around these new reactors.”

The repeal was passed by the Illinois Senate in a 39-13 vote in March and by the House in a 84-22-3 vote in May. It technically has a veto-proof majority in the state legislature, but Pritzker decided to veto it after receiving a letter from renewable energy and environmental special interest groups, according to a statement by the Sierra Club.

“SB76 would have opened the door to increased risk, negative environmental impacts, and higher costs for consumers while jeopardizing our progress toward Illinois’ clean energy future. We applaud Governor Pritzker for vetoing the bill and ensuring that Illinois follows the roadmap laid out in the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act toward that vision for our future,” said Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin.

Illinois’s moratorium—put in place in 1987—prohibits the construction of new nuclear reactors until the federal government builds it own waste storage facility. Illinois is the only state in the country with its own radioactive waste storage site. Illinois’s six nuclear reactors provide most of the carbon free energy in the state.

The state legislature will have to vote to override Pritzker’s veto this fall if it wants to pursue the repeal.

DOE Proposes New Transmission Review Process

On Thursday, the Department of Energy introduced a proposal for the Critical Infrastructure Transmission Analysis Program to quicken the development and approval of transmission projects on federal land.

Projects participating in CITAP must be of at least 230 kV capacity and of a scale necessitating an environmental impact statement.

The DOE intends to make an existing "integrated interagency pre-application" process obligatory, where developers submit resource reports and engagement plans following federal agency guidance. A project-specific schedule would be established by the DOE, setting firm deadlines for federal authorizations and environmental assessments.

The proposal designates the DOE as the primary agency for project reviews. It also proposes the creation of a single Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to serve as the National Environmental Policy Act document for all federal approvals. By leading the review process, the DOE anticipates enhancing its NEPA procedures progressively, thereby increasing efficiency for both project proponents and federal entities.

“The federal permitting process for transmission lines is especially important in the West — a region with rich wind and solar resources where the federal government owns about 46% of the land,” reports Utility Dive. “The proposal is part of efforts by the Biden administration and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to spur large-scale transmission development.”

FERC and the DOE’s efforts to reform transmission regulation further tilts the federal government in favor of wind and solar. The renewable energy industry lauded the DOE’s proposal.

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US Steel Eyes Sale and Selling Assets

US Steel, founded in 1901, was once the largest steel manufacturer in the world. Now, the former American titan is considering selling off its assets and/or the whole company.

“U. S. Steel’s Board (of Directors) and management team are committed to maximizing value for our stockholders, and to that end, we have commenced a comprehensive and thorough review of strategic alternatives,” said CEO and President David Burritt, also a member of the Board of Directors. “This decision follows the company receiving multiple unsolicited proposals that ranged from the acquisition of certain production assets to consideration for the whole company. The board is taking a measured approach to considering these proposals, including seeking more information in order to evaluate proposals that are preliminary and subject to ongoing due diligence and review.”

US Steel said that it has no timeline for this process, nor does the process have to result in any sale at all.

“Barclays Capital Inc. and Goldman Sachs & Co. will serve as U.S. Steel's financial advisers in the strategic alternatives review. Milbank LLP and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz will serve as legal advisers,” reports the Northwest Indiana Times.

US Steel said it does plan to issue further comments on the matter until the company has completed its review unless the law requires them to or they deem commenting appropriate.

Conversation Starters

  • Australian LNG workers poised to strike urge quick resolution. “Workers threatening strikes at Chevron Corp. and Woodside Energy Group Ltd. liquefied natural gas operations in Australia have urged the firms to quickly resolve disputes and avoid any costly disruption to exports,” reports Bloomberg. “The prospect of disruptions at three major LNG sites — which together account for about 10% of global supply — has roiled gas markets in recent days and triggered new concerns over the outlook ahead of the northern hemisphere winter.”

  • American drillers cut oil and gas rigs. “U.S. energy firms this week cut the number of oil and natural gas rigs operating for a fifth week in a row, energy services firm Baker Hughes said in its closely followed report on Friday,” reports Reuters. “The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by five to 654 in the week to Aug. 11, the lowest since March 2022. That was also the 14th time in the last 15 weeks that drillers cut rigs. Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig count down 109 rigs, or 14%, below this time last year. After falling for eight weeks in a row, the number of oil rigs held steady at 525 this week, while gas rigs fell five to 123, their lowest since February 2022.”

  • Argentina cancels another LNG shipment. “Argentina’s state-run energy company Enarsa has cancelled another shipment of liquefied natural gas, according to a person familiar with the matter,” reports Bloomberg. “This cancellation was because of low demand resulting from warmer-than-usual winter temperatures in the South American country, said the person who asked not to be named because the information is private. TotalEnergies SE was the seller of the cargo, the person said.”

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