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Blog posts March 2013

Energy Update, March 22

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown announced that he is open to the practice of fracking to develop shale oil reserves and to reduce his state’s dependence on imported oil. The Monterey Shale Formation is of particular interest in California as energy industry experts predict it could produce approximately 600,000 barrels of oil per day for the next 50 years. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the formation is estimated to contain 15 billion barrels, or about 64% of the United State’s total shale oil resources. A recent study by the University of Southern California found that the development of California’s oil-shale deposits may increase the state’s economic activity by 14%. “The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible, the potential is extraordinary," Governor Brown said. "But between now and development lies a lot of questions that need to be answered." California Governor Brown says state needs to look at “fracking”Reuters and California fracking may boost state economy 14%, USC says -- Bloomberg 

MD – Legislation to create a series of wind turbine farms off the coast of Maryland, a principal piece of Governor Martin O’Malley’s 2013 legislative agenda, passed the Maryland State Senate. The bill, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, will head back to the Maryland State House for a reconciliation of the two houses’ differences before heading to the Governor for his signature. Maryland, once the bill is signed into law, will become the first state in the mid-Atlantic to have offshore wind turbines, and will require suppliers of electricity to get at least 2.5% of their power from offshore wind projects. In order to subsidize the wind farm, a surcharge of $1.50 will be placed on residential electricity bills. Several steps remain before the construction of the wind farms, including a review by state and federal officials on the potential effects of the turbines on wildlife and commercial activity. Maryland wind energy passes SenateBaltimore Business Journal and Legislation encourages wind farm, but hurdles remainThe Baltimore Sun 

ME – Governor Paul LePage’s administration has authored a bill to remove a limit on any single power generation facility’s renewable energy contribution to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The state’s RPS, which requires that at least 30% of the state’s energy be derived from renewable sources, currently has a cap set at 100 megawatts, with an exclusion for wind energy per project. The Governors’ Energy Office Director, Patrick Woodcock, said a cap should be equally applied and not favor one renewable energy sector over another. The goal, according to Mr. Woodcock, is to lower energy costs by taking full advantage of renewable energy benefits from all available state resources. Opponents, however, believe the current policy is working well, and that a change is unnecessary. LePage measure would expand qualified suppliers of renewable energyThe Bangor Daily News

 WA – Governor Jay Inslee announced the latest round of grants intended to decrease the state’s public sector energy costs. The grants total $18 million and are slated to be rewarded to 12 colleges or universities and 37 local governments following a competitive bidding process that received at least 60 applications. A previous round of energy grants awarded more than $38 million. The grant money is projected to create at least 500 new construction jobs, and will fund projects such as water-saving plumbing, new heating systems, and lighting upgrades. Gov. Inslee announces $18M in energy grantsThe Olympian 


President Barack Obama may use the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to issue standards for how executive agencies should deal with climate change. The Nixon-era NEPA established both the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and required all federal government agencies to assess the potential environmental impacts of any proposed agency actions. President Obama foreshadowed the prospective expansion of NEPA in his State of the Union address last month by stating his intention to act and address climate change if Congress would not. According to several reports, the White House is looking to include considerations by federal agencies of a proposed project’s contribution to greenhouse gases and its “vulnerability to flooding, drought, or other extreme weather that might result from global warming.” Obama may use Nixon-era law to fight climate changeBloomberg

 The Department of the Interior has issued final regulatory approvals for two solar projects in southern California and one wind farm in Nevada. These three large-scale renewable energy projects, once completed, will produce enough energy to power 340,000 homes in addition to creating hundreds of new jobs. According to the Interior Department, 37 renewable energy projects on public lands with the capacity to power 4 million homes have received the Department’s approval. Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said “California is not just leading the United States of America, but leading the entire world today in what we are doing with renewable energy.” 3 West renewable energy projects get green lightThe Sacramento Bee

 President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget will request increased funding for programs within the Interior Department and for millions of dollars in funding for carbon capture and natural gas production. According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the President also will call for funding to improve the renewable, oil, and natural gas permitting process for federal lands. The fact sheet also renews the President’s request that Congress create a $2 billion energy trust fund supported by federal revenue to support alternative vehicles and energy research. Several Republicans, including Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, have criticized the proposal, arguing “new spending for green energy programs is not the answer.” The President is expected to release his budget in the coming weeks. Obama budget to seek increased funding for faster energy permitting, natural gasBloomberg BNA

