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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

 

National

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

 

 

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