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Blog posts August 2013

Energy Update, August 24

In the States

IA – Governor Terry Branstad said 5 Iowa counties will see hundreds of new wind turbines as part of a $1.9 billion economic development project. The construction of almost 500 wind turbines by MidAmerican Energy Company, Iowa’s largest energy business, in Grundy, Madison, Marshall, O’Brien, and Webster counties will begin by September 2013, according to the Governor. In total, the project is expected to generate approximately 1,050 megawatts of power in the State by 2015. It is also expected to create almost 500 construction jobs and 48 permanent jobs and provide about $360 million in additional property tax revenue for local governments over the next 30 years. “This is a huge project and obviously it’s a win-win for everybody: for the environment, for the farmers, for the customers and for the people who get jobs in the construction and eventually in overseeing the maintenance of the wind farms,” said Governor Branstad. Five Iowa counties will be home to MidAmerican wind turbinesThe Gazette

 NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced several steps his administration has taken to help dairy farmers lower their energy costs and improve their business operations. In partnership with the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, is launching the Dairy Acceleration Program, which will make available $1 million in funding to dairy farmers to promote conservation and to create individual business and environmental plans. Governor Cuomo also signed into law legislation that exempts anaerobic digesters, which convert farm waste to renewable energy, from the State’s property tax. The Governor also signed legislation that increases the maximum electricity generation from 25 to 100 kilowatts for solar electric systems eligible for net metering. “Today’s actions will enable dairy farmers to better plan for future expansions as well as reduce the costs for installing environmentally-friendly waste to energy digesters,” said Governor Cuomo. Governor Cuomo announces aid to farms to reduce energy costs and improve business operationsWBNG Binghamton

 WA – Governor Jay Inslee, joined by local officials and renewable energy executives, officially dedicated the new company headquarters of OutBack Power, a designer and manufacturer of advanced power electronics for renewable energy projects, in Arlington, Washington. The company produces control systems that integrate photovoltaic panels with battery storage, electrical systems, and the public power grid. One new application the company has developed for solar products is an alternating current coupling system that allows a grid-tied power inverter to substitute for the utility’s power grid when the power grid is down. OutBack Power currently employs 70 people and is expected to hire an additional 30 employees by the end of this year due to increased demand for and interest in renewable energy. "Clean energy is an area where Washington State can and should and will lead," said Governor Inslee. "We have called on all Washingtonians to step up to the responsibility of addressing climate change, and to harness the economic opportunities offered by clean energy.”  Gov. Inslee dedicated OutBack Power’s new facility in ArlingtonThe Arlington Times and Inslee hails OutBack Power’s new digsThe Herald Business Journal

National and Federal

Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Siemens, a multinational engineering and electronics conglomerate, recently broke ground on the construction of the largest federally-owned wind farm in the United States. The wind farm, titled the Pantex Renewable Energy Project, will be located near Amarillo, Texas, and will generate electrical energy for the Pantex Plant, the federal government’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. The new wind farm, which will consist of five 2.3 megawatt turbines, is projected to generate at least 47 million kilowatt hours of electricity, or enough electrical energy to power 60% of Pantex’s annual needs, or approximately 3,500 homes. According to the DOE, the project will also reduce the Pantex Plant’s carbon dioxide emissions to the equivalent of removing 7,200 cars from the nation’s highways. “We are literally breaking new ground with the intent to increase the use of renewable energy at Pantex and to encourage proliferation of this type of energy resource at other National Nuclear Security Administration and DOE sites,” said Steve Erhart, an NNSA manager. Pantex project taps wind as major electricity sourceThe Amarillo Globe-News

 The Obama administration approved natural gas exports from a third U.S. facility located in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The facility, which is operated and supported by the BG Group and Southern Union, secured a conditional license from the Department of Energy (DOE) to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) abroad. When completed, the Lake Charles facility, which still requires a permit by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will be able to export up to 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day for the next two decades. This recent approval brings total LNG exports to 5.6 billion cubic feet per day, or about 8% of U.S. daily gas production. Third gas facility gains permission to exportThe Washington Post

