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Blog posts December 2010

Energy Update, December 30, 2010

In the States

CA – In a 9-1 vote on December 16, the California Air Resources Board voted to adopt the first la rge-scale cap-and-trade program in the U.S., which will go into effect in 2012 and help the state to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions levels to1990 levels by 2020, as required by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.  The rules place statewide limits on greenhouse-gas emissions that will decline over time, requiring power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities that can't cut their emissions by the required amount to obtain pollution allowances from the State or buy them from other emitters with excess allowances.  In noting both the amount of venture capital being invested in clean technology in California and the challenge of imposing new GHG controls in the current economic environment, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “Of course, we have to be sensitive because it's an economic downturn, and this Air Resources Board knows they have to be sensitive.  But we have to reach our goals by 2020. California adopts cap and tradeWall Street Journal

DE – Reports prepared for a public meeting of the Delaware Energy Office indicate the State has already exceeded some multiyear requirements for reducing the government’s energy use and for expanding recycling mandated in an Executive Order issued by Governor Jack Markell last February. That directive included specific targets for increasing the State’s use of clean energy supplies, reducing energy consumption in State buildings, and reducing the amount of fuel consumed by the State’s motor vehicle fleet.  It also set recycling targets for State agencies.  “We've seen good progress on the renewable goals, the recycling is taking off, and we're working through contracts and procurement policies” for energy and waste management, said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin P. O'Mara.  State government's energy use, recycling improveThe News Journal

IN – Fifteen two-door compact electric vehicles built by auto manufacturer THINK in Elkhart, Indiana were delivered to Governor Mitch Daniels for use by the State’s Department of Natural Resources, which will use the cars in 12 State parks to pick up mail and supplies during the day and patrol camping areas at night.  The cars utilize lithium-ion batteries manufactured in Indiana, and were made available though Indiana’s Project Plug-IN initiative, the goal of which is to put 100 or more electric vehicles in use with government or corporate fleets.  Federal stimulus funding matched by private investments as well as State and local tax incentives helped make the plant and cars possible. Governor Daniels urged other States to “help get this vitally important industry off the ground to make electric cars available for everyone.”  THINK makes first delivery of electric cars assembled in ElkhartElkhart Truth

OR – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has finalized a partial guarantee for a $1.3 billion loan to help finance the Caithness Shepherds Flat project in Eastern Oregon, which will be one of the world’s largest wind farms once completed.  The project is sponsored by Caithness Energy and GE Energy Financial Services and is the largest to date to receive a loan guarantee under the DOE’s Financial Institution Partnership Program.  The project will create 400 construction jobs and another 35 ongoing operational positions and is projected to displace the use of over 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year while in operation.  Governor Ted Kulongoski praised the collaboration that helped lead to the DOE’s announcement: “State policies coupled with investments from the federal government, local governments, private sector partners and landowners created the environment in which we are able to create new jobs, new clean forms of energy and new opportunities that better our State and our nation." World’s largest wind farm gets $1.3B loan guaranteeEast Oregonian

National News

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it plans to act unilaterally to reduce emissions from oil refineries and power plants, which EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said represent about 40 percent of domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The announcement came in conjunction with the settlement of a lawsuit brought against EPA by some State and local governments, as well as environmental groups, for failure to update or publish new standards for fossil fuel plants and petroleum refineries.  As a result of the suit, the EPA will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011, followed by the issuance of final standards the following May and November, respectively.  EPA moving unilaterally to limit greenhouse gasesWashington Post

On the same day, the EPA also announced it will directly issue air permits to industries in Texas in response to the State’s unwillingness to comply with new GHG regulations that go into affect January 2, 2011.  Texas officials claim the regulations will unfairly punish Texas and its energy-consuming industries when they take effect, and have refused to exercise regulatory oversight.  Other States have joined Texas in lawsuits challenging the EPA's permit rule and its legal basis for regulating GHG emissions, though Texas is the only state to refuse to implement the permits, as the State believes the new rule is unnecessary.  According to Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Governor Rick Perry, Texas has cut pollution with “market incentives and stable regulation, not costly mandates and overreaching legislation.”  EPA seizes permit power from Texas on greenhouse gas emissionsDallas Morning News

