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Energy Update, January 27, 2012

January 27, 2012

State of the State Addresses

Of the 30 Governors who have given their State of the State addresses this year, 17 have specifically discussed energy issues, much of the time in the context of job creation and retention.  California Governor Jerry Brown, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said that renewable energy would bring green jobs to their states, while Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin each said that their states’ fossil fuel resources would bring more jobs.  Governor Tomblin praised recent oil, coal, and natural gas investments and the jobs they will bring while promising that “I will do everything in my power to make sure that West Virginia is positioned to take full advantage of this opportunity” to build an ethane cracker facility, which he said would bring thousands of manufacturing jobs.  Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Maine Governor Paul LePage said that new jobs would arise from low energy costs, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez said that the key to economic growth and environmental protection is “sensible, predictable regulations” on energy production, and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal proposed eliminating a sales tax on energy used for manufacturing as a way to retain their business.

In the face of the slow economic recovery, several Governors have proposed ideas that require no state funds or attract new private investment.  For example, Hawaii Governor Neal Abercrombie proposed legislation to incentivize companies to invest in energy infrastructure that would integrate more renewable energy into the grid, saying that “there is no legislation more critical to our future."  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed several new initiatives, including attracting $2 billion in private investment for grid infrastructure and a program to increase energy efficiency in State buildings to be paid for with savings in energy costs.  Utah Governor Gary Herbert proposed creating an “energy research triangle” that would pair universities and industry to research energy production technologies.  Maine Governor Paul LePage proposed lifting a restriction on the amount of hydroelectric power produced. 

Governors commonly reflect on the previous year in their State of the State addresses to evaluate the progress that has been made.  California Governor Jerry Brown said that his State’s goal of producing 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020 was ahead of schedule and that billions of private clean energy investments had been made.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell said that hundreds of jobs were created in his State last year due to upgrades and conversions of power plants to lower emissions.  Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick cited his State’s policies on renewable energy in discussing that industry’s seven percent growth in 2011.  Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin referenced signing an agreement with other states to work with automakers on converting their vehicle fleets to run on natural gas.  Governor Hickenlooper also noted an agreement between energy companies and environmental groups to disclose materials used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

Some Governors used their speeches to urge federal government action on energy issues.  Utah Governor Gary Herbert said that the federal government needed to continue working with the State on siting and permitting of energy development.  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell called on President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to accelerate the timetable for allowing oil and gas drilling off Virginia’s coast.  West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said that he would continue to fight against attempts to increase regulation of coal and other energy resources.

The State of the State addresses announced a range of other proposals, including:

  • Washington Governor Christine Gregoire proposing a $1.50-per-barrel tax on oil produced in Washington that would be used to improve infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
  • Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber stating that his administration will adopt a ten-year energy plan this year.
  • Maine Governor Paul LePage proposing giving ratepayers a choice of whether to purchase renewable or traditional energy.
  • Missouri Governor Jay Nixon stating his intention to work with farmers to improve their energy efficiency in order to make the State’s agriculture industry more competitive.
  • Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin proposing an increase in the amount of renewable energy required in the State’s renewable energy portfolio to 75% by 2032.

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’s State of the Union address included an overview of his energy agenda for 2012, which he began to unveil in more detail after his speech.  In his remarks, President Obama announced that he is opening 75 percent of potential offshore oil and gas reserves to development and opening enough federal land to renewable energy development to power 3 million homes.  The Defense Department will purchase much of that new renewable energy.  He also said that his administration would help develop domestic natural gas resources and separately called on Congress to pass legislation to provide production tax credits for renewable energy.  In addition, The President called for the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on federal lands and proposed providing energy-efficiency incentives to manufacturers.  Since the speech, President Obama has released a “blueprint” detailing these proposals, which he calls an “all-of-the-above strategy,” and has gone on a nationwide tour to promote it.  The blueprint includes a proposal to incentivize greater use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and calls for doubling the country’s clean energy output by 2035.  State of the Union Address TranscriptWhite House and Energy Blueprint Fact SheetWhite House and Obama pitches ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategyNational Public Radio

In the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels criticized the President for rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which he said was “perfectly safe” and “would employ tens of thousands.”  Governor Daniels called for a free-market approach to energy, with lower taxes and fewer loopholes, fewer regulations, and maximizing domestic energy production.  He also characterized the President’s energy policies as “pro-poverty” for increasing consumers’ costs while not improving public health or the environment.  Full text of GOP’s State of the Union responseMcClatchy

