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Blog posts : "regulations"

Energy Update, May 4, 2012

May 4, 2012

In the States

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

Regional News

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

National News

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

 

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Energy Update, April 6, 2012

April 6, 2012

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown has said that he is considering allowing wider use of hydraulic fracturing in California as a means of obtaining oil from shale.  Governor Brown says that he is not considering new taxes on the procedure and did not comment on legislation that would require companies to disclose the site locations or chemicals used in the process, but said the process would self-regulate due to the State’s “very vigorous tort system.”  According to a U.S. Energy Department estimate, California has two-thirds of the country’s oil shale, which is enough to supply every west coast refinery for 17 years.  California’s Brown says he’ll consider fracking standardsBloomberg BusinessWeek and Gov. Jerry Brown says he’s studying ‘fracking’ in CaliforniaLos Angeles Times

GA – Governor Nathan Deal welcomed PyraMax Ceramics, a company that manufactures ceramic pellets used in the hydraulic fracturing process, to the State, along with the estimated 60 jobs the company plans to establish at the plant it is building in Jefferson County.  PyraMax will save an estimated $1 million per year in taxes – due to a recently-enacted law exempting manufacturing companies from energy sales taxes – and will receive employee training benefits from the State.  The company chose the site due to the benefits that Georgia offered, as well as the availability of kaolin -- a soft white clay used to make the pellets -- and assistance provided by State officials to complete the permitting process and secure contracts from natural gas and electricity companies.  Governor Deal said, “Now that Georgia knows that Jefferson County can make something happen, we look forward to future opportunities to work with other new industries like PyraMax Ceramics that the state of Georgia brings.”  Gov. Deal welcomes PyraMax Ceramics to GeorgiaAugusta Chronicle and Pellet plant bringing jobsGeorgia Public Broadcasting

VA – Governor Bob McDonnell has announced the approval by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission of a proposal from Gamesa Energy USA, in partnership with Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, to build and install a prototype wind turbine in the Chesapeake Bay.  While Gamesa will use this project primarily to ensure optimal performance and reliability of its technology, the turbine will also produce five megawatts of clean, renewable wind power. In discussing the project in the context of his “all of the above” energy approach, Governor McDonnell said:  “This is an important next step in developing all of Virginia’s domestic energy resources to help power our nation’s economy and puts Virginia at the forefront of clean energy technology development.” The turbine will stand 479 feet tall and will be located about three miles off the coast near the town of Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore.  It is expected to be in service in 2013, which would make it the first offshore wind turbine in the country.  However, the project still needs the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and review by the U.S. Coast Guard.  State approves construction of bay wind turbineLuray Page Free Press

National News

Ten Federal agencies and five U.S. States have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) creating the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium that will help coordinate permitting processes and expedite the development of wind power off the coasts of those states.  The MOU, which is modeled after a similar agreement involving Atlantic coast states, was signed by Governors from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania as well as the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, and the U.S. Army, among other Federal agencies.  Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, another signatory, said the goal of the MOU “is to cut through red tape” in order to “create jobs and reduce pollution.”  Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said, “This agreement will enable states to work together to ensure that any proposed offshore wind projects are reviewed in a consistent manner, and that the various State and Federal agencies involved collaborate and coordinate their reviews.”  Feds, 5 states to push for Great Lakes wind farmsAlbert Lea Tribune

U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has announced that companies will be allowed to perform seismic mapping surveys off the Atlantic coast between Delaware and Florida to determine the location and scope of offshore oil and gas reserves early next year.  The surveys could pave the way for expanded offshore drilling by providing oil and gas companies updated information they can use in deciding where to drill.  Seismic testing could also be used to determine the most suitable locations for wind turbines and other renewable energy projects, locate sand and gravel for restoring eroding coastal areas, and identify cultural artifacts such as historic sunken ships. Some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, objected to the surveys because of their concern that the requisite sonic booms emitted by air guns will harm marine life, including endangered species like whales.  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said the announcement is “a small step forward in the development of our offshore energy resources,” but also criticized the Obama administration for not allowing offshore oil exploration off the coast of Virginia last year.  Drilling off the Atlantic coast moves a step closerWashington Post

