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Energy Update, February 10, 2012

February 10, 2012

State of the State Addresses

Ten more Governors have given their State of the State addresses in the last two weeks, and the majority of them discussed energy issues, mostly in the context of attracting or retaining jobs in their respective states.  Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett noted the jobs available in natural gas production and said that he is working to attract a natural gas processing plant to the Commonwealth, while Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said that he would like to permanently abolish the tax on natural gas in order to boost his State’s ability to compete for jobs.  Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin called energy “the back bone of our economy” and said that an agreement Oklahoma entered into with nine other states would lead result in the State purchasing thousands of vehicles for its vehicle fleet each year, which would help support jobs in Oklahoma’s natural gas industry.  Ohio Governor John Kasich said that lower energy costs would promote business development. 

Some Governors expressed their belief that increasing renewable energy and reducing energy use are also important goals.  Governor Fallin asked the legislature to pass a bill that would reduce energy consumption in State buildings and higher education facilities 20 percent by 2020.  Governor Kasich proposed using waste heat as an energy source and said he supports greater use of renewable energy so long as it does not raise energy costs.  New Hampshire Governor John Lynch said that he supports renewable energy, including hydroelectric power, though he opposes a transmission line bringing hydroelectric power from Canada if it does not have sufficient local support.  Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said he supports the work that has been done to build an offshore wind farm, and noted a settlement with an energy company that requires an investment in solar and wind energy. 

Governors also highlighted some of the advancements made on energy issues over the past year.  Governor Corbett said that natural gas development has lowered prices by 40 percent in the past year.  Governor Lynch noted that many residents and businesses have benefitted from the State’s energy-efficiency fund, new production of wind turbines and biomass plants, as well as successful business expansions under the State’s Green Launching Pad program.  Governor Quinn said that Illinois has the most wind turbines of any state and that universities and government facilities have been working together on creating energy-efficient batteries.

Links to all of the Governors’ addresses can be found at the State of the State Speeches Calendar on Stateline.org 

In the States

MO – Governor Jay Nixon has added his voice in support of a proposed 600-mile oil pipeline from Illinois to Oklahoma.  "We believe this proposal has tremendous potential to boost Missouri's economy, create construction jobs across our State and brighten America's energy future," Governor Nixon said.  Since the pipeline would not cross an international border, it does not need the same federal approvals as the proposed Keystone XL project.  Enbridge Inc., the Canadian company behind the pipeline, estimates that as many as 3,400 workers would be needed to build the pipeline and as many as 400 would be employed at related facilities like pump stations.  Missouri Governor backs plans for new pipelineCBS

UT – Governor Gary Herbert has announced an initiative that would ask residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their emissions.  The Governor said that “All of us can do something to improve Utah’s air quality,” but that it should not be done with “the heavy hand of government.”  Currently, the initiative, known as Utah Clean Air Partnership, or U-CAIR, involves a website where visitors can sign a pledge to improve air quality by changing habits such as using a push lawn mower and keeping solvents in air-tight containers.  While environmental activists were hoping the initiative would mandatory requirements rather than recommendations, Governor Herbert said “I think it’s better to do this voluntarily.”  Governor announces clean air initiativeDeseret News

WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a statement after it was announced that three of the State’s oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants will be retired this year due in part to new EPA regulations limiting mercury and other toxic emissions.  In his statement, Governor Tomblin said, "I urge the EPA to respectfully and accurately review the entire impact of their decisions -- from environmental to economical -- because individuals, families, and communities are forever changed by their short-sighted decisions."  FirstEnergy, the company that owns the plants, said that 105 employees will be affected by the shutdown, but that some of these workers will be considered for positions at other plant locations.  FirstEnergy to snuff Albright, Rivesville, Willow Island plantsState Journal and EPA causes power company to close plantsLegal Newsline

