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Blog posts July 2011

Energy Update, July 29. 2011

July 29, 2011

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown has made dramatically increasing renewable energy production and decreasing overall energy usage in his State by 2020 his first major policy initiative since reaching a budget agreement.  The plan calls for 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy – enough to power a third of California’s peak energy use -- of which 12,000 megawatts will come from small localized renewable energy production facilities at homes and commercial buildings throughout the State, as well as tighter building codes and efficiency requirements.  The Governor will meet with stakeholders on how to best implement the plan, including streamlining the permitting process and integrating educational, technological, and financial resources.  Governor Brown used strong language in describing his feelings about efforts to thwart progress on his plan and the importance of pushing ahead with implementation.  In describing expected obstacles, the Governor said, "There's technical problems, financial problems, regulatory problems, coordination problems….The fact is, the regulations are so embedded in our culture or legal system that to overcome it is difficult."  From Governor Moonbeam to Governor Sunbeam – Brown pushed for alternative energyMercury News and Calif. Governor vows to ‘crush’ foes of renewable energyNew York Times

IA – Governor Terry Branstad recently toured a power plant that turns gas emissions from landfills into enough energy to power 4,000 nearby homes.  He also toured a greenhouse that is heated by the power plant, which grows high-quality organic produce for local businesses and residents.  Governor Branstad said, “These operations are tremendous examples of how business is constantly adapting to meet the needs of Iowans with job creation, clean power, and affordable organic produce that is grown locally.  I’m encouraged by the commitment here to add good paying ‘green’ jobs with sustainable operations.”  Iowa Governor tours landfill gas plant heating nearby greenhouseBrighterEnergy.org

National News

President Barack Obama’s administration has reached an agreement with automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and fuel consumption by 40 percent in cars and light trucks by 2025, the largest cut in emissions since the federal government started regulating them in the 1970s.  The new proposal will require that automakers’ vehicle fleets sold then will average 54.5 miles per gallon.  Cars will be required to improve efficiency five percent each year between 2017 and 2025 while light trucks must improve 3.5 percent annually between 2017 and 2021 and five percent each year between 2022 and 2025.  The measures represent a compromise between environmentalist groups, unions, and California on one side and automakers on the other.  California officials had warned that the State would institute its own stricter regulations if the federal rules were not imposed.  The compromise won the support of California, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Hyundai, with varying levels of support from environmental groups.  Automakers, Obama administration agree on fuel efficiency standards through 2025Washington Post and Carmakers back strict new rules for gas mileageNew York Times

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new regulations that would limit the amount of pollution allowed at oil and gas drilling sites.  These regulations, the first that apply to the drilling site rather than a processing facility, were issued in response to a court order, and are most restrictive on drilling operations that use hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as a means to extract oil and gas from shale.  Some states have begun regulating emissions at drilling sites, which can cause smog and soot, and which result from allowing newly extracted gases to escape during the drilling process or from compressors, storage tanks, or other equipment.  Producers will be required to reduce emissions of smog-forming compounds by about 25% under the new regulations.  The reductions would result in even higher reductions -- 95 percent – at fracking sites.  The EPA estimates that the regulations will save energy companies about $30 million per year since they will keep and sell the gases that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere.  The oil and gas industry has requested to push back the final rules another six months while environmental groups say they are already overdue.  EPA proposes first-ever controls on air pollution at oil and gas wells, equipmentWashington Post and EPA proposes pollution limits for gas fracturing, oil productionSan Francisco Gate

An offshore drilling safety bill has stalled in the Senate Energy Committee after Senators supporting an amendment to increase revenue sharing for coastal states used procedural rules to forestall a vote to give the sponsor, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), more time to secure the support of her colleagues.  The amendment would expand the number of coastal states eligible to receive a 37.5 percent share of energy production revenues currently available to only Gulf Coast states.  Proponents of the measure included several coastal Senators on the committee as well as six Republican Governors from coastal states (Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia) who signed onto a letter in support of the amendment.  That letter said in part, “If a responsible portion of the vast revenues from offshore generation and production are returned to our states, we would be far better prepared to mitigate the resulting risks and impacts.”  Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the committee’s chairman, is staunchly opposed to the amendment and has wanted to move ahead with a vote.  The Obama administration also opposes the amendment and believes the drilling safety bill’s chances for passage are greater without the amendment.  Coastal Governors push revenue sharing ahead of markupThe Hill and Oil spill bill’s fate uncertain after Senate panel’s adjournmentPolitico

