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Blog posts November 2014

Energy Update, Nov. 21

In the States

MA – Critics of a proposed 400-mile natural gas pipeline in northeast Massachusetts believe they have found an ally in Governor-elect Charlie Baker, who recently said the State should first expand existing natural gas pipelines rather than build new lines. If approved, the pipeline would be built by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company and would cross the New York border into Massachusetts and run along the State’s border with New Hampshire before entering the latter. Outgoing Governor Duval Patrick charged a commission to study the pipeline and natural gas development in general to “estimate demand in coming years and whether additional pipelines are needed.” The commission’s findings are expected early next month. The company, which is a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, said it is exploring alternative routes, even though it held several public meetings and hearings with state and local officials about the proposed pipeline. Gas pipeline opponents look to new governor for supportThe Eagle Tribune

NJ – Governor Chris Christie plans to visit Canada on a trade mission in early December to discuss energy policy, including his support for the Keystone XL natural gas pipeline, and his plans for a “North American energy renaissance.” In addition to stops in Calgary, Ottawa, and Toronto, the Governor will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other government ministry leaders. The upcoming trip will be Governor Christie’s third foreign trip, following an earlier trade mission to Mexico and Israel. The Governor said his trip will focus on increasing trade and enhancing existing partnerships between New Jersey and Canada, which, according to his office, amounts to approximately $16 billion annually and more than 240,000 jobs. “Too often, our neighbors in Mexico and Canada have felt that they were an afterthought in U.S. foreign policy,” Governor Christie said. “Let me be clear about my view: My view is they should be our first thought, not an afterthought.” Christie to talk trade, energy in CanadaThe Courier-Post and Christie plans Canada trip to discuss energy policyThe Daily Record

WA – A climate change task force convened by Governor Jay Inslee sent the Governor their suggestions to decrease carbon pollution, including a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade program. The panel did not favor one of the specific policy solutions in their report, but rather focused on the merits of both approaches. Governor Inslee has previously said he was “exploring a market-based system to limit heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are blamed for warming the planet” and a mandate for cleaner fuels to advance electric vehicle use. Governor Inslee is expected to release his proposals in the coming weeks, though given a divided state legislature, he may pursue issuing an executive order if he is unable to advance his plans legislatively. Republican state legislators said they will reserve judgment “to see what the governor is going to come out with.” Carbon cap report to Inslee, may spur actionThe Houston Chronicle and Inslee climate agenda to go beyond carbon pricingThe Seattle Times

Federal and Regional

 According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the federal government expects to earn $5-$6 billion from its renewable energy loan program. Created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the loan office was at times considered controversial during President Barack Obama’s administration, especially after its decision to invest in Solyndra, a solar panel company which eventually failed, and a few other companies that filed for bankruptcy including Fisker Automotives. The federal renewable energy loan program, which was designed to accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies, has to date disbursed over $34 billion in loans to numerous types of businesses. According to DOE, the program has seen less than 3% in losses on borrower company defaults. "It (the program) literally kick-started the whole utility-scale photovoltaic industry," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We have to be careful that we don't walk away from risk, because otherwise we're not really going to advance the marketplace.” After Solyndra loss, U.S. energy loan program turning a profitNPR and U.S. expects $5 billion from program that funded SolyndraBloomberg BusinessWeek

A measure to authorize the construction of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline failed by one vote in the United States Senate. The bill, which was supported by embattled Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, fell short of the number needed to overcome a filibuster by opponents, collecting 59 votes in favor and 41 votes against. A similar proposal in the House of Representatives passed on a 252-161 vote. When the new Congress convenes in January, supporters will gain additional votes, but it remains to be seen whether there will be enough support to override a potential presidential veto. The State Department has been studying the proposal to determine whether it poses a hazard to the environment and a final decision is still pending.  Senate defeats bill on Keystone XL pipeline in narrow voteThe New York Times


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Energy Update, Nov. 7

In the States

NY – New Yorkers can begin applying for household heating assistance on November 17 via the State’s Home Energy Assistance Program, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced. Households that are eligible for assistance, which is determined by income and the number of people living in a household, may receive up to $625 through the State’s program, which is run by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The Home Energy Assistance Program assisted more than 1.5 million households last winter. “As another cold winter season approaches, we are reminding New Yorkers that help is available to keep their homes warm as temperatures drop,” Governor Cuomo said. Governor Cuomo announced home energy assistance available beginning Nov. 17The Riverhead Local

WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin recently hosted the Governor’s Energy Summit during which the Governor and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a former governor of West Virginia, said the State could “become a leader in energy production if the different branches within the industry work together.” The two-day event, which was held near the center of the State in Lewis County, showcased 24 different speakers and touched upon several energy topics, including coal production and industrial energy efficiency. Governor Tomblin also discussed West Virginia’s energy workforce initiative to educate and prepare students to join the energy industry. “We’re one of the major energy producers in the country, if not the top energy producer,” Governor Tomblin said. “I just think it’s important that they come here to share ideas and so forth, to be able to look at what the prospects are (for) the future of energy.” Tomblin and Manchin close out the Governor’s Energy SummitThe West Virginia Metro News

