Viohl & Associates

A Government Relations Firm

header photo

Blog posts August 2019

Energy Update: August 23, 2019

In the States

TX – Last year coal production in Texas fell sharply as a number of coal-fired power plants closed. Of the state’s coal mines, only 12 are still active and production in these mines is down by nearly 30% from 2017. The state also has 17 inactive mines, one of which was closed just last October. While natural gas and renewable energy appear to be thriving nationwide, coal plants around the country have been shutting down as they become less competitive with other power sources. Chas Blevins, the executive director of the Texas Mining and reclamation Association, believes that despite its decline, coal still has a future in Texas. He said that coal production “primarily for energy production, will continue for a number of years as our population grows and economy stays strong in part because this baseload availability, reliability and cost competitiveness is important to Texas.”  Coal production falls sharply in TexasHouston Chronicle


AK – A group in Alaska has proposed an initiative called the “Fair Share Act,” which would raise state taxes on the largest oil companies. The initiative would raise the minimum tax from 4% to between 10% and 15% depending on the price of oil. Initiative supporters are in the process of gathering signatures for their proposal to be put on the 2020 ballot. Robin Brena, a primary sponsor of the initiative, said that the state now receives less in gross oil sales revenues than it has historically, and should be getting a higher amount. On top of the tax rate increase, the initiative would require all the major producers in the state to publicly reveal their revenue and costs. Kara Moriarty, president of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said that the initiative would hurt the oil industry and that it couldn’t “sustain a billion-dollar-plus increase in taxes.” Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer has 60 days to certify the initiative petition. If certified, its sponsors would then be required to secure more than 28,000 signatures for the initiative to be placed on the ballot. Initiative would increase state oil taxes, eliminate tax creditAlaska Public Media


MN – Officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties are trying to find ways to further cut emissions that contribute to climate change. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate opposed a plan by Democratic Governor Tim Walz and Democratic leaders to require utilities to generate all their power from carbon-free sources by 2050. However, Senator Dave Senjem, a Republican from Rochester, and some of his other colleagues are promoting legislation called “Clean Energy First” as an alternative to the Democratic plan. He said, “Those who get in early and become the Silicon Valley of renewable energy, renewable energy research… are going to be the winners.” While there are legislators on both sides who appear to be embracing renewable energy, there is also some bipartisan opposition to new legislation due to a seemingly natural progression of companies investing in renewable energy and plans by utilities to retire coal plants. “I’m really losing sight of why it is that we must do this,” said Democratic Senator Erik Simonson during a Legislative Energy Commission meeting in July. The current clean-energy plan in Minnesota is to reach 25% renewable energy by 2025. Legislators aim for common ground on Minnesota energy futureAP


CO – Earlier in the year Colorado’s Legislature passed new restrictions on their oil and gas fields that at first blush seemed to pose a threat to the industry in Colorado. However, a few months later, Colorado’s oil and gas industry has hundreds of completed permits that will keep them busy for months to come regardless of what happens to the pace of future approvals to drill. The new law grants local governments more control over energy extraction and places emphasis on health and safety in oil and gas operations. Despite these regulations, BTU Analytics projects that Colorado oil production will continue setting annual records for at least the next six years, potentially jumping 39% from 2018 to 2024. This increase is mainly due to productivity improvements implemented in the last couple of years that allows for more oil and gas to be produced. Jason Oates, a spokesman for Crestone Peak Resources said that a tighter regulatory regime could actually work in the company’s favor because “there may be growth opportunities for those companies willing to operate in this complex environment.” Permit submission that dropped after SB 181 is slowly ramping up again for operators in the state.  No slumping in pumping despite strictures in Colorado’s new oil and gas lawThe Denver Post



Earlier this month a coalition of states and cities sued to block the Trump administration from rolling back restrictions on coal-burning power plants. The court challenge, which is led by New York Attorney General, Letitia James, argues that the Trump administration’s E.P.A. has no basis for weakening an Obama-era regulation that set the first ever national limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. The case could make it to the Supreme Court and affect future efforts to regulate greenhouse gases. The Obama-era rule required states to implement plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2022. That rule was temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court in 2016. The lawsuit against the Trump administration’s new rule argues that it ignores the E.P.A.’s responsibility under the law to set limits on greenhouse gases. An E.P.A. spokesman said, “The E.P.A. worked diligently to ensure we produced a solid rule that we believe will be upheld in the courts, unlike the previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan.”  States Sue Trump Administration Over Rollback of Obama-Era Climate RuleThe New York Times