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address included an overview of his energy agenda for 2012, which he began to unveil in more detail after his speech.  In his remarks, President Obama announced that he is opening 75 percent of potential offshore oil and gas reserves to development and opening enough federal land to renewable energy development to power 3 million homes.  The Defense Department will purchase much of that new renewable energy.  He also said that his administration would help develop domestic natural gas resources and separately called on Congress to pass legislation to provide production tax credits for renewable energy.  In addition, The President called for the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on federal lands and proposed providing energy-efficiency incentives to manufacturers.  Since the speech, President Obama has released a “blueprint” detailing these proposals, which he calls an “all-of-the-above strategy,” and has gone on a nationwide tour to promote it.  The blueprint includes a proposal to incentivize greater use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and calls for doubling the country’s clean energy output by 2035.  State of the Union Address TranscriptWhite House and Energy Blueprint Fact SheetWhite House and Obama pitches ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategyNational Public Radio

In the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels criticized the President for rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which he said was “perfectly safe” and “would employ tens of thousands.”  Governor Daniels called for a free-market approach to energy, with lower taxes and fewer loopholes, fewer regulations, and maximizing domestic energy production.  He also characterized the President’s energy policies as “pro-poverty” for increasing consumers’ costs while not improving public health or the environment.  Full text of GOP’s State of the Union responseMcClatchy

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Energy Update, January 13, 2012

January 13, 2012

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown has proposed using half of the estimated $1 billion in revenues from the State’s cap-and-trade auctions to reduce California’s $9.2 billion deficit.  Funds from the cap-and-trade program are required to be spent on projects related to greenhouse gas emissions; the Governor has said that the money sent to the general fund will pay for existing greenhouse gas-related projects.  Some business groups oppose the move, saying that it is not authorized by the cap-and-trade law, and have said they will challenge the State in court if a budget passes in which auction proceeds pay for general fund projects.  Brown sees $500 million cap-and-trade fees for California budgetBloomberg and Gov. Brown’s cap-and-trade spending plan angers businessesLos Angeles Times

ME – In remarks to wood product industry representatives, Governor Paul LePage expressed his support for a proposed natural gas pipeline into central Maine.  Governor LePage said that while the State "is not in a position where it can help fund a pipeline," he assured companies interested in investing in the project that he would help streamline the approval process.  "There is a lot we're doing to try to encourage some natural gas here," he said.  During an earlier radio address, Governor LePage also said he does not endorse a citizens’ initiative to strengthen the State’s renewable energy portfolio, saying “It’s not good and I’m going to be fighting it all year.”  Governor LePage also vetoed a bill that passed the House and Senate unanimously that would have tightened energy efficiency standards for new state buildings; the veto, however, was later sustained.  LePage pledges to tackle energy costs to improve business climateBangor Daily News and LePage supports natural gas projectPortland Press Herald and Maine Senate sustains LePage vetoesLewiston Sun Journal

VA – Governor Bob McDonnell has unveiled his 2012 energy policy agenda that he says will help the State become the “Energy Capital of the East Coast.”  One of his proposals would direct $500,000 to wind energy research to help companies develop offshore wind farms when the federal government leases areas off the coast.  Another proposal would help fund conversion of some State vehicles to alternative fuels.  Other initiatives include strengthening oversight of wells and pipelines and increased investment in energy efficiency programs.  The Governor also called on the federal government to open up offshore areas to oil and gas exploration and drilling.  Va. Gov. McDonnell outlines energy agenda; slams U.S. limits on off-coast oil, gas explorationWashington Post

WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office announced his administration is focusing on promoting the development of natural gas and coal resources rather than state initiatives to begin or expand renewable energy projects.  The Governor’s Chief of Staff, Rob Alsop, said that the Governor believes that natural gas will not only be a good source for energy, but its by-products will reinvigorate the manufacturing sector as well.  On wind power, Alsop said that it can be successful only with federal tax incentives and that state programs have little effect.  Governor’s office: State energy focus on gas and coalState Journal 

