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Energy Update, May 4, 2012

May 4, 2012

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown has signed an executive order requiring the State to cut energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as purchase environmentally friendly products when economically feasible.  Starting in 2020, half of all buildings constructed by the government will be zero net energy.  Then in 2025, all new State buildings will be zero net energy.  Buildings over 10,000 square feet will be required to produce energy onsite using solar or wind, and obtain LEED Silver certification or higher.  By 2015, State agencies will be required to lower emissions and water use 10 percent below 2010 levels, and by 2020 they must cut 20 percent of emissions and water use.  Governor Brown said that the order will save the State money through energy savings and also create green jobs.  California Governor issues sweeping order to green governmentSustainableBusiness.com

Regional News

Governors Butch Otter of Idaho, Gary Herbert of Utah, and Matt Mead of Wyoming met in Salt Lake City, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval participated by phone, to discuss issues common to states, including federal management of public lands and energy production.  "We want to have the Western states, Democrats and Republicans alike, to have as strong a voice in this country as possible," said Governor Mead.  Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado was scheduled to join the conference, but was unable to participate due to legislation that required his attention.  Governor Otter made the point that Western states fare better on federal regulatory issues when they weigh in, saying "When we have rules and regulations promulgated by a federal agency without that input, there is a problem."  Western governors discuss public lands, energyDaily Herald and Governors: Mountain West needs unified voice on land, energy and waterSalt Lake Tribune

National News

TransCanada, the company whose bid to build the Keystone XL pipeline was rejected last year by President Barack Obama, has reapplied for permits with the federal government.  The new route that the company is proposing would bypass the environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska that were the cause of some of the opposition.  Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has signed a bill that would allow the project to be reviewed at the State level prior to any prior to any federal action.  Some opponents claim that the new route would still cover an aquifer that supplies water to eight states, but the company contends that more than three years of environmental reviews, the longest process for any such pipeline in history.  Energy co. reapplies for Keystone XL oil pipelineCBS News

 

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Energy Update, April 20, 2012

April 20, 2012

In the States

AK – Governor Sean Parnell has called a special 30-day session of the State Legislature to address several matters, including tax incentives for oil production.  Both the Alaska House and Senate earlier considered legislation on this issue, but couldn’t reach agreement.  The Senate attempted in the regular session to overhaul current tax law but was unable to agree on how to address existing oil fields, and so provided incentives for only new fields. This approach was rejected by the House, which had passed its own package of incentives.  Governor Parnell said that he prefers a complete overhaul of the tax structure, including incentives for existing oil fields, because it would help speed up production from wells that are becoming less economically viable.  He estimated that the incentives could lead to an increase of 100,000 barrels per day in less than two years, while incentives for only new fields could take as long as 10 years to increase production.  Alaska Gov. Parnell introduces oil tax billFairbanks Daily News-Miner and Alaska Governor to introduce oil tax bill this weekFairbanks Daily News-Miner

NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a consolidation and expansion of programs administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Long Island Power Authority, and the New York Power Authority, in an effort to double the amount of customer-sited solar energy production this year, and to quadruple that amount in 2013.  Governor Cuomo said that the NY-Sun Initiative “puts New York at the forefront of solar development and research, creating green jobs while containing energy costs for consumers.”  Part of the initiative involves the State’s Public Service Commission doubling funding for a program that provides incentives to homes and businesses to install solar panels on-site. These funds will be transferred from an existing program designed to subsidize larger renewable energy projects.  Other changes in the initiative include solar demonstration projects, expansion of research and development, an investment in cost-cutting strategies, a new program in which the Long Island Power Authority will install their solar panels on customers’ premises, and agencies working together to streamline the permitting and interconnection processes.  Governor Cuomo announces comprehensive NY-Sun Initiative to expand solar development in New YorkSaugerties Post Star and PSC approves doubling solar incentive fundsAlbany Times Union

VA – Governor Bob McDonnell has signed 13 energy bills into law that he says will help Virginia become “the energy capital of the East Coast.”  At a signing ceremony, Governor McDonnell said that the “legislative package strengthens and adds flexibility to the expansion of our energy infrastructure, which is a key component in attracting new economic development and jobs,” as well as expanding alternative energy.  Among the new laws are measures that would expand the production and use of natural gas, expand the definition, research, and use of renewable energy, improve electricity infrastructure, support energy efficiency, and convert the State’s fleet of automobiles to use alternative energy.  McDonnell signs energy billsAugusta Free Press and Gov. signs 13 energy billsCavalier Daily

