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Blog posts June 2013

Energy Update, June 14

In the States

CO – Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill that doubles renewable energy targets for rural electric cooperatives. Calling it an “imperfect” bill, however, the Governor immediately issued an executive order after he signed the measure to study the cost of the law and its compliance deadlines. The new law requires electric cooperatives to supply 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, twice the previous 10% mandate adopted earlier. Many of the law’s more contentious provisions will be reviewed by an advisory committee, which will be managed by the Colorado Energy Office and will include representatives from environmental groups, rural electric utilities, and the renewable energy industry. The committee is tasked with issuing a report on the law within six months. Hickenlooper signs bill to double rural renewable-energy requirementThe Denver Post

 NE – Governor Dave Heineman signed legislation into law granting new tax breaks for wind energy development in Nebraska. The measure provides a sales tax exemption for the purchase of wind farm parts, including turbines, blades, and towers. TradeWind Energy, a Kansas-based company, had said it would build a $300 to $400 million wind farm in northeast Nebraska if the State adopted such a sales tax break, an incentive already offered by Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Governor Heineman was not originally expected to sign the measure, but later did so because the bill also included a provision preventing an increase in local sales taxes in Omaha. State Senator Steve Lathrop, who was the bill’s prime sponsor, said “The whole point of our Advantage Act is to encourage companies to come into Nebraska and do business. It is perfectly consistent with what we've done with our business incentives.” Heineman signs bill to offer wind energy tax incentivesThe Lincoln Star Journal and Drama over: Heineman signs bill on wind energy tax breaksThe Omaha World-Herald

 PA – Governor Tom Corbett recently announced that Flowserve Corporation, a company that manufactures pumps, seals, and valves for the power, oil, and gas industries, has relocated a part of its operations to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley after more than 100 years at a Phillipsburg, New Jersey location. Flowserve was offered a $310,000 Pennsylvania First program grant from the State to relocate to Pennsylvania. According to the Governor’s office, the project should to create more than 130 jobs in the region. "Flowserve is a great example of a company relocating to Pennsylvania to be closer to clients and benefit from the state's pro-business climate and excellent quality of life,” said Governor Corbett. Flowserve Corp. leaves longtime Phillipsburg home for Northampton CountyThe Express-Times

PR – The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a permit for Energy Answers International to build a waste-to-energy plant on the Commonwealth. When completed, the 77-megawatt facility, which will be built in the town of Arecibo, will be the largest recycling plant on the island. It is projected to produce about 3,800 jobs and to be capable of processing more than 2,100 tons of garbage a day. The $650 million facility will take three years to construct. Environmental advocates, however, were disappointed by the decision, and feel the project is a risk to public health. Waste-to-energy project in Puerto Rico secures key federal permitThe Washington Post

 National and Federal

The House Natural Resources Committee passed three bills to expand drilling on federal lands. H.R. 2231, sponsored by Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, a Republican from Washington State, passed the Committee on a 23-18 vote. The bill, which is similar to legislation that passed the full House last year, would extend offshore oil and gas drilling to the coasts of California, Virginia, and South Carolina. A second Hastings-sponsored bill, which would expedite the process of obtaining oil and gas leases, also passed the Committee on a 26-14 vote. The final bill, HR 1548, which is sponsored by Republican Congressman Don Young of Alaska, would allow for the developmement of energy on Native American lands. House panel sends trio of energy bills to floorThe Hill

 The federal government and the State of Arkansas have filed a joint suit against Exxon Mobil for an oil pipeline that burst earlier this year in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas. Approximately 5,000 barrels of heavy crude Canadian oil were spilled through a 22-foot rupture in the Pegasus pipeline, which runs about 850 from Illinois to Texas and can transport approximately 95,000 barrels per day. The cause of the rupture is still unknown, but both the State and the federal government are seeking penalties under the Clean Water Act, the Arkansas Hazardous Management Act, and the State’s Water and Air Pollution Control Act. “This spill disrupted lives and damaged our environment," said Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. Exxon Mobil faces federal lawsuit over Arkansas oil spillThe Los Angeles Times