National News

U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said that his department is “moving full-steam ahead to accelerate the siting, leasing, and construction of new” offshore wind farms.  The agency within Interior that is responsible for offshore leases, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, has cleared the way for companies to bid for and lease parcels for wind farms in designated areas off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey after an assessment from that agency concluded that the wind farms would have no significant socioeconomic or environmental effects.  Obama administration renews offshore wind power pushWall Street Journal MarketWatch

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted a license to The Southern Company to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first new start for a nuclear reactor since 1978.  The $14 billion project will be built at an existing nuclear facility near Augusta and will begin operating in 2016 or 2017.  New safety features will be incorporated into the design that should simplify emergency operations in the event of a malfunction, and the reactors will be built to withstand earthquakes and plane crashes.  Some anti-nuclear organizations oppose the new reactors because they believe that safety issues that surfaced in the recent Fukushima meltdown in Japan have note been adequately addressed.  The NRC voted 4-1in favor granting the license; the lone dissenter was the Commission’s chairman, Gregory Jaczko, who opposed the license on the basis that not all requested safety features may be in place before operations begin.  Federal regulators approve two nuclear reactors in GeorgiaNew York Times

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Energy Update, March 25, 2011

March 25, 2011

In the States

AR – In delivering the keynote address to a wind power workshop in Little Rock, Governor Mike Beebe said that States’ investments in wind energy would create jobs, improve the environment, and strengthen national security and made a case for States to increase wind energy production.  Governor Beebe said that while Arkansas may not be the ideal candidate for wind farms compared to the rest of the country, it can still be involved through manufacturing wind power products.  Mike Beebe: Wind energy important to Arkansas jobs, economyArkansas Business

UT – After consulting with academic, industrial, environmental, and governmental experts, as well as receiving public input, Governor Gary Herbert issued a 10-year energy plan for Utah.  Among the goals Governor Herbert set in the plan are “a balanced use of fossil fuels and alternatives and renewable resources” that also balances economic and environmental interests, promotes energy efficiency, and increases partnerships with universities and communities to “address future energy challenges and opportunities.”  The Governor’s plan also calls for seriously debating the use of nuclear energy in the State as a way to provide baseload energy capacity.  Gov. Gary Herbert’s energy plan includes nuclearDeseret News and Energy Initiatives and Imperatives: Utah’s 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan [pdf]Governor Gary Herbert

WY – Governor Matt Mead applauded the leasing of federal land to mining companies for the extraction of up to 750 million tons of coal during a news conference with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  The leases are estimated to be worth between $13.4 billion and $21.3 billion in revenue, with roughly half this amount going to the State.  More than a dozen similar leases will be granted over the next three years.  Governor Mead said “We need the energy.  We need the jobs that come with the energy.”  Federal lands in Wyoming opened to coal miningNew York Times

Nuclear Power

The nuclear crisis in Japan that followed the devastating earthquake and tsunami has brought renewed scrutiny of the use and expansion of nuclear energy industry in the United States.  For example, spent fuel located in the Japanese plant overheated, causing some government officials here in the U.S. to renew calls for the opening of Yucca Mountain, the federally designated nuclear waste storage facility, or another similar site.  Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley and Senate President Therese Murray wrote in a letter to federal Energy Department officials that "the events in Japan show that a breach can occur," and called for a central nuclear repository.  Former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and current member of a panel advising the Obama on nuclear waste storage, Richard Meserve, said that "There may be some things about the vulnerability of spent fuel pools that will be learned as a result of the Japanese accident that will cause us to rethink what we do in the U.S."  Storage of nuclear waster gets new scrutinyWall Street Journal

Additionally, the push for more nuclear power may face new obstacles due to the issues raised by the current nuclear crisis in Japan.  While President Barack Obama has not backed down from seeking $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear plants, and his Energy Department says that nuclear is a “low-cost, carbon-free” fuel that will spur job growth and protect the environment, the industry, its backers, and pro-environment groups are preparing for a long battle over the future role of nuclear power in the United States.  Lobbyists’ long effort to revive nuclear industry faces new testNew York Times

