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Blog posts September 2011

Energy Update, September 23, 2011

September 23, 2011

In the States

AK – In a speech to oil and gas industry representatives, the Alaska Oil and Gas Congress, Governor Sean Parnell strongly argued for less federal oversight of drilling activities and the continuation of federal subsidies to oil and gas companies.  Governor Parnell also called for an end to “political games” and said the Obama administration needs to do more to help streamline oil and gas drilling permits and other regulations, saying “we need the agency staff to timely make decisions and to work cooperatively to make these decisions.”  The article notes that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to Alaska in August and during his visit said that President Obama is an advocate for increased drilling in Alaska, but that he believes it must be done safely, and also highlighted the working group established by the President to better coordinate regulatory oversight through collaboration among different agencies in the environmental review and permitting processes.  During his remarks, Governor Parnell also said he is working with the legislature to pass a bill that would lower taxes on oil and gas companies.  Parnell tells oil and gas companies he wants cuts in State taxes – Anchorage Daily News

CT – A newly reconstituted and strengthened State Authority that will invest in clean energy innovation and use within Connecticut is nearly ready to get to work, according to Governor Dannel Malloy.  The Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) will leverage state and private sector funds to finance projects that help increase clean energy use by making it more affordable and also help improve energy efficiency.  The Authority is made up of Executive and Legislative appointees as well as related State agency and department heads.  The Governor said that “this group will work to more aggressively expand the state’s opportunities to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy usage through more flexible methods, helping Connecticut maintain its position as a leader in clean energy.”  Malloy appoints members to CEFIA – StamfordPlus

IN – Global Blade Technology, a maker of wind turbine parts, is moving into a 45,000 square foot facility in Evansville formerly used for assembling refrigerators.  The $17.6 million project will benefit from up to $2.8 million in performance-based tax credits awarded through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, and up to $200,000 in training grants if the company creates 400 jobs by 2014.  The City of Evansville offered the company additional tax credits and access to its revolving loan fund.  Governor Mitch Daniels has said that Indiana is one of the fastest growing states in terms of wind power added, with estimates from the wind power industry saying that the State’s wind power production grew tenfold in 2009 and 2010.  Turbine blades manufacturer to build factory in Indiana – EcoSeed

RI – Governor Lincoln Chafee signed four new renewable energy bills into law at a press conference held at an eco-friendly housing complex in Tiverton where he toured a construction site where a wind turbine will soon be built to provide power for the local community as a direct result of the legislation.  One law generally limits net metering to renewable energy that is connected to a meter and is located in the same place that the energy is used; this restriction is designed to protect the local utility company from having to pay a higher net metering rate to developers who deliberately oversized their renewable energy projects.  Another new law allows smaller renewable energy generators to connect to the grid and enter into contracts with the utility at set prices based on the volume and type of production method.  The remaining two laws speed up the process for connecting renewable energy projects to the grid and set up the Renewable Energy Coordinating Board to develop a statewide strategy on related plans.  Gov. Chafee signs renewable energy laws – North Kingstown Patch and Chafee signs bills on clean power – Providence Journal

Federal News

Solyndra, a solar energy company that received a $535 million federal loan guarantee in 2009 as part of the stimulus package as well as a smaller loan guarantee in 2005, has laid off nearly all of its employees and filed for bankruptcy.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Inspector General at the Department of Energy have each launched investigations into the company, the Treasury Department is investigating the Federal Financing Bank, through which the money was lent to Solyndra, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Daniel Issa has vowed to start an investigation as well.  Some Congressional Republicans have alleged that the administration did not exercise due diligence over the loan guarantee, with some asserting that the company received the loan due to the company’s largest investor’s ties to a donor to President Obama’s campaign.  Darrell Issa to probe government loan programs after Solyndra collapse – Los Angeles Times

A dispute over the amount of funds that should be available for disaster relief and whether those funds should be offset by a loan subsidy program offered to auto and auto parts manufacturers to build more fuel efficient cars could delay the passage of a continuing resolution that would keep the government running until mid-November.  Both the Republican House leadership and the Democratic Senate leadership say they want to provide more funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is scheduled to run out of disaster relief funds in a few days.  Last week, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would provide $6.9 billion to FEMA.  A bill offered by House Republicans that would provide the agency only $3.65 billion and offsets $1.5 billion of this amount with a cut to the loan subsidy program, and $100 million from the loan guarantee program that funded Solyndra, passed the House but was tabled in the Senate.  FEMA’s funding is due to run out on Monday and the government would shut down on October 1 unless Congress passes and the President signs an appropriations extension.  Shutdown a step closer as senate blocks House bill – New York Times and Senate likely to reject House-passed spending bill – Washington Post and Senate delays spending bill, leaving FEMA at risk – Wall Street Journal

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Energy Update, September 9, 2011

September 9, 2011

In the States

GA – Governor Nathan Deal has written a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in support of a $14 billion nuclear power plant planned for his State.  The Commission will meet on September 27th to decide whether to approve the project, which would be the first new U.S. nuclear power plant in a generation.  Governor Deal said that the plant would create jobs and increase and diversify the State’s energy supply to meet the needs of a growing population.  Ga. Gov. Deal supports new nuclear plant – Spartanburg Herald Journal

NH – New Hampshire’s Senate failed to override Governor John Lynch’s veto of a withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Northeast’s regional cap-and-trade program.  The repeal passed the legislature and was vetoed by Governor Lynch, but it fell just one vote short of the two-thirds majority required to override the veto. Earlier in the year, the Senate proposed a reform bill that the House rejected in favor of an outright repeal bill.  RGGI supporters claimed that maintaining membership in the program is a national security issue because of the large sums of money being sent to hostile foreign countries for energy imports and political instability caused by global warming.   They also argued that a withdrawal would only eliminate the State’s income from the sale of tax credits, not the higher electricity rates resulting from the initiative.  Those favoring a veto described the cap and trade program as an “income redistribution ploy” and the House leadership pledged to bring back a new repeal bill next year.  State upholds Lynch veto blocking RGGI repeal – New Hampshire Union Leader

Federal News

The U.S. Energy Department has announced that it will guarantee, in part, a $344 million loan to SolarCity, which will use the funds to double the amount of rooftop solar energy in the United States.  As many as 160,000 rooftops of military housing developments in 33 states will be fitted with solar panels that will be installed, owned, and operated by SolarCity, generating as much as 371 megawatts of electricity.  The guarantee is expected to significantly lower capital costs.  DOE to offer loan guarantee for solar rooftop project – Washington Post

According to an audit by the U.S. Energy Department, nearly one in three dollars authorized by federal stimulus legislation for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) has not been spent.  As of last month, $879 million of those funds remained unspent and another $500 million had been committed by state and local governments, but had not been fully expended.  The Energy Department acknowledged that the money was slow to get to projects, but that they had made significant progress in the past year: just $270 million was spent at this time in 2010 compared to $1.4 billion this year.  The Department also says that the grants have created 5,400 jobs.  But the Inspector General for the Department, who released the report, said that the slow pace of spending is counter to the purpose of the stimulus funding, and that if the money is not spent soon, it should be returned to the Treasury.  Energy Department audit says nearly $900M for efficiency grants to states, cities, goes unspent – Washington Post

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