Federal News

President Barack Obama has signed a bill into law that will increase regulations on pipelines, following a series of pipeline bursts that have killed and injured people as well as caused environmental and property damage.  The new law, passed with bipartisan support, will require automatic valves where “feasible,” increase the number of pipeline inspectors, and increase the maximum fine for safety violations from $1 million to $2 million.  Obama signs pipeline safety law - UPI

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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, July 29. 2011

July 29, 2011

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown has made dramatically increasing renewable energy production and decreasing overall energy usage in his State by 2020 his first major policy initiative since reaching a budget agreement.  The plan calls for 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy – enough to power a third of California’s peak energy use -- of which 12,000 megawatts will come from small localized renewable energy production facilities at homes and commercial buildings throughout the State, as well as tighter building codes and efficiency requirements.  The Governor will meet with stakeholders on how to best implement the plan, including streamlining the permitting process and integrating educational, technological, and financial resources.  Governor Brown used strong language in describing his feelings about efforts to thwart progress on his plan and the importance of pushing ahead with implementation.  In describing expected obstacles, the Governor said, "There's technical problems, financial problems, regulatory problems, coordination problems….The fact is, the regulations are so embedded in our culture or legal system that to overcome it is difficult."  From Governor Moonbeam to Governor Sunbeam – Brown pushed for alternative energyMercury News and Calif. Governor vows to ‘crush’ foes of renewable energyNew York Times

IA – Governor Terry Branstad recently toured a power plant that turns gas emissions from landfills into enough energy to power 4,000 nearby homes.  He also toured a greenhouse that is heated by the power plant, which grows high-quality organic produce for local businesses and residents.  Governor Branstad said, “These operations are tremendous examples of how business is constantly adapting to meet the needs of Iowans with job creation, clean power, and affordable organic produce that is grown locally.  I’m encouraged by the commitment here to add good paying ‘green’ jobs with sustainable operations.”  Iowa Governor tours landfill gas plant heating nearby greenhouseBrighterEnergy.org

National News

President Barack Obama’s administration has reached an agreement with automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and fuel consumption by 40 percent in cars and light trucks by 2025, the largest cut in emissions since the federal government started regulating them in the 1970s.  The new proposal will require that automakers’ vehicle fleets sold then will average 54.5 miles per gallon.  Cars will be required to improve efficiency five percent each year between 2017 and 2025 while light trucks must improve 3.5 percent annually between 2017 and 2021 and five percent each year between 2022 and 2025.  The measures represent a compromise between environmentalist groups, unions, and California on one side and automakers on the other.  California officials had warned that the State would institute its own stricter regulations if the federal rules were not imposed.  The compromise won the support of California, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Hyundai, with varying levels of support from environmental groups.  Automakers, Obama administration agree on fuel efficiency standards through 2025Washington Post and Carmakers back strict new rules for gas mileageNew York Times

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new regulations that would limit the amount of pollution allowed at oil and gas drilling sites.  These regulations, the first that apply to the drilling site rather than a processing facility, were issued in response to a court order, and are most restrictive on drilling operations that use hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as a means to extract oil and gas from shale.  Some states have begun regulating emissions at drilling sites, which can cause smog and soot, and which result from allowing newly extracted gases to escape during the drilling process or from compressors, storage tanks, or other equipment.  Producers will be required to reduce emissions of smog-forming compounds by about 25% under the new regulations.  The reductions would result in even higher reductions -- 95 percent – at fracking sites.  The EPA estimates that the regulations will save energy companies about $30 million per year since they will keep and sell the gases that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere.  The oil and gas industry has requested to push back the final rules another six months while environmental groups say they are already overdue.  EPA proposes first-ever controls on air pollution at oil and gas wells, equipmentWashington Post and EPA proposes pollution limits for gas fracturing, oil productionSan Francisco Gate

An offshore drilling safety bill has stalled in the Senate Energy Committee after Senators supporting an amendment to increase revenue sharing for coastal states used procedural rules to forestall a vote to give the sponsor, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), more time to secure the support of her colleagues.  The amendment would expand the number of coastal states eligible to receive a 37.5 percent share of energy production revenues currently available to only Gulf Coast states.  Proponents of the measure included several coastal Senators on the committee as well as six Republican Governors from coastal states (Alaska, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia) who signed onto a letter in support of the amendment.  That letter said in part, “If a responsible portion of the vast revenues from offshore generation and production are returned to our states, we would be far better prepared to mitigate the resulting risks and impacts.”  Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the committee’s chairman, is staunchly opposed to the amendment and has wanted to move ahead with a vote.  The Obama administration also opposes the amendment and believes the drilling safety bill’s chances for passage are greater without the amendment.  Coastal Governors push revenue sharing ahead of markupThe Hill and Oil spill bill’s fate uncertain after Senate panel’s adjournmentPolitico