National News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final rule on hydraulic fracturing, which will require companies using the process to capture natural gas to implement procedures to help mitigate negative environmental effects.  The most stringent regulations, which will require rig operators to use “green completions,” which capture smog-producing gases upon initially tapping a well, will not go into effect until 2015; the initial proposed regulation would have required a 60-day implementation.  Until 2015, drillers will need to burn off the gases rather than capture them.  The gas industry, which had argued that supplies required to implement the new regulations would not be available within 60 days, called the delay an “important adjustment” that would allow compliance.  Many existing wells already use the technology required by the new rules, which the EPA estimates will make companies up to $11 million per year since they will be able to sell gases they capture instead of burning or releasing them.  Obama issues first pollution rules for gas wells, offers delayBloomberg

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a three-month funding extension required to continue federal support for transportation projects that include roads, bridges, and transit systems.  Included in this version is language that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.  The pipeline is opposed by some environmentalists because the type of oil sent through it will generate more greenhouse gases than other types of oil; it is supported by unions because of the jobs it is expected to create and by others who believe it will lead to a reduced dependency on foreign oil.  The bill will now go to a conference committee to be reconciled with a bill passed by the Senate that does not include a provision on the Keystone pipeline.  President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the legislation if it includes a requirement to approve the pipeline.  House Republicans revive bid to advance Keystone pipelineBusinessWeek and House clears highway bill with Keystone pipeline mandate, thwarts Obama The Hill

 

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Energy Update, December 30, 2011

December 30, 2011

In the States

CO – A new rule approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission requires companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing, often called “fracking,” to disclose the chemicals and the concentrations of each that is used in the fluid pumped into the ground to extract gas.  The rule had been vigorously debated, and eventually Governor John Hickenlooper stepped in to help settle the issue of how to handle trade secrets.  Environmental groups and industry representatives are generally pleased with the rule, which requires companies to disclose the chemicals on a website and provide nearby residents information on fracking.  Colorado approval of fracking fluids’ full disclosure came after long negotiations and nudge from GovernorDenver Post

CT – Under a new competitive bidding program, the State’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection selected two companies out of 21 applicants to build two solar power plants that will generate a total of 10 megawatts, enough to power 10,000 homes.  The plants will help to meet a state mandate passed this year that requires 30 megawatts of new renewable energy projects.  Governor Dannel Malloy praised the competitive bidding program, saying the number of applicants shows that “entrepreneurs and clean technology innovators are excited about the new approach Connecticut has taken.”  The remaining 20 megawatts of renewable energy will be developed by utilities.  Largest-ever solar projects approved by StateHartford Courant

MS – At Governor Haley Barbour’s request, the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) has issued a set of regulations that could allow oil and natural gas drilling in State waters near barrier islands within the next year.  Environmental groups and tourism industry leader united several years ago to oppose legislation that allowed drilling in coastal areas, citing concern over environmental and economic effects of a potential spill.  The legislation that eventually passed kept some areas of the Gulf off limits to drilling but gave the MDA the authority to issue and regulate oil and gas leases in State waters.  However, Hurricane Katrina and last year’s Gulf oil spill delayed further consideration of the issue.  Earlier this year, Governor Barbour asked the MDA to work on the rules so they could be completed before his term ends.  The MDA estimates that the State will gain between $250 million and $500 million in royalties from drilling.  Miss. moves toward offshore oil and gas leasingHattiesburg American and State agency revives offshore drilling effortsSun Herald

NJ – Governor Chris Christie has signed a bill into law that will allow solar panels and wind turbines to be installed on closed landfills and quarries.  Lawmakers in favor of the new law said it would benefit the environment and the economy by creating renewable energy and jobs.  The bill was originally passed in January but was vetoed by Governor Christie due to a technical issue that was later corrected and returned to the Governor for his signature.  Solar power legislation now law in NJNorthJersey.com and Bill to promote solar energy facilities signed into lawNJToday.net

