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Blog posts June 2010

Energy Update, June 18, 2010

June 18, 2010

In the States

AK – Governor Sean Parnell has signed two energy bills designed to spell out how Alaska will obtain energy in the coming years.  One new law mandates that the State obtain 50% of its electricity from renewable sources within 15 years.  The other law promotes energy efficiency through the creation of an Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund and a requirement that the least efficient 25% of State buildings undergo weatherization.  The new law also requires that State Transportation Department vehicles be powered by compressed natural gas and contains some incentives for non-renewable resources as well.  State goal: 50 percent renewable energy sources by 2025KTVA TV  

CO – Governor Bill Ritter signed The Community Solar Gardens Act, which allows groups of individuals, who may not be able to install solar panels on their rooftops, to collectively own a solar array, enabling them to tap into potential benefits from the State's net-metering laws and tariffs.  The amount they will be paid will depend upon the size of their ownership shares of the solar garden, the performance of the solar array, and their own monthly electricity usage.  Washington, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts already have laws on the books to support community solar energy and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is sponsoring a community solar bill in the US Senate.  Colorado Governor signs community solar gardens act into law  – Ecopolitology (blog)

OH – Governor Ted Strickland has signed an energy bill that will provide tax breaks to companies that produce renewable energy and jobs in Ohio.  To qualify, companies must begin construction before 2012 and produce energy by 2013 or 2017, depending on the type of energy produced.  Counties have the option to decide whether to cooperate in relieving energy businesses from the tangible personal property tax, which could affect whether renewable energy companies invest in particular areas.  Ohio Governor to sign advanced energy tax billUSA Today and Gov. Strickland signs wind energy bill into lawTimes Bulletin   

Regional and National News

The primary elections currently taking place around the country could profoundly affect the outcome of deliberation over federal climate change legislation.  To date, many of the Democratic and Republican primary winners have staunchly opposed cap-and-trade measures at the State and federal level.  If a climate bill is not passed in this Congress, a new set of Senators, elected in part through these primaries, will have the opportunity to influence the direction of any such legislation.  Similarly, the primaries will determine gubernatorial candidates who will not only help to shape State policies affecting the future use of fossil fuels and alternative energy, but who also will be making their views known to policymakers in Washington.  Climate bubbles below the surface of primary winsNew York Times

President Barack Obama addressed the nation on June 15 on the subject of the BP oil spill, now in its ninth week, as well as potential energy and climate change legislation.  The President did not specifically lay out his administration’s agenda on cap-and-trade or other controversial energy measures, opting instead to focus on the need to act and to consider all proposals.  The lack of specifics has left the fate of energy legislation without real direction.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he is unsure of which energy legislation to move forward, while other Senators used the occasion to promote their or others’ energy bills or rally behind or criticize the President.  With regard to how to best regulate greenhouse gas emissions, there is little cohesion among Senators, including within the Democratic caucus, with arguments ranging from legislation with no climate change measures, to only regulating power plants, to regulating many sources of pollution such as transportation.  President Obama speech has energy bill in limboPolitico and President Obama’s Oval Office address on BP oil spill & energyThe White House

As electric cars gain in popularity and two major auto manufacturers, General Motors and Nissan, plan to release plug-in models later this year, federal regulators are struggling to determine a definition of auto efficiency for these non-gasoline powered vehicles.  Mike Duoba, a research engineer at Argonne National Laboratory, said, "The language we have been speaking -- mpg -- isn't sophisticated enough."  The onset of electric vehicles "will require new metrics to effectively convey information to consumers," according to an EPA statement, though researchers predict it will be difficult to find one measurement to convey a car’s efficiency in terms of both electricity and gas without making too many  assumptions about consumer driving habits.  The new metrics are expected to change the way fuel-economy estimates are calculated and displayed and will shape consumer choices that, in the aggregate, could profoundly affect smog and carbon emissions.  The EPA is scheduled to propose a rule by August.  More electric cars means finding new standards to measure fuel efficiency – The Washington Post

