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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, September 10, 2010

September 10, 2010

In the States

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

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

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

Regional News

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

National News

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

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Energy Update July 30, 2010

July 30, 2010

In the States

CA – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has written to the chair of the California Air Resources Board asking her to postpone a vote on creating a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 33% by 2020 that was expected to happen before July 31.  The Governor vetoed legislation last year that would have created the same RPS on the grounds that it did not the State’s regulatory process to speed up the introduction of renewable forms of energy and did not sufficiently allow for electricity produced from  renewable energy sources located outside California.  Soon after that, the Governor signed an executive order requiring the Board to vote on an RPS with regulatory reforms and out-of-state electricity measures in place.  He has asked for the Board to postpone consideration of the RPS because the legislature is close to passing legislation that he would sign, and he wants to give them more time to do so.  Schwarzenegger asks Calif. regulators to delay 33% RPSNew York Times

MD – Governor Martin O’Malley has signed an executive order requiring the Department of Natural Resources to develop a long-term electricity report to be completed by December 2011.  The report is expected to provide data that will be used to determine where and how energy should be produced over the next 20 years.  No major new electric power plants or transmission lines have been built since 1990, when the last such report was produced.  Maryland’s population has grown by about 1 million since then, while energy consumption has increased by 25 percent.  The report will look at an array of potential energy sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable electric generation sources.  It will also consider ways to increase the reliability of electricity as well as potential conservation and efficiency measures.  State’s future energy needs targeted by GovernorGazette.net

MI – As much as a million gallons of crude oil leaked from a 30-inch-wide pipeline under the Kalamazoo River in Marshall Township on July 27, sending a 20-mile slick along the river, killing birds, fish, turtles, and other animals in its path, and releasing benzene into the air.  Although the pipeline has since been shut down, health officials have recommended evacuating 50 homes nearby and for others to not use well water for fear of contamination.  Cleanup crews are trying to keep the oil from reaching Lake Morrow, something State officials contend has already occurred, but which representatives for Enbridge Energy Partners, the owner of the pipeline, insist has not yet happened.  Governor Jennifer Granholm has expressed concern over the strength of the cleanup response, which officials say could take months.  Regulators warned company on pipeline corrosion – New York Times and Michigan oil spill prompts evacuations, finger-pointingWall Street Journal and Oil spill near Kalamazoo River causes stench, messDetroit Free Press

NY – Governor David Paterson has signed three new energy-related bills into law.  One bill allows the Secretary of State to establish energy efficiency standards for some appliances that were not previously regulated.  Another allows consumers to pay back loans for energy efficiency home upgrades on their gas bill.  Still a third bill adds kinetic energy storage devices, such as compressed air storage, that generate less than 80 megawatts, to the definition of an alternative production facility.  This will help facilitate the use of such production facilities and improve the efficiency of the State’s electric power system.  Governor Paterson signs three bills to advance clean energy agenda and forty-five other bills into lawHamptons.com

Regional News

Governors Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will allow the two States to collaborate on offshore wind energy projects off the coast of their border, near Martha’s Vineyard.  The MOU covers a specific area of common interest; however, the States will not have to collaborate on any projects outside that area.  The goal of the MOU is to determine a strategy through which disputes over offshore wind energy development in the area will be resolved before a project is proposed, providing guidance to developers and fostering cooperation between the two States.  Massachusetts and Rhode Island team up on offshore windBrighterEnergy.org

The Western Governor’s Association has written a letter to the US Congress recommending that they authorize the additional $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear energy development requested by President Obama.  In the letter, the Governors wrote that the loan guarantees could help to fund 6-9 additional nuclear reactors and would also spur private sector investment, which would create jobs as well as cleaner energy.  New nuclear power plant development urged by GovernorsPowerGen Worldwide

National News

In a not-unexpected change of course, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced that the Senate will not take up legislation that includes any cap on greenhouse gas emissions this year.  Some supporters of climate charge legislation, including Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), vowed to continue pushing for a bill, while others expressed doubt that passing such legislation would be possible between the August recess and November elections.  Majority Leader Reid has unveiled a $15 billion energy bill that would remove the $75 million cap on oil companies’ liabilities to communities after an oil spill, allow for federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing (a partially unregulated process used to obtain natural gas), provide more infrastructure and R&D support for electric vehicles, and use rebates and loan guarantees to increase the number of vehicles that run on natural gas and improve the energy efficiency of homes.  The legislation, as proposed by Majority Leader Reid, also does not include a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that would require a certain percentage of energy produced in the US to come from renewable sources, a measure that has support from many Democratic Senators.  Some Senators are also contending Majority Leader Reid’s assertion that there are not enough votes to pass cloture with an RPS.  An initial test vote on the bill is set for the first week in August.  Democrats pull plus on climate billPolitico and Energy bill, focusing on conservation, can’t shake calls for RESNew York Times and Reid’s energy bill revives fight over hydraulic fracturingCQ Politics and Energy bill would end oil claims capWall Street Journal and The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act Bill Text [pdf]Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

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