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Blog posts November 2015

Energy Update, Nov. 6

In the States

AZ – Governor Doug Ducey officially closed the State Energy Program office, which was created in 1975 to help state agencies, cities, and schools secure federal grants. The recent move follows the Governor’s decisions to close his Office of Energy Policy and to consider restructuring the state’s energy efficiency and savings initiatives and programs. The State Energy Program, since its inception, has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, including funds for wastewater and water treatment facilities, energy efficiency projects, weatherization assistance, and facility upgrades. “We determined the functions could be better absorbed in existing agencies,” Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said. “It cut down on the overhead of an office with a large staff with money that could have been going to grants going to staffing, and eliminated some of the duplication.” Arizona shutters energy program; remaining workers firedThe Arizona Republic

CO – Governor John Hickenlooper is planning to ask the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether the Governor or the state’s Attorney General has the right to sue the federal government. The separately-elected Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, has joined a lawsuit of 24 states suing the federal government over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to lower carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Governor Hickenlooper, who support the Plan, is questioning the legality of General Coffman’s move and is worried that such an action “could impede the state’s ability to develop and execute strategies to meet the emission plan’s mandates.” “Except in very rare circumstances, generally the governor is supposed to make that decision in concert with the attorney general," Governor Hickenlooper said of the lawsuit. "But the governor should have that final say." General Coffman, however, contends that the lawsuit will not impede the Governor’s ability to meet the new requirements and said she is “pursuing [the] challenges because it is my responsibility as the independently elected attorney general to serve as a check against the abusive, unlawful exercise of federal power over the lives of Colorado's citizens." Hickenlooper to challenge attorney general’s Clean Power Plant lawsuitThe Denver Post

MO – Governor Jay Nixon and the Missouri Division of Energy released a new Comprehensive State Energy Plan during a recent energy policy conference in St. Louis. The Plan, which Governor Nixon authorized via executive order in 2014, is a product of more than a year of work by the Division of Energy and many meetings with state officials, stakeholders, companies, and other organizations with a stake in state energy policy. In general, the Plan recommends, among its many policy recommendations, that Missouri adopt energy efficiency building codes, require power companies to provide efficiency programs, and increase renewable energy adoption and use across the state. For example, the Plan calls for the state to boost its Renewable Energy Standard for public companies by 2025 to provide 25% of their energy from renewable sources, a slight increase from the currently requirement of 20% by 2021. “With world-class research institutions, innovative businesses and a highly-skilled workforce, Missouri is well-positioned to build a more secure and independent energy future that will benefit families and businesses alike,” said Mike Downing, director for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which includes the Division of Energy. Nixon’s plan calls for wind incentives, higher renewable requirementThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Division of Energy sets recommendations for Comprehensive Energy PlanThe Missouri Times

NE – Governor Pete Rickett’s chief energy advisor, David Bracht, said Nebraska needs a comprehensive state energy policy. Speaking during the Nebraska Wind and Solar Conference in Omaha, Mr. Bracht said the Ricketts administration will consider developing wind and solar energy in addition to considering natural gas and transportation fuels. Mr. Bracht also said the biggest issue facing Nebraska is the Obama administration’s new Clean Power Plan regulations, which asks Nebraska to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2030. In 2014, coal-generated power represented 63% of the sources used to produce electricity, followed by nuclear at 26% and wind at 7%. “We haven’t often thought about energy in a comprehensive way," Mr. Bracht said. "And I’m certain we have never thought about energy in an integrated way,” noting that the state has only concerned itself with “discrete segmented programs” like weatherization assistance and energy efficiency loans. Director: state needs comprehensive energy policyThe Lincoln Journal Star

Federal and Regional

The Department of Energy (DOE) released its final environmental impact survey (EIS) of a planned wind power transmission line project known as the Plains and Eastern Clean Line. The 720-mile project, which spans from the Oklahoma Panhandle to Tennessee, would transport at least 4,000 megawatts of electricity from proposed wind farms to utility companies. "While the relative importance of specific environmental resource areas vary, the Plains and Eastern EIS did not identify widespread significant impacts as a result of construction or operations and maintenance of the project," the DOE said in an executive summary. A final decision on the project is expected later this year. Federal report clears route of wind power electric linesThe Oklahoman

President Barack Obama officially rejected the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which was projected to transport more than 800,000 barrels per day from Canada’s oil sands region in the Province of Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast and in the Midwestern United States. TransCanada, the company behind the proposed pipeline, first sought federal approval of the project in 2008. Secretary of State John Kerry, who determined that the pipeline was not in the country's interest before President’s final decision, said approving Keystone "would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combating climate change." President Obama, during his announcement, said the pipeline would not “make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.” Obama rejects Canada-to-U.S. Keystone XL pipelineReuters

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Energy Update, Oct. 23

In the States

AK – Governor Bill Walker recently proposed increasing oil drilling in Alaska to help pay for any damages caused by or resulting from climate change. Oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to the Governor, would help to “boost state revenue and pay for climate change-related programs.” Governor Walker noted that the state is suffering from rising seas, which has forced the relocation of some small remote villages, potentially costing the state millions of dollars. Alaska, which is the only state that does not have an income or a sales tax, relies heavily on the production of oil and gas to fund its budget and overall daily operations and has been hit by falling global oil prices. "We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate," said Governor Walker. Alaska mulls extra oil drilling to cope with climate changeBBC and Alaska Gov: More drilling needed to fund climate change programsThe Hill

NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo, during a speech at Columbia University, announced that New York will examine whether it is possible to connect several Northeastern states’ carbon cap-and-trade system, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), with California’s system. The Governor also directed his administration to explore working with Canadian provinces to build a broader North American carbon trading market. RGGI, which is a cooperative effort among nine Northeastern states, began trading carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants with at least 25 megawatts of generating capacity in participating states in 2008. Governor Cuomo called carbon markets "a powerful tool for reducing the pollution that is contributing to climate change," adding that "small regional coalitions are not enough.” In response to Governor Cuomo’s announcement, Governor Jerry Brown of California praised his colleague’s efforts, but did not endorse linking the states’ cap-and-trade systems. Gov. Cuomo aims to link U.S. Northeast’s carbon market with CaliforniaE&E

Federal and Regional

According to American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which measures “the progress of state policies and programs that save energy while benefiting the environment and promoting economic growth,” Massachusetts once again claimed the top spot for a fifth year in a row. California and Vermont, respectively, came in second and third place. The remaining Top 10 states include Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, New York, and tied for 10th, Minnesota and Illinois. According to the report, the states that made the most improvements since 2014 include California, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Texas, and Illinois. ACEEE ranks states based on their utility programs, transportation, building energy codes, combined heat and power, state initiatives, and appliance standards. The poorest ranking states include Colorado and North Dakota. Steve Nadel, ACEEE’s executive director, said “State policies are increasingly encouraging utilities to invest in cost-effective efficiency, prompting them to adopt new business models that align their interests with those of customers and policymakers. We can see this taking hold in the 20 states that improved their Scorecard rank in 2015."

After the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) published its final rules to cut carbon emissions in the Federal Register today, 24 states filed suit in federal court to stop the implementation of the regulations, collectively known as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The administration’s plan seeks to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, and requires each state to meet a modified target and to create an operative plan to meet their individual target. A few states, including New York and several other East and West Coast states, are expected to file a counter-suit in support of the administration’s regulations. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the suit against the federal government, said "The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation's history. I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said “The Clean Power Plan has strong scientific and legal foundations, provides states with broad flexibilities to design and implement plans, and is clearly within EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.” The state coalition’s lawsuit will be heard in U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit. States reliant on fossil fuels sue over new clean air rulesThe Associated Press

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Energy Update, Oct. 9

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to increase renewable energy generation and to make commercial and residential buildings more energy efficient. The recently enacted law doubles energy efficiency requirements for homes, offices, and factories and requires the state to produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The new law also sets the foundation for the development of a regional electricity grid to make renewable energy more affordable in addition to providing incentives for utility companies to install electric vehicle charging stations. The Governor believes the new law will encourage investments in solar and wind energy power plants and also energy storage technology. “This is going to be a long march to transition the entire modern world to a decarbonized future,” Governor Brown said. “It's important, and we're doing it in California.”  Gov. Brown signs climate change bill to spur renewable energy, efficiency standardsThe Los Angeles Times

OH – Governor John Kasich announced his opposition to an indefinite freeze of Ohio’s clean energy standards. The Governor, who was responding to a report issued by the Energy Mandates Study Committee, a joint state House-Senate panel, said he is willing to work with the General Assembly to “craft a bill that supports a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources while preserving the gains we have made in the state’s economy.” The Committee’s report called for an unlimited freeze on standards for electric utilities to increase their production and use of clean energy. “Moving forward, we welcome input from Gov. Kasich, the (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio), while we keep Ohio ratepayers and consumers as our top priority in bringing them affordable power with an all-in approach,” said state Senator Troy Balderson, a co-chairman of the Committee. Kasich calls indefinite freeze of Ohio clean-energy standards “unacceptable”The Columbus Dispatch

PA – As part of the ongoing state budget negotiations, the state House of Representatives defeated Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to levy a 3.5% severance tax on natural gas drilling and extraction. The proposal was rejected on a bipartisan vote of 127 to 73. Governor Wolf’s recommended levy, which was a reduction from the initially proposed 5% severance tax, additionally included an impact fee of 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet of extracted natural gas. Governor Wolf said the new 3.5% tax would have brought in approximately $389 million in revenue to the state during the 2016-2017 state fiscal year. “We need to make sure oil and gas companies pay their fair share so we can restore the drastic cuts made to education,” Governor Wolf said in a statement. “Seniors and disabled households desperately need relief from skyrocketing property taxes that resulted from underfunding education.” According to the state’s Independent Fiscal Office, Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas producing state without a severance tax and the Commonwealth currently has the lowest effective tax rate on natural gas. Wolf tweaks gas tax plan; GOP, industry unimpressedState Impact and PA Gov. Tom Wolf’s tax plan rejectedThe Morning Call

Federal and Regional

Governors Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota and Matt Mead of Wyoming are asking the federal government for more time to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new carbon emissions standards as part of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The EPA earlier this year announced that North Dakota and Wyoming must meet a rate reduction of 45% and 44%, respectively. The new percentages are more than 30 points higher than the EPA’s initial greenhouse gas reduction targets. Both states, though they are challenging the rule in federal court, are writing compliance plans and would like to work with the Administration on their reduction targets. "Eventually we have to be able to put forward what we think is possible for the state of North Dakota, and we're committed to carbon reduction as much as any other state," governor Dalrymple said. "This is something we want to do, but we have to determine what is possible, what is even reasonably feasible." Governors of ND, WY push for more time to deal with Clean Power PlanClimateWire

The Business Council for Sustainable Energy recently co-wrote a letter with almost 600 companies and organizations urging Congress to pass legislation extending tax incentives for certain clean energy technologies. The letter asks Congress to provide a multi-year extension of expired and expiring tax incentives,” noting that businesses and investors require “stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital, and deploy pollution-reducing energy technology.” The letter additionally contends that renewable energy tax incentives also spur economic development and lead to a cleaner environment. Clean energy industries join over 580 signers to urge Congress to pass clean energy extendersWindPower News

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