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rule that would limit the amount of greenhouse gases that new power plants can emit.  Existing plants are exempt from the rule, which requires plants to emit less than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy produced.  The rule also allows new coal plants to begin operation and implement carbon restrictions later, as long as they meet the required limit on emissions on average over a 30-year period.  Newer natural gas-fired power plants generally meet the emissions limit, but coal-fired plants would need to use a method of lowering emissions such as carbon capture and sequestration, in order to comply with the proposed rule.  Most environmental groups expressed support for the rule, but some also want emission limitations applied to existing plans.  Republicans in Congress criticized the proposal and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) indicated he would seek a Congressional Review Act vote to stop the rule before it is implemented.  EPA unveils green house gas standard for new power plants - Politico and For new generation of power plants, a new emission rule from the EPANew York Times

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Energy Update, October 21, 2011

October 21, 2011

In the States

CA – After an eight hour hearing that consisted of passionate speeches both in support and in opposition, the California Air Resources Board unanimously created the nation’s first statewide cap-and-trade program.  A controversial part of the landmark climate change legislation passed in 2006, AB 32, the cap-and-trade program will be phased in beginning in 2013 with the State’s largest greenhouse gas emitters and will expand in 2015 to include almost all emission sources.  The cap-and-trade program was instituted in order to help the State reach the goal mandated by AB 32 of returning greenhouse gas levels emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  The second largest cap-and-trade program in the world has support from both Governor Jerry Brown and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  California becomes first state to adopt cap-and-trade programLos Angeles Times and California adopts limits on greenhouse gasesNew York Times and California moves ahead with cap-and-trade, adopts final rulesFox Business News

OK – Governor Mary Fallin has been unanimously elected to as Chair of the Southern States Energy Board, an organization of Governors and legislators from 16 states and two territories to encourage innovation in energy programs and policies.  Responding to her election, Governor Fallin said she was “honored to be elected” to the group that “has an excellent reputation for its powerful support of the traditional energy resources that are needed and used by Oklahoma and other states every day.”  She also said “we must build our energy infrastructure base and support American made energy” by “fully exploiting the United States’ reserves of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing as well as improving the technology needed to capture and store carbon dioxide for use in advanced oil recovery.”  Board elects Governor Fallin as chairmanTulsa Today

VA – Governor Bob McDonnell spoke to about 400 people at his second annual Governor’s Conference on Energy and critiqued the federal government’s energy policies.  The Governor said the federal government had impeded the development of fossil fuels and had not pushed hard enough for more nuclear energy.  "We unfortunately have erected too many impediments, too many roadblocks at the federal level," Governor McDonnell said.  He said that in order to create jobs and provide for the expected increase in energy demand, "We've got to have a comprehensive, red-white-and-blue American energy policy," which he said would be an “all-of-the-above approach” including fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy as well as increased conservation.  The Governor also called for increased offshore oil and gas drilling as an economic development tool.  The three-day conference also included discussions and speeches by energy executives.  McDonnell chides federal government for hindering energy developmentRichmond Times-Dispatch and Va. energy conference begins 3-day run MondayBloomberg BusinessWeek

Federal News

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the past year according to a survey of oil and gas rigs conducted by oil services firm Baker Hughes and represents a record high since they began tracking the data 24 years ago.  Nearly 1,100 oil rigs are currently drilling around the country this week, with the spike in production mainly due to technological advancements such as hydraulic fracturing that allow shale oil to be extracted in an economically viable way.   The states that contain more unconventional oil fields, such as North Dakota and Texas, have experienced most of the increases.  U.S. oil rig count hits recordReuters

