Blog posts January 2011
In the States
MN – Several bills have been drafted that would repeal, to differing degrees, a 2007 bipartisan law that bans new coal-fired power plants and the importing of coal-powered electricity until carbon offsets or a plan to lower emissions are in place. Sponsors are saying that the law places unnecessary burdens on industry, slowing economic recovery once the recession is over. Governor Mark Dayton has not said yet indicated whether he will veto any particular repeal bill, but he did campaign in part on maintaining a moratorium on new nuclear power plants that is a part of the same law. Minn. Republicans hope to undo clean energy policies – Minnesota Public Radio
NM – A State Supreme Court ruling has reversed an order by Governor Susana Martinez that blocked publication of regulations aimed at reducing emissions from utilities and dairies within the State. One of the regulations requires a three percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions every year. The Court ruled that the regulations must be published in the State’s register, but opponents of the regulations plan to work with the Governor and the State legislature to change the rules. Court reverses New Mexico Governor on environmental rules – New York Times
State of the State Addresses
While approximately half of the Governors have given their State of the State or State of the Commonwealth addresses, the realities imposed by the financial downturn caused most Governors to focus their speeches on addressing fiscal difficulties and job creation rather than energy issues. Still, some Governors incorporated energy plans tied to job creation and retention.
Several Governors cited recent energy business investments that would help lead their States to better fiscal times, including South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, all of whom who noted recent increased renewable energy investments or improvements. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that Nordic Windpower USA’s new plant will create 200 jobs, and proposed to create more through the construction of a new nuclear power plant. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour noted several investments in his State, including coal, oil, nuclear, LNG, solar, ethanol, coal-to-liquids, and carbon capture projects.
A few Governors called for increased domestic renewable energy production. For example, Hawaii Governor Neal Abercrombie expressed support for accelerating renewable energy projects in his State, and improving Hawaii’s energy security. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called for more renewables on federal lands, saying, “I support all efforts to make Nevada the renewable energy capital of the country.”
Some Governors discussed a mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy resources available to their states. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said he hoped to make Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast” by investing, in part, in solar, wind, waste-to-energy, and biomass, and promoting offshore wind by leasing offshore parcels for wind energy production and serving as headquarters for the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium. But he also called for increasing oil, coal, gas, and nuclear energy production. While Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said that investments in hydroelectric power and renewable energy grants in his State would create jobs and help the State meet his goal of 50% renewable power by 2025, he also wants to lower taxes on oil production in order to create more jobs. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead discussed “value-added” projects such as combing wind power with gas-fired turbines, as well the manufacturing of wind turbine components. In addition, he supports continued use of coal while making it a cleaner fuel through carbon capture and sequestration, and also advocates greater use of carbon injection technologies for enhanced oil extraction, as well as coal gasification.
In discussing his State’s abundant fossil fuel resources, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he will aggressively pursue the State’s lawsuit against the U.S. EPA over mountaintop removal regulations, and that he supports development of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia and carbon capture and sequestration.
Links to all of the Governors’ addresses can be found at the State of the State Speeches Calendar on Stateline.org
President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech to Congress last week, during which he issued a challenge of producing 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. President Obama said that all forms of energy production are needed to meet this goal, and mentioned nuclear power, clean coal, and natural gas in addition to wind and solar. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who gave the Republican response to the State of the Union, emphasized the need for less government spending and a more limited government rather than new investments. Several high-ranking Democrats expressed support for the idea of a broader clean energy mandate while most Republicans remained skeptical about incentivizing one energy type over another or imposing mandates on the private sector. Senators laud “clean energy” push – Politico and State of the Union (Transcript) – White House and State of the Union Response (Transcript) – House Budget Committee
According to a new report commissioned by the federal government as required in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, the United States military would not receive any significant benefit from greater use of alternative fuels. The study, performed by the RAND Corporation, said that focusing on energy efficiency would have a greater impact on lowering greenhouse gases. The report received criticism from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for the Navy Thomas W. Hicks, who said he was not consulted by RAND, and that the report ignores energy security issues, and from environmental groups, biofuels proponents, the Algal Biomass Organization, and others. RAND says that while the military is a major consumer of liquid fuels, it still only uses two percent of the country’s daily intake, and since some biofuels are still in their infancy, the money spent on alternative fuels in the military would have a small effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Alternative fuels don’t benefit the military, a RAND report says – New York Times