The Obama Administration has proposed guidelines for solar development on public lands in the West, identifying 24 “solar energy zones” in six States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah) considered less prone to conflicts over environmental concerns, and laying out a plan under which developers would have a higher level of confidence that they could receive federal permits for establishing solar ventures in these areas.  The guidelines are intended to alleviate the current backlog of solar development applications pending before the Bureau of Land Management in the U.S. Department of Interior.  Companies that apply for permits in these areas would now have the advantage of a pre-prepared National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis that would accelerate the permitting process.  Interior officials estimate that over the next decade solar projects on Bureau-managed lands could produce as much as 24,000 megawatts of electricity.  Obama administration unveils blueprint for solar energy development in the westWashington Post

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Energy Update, December 10, 2010

In the States

NC – A recent report by the National Wildlife Federation says that North Carolina has the greatest potential for wind energy of any Atlantic Coast State, which was welcome news to Governor Bev Perdue.  The Governor supports offshore wind development and would like to see one or two companies building turbines off the State’s coast in the next two years, provided “it can be developed cost-effectively and safely,” according to her spokeswoman.  The Governor also said that she still supports offshore oil drilling, so long as it is done safely, protects the State’s natural resources, and provides some revenue sharing.  Wind companies have already taken notice of the State and have applied for offshore leases that would allow construction of as many as 500 turbines offshore, enough to power up to 550,000 homes.  Drilling banned; eyes turn to windCharlotte Observer

VT – Governor-elect Peter Shumlin has written a letter to the Vice President of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant asking that the plant restart the process of extracting water contaminated with radioactive tritium from onsite wells.  A leak of the radioactive material was discovered a year ago, and the plant extracted the water in an effort to contain the material until November when the project ended.  One of the Governor-elect’s advisors, a nuclear engineer, is worried that tritium could reach the public’s water supply if more of the affected water is not extracted.  Shumlin urges Vermont Yankee to extract tainted waterBurlington Free Press

In the face of high unemployment and record deficits, States are turning to new revenue sources.  At least three States have used a portion of proceeds from the sale of carbon pollution credits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)  to help balance their budgets.  The RGGI agreement binds States to use at least 25% of the proceeds for such programs as alternative energy, energy efficiency, and consumer benefits, and all States combined have applied about 80% to these purposes.  In New Jersey, where legislation has been introduced to withdraw from the RGGI, $65 million of carbon credit proceeds has been used to help fill the State’s budget gap.  If the RGGI program is eliminated, however, such funding will no longer be available.  States diverting money from climate initiativeNew York Times

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of an Appeals Court ruling that allowed a suit brought by eight States and New York City against five coal-burning utilities to move forward.  In the suit, the States claim that the plants operated by the utilities are a “public nuisance” in that they contribute to global climate change.  The Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court to hear the appeal because it contends the States’ claim could interfere with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  The utilities support the appeal, but for a different reason – they argue the matter should be addressed by Congress rather than the courts.  The States involved – California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin – urged that the appeal be rejected.  Justices to rule on States’ emissions caseNew York Times

National News

The Obama Administration has postponed implementation of U.S. EPA regulations on emissions of ozone until July 2011 and of mercury and other pollutants until April 2012, citing the need for further study on the effects of the pollutants.  The rules would have affected several hundred cities and 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters, and incinerators.  Environmental groups voiced opposition to the rule delay, while manufacturers and Republican congressional leaders praised it, with some calling on the EPA to do away with the rules altogether.  EPA delays tougher rules on emissionsNew York Times

President Barack Obama has reinstated a ban on offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a statement on the ban citing the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a reminder to exercise caution when deciding whether or not to drill offshore.  News of the ban was welcomed by Florida Senator Ben Nelson and Environment America, but opposed by the oil industry.  Obama reinstates ban on offshore oil drillingTrade Only Today

The Republican Steering Committee has voted on who will chair the House committees in the 112th Congress.  The Energy and Commerce Committee will be chaired by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan who favors an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy production and who has said he will scrutinize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gases.  Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington State, who will be the next chair of the Natural Resources committee, supports increased domestic energy production and his party’s “all-of-the-above” energy position.  Rep. Upton expected to cross final hurdle to Energy gavel with GOP caucus vote todayNew York Times and Hastings loses bid to consolidate energy jurisdictionThe Hill

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