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Blog posts March 2014

Energy Update, March 14

In the States

AR – Governor Mike Beebe joined other officials from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO), an Indiana-based power transmission management company, to break ground on a new regional operations center in Little Rock. The new MISO facility will employ about 50 people and will act as a regional command center, helping to manage the operations of the company’s southern region and the State’s power grid. MISO expects to spend $22 million on its new facility, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014. “We’ve worked with higher education and the private sector to build a workforce that can bring more high-paying jobs to Arkansas,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “This is another strong example of collaboration producing continued economic growth for our state.” Power transmission operator breaks ground for Little Rock facilityKUAR

MO – Governor Jay Nixon, in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, voiced his support for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. Joining other Midwestern Governors, Governor Nixon urged the Obama administration to approve the construction of the approximately 1,100 mile pipeline, which would carry oil from western Canada to hubs in Nebraska that connect to pipelines to bring the oil to refineries in Texas. The pipeline as planned, however, will not cross Missouri’s borders. “The approval and construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline will strengthen our economy, create jobs, and promote North American energy independence,” Governor Nixon wrote in the letter Monday. Nixon endorses Keystone oil pipelineThe Jefferson City News Tribune


Republican Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, John Hoeven of North Dakota, and Michael Enzi of Wyoming have introduced legislation to encourage greater methane and natural gas capture. Titled the Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act, the bill, according to the Senators, would help to expedite the permitting of natural gas gathering lines on federal and Indian tribal lands. Gathering lines are pipelines that separate and transport natural gas from wells to processing plants. “Our legislation is a good example of how we can produce more energy with better environmental stewardship by empowering states and tribes to develop their energy resources,” Senator Hoeven said. The Senators also stated their legislation would get the United States closer to achieving “true energy independence.” Northern Plains senators push bill to utilize U.S. natural gasUnited Press International

The Obama administration is tapping no more than 5 million barrels of crude from the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a test to analyze how such oil, if needed during a global energy crisis or supply disruptions, would be transported across the United States. The Energy Department called the move a necessary step to examine how pipelines and infrastructure would react and how they may “affect the government’s ability to transport the crude.” This is the first test sale since 1990 – also of 5 million barrels – when world oil prices increased following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States has about 210 days worth of oil stockpiled in private and government-controlled reserves – 120 days more than is required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. The test sale will make available crude oil from the West Hackberry, Louisiana and Big Hill, Texas caverns. U.S. taps oil reserve in first test release since 1990Reuters and US to tap strategic petroleum reserveFuelFix

30 Democratic Senators recently spent more than 14 hours on the Senate floor talking about climate change. Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada began the all-night talkathon highlighting recent weather patterns and issues, including droughts, wildfires, and dramatic temperature changes. Specifically, Senators Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Barbara Boxer of California organized the event, which was the Senate’s 35th all-night session, but did not debate any particular piece of legislation. “Climate change is real and climate change is caused by humans and climate change is solvable and we will not stop until Congress acts,” Senator Schatz said. Senators conclude all-night climate change talkathon – The Washington Post and Climate talkathon ends after 14 hoursThe Hill

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Energy Update, February 28

In the States

AZ – Governor Jan Brewer announced the launch of a new, comprehensive master energy plan for Arizona. The Governor signed an executive order creating the plan, which is called “emPOWER Arizona: Executive Energy Assessment and Pathways” and seeks to address the State’s energy needs and consumption. The plan outlines Arizona’s energy resources while also including several goals, ranging from increasing solar energy development to creating an energy advisory board and improving energy workforce development. “The creation of emPower Arizona...ensures our energy decisions are made in Arizona, by Arizonans and that energy remains affordable, reliable and untethered from federal overregulation,” Governor Brewer said. “This is a significant step in the right direction.” Arizona launches new statewide energy planThe Phoenix Business Journal

IN – The Indiana House of Representatives voted 69-26 to discontinue former Governor Mitch Daniels’s clean energy program. The bill, Senate Bill 340, will now return to Senate for approval. The program, which requires all electricity customers to pay a monthly fee to support energy-efficiency programs, was called duplicative and inefficient by some energy companies, many of whom have their own particular programs. The funds from the program, which is called Demand Side Management, are often used to improve weatherization, to implement energy savings programs, and to perform energy audits. Opponents of the bill said energy prices would increase over time due to reduced energy efficiency and that “the program saved enough energy each year to power 64,000 homes.” Indiana House votes to eliminate Daniels’ clean-energy programThe Indianapolis Star


Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced he will join the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, making him the Coalition’s first Democratic member. The Coalition, which advocates for more offshore oil drilling, is chaired by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. Governors McCrory and McAuliffe along with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant recently met with Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell to urge her to finalize rules to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. Governor McCrory said expanding offshore drilling could bring millions of dollars in royalties and revenue to states, though the latter will not be determined by the Interior Department but rather through Congress or revenue-sharing agreements between the federal government and states. “We want to find out exactly what’s out there, but we also want to do it in an environmentally sound way,” Governor McCrory said in an interview. He called the meeting “very positive.” McAuliffe will join coalition pushing for off-shore drillingThe Washington Post