EPA Regulations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson has proposed rules that would drastically cut the amount of toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  The plan to reduce mercury, acid gas, sulfur dioxide, and 81 other pollutants has been delayed for 20 years, and if approved, would still not take effect for five more years.  Affected plants would need to utilize a variety of methods to reduce the emissions, which are expected to cost a total of $10.9 billion per year nationwide, or about $3 – $4 per month per electric bill.  EPA estimates that as many as 17,000 deaths, an additional 11,000 heart attacks, and 120,000 cases of asthma per year would be prevented every year under the new rules.  EPA proposes toxic emissions rules for power plantsNew York Times

 

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Energy Update, September 10, 2010

September 10, 2010

In the States

CA – A new website called Clean Energy Jobs has been launched as a part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Clean Energy Workforce Training Program, which is designed to help promote green collar jobs in the State.  Governor Schwarzenegger praised the website in a written statement, saying that it will highlight “how the state's community colleges and workforce investment boards, labor unions, and employers are working to meet the demand for trained workers."  The Governor also wrote that the training program itself “represents the kind of innovative thinking needed to steer our economy toward a greener future, while doing everything possible to help Californians return to work." Governor introduces green jobs websiteSan Francisco Chronicle

PA – Pennsylvania currently requires that 0.5% of the electricity in the State must come from solar power by 2021.  Governor Ed Rendell has called for an increase in that percentage during his announcement of $20.5 million to finance new solar programs within the State.  “Unless we act now to increase our solar share – even to a modest 1.5%– the types of projects we’re announcing today won’t even consider Pennsylvania,” the Governor said at the announcement, adding that solar companies already in the State may move to other States with larger mandates on solar energy.  Pennsylvania Governor calls for increase in solar targetBrighterEnergy.org

TN – Governor Phil Bredesen has announced a $2.5 million rebate program that will provide a $2,500 rebate for the first 1,000 electric vehicles sold in Tennessee.  A federal rebate program to provide $7,500 per electric car is also available to Tennessee residents, making the total amount available to electric car purchasers up to $10,000.  These rebates will be available as soon as sales begin later this year for the new all-electric Nissan Leaf, for which batteries will be manufactured in Tennessee.  The funds for the rebates will be taken from the petroleum violation escrow account, which consists of money collected from oil companies by the federal government and provided to States for use on federally approved projects.  During a speech at the Tennessee Valley Authority, Governor Bredesen said that the rebates will allow “Tennesseans to be pioneers in trying out electric cars and making them accessible and affordable in the State.”  Rebates available for first electric cars in Tenn.Bloomberg Businessweek

Regional News

At a meeting of the Southern Governors’ Association in Alabama, Governors from both Gulf and Atlantic coastal States told Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Barack Obama, and Wilma Lewis, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, that since States that allow offshore oil drilling are more susceptible to the risks of drilling – risks made clear to the Governors as a result of the BP oil spill in the Gulf – they should receive a higher share of royalties from offshore oil leases than they are scheduled to receive, and they should receive them as soon as possible.  In making the case for States that allow offshore drilling to receive a higher share of royalties, Governor Bob Riley of Alabama told the officials that he was “not too sure any coastal States had any idea of the risk we were taking,” and Governor Bev Perdue of North Carolina expressed her concern that States might not be willing to take the risk of an offshore oil spill if they aren’t also rewarded for assuming such risk.  Governor Riley said that the royalties would allow States to stock up on boom and other supplies necessary to handle an emergency oil cleanup, for which they had to rely on BP and the federal government during the recent Gulf spill.  Some of the Governors and other State officials also criticized the Obama Administration for imposing a temporary moratorium on deep water offshore oil drilling.  While Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi said he was glad to hear that the Administration is committed to offshore oil drilling, he also made clear that he hoped offshore drilling would continue as soon as possible.  Assistant Secretary Lewis emphasized the importance of the moratorium providing time to review regulations and ensure safety on offshore oil rigs following an incident that resulted in 11 people losing their lives and devastation to Gulf Coast communities.  Southern Governors want more oil money due to drilling risksMontgomery Advertiser

