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Energy Update: May 21, 2021

In the States

IL: Governor J.B. Pritzker’s proposed clean energy bill, the Consumers and Climate First Act, appears likely to pass the Illinois legislature before the end of its session this month. The Governor’s bill aims to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2030 and natural gas-fired power generation by 2045. To achieve this transition, the Governor’s bill contains a variety of energy and environmental provisions, including a gradually-increasing carbon tax, funding for retraining fossil fuel industry workers displaced by the transition, an expansion of the Illinois Solar for All program, subsidies for Illinois’ Dresden and Byron nuclear plants, and extensive utility accountability and transparency measures. The Governor’s bill earned support from environmental and renewable energy advocates, although some environmentalists argue that the bill’s 2045 deadline for phasing out natural gas is not ambitious enough. Although the Governor’s bill has strong support in the Illinois legislature, its consideration comes in the wake of a utility scandal that led to the installment of a new Speaker of the House and the need for the legislature to address other clean energy issues. At long last, a new Illinois energy bill is likely imminentEnergy News Network

 

LA: Governor John Bel Edwards announced his plan to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors aiming to mitigate climate change through state-led action. The addition of Louisiana marks a major victory for the Alliance, since Louisiana is the nation’s fifth-largest carbon-emitting state and a major producer of oil, gas, and petrochemicals. To achieve the goal of carbon neutrality set out by the Alliance, Governor Edwards established a Climate Initiatives Task Force, a commission including scientists, state administrators, academics, oil industry representatives and environmental advocates, to advise state leaders on ways to smooth the transition from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources. Still, many commentators believe the transition will be slow; the Governor’s climate plans face strong opposition from some fossil fuel industry advocates, and the Governor himself said in a previous statement that he believed the oil and gas industry is “not going anywhere”. Still, the Governor’s announcement marks a major step for a state heavily reliant on fossil fuels, and the Governor seemed optimistic that a balance can be struck between fossil fuels and renewables. "If anyone can identify innovative and sustainable solutions for our future, it's Louisiana,” said the Governor. Louisiana's Governor Wants the Oil and Gas State To Go Carbon Neutral - NPR

 

TX: In an unusual move, Governor Greg Abbott recently asked Texas’ Supreme Court to accept a petition from Exxon Mobil seeking to reverse an earlier ruling that barred Exxon’s lawyers from deposing California officials in an interstate legal battle centered on rising sea levels. In 2017, California municipal officials initially sued Texas-based Exxon Mobil, seeking damages for rising sea levels that they blamed on Exxon’s carbon emissions. In response, Exxon-Mobil filed a countersuit, but its lawyers were unable to depose the California officials after being blocked by an appeals court in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott is urging Texas’s Supreme Court to overturn the state appeals court’s ruling, arguing that the case has “major implications for the energy industry in Texas”. In a friend of the court filing, Governor Abbott wrote that "no Texan voted for any of these meddling California officials," and added that the officials "should mind their own business in California if they want to stay out of court in Texas." So far, Exxon has declined to comment on the Governor’s statements. Texas governor backs Exxon Mobil petition in climate case - Reuters

 

VT: Governor Phil Scott signed Senate Bill S.60, a new law that grants cooperative and community-owned public power utilities the flexibility to make minor adjustments to electricity rates and provide customers with innovative new services. Before this law, electric utility rate adjustments and pilot programs were subject to lengthy and expensive formal reviews by state utility regulators. With this new flexibility, public power utilities can now implement rate changes of up to 2 percent each year without undergoing the traditional review process, and pilot new services that advance Vermont’s climate goals. However, public utilities remain subject to some conditions; public utilities wishing to make a rate change or implement a new program must provide written notice to the Vermont Department of Public Service and Public Utility Commission 45 days prior to implementing a new rate or pilot offering. Regulators also still retain the authority to conduct a full review any time an objection is raised against a utility proposal. “Regulators will still have all the same levers in place that we’ve always had,” said Riley Allen, Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. “We believe this legislation strikes the right balance between valued traditional regulatory protections when compared with ratepayer interests in lower administrative costs, more flexible and responsive local oversight, and opportunities for greater innovation.” Governor Phil Scott signs VPPSA Rate Flexibility BillVermont Biz

 

National

The Biden administration announced new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings, new Energy Star standards for commercial electric vehicle charging stations and heat pumps, and additional investments in programs aiming to boost adoption of emissions-saving technology. These measures will be implemented through a number of federal agencies including the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Council on Environmental Quality, and the General Services Administration. The changes do not require congressional approval, and are part of the White House’s goal to achieve 100 percent clean electricity in the United States by 2035. The EPA also announced an additional companion program to encourage home energy efficiency upgrades and promote electrification retrofits. Biden administration announces new Energy Star standards, plans for emissions targets for federal buildingsThe Washington Post

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