Every two weeks Viohl & Associates publishes an Energy Update, which provides summaries of significant federal and state energy news.
In the States
AZ – Governor Doug Ducey officially closed the State Energy Program office, which was created in 1975 to help state agencies, cities, and schools secure federal grants. The recent move follows the Governor’s decisions to close his Office of Energy Policy and to consider restructuring the state’s energy efficiency and savings initiatives and programs. The State Energy Program, since its inception, has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, including funds for wastewater and water treatment facilities, energy efficiency projects, weatherization assistance, and facility upgrades. “We determined the functions could be better absorbed in existing agencies,” Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said. “It cut down on the overhead of an office with a large staff with money that could have been going to grants going to staffing, and eliminated some of the duplication.” Arizona shutters energy program; remaining workers fired – The Arizona Republic
CO – Governor John Hickenlooper is planning to ask the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether the Governor or the state’s Attorney General has the right to sue the federal government. The separately-elected Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, has joined a lawsuit of 24 states suing the federal government over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to lower carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Governor Hickenlooper, who support the Plan, is questioning the legality of General Coffman’s move and is worried that such an action “could impede the state’s ability to develop and execute strategies to meet the emission plan’s mandates.” “Except in very rare circumstances, generally the governor is supposed to make that decision in concert with the attorney general," Governor Hickenlooper said of the lawsuit. "But the governor should have that final say." General Coffman, however, contends that the lawsuit will not impede the Governor’s ability to meet the new requirements and said she is “pursuing [the] challenges because it is my responsibility as the independently elected attorney general to serve as a check against the abusive, unlawful exercise of federal power over the lives of Colorado's citizens." Hickenlooper to challenge attorney general’s Clean Power Plant lawsuit – The Denver Post
MO – Governor Jay Nixon and the Missouri Division of Energy released a new Comprehensive State Energy Plan during a recent energy policy conference in St. Louis. The Plan, which Governor Nixon authorized via executive order in 2014, is a product of more than a year of work by the Division of Energy and many meetings with state officials, stakeholders, companies, and other organizations with a stake in state energy policy. In general, the Plan recommends, among its many policy recommendations, that Missouri adopt energy efficiency building codes, require power companies to provide efficiency programs, and increase renewable energy adoption and use across the state. For example, the Plan calls for the state to boost its Renewable Energy Standard for public companies by 2025 to provide 25% of their energy from renewable sources, a slight increase from the currently requirement of 20% by 2021. “With world-class research institutions, innovative businesses and a highly-skilled workforce, Missouri is well-positioned to build a more secure and independent energy future that will benefit families and businesses alike,” said Mike Downing, director for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which includes the Division of Energy. Nixon’s plan calls for wind incentives, higher renewable requirement – The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Division of Energy sets recommendations for Comprehensive Energy Plan – The Missouri Times
NE – Governor Pete Rickett’s chief energy advisor, David Bracht, said Nebraska needs a comprehensive state energy policy. Speaking during the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference in Omaha, Mr. Bracht said the Ricketts administration will consider developing wind and solar energy in addition to considering natural gas and transportation fuels. Mr. Bracht also said the biggest issue facing Nebraska is the Obama administration’s new Clean Power Plan regulations, which asks Nebraska to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2030. In 2014, coal-generated power represented 63% of the sources used to produce electricity, followed by nuclear at 26% and wind at 7%. “We haven’t often thought about energy in a comprehensive way," Mr. Bracht said. "And I’m certain we have never thought about energy in an integrated way,” noting that the state has only concerned itself with “discrete segmented programs” like weatherization assistance and energy efficiency loans. Director: state needs comprehensive energy policy – The Lincoln Journal Star
Federal and Regional
The Department of Energy (DOE) released its final environmental impact survey (EIS) of a planned wind power transmission line project known as the Plains and Eastern Clean Line. The 720-mile project, which spans from the Oklahoma Panhandle to Tennessee, would transport at least 4,000 megawatts of electricity from proposed wind farms to utility companies. "While the relative importance of specific environmental resource areas vary, the Plains and Eastern EIS did not identify widespread significant impacts as a result of construction or operations and maintenance of the project," the DOE said in an executive summary. A final decision on the project is expected later this year. Federal report clears route of wind power electric lines – The Oklahoman
President Barack Obama officially rejected the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which was projected to transport more than 800,000 barrels per day from Canada’s oil sands region in the Province of Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast and in the Midwestern United States. TransCanada, the company behind the proposed pipeline, first sought federal approval of the project in 2008. Secretary of State John Kerry, who determined that the pipeline was not in the country's interest before President’s final decision, said approving Keystone "would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combating climate change." President Obama, during his announcement, said the pipeline would not “make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.” Obama rejects Canada-to-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline – Reuters
In the States
AK – Governor Bill Walker recently proposed increasing oil drilling in Alaska to help pay for any damages caused by or resulting from climate change. Oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to the Governor, would help to “boost state revenue and pay for climate change-related programs.” Governor Walker noted that the state is suffering from rising seas, which has forced the relocation of some small remote villages, potentially costing the state millions of dollars. Alaska, which is the only state that does not have an income or a sales tax, relies heavily on the production of oil and gas to fund its budget and overall daily operations and has been hit by falling global oil prices. "We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate," said Governor Walker. Alaska mulls extra oil drilling to cope with climate change – BBC and Alaska Gov: More drilling needed to fund climate change programs – The Hill
NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo, during a speech at Columbia University, announced that New York will examine whether it is possible to connect several Northeastern states’ carbon cap-and-trade system, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), with California’s system. The Governor also directed his administration to explore working with Canadian provinces to build a broader North American carbon trading market. RGGI, which is a cooperative effort among nine Northeastern states, began trading carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants with at least 25 megawatts of generating capacity in participating states in 2008. Governor Cuomo called carbon markets "a powerful tool for reducing the pollution that is contributing to climate change," adding that "small regional coalitions are not enough.” In response to Governor Cuomo’s announcement, Governor Jerry Brown of California praised his colleague’s efforts, but did not endorse linking the states’ cap-and-trade systems. Gov. Cuomo aims to link U.S. Northeast’s carbon market with California – E&E
Federal and Regional
According to American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which measures “the progress of state policies and programs that save energy while benefiting the environment and promoting economic growth,” Massachusetts once again claimed the top spot for a fifth year in a row. California and Vermont, respectively, came in second and third place. The remaining Top 10 states include Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, New York, and tied for 10th, Minnesota and Illinois. According to the report, the states that made the most improvements since 2014 include California, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Texas, and Illinois. ACEEE ranks states based on their utility programs, transportation, building energy codes, combined heat and power, state initiatives, and appliance standards. The poorest ranking states include Colorado and North Dakota. Steve Nadel, ACEEE’s executive director, said “State policies are increasingly encouraging utilities to invest in cost-effective efficiency, prompting them to adopt new business models that align their interests with those of customers and policymakers. We can see this taking hold in the 20 states that improved their Scorecard rank in 2015."
After the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) published its final rules to cut carbon emissions in the Federal Register today, 24 states filed suit in federal court to stop the implementation of the regulations, collectively known as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The administration’s plan seeks to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, and requires each state to meet a modified target and to create an operative plan to meet their individual target. A few states, including New York and several other East and West Coast states, are expected to file a counter-suit in support of the administration’s regulations. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the suit against the federal government, said "The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation's history. I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said “The Clean Power Plan has strong scientific and legal foundations, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plans, and is clearly within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.” The state coalition’s lawsuit will be heard in U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit. States reliant on fossil fuels sue over new clean air rules – The Associated Press