Regional News

Four states will receive a total of $60 million in a settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) after a multi-year lawsuit in which the states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and three environmental groups alleged that the TVA’s coal-fired power plants had spread pollution across the southeast.  The settlement directs the money to be spent on energy efficiency and environmental projects and requires the TVA to shutter 18 coal plants by 2017, close or convert an additional 16 by 2019, and spend $5 billion on emission control equipment for remaining power plants.  The states are currently planning how to spend the funds, which will paid out over the next five years.  States receive energy windfallChattanooga Times Free Press

Federal News

New rules released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require power plants that generate electricity with coal or oil to greatly reduce emissions of 84 different toxins including mercury, arsenic, nickel, selenium, and cyanide.  The rules, which implement clean air mandates enacted by Congress over two decades ago and comply with a court order for federal action, are estimated by the EPA to prevent 11,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of ailments each year.  Within as little as four years, all coal- and oil-fired power plants must meet or exceed the emission rates of the cleanest 12 percent of such plants.  At the current time, about 40 percent of the nation’s plants have no emissions controls in place.   An analysis by the Associated Press concluded that between 32 and 68 coal-fired power plants may close as a result of the new rules.  Utility groups have said that the rules will cost as many as a million jobs over the next decade, though the EPA estimates that it expects only a small change in employment.  EPA rules target mercury pollution, toxics from power plantsUSA Today and EPA forces dirtiest power plants to clean up toxic air pollution but gives leeway on timingWashington Post

A provision in the payroll tax cut extension legislation recently signed into law by President Barack Obama will require the White House to make a decision on whether to allow construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline by February 21, 2012.  The President has said previously that a decision would not be made until 2013.  The provision requires the President to approve the pipeline within 60 days of passage unless he declares it to not be in the country’s “national interest.”  Several executive branch officials have indicated that a Congressionally-imposed 60-day timeline would result in a rejection of the proposal since there is not enough time to complete the review process and the route has not yet been finalized.  If the pipeline is rejected, its developer, TransCanada, would need to submit another application and start from the beginning with more hearings and reviews, a process that has taken three years to date.  Obama signs payroll tax bill that requires speedy decision on Keystone pipelineThe Hill and Politics stamps out oil sands pipeline, yet it seems likely to endureNew York Times

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced federal approval of two renewable energy projects on public land in the Southwest that he says “will produce the clean energy equivalent of nearly 18 coal-fired power plants.”  The projects include a solar energy facility southwest of Phoenix, AZ that will power about 90,000 homes and a wind farm east of San Diego, CA that will power up to 65,000 homes.  These two are the latest renewable energy projects approved for construction on public land; there are currently 25 such projects that, when completed, will power 2.2 million homes.  The Obama Administration is also attempting to promote the installation of wind turbines off the east coast, though a lack of investment and expiring tax credits are hampering those efforts.  Obama admin pushes renewable energy on 2 coastsAssociated Press and Obama Administration approves 2 huge renewable energy projectsCleanTechnica

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Energy Update, December 16, 2011

December 16, 2011

In the States

NE – After calling a special session to determine how to approach environmental issues related to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Governor Dave Heineman is now endorsing an accelerated approval process for the project.  Governor Heineman said “I certainly support expediting everything we're doing with the Keystone XL project,” which includes not only federal permitting but a State environmental review that is expected to take up to nine months.  The Obama Administration has said that it will not make a decision on whether to issue the required permits for the project until 2013.  Heineman supports speeding up Keystone XLLincoln Journal Star

NJ – Governor Chris Christie has approved a final master energy plan for New Jersey that would lower the percentage of energy required to come from clean sources by 2020 from 30 percent to 22.4 percent.  The revised plan calls for changing the focus of solar production incentives from residential installations to large-scale collection centers and increasing the amount of solar energy credits utilities will be required to buy.  The plan also calls for building a new nuclear power plant and convening a State panel to discuss the future role of nuclear energy.  The plan includes a longer-term goal to derive 70 percent of the State’s electricity from clean sources, which include nuclear, natural gas, and hydroelectric power.  Natural gas, nuclear get bigger role in energy master planNorthJersey.com and NJ energy master plan finalized: action on solar, but environmentalists still not happyNJ.com

