Menu

Viohl & Associates

A Government Relations Firm

header photo

Blog posts March 2019

Energy Update: March 8, 2019

In the States

NM – A Senate bill was recently introduced in New Mexico that would call for a four-year halt on hydraulic fracturing while the state examines the practice’s impact on the environment. A fiscal impact report made by the New Mexico State Land Office, New Mexico Department of Health, the New Mexico Attorney General, and The Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources department concluded that the state would suffer approximately a $3.5 billion loss and local governments a $327.5 million loss in revenue from oil and gas extraction. Direct revenues from the oil and gas industry make up 35% of New Mexico’s general fund revenue, and without a replacement source for that revenue the fracking ban would negatively impact New Mexico’s finances. In recent years, New Mexico had an oil boom and $2 billion budget surplus, which oil and gas industry leaders credit to fracking and horizontal drilling. The spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Robert McEntyre, stated, “The bill would be devastating to New Mexico’s economy. Fracking is what New Mexico oil and gas looks like in 2019.” However, the bill’s sponsor, New Mexico State Senator Benny Shendo contended, “People are concerned about the issue. Now. You’re talking about something that has the potential for contamination of our drinking water and our aquifers.” There is currently no date yet set for the hearing of the bill. Report: Fracking ban could cost New Mexico billions, cut oil and gas productions – Carlsbad Current Argus

VA – New legislation in Virginia would require Dominion Energy to excavate its ash ponds and recycle a quarter of the 27 million cubic yards of existing coal ash, and put the rest in new, modern landfills. This coal ash is the toxic result of decades of coal burning. The ash is currently stored in four locations along the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, three of which are leaking toxins into nearby groundwater. For years environmentalists have argued that these leaks are a risk to public health and the environment.  Over half of Dominion’s coal ash is currently buried inside two storage ponds in Chesterfield County, so House Speaker Kirk Cox included a condition that shields Chesterfield from the traffic that would result from recycling. Cox said, “This language ensures that end of the agreement is codified and that our roads will not be bogged down with 300 trucks every day for 15 years.” This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Senators Scott Surovell, Frank Wagner, and Amanda Chase. Governor Northam’s administration played a key role in this legislation and is likely to sign it. Coal ash bill heads to governor’s desk. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

WI – Governor Tony Evers announced his plans to join the US Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors whose goal is to implement the Paris climate accord on a state level, in response to President Trump’s plan to withdrawal from the accords. By joining the agreement, Governor Evers is committing to implement policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, track and report progress to the global community, and accelerate new and existing policies that will reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy deployment at both the state and federal level. Governor Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes are exploring ways to increase the use of solar power in Wisconsin and help businesses and citizens make smart energy choices.  Governor Evers said, “It’s a new day in Wisconsin and it’s time to lead our state in a new direction where we embrace science, where we discuss the very real implications of climate change, where we work to find solutions, and where we invest in renewable energy.” Governor Evers and Lieutenant Governor Barnes are also working towards developing energy saving goals for state agencies. Governor Evers Announces Plan to Join U.S. Climate Alliance – evers.wi.gov

WY – Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is seeking to save the coal industry in his state and is deciding whether to sign a bill requiring utilities to seek buyers for their coal plants rather than closing them. Legislation sponsored by Senator Dan Dockstader passed the Wyoming House and Senate on February 26th and 27th, respectively. The bill is designed to limit the loss of jobs from coal plant closings and reduced coal mining production. It allows utilities to replace the coal-fired generation with renewable energy or gas-fired facilities once they first make an effort to sell the coal plants to new operators who would continue to run them. The legislation would additionally require these utilities to purchase power from the coal plants they sell. If signed, the bill would not apply to cooperatives and municipal utilities and would exempt buyers of coal fired plants from regulation as a utility. Wyoming governor weighs bill to save coal plants in the state – S&P Global

 