 The United States Navy has revised its plan to build a large solar energy project on an obsolete military runway on Hawaii. Instead of covering all 28 acres of the Ford Island runway, officials are now pursuing Waipio Peninsula as the site of the future solar farm, according to a recent naval assessment. The effort is part of a larger initiative by the military service branches, called the Hawaii Joint Services Solar Power Generation, which seeks to lower power costs for military bases. The joint venture “is designed to provide 7 to 56 megawatts of power, which could account for 2 to 16 percent of the consumption at military instillations.” The Navy expects to issue an award for the contract to build the solar farm and its photovoltaic panels later this year. Navy revises plan for solar panels on runwayThe Honolulu Star Advertiser

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Energy Update, May 31

In the States

AK – Governor Sean Parnell signed into law several energy-related bills, including legislation that overhauls the State’s oil tax structure. Referring to the bill as the “More Alaska Production Act,” Governor Parnell believes the new law will reverse a downward trend in oil production. Critics of the law, however, contend it gives too much away to oil companies with no guaranteed return on investment while significantly impacting the State’s budget. Governor Parnell also signed a measure to explore the possibility of an in-state gas line project and a bill to streamline the gas and oil permitting process. “It’s been an historic year for our state, it’s been a phenomenal year, a comeback year,” said Governor Parnell, Alaska’s “energy comeback begins today.” Parnell signs oil tax, gasline billsThe Peninsula Clarion and Governor signs oil tax cut, budget bills, vetoes $2.5MThe Anchorage Daily News

 MN – Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation into law that will require the State’s utility companies to purchase at least 1.5% of their power from solar energy by 2020. Additionally, the new solar energy standard sets a statewide goal of 10% by 2030. The new mandate comes on top of the existing State renewable energy standard, which requires utilities to purchase 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025. The law also expanded incentives for rooftop solar gardens and increased the State’s net-metering cap to 1,000 kilowatts. Minnesota solar energy standard signed by Mark DaytonThe Pioneer Press and Minnesota’s new solar law: looking beyond percentagesMidwest Energy News

 WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced the establishment of the Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center, which will offer degrees and provide training for prospective oil and gas industry employes. The new center, which is a joint venture by West Virginia Northern Community College and Pierpont Community and Technical College, will feature classes, hands-on training, and an indoor drilling simulation lab. Funds from both a private foundation and oil and natural gas companies will help support the center. State officials said they received input from several natural gas producers, including Chesapeake Energy, Noble Energy, and Dominion Resources. “I'm thankful for the industry's collaboration during the development of this much-needed program and look forward to congratulating the first class of graduates," Governor Tomblin said. WVNCC to offer drilling degreesThe Herald-Star

National and Regional

Tesla Motors, one of the several loan recipients of the Energy Department’s (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program, has repaid its $465 million loan with interest nine years early to the federal government. The goal of the DOE’s loan program, which has lent billions of dollars to auto companies like Tesla, Ford, Fisker Automotive, and Nissan, is to “accelerate the market for energy-efficient cars.” The ATVM program has come under intense political Congressional scrutiny recently with the near bankruptcy status of another loan recipient, Fisker Automotive, which received a $529 million ATVM program loan. “This is another important contribution to what the Obama Administration has done to preserve and promote America's auto industry," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “This announcement is also good news for the future of America's growing electric vehicle industry." Tesla Motors fully repays $465 million federal loan nine years earlyThe Oakland Tribune

 According to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a tax on carbon would produce considerable revenues for the United States in addition to combating climate change. The CBO report highlighted the benefits of a carbon tax as it relates to the public health and to the economy, specifically citing additional revenue to the Department of the Treasury. Several congressional Democrats have supported a tax on carbon in the past, though overall the levy is viewed as politically unpalatable. Critics of the carbon tax contend the measure would negatively affect lower-income individuals and raise the cost of fossil fuels. The report recommends a quick implementation of a carbon tax, arguing that “delays would increase the expected damage from climate change by increasing the risk of very costly, potentially even catastrophic, outcomes.” The complete CBO report can be found here. CBO: Carbon tax an option to avoid ‘catastrophic’ outcomesThe Hill

 Jon Wellinghoff, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), resigned earlier this week. He will continue to serve as the FERC chairman until a successor is named and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Mr. Wellinghoff’s term expired at the end of June, and it is not immediately clear why he chose to resign. Under his leadership, which began in March 2009, the FERC encouraged energy efficiency and expanded its oversight of power markets. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said Wellinghoff “deserves credit for championing efforts to increase America's renewable energy supply." Nevadan Wellinghoff gives up chairmanship of federal energy board – The Las Vegas Review-Journal and FERC chairman Wellinghoff to stand down -- UPI

