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Blog posts February 2015

Energy Update, January 30

February 5, 2015

In the States

PA – Governor Tom Wolf reinstated a ban on fracking in the state’s parkland, approximately a year after his predecessor, former Governor Tom Corbett, had lifted the ban. The Governor’s executive order protects about a million acres of the state’s parks and forests, many of which are located directly above the Marcellus Shale formation. During his announcement, Governor Wolf reiterated his overall support for the natural gas industry and the levying of a severance tax on their operations. He also said companies that have already secured leases to drill on public lands can continue their work. "I absolutely want to do natural gas," Governor Wolf said. "I think, if we do it right, we can create really good jobs and create industry, and sustain our strong economy in Pennsylvania.” Wolf restores fracking ban in state parklandThe Philadelphia Inquirer

NM – The state’s Land Commissioner, Aubrey Dunn, recently announced her plans to issue a 60-day suspension of a $2 billion transmission project, which was scheduled to transport electricity generated by renewable sources in the state and in neighboring Arizona to other markets. Commissioner Dunn said the delay will allow the state to “review the project before any further development affects state trust lands.” The transmission line, of which 30 percent was projected to cross state land, received federal approval after months of negotiations while the previous land commissioner was in office. Land Commissioner halts huge renewable energy projectThe Associates Press

VA – Governor Terry McAuliffe issues a request for information (RFI) to explore the possibility of adding solar power generation capacity to existing state-owned facilities. The goal of the RFI, which is part of the state’s Energy Plan, is to understand the economic benefits of adding solar power generation projects to public buildings, in addition to discussing best practices around solar permitting, development, and public-private energy-generating partnerships. “If we are going to build a new Virginia economy, we must find innovative ways to diversify the fuel we use to power that economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This RFI is one step forward in achieving this and sending the signal that Virginia is serious about enhancing its solar energy industry.”

WV – The West Virginia State Senate passed a repeal of the state’s requirements that utilities increase the amount of electricity generated by alternative energy sources by 15 percent in 2020 and 25 percent in 2025. The legislation, which was the first bill the upper chamber considered this year, was approved on a 33-0 vote. The energy requirements, which were “designed to lower the state’s power plant emissions,” were enacted in 2009 under then-Governor Joe Manchin, who argued after the Senate’s vote that the law “showed the country that coal could continue to lead our nation toward energy independence, while also reducing emissions.” Other opponents of the legislation included the Alliance for Solar Choice, which contended that the legislation was an attempt by the state’s utilities to “tighten their grip on the energy market.” W.Va. Senate passes bill to repeal energy portfolioThe Charleston Daily Mail

 National and Federal

Twenty-five Republican Governors sent a letter House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seeking block grants in education, healthcare, infrastructure, energy, and in the environment. Regarding energy, the Governors argued they would like the ability to control their state’s resources. “When we want to harvest energy sources in our states,” the Governors wrote, “we must comply with extensive, restrictive, expensive, often time unworkable Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies that are often at odds with our own states’ initiatives to protect the environment.” A copy of the letter can be found here.

According to Bloomberg, the United States added 4.7 gigawatts of new onshore wind capacity in 2014. The added capacity is six-times greater than the amount of megawatts added in 2013. Total onshore wind installations are approximately now 64.2 megawatts. Most experts believe the availability of the production tax credit helped spur the increase in offshore wind projects. U.S. wind power installations rose six fold in 2014Bloomberg

President Barack Obama recently called on Congress to expand protection of Alaska’s arctic refuge. Oil and gas drilling is prohibited to 12 million acres, which includes a substantial oil-rich section along the state’s coast. The President’s proposal, which seeks to shield a total of 19.8 million acres from drilling, is unlikely to be approved by Congress. Obama to propose protecting US arctic wildlife refuge from drillingReuters

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