WA – Governor Chris Gregoire is meeting with stakeholders to discuss potential changes to the State’s definition of clean energy.  A mandate passed by voters requires larger utilities to generate three percent of electricity from clean sources starting January 1, 2012, gradually increasing that percentage in coming years up to 15 percent in 2020.  Currently, the mandate does not consider existing hydroelectric energy, which generates two-thirds of the State’s electricity, to count toward meeting the goals. However, legislation is expected to be introduced in the next session that would modify the treatment of this source of energy.  Governor Gregoire has indicated she supports allowing some incremental hydropower and biomass improvements to count towards meeting the State’s clean energy standard, along with other changes to the law, such as delaying some requirements for smaller and slowly growing utilities, and allowing utilities to offset future requirements with excess conservation.  Governor weighs changes to Wash. clean-energy lawSeattle Post-Intelligencer

Federal News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft report following a three-year study on hydraulic fracturing that suggests that the method of retrieving trapped natural gas may have contributed to the contamination of the water supply in central Wyoming.  The study notes that the gas wells are unusually shallow and are thus more likely to affect the water supply, but that synthetic materials used in the hydraulic fracturing process, including benzene and methane, were found in monitoring wells near the gas wells.  The study will now be peer-reviewed and available for public comment.  Wyoming Governor Matt Mead called for more testing to be done and called the study “scientifically questionable” while a local citizens’ group praised the EPA for offering protection to residents of the affected area.  E.P.A. links tainted water in Wyoming to hydraulic fracturing for natural gasNew York Times

Despite the fact that many energy-related bills have been proposed, introduced, or debated in the current Congress, almost no legislation has been enacted this year except for a bill to improve pipeline safety.  Included on the list of inaction is President Barack Obama’s proposal that he unveiled at this year’s State of the Union address: a renewable standard requiring 80 percent of the country’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2035.  Other languishing energy proposals include 15 narrowly focused bills that passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support, efforts to respond to the Gulf oil spill and West Virginia coal mine explosion disasters, a range of House-passed measures to increase domestic energy production, limitations on EPA rulemaking authority, and initiatives to address climate change concerns.  The Obama Administration has moved forward with several regulatory initiatives, including new fuel efficiency standards for personal and industrial vehicles, offshore energy production oversight, and EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.  However, increased partisanship in Congress has made it more difficult to pass legislation than in previous years when lawmakers approved bills encouraging renewable energy production, increasing fuel efficiency, and increasing offshore energy production.  While some lawmakers from both parties are planning on pushing for new energy legislation in 2012, they acknowledge that the chances of passage are slim; Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair Jeff Bingaman said, “Given the makeup of this Congress, it’s very hard to see how we get serious legislation of that sort through both houses and to the president for his signature.”  Big energy measures to slide past in 2012 - Politico

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Energy Update, December 2, 2011

December 2, 2011

In the States

HI – In a ceremony at the State Capitol, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed an agreement with the president of the Japanese government-sponsored New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to build a smart grid on part of Maui in order to better integrate renewable energy sources.  Since the existing grid is not built to accommodate power supplies that vary such as solar or wind energy, the smart grid, which NEDO President Hideo Hata said would be “the most advanced smart grid in the world,” is needed to take advantage of large scale renewable energy projects planned in Hawaii.  Governor Abercrombie said the smart grid would help move the State away from imported oil use, strengthen Hawaii’s renewable energy technology capacity, and serve as a model for the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the rest of the world.  “After the test is done, we’ll have in place an alternative energy infrastructure that will be highly valuable to us now and on into the foreseeable future.”  The smart grid will cover homes and businesses in Kihei and electric vehicle charging stations on other parts of Maui.  Abercrombie signs deal to build smart grid on MauiBloomberg BusinessWeek

NE – Governor Dave Heineman has signed into law two bills that passed the unicameral legislature with unanimous support after a special session was called to respond to issues related to the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.  One new law gives greater control over future pipeline sitings to the State’s Public Service Commission, while the other is the result of an agreement with TransCanada, the Keystone XL project’s developer, to reroute the pipeline away from environmentally fragile areas in the State.  Under the second piece of legislation, Governor Heineman will need to approve the final route following the completion of a new environmental study.  Members of the Natural Resource Committee, which crafted the legislation, walked the bill to the office of Governor Heineman immediately after passage, where the Governor signed it upon arrival.  Governor signs two oil pipeline bills into lawLincoln Journal Star

