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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, January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011

In the States

MN – Several bills have been drafted that would repeal, to differing degrees, a 2007 bipartisan law that bans new coal-fired power plants and the importing of coal-powered electricity until carbon offsets or a plan to lower emissions are in place.  Sponsors are saying that the law places unnecessary burdens on industry, slowing economic recovery once the recession is over.  Governor Mark Dayton has not said yet indicated whether he will veto any particular repeal bill, but he did campaign in part on maintaining a moratorium on new nuclear power plants that is a part of the same law.  Minn. Republicans hope to undo clean energy policiesMinnesota Public Radio

NM – A State Supreme Court ruling has reversed an order by Governor Susana Martinez that blocked publication of regulations aimed at reducing emissions from utilities and dairies within the State.  One of the regulations requires a three percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions every year.  The Court ruled that the regulations must be published in the State’s register, but opponents of the regulations plan to work with the Governor and the State legislature to change the rules.  Court reverses New Mexico Governor on environmental rulesNew York Times

State of the State Addresses

While approximately half of the Governors have given their State of the State or State of the Commonwealth addresses, the realities imposed by the financial downturn caused most Governors to focus their speeches on addressing fiscal difficulties and job creation rather than energy issues.  Still, some Governors incorporated energy plans tied to job creation and retention.

Several Governors cited recent energy business investments that would help lead their States to better fiscal times, including South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, all of whom who noted recent increased renewable energy investments or improvements.  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that Nordic Windpower USA’s new plant will create 200 jobs, and proposed to create more through the construction of a new nuclear power plant.  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour noted several investments in his State, including coal, oil, nuclear, LNG, solar, ethanol, coal-to-liquids, and carbon capture projects. 

A few Governors called for increased domestic renewable energy production.  For example, Hawaii Governor Neal Abercrombie expressed support for accelerating renewable energy projects in his State, and improving Hawaii’s energy security.  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called for more renewables on federal lands, saying, “I support all efforts to make Nevada the renewable energy capital of the country.” 

Some Governors discussed a mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy resources available to their states.  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said he hoped to make Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast” by investing, in part, in solar, wind, waste-to-energy, and biomass, and promoting offshore wind by leasing offshore parcels for wind energy production and serving as headquarters for the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium.  But he also called for increasing oil, coal, gas, and nuclear energy production.  While Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said that investments in hydroelectric power and renewable energy grants in his State would create jobs and help the State meet his goal of 50% renewable power by 2025, he also wants to lower taxes on oil production in order to create more jobs.  Wyoming Governor Matt Mead discussed “value-added” projects such as combing wind power with gas-fired turbines, as well the manufacturing of wind turbine components.  In addition, he supports continued use of coal while making it a cleaner fuel through carbon capture and sequestration, and also advocates greater use of carbon injection technologies for enhanced oil extraction, as well as coal gasification.  

In discussing his State’s abundant fossil fuel resources, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he will aggressively pursue the State’s lawsuit against the U.S. EPA over mountaintop removal regulations, and that he supports development of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia and carbon capture and sequestration.  

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

National News

President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech to Congress last week, during which he issued a challenge of producing 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.  President Obama said that all forms of energy production are needed to meet this goal, and mentioned nuclear power, clean coal, and natural gas in addition to wind and solar.  U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who gave the Republican response to the State of the Union, emphasized the need for less government spending and a more limited government rather than new investments.  Several high-ranking Democrats expressed support for the idea of a broader clean energy mandate while most Republicans remained skeptical about incentivizing one energy type over another or imposing mandates on the private sector.  Senators laud “clean energy” pushPolitico and State of the Union (Transcript)White House and State of the Union Response (Transcript)House Budget Committee

According to a new report commissioned by the federal government as required in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, the United States military would not receive any significant benefit from greater use of alternative fuels.  The study, performed by the RAND Corporation, said that focusing on energy efficiency would have a greater impact on lowering greenhouse gases.  The report received criticism from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for the Navy Thomas W. Hicks, who said he was not consulted by RAND, and that the report ignores energy security issues, and from environmental groups, biofuels proponents, the Algal Biomass Organization, and others.  RAND says that while the military is a major consumer of liquid fuels, it still only uses two percent of the country’s daily intake, and since some biofuels are still in their infancy, the money spent on alternative fuels in the military would have a small effect on greenhouse gas emissions.  Alternative fuels don’t benefit the military, a RAND report saysNew York Times

 

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Energy Update, January 29, 2010

January 29, 2010

In the States

State of the States – More than half of all Governors have given their State of the State addresses, and a many of them have included energy issues in their speeches.  Some of these are highlighted below.  The full text and summaries of all of the State of the State addresses can be found on the Stateline.org website.