Go Back

Energy Update: August 2, 2019


In the States

TX – For the first time since Texas began collecting data on its energy production, wind energy has surpassed coal as as a source of power. Dr. Andrew Swift, a professor at Texas Tech University, says that the biggest factor contributing to  wind energy growth in Texas is that it only requires  incremental investment rather  than the significant one-time investment needed for a coal plant. The decreasing cost of harvesting energy from wind farms is another favorable factor. Coal power continues to lose market share in Texas with multiple plants in the process of shutting down despite promises by the Trump administration to revitalize the coal industry. While this is a large shift in Texas’s energy supply, both wind and coal are both still a small part of the total generation grid compared to natural gas. Not blowing smoke: Wind has overtaken 'risky' coal for energy use in Texas for the first timeUSA Today
NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded contracts for two off-shore wind farms on the coast of Long Island this month. These wind projects are part of Governor Cuomo’s Green new Deal that was signed into law earlier this year, which committed New York to achieving 100% renewable energy. The wind farms are meant to generate 9,000 megawatts by 2035. Construction on these projects will begin in early 2020, with a service goal of 2024. While erecting   off-shore wind farms remains one of the most costly ways to generate electricity, as  costs fallstates are giving this option more consideration as a way to bring clean energy to densely populated areas. New York Signs Biggest Offshore Wind Project Deal in the Nation – Bloomberg
OH – Governor Mike DeWine has signed into law legislation to help cover the operating costs of  two nuclear power plants in Ohio by adding new fees to Ohioans’ electric bills. Governor DeWine maintains the bill will “save the nuclear plants, save the jobs, but also keep the cost of energy down for the ratepayer.” The new fees are offset by cuts in some incentives for renewable energy and the elimination of fees used to encourage more efficient energy production.  The bill is controversial, with some Democratic lawmakers claiming the bailout is saving some jobs while eliminating others. Ohio is the first state to pass ratepayer-funded assistance for nuclear plants while simultaneously cutting support for renewable energy and energy efficiency standards... The new law is already being challenged by a group that has begun to collect  signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November. If their petition language is approved and they get enough signatures, the bailout bill would be subject to a voter  referendum and could be struck down. Ohio Gov. DeWine signs bill to bail out nuclear plants, slash renewable and Group Takes First Step Toward Repealing Ohio Nuclear BailoutWOSU Public Media
CO – Colorado’s air quality regulators announced they will consider regulations aimed at curbing oil and gas emissions. The Air Pollution Control Division laid out a broad plan to incrementally cut the release of methane and volatile organic compounds from oil and gas wells, storage, and transmission. This plan would require oil and gas companies to check and repair methane leaks more frequently, obtain permits during the first 90 days of drilling, monitor methane emissions, and report emissions directly to the state. This rule change is in compliance with the law that created the Air Quality Control Commission, which also called on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to update its own rules. Garry Kaufman, Director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, believes there will be a dramatic decrease in emissions from facilities affected by the new rules. Representatives from the Oil and Gas industry have weighed in, claiming that the rule changes are sweeping and extreme, and would in effect result in a permitting moratorium. Oil and gas emissions ‘not acceptable,’ Colorado’s top air quality regulator saysThe Colorado Independent


Earlier this month, Senator John Cornyn introduced a bill aimed at accelerating development and commercial applications of natural gas carbon capture technologies. Senator Cornyn wants to create a balance between conservation, productivity, and economic power in natural gas. The act would require Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to establish a program to research and develop commercially viable technology for carbon dioxide capturing during natural gas power generation. Leaders in the natural gas industry are praising the bill as the future for natural gas production and for advancements in the current infrastructure of that production. The bill would also encourage the Department of Energy to include participation of national laboratories, universities, and research facilities in its research and require the DOE to solicit applications for demonstration projects to submit to Congress with legislative recommendations. The act has passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is expected to be considered by the full Senate in the near future. Carbon capture act passes Senate committeeMRT
The Trump administration has proposed relaxing restrictions on repurposing coal ash produced by burning coal. The ash contains arsenic, which can seep into ground water, and has been linked to cancer and other health problems. Coal ash has often been used as a replacement for soil or as landfill, , leading to concerns about the effect of runoff on drinking supplies. The administration’s new rule allows projects to use unlimited amounts of coal ash so long as their sponsors show its use won’t cause physical harm. While the proposal allows for a more transparent reporting process, environmentalists see the move as dangerous for the environment and a gift to the coal industry. EPA proposal scraps limits on coal plant wasteThe Hill

Go Back

2 blog posts

Contact Us

Hall of the States

444 N. Capitol Street NW

Washington, DC 20009

Phone: 202-624-1478