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Energy Update, July 13, 2012

July 13, 2012

In the States

MD – Governor Martin O’Malley attended the groundbreaking of a solar power plant that, when completed later this year, will be the largest solar plant in the State, and one of the biggest on the East Coast, producing enough energy to power 2,700 homes.  The plan to build the $70 million, 20-megawatt array on State-owned land was announced in May of last year.  Construction of the plant is estimated by its developers to create 125 jobs with “a handful” required to continue operations.  At the groundbreaking, Governor O’Malley said, “There is no other state that has declared so clearly the goals we share” to produce more energy from renewable sources. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley attends groundbreaking ceremony for largest solar power array in stateHerald-Mail

NC – Governor Bev Perdue’s veto of a bill that could potentially open the way for hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina was narrowly overturned by the State’s legislature when an opponent of the legislation mistakenly cast a vote in favor.  Governor Perdue vetoed the law, saying it did not include enough safety provisions.  The new law will create a new Energy and Mining Commission to draw up regulations based on studies of the controversial practice used to extract natural gas from shale rock.  When the Commission’s work is complete, which it is expected to be in late 2014, the legislature will then vote on whether to approve the process.  Carney's mistaken vote is key in fracking overrideCharlotte Observer

Federal News

The U.S. Navy has announced three goals for its onshore installations: cut energy use in half by 2020; obtain half of needed energy from renewable sources by then; and make half of its facilities net-zero energy consumers by that same date.  These goals align with the Obama administration’s efforts to increase the use of cleaner, domestic energy by all of the military branches.  Another part of the plan is to change the training of Navy personnel to encourage energy efficiency.  Vice Admiral Phil Cullom, deputy chief of naval operations, said that he “can't overemphasize how important the culture change piece is."    Navy unveils new shore energy policyChicago Tribune

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced new funding for 22 states that will help them to make public buildings more energy efficient, develop effective policy and program goals that encourage energy efficiency, and create or improve state funding programs used to finance efficiency upgrades to public buildings.  The states selected to receive the $14 million available under this program are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.  State led energy efficiency programs announcedToday’s Facility Manager

 

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Energy Update, June 1, 2012

June 1, 2012

In the States

MD – Governor Martin O’Malley has signed three bills into law that are designed to increase the usage of solar energy and geothermal heating and cooling.  The new geothermal law makes Maryland the only state to count geothermal heat pumps toward its renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS), which requires utilities to obtain 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2022.  Governor O’Malley also enacted laws that will increase tax breaks for solar and geothermal projects and move up the deadline on the solar energy RPS, which will now require two percent of the state’s energy to come from solar by 2020 rather than the original 2022.  Maryland Gov. signs geothermal heat pump billContracting Business and O’Malley signs hundreds of bills that will tint Maryland a deeper shade of blueWashington Post and Maryland Legislation To Accelerate Solar Carve-Out Signed Into LawSolar Industry

NC – Governor Bev Perdue has issued an executive order mandating the creation of a workgroup to make recommendations on regulations concerning hydraulic fracturing.  Governor Perdue said that the workgroup should define regulations that allow for energy development while protecting water resources and citizens’ health.  "If done safely, fracking can be part of a larger energy solution to create jobs and help lower energy costs," the Governor said.  State House and Senate Republicans favor a bill that would create a board comprised of House, Senate, and Gubernatorial appointees to develop regulations and lift the moratorium on drilling, but expressed optimism that the Governor is taking action on drilling regulation.  Gov. Bev Perdue issues order to develop fracking rules for North CarolinaFayetteville Observer

OH – Governor John Kasich has said that he will sign a bill into law that will require new regulations on construction of new oil and gas wells, greater disclosure of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, and water testing within 1,500 feet of hydraulic fracturing water wells.  The energy bill, which passed with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, also requires that the amount of time between drilling and capping of wells be tracked, that well owners purchase insurance, and that waste water imported from other states be disclosed.  Ohio legislature OKs bill on energy fracking rulesChicago Tribune

National News

Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Christopher Coons (D-DE) have founded a working group with other Senators designed to examine the renewable fuels standard in an effort to determine which of its provisions are working and which are not.  The group will dedicate 20 – 30 staff members to a “seed-to-wheel examination” of the standard, which will take into account its affect on markets, the environment, food prices, feedstock, and consumers.  The group’s intent is to bring biofuels and the renewable fuels standard up for discussion in the next Congress, following this year’s elections.  US Senate group starts up “seed to wheel” review of US Renewable Fuel StandardBiofuels Digest