AK – Governor Sean Parnell gave his first State of the State speech, in which he advocated drilling for more oil and natural gas, saying that drilling would contribute to a “more secure, domestic energy future.”  The Governor specifically promoted drilling in the outer continental shelf and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. 

HI – Governor Linda Lingle focused on energy in her State of the State speech, calling the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative “one of our most successful collaborations.”  The Governor cited clean energy as important for the environment, the economy, and security, while introducing new tax incentives, bonds, and a ban on power plants that burn fossil fuels as ideas to achieve the State’s clean energy goals.

IN – In his State of the State address, Governor Mitch Daniels cited the fact that Indiana has been “the fastest growing State in wind power” over the past two years as proof of the State’s strength, and said that “within weeks, you’ll see us explode onto the solar power landscape.”  He also said that the State’s goal is to become the capital of the electric vehicle industry, a “potentially massive industry of tomorrow.”

ME – A large portion of Governor John Baldacci’s State of the State Address focused on the future of energy in Maine.  In terms of energy production, the Governor focused on the potential for offshore wind power generation, biofuels, and tidal energy.  Governor Baldacci also focused on energy efficiency and conservation efforts such as rebates to homeowners for weatherization and grants to businesses for energy reductions.

MS – Governor Haley Barbour touted forthcoming projects in his State of the State address, including coal-to-liquids and coal-to-gas power plants, carbon capture technologies, and creating fuel from waste products such as pet coke and wood waste.  Governor Barbour also promoted the expansion of nuclear, biofuel, and natural gas industries, saying that “as long as I am Governor, Mississippi will have an energy policy; and it’s more affordable, American energy.” 

OH – Governor Ted Strickland opened his State of the State address with an overview of recent energy programs and investments in Ohio before announcing his new energy proposals.  Specifically, the Governor advocated a new “Energy Gateway Fund” that would invest $40 million in State and federal money into solar, wind, fuel cells, energy storage, and other alternative energy projects, and restructuring tax incentives to promote more wind and solar energy production.

UT – In his State of the State address, Governor Gary Herbert unveiled the Utah Energy Initiative, which will develop a ten-year plan to ensure the use of modern technology combined with local inexpensive fuels to create jobs and economic opportunity.  The Governor also touted the State’s abundance of energy resources, including wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric, as well as a number of specific alternative energy projects. 

WI – Governor Jim Doyle used his State of the State speech to propose new alternative energy initiatives that would increase energy production within the State.  Currently, Wisconsin spends $16 billion per year on energy coming from outside its borders.  The Governor supported the Clean Energy Jobs Act that would expand the State’s requirement for alternative energy use to 25% by 2025 and reduce total energy consumption by 2% by 2015.  Governor Doyle also announced a new “Wisconsin Gold to Green Fund,” a $100 million revolving loan to allow manufacturers to reduce energy costs.

National News

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama expressed his continued support for climate change legislation and prodded the Senate to pass its version of the bill after passing jobs and financial regulation legislation.  The President called upon opponents of climate change legislation to engage in negotiation by offering concessions on oil and gas drilling and some other issues, and received a standing ovation from both parties when he endorsed building more nuclear power plants.  The call to action generated mixed reactions from Representatives and Senators.  Climate change bill advocates Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer expressed optimism that a bill would be passed, while some other Democrats were skeptical of the bill’s chances or the President’s commitment to the issue, and some Republicans dismissed the bill’s chances altogether.  Obama holds firm on climate bill, but most Senators shrugNew York Times

