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Blog posts May 2020

Energy Update: May 29, 2020

In the States

MT: Governor Steve Bullock announced he is directing $5 million in federal funding from the CARES Act to expand assistance for the approximately 18,000 beneficiaries of Montana’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Funds will also be used for a new COVID-19-specific energy assistance program that will support approximately 6,000 additional households. The new funding will be automatically applied to LIHEAP beneficiaries’ electrical bills. Individuals not already receiving LIHEAP assistance will be able to apply to the new COVID-19 energy assistance program. “Montana families shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and paying their utility bill,” Governor Bullock said in a press statement. “This funding is critical to keeping families afloat and will give peace of mind to thousands of current LIHEAP clients, and to thousands more Montanans who will now be eligible for the program.” Bullock expands energy assistance fundingNBC Montana


ND: As North Dakota’s Coal Creek Station plans for closure, Governor Doug Burgum and other leading public officials vowed to rescue the coal plant. Great River Energy, the Minnesota utility company that owns the plant, is closing Coal Creek Station as part of its plan to reduce its carbon footprint. Under the current plan, Coal Creek Station will be shut down in the latter half of 2022 and replaced by 1,100 megawatts (MW) of wind energy generation purchases. Governor Burgum called the decision to close the plant “disappointing” and noted that the Coal Creek plant is the state’s most advanced and efficient coal-fired plant. In a statement, the Governor said he and his administration are “more determined than ever to find a path forward for Coal Creek Station that preserves high-paying jobs,” and are “committed to bringing stakeholders to the table to evaluate all options and find opportunity in this uncertainty”. Governor Burgum’s request for reconsideration of the closure decision was joined by United States Senator Kevin Kramer (R-ND), who said state leaders “must look at all available options moving forward.” Great River Energy to exit coal, close 1.15 GW plant, but North Dakota governor vows rescueUtility Dive


NY: Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for the construction of new power lines to deliver wind- and solar-generated electricity from Canada and upstate to the New York City metro area. He is also considering resuming a plan to deliver hydropower from Canada to New York that has been in suspension for several years. As coronavirus cases in New York begin to slow, Governor Cuomo hopes that these projects will help revitalize the state’s bruised economy. “Let’s run the transmission lines from Canada to New York City and get that power down here,” Governor Cuomo said. “Let’s stop talking and let’s start doing.” In addition to the economic benefits of these new energy infrastructure projects, Governor Cuomo is promoting these projects to help reach his previously-set clean energy goals. “We know we can generate renewable power upstate. We know we need it downstate,” Cuomo said. “Let’s build the cross-state transmission lines to develop that renewable market upstate.” Cuomo Calls for Canada-to-New York City Power Line to Deliver Clean EnergyFinancial Post


WY: In response to worsening revenue projections for Wyoming’s oil market, Governor Mark Gordon announced that his administration will continue advancing the Power Wyoming initiative. Launched in 2019, Power Wyoming is an expert-led task force to investigate future options for Wyoming’s energy-dependent economy. While Power Wyoming’s initial objective was to study the changes in the energy sector and identify potential economic dangers for the state as the market changed, Power Wyoming now will focus on adjusting to systemic declines in the value of coal and shifting the economy from reliance on oil in the midst of a pandemic-caused oil bust. Although Power Wyoming must seek solutions to the state’s impending fiscal challenges, Power Wyoming will not have any role in  deciding potential cuts to the state budget.. Power Wyoming to respond to big revenue losses from oil, gas and coal downturnKPVI Wyoming News



Twenty-two states joined by several large cities filed suit against the Trump administration over the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle rule. The new rule replaces an Obama-era mandate requiring automakers to increase fuel economy across their vehicle lines by five percent annually, instead requiring manufacturers to only achieve a 1.5% increase in fuel economy per year. The suing states and cities contend that the SAFE rule endangers public health, is unlawful, and was justified by poor scientific analysis, while the Trump administration argues that the science is sound and that the new rule could create considerable savings for consumers. This lawsuit comes as the latest escalation in an ongoing conflict between Democratic-led states and the Trump administration; until now, Democratic Governors and Attorneys General have used the courts to fight the Trump administration’s push to loosen some environmental regulations. This major lawsuit is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court, and could have significant consequences for the plaintiff states and cities who have enforced tighter automotive pollution standards than those required by the federal government. Battle between Trump and California over car pollution heads to courtThe Los Angeles Times

