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Energy Update, July 15, 2011

July 15, 2011

In the States

HI – Governor Neil Abercrombie has signed a bill into law that will require the State’s Public Utility Commission to study and, if practicable, implement a program that would allow homeowners to finance the upfront costs of home-based renewable energy and efficiency projects through savings realized in utility bills.  This “on-bill financing” option would allow many homeowners to bypass the often unaffordable initial cost to take advantage of renewable energy and allow them to own the equipment outright once the costs are paid down through savings credits on their utility bills.  Electric customers could get a financing break with new lawHawaii News Now

NH – Governor John Lynch has vetoed a bill that would have withdrawn New Hampshire from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade consortium comprised of ten States in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.  The Governor explained his veto by saying the legislation would “cost our citizens jobs, both now and into the future, hinder our economic recovery and damage our state's long-term economic competitiveness.”  While the House passed the bill with a veto-proof majority of over two-thirds, the Senate did not.  The Governor also said that a withdrawal from RGGI would cost ratepayers $6 million in additional costs and the State would forego $12 million per year in sales of emissions permits.  Supporters of the bill have said that RGGI has increased energy costs.  House Speaker William O’Brian released a statement calling RGGI a “failed policy” that has raised New Hampshire’s electricity rates 149 percent above the national average.  Citing jobs and economic growth, NH Gov. vetoes bill to exit RGGIReuters

NJ – Governor Chris Christie has proposed revisions to the State’s master energy plan, last revised by former Governor John Corzine in 2008, that are intended to lower electricity rates for residents and businesses by eliminating some of the incentives and subsidies currently offered to promote clean energy.  The Governor says that New Jersey has some of the highest energy costs in the country and that he wants to make rates more comparable to other states in order to promote economic growth and reduce financial burdens on rate-payers.  The revisions would also lower the State’s renewable energy use goal from 30% to 22.5% by 2021.  However, Governor Christie is also proposing the development of large solar generation projects on brownfield sites and landfills, as well as the codification of statutory provisions intended to promote the development of offshore wind energy.  Opponents say the changes may jeopardize green investments and green job growth.  While Matt Elliot, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey, acknowledges that renewables currently have higher costs, he also argues that fossil fuels benefited from subsidies and that prices for solar energy and other renewables are becoming more competitive every year.  Advocates say changes threaten New Jersey’s green energyAsbury Park Press

Regional News

At meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a group of New England Governors and Canadian premiers have discussed a new transmission line from Canada that would bring clean hydroelectric power to major population centers in New England States.  Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin discussed the plan with reporters in a teleconference call, saying it is too soon to know whether the transmission line will be routed through Vermont, but that any State willing to host it could expect to receive preferential rates.  Governor Shumlin also discussed proposals from two Canadian companies to purchase the State’s largest utility.  Group looks to bring more Canadian power to New EnglandVermont Public Radio

National News

U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner of Virginia have introduced legislation that would allow for offshore oil and natural gas drilling in federal waters off the Virginia coast.  The bill requires half of leasing revenues to go to the State to be used for renewable energy development, conservation, and infrastructure.  Senator Warner cited the large amount of money sent to unfriendly oil-rich nations and Senator Webb said the drilling would bring more domestic energy and an improved economy.  Governor Bob McDonnell said the proposed legislation is a “common-sense proposal” that would bring “much needed jobs and revenue.”  The Director of Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter sad the plan will not reduce costs or dependence on foreign oil and that the efforts would be better spent on renewable energy.  Webb, Warner introduce bill to allow offshore drillingRichmond Times Dispatch

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final rule that requires power plants in 27 states to reduce emissions that contribute to pollution in neighboring states.  The EPA estimates the rule will save hundreds of billions in health care costs due to a reduction in chronic health problems caused by the pollution, and prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths in 2014 but will cost around $800 million per year.  The rule, which goes into effect January 1, 2012, has received mixed reactions from States.  Governor Rick Perry of Texas called the rule “another example of heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington, D.C.” that would have negative consequences for residents in his State.  However, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz, the State’s top environmental official, believes the rule will greatly help Vermont since it has had difficulty attaining federal air quality standards because of emissions produced in other nearby states.  "By reducing ozone and fine particle pollution, EPA's new rule will protect the health of Vermonters, saving lives and preventing illnesses," Markowitz said.  New EPA rule aims to reduce pollution across State bordersPittsburgh Post-Gazette and Texas Governor bashes new federal environmental regulationsNew Orleans Examiner and Vermont environment chief hails new EPA ruleBoston Globe