NY – Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced an incentive program that will provide vouchers of up to $20,000 to buyers of electric trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds.  The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will provide up to $10 million for the program, which will fund vouchers for at least 450 vehicles.  Electric vehicle manufacturers, such as Smith Electric Vehicles, which recently announced construction of a new factory in New York City that would build solar electric trucks, praised the program, while it drew skepticism from some environmentalists, including NYU environmental studies professor Juliette Warren, who said the program may increase air pollution through greater use of coal-fired plants to charge the vehicles.  Cuomo announces electric vehicle incentive programWashington Square News

Federal News

A Treasury Department program that provides incentives for companies to invest in renewable energy projects is set to expire at the end of this year.  The “1603” program offers tax-equity financing for renewable energy projects, but also allows investors to more quickly realize cash profits from their investments, which would not be the case without special grant payments.  After construction of a project is complete, investors can receive a cash payment instead of waiting for a tax credit against future tax liabilities.  This arrangement makes renewable energy projects very attractive to investors and has greatly increased demand for this type of financing.  Analysts have said that the program will likely not be extended even though the program is widely supported by Congress due to the price tag: around $3 billion per year.  More than 760 trade groups and energy companies sent a letter to Congress urging a one-year extension of the grant program, which reads in part that such an extension “will create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote private sector development of energy technologies.”  Clean energy funding to drop after Obama grant program endsBloomberg BusinessWeek and Letter to Congress from trade associations and energy companies [pdf]1603 Coalition

President Barack Obama has announced, along with former President Bill Clinton, a program that is designed to improve energy efficiency in both public buildings and commercial properties without additional public investment.  The program, which expands an existing effort, the Better Building Initiative, will use $2 billion borrowed by energy services companies to finance energy-efficiency upgrades for federal buildings, and another $2 billion for improvements for property owned by private sector companies, universities, and state and local governments.  The energy services companies will then be paid back through the energy savings costs achieved through energy retrofits.  By 2020, the program is expected to improve efficiency in 1.6 billion square feet of commercial office space by at least 20 percent.   Obama, Clinton, together again, pitching efficiencyBoston Globe and Obama enlists Clinton, 3M, Alcoa, in $4 billion energy planBloomberg BusinessWeek

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Energy Update, November 18, 2011

November 18, 2011

In the States

AZ – Governor Jan Brewer has taken the final steps to withdraw Arizona from the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the regional cap-and-trade agreement entered into by her predecessor, former Governor Janet Napolitano.  The director of the State’s Department of Environmental Quality, Henry Darwin, said that rather than subscribe to the cap-and-trade program, Arizona will join North America 2050, a group of states that will consider greenhouse gas emissions issues, but let each member State decide what emissions reduction policies make sense economically and environmentally.  Governor Brewer’s administration has also begun to eliminate rules that would have required reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in autos starting next year.  In both cases, administration officials cited new and proposed federal environmental regulations that they believe lessen the need for States to take separate action on climate and pollution issues.  Brewer withdraws Arizona from climate initiativeArizona Daily Sun

ME – Governor Paul LePage has said that he would like to halve the percentage of homes reliant on heating oil in Maine from 80 percent to 40 percent by the end of his current term in 2014.  The Governor’s plan involves increasing access to natural gas in urban areas where the population is dense enough to make installing pipelines cost-effective, and wood pellets in more rural areas.  While some lawmakers and experts think that the goal is ambitious, most agree with the idea of diversifying fuel sources for home heating.  LePage wants heating oil use cut in half by 2014Bangor Daily News

A group of 15 Governors has sent a letter to the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership urging them to fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2012 at the same level as FFY 2011.  The letter said that the encroaching cold weather coupled with higher oil and propane costs make such funding timely and critical.  Under the temporary appropriations bill that funds the government through December 16, LIHEAP is cut by more than half, from $4.7 billion to $2 billion.  Signatories of the letter include Governors Hickenlooper (CO), Malloy (CT), Markell (DE), Quinn (IL), LePage (ME), O’Malley (MD), Patrick (MA), Dayton (MN), Lynch (NH), Cuomo (NY), Perdue (NC), Chafee (RI), Shumlin (RI), Tomblin (WV), and deJongh (VI).  Gov. Patrick calls on Congress to fund winter fuel assistanceMilford Daily News and Letter to Congress [pdf]Fifteen Governors

