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Blog posts November 2012

Energy Update, Nov. 30

In the States

 AK –Governor Sean Parnell is considering state ownership of a natural gas liquefaction (LNG) plant, according to Gene Therriault, deputy director of the Alaska Energy Authority. The plant, which would transport gas from the State’s North Slope to Fairbanks, would process natural gas from several oil companies and then sell it to buyers. Natural gas is favored among local and state leaders as it has the potential to offset heating and electricity costs produced by high oil prices. According to Therriault, an “open access” or state-owned LNG plant would serve the needs of Alaskans, as many in the interior of the State are expect to use the plant’s natural gas and propane. Therriault: Parnell considering state ownership of natural gas plant on North SlopeThe Fairbanks Daily News – Miner­

 CA – At a meeting of thousands of green-building entrepreneurs, Governor Jerry Brown urged attendees to advocate for more action on climate change. The Governor reminded his audience that California recently began the nation’s first large-scale cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gases. Last week, the cap-and-trade program, which puts a price on carbon dioxide emissions, conducted an auction of greenhouse gas pollution credits. The money generated from the State’s first auction will go to energy efficiency projects, though some have argued that funds should be also be given to the residential and business customers of the major California utilities. "California can only go so far," Governor Brown said, "So it's up to you to galvanize all the other states, and the United States, to get with it." Jerry Brown: Act now on climate changeThe San Francisco Chronicle and California’s first carbon-credit auction raises $290 millionThe Los Angeles Times­

 MI – Governor Rick Snyder recently released an energy and environmental policy blueprint, which calls for an increase in the production of natural gas and for the protection of the State’s natural resources. According to the Governor, the State is hoping to tap into its rich gas supplies through the use of fracking, or the process by which the flow of oil and gas is improved by creating rock fissures and fractures through the pumping of pressurized water, sand, and chemicals down well bores. Governor Snyder, however, also stated Michigan will partner with the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan on a two-year study to examine the best practices used in fracking and the technique’s effect on the environment, economy, and job creation. The Governor’s plan additionally calls for improvements to pipeline and transmission grid infrastructure. "We've been doing fracking for over a decade with some of the toughest regulations in the country and it's worked well," the Governor said, "Fracking is something that is very serious, and it needs to be done the right way." Snyder wants more gas drillingThe Detroit News

 National News

 Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will continue to chair the Energy and Commerce committee during the 113th Congress. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was recently named vice chair of the full committee while Rep. Terry Lee, a Republican from Nebraska, will chair the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee. Republican Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, whose district contains a vast supply of natural gas, will chair the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which plays a significant role in energy and regulatory issues. Lawmaker from natural-gas district snags House Energy subcommittee gavelThe Hill

 The United State Senate this week approved an amendment that would remove a provision in the defense authorization bill prohibiting the military from utilizing alternative fuels if their costs exceeded those of traditional fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil. The amendment, which was sponsored by Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, received support from eleven Republican Senator from states such as Iowa and the Dakotas while two Democrats from coal-producing states, Senators Jim Manchin of West Virginia and Jim Webb of Virginia, voted against the amendment. Senate gives green light to Pentagon green energyBloomberg

 The leadership of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Strategic Policy Initiative, which includes former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and former Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, are urging the creation of an interagency council for energy policy in a preliminary report. The BPC, which was founded by four former Senate Majority leaders, actively promotes bipartisanship. The group’s final report, which will be published in January of next year, will outline recommendations and strategies for energy policy coordination and implementation. The report calls for the President to set policy though the council, with the Energy Department Secretary serving as the main point of contact. According to the report, energy policy is uncoordinated and currently made at 20 federal agencies. Ex-senators propose interagency council for energy policyThe Hill