 

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Energy Update, July 16, 2010

July 16, 2010

In the States

FL – Governor Charlie Crist has called a special session of the State legislature to begin next week.  The sole purpose of the session is to pass a constitutional amendment banning offshore oil before August 4, which would put the amendment on the ballot this November.  Offshore drilling is already banned in Florida, but the Governor has expressed concern that future legislators might overturn the existing ban, which they could not do to a constitutional amendment.  Crist calls for special session to ban offshore oil drilling near FloridaThe Ledger

MO – Governor Jay Nixon has signed a bill into law that will make it easier for residents to pay for energy efficiency upgrades on their homes.  Under the new law, cities and counties will be able to issue low-interest bonds to homeowners for home improvements such as new windows or insulation.  The loans would be paid back to the State through a special 20-year assessment on property taxes.  Mo. Gov. signs bills on energy efficiency, KC zooBloomberg Business Week

OH – Governor Ted Strickland has announced the new Northwest Ohio Solar Energy Hub, a conglomeration of colleges, universities, and career centers aimed at promoting solar energy and related jobs and businesses.  A $250,000 grant has been awarded to the hub, which will allow collaboration between these entities, the solar industry, and the manufacturing sector on a plan for urban economic development and revitalization.  Governor announces Ohio solar energy hubSolar Novus Today

UT – Governor Gary Herbert testified at a Republican House and Senate Western Caucus hearing in Washington, DC about the challenge of developing energy resources in Western States.  He said that his goal is to streamline the process for energy companies interested in developing resources in the State and that uncertainty about the Obama administration’s policies on energy development on public lands is “spooking” companies considering investments in Utah.  The Governor also said that Congressional Republicans and Democrats need to work together on these issues, that he thinks “it is foolish for us to fight and rant and rave,” and that he is working to build a relationship with the Obama administration.  Gov. Gary Herbert urges cooperation with Obama administration on issues of the WestDeseret News  

Regional News

Governors from both parties in eleven States on the East Coast have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) against a proposed electric transmission line from the Midwest to the East Coast.  The proposed line would allow Midwestern States to send renewable energy produced there to the Eastern States.  The Governors disapprove of the line because they would like to create their own alternative energy rather than import it from other States, and because they believe ratepayers in the Eastern States would shoulder the costs, estimated at $16 billion.  Signatories include Governors M. Jodi Rell (R-CT), Jack Markell (D-DE), John Baldacci (D-ME), Martin O’Malley (D-MD), Deval Patrick (D-MA), John Lynch (D-NH), Chris Christie (R-NJ), David Paterson (D-NY), Donald Carcieri (R-RI), Jim Douglas (R-VT), and Bob McDonnell (R-VA).  Eastern Governors protest Midwest wind transmission lineDes Moines Register

Six New England Governors and five Eastern Canadian Premiers participated in a conference to discuss energy goals.  In the end, the leaders agreed to reduce energy use in buildings 20% by 2020 through higher standards in building codes, examine implementing a low carbon fuel standard, and promote solar power by establishing a regional usage standard.  The Governors separately agreed to petition the US government to establish a high efficiency standard on furnaces in New England.  Massachusetts promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy goalsGovMonitor

National News

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that he will bring energy and climate legislation to the Senate floor by the end of July.  The legislation is still a rough draft and will be the subject of intense negotiations in the coming weeks, but Senator Reid has said it will contain a section on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that would apply only to electric utilities rather than the entire economy.  A number of Senators from both parties have expressed skepticism that the bill will pass the procedural phase, with liberal Democrats saying it is too weak, moderate Democrats weary of costly new federal requirements, and Republicans opposed to the process being used to move he bill forward and certain elements of the legislation, including proposed limits on carbon emissions.  Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) has already said that he will not vote for a motion to proceed, forcing Senator Reid to secure at least two Republican votes for cloture, though potential supporters of a more comprehensive approach such as Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) have signaled that they will not support the legislation if it caps greenhouse gas emissions in any way.  In a move to build support for the measure, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), a key supporter, is set to meet with the main electric utility trade group on possible concessions on existing Clean Air Act regulations, causing some environmental groups who say they may withdraw support if the concessions are too great.  Reid warms to July climate votePolitico and Clock winding down on Senate’s carbon cap effortsNew York Times and Nelson says no to climate votePolitico and Utilities, signaling support for carbon caps, want ‘relief’ from other air pollutantsNew York Times

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