Governors Hickenlooper of Colorado, Fallin of Oklahoma, Corbett of Pennsylvania, and Mead of Wyoming have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to encourage the production of affordable natural gas-powered vehicles for their fleets and for public consumption.  The MOU announces the States’ intentions to issue a joint request for proposal (RFP) “that aggregates annual State fleet vehicle procurements” in order to boost demand for the vehicles and help incentivize their design and manufacture.  The Governors also wrote that they will solicit support from other Governors prior to the issuance of the RFP.  Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s policy director, Shawn Reese, said that “by working with other states and Wyoming’s cities, towns and counties, we can show automakers in Detroit that there is a large enough market for replacement vehicles for them to manufacture natural gas fleets that can be sold back to the public at prices comparable to traditional vehicles.”  Wyoming Gov. Mead joins multistate effort to push for affordable natural gas vehiclesWyoming Star-Tribune and Memorandum of Understanding [pdf]Four Governors

The Governors Wind Energy Coalition, a bipartisan group of 23 Governors, has written Congress urging them to extend the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy that is set to expire at the end of 2012, specifically endorsing H.R. 3307, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act.  The Governors note that wind energy projects are beginning to slow down due to uncertainty over whether they will be eligible for the credits in coming years, and expect that if the credits are not renewed, “there will be negative impacts on the high-tech manufacturing jobs that the industry has brought to or created in our states.”  Governors urge prompt extension of wind energy tax exemptionREVE and Letter to Congress [pdf]Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition

Federal News

President Barack Obama’s administration has announced that the decision on whether to allow construction of the 1700-mile Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be delayed until after the 2012 election.  The State Department, which has the authority to issue or deny permits on the project, says that it will review alternative routes that would avoid certain environmentally vulnerable areas, delaying the decision until early 2013.  Prior to the announcement of the delay, TransCanada, the company that would build the pipeline, suggested changing the route to avoid crossing an aquifer in Nebraska.  President Obama and the State Department had come under pressure from environmental groups who generally oppose the project, Nebraska state officials who oppose the proposed route of the pipeline because of the potential impact of a spill on environmentally sensitive areas of that state, and oil companies, labor unions, and the Canadian government who support the pipeline because of its economic and job creation potential.  U.S. delays decision on pipeline until after electionNew York Times and Keystone pipeline builder proposes changing Nebraska RouteLos Angeles Times

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Energy Update, November 4, 2011

November 4, 2011

In the States

NE – Governor Dave Heineman has called a special session of the legislature for the purpose of considering legislation on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  Thus far, at least three bills have been introduced to strengthen regulatory requirements for construction of the pipeline within the State.  Governor Heineman, State lawmakers, and residents living in affected areas are concerned about the safety of the pipeline, especially as it crosses an aquifer that serves 1.5 million people and that is vulnerable to contaminants such as oil, should a leak occur.  One of the proposed bills would give oversight of the project to the State’s Public Service Commission, while another would prohibit pipeline developers from taking land through eminent domain without a permit.  In another proposed bill, a panel would be convened to recommend whether to approve or deny a pipeline proposal and report to the State’s Governor, who would have the final say on whether a pipeline route would be acceptable.  Neb. bill would give Governor pipeline authorityBloomberg BusinessWeek

Federal News

President Barack Obama has announced that he will personally decide whether to issue a federal permit for the 1700-mile Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.  The proposed permit for the controversial pipeline has been under review by the State Department for three years.  President Obama said that he will review a report from the State Department in the next several months and make a decision based on economic and public health concerns.  Unions and industry groups who support the pipeline say that the $7 billion investment would create thousands of jobs while environmentalists say that the pipeline would go through environmentally sensitive areas and that creating usable oil from tar sands creates more greenhouse gases than other types of oil.  Obama to make decision on controversial oil pipelineWashington Post

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