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Energy Update, June 4, 2010

June 4, 2010

In the States

AK – Governor Sean Parnell of Alaska has signed two bills that would make it more affordable to generate renewable energy in the State.  One bill improves the economic viability of geothermal projects by cutting the costs of the royalty payments that developers must pay for geothermal leases on State land.  Governor Parnell commented, “This legislation makes geothermal power projects economically viable and therefore more likely to produce more affordable and reliable electric power for homes and businesses.”  The other bill exempts facilities that use only renewable energy to generate electricity from regulations currently governing energy production in the State.  Alaska cuts red tape to attract renewable energy developersBrighterEnergy.org

CT – The Governor of Connecticut, M. Jodi Rell, vetoed an energy reform bill that proponents asserted would encourage the use of more renewable energy and change the way energy was procured in the State by using long-term power purchase contracts.  Governor Rell said that while there were some measures in the bill that made “good economic sense” and that she supports enhanced State incentives for renewable energy, particularly solar power programs, and energy assistance for low-income families, she thought the legislation would cost too much and had concerns about the lack of detail in parts of the bill.  Citing a $1.4 billion price tag, she said “it is simply not the right time to make an investment of this magnitude.”  Connecticut Governor vetoes clean energy reforms – BrighterEnergy.org and Rell veto of Conn. energy bill riles critics New Haven Register

OK – Governor Brad Henry signed a measure into law that expands the use of clean energy in the State of Oklahoma by establishing a renewable energy goal that 15% of electricity in the State be generated by renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal by 2015.  The bill also allows electricity producers to utilize energy efficiency improvements to help meet the goal, establishes a natural gas energy standard, and requires the development of a plan for transmission grid expansion.  Henry signs Oklahoma Energy Security Act Tulsa World

MAGovernor Deval Patrick designated 35 cities and towns as Massachusetts’ first official Green Communities under the Green Communities Act, the name for energy legislation passed in 2008.  To earn this designation, municipalities had to meet five clean energy goals, which included adopting local zoning bylaws to encourage and speed up permitting for renewable energy projects, purchasing only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal fleets whenever possible, and requiring all new residential construction over 3,000 square feet to save energy by adopting new building codes.  These communities are eligible for $8.1 million in grants intended to enable the communities to “go further, saving energy costs for their residents, reducing the environmental impact of municipal operations, and validating the Commonwealth’s reputation as a national clean energy leader,’’ according to Ian Bowles, the State’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.  35 named Green Communities, qualify for State aidBoston Globe

Regional and National News

Next week, Senator Richard Lugar will propose energy and climate legislation that aims to cut emissions of planet-warming gases that he says will achieve about half of the 17% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 proposed by President Obama.  Lugar’s bill does not include pollution permits like those found in cap-and-trade proposals.  Under the bill, coal-fired power plants would not be required to install expensive scrubbers as they would under other proposals, but would retire those plants in 2020.  The legislation also includes stronger fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, encourages the use of alternative transportation fuels, seeks to improve the energy efficiency of homes and commercial buildings, and expands the use of nuclear power.  President Obama has said that a price must be set on carbon pollution, and that he will work to find enough votes to get a cap-and-trade bill passed in the Senate.  The Senate will vote on June 10 – before any climate change legislation – whether to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas pollution, providing some indication of how the Senate will approach climate change legislation in the future.  Sen. Lugar to propose climate bill alternativeReuters

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to recover royalties associated with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  The government’s lease with BP stipulates that the company must pay 18.75% in royalties for all oil and natural gas produced, so the estimated loss of at least 500,000 barrels of oil and hundreds of millions of cubic feet of natural gas could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in uncollected revenue.  "My first priority is that the environmental effects of this spill be contained and mitigated as quickly as possible, but I am also deeply concerned that the American public is compensated for damages to their public lands, waters, wildlife and minerals," Mr. Rahall said.  Rep. Rahall seeks damages for revenue lost to oil spillWall Street Journal

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