 

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Energy Update, July 15, 2011

July 15, 2011

In the States

HI – Governor Neil Abercrombie has signed a bill into law that will require the State’s Public Utility Commission to study and, if practicable, implement a program that would allow homeowners to finance the upfront costs of home-based renewable energy and efficiency projects through savings realized in utility bills.  This “on-bill financing” option would allow many homeowners to bypass the often unaffordable initial cost to take advantage of renewable energy and allow them to own the equipment outright once the costs are paid down through savings credits on their utility bills.  Electric customers could get a financing break with new lawHawaii News Now

NH – Governor John Lynch has vetoed a bill that would have withdrawn New Hampshire from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade consortium comprised of ten States in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.  The Governor explained his veto by saying the legislation would “cost our citizens jobs, both now and into the future, hinder our economic recovery and damage our state's long-term economic competitiveness.”  While the House passed the bill with a veto-proof majority of over two-thirds, the Senate did not.  The Governor also said that a withdrawal from RGGI would cost ratepayers $6 million in additional costs and the State would forego $12 million per year in sales of emissions permits.  Supporters of the bill have said that RGGI has increased energy costs.  House Speaker William O’Brian released a statement calling RGGI a “failed policy” that has raised New Hampshire’s electricity rates 149 percent above the national average.  Citing jobs and economic growth, NH Gov. vetoes bill to exit RGGIReuters

NJ – Governor Chris Christie has proposed revisions to the State’s master energy plan, last revised by former Governor John Corzine in 2008, that are intended to lower electricity rates for residents and businesses by eliminating some of the incentives and subsidies currently offered to promote clean energy.  The Governor says that New Jersey has some of the highest energy costs in the country and that he wants to make rates more comparable to other states in order to promote economic growth and reduce financial burdens on rate-payers.  The revisions would also lower the State’s renewable energy use goal from 30% to 22.5% by 2021.  However, Governor Christie is also proposing the development of large solar generation projects on brownfield sites and landfills, as well as the codification of statutory provisions intended to promote the development of offshore wind energy.  Opponents say the changes may jeopardize green investments and green job growth.  While Matt Elliot, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey, acknowledges that renewables currently have higher costs, he also argues that fossil fuels benefited from subsidies and that prices for solar energy and other renewables are becoming more competitive every year.  Advocates say changes threaten New Jersey’s green energyAsbury Park Press

Regional News

At meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a group of New England Governors and Canadian premiers have discussed a new transmission line from Canada that would bring clean hydroelectric power to major population centers in New England States.  Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin discussed the plan with reporters in a teleconference call, saying it is too soon to know whether the transmission line will be routed through Vermont, but that any State willing to host it could expect to receive preferential rates.  Governor Shumlin also discussed proposals from two Canadian companies to purchase the State’s largest utility.  Group looks to bring more Canadian power to New EnglandVermont Public Radio

National News

U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner of Virginia have introduced legislation that would allow for offshore oil and natural gas drilling in federal waters off the Virginia coast.  The bill requires half of leasing revenues to go to the State to be used for renewable energy development, conservation, and infrastructure.  Senator Warner cited the large amount of money sent to unfriendly oil-rich nations and Senator Webb said the drilling would bring more domestic energy and an improved economy.  Governor Bob McDonnell said the proposed legislation is a “common-sense proposal” that would bring “much needed jobs and revenue.”  The Director of Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter sad the plan will not reduce costs or dependence on foreign oil and that the efforts would be better spent on renewable energy.  Webb, Warner introduce bill to allow offshore drillingRichmond Times Dispatch

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final rule that requires power plants in 27 states to reduce emissions that contribute to pollution in neighboring states.  The EPA estimates the rule will save hundreds of billions in health care costs due to a reduction in chronic health problems caused by the pollution, and prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths in 2014 but will cost around $800 million per year.  The rule, which goes into effect January 1, 2012, has received mixed reactions from States.  Governor Rick Perry of Texas called the rule “another example of heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington, D.C.” that would have negative consequences for residents in his State.  However, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz, the State’s top environmental official, believes the rule will greatly help Vermont since it has had difficulty attaining federal air quality standards because of emissions produced in other nearby states.  "By reducing ozone and fine particle pollution, EPA's new rule will protect the health of Vermonters, saving lives and preventing illnesses," Markowitz said.  New EPA rule aims to reduce pollution across State bordersPittsburgh Post-Gazette and Texas Governor bashes new federal environmental regulationsNew Orleans Examiner and Vermont environment chief hails new EPA ruleBoston Globe