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Energy Update, March 8

In the States

CO – Governor John Hickenlooper recently announced that he will lead a delegation of Colorado officials to Canada in late March to improve and to strengthen business relations between Canadian and Colorado companies. The trip to the Canadian provinces of Edmonton and Alberta will include the Governor and several officials from the Governor’s Energy Office and the State’s trade office. The trip may also include a visit to Canada’s tar sands region, the subject of a public debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Kathy Green, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, said the trip is “an energy-focused mission.” Hickenlooper to head delegation to Canada; energy a focusDenver Business Journal

 ID – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed an executive order to establish the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission (LINE) 2.0 while visiting the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a nuclear energy research and services center. The original LINE Commission was tasked with assessing the “opportunities and challenges of hosting the INL while the recent iteration of the Commission will oversee the implementation of the initial Commission’s recommendations and will continue to serve in an advisory capacity to the State and Governor of Idaho. The Commission will include State government officials, academics, members of the public, and nuclear energy leaders. “The findings of my initial LINE Commission reinforced the importance of constantly working to balance the benefits and burdens of hosting the nation’s leading nuclear energy research center,” said Governor Otter, “Idaho’s safety and economic security demand a stronger public-private partnership on this issue.” Governor Otter extends mission of the LINEThe Idaho State Journal

 NC – Governor Pat McCrory, joined by current Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx and other State politicians, announced that Areva, a French-owned nuclear and renewable energy company, will move its North American corporate headquarters from Bethesda, Maryland to Charlotte. The move is expected to add about 130 high-paying, mostly engineering jobs, whose annual salaries will average $130,000. The company’s current Charlotte operation, which includes almost 600 employees, will service nuclear power reactors. Areva presently serves 19 other states and was drawn to Charlotte after North Carolina offered the company a $2.5 million incentive grant. McCrory announces 130 jobs in CharlotteThe Charlotte News & Observer


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a plan this week to extract and to transport radioactive nuclear waste from Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation to a disposal and waste processing site in New Mexico. Washington Governor Jay Inslee first announced two weeks ago, after a tour of the area and facility, that nuclear material was leaking from six waste tanks at the World War II-era Hanford site. According to the DOE , approximately 1,000 gallons of radioactive waste could leak annually if no action is taken. The DOE proposes to move 3.1 million gallons of the waste from 20 of Hanford’s 177 underground waste tanks to a Water Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The plan, however, will require permit approval and faces strong opposition from some environmental groups in New Mexico. Washington nuke leak answer may take years, Inslee saysBloomberg and Feds look to ship Wash. Radioactive waste to NMThe Associated Press

 President Barack Obama announced his selection of Ernest Moniz and Gina McCarthy to lead the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, respectively. Dr. Moniz, an MIT physicist, is a proponent of natural gas and nuclear power as alternatives to coal. He previously served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and also as an undersecretary of energy for President Bill Clinton. Ms. McCarthy is the current head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and a former environmental administrator under two Republican Governors in Massachusetts and Connecticut. According to several energy policy experts and commentators, the President’s nominations send a clear signal of his intent to combat climate change using “all the executive branch tools at his disposal.” This announcement follows the President’s recent nomination of current REI executive Sally Jewell to lead the Interior Department. Cabinet picks could take on climate policyThe New York Times­

 The State Department recently released a revised environmental impact statement regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, but did not raise any major objections to the building of the pipeline. If built, the pipeline will stretch from Alberta’s tar sands region to refineries near the Gulf Coast and is expected to carry approximately 800,000 barrels of heavy crude per day. According to the report, the tar sands are likely to be developed regardless of whether the U.S. approves the proposed pipeline. The report also acknowledges that the development of the tar sands oil may increase greenhouse gas emissions. The 2,000-page report regarding the 1,700 mile, $7 billion pipeline will help to inform President Barack Obama’s decision – which is expected later this year – on whether the pipeline project is in the best interests of the United States. Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said  “I think it’s premature at this point to try to come down with strong conclusions.” Report may ease path for new pipelineThe New York Times  and State Department's report on Keystone XL pipeline is neither pro nor conThe San Jose Mercury News

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