The White House has identified 14 infrastructure projects that it intends to fast-track through environmental and permitting processes, as well as other regulatory requirements, including two new wind farms.  A 15-turbine wind farm to be built in southern Vermont is included on the list of expedited projects, as is a 52-turbine facility in the San Bernardino National Forest in California.  The Vermont wind farm should receive a full environmental impact statement by the end of this year and the timeline for the review process for the California wind farm should be cut in half, from three years to 18 months.  14 U.S. infrastructure projects get federal fast-trackingAtlantic Cities and Obama Administration announces selection of 14 infrastructure projects to be expedited through permitting and environmental review processWhite House

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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, April 22, 2011

April 22, 2011

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the country’s strongest renewable energy standard that will require electric utilities in the State to generate 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in less than nine years.  Although the new law limits the amount of rate hikes due to the new requirements, opponents of the measure cite studies showing that rates may increase by 7-19 percent.  The Governor cited reliance on foreign oil, economic instability, and climate issues in expressing his support for the law while other supporters said it would keep investment strong in the renewable energy industry.  Calif. sets nation’s most aggressive goal for renewable energy as critics say rates will soarWashington Post

OK – Governor Mary Fallin has signed a new law that will expand the allowed length of horizontal drilling into shale reservoirs, easing investment costs for companies to drill for oil and natural gas.  Proponents said that the new law allows for increased production while protecting mineral owners’ rights, and modernizes regulations to account for technological advances that have made it possible to extend drilling longer than was previously possible.  Drilling bill modernizes state oil and gas statutesEnid News & Eagle and Oklahoma’s Gov. Mary Fallin signs energy reform billThe Oklahoman

OR –  Speaking at a conference on the future of energy, Governor John Kitzhaber announced he is developing a 10-year plan for Oregon that will emphasize renewable energy as a way to rebuild the State’s post-recession economy.  During his remarks, one example he cited was the possibility of retrofitting homes with energy-saving materials as a way to replace economic activity previously generated by the housing construction industry.  He also said that he and Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington State had recently discussed forming a three-state coalition with California focused on creating green energy jobs and reducing carbon emissions.  Kitzhaber says it's time for a 10-year plan on clean energy in Oregon – The Oregonian

National News

The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture have announced $30 million in spending on projects that will support research and development in advanced biofuels, much of which will be in rural areas in the Midwest.  These funds come from the Biomass Research and Development Initiative and could help rural communities become less reliant on fossil fuels.  They will now be able to produce much of the fuel they use for heating and electricity locally, lessening dependence on foreign oil.  The home-grown fuel can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since burning biomass creates no more pollution that the decomposition process that occurs naturally.  U.S. expands seeding of biomassNew York Times

The U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Duke Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit utility consortium, to test its first electricity-related invention.  The new product is an energy storage device that may allow electric power generated by wind turbines to be stored and then used when needed.  It may also have applicability to solar power.  Electric power would be used to pump air into an underground cavern.  When more energy is needed, this compressed air would flow through a generator, at 70-75% efficiency.  ARPA-E provided $750,000 to General Compression, the company that makes the device, which then attracted $12 million in private investments.  ARPA-E is poised to put products on the gridNew York Times

The U.S. Supreme Court appears likely to dismiss a case in which six States are suing five energy companies to limit their greenhouse gas emissions.  While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun regulating emissions from new and modified industrial sources, the States are seeking to apply Federal and State laws to regulate existing plants.  Justices listening to oral arguments in the case expressed skepticism about the States’ claim that the costs and benefits of emissions standards can be evaluated by courts rather than determined through the regulatory process administered by federal agencies.  U.S. Supreme Court signals rejection of State climate-emissions lawsuitsBloomberg

Three U.S. States – New York, Minnesota, and California – have joined with 11 utility companies and two environmental groups as a coalition to ask the U.S. EPA to allow States to choose the best approach for meeting federal greenhouse gas emissions standards.  Specifically, the coalition seeks permission to regulate greenhouse gases through existing regional or statewide cap-and-trade programs or renewable energy standards as an alternative to plant-specific limitations.  Some power companies that use more fossil fuels than those taking part in the coalition did not join and are continuing to raise general objections to new restrictions on plant emissions.  States, utilities ask EPA to boost regional cap-and-trade programs