National News

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has resulted in the installation of more than two million smart meters and the weatherization of more than 200,000 homes.  Smart meters cut costs and energy usage by allowing consumers to track and alter energy use in real time and weatherization improvements reduce the amount of energy needed to control the temperature inside homes.  DOE cited a utility industry analysis that asserts that smart grid improvements, such as smart meters, can cut electricity demand by more than 4% annually by 2030, saving businesses and consumers $20.4 billion per year.  Another study by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory also indicates that weatherization can save homeowners an average of $400 in the first year after a project is complete.  The Department of Energy is currently weatherizing 25,000 homes per month with a goal of weatherizing a total of 600,000 homes under the ARRA.  Energy Dept. says ‘smart meter’ army hits 2 millionThe Hill and DOE announces two million smart meters installed in the USEERE News and 200,000 homes weatherized in Recovery Act milestone: Vice PresidentEERE News

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Energy Update, August 7, 2009

August 7, 2009

In the States

DE – Governor Jack Markell has signed two bills into law that he says will spur new green collar jobs.  The new laws will require more energy efficient homes and office buildings, encourage zero net energy buildings, and require utilities in the state to reduce energy consumption by 15% in just five years, by 2015.  Governor Markell signed legislation earlier this year promoting home solar and wind energy.  Markell signs landmark energy legislationDelaware Business Ledger

OR – Governor Ted Kulongoski has signed several climate change bills that will lower greenhouse gas emissions in the state.  The new laws require that new power plants be at least as clean as natural gas, new buildings are more energy efficient, and emissions are reported by more polluters.  They also authorize a low carbon fuel standard, and grants for energy efficiency projects.  Governor signs climate change legislationPortland Business Journal

The nation’s Governors agreed to support a goal of requiring new and renovated buildings to be carbon-neutral by 2030 at the National Governors Association Annual Meeting.  The goal is promoted by the American Institute of Architects and endorsed by the US Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties. Governors call for carbon-neutral buildings by 2030New York Times

Regional and National News

The Cash for Clunkers program, which provides car-buyers with $3,500 to $4,500 in incentives to trade in gas-guzzlers for cars with much better gas mileage, is running out of its $950 million in stimulus funds.  The House and Senate have passed a $2 billion extension of the program to keep it going.  $2B in clunkers cash on way, senators sayDetroit Free Press and “Cash for Clunkers” gets a $2 billion boostNew York Times

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the chairs of five committees have agreed to get a cap-and-trade bill out of committee by September 28.  Senators have cited several impediments to quick passage of the bill, though, including the complexity of the pending health reform legislation, negative impacts on coal- and manufacturing-heavy states, and spending any additional money after the stimulus and health reform.  Some Senators have stated that it is unlikely that the bill will be passed this year, and will only be harder to push next year as difficult votes are harder to make in election years.  Climate bill may fall by the waysidePolitico

President Obama and other administration officials traveled throughout the country on August 5 to announce the recipients of $2.4 billion in stimulus grants for the development of battery powered vehicles.  The President visited Indiana and Vice President Biden was in Michigan – those two states received the majority of the funds – while other cabinet members traveled to North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania to announce grants in those states.  The grants will fund 50 projects in 25 states.  Obama back in Indiana with message and aidNew York Times and Electric cars get plug from ObamaCharlotte News and Observer

International News

At a two-day meeting between the Obama administration and Chinese officials, the US and China entered into an agreement that states each country’s desire to deal with the climate issue, though no real specifics emerged.  The memorandum of understanding cited climate change as a challenge to be combated by transitioning to a low-carbon economy through “domestic action and international cooperation.”  At the meeting, both countries said their relationship on the subject would be positive and mutually beneficial. US, China end talks with smiles but no progress on climate changeLos Angeles Times and US-China memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation on climate change, energy and the environment US Department of State

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