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Energy Update: May 8, 2020

In the States

CA: The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA), a trade organization representing approximately 500 oil and natural gas producers, is calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to relax his oversight efforts of the fossil fuel industry. In his initial 2020-21 state budget, Governor Newsom proposed increasing staff at the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) and several new regulations for testing oil wells. CIPA is requesting that Governor Newsom scale back the staff increase and delay or change 11 of the oil well testing requirements. "What is at stake is much greater than the viability of local production, tens of thousands of well-paid employees, hundreds of service and supply companies, lost state and local tax revenues, but also a destabilizing of California's energy supply," CIPA chief executive officer Rock Zierman said in a letter to state regulators. Conversely, environmental groups in California, including the Last Chance Alliance, urged CalGEM to move forward with Governor Newsom’s plan. “The simple truth is that CalGEM is currently dangerously understaffed," read the Last Chance Alliance’s letter to the Governor. While Governor Newsom’s budget plan is expected to change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unclear how any changes might impact his proposal to increase oversight of fossil fuels. California Oil Producers Fighting Newsom Proposal for Stronger Industry OversightKQED via News Break


LA: Governor John Bel Edwards directed the Louisiana Department of Revenue to delay collecting severance taxes in an effort to offer economic relief to Louisiana’s oil and gas industry. No severance taxes for any industry will be collected before June 25, according to the Governor’s order. U.S. Representative Clay Higgins, who had initially asked for the severance tax suspension, said he believed the move would help preserve key oil and gas jobs. Members of the oil and gas industry cheered the Governor’s announcement. “The decision to delay severance tax payments and provide temporary relief to the industry is a welcome first step,” said Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Gifford Briggs. Oil and gas stakeholders are hoping for additional help and Congressman Higgins and some other members of the Louisiana congressional delegation have asked the Trump administration to consider  royalty relief and the suspension of government-sponsored coastal drilling lawsuits. Coronavirus: Gov. John Bel Edwards delays collection of severance tax to help oil and gasUSA Today


PA: Governor Tom Wolf rejected a request from more than 50 Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the state legislature to withdraw Pennsylvania from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). In their request, the lawmakers asked Governor Wolf to rescind his executive order directing the Commonwealth’s Environmental Quality Board to propose RGGI-compliant carbon dioxide restrictions. These new restrictions, the lawmakers argued, would lead to a drastic reduction of coal-fired power generation in Pennsylvania and a “significant” electricity rate increase for consumers without showing a similarly significant decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. The lawmakers also argued that rescinding the executive order would end debate over the RGGI, a major point of contention among legislators, and thus free up more time for the legislature to focus on recovery from the personal and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Governor Wolf’s press secretary Lyndsay Kensinger stated “the administration is not considering suspending the implementation of RGGI in Pennsylvania.” Governor rejects withdrawal from RGGIThe Indiana Gazette


WA: A group of environmental, labor, consumer, and social activist organizations in Washington State are requesting that Governor Jay Inslee further extend his moratorium preventing utility shutoffs. Governor Inslee’s initial extension prevented utility shutoffs until May 4, but the coalition of organizations argue that the moratorium should be continued “as long as needed”. In a letter to Governor Inslee, the groups noted that hundreds of thousands of low-income Washington households are depending on the moratorium to continue having access to essential services, and encouraged the Governor to introduce a package of policies “that expands low-income energy assistance funds, increases eligibility thresholds, reduces barriers to access, and encourages utilities to adopt more flexible credit and collection practices.” The Governor’s office has not yet responded to the latest request. Activist groups to Washington governor: Extend moratorium on service cutoffs by utilitiesTimes Union



In response to a letter sent by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and five other U.S. Senators, the Trump administration committed to changing the rules governing renewable energy tax credits affecting wind farm owners. Although the administration did not specify exactly how the rules would change, the Trump administration is expected to extend the amount of time wind farmers are able to claim credits for wind projects that started construction in 2016 or 2017. The extra time is critically important for many wind farmers who have seen their ongoing projects stalled by supply chain interruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We look forward to further detail on this critical issue, and extend our appreciation to the Treasury Department for this important step, which will help the renewable sector continue as a key economic driver through this downturn,” American Council on Renewable Energy President Greg Wetstone said in a statement. Trump administration agrees to help wind farms with subsidy tweakReuters

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