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Blog posts January 2020

Energy Update: January 24, 2020

In the States

FL: Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the state intends to buy a 20,000-acre plot of land in the Everglades to prevent oil drilling there. If completed, the deal will be the largest land acquisition made by the state in a decade. “[The proposed purchase] will permanently save the land from oil production. With this acquisition, there will be nearly 600,000 acres of wetlands in Water Conservation Area Three that will be protected by public ownership for recreation and restoration,” Governor DeSantis said in a statement. Environmental groups active in Florida praised the Governor for his plans to go through with the land deal and its impact on the Everglades’ restoration and preservation. Florida to buy 20,000 acres in Everglades, largest purchase in 10 yearsTampa Bay Times

 

NY: Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $3 billion bond act that would provide funding for a variety of water quality and environmental preservation projects. This proposal is titled The Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, and if approved by voters, would  fund projects such as the creation of artificial reefs in the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, renewable energy production, and a new “conservation corridors program” to restore habitats for fish and wildlife. Additionally, the plan would  expand infrastructure for electric-powered public transportation in New York City and surrounding areas. Governor Cuomo hopes that this substantial influx of cash will not only help the environment, but also boost sport fishing tourism and commercial fishing in the state. Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal, to be released later this month, will provide more details on how money from the bond act will be used, and how he plans to address the state’s current $6.1 billion deficit. “It is our responsibility to leave our planet cleaner and greener for future generations,” said Governor Cuomo. “We can and we will start this year.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes $3B environmental bond actNewsday

 

RI: Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order directing the state’s Office of Energy Resources (OER) to create a plan for the state to fulfill 100% of its electricity demand with renewable energy by 2030. This new target is 10 to 20 years ahead of targets adopted by most other states with the same goal. Governor Raimondo plans to meet the order’s target by taking a multi-sector approach, focusing heavily on more solar power, wind power, and energy storage projects. Even with a dramatic shift towards renewables, the Governor’s goal could prove to be challenging since Rhode Island currently generates more of its electricity from natural gas than any other state (as of 2018, Rhode Island generated 93% of its energy from natural gas). Still, Governor Raimondo has plans to continue announcing new renewable energy projects throughout the year (as she did in 2019) and will be expecting to receive a “specific and implementable” action plan from OER by December 31, 2020. Rhode Island governor wants state to be fastest to 100% renewable energyUtility Drive; Rhode Island Governor aims for 100% renewable power by 2030 - Reuters

 

VT: In his annual budget address, Governor Phil Scott proposed grid optimization and clean transportation investments to the tune of $7 million. Among Governor Scott’s proposed investments are a new refundable research and development tax credit for local grid optimization, property tax structural reforms for storage and optimization projects, and elimination of the corporate income tax for existing and new companies that specialize in grid optimization. The Governor’s proposed budget would also create a $2 million capital fund to support grid optimization start-ups and allocate an additional $250,000 for promising technology pilot programs. Finally, $3 million of the proposed funds will go towards incentivizing electric vehicle use and expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure, with the goal of cutting pollution and transportation costs. Gov. Scott proposes grid optimization and clean transportation investments to lower energy costs, support local climate economyVT Digger

 

National

In response to ongoing concerns about how climate change will affect investors’ views of companies’ long-term prospects, Lawrence Fink, the CEO of investment giant BlackRock, announced a plan to drop coal company holdings from its portfolios. According to a statement from the company, BlackRock will remove shares of all companies that generate more than 25% of their revenue from selling electricity-producing “thermal” coal. Based on this criterion, some big coal-producing companies could still escape BlackRock’s divestiture. Companies generating revenue from metallurgical coal, used to make steel, will still be included in BlackRock’s investment portfolio. Other large coal players close to or just under the 25% revenue threshold may also find ways to tweak their business plans to continue receiving investor dollars. Some big coal players may escape BlackRock’s planned divestmentMarketWatch

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Energy Update: January 3, 2020