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Energy Update, August 9

In the States

AL – Governor Robert Bentley recently announced that the State saved almost $4 million by slashing state government agencies’ energy costs last year. A report by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which analyzed energy data submitted by state agencies,  found a 10% reduction in energy use across all agencies. In December 2011, Governor Bentley issued an executive order requiring state agencies to reduce their energy consumption by 30% from 2005 levels by 2015, to achieve a total savings of $5.4 million. The State’s Department of Corrections accounted for the largest savings, or about $1.5 million, a 16% decrease from 2005 levels. “State employees are taking many steps to reduce costs and make better use of taxpayer dollars. State agencies are operating more efficiently, and our energy-saving program is making a significant difference,” Governor Bentley said. Governor’s Office says state has saved $4 million in energy costsThe Franklin County Times 

KS – Governor Sam Brownback is working to make Kansas the “Saudi Arabia of Wind,” though a lack of high-voltage electric lines and  myriad state and federal rules pose a significant challenge to fulfilling the demand for wind power. Kansas, according to experts, has more wind energy potential than any state except Texas, but is behind eight other States who generate more total megawatts of wind power. Some members of the Kansas State Legislature are supporting an interstate compact to streamline the rules and regulations for power lines, thereby potentially increasing renewable energy investments. Legislation easily passed the Kansas House earlier this year that would allow the State to join such a compact, and several other state legislatures, including Washington and Missouri, are proposing similar legislation. Federal officials also seem to be supportive of an interstate compact, according to Jason Stanek, an adviser to the Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, saying “the next best thing is for the States to address this issue on their own.” State wind-power efforts needs a boost in construction of electric power linesThe Washington Post and Stateline 

MA – Governor Deval Patrick joined industry representatives and state officials to commemorate the fifth-year anniversary of his adminsitration’s four key energy and environment initiatives. The Governor spoke about his administration’s work, including the passage of the Green Communities Act, the Green Jobs Act, the Global Warming Solutions Act, and the Massachusetts Oceans Act, which he claimed has reduced greenhouse emissions by 11% and had led an 11% increase in clean energy jobs from 2011 to 2012. Additionally, according to a recently released report, Massachusetts ranked 10th in the nation in per capita solar output last year, behind states like California, North Carolina, and Arizona. Governor Patrick said he has taken “a fresh look at our energy realities in Massachusetts” and promised to create new green-energy jobs and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Patrick administration celebrates five years of clean energy advancesThe Bourne Courier and Massachusetts rises to ‘Dazzling Dozen’ state rankings for solar outputThe Republican 

Federal and Regional

Mississippi Governors Phil Bryant and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced that they will partner to study oil sand resources during a speech to the Southern States Energy Board, which is a regional compact of 16 states and two territories that work to promote economic development through innovations in energy. Both Governors signed a memorandum of understanding to study oil sands, which are usually loose sand or sandstone rock that also contain a viscous form of petroleum known as bitumen, in their States. A recently discovered underground swath of resources in northwest Alabama and northeastern Mississippi known as the Hartselle Sandstone is estimated to contain approximately 7.5 billion barrels of oil. According to the Governors, the study will hopefully lead to the commercial development of the region. "As I have said before, for our nation to become more energy independent,” said Governor Bryant, “We must recognize the importance of a forward-thinking approach to energy and continue to develop a comprehensive energy policy that works.” Mississippi, Alabama partner to study oil sand resourcesThe Sun Herald

The federal government recently began an auction to lease almost 170,000 acres of federal waters for the purposes of commercial wind energy development off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This region is projected to produce enough energy to power at least one million homes. Other areas designated for sale include federal waters off the New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware coasts. Feds auction offshore wind energy leasesThe Boston Globe

 JPMorgan Chase and Company has agreed to pay $410 million after claims by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it manipulated the power market in California and the Midwest. According to the federal government, it is the second largest penalty in the history of FERC, which said JPMorgan did not deny the violations. JPMorgan to pay $410 million to settle power market caseThe Chicago Tribune