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working on a rule to require vehicle manufacturers to explain when vehicles can utilize alternative fuels. This fuel efficiency rule, the federal government estimates, would cost automakers at least $14 million ach year. The rule would also require manufacturers to explain which alternative fuels vehicles can use, ranging from ethanol and biodiesel to hydrogen and electric batteries. The rule necessitates the use of labels and stickers to show how and which alternative fuels vehicles can use in addition to having a full explanation in the vehicle owners manuals. The NHTSA said “"Helping the public to better understand the benefits of these alternative fuels and to better recognize the vehicles that use them should increase their use, thereby replacing petroleum use and increasing national energy security.” Highway agency moving toward new alt fuel rulesThe Hill 

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced final approval for a multibillion-dollar loan guarantee for the first nuclear reactors to be built in the United States in more than three decades. The new reactors, which will be built in Georgia, were hailed by Secretary Moniz as an part of the White House’s plan for an “all of the above” energy strategy. Georgia Power and Oglethorpe Power are set to receive a combined $6.5 billion in loan guarantees to complete the Vogtle, Georgia nuclear plant currently under construction. Opponents of nuclear energy called the new reactors “risky,” especially in the wake of the Fukushima plant disaster in Japan. The approval marks "a major milestone in the administration's commitment to jump-start the U.S. nuclear power industry," said Secretary Moniz, while also dismissing concerns about the plants by highlighting their new designs and safety features. U.S. Government will back loans for nuclear power NPR

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Energy Update, February 14

In the States

MT – Governor Steve Bullock has asked President Barack Obama to address high propane prices and has additionally authorized a 25% increase in Low Income Energy Assistance Program benefits for propane users. Following the lead of several of his colleagues who are also experiencing shortages in their states, including Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Governor Bullock has also lifted travel restrictions on propane gas distributors. Governor offers assistance for spike in propane pricesKBZK 

NV – Governor Brian Sandoval’s Office of Energy has issued $66 million in tax incentives and abatements for new solar energy projects in southern Nevada. Sempra US Gas & Power Mountain Solar 3, which is located in Boulder City, is expected to benefit from the credits, which will allow the company to create 300 construction jobs and employ at least 10 full-time workers after the completion of the new solar energy farm. Nevada energy officials predict the State will benefit in the long run, though, as more than $700 million will be made in capitol investment and other taxes paid by the company. The facility, whose energy will be sold to Los Angeles, is projected to produce enough power to supply 80,000 homes. Governor's energy office approves $66 million in tax abatements for Boulder City solar projectThe Associated Press 


The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition has selected South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard as its new chairman and Washington Governor Jay Inslee as its new vice chairman. The Coalition is a bipartisan group of the nation’s governors who are dedicated to wind energy, including 23 states ranging from Arkansas and Kentucky to Iowa and Pennsylvania. Several of the major wind producers, including MidAmerican Energy and Iberdrola Renewables, are also members of the Coalition. "I look forward to working with Governor Inslee and our coalition colleagues to help the wind energy industry diversify our nation's energy portfolio," said Governor Daugaard. "We will continue working with Congress to extend the federal wind production tax credit so the industry can continue to produce rewarding careers throughout the nation.” Click here to learn more about the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition. 

The New England Governors would like to expand access to natural gas as a source of power to meet increasing demand in the region. The governors of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont asked the region’s grid and system operator, ISO New England, for technical and financial help to build new transmission equipment and new natural gas pipelines. Under the plan, ISO New England would raise money for the new pipelines by taxing power plants an additional fee. "That would be breaking new ground," said Katie Dykes, deputy energy commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, "Electricity ratepayers stand to benefit tremendously.” Governor seek money from electric ratepayers for gas pipelinesThe Hartford Courant and New England seeks to expand gas delivery networkThe Boston Globe


President Barack Obama is asking Congress to create a $1 billion Climate Resilience Fund, which he hopes will help states and their communities impacted by weather resulting from climate change. The President will propose the fund in his 2015 budget, which will be released next month. According to White House officials, the fund will also help fund research projects on the effects of climate change and help communities prepare for climate change. President Obama previously named 2014 as his “year of action” during which he will use executive authority, if necessary, to enact his agenda. Obama to pitch $1B climate change ‘resilience fund’The Hill 

Republican Representative Doc Hastings, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, is retiring at the end of this year after 20 years in office representing central Washington. In the past, Congressman Hastings has pushed for less federal regulations of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, and the use of the federal land for energy development. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu has assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A moderate Democrat, Senator Landrieu supports approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and also incentives for oil drilling. Doc Hastings to step down after 20 years in Congress – The Seattle Times and New head of Senate Energy Committee has environmentalists seeing redThe Washington Post

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