In the States

MD: Governor Larry Hogan announced more details of his proposed clean energy legislation, the Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES). The CARES was first announced in May 2019 and aims to improve upon the Clean Energy Jobs Act. The bill would reaffirm some requirements from the Clean Energy Jobs Act, most notably, the requirement of generating 50% of all energy for the state from renewable sources by 2030 increasing to 100% by 2040, while also offering Clean Energy Resource Credits to Maryland facilities that generate electricity from renewable sources as an incentive to meet those requirements. Despite aiming to spark growth in green power, CARES has come under fire from some environmentalists because of its controversial proposal to make nuclear power plants and some natural gas facilities eligible for Clean Energy Resource Credits. These environmentalists argue that concerns about nuclear plant safety, responsible nuclear waste disposal, and the hydraulic fracturing process used to produce natural gas should make the facilities ineligible for the credits. Maryland Gov. Hogan promotes energy plan, including nuclear power to reach goals for renewable sourcesThe Baltimore Sun

 

NH: Governor Chris Sununu announced he will withdraw New Hampshire from the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a Northeastern multi-state agreement to implement a gas tax to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This announcement came only hours after the TCI released a draft tax policy. Governor Sununu cited concerns about higher costs for New Hampshire drivers as the reason for his decision. “I will not force Granite Staters to pay more for their gas just to subsidize other states’ crumbling infrastructure,” said Governor Sununu. “New Hampshire is already taking substantial steps to curb our carbon emissions, and this initiative, if enacted, would institute a new gas tax by up to 17 cents per gallon while only achieving minimal results.” Supporters of the TCI said that this decision, while disappointing, will not slow TCI’s efforts moving forward. TCI still plans to release a final memorandum of understanding by spring of 2020 and launch by 2022.  New Hampshire opts not to go with regional climate initiativeThe Boston Herald

 

VA: Members of Governor Ralph Northam’s recently created Clean Energy Advisory Board are exploring financing options to make solar energy generation more viable for low-to-moderate income households. The board is considering a renewable energy loans or rebates for eligible households that will significantly reduce these households’ “energy burden”, or the ratio of a household’s expenditure on electricity to total household income. In so doing, the board aims to increase the propagation of renewable energy technology in Virginia while putting more money back into the pockets of low-to-moderate income Virginians. “Some families here have to make the decision between heating their homes in winter [and] buying food or medicine,” said Chelsea Barnes, an advocate active with the Clean Energy Advisory Board. “If we can reduce the burden of high bills through energy efficiency and solar, we can help lift people out of poverty.” Virginia board looks to bolster solar opportunity for low-income residentsEnergy News Network

 

WY: Governor Mark Gordon announced that he will allocate additional funds to the Wyoming Public Service Commission for an investigative study of Rocky Mountain Power’s Integrated Resource Plan. The plan initially came under investigation for its controversial proposal to retire two-thirds of the utility company’s coal power facilities, including three major plants in the state. Lawmakers opposed to the plan argue that it amounts to an attack on Wyoming’s crucial coal industry, but proponents of the plan argue that it will drive down costs in the long-run and help spur statewide growth in renewable energy. “Because the IRP filed by Rocky Mountain Power will significantly impact the state of Wyoming and her workers, it is critical that we have a full understanding of how the company reached its conclusions, and whether the analysis that was conducted was correct, thorough and unbiased,” Governor Gordon said in a statement. Gov. Mark Gordon backs investigation into Wyoming’s leading utility companyCasper Star Tribune

 

National

In light of recent major coal company bankruptcies, the United States Senate passed the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019. The bill, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Shelley More Capito (R-WV) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), secures funding for the 1974 Miner Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency. The bill will also expand health care benefits provided under McConnell’s HELP for Coal Miners Health Care Act of 2017 to miners whose benefits were jeopardized by the recent bankruptcies. “Our coal miners made a commitment to our country, and now it is our turn to uphold the commitment we made to them in 1946 by securing their hard-earned pensions and healthcare,” said Senator Joe Manchin in a press release. “I personally told President Trump and my Congressional colleagues that this was a top priority for me and for thousands of Kentuckians in need. I’m proud the Senate approved legislation today including our Bipartisan American Miners Act to help Kentucky coal miners, retirees, and their families,” said Majority Leader McConnell. U.S. Senate passes McConnell bill protecting coal miner pensionsCBS WKYT

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