 

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Energy Update, April 8, 2011

April 8, 2011

In the States

SD –  Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed a bill into law that he proposed earlier this year that will divert a portion of funds that previously would have gone to ethanol production plants toward grants to fuel stations for installation of blender pumps that will allow motorists to purchase fuel containing higher levels of ethanol.  Governor Daugaard referenced the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision that allows cars made in the past decade to use fuel containing 15% ethanol, higher than the previous 10% limit.  The blender pumps will allow consumers to choose the amount of ethanol in the fuel they purchase.  SD Governor signs bill to boost ethanol industryRapid City Journal

State Fiscal News

Energy production appears to be a driver of economic recovery in some States.  In Wyoming, thousands of new mining jobs have opened up, increasing by 8.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 over the same period in 2009.  Higher demand in developing countries, particularly in Asia, is leading companies to hire more workers to extract coal, soda ash, and uranium.  Rising oil prices and demand for natural gas may soon contribute to job growth in those industries as well.  These industries have increased sales tax revenues for Wyoming by 10% in 2010.  In Montana, unemployment numbers are higher on the west side of the State, where workers rely more on wood-product manufacturing jobs dependent on the housing market.  On the east side of the State, energy jobs in the coal, oil, and wind industries have kept unemployment rates much lower.  Energy powers robust Wyoming economyStar-Tribune and Montana growth slows but withstands recessionUSA Today

National News

In a series of recent appearances, President Barack Obama has called for a one-third reduction in oil imports within 14 years.  The President addressed shortcomings in previous methods in reducing oil imports, stressing that “there are no quick fixes” and that efforts must continue once drivers see relief at the gas pump.  Proposals for reducing oil imports include greater use of natural gas in fleet vehicles and buses, increased production and use of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol (for which the President said four refineries will be built in the next two years), higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks, and increasing domestic oil production both on- and offshore.  President Obama also said that “we simply cannot take [nuclear power] off the table, regardless of concerns over the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.  Part of the President’s message on energy independence includes an economic aspect: that transitioning to a less oil-intensive economy could create jobs.  The President cited new lower unemployment numbers adding “we need to keep the momentum going” by “making a transition to a clean energy economy.”  President Obama calls for one-third cut to oil importsWashington Post and Reviving elusive goal, Obama calls for one-third reduction in U.S. oil importsWashington Post and Obama promotes his energy agenda by showcasing energy-efficient vehiclesWashington Post

U.S. EPA regulations on greenhouse gases and mountaintop removal have become major points of contention in Congress, and attempts to limit the agency have thus far been unsuccessful.  Nineteen House Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for a bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and, beginning in 2017, from granting waivers to States for stricter emissions standards for automobiles.  A similar bill was defeated in the Senate.  Although four Democrats joined 46 Republicans in supporting a ban on the EPA regulations, the bill needed 60 votes to pass.  The fate of appropriations riders that would have restricted EPA greenhouse gas and mountaintop removal regulations in the fiscal year omnibus 2011 funding bill appeared settled as of the afternoon of April 8, when Republicans agreed to drop the measures.  If Congress does pass a bill limiting EPA’s oversight of greenhouse gases, the Obama Administration has signaled that the President would veto such a measure.  Senate rejects bill that would limit EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasesWashington Post and House votes to stop EPA from regulating greenhouse gasesWall Street Journal and EPA riders axed, lawmakers sayPolitico

 

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Energy Update, March 25, 2011