The U.S. Commerce Department has issued a preliminary ruling that will impose a 13.7 to 26 percent duty on wind turbine towers manufactured in China on the grounds that the companies building the towers have received unfair government subsidies.  The ruling comes not long after the Department issued a similar ruling on Chinese solar panels based on unfair subsidies.  After that ruling, the Department also ruled that Chinese companies manufacturing solar panels were “dumping” in the American market and subjected them to additional tariffs.  Wind turbine towers may also face additional duties due to dumping charges in the coming weeks.  Reactions to the rulings among businesses have been mixed.  Steelworkers are in favor of the rulings, as are U.S. solar panel and wind tower manufacturers; solar panel installers say that the higher prices will slow their business.  A lawyer for the coalition of U.S.-based wind turbine tower manufacturers that brought the complaint to the Department said that the decision is a “positive step” and is “where we expected it to be,” while a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that “resorting to protectionism will not solve these frictions.” U.S. imposes duties on Chinese wind tower makersNew York Times and U.S. sets duties as high as 26% on wind towers from ChinaBloomberg BusinessWeek

 

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Energy Update, March 23, 2012

March 23, 2012

In the States

NC – Governor Bev Perdue has said that she believes hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in North Carolina if it is properly regulated, following an unannounced trip to Pennsylvania to examine the process.  The State’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources came to a similar conclusion shortly after the Governor’s announcement, when the Department released a study conducted with the Department of Commerce that was mandated by the legislature last year.  The study notes that there are likely unknown consequences of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, requiring effective regulatory oversight of the process.  Governor Perdue highlighted the potential economic benefits of energy resource development, saying that it is “something that can help America and North Carolina be globally competitive," but that much of that potential depends on “whether the folks who live in this community are willing to move forward.”  Perdue says “fracking” can be done safely in NCNews & Record and DENR: With safeguards, fracking is OK in North CarolinaCharlotte Observer

PA – Royal Dutch Shell has decided to locate its petrochemical plant, also known as an ethane cracker, near Pittsburgh, and Governor Tom Corbett has said that while the deal is the “first pitch in a nine-inning game” – the site must meet environmental and other requirements – it would “have the potential to be the single largest industrial investment in the region in at least a generation.”  Construction of the plant is expected to create 10,000 jobs, while another 10,000 workers will be needed to operate the plant itself, as well as for jobs at suppliers and businesses that will use the products made at the plant.  Corbett: Shell decision the first pitch in the gamePittsburgh Business Times and Corbett says “cracker” plant a job provider to State’s studentsPittsburgh Post-Gazette 

SD – Governor Dennis Daugaard has vetoed a bill that would have cut construction taxes in half on wind farm development projects and environmental upgrades to existing power plants over $50 million.  The bill was passed by the legislature to provide incentives to companies to invest in major wind projects and to help power plants conform to new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.  Governor Daugaard said in a statement about the veto that he did not disagree with providing incentives for in-state energy development, but felt that the legislature should wait to pass any new incentives until after a November vote on an initiative that would offer incentives to a wider variety of construction projects.  The Governor also said that such a program should include incentives for construction projects under $50 million, citing a $40 million wind farm project within the State that would be ineligible for benefits under the vetoed legislation.  South Dakota governor vetoes tax breaks for wind farms as untimely, discriminatoryThe Republic

 National News

The number of new photovoltaic solar panels installed in the United States more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 according to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association.  In 2010, 887 megawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity was installed; that total increased by 109 percent in 2011 when 1,855 megawatts of solar capacity was installed.  Part of the reason for the increase in installations is a reduction of prices for photovoltaic panels, which in 2011 dropped nearly 50 percent.  California installed the most solar capacity of any state in 2011 -- in part due to the State’s 33 percent renewable energy standard that must be met by 2020 -- followed by New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Nevada.  Solar installations doubled last year, with California leading the wayMiami Herald

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Energy Update, December 10, 2010