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Energy Update, Nov. 16

In the States

 NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order establishing a special state commission to investigate the performance of New York utility companies before, during, and after historic Hurricane Sandy’s rampage across parts of New York and New Jersey. The 10-member Moreland panel, which derives its name and authority from the State’s Moreland Act, will have subpoena power and is tasked with reviewing utility companies’ actions before and after the storm, examining their preparation and management, and providing recommendations for reform and modernization. “As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy,” said Governor Cuomo, “the existing labyrinth of regulatory bodies, state agencies and authorities, and quasi-governmental bodies has contributed to a dysfunctional utility system.” Gov Cuomo orders post-Sandy special investigation of utilitiesNew York Business Journal and Long Island Power Authority sued over Hurricane SandyBloomberg

 RI – Governor Lincoln Chafee recently met with officials from the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project planned for Massachusetts to see if they could use the State’s ports as the wind farm’s construction staging area. The project, which is expected to create hundreds of jobs, could help lower Rhode Island’s unemployment rate, which is the nation’s second highest. According to reports, a terminal is needed by 2014 for the construction of the wind farm. Cape Wind officials had hoped to use a planned terminal in New Bedford, Massachusetts, though a permit for that site is still pending with the Environmental Protection Agency and it could take up to 20 months to build it. The delay has led Cape Wind to seek other potential construction areas, like nearby Rhode Island, for at least some of the construction work. ‘‘The Governor remains hopeful that at some point in the future, Cape Wind would be able to bring jobs and economic activity to Rhode Island,’’ said the Governor’s spokeswoman. Cape Wind meets with RI Gov. Chafee on portThe Boston Globe

 TN – Governor Bill Haslam joined officials from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to award $780,000 in Clean Tennessee Energy Grants to four of the State’s educational institutions. The grant money awarded to these institutions, including the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, will fund several projects focused on reducing air emissions and improving energy efficiency. The funds for these projects come from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority, which resulted in the State receiving $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs. About $6 million has already been appropriated this year. Some examples of projects include the installation of solar panels, energy efficient geothermal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and a retrofitting of an existing coal-fired steam plant. "Increasing energy efficiency in our colleges and universities not only impacts taxpayer dollars but also teaches our students to become better stewards of the environment," said Governor Haslam. UTC awarded $100,000 Clean Tennessee energy grantWRCB

National News

 Governors from both sides of the political aisle are coming together to lobby Congress to renew a tax incentive for the wind industry. The multibillion-dollar wind production tax credit, which is scheduled to expire December 31, provides wind companies with a tax credit of 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour they produce. Twenty-eight Governors favor an extension of the tax credit, including Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad, the chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, fellow Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat. A recent study published by a wind energy group found that 37,000 jobs would be lost if the credit expires, whereas the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition found the credit decreases the costs of wind power by nearly a third. “We’re beginning to see a negative economic impact and loss of jobs in our states” because of uncertainty over the tax break’s future,” said Governor Branstad. Governors lobby to extend U.S. wind tax credit set to endBloomberg and As fiscal cliff looms, wind industry works to protect tax breakThe Kansas City Star

 According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States is set to outpace Saudi Arabia’s oil output by 2020 and Russia’s production of natural gas by 2015. The Agency further predicts the United States will not only become the world’s top producer of oil, but a net crude exporter by 2030 and nearly self-sufficient in energy by 2035. The Department of Energy reported crude oil imports this year have fallen to 11 percent and that the United States has been able to meet 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of 2012.  The IEA’s report called the findings “a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy-importing countries.” U.S. oil output to overtake Saudi Arabia’s by 2020Bloomberg

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Energy Update, Nov. 2

In the States

KS – Governor Sam Brownback, joined by officials from Duke Energy Renewables, Westar Energy, and Sumitomo Corporation, participated in the dedication of a wind facility in southwestern Kansas. The Ironwood Windpower Projec­t is based in historically famous Dodge City and is jointly owned and operated by Duke and Sumitomo. Westar Energy, a Topeka-based utility, will buy the 167.9-megawatt wind farm’s energy for a period of 20 years, a total investment of more than $700 million in the expansion of wind energy in the State. "Kansas ranks first in the nation for new wind construction with more than $3 billion in investments this year,” said Governor Brownback. “Wind energy development provides economic opportunities to rural areas of Kansas, and our state can leverage the availability of clean energy to attract business.” Gov. Sam Brownback dedicated Wind FacilityThe Dodge City Daily Globe

 NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo last week released a $5.7 billion blueprint for the State’s energy system. The blueprint, which will be supported by private and public sector funding, seeks to jumpstart and support several new energy projects, including the development of a wind farm off the shore of Long Island and the overhauling of obsolete power plants. The Governor’s plan is intended to produce 3,200 megawatts of new electricity generation and transmission capacity in the State. According to the blueprint, the State will pursue “more targeted site assessment” for wind in order to best leverage limited state-level funding.” Cuomo unveils goals for energy managementNewsday and Governor’s task force releases energy planThe Albany Times Union

 VT – The Vermont Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission, a blue-ribbon panel created by Governor Peter Shumlin, has begun examining how the State makes decisions about commercial-scale renewable energy projects. The five-member board, which was created by an executive order in early October, is tasked with the duty to determine best practices for the siting of electric generation projects and for public participation and representation in the siting process. Additionally, the panel will study the effects of project siting on local communities and also consider the development of guidelines for the siting process. Commission member Jim Matteau, a retired regional planner, said the panel will proceed with caution as “Vermont’s landscape is intimate compared to some landscapes.” Governor’s panel to tackle renewable energy debateThe Burlington Free Press

Regional News

Massive power outages and flooding continue in parts of New Jersey and New York City thanks to Superstorm Sandy, as some have called the massive category one hurricane which left several east coast states reeling in its aftermath. According to several news sources, at least 90 people were killed, with hundreds more missing, along the eastern seaboard during the deadly storm. Several analysts predict the storm’s cost will approach $50 billion, with $30 billion in property damage and the rest in lost economic activity. Electricity has been restored to at least 4 million people, though millions more remain without power in New York City, especially in Long Island. Consolidated Edison, a New York-regulated utility, said 200,000 customers in Manhattan have no power whereas Jersey Central Power and Light stated close to a million residents’ power will be restored within one or two weeks. Gasoline shortages have also taken a toll on economic activity in the region, though it should ease as ports reopen in the coming days. Wait for power may linger for some and Anger flares are recovery inches ahead  – The New York Times and Hurricane Sandy’s U.S. death tool, economic losses riseThe Los Angeles Times

 National News

According to a recent report published by the University of Texas at Austin, 13% of the United States’ energy is spent on treating, pumping, heating, and cooling water. The total amount, 12.3 quadrillion BTUs, is the combined equivalent of the annual energy usage of about 40 million Americans. In 2012 alone, 40% of water-related energy was used for the production of electricity at water-treatment plans, water heaters, and other devices that utilize water. 13% of U.S.’s energy goes to collect, prepare water: StudyBloomberg

 The Department of Energy spent roughly $360 million on foreign travel, mostly by contractors, over the past six years, according to a report by the department’s inspector general. The federal audit states contractors have taken more than 90,000 international trips during the same period, with costs and the number of trips significantly rising each year since 2007. Following President Barack Obama’s order to federal agencies last year to examine potential savings from cuts to travel expenses, the Energy Department predicted it could save an estimated $15.7 million by imposing stricter rules. When the rules were implemented, however, the report states they were not applied to all 16,000 department employees and 100,000 contractors collectively. Energy Department spent $360 million on foreign travel, vast majority by contractorsThe Washington Post

 According to a new study by the office of Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, 20 million acres of federal oil and gas leases are not “undergoing exploration, development, or production.” The report claims that 131 oil and gas companies hold approximately 3,700 leases in the Gulf of Mexico, though the top oil companies – BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Shell – own 40% of the total idle leases. Though Democratic lawmakers have argued companies must use a lease or lose it, the major oil companies contend a similar system is already in place where they have on average 10 years to explore the acreage before it reverts back to the federal government. Additionally, the companies state they need time to “carry out surveys and contract for a rig.” Study: 20 million acres of federal oil, gas leases in Gulf of Mexico idleThe Washington Post

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