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Energy Update: August 3, 2018

In the States

MD – Governor Larry Hogan called the debris and sediment pouring into the Chesapeake Bay, following several strong storms in the northeastern United States, an “economic and ecological crisis.” Governor Hogan, who chairs the interstate Chesapeake Executive Council, also urged his fellow bay watershed Governors, particularly those upstream from the Chesapeake Bay, to help clean up and “take responsibility for the nation’s largest estuary.” The debris poses a significant threat to commerce, energy development, as well as ships bound for Baltimore. Maryland officials argues the debris originated mostly from Pennsylvania rivers, to which the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said was a “careless and insensitive remarks” by Maryland’s leaders. Governor Hogan, who is running for reelection, has made pollution from upstream states a serious campaign issue since he 2014, noting the high levels of pollutants and sediments from natural gas exploration that end up in the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland officials criticize upstream states for Bay debrisThe Associated Press

 

MT – The Montana Renewables Development Action Plan calls for substituting wind energy for coal as a source of power to utilities in Oregon and Washington. Two of four coal-powered units at the Colstrip power plant used to supply these utilities will be shut down during the next five years. An action plan developed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is taking advantage of extra transmission capacity freed up by the closure of the two units and renewable energy tax credits provided in Washington State to make wind energy an attractive source of power. Governor Steve Bullock’s administration helped to facilitate discussions between stakeholders, including the federal government, to make renewable energy competitive, principally through an agreement to low BPA transmission costs. The lower transmission costs, combined with the eligibility for tax credits, should make it possible for wind energy companies in Montana to compete for out-of-state sales. Up until now, Montana has relied on coal power to make it an energy exporter. According to Governor Bullock, “With this effort, we’re boosting the opportunities for more energy development in Montana and making Montana wind more attractive for West Coast buyers, all to create good-paying jobs and economic opportunity for Montanans.” Plans progressing to sell more Montana renewable energy out of stateBillings Gazette

 

National and Regional

The Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG) and Canada’s Eastern Premiers are set to hold their annual gathering in Stowe, Vermont on August 12-14. Energy issues are perennially on the meeting’s agenda, as is regional trade and transportation issues. CONEG expects officials from the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont to attend as well as officials from the Canadian provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. The northeastern U.S. Governors and Canadian Premiers have met regularly since 1973 to address cross-border interests.

 

The Trump administration is proposing to freeze U.S. automobile mileage standards at 2020 levels, which requires new vehicles to average 30 miles per gallon (mpg). The administration also wants to eliminate a special provision of the Clean Air Act that allows the State of California to set more stringent mileage standards. At least a dozen other states, representing about 40 percent of the nation’s total vehicle market, follow California’s standards. The national standard adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Obama increases to 36 mpg in 2025, 10 mpg higher than the requirement in effect. The administration believes that freezing that standard will reduce the cost of new cars, allowing more consumers to purchase vehicles with updated safety features. According to Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Safety Administration, highway deaths would drop by 1,000 each year “by reducing these barriers that prevent consumers from getting into the newer, safer, cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars.” Opponents argue that the savings in fuel costs derived from higher mileage standards also contribute to affordability of new vehicles. Commenting on the proposed changes, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said, “It’s going to cost drivers here and across the country hundreds of millions of dollars more at the pump.” While the Trump administration plans to seek public comment on the its proposal, as well as other options, including leaving the current standards in place, California and 16 other states have already filed a lawsuit to block any changes. One of the primary trade groups for the automobile industry, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is urging California and the federal government to work out a compromise that would allow for continued increases. Trump proposes car-mileage rollback; states sue in protestThe Washington Post

 

The U.S. Climate Alliance, which counts as members the Governors from 16 states and one territory, released their policy options to “accelerate and scale up climate action.” The policy options include reducing super pollutants, modernizing the electricity grid, increasing energy efficiency standards set for appliances, requiring more carbon storage, and maximizing clean transportation options and financing for green energy projects. The member Governors (CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OR, PR, RI, VT, VA, and WA) plan to meet during the Global Climate Action Summit in September to discuss the Paris Agreement as well as other policy options to combat climate change.

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