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Energy Update, May 17

In the States

CO – Governor John Hickenlooper signed two bills, House Bills 1110 and 1247, which encourage the development of alternative energy vehicles. House Bill 1110 updates several provisions of the state’s excise tax rules regarding alternative fuels while House Bill 1247 increases a tax credit for consumers who purchase alternative energy vehicles. Governor Hickenlooper announced his support for the legislation in Loveland, Colorado, a town which is known for the transition of its gas-fueled fleet to plug-in models. With this legislation, “you begin to realize that Colorado really is a leader in looking at alternative fuels," Governor Hickenlooper said. Governor signs alternative energy vehicle bills in LovelandThe Loveland Reporter Herald

 IA – Governor Terry Branstad recently announced that MidAmerican Energy, a Des Moines-based electricity generation and transmission company, will invest $1.9 billion in Iowa for wind energy generation projects. The new projects are expected to add 1,050 megawatts of wind power generation and create over 400 new temporary construction jobs and almost 50 permanent jobs. MidAmerican Energy officials predict that the added wind energy generation will cut consumer rates by $3.3 million in 2015 and $10 million annually by 2017. The utility currently serves more than 700,000 customers across Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. According to industry experts, about 25% of Iowa’s electricity is derived from wind power. “As wind energy goes, so does Iowa’s economy,” said Governor Branstad. MidAmerican Energy will invest $1.9 billion in wind projects in IowaThe Des Moines Register

 WY – Governor Matt Mead unveiled his strategy for energy management for the State. The strategy includes 47 new measures and initiatives, such as new rules for baseline water testing and off-site water mitigation and reclamation. The energy management plan is broken down into four subgroups including economic competiveness, expansion, and diversification; efficient and effective regulation; natural resource conservation, reclamation, and mitigation, and; education, innovation, and new technologies. Approximately half of Governor Mead’s proposals are targeted towards reforming and streamlining state regulations. Additionally, Governor Mead’s plan highlights the importance of international exports, which he said could include coal, oil and natural gas, and other resources, to Wyoming’s economy. “It’s a heavy lift, but we think it’s doable,” Governor Mead said. “If 47 is too much, we will work on what we can, address what we can, and keep moving forward.” Gov. Matt Mead unveils Wyoming energy strategyThe Casper Star Tribune

Federal and National News

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Energy Department by a vote of 97-0 this week. Physicist Ernest Moniz, a former professor and director of an energy research institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won unanimous approval from the Senate and will be the second consecutive scientist to lead the Department. Secretary Moniz, who previously served as an Energy Department under secretary, is a supporter of “low carbon options,” including renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear power, and carbon capture technologies. Secretary Moniz will be among the President’s top energy advisors, which also include Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the future Environmental Protection Administrator. Moniz will “be an outstanding secretary of energy, and we look forward to working with him,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. Senate confirms MIT’s Moniz as Obama’s Energy SecretaryBloomberg

 Vehicle Production Group, a Michigan-based company that received a $50 million loan from the Energy Department in 2011, has suspended operations and fired all of its workers. Known as VPG, the company made wheelchair-accessible vans, which included a built-in ramp for disabled persons and enough room for a driver and three other individuals. About 25% of VPG’s model ran on compressed natural gas. The loan to VPG was one of several made in 2011 by the Energy Department through a clean-energy program. Titled the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing, the program also loaned $529 million to Fisker Automotive, an electric car company that recently filed for bankruptcy, in addition to other loans made to Tesla Motors, Ford, and Nissan. Aoife McCarthy, a DOE spokeswoman, said “The loan program "was always intended to involve taking some risks by supporting innovative and cutting edge technologies that hadn't been tried on a commercial scale before.” Van maker backed by Energy Dept. shuts downAssociated Press

 A bill sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), which  would promote energy-efficiency upgrades and create voluntary energy-efficiency standards for new building codes, passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 19-3. Additionally, the bill directs the federal government to use energy-efficient and energy-saving practices and also creates a state-based private financing program to boost efficiency. A similar bill failed last year after a disagreement between party leaders on amendments. Committee Chairman Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, was happy with this week’s result, and predicted the bill’s eventual passage. “We want to do what’s doable. As you know, it’s fairly easy to blow things up in the United States Senate.” Energy-efficiency bill clear Senate panelThe Hill 