 

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Energy Update, July 15, 2011

July 15, 2011

In the States

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

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

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

Regional News

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

National News

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

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

 

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Energy Update, July 1, 2011

July 1, 2011

In the States

CA – The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has postponed full implementation of the State’s cap-and-trade system for one year, until 2013, though ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols maintains the State will still be on track to meet the underlying law’s emissions goal:  reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  The law was originally supposed to take effect at the beginning of 2012.  "We will be testing the system, doing simulation models, but no one will be held accountable during that year for compliance," Nichols said. "But at the end of 2014, people will still be where they would have been if the program had started." She also indicated that Governor Jerry Brown did not involve himself in the Board’s decisions.  A judge ruled in March that the State had not adequately analyzed alternatives to the cap-and-trade program before requiring its implementation, as required by California’s Environmental Qualify Act, but an appeals court has since ruled the State can move forward while the appeal is being heard.   California delays its carbon trading program for a yearLos Angeles Times and California delays cap-and-trade auctions, citing potential gamingNew York Times

FL – Governor Rick Scott has proposed developing a new State energy policy that would encourage renewable energy, but also would also address other issues such as offshore drilling and clean coal.  He also wants the Public Service Commission to lower requirements for utilities to conserve more electricity through consumer rewards and incentives.  The Governor has said that he wants to attract manufacturing jobs to the State and that doing so would require lower energy costs.  While one of the State’s utilities estimated that a plan in place to lower energy usage would cost the average residential consumers an additional $13.20 per month over nine years, the Governor is looking for alternative approaches for meeting Florida’s energy needs. In a meeting with energy stakeholders, Mary Anne Carter, Governor Scott’s chief advisor said, “The Governor is a big proponent of renewable energy.”  The Governor, however, also prefers allowing free-market forces to determine the type and amount of renewable energy use rather that favoring a single type of producer or driving the market through a renewable standard set by the State.  Scott calls for reducing energy-saving rebatesSunSentinel and Scott wants to reduce energy efficiency rules and push cost-effective renewablesMiami Herald

GA – Governor Nathan Deal has ordered that a scheduled increase in the State’s gasoline tax from 20.4 cents per gallon to 22 cents per gallon that was to take effect on July 1 be suspended until the end of the year.  The legislature will need to finalize the decision, but the Governor’s plan has the support of the State House Speaker.  Governor Deal cited gasoline’s “escalating costs in 2011” in his announcement of the freeze, and said that the move should save consumers $40 million in the coming months.  Governor freezes gas tax Atlanta Journal Constitution

NV – Governor Brian Sandoval has vetoed a renewable energy bill because of a provision added on the legislature’s last day that would have increased electricity rates to pay for a transmission line that would be used to export power from the State.  The bill would have allowed a single utility, NV Energy, to bypass the normal approval process for this project, which critics contended would have cost as much as $1 billion.  The utility would have been able to send renewable energy power to other States with renewable energy standards, including California and Arizona.  Governor Sandoval said that any potential rate hike “would result in the imposition of an unnecessary and unfair burden on our recovery.”  The project may still move forward without the bill, as other companies have also expressed interest in building the transmission lines.  Governor vetoes controversial last-minute energy billLas Vegas Sun

National News

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit from brought by a group of States and environmental groups that, if successful, would have forced power plants to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already regulates greenhouse gas emissions from some large industrial plants and is planning to issue regulations to control power plant emissions next year.  While some members of Congress are seeking legislation to block the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to issue regulations further limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the plaintiffs in this case were seeking the right to require lower emissions more quickly through a lawsuit, which could have given federal judges a role in overseeing emissions standards, currently the authority of the EPA.  The court ruled that giving such power to judges is not consistent with the Clean Air Act and rejected the lawsuit, but said that the group could sue the EPA in federal court should they disagree with the agency’s rulemaking decision.  States cannot bypass EPA on power plant emissions, Justices ruleNew York Times and Supreme Court tosses lawsuit against utilitiesPolitico

 

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