March 25, 2011

In the States

AR – In delivering the keynote address to a wind power workshop in Little Rock, Governor Mike Beebe said that States’ investments in wind energy would create jobs, improve the environment, and strengthen national security and made a case for States to increase wind energy production.  Governor Beebe said that while Arkansas may not be the ideal candidate for wind farms compared to the rest of the country, it can still be involved through manufacturing wind power products.  Mike Beebe: Wind energy important to Arkansas jobs, economyArkansas Business

UT – After consulting with academic, industrial, environmental, and governmental experts, as well as receiving public input, Governor Gary Herbert issued a 10-year energy plan for Utah.  Among the goals Governor Herbert set in the plan are “a balanced use of fossil fuels and alternatives and renewable resources” that also balances economic and environmental interests, promotes energy efficiency, and increases partnerships with universities and communities to “address future energy challenges and opportunities.”  The Governor’s plan also calls for seriously debating the use of nuclear energy in the State as a way to provide baseload energy capacity.  Gov. Gary Herbert’s energy plan includes nuclearDeseret News and Energy Initiatives and Imperatives: Utah’s 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan [pdf]Governor Gary Herbert

WY – Governor Matt Mead applauded the leasing of federal land to mining companies for the extraction of up to 750 million tons of coal during a news conference with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  The leases are estimated to be worth between $13.4 billion and $21.3 billion in revenue, with roughly half this amount going to the State.  More than a dozen similar leases will be granted over the next three years.  Governor Mead said “We need the energy.  We need the jobs that come with the energy.”  Federal lands in Wyoming opened to coal miningNew York Times

Nuclear Power

The nuclear crisis in Japan that followed the devastating earthquake and tsunami has brought renewed scrutiny of the use and expansion of nuclear energy industry in the United States.  For example, spent fuel located in the Japanese plant overheated, causing some government officials here in the U.S. to renew calls for the opening of Yucca Mountain, the federally designated nuclear waste storage facility, or another similar site.  Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley and Senate President Therese Murray wrote in a letter to federal Energy Department officials that "the events in Japan show that a breach can occur," and called for a central nuclear repository.  Former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and current member of a panel advising the Obama on nuclear waste storage, Richard Meserve, said that "There may be some things about the vulnerability of spent fuel pools that will be learned as a result of the Japanese accident that will cause us to rethink what we do in the U.S."  Storage of nuclear waster gets new scrutinyWall Street Journal

Additionally, the push for more nuclear power may face new obstacles due to the issues raised by the current nuclear crisis in Japan.  While President Barack Obama has not backed down from seeking $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear plants, and his Energy Department says that nuclear is a “low-cost, carbon-free” fuel that will spur job growth and protect the environment, the industry, its backers, and pro-environment groups are preparing for a long battle over the future role of nuclear power in the United States.  Lobbyists’ long effort to revive nuclear industry faces new testNew York Times

EPA Regulations

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson has proposed rules that would drastically cut the amount of toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  The plan to reduce mercury, acid gas, sulfur dioxide, and 81 other pollutants has been delayed for 20 years, and if approved, would still not take effect for five more years.  Affected plants would need to utilize a variety of methods to reduce the emissions, which are expected to cost a total of $10.9 billion per year nationwide, or about $3 – $4 per month per electric bill.  EPA estimates that as many as 17,000 deaths, an additional 11,000 heart attacks, and 120,000 cases of asthma per year would be prevented every year under the new rules.  EPA proposes toxic emissions rules for power plantsNew York Times

 

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Energy Update, February 25, 2011

February 25, 2011

In the States

MD – Governor Martin O’Malley recently proposed legislation that would require utilities in the State to purchase wind energy generated off the coast of Ocean City.  The Governor’s plan calls the development of an offshore wind farm that would provide enough energy to power half the homes in Baltimore and could create as many as 2,000 construction and manufacturing jobs.  Legislators generally approve of the plan, but are concerned about potential additional costs to ratepayers, which are expected to average $1.44 per month.  The U.S. Interior Department, which is attempting to streamline offshore wind development, has said the required leases could be issued by the end of the year.  Environmental groups back O’Malley’s offshore wind planWashington Post