In giving the Republican response to the State of the Union, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell criticized the Obama administration for delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy, and for proposing what he described as “job-killing cap-and-trade energy taxes.”  The Governor also said that Virginia may be the first State to explore for and produce oil and gas off the shore of the East Coast.  McDonnell’s response for GOP focuses on jobsRichmond Times-Dispatch

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Energy Update, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009

In the States

MS – Governor Haley Barbour discussed the future of energy in Mississippi at a meeting of energy policy experts, calling energy “the lifeblood of the world’s economy.”  He cited a potential new lignite coal power plant with carbon capture and sequestration technology and the possibility of two solar power companies beginning manufacturing in the state as positive steps.  Barbour: Energy is lifeblood of the world’s economyMississippi Business Journal

NY – Governor David Paterson has said that a new plan released by the State Energy Planning Board will help shape legislation to make New York a leader in clean energy.  The plan calls for greater efficiency in new building codes, requiring energy audits in home sales to encourage efficiency upgrades, and increasing the proportion of energy created by solar, wind, and natural gas.  The Governor has stated a goal for the State to meet 45% of its energy needs through reducing energy demand and increasing renewable energy.  State energy plan promotes clean, efficient alternativesNew York Times

VA – Governor-elect Bob McDonnell has sent a letter to US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking that the federal government move quickly to lease ocean-floor parcels off of Virginia’s coastline for oil and natural drilling, currently scheduled for 2011.  Governor Tim Kaine asked Secretary Salazar for a delay of the same leases earlier this year.  The Governor-elect believes a lack of movement in the past year and interference from federal politicians could further impede the process, which a 2005 study suggests could create up to 2,500 new jobs.  McDonnell wants offshore drilling in 2011Virginian-Pilot

Regional, National, and International News

Copenhagen Climate Talks – President Barack Obama and four other world leaders shaped a final accord at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting.  To the disappointment of representatives from many smaller countries, the document is not a binding pledge with firm targets for reducing greenhouse gases, but a non-binding statement of intention.  The accord aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit a rise in global temperature by two degrees Celsius, and for richer countries to provide aid of $30 billion over the next three years – and up to $100 billion per year by 2020 – to poorer countries.  There were many issues of contention between the countries during the meeting, to the point where some called for another, smaller conference, but the accord represents a small step forward in halting and mitigating climate change.  A grudging accord in climate talksNew York Times

US Cap-and-Trade Policy – At least six moderate Senate Democrats have asked President Barack Obama to hold off on cap-and-trade legislation next year.  The Senators cited the economy, a contentious health care debate, and election-year politics as reasons to hold off on another sweeping legislative change.  The While House has signaled that it is committed to cap-and-trade legislation, but there are other proposals currently being discussed by Senators, including setting a price on carbon emissions and capping emissions only for power plants.  Senate Democrats to W.H.: Drop cap-and-trade - Politico

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic US – The Governors of 11 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States have signed a memorandum of understanding to require reductions in the carbon content of fuel through a multistate low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS).  The mandatory requirement will not rely on a single technological resource, not will it fundamentally change the fuel used in automobiles, but will make the fuel used emit less carbon.  According to proponents, higher-carbon sources of fuel such as tar sands will be discouraged by the agreement, while alternative energy and low- or no-emissions vehicles will be favored.  Signatories to the agreement include Governors M. Jodi Rell (CT), Jack Markell (DE), John Baldacci (ME), Martin O’Malley (MD), Deval Patrick (MA), John Lynch (NH), Jon Corzine (NJ), David Paterson (NY), Ed Rendell (PA), Donald Carcieri (RI), and Jim Douglas (VT).  Governors take aim at carbon in fuelNew Haven Register

2009 Energy Review – Much advancement has been made in energy technology over the past year.  New technologies are allowing the recovery of natural gas, which is cleaner burning than coal, from places previously thought economically impossible, increasing its availability by 39%.  Clean coal technology has begun to be implemented on a larger scale, including power plants, and researchers are finding potential in less expensive carbon capture strategies.  Similar movement has occurred for biomass and cellulosic ethanol, which are now more viable as a replacement for gasoline and oil due to discoveries this year.  New technologies are creating potential for lighter batteries that will hold a greater charge, bringing plug-in hybrid and electric autos closer to reality.  The year in energyTechnology Review

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