WY – In Cheyenne, the State capital, Governor Matt Mead recently helped to dedicate a new zero-emission Microsoft data and fuel cell center, which will be powered by methane biogas and other waste-to-energy power sources. The Governor was joined by officials from Microsoft and FuelCell Energy, which developed the waste-to-energy fuel cell technology that will help to power Microsoft’s data center. The new plant will use biogas from a local wastewater treatment facility to power the data center’s fuel cell,. “Growing Wyoming’s technology sector has been a priority and Wyoming is seeing results,” Governor Mead said. “This alternative energy project is not only a zero-carbon data center, (it’s) a laboratory for biogas and fuel cell research. Wyoming is on the cutting edge.” Microsoft’s new biogas-powered plantThe Associated Press  and Microsoft ‘data plant’ to open by turning off electricityWyoming Business Report

Federal and Regional

Members of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes 23 States, called on the Department of Energy to support Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 100, which calls for the reforming of “electric transmission planning and cost-allocation requirements for public utility transmission providers.” The Coalition believes FERC Order 100 will help to enable the inclusion of additional renewable energy sources in the United States’s power grid. “It’s time to begin in earnest a discussion of our nation’s transmission needs and to focus on the benefits of getting renewable energy resources like wind to the people and businesses who want them,” said Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, who helps to chair the bipartisan Coalition with Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota. US Governors call for grid action Renewable News and Governors call on US DOE to support FERC Order 100North American Wind Power News

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its final environmental review for a proposed 124-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline that would increase natural gas supply to the New York and New England markets. If approved, the pipeline, which is scheduled to be completed early next year by Constitution Pipeline Company, will transport enough natural gas each day to serve about 3 million homes. A final decision on the project is expected in late November. FERC’s final environmental review favors Constitution PipelineReuters


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Energy Update, Oct. 24

In the States

ND – State energy regulators announced the State’s oil production increased less than expected in August, even though production has hit an all-time high. The state's oil wells produced 35.1 million barrels in August, up from 34.5 million barrels in July. The regulators faulted “stringent flaring-reduction standards and sliding oil prices” for the fall in production. Regulations on flaring, or the wasteful burning of natural gas that is extracted along with oil, were issued earlier this year as an attempt to curb the technique. The States will impose production cuts beginning with October flaring data if more than 26 percent of produced natural gas is flared. "I know oil producers are incredibly focused on gas capture and spending a lot of money to get there, but not all producers will get there right away," said Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources. Flaring rule changes limit North Dakota oil production growth -- Reuters

TX – The Texas State Comptroller, Susan Combs, recently released a report criticizing renewable energy industry tax credits. The report, which portrays wind power as a “massive strain on taxpayer dollars,” cited Texas’s state property tax reductions and federal production tax credits as reasons to phase out other energy tax credits. Proponents of renewable energy and other industry experts disagreed with the report for several reasons including its failure to address oil and gas industry incentives and benefits derived from the renewable energy sector. Following the report’s release, the comptroller’s office announced they would publish another report on the State’s natural gas drilling tax exemption – an incentive that has saved drilling operators more than $7 billion over a five year period. Tax credits for energy industry are under scrutinyThe New York Times

VA – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that his administration intends to establish a state solar energy development authority. The new authority, which will mirror the Commonwealth’s Offshore Wind Development Authority, will “facilitate public-private partnerships in solar energy use.” The new solar authority will also examine barriers to solar energy development in the Commonwealth, which currently has only about 16 megawatts of solar generating capacity. The new solar energy development authority has not yet been created since it is not immediately clear if the state legislature will need to approve the agency. In 2010, according to the Commonwealth’s recently released energy plan, “renewable energy resources provided about 6.2 percent of the electricity capacity in Virginia and about 5.1 percent of the electricity generated.” “By working together,” Governor McAuliffe said, “I am confident that four years from now we will live in a stronger commonwealth that is less dependent on external forces and is fueled by cleaner, cheaper, and more abundant Virginia energy.” McAuliffe to establish solar energy authorityThe Richmond Times-Dispatch

Federal and Regional

According to a new report by the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee, natural gas exploration in the Marcellus shale formation has created at least 45,000 construction jobs. The report’s findings are based upon actual hours worked in four states – Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio – and assume 1,600 hours worked each year per laborer. The report credits the use and expansion of certain drilling techniques, including hydraulic fracturing or fracking, for the increased production from the Marcellus shale. Study: Marcellus shale created 45,000 construction jobsThe Hill

The American Wind Energy Association (AWAE) announced that at least 419 megawatts of wind power capacity was added in the United States during the third quarter. Thus far, wind energy capacity generated in the first nine months of 2014 surpasses all installations last year. According to the report, “nineteen projects have added 1,254 megawatts this year, up from 1,088 megawatts in 2013.” U.S. wind installations in first 9 months beat last yearBloomberg

The Pentagon released a report that called climate change “an immediate security threat.” According to The New York Times, this is the first instance of the military considering the risks, both in terms of national security and potential political strife, posed by climate change. The report, which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed in a recent meeting of defense ministers, discusses how the armed forces will adjust to rising sea levels, droughts, and storms. The report did not offer any financial or budgetary recommendations for Congress. The Pentagon is currently operating a survey of its more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities “to asses (their) vulnerability.” “The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere,” Secretary Hagel said. “Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration.” Pentagon signals security risks of climate changeThe New York Times


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