December 10, 2010

In the States

NC – A recent report by the National Wildlife Federation says that North Carolina has the greatest potential for wind energy of any Atlantic Coast State, which was welcome news to Governor Bev Perdue.  The Governor supports offshore wind development and would like to see one or two companies building turbines off the State’s coast in the next two years, provided “it can be developed cost-effectively and safely,” according to her spokeswoman.  The Governor also said that she still supports offshore oil drilling, so long as it is done safely, protects the State’s natural resources, and provides some revenue sharing.  Wind companies have already taken notice of the State and have applied for offshore leases that would allow construction of as many as 500 turbines offshore, enough to power up to 550,000 homes.  Drilling banned; eyes turn to windCharlotte Observer

VT – Governor-elect Peter Shumlin has written a letter to the Vice President of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant asking that the plant restart the process of extracting water contaminated with radioactive tritium from onsite wells.  A leak of the radioactive material was discovered a year ago, and the plant extracted the water in an effort to contain the material until November when the project ended.  One of the Governor-elect’s advisors, a nuclear engineer, is worried that tritium could reach the public’s water supply if more of the affected water is not extracted.  Shumlin urges Vermont Yankee to extract tainted waterBurlington Free Press

In the face of high unemployment and record deficits, States are turning to new revenue sources.  At least three States have used a portion of proceeds from the sale of carbon pollution credits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)  to help balance their budgets.  The RGGI agreement binds States to use at least 25% of the proceeds for such programs as alternative energy, energy efficiency, and consumer benefits, and all States combined have applied about 80% to these purposes.  In New Jersey, where legislation has been introduced to withdraw from the RGGI, $65 million of carbon credit proceeds has been used to help fill the State’s budget gap.  If the RGGI program is eliminated, however, such funding will no longer be available.  States diverting money from climate initiativeNew York Times

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of an Appeals Court ruling that allowed a suit brought by eight States and New York City against five coal-burning utilities to move forward.  In the suit, the States claim that the plants operated by the utilities are a “public nuisance” in that they contribute to global climate change.  The Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court to hear the appeal because it contends the States’ claim could interfere with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  The utilities support the appeal, but for a different reason – they argue the matter should be addressed by Congress rather than the courts.  The States involved – California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin – urged that the appeal be rejected.  Justices to rule on States’ emissions caseNew York Times

National News

The Obama Administration has postponed implementation of U.S. EPA regulations on emissions of ozone until July 2011 and of mercury and other pollutants until April 2012, citing the need for further study on the effects of the pollutants.  The rules would have affected several hundred cities and 200,000 industrial boilers, heaters, and incinerators.  Environmental groups voiced opposition to the rule delay, while manufacturers and Republican congressional leaders praised it, with some calling on the EPA to do away with the rules altogether.  EPA delays tougher rules on emissionsNew York Times

President Barack Obama has reinstated a ban on offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a statement on the ban citing the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a reminder to exercise caution when deciding whether or not to drill offshore.  News of the ban was welcomed by Florida Senator Ben Nelson and Environment America, but opposed by the oil industry.  Obama reinstates ban on offshore oil drillingTrade Only Today

The Republican Steering Committee has voted on who will chair the House committees in the 112th Congress.  The Energy and Commerce Committee will be chaired by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan who favors an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy production and who has said he will scrutinize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gases.  Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington State, who will be the next chair of the Natural Resources committee, supports increased domestic energy production and his party’s “all-of-the-above” energy position.  Rep. Upton expected to cross final hurdle to Energy gavel with GOP caucus vote todayNew York Times and Hastings loses bid to consolidate energy jurisdictionThe Hill

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Energy Update, October 2, 2009

October 2, 2009

In the States

CA – This week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the Global Climate Summit 2, which gathered over 1,200 participants from across the U.S. and the world to help discuss climate change issues and influence national policy in their countries prior to the UN summit planned for Copenhagen, Denmark in December.  California officials also hoped the summit would allow other governments to see what the state has accomplished and build on its achievements in negotiating a new global climate change pact at that meeting.  Topics included how to decrease energy usage, how to obtain cleaner energy, and how to best offset greenhouse gas emissions.  Schwarzenegger leads governors’ summit on global warmingChristian Science Monitor and Climate summit delegates like state’s planned carbon trading marketLos Angeles Times