National and Regional

In 2016, solar energy was responsible for more employment in the electric power sector (43%) than the entirety of the fossil fuel industry (22%) according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2017, President Trump imposed a 30% tariff on foreign-produced solar panels which negatively affected the industry. There was a loss of 10,000 solar energy jobs in 2017, and a loss of 8,000 more solar energy jobs in 2018. However, The Solar Foundation is confident that the industry will make a comeback in 2019, as the solar industry predicts 7% growth based on the National Solar Jobs Census survey. On the other hand, the foundation recognizes that in 2018 they predicted a 5.2% growth. Under Trump’s Tariff’s, The US Lost 20,000 Solar Energy Jobs – Forbes

Go Back

Energy Update: February 8, 2019

 

In the States

CO – Xcel Energy officials indicated in a meeting with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that they may file a case on rates for public, fast charging stations, stations handling vehicle fleets, and another case that would address providing part of the infrastructure for charging stations. However Colorado Senators Kevin Priola and Angela Williams, and Representative Chris Hansen have created a piece of legislation that would, “allow investor owned utilities to own and operate charging stations as part of their regulated services,” thus allowing a return on their investment. It would essentially remove a block on all utilities, including Xcel, from owning and operating charging stations. The legislation, Senate Bill 19-088, would allow companies like Xcel and the Public Utilities Commission to work together and build infrastructure that would boost electric vehicle usage.  Xcel  Energy,  Colorado  regulators  weigh  utility’s  role  in  electric -vehicle market – The Denver Post

 

KY – In 2015, $2 million was taken from the funds of twenty-seven coal counties in Eastern Kentucky in favor of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA) for initiatives benefitting community broadband readiness and public computer access. KCNA completed these initiatives with only $800,000. Governor Bevin has now announced that the surplus funds given to KCNA will be returned to the Single County Coal Severance accounts in the twenty- seven counties they were taken from.  Gov. Bevin Announces Recovery of $1.3 Million in Coal Severance Funds –Kentucky.gov

 

MI – Governor Whitmer issued an executive order to get rid of industry-backed environmental review panels that the previous governor put in place. The move received mixed reviews; gaining praise from environmentalists but criticism from business groups. The panels, known to environmentalists as “polluter panels,” are made of government-appointed members and business representatives. While these panels intended to provide state-level review of

 

proposed environmental regulations and permits, Governor Whitmer believes they may be in violation of the federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. In response, members of the House Republican leadership went on record saying that while they had no problem with the parts of Governor Whitmer’s order that would restructure Michigan’s top environmental agency, they would not accept abolishing the panels. The House voted 58-51 against Governor Whitmer’s order, sending the resolution to the Senate. If the Senate also rejects the order, it would be killed.  Michigan ’s GOP House moves  to  void Dem  governor’s  decision  on Environmental Panels – The Hill

National and Regional

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey officially introduced the Green New Deal on February 6th. The legislation, which calls for the elimination of the United States’ carbon footprint by 2030,has received mixed reviews. The scope of the plan is immense, and not only calls for an increased use of renewable energy, but also a broader

effort to expand economic opportunity. Specifically, it calls for, “a fair and just transition for all communities and workers.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended the legislation, saying, “All great American programs, everything from The Great Society to The New Deal, started with a vision for our future.” However, this future seems unattainable to some. Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, “I’m afraid I just cannot see how we could possibly go to zero carbon in a ten year time frame,” and goes on to call the plan, “impractical.” To some, the Green New Deal doesn’t go far enough. Nicole Ghio, Senior Fossil Fuel Program Manager at Friends of the Earth, said the, “resolution doesn’t quite get us there,” when discussing the challenge of the climate crisis. In contrast, the federal policy director for the Climate & Clean Every Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Aliyah Haq, thinks, “It is a breath of fresh air to see leaders in Congress discussing climate solutions that rise to the scale of the challenge.” The Green New Deal is still in preliminary stages.  Despite Few Details and Much Doubt, the Green New Deal Generates Enthusiasm – NPR

Go Back

2 blog posts