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Energy Update, May 3

In the States

AZ – Governor Jan Brewer joined industry representatives to tour the Arlington Valley Solar Energy II power plant, a solar power farm that when completed later this year will be among the largest solar power plants in the world. The Arlington, Arizona solar power plant is being built by LS Power of New York, and has created approximately 400 construction jobs in the region. When finished, the plant will have more than 600,000 solar panels and a 127 megawatt capacity with the potential to power almost 32,000 Arizona homes. The solar power farm’s electricity will be purchased by San Diego Gas & Electric for 25 years. “These are the jobs that get Arizonans back to work,” Governor Brewer said. New Arlington Valley solar site packs powerThe Arizona Republic

 MA – Governor Deval Patrick’s administration set a new goal for solar energy installations in Massachusetts after the State reached its initial 10-year target four year early. Massachusetts’s original goal was to install 250 megawatts of solar power, or enough to power almost 40,000 homes, by 2017. The new goal will be set at 1,600 megawatts of solar energy by 2020, or enough electricity to power almost 250,000 homes per year. “We're eager to see the solar market grow,” said Dwayne Breger, director of renewable energy at the State Department of Energy Resources, “It's brought a tremendous amount of business and jobs to Massachusetts.” Incentives help Mass. hit Gov. Deval Patrick’s solar energy goal 4 years early Mass Live – The Republican

 MS – Governor Phil Bryant signed into law several energy-related bills, including tax breaks and incentives for alternative-fuel vehicles. HB 844, for example, exempts sales tax on energy used in manufacturing while HB 1685 establishes a $2.75 million fund to allow municipalities and school districts to borrow money without interest to purchase natural gas vehicles or to convert existing vehicle fleets. Governor Bryant also signed legislation instructing a state agency to report the State’s energy usage, to develop energy management plans, and to promote Mississippi as a leader in energy development, research, and job creation. “Energy-sector economic development is a primary focus of my administration,” said Governor Bryant, “and the passage of these laws will increase Mississippi’s competitiveness when attracting and recruiting new industries.” Governors signs a slew of energy billsThe Jackson Clarion-Ledger

National and Federal

The National Governors Association (NGA) released a 2012 update to its State Clean Energy Actions report. The report and database are intended to help identify emerging policy trends in clean energy, new models that may be replicable elsewhere, and policy actions Governors can take to advance clean energy. The cumulative report covers activities between 2008-2012, while the update is based on activities from September 2011 through October 2012. Activities are broken into seven categories, including energy efficiency, clean electricity, alternative fuels and vehicles, greenhouse gas emissions, clean energy research, and clean energy economic development. An NGA press release noted that “states expanded or enhanced their clean energy programs” while “Governors also were looking to diversify energy source and reduce emissions.”

 The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee introduced a bill to execute a U.S.-Mexico energy agreement. Signed in 2012 by American and Mexican officials, the Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement seeks cooperation in the extraction and development of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. The Senate bill’s language omits a House-passed provision, which exempts Securities and Exchange Commission-listed oil companies from disclosing payments to foreign governments as required under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation signed into law in 2010. Some industry groups are worried the disclosure requirements will burden US companies with additional costs and stifle their competitiveness. Senate bill on US-Mexico drilling lacks Dodd-Frank exemptionThe Hill

 Several of the 29 states with renewable portfolio standards are considering legislation to limit or reduce their mandates thanks to a decrease in price and an increase in supply of natural gas. The Energy Department estimates 16 states, ranging from North Carolina to Colorado, are pursuing statutory changes to decrease wind and solar energy use, potentially reducing costs for the country’s largest coal mining companies and utilities. Some renewable energy advocates believe the current efforts will eventually lead to a full repeal of renewable portfolio standards in several states. The North Carolina legislature is currently debating a bill that would gradually decrease utilities’ required renewable energy purchases and eliminate the mandate by 2021. U.S. States turn against renewable energy as gas plunges Bloomberg

 The Department of the Interior has revised its estimates of oil and gas resources in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. According to the modified figures, the Three Forks formation and the Bakken shale formation could now produce at least 7.4 billion barrels of oil, 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 0.53 billion barrels of natural gas liquids – triple the amount originally estimated by the Interior Department in 2008. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the formations “contain even more energy resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil.” A bipartisan group of lawmakers continue to pressure President Barack Obama to open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling, highlighting the Bakken and Three Forks formations as models for an economic recovery. Interior Department boosts estimates of oil-and-gas resources in North DakotaThe Hill

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