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Energy Update: March 27, 2020

In the States

CA: Pacific Gas and Energy (PG&E) reached an agreement with Governor Gavin Newsom over the California wildfires caused by its equipment. The agreement finalizes PG&E’s bankruptcy plan, preventing PG&E’s sale and allowing the company to benefit from a fund that will help utilities pay claims for future wildfires. The deal requires half of PG&E’s new board to include California residents selected by an independent executive recruiter with the Governor’s approval. PG&E also agreed to oversight of its finances by the state and a four-year suspension of its dividend. Per a previous agreement, PG&E will pay out $13.5 billion to wildfire victims, half of which will be paid in PG&E stock. “Through California’s unprecedented intervention in [PG&E’s] bankruptcy, we secured a totally transformed board and leadership structure for the company, real accountability tools to ensure safety and reliability and billions more in contributions from shareholders to ensure safety upgrades are achieved,” said Governor Newsom. PG&E Reaches Agreement with Governor, Clearing Bankruptcy HurdleThe New York Times

 

OR: Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order updating the state’s carbon emissions goals and directing state agencies to take action on reducing greenhouse gases. Under the new executive order, Oregon will aim to reduce carbon emissions 45% compared to 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050. The order also directs agencies to modify building codes to prioritize efficiency and to focus on assisting populations vulnerable to climate change impacts. Other key provisions of the order include tighter standards on fuel, expanded oversight of electric utilities, stricter energy efficiency standards for household appliances, and a greater focus on developing electric transportation. “This executive order is extensive and thorough, taking the boldest actions available to lower greenhouse gas emissions under current state laws,” Governor Brown said in her press statement. The executive order, however, is not universally supported; both energy industry lobbyists and Republican legislators have indicated they intend to legally challenge the order. Governor Brown’s office said they are confident the order is “bulletproof”. Gov. Kate Brown Orders State Action On Climate ChangeOregon Public Broadcasting

 

 IN: Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill that would help coal-fired electricity plants temporarily remain open and ease the transition of coal workers displaced by the changing energy market. House Bill 1414 requires electric utilities to provide six months of advance notice if they propose a plant closure, sale, or transfer not included in their long-term plan on file with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). After notice is provided, the IURC must review the closure and hold a hearing on “the reasonableness of the planned retirement, sale, or transfer” of the plant. Hearings will assess the impact of the action. HB 1414 also prioritizes job retraining through the state’s Department of Workforce Development for coal-industry workers affected by lay-offs. Ind. Governor signs bill pausing coal plant retirementsS&P Global Market Intelligence

 

WI: Governor Tony Evers named a new member to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. Tyler Huebner, an electrical engineer and former employee of the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Division of Energy Services, will replace Mike Huebsch, an appointee under former Governor Scott Walker. The appointment will give Governor Evers a majority of seats on the three-person commission responsible for approving large utility investments and setting energy rates. Utilities and consumer advocates cheered Governor Evers’s pick. Bill Skewes, executive director of the Wisconsin Utilities Association, praised Huebner’s consensus-making abilities. Tom Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, said he believed Huebner will “push to keep the focus squarely on making sure that customers aren’t overpaying for their utility services”. Clean energy and climate advocates were also pleased; Clean Wisconsin president and CEO Mark Redsten said “[Huebner] undoubtedly brings a unique perspective that will keep economic and environmental impacts of commission decisions in mind”. Tony Evers appoints clean energy advocate Tyler Huebner to Public Service CommissionWisconsin State Journal

 

The novel coronavirus is delaying multiple state legislatures from acting on energy initiatives. At least 22 state legislatures have suspended or postponed their sessions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stalling pending energy legislation in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and Minnesota. In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis’s goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2040 relies on timely passage of several related bills covering issues like transportation, building, and renewable natural gas, which are now in danger of being indefinitely postponed. In Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker, climate change activists and utility advocates are eager to advance the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a broad energy bill that would facilitate development of nuclear and renewable energy. In Maryland, bills concerning energy savings for low-income customers and climate change are stuck. Michigan faces a delay for two of its bills pertaining to solar energy and climate change. Finally, in Minnesota, a suspension of all committee hearings has halted crucial debates on “carbon-free” energy development. As many Governors have pledged to make responses to COVID-19 their first priority, other developments in energy will likely continue to be postponed. How COVID-19 is impacting 5 state energy legislation effortsUtility Drive

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