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Blog posts March 2012

Energy Update, March 23, 2012

March 23, 2012

In the States

NC – Governor Bev Perdue has said that she believes hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in North Carolina if it is properly regulated, following an unannounced trip to Pennsylvania to examine the process.  The State’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources came to a similar conclusion shortly after the Governor’s announcement, when the Department released a study conducted with the Department of Commerce that was mandated by the legislature last year.  The study notes that there are likely unknown consequences of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, requiring effective regulatory oversight of the process.  Governor Perdue highlighted the potential economic benefits of energy resource development, saying that it is “something that can help America and North Carolina be globally competitive," but that much of that potential depends on “whether the folks who live in this community are willing to move forward.”  Perdue says “fracking” can be done safely in NCNews & Record and DENR: With safeguards, fracking is OK in North CarolinaCharlotte Observer

PA – Royal Dutch Shell has decided to locate its petrochemical plant, also known as an ethane cracker, near Pittsburgh, and Governor Tom Corbett has said that while the deal is the “first pitch in a nine-inning game” – the site must meet environmental and other requirements – it would “have the potential to be the single largest industrial investment in the region in at least a generation.”  Construction of the plant is expected to create 10,000 jobs, while another 10,000 workers will be needed to operate the plant itself, as well as for jobs at suppliers and businesses that will use the products made at the plant.  Corbett: Shell decision the first pitch in the gamePittsburgh Business Times and Corbett says “cracker” plant a job provider to State’s studentsPittsburgh Post-Gazette 

SD – Governor Dennis Daugaard has vetoed a bill that would have cut construction taxes in half on wind farm development projects and environmental upgrades to existing power plants over $50 million.  The bill was passed by the legislature to provide incentives to companies to invest in major wind projects and to help power plants conform to new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.  Governor Daugaard said in a statement about the veto that he did not disagree with providing incentives for in-state energy development, but felt that the legislature should wait to pass any new incentives until after a November vote on an initiative that would offer incentives to a wider variety of construction projects.  The Governor also said that such a program should include incentives for construction projects under $50 million, citing a $40 million wind farm project within the State that would be ineligible for benefits under the vetoed legislation.  South Dakota governor vetoes tax breaks for wind farms as untimely, discriminatoryThe Republic

 National News

The number of new photovoltaic solar panels installed in the United States more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 according to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association.  In 2010, 887 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity was installed; that total increased by 109 percent in 2011 when 1,855 megawatts of solar capacity was installed.  Part of the reason for the increase in installations is a reduction of prices for photovoltaic panels, which in 2011 dropped nearly 50 percent.  California installed the most solar capacity of any state in 2011 -- in part due to the State’s 33 percent renewable energy standard that must be met by 2020 -- followed by New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Nevada.  Solar installations doubled last year, with California leading the wayMiami Herald

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Energy Update, March 9, 2012

March 9, 2012

In the States

NM – Governor Susana Martinez has signed a bill into law that will streamline the permitting process for companies seeking to develop geothermal energy.  Under the new law, geothermal developers are able to bypass the process of obtaining additional permits from the State in certain cases, though there are also protections for groundwater and the holders of water rights.  Governor Martinez said that she hopes the bill will increase the production of renewable energy in New Mexico.  N.M. streamlines geothermal permittingAlbuquerque Journal

OH – Governor John Kasich has proposed raising taxes on oil and natural gas liquids to potentially collect over $1 billion in additional revenue for the State by 2016.  The additional revenues would be used to lower taxes on individuals and small businesses.  If the proposal is approved, it would change the current rate structure of 20 cents per barrel of oil and no tax on natural gas liquids to 1.5 percent of market value for oil and natural gas liquids, which would be raised to four percent by 2014.  The current rate of three cents per 1,000 cubic feet would remain for natural gas, unless it is extracted through hydraulic fracturing, which would trigger a one percent tax.  The proposed increased rates are still lower than those of larger oil-producing states such as Texas, and would apply only to new horizontal-drilling sites and, in the case of natural gas, sites that produce over 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day.  Governor Kasich is expected to revisit his already-announced budget to include the new taxes, as well as regulations on hydraulic fracturing.  Kasich said to plan raising Ohio drilling tax as high as 4%Bloomberg and Kasich to propose fee on frackingToledo Blade

WA – Governor Christine Gregoire has signed a bill into law that broadens the type of energy production facilities that are considered to be renewable energy under a voter-approved initiative that requires 15 percent of the State’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.  The new law allows biomass energy production facilities older than 13 years old to count toward the requirement.  While opposition from environmental groups stalled the bill this year and kept it from passing last year, opposition was dropped when the definitions of renewable energy were more narrowly defined.  Washington state plan expands renewable energy lawNews Tribune

National News

Two separate bills are making their way through the House and Senate that would extend highway and transit funding beyond its current March 31 deadline, and Senators and Congressman are currently debating what will be included in the version from each chamber.  Senate Republican amendments were voted down this week that would have bypassed the Obama Administration in the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline permitting process, required changes in new pollution regulations on industrial boilers, and encourage offshore oil drilling.  That two-year, $109 billion transportation bill without those amendments is opposed by House Speaker John Boehner, who is currently gathering support for the House’s own five-year, $260 billion proposal.  The House bill includes many of the provisions struck down in the Senate, but has stalled mainly due to the large price tag.  Speaker Boehner warned Republican House members this week that if the House does not pass the measure, they will need to take up the Senate’s bill, pass a short term extension, or risk shutting down the transportation projects funded by the government and losing many jobs.  Senate rejects GOP proposals that would overturn Obama environment, energy policiesWashington Post and House speaker gives Republicans highway ultimatumReuters and Boehner’s highway bill plea to GOP doesn’t deliverPolitico

The U.S. Department of Energy is soliciting proposals from companies that wish to bid for a newly-announced six-year $180 million demonstration project to develop offshore wind power.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the new program, saying that the initiative was designed to “catalyze the development of offshore wind in America” and help developers “design and demonstrate next generation wind energy technologies.”  Of the funds, $20 million will be available to up to four companies in 2012, with the rest becoming available over the next five years.  DOE launches 6-year, 180m offshore wind development initiativeCleanTechnica and Offshore wind gets $180 million boost from DOE (press release)Energy Department

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has released a long-awaited proposal for a federal clean energy standard.  The proposed legislation would require that 84 percent of the nation’s electricity produced by large utilities would be required to come from wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, or coal with carbon capture and sequestration by 2035.  Senator Bingaman acknowledged the challenges the bill will face in the current Congress, saying, “Getting substantive legislation through both houses of Congress to the president’s signature is very difficult in this Congress.”  While the White House expressed support for the measure, which resembles the president’s proposals in the two most recent State of the Union addresses, opponents say that the bill would raise energy costs.  Senator Bingaman says that a U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis shows that the standards would have little or no impact on the economy.  Bingaman launches uphill battle with ‘clean’ power proposalThe Hill

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