NC – In a letter to US Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Governor Bev Perdue indicated she may be willing to consider offshore oil and gas drilling depending on the amount of reserves located off North Carolina’s shore and whether a panel of scientists and engineers she plans to assemble indicate drilling can be done safely and without hampering offshore wind energy development.  Governor Perdue commented on a draft proposal prepared by the Bush administration, which would allow certain sites to be explored for possible extraction of fossil fuels.  The Governor would also like more information on the share of oil and gas revenues the State could expect to receive.  Secretary Salazar has indicated he is likely to scale back the proposal before presenting it to President Obama and Congress prior to final approval.  Perdue indicates she’s open to offshore drillingWinston-Salem Journal

PA – Governor Ed Rendell spoke at a news conference to covey the importance of clean energy to Pennsylvania’s financial and environmental goals.  He cited the State’s $900 million of investment since 2003, an energy portfolio standard that mandates the development of alternative energy sources, energy conservation laws, and adoption of the California Clean Car Rule to reduce emissions from mobile sources as actions that have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions and created thousands of new jobs.  The Governor also expressed support for more research on carbon capture and storage technologies.  Rendell calls for clean energy developmentPittsburgh Post-Gazette

TX – Governor Rick Perry voiced strong opposition to federal climate change legislation during a meeting with State business and political leaders.  The Governor said that Texas has done well in balancing the interests of business and the environment and that new federal mandates on carbon emissions and other climate changing pollution would raise the prices of many everyday products for consumers and eliminate 200,000 to 300,000 jobs in the State.  He suggested the Federal Government should follow Texas’ lead by expanding the nation’s alternative energy portfolio, reducing the cost of alternative energy forms like solar and wind, and promoting investment in technology that captures emissions of carbon dioxide rather than institute a cap-and-trade policy.  Texas governor voices opposition to climate billAustin American-Statesman

WV – Governor Joe Manchin gave a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce in which he noted that while coal may create pollution, coal-producing states such as West Virginia have helped build a vibrant American economy.  The Governor believes that the pending House cap and trade legislation, in its current form, will cost too many jobs and that there may be ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling carbon dioxide into a useful product.  He also raised concerns about the potential for newly created alternative energy industry jobs moving offshore if production costs prove to be too high in the US.  Manchin calls for energy balanceCharleston Daily Mail

Regional and National News

Attracting renewable energy manufacturing plants and workers is less difficult for states that have generous incentive programs than for those that do not.  Some states provide millions of dollars in tax and other incentives for companies to build such facilities – which produce not only renewable energy technology but high-paying and high-skill jobs – while other state provide little or none.  With renewable energy becoming a key component of economic development, states are competing to provide more generous subsidies in return for new clean energy investment and jobs.  Clean-energy jobs touch off bidding wars between statesUSA Today

Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer have introduced the Senate’s version of climate change legislation.  Many details are missing from the bill as it is currently written, though the two sponsors say it will be deficit-neutral.  The bill would require a reduction in carbon emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050 through a cap-and-trade mechanism, cleaner coal technologies, natural gas, and nuclear energy production, more solar and wind energy production, and increased energy efficiency.  Republican leaders have already voiced opposition to the bill, calling it a tax on families and small businesses while environmental advocates have expressed mixed reactions.  Boxer, Kerry launch campaign to pass Senate cap-and-trade billNew York Times and Overview [pdf], Section-by-section summary [pdf], and Bill text [pdf] for S.1733 – Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act

To date, more than $1 billion in stimulus funds has already been spent on clean energy projects, including $550 million that was just awarded for new renewable energy production (in lieu of tax credits), $300 million for energy conservation efforts in public housing projects, and $36 million for energy efficiency projects in Pennsylvania.  An additional $410 million in stimulus funds have been recently announced, including $161 million for a wind power transmission line, $144 million to advance the smart grid, and $106 million for Energy Efficiency Community Block Grants.  Treasury, Energy surpass $1 billion milestone in Recovery Act awards for clean energy projectsEERE News and U.S. Treasury and DOE award $550 million for renewable energy projectsEERE News and HUD grants $300 million in Recovery Act funds for green housingEERE News and DOE delivers $36 million to Pennsylvania for energy efficiency projectsEERE News and Recovery Act helps to fund transmission line for Montana wind powerEERE News and DOE announces $144 Million in Recovery Act funding for the smart gridEERE News and Obama administration delivers more than $106 million for energy efficiency and conservation projects in nine statesEERE News

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