In the States
MA – Governor Deval Patrick’s administration has set a new limit on statewide greenhouse gas emissions that will require the State to emit 25% less pollutants than it did in 1990 within ten years. While the State’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 mandated the State to impose a limit on greenhouse gas emissions, the Patrick administration chose a higher limit than any other State, and one that makes Massachusetts the only State on track to reduce emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The State was already on track to lower emissions 18% below 1990 levels by 2020, but the State has adopted several new low-impact policies in order to meet the higher standard, including energy efficiency ratings on buildings, scaling auto insurance rates based on the amount of miles driven, and considering environmental impacts when issuing permits. New jobs weatherizing homes and in manufacturing and research will number between 42,000 and 48,000 according to the State. State sets tougher limits on emissions – Boston Globe
MI – Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is appealing a court’s ruling that rejected the denial of a permit for a coal-fired power plant based on a lack of need for the electricity and on the grounds that it would increase greenhouse gas emissions. The permit was denied by environmental regulators under then-Governor Jennifer Granholm, who issued an executive order requiring the need for electricity and the amount of emissions to be taken into account when issuing permits. Environmental groups praised Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette for filing the appeal and maintaining the same position on this issue as the prior administration. State to appeal decision rejecting denial of coal permit – Detroit Free Press
NM – Governor Susana Martinez dismissed all of the members of the Environmental Improvement Board (E.I.B.) and overturned an E.I.B. regulation just before its publication that would have required greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by three percent each year. The Governor also halted another regulation that would have limited discharges from dairies in southern New Mexico. A third E.I.B. regulation adopted by the Board on Election Day would limit emissions from stationary sources such as power plants and allow emitters to trade emission allowances. This rule is scheduled to go into effect in 2012 and remains in place, at least temporarily. The Governor campaigned on a promise to overturn regulations that could prove harmful to the State’s economy. 2 environmental rules halted in New Mexico – New York Times
OR – Governor John Kitzhaber has directed his State’s Energy Department to perform 500 energy audits using $2 million in leftover federal recovery funds. The Governor’s plan calls for using $70 million in funds from energy utilities to retrofit schools across the State after all the audits have been performed. Governor Kitzhaber says the audits will allow the State to “be very strategic to get the biggest bank for the buck,” and that he will meet regularly with business leaders to maximize job creation. Governor targets job creation – The World
TX – A three-judge panel in Washington, DC denied Texas’ motion to block regulators from issuing pollution permits to major sources of greenhouse gas emissions as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the third such denial. All other States now either issue permits to these polluters or allow the U.S. EPA to issue them. Texas will continue fighting the regulation in court on the grounds that the U.S. EPA lacks legal authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. A spokesperson for the Attorney General said the regulation puts “the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of Texas families and businesses at risk” and called the rules an “unlawful overreach.” The U.S. EPA is seeking public input before issuing final regulations in Texas, where it is currently using interim regulations to issue permits to polluters. Texas loses another round in fight over EPA regulation of greenhouse gases – Dallas Morning News and EPA seeking input before finalizing Texas rules – Houston Chronicle
WA – Governors Christine Gregoire of Washington and Brian Schweitzer of Montana met recently to discuss a terminal planned in Washington State that would export coal extracted from Montana and Wyoming to China and other Asian countries. After an initial approval by the county in which the terminal is proposed to be located, environmental groups appealed that decision and Washington’s Ecology Department has said environmental impacts from the intended use of the coal shipments should be taken into account during the permitting process. Governor Schweitzer supports the project, citing the potential for job creation. While Governor Gregoire does not want to stifle growth, she would like to ensure that environmental and regulatory processes are followed. Montana, Washington Governors discuss coal exports – The Olympian
WV – The U.S. EPA has revoked a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the largest mountaintop-removal coal mine in the State, citing the harmful effect the project would have on water quality downstream from the seven miles of streams it would bury. Hal Quinn, President of the National Mining Association said the EPA is “weakening the trust U.S. businesses and workers need to make investments and secure jobs.” The U.S. EPA maintains it reserves the power to intervene in permits issued by the Corps of Engineers and exercises this authority “for only unacceptable cases.” EPA vetoes water permit for W. Va. mountaintop mine – Charleston Daily Mail