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Energy Update, July 26

In the States

MD – Governor Martin O’Malley released his long-term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during a recent conference on climate change. The Governor’s plan includes an increase in the Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to 25 percent by 2020. The previous renewable standard goal was 18 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by the year 2022. Governor O’Malley’s plan also calls for legislation to increase recycling rates statewide. Currently, the State’s recycling rates per county average approximately 45 percent; the Governor’s plan seeks to raise the rate to 60 percent by 2020. “In Maryland, we are moving forward and taking action by creating green jobs and protecting our land, water, air, and public health,” said the Governor. O’Malley releases greenhouse gas reduction plan at climate change summitThe Washington Post

 NV – Governor Brian Sandoval recently spoke with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz about the Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposed transfer of 403 radioactive waste canisters from Oak Ridge, Tennessee to a Nevada national security site northwest of Las Vegas. According to the DOE’s plan, the canisters, which carry reactor fuel from fissionable uranium, will be buried about 40 feet deep in a desert landfill. Governor Sandoval opposes the transportation and placement of the waste in and around Las Vegas. “While we agreed to disagree on specific points,” said the Governor in a press release following their conversation, “we (are) committed to having a continued, open dialogue and further discussions on this important matter. Sandoval, energy secretary ‘agree to disagree’The Las Vegas Sun and Sandoval has ‘blunt talk with energy secretaryAssociated Press

 National and Federal

Eight Republican Governors from coastal states sent a letter to their congressional delegations advocating for the expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The Governors sent the letter as members of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Governors Association.  Signees included Governors Sean Parnell of Alaska, who serves as chair of the OCS Governors Association, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Perry of Texas, Phil Bryant of Mississippi, Robert Bentley of Alabama, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, and Pat McCrory of North Carolina. The Governors offered five recommendations in their letter, including expansion of an existing offshore drilling revenue sharing program and granting access to new outer continental shelf drilling areas. According to the Governors, 85% of the Untied States’ OCS is closed to oil and natural gas exploration. “The OCS Governors Coalition hopes to cultivate a substantive, ongoing dialogue with Obama administration officials on the opportunities and challenges facing offshore energy development,” states the letter, which also encourages Congress to act on its proposals and to “champion OCS energy and, by effect, the vitality of our coastal and state economies.” Perry to lawmakers: Do more to advance offshore drillingFuel Fix

 A group of Democrats from coal producing states have launched a new pro-coal coalition called the CoalBlue Project. The group, which seeks “to identify, organize, educate, and mobilize Americans across the nation in support of coal as part of a sensible ‘all of the above’ energy strategy and a cornerstone of a sustainable energy future for the United States and the world,” was launched by former Representatives Jerry Costello, John Tanner, and Rick Boucher and the former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Jim Kerr. CoalBlue also has the support of Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Reps. Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Bill Enyart (D-IL). The group, according to a press release, will proactively engage with political and policy stakeholders, advocate within the Democratic party, offer support for the Obama administration’s clean energy agenda, and work to make sustainable coal an “equal partner in the mix of future sustainable fuels.” The organization’s website can be found here.

 Gina McCarthy was recently confirmed by the U.S Senate in a 59 to 40 vote to succeed Lisa Jackson as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She previously headed the EPA’s air and radiation office during President Barack Obama’s first term. Six Republicans voted for her confirmation, including Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), John McCain (AZ), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Bob Corker (TN). Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat who voted against her nomination, stating that Ms. McCarthy has been “responsible for overseeing some of the EPA’s most unreasonable and restrictive proposals.” The head of the American Gas Association, Dave McCurdy, and the chief executive officer of the National Mining Association, Hal Quinn, said they look forward to working with Ms. McCarthy and her staff at the EPA. President Obama referred to her as “a proven leader who knows how to build bipartisan support for commonsense environmental solutions.” Senate confirms Gina McCarthy as EPA administratorThe Washington Post

