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Energy Update: August 21, 2020

In the States

CA: Governor Gavin Newsom is ordering an investigation into California’s utility companies after they shut off power to more than 410,000 homes during a heat wave. Utilities caused the rolling blackouts intentionally as a result of an energy shortage, but Governor Newsom argues that the utilities did not provide adequate notice to affected consumers. "Residents, communities and other governmental organizations did not receive sufficient warning that these de-energizations could occur. Collectively, energy regulators failed to anticipate this event and to take necessary actions to ensure reliable power to Californians. This cannot stand. California residents and businesses deserve better from their government,” wrote Governor Newsom in his open letter demanding the investigation. As a temporary measure to address the energy shortage, Governor Newsom also signed an emergency proclamation allowing some energy users and utilities to tap backup energy sources during the heat wave. California Gov. Gavin Newsom Demands Probe of Power BlackoutsCNBC

 

CO: After a long debate between Colorado oil and gas industry advocates and environmental groups, Governor Jared Polis claims he has temporarily settled the fight over oil and gas ballot initiatives. Governor Polis says he asked industry stakeholders and environmental groups to pause their push for ballot measures regulating the Colorado oil and gas industry and instead give Colorado’s relatively new law regulating oil and gas “a chance to work.” The law, SB-181, gives communities more control over where companies can drill, compels state regulators at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health and safety, and requires the COGCC to hold rulemaking hearings to set regulations on how far wells can be from homes and schools. Governor Polis hopes the law will provide adequate protections to pacify environmental groups while not being too restrictive as to damage the industry. While some industry advocacy groups, including Protect Colorado (a group that previously fought anti-drilling ballot initiatives) and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association generally indicated support for the truce, some environmental groups, including Safe and Healthy Colorado, suggested they will still fight for new ballot measures. Colorado’s Governor Strikes a Deal to Keep Oil and Gas Measures off the November BallotChannel 7 News Denver

 

WA: After weeks of protests from environmental justice advocacy groups, Governor Jay Inslee extended his moratorium on utility shutoffs until October 15. Inslee’s original moratorium, signed in March, “strongly encouraged,” but did not require, utilities providing residential water, power, and phone service to stop disconnections for nonpayment. While most utility companies complied, some did not. Inslee’s following moratorium, signed April 17, banned disconnections entirely. Due to his latest proclamation, this ban will carry through October. Governor Inslee also authorized the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to give aid to consumers a second time this year after the pandemic started — normally, consumers can only apply for LIHEAP aid once per year. Gov. Inslee Extends Utility Shutoff Moratorium to Oct. 15Crosscut  

 

National

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO) announced the creation of the First Five Consortium, a new project designed to find ways to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters through the use of artificial intelligence. The First Five Consortium, named after the crucial first five minutes of response time following a natural disaster, includes a variety of industry, government, non-profit, and academic contributors. It is co-chaired by AITO and the Microsoft Corporation. The First Five Consortium aims to better inform first responders’ decision making by utilizing data collection and AI modelling to improve wildfire prediction, fire line containment, damage assessment, search and rescue, and general knowledge of natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes. “AITO is proud to lead on getting near real-time information into the hands of our First Responders,” said Cheryl Ingstad, Director of AITO. “This will allow them to save more lives and protect assets and our nation’s resources.” Department of Energy Announces the First Five ConsortiumEnergy.gov

 

The Trump Administration finalized its plan to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development. The Department of the Interior will now begin preparations to auction off drilling leases for the land, and may make a lease sale “by the end of the year,” according to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Supporters of the move, including some Alaska lawmakers and local energy firms, hope the drilling could provide crucial jobs and revenue for the state. “Thousands of Alaskans are employed in our oil industry, and their livelihoods depend on the good-paying jobs created by our state’s reserves. Today, we are one step closer to securing a bright future for these Alaskans and their families,” said Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska. However, it is unclear how far the plan will move forward. Some environmental organizations and Alaska Native groups are expected to file lawsuits to try to block lease sales of the land, and energy companies may have little interest in new drilling projects as oil prices remain low during the global pandemic. Trump Administration Finalizes Plan to Open Arctic Refuge to DrillingThe New York Times

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