 

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Energy Update, July 1, 2011

July 1, 2011

In the States

CA – The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has postponed full implementation of the State’s cap-and-trade system for one year, until 2013, though ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols maintains the State will still be on track to meet the underlying law’s emissions goal:  reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  The law was originally supposed to take effect at the beginning of 2012.  "We will be testing the system, doing simulation models, but no one will be held accountable during that year for compliance," Nichols said. "But at the end of 2014, people will still be where they would have been if the program had started." She also indicated that Governor Jerry Brown did not involve himself in the Board’s decisions.  A judge ruled in March that the State had not adequately analyzed alternatives to the cap-and-trade program before requiring its implementation, as required by California’s Environmental Qualify Act, but an appeals court has since ruled the State can move forward while the appeal is being heard.   California delays its carbon trading program for a yearLos Angeles Times and California delays cap-and-trade auctions, citing potential gamingNew York Times

FL – Governor Rick Scott has proposed developing a new State energy policy that would encourage renewable energy, but also would also address other issues such as offshore drilling and clean coal.  He also wants the Public Service Commission to lower requirements for utilities to conserve more electricity through consumer rewards and incentives.  The Governor has said that he wants to attract manufacturing jobs to the State and that doing so would require lower energy costs.  While one of the State’s utilities estimated that a plan in place to lower energy usage would cost the average residential consumers an additional $13.20 per month over nine years, the Governor is looking for alternative approaches for meeting Florida’s energy needs. In a meeting with energy stakeholders, Mary Anne Carter, Governor Scott’s chief advisor said, “The Governor is a big proponent of renewable energy.”  The Governor, however, also prefers allowing free-market forces to determine the type and amount of renewable energy use rather that favoring a single type of producer or driving the market through a renewable standard set by the State.  Scott calls for reducing energy-saving rebatesSunSentinel and Scott wants to reduce energy efficiency rules and push cost-effective renewablesMiami Herald

GA – Governor Nathan Deal has ordered that a scheduled increase in the State’s gasoline tax from 20.4 cents per gallon to 22 cents per gallon that was to take effect on July 1 be suspended until the end of the year.  The legislature will need to finalize the decision, but the Governor’s plan has the support of the State House Speaker.  Governor Deal cited gasoline’s “escalating costs in 2011” in his announcement of the freeze, and said that the move should save consumers $40 million in the coming months.  Governor freezes gas tax Atlanta Journal Constitution

NV – Governor Brian Sandoval has vetoed a renewable energy bill because of a provision added on the legislature’s last day that would have increased electricity rates to pay for a transmission line that would be used to export power from the State.  The bill would have allowed a single utility, NV Energy, to bypass the normal approval process for this project, which critics contended would have cost as much as $1 billion.  The utility would have been able to send renewable energy power to other States with renewable energy standards, including California and Arizona.  Governor Sandoval said that any potential rate hike “would result in the imposition of an unnecessary and unfair burden on our recovery.”  The project may still move forward without the bill, as other companies have also expressed interest in building the transmission lines.  Governor vetoes controversial last-minute energy billLas Vegas Sun

National News

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit from brought by a group of States and environmental groups that, if successful, would have forced power plants to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already regulates greenhouse gas emissions from some large industrial plants and is planning to issue regulations to control power plant emissions next year.  While some members of Congress are seeking legislation to block the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to issue regulations further limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the plaintiffs in this case were seeking the right to require lower emissions more quickly through a lawsuit, which could have given federal judges a role in overseeing emissions standards, currently the authority of the EPA.  The court ruled that giving such power to judges is not consistent with the Clean Air Act and rejected the lawsuit, but said that the group could sue the EPA in federal court should they disagree with the agency’s rulemaking decision.  States cannot bypass EPA on power plant emissions, Justices ruleNew York Times and Supreme Court tosses lawsuit against utilitiesPolitico

 

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