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Energy Update, July 12

In the States

CT – Governor Dan Malloy signed two pieces of legislation into law that thoroughly change how the State approaches renewable energy, natural gas, and energy efficiency programs. One of the bills signed by the Governor implements several items showcased in his energy plan, including allowing the State’s Energy Department to create and to execute long-term contracts with clean energy projects developers, which the State believes will keep energy costs low. Connecticut joins a handful of other States, ranging from Illinois and Maine to California, who sign long-term power agreements rather than solely requiring utility companies to purchase a state-mandated amount of renewable energy. The other bill signed into law redefines renewable energy to allow large-scale hydropower projects to be counted towards the State’s renewable portfolio standard and recommends that the State develop a strategy for decreasing the State’s dependence on biomass and landfill gas renewable energy projects. The Governor believes the new laws will “lower consumer rates, create jobs, expand energy choices, and better protect the environment and natural resources.” State asks for long-term clean energy bidsThe Hartford Courant 

HI – Governor Neil Abercrombie recently signed into law several energy-related bills, citing the need to remove “unnecessary barriers to allow a greater segment of our community to invest in and benefit from renewable energy.” HB811, the first of four bills signed by the Governor, simplifies the registration and reporting requirements for fuel distributors. Another bill, HB1405, requires the State’s Public Utilities Commission to disclose a summary of its power purchase agreements in its annual report to the Governor and allows for the use of more money from the State’s public benefits fund to support clean energy technology, energy reduction programs, and other energy infrastructure projects. SB19, also signed by Governor Abercrombie, removes certain administrative and regulatory barriers, specifically allowing certain landlords to invest in renewable energy, while HB1149 creates standards for the financing and decommissioning of wind energy facilities in the State. “These bills also improve the efficiency of the industry’s registration and reporting process,” said the Governor, “encouraging greater openness and expanding protections for our local communities. Governor signs bills related to energy, technologyHawaii 24/7

 TN – Governor Bill Haslam and the State’s Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau awarded $2.1 million to support and to encourage energy efficiency projects to local governments, utilities, and other public and private organizations under the Clean Tennessee Energy Grants program. Funding for these projects come from a 2011 Clean Air Act settlement, which will give the State $26.4 million over five years. The money will also go towards reducing air emissions, improving energy efficiency, and to the building or purchasing of new energy projects. “The projects announced today highlight these local efforts as we continue our work to make Tennessee the best place to live, work and raise a family,” said Governor Haslam. $2.1 million in Clean Tennessee Energy Grants awardedThe Chattanoogan

 National and Federal

The Western Governors Association (WGA) recently held its annual meeting in Park City, Utah. Seven Governors were in attendance, including Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, Idaho Governor Butch Otter, Utah Governor and outgoing WGA Chair Gary Hebert, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Governor Steve Bullock of Montana, Colorado Governor and incoming WGA Chair John Hickenlooper, and Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga of American Samoa. Several Canadian Premiers also attended the WGA meeting. During the meeting, the Governors released a regional 10-year Energy Vision that calls for increased cooperation on interstate energy projects, including transmission lines, oil production, and pipeline infrastructure. The blueprint also recognizes the importance of and recommends increased energy efficiency and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in addition to protecting wildlife and the environment. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Bob Perciasepe, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection agency, also gave presentations during the WGA meeting, advocating for an “all-of-the-above energy strategy.” The Energy Vision states “it wants energy to be ‘clean, affordable, and reliable by providing a balanced portfolio of renewable, non-traditional, and traditional resources.’" Governors agree to disagree on climate, focus on future energy strategiesThe Salt Lake TribuneWestern governors unveil 10-year energy ‘vision’The San Jose Mercury News and The Associates Press, and Governors’ energy put toward energy during Deer Valley gatheringThe Park Record

 The Department of Energy (DOE) is expected to release new energy efficiency regulations and standards for new federal buildings, including federal commercial and multi-family high rises built by the federal government. According to the DOE, the new rules will save 19.2% more energy than current standards while cutting energy costs by approximately $1.74 billion over 30 years. The new standards will also cut, according to the DOE’s estimations, carbon dioxide emissions by almost 90 million metric tons over the same time period. DOE to toughen energy efficiency standards for new federal buildingsThe Hill

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