WY – Governor Matt Mead has filed three petitions in the U.S. Circuit Court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claiming that the federal agency moved too quickly in imposing a federal plan to regulate greenhouse gases.  The suit was filed, at least in part, because of what Governor Mead called “unreasonable deadlines” the EPA gave the State to revise it’s permitting system to comply with federal requirements; while the EPA often gives States three years to revise their rules, Wyoming was given only nine days.  Wyoming joins Peabody Energy, the National Mining Association, and the State of Texas in suing the U.S. EPA over the regulations.  Wyo. Joins Texas in suing EPA over rollout of greenhouse gas regulationsNew York Times

National News

The U.S. EPA has made several changes to a rule on industrial boilers and incinerators that will cost industry half as much for compliance as originally estimated.  Operators of the boilers and incinerators will collectively pay $1.8 billion less per year because of exemptions for clean-fuel burning plants and greatly reduced compliance requirements for smaller boilers.  The EPA, responding to opposition in Congress and an executive order from President Barack Obama requiring a review of regulations that could slow job growth, said that 2,200 jobs would be created through the updated regulations, which are intended to reduce mercury and other emissions.  While acknowledging the changes included in the proposed rule made sense boiler and incinerator operator groups would like to see further modifications that would mitigate the fiscal impacts on manufacturers, universities, and industrial energy providers after additional public comments are filed.  EPA trims costs to control toxic air pollutionWashington Post

 

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Energy Update, January 14, 2011

January 14, 2011

In the States

MA – Governor Deval Patrick’s administration has set a new limit on statewide greenhouse gas emissions that will require the State to emit 25% less pollutants than it did in 1990 within ten years.  While the State’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 mandated the State to impose a limit on greenhouse gas emissions, the Patrick administration chose a higher limit than any other State, and one that makes Massachusetts the only State on track to reduce emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  The State was already on track to lower emissions 18% below 1990 levels by 2020, but the State has adopted several new low-impact policies in order to meet the higher standard, including energy efficiency ratings on buildings, scaling auto insurance rates based on the amount of miles driven, and considering environmental impacts when issuing permits.  New jobs weatherizing homes and in manufacturing and research will number between 42,000 and 48,000 according to the State.  State sets tougher limits on emissionsBoston Globe

MI – Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is appealing a court’s ruling that rejected the denial of a permit for a coal-fired power plant based on a lack of need for the electricity and on the grounds that it would increase greenhouse gas emissions.  The permit was denied by environmental regulators under then-Governor Jennifer Granholm, who issued an executive order requiring the need for electricity and the amount of emissions to be taken into account when issuing permits.  Environmental groups praised Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette for filing the appeal and maintaining the same position on this issue as the prior administration.  State to appeal decision rejecting denial of coal permitDetroit Free Press

NM – Governor Susana Martinez dismissed all of the members of the Environmental Improvement Board (E.I.B.) and overturned an E.I.B. regulation just before its publication that would have required greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by three percent each year.  The Governor also halted another regulation that would have limited discharges from dairies in southern New Mexico.  A third E.I.B. regulation adopted by the Board on Election Day would limit emissions from stationary sources such as power plants and allow emitters to trade emission allowances.  This rule is scheduled to go into effect in 2012 and remains in place, at least temporarily.  The Governor campaigned on a promise to overturn regulations that could prove harmful to the State’s economy.  2 environmental rules halted in New MexicoNew York Times

OR – Governor John Kitzhaber has directed his State’s Energy Department to perform 500 energy audits using $2 million in leftover federal recovery funds.  The Governor’s plan calls for using $70 million in funds from energy utilities to retrofit schools across the State after all the audits have been performed.  Governor Kitzhaber says the audits will allow the State to “be very strategic to get the biggest bank for the buck,” and that he will meet regularly with business leaders to maximize job creation.  Governor targets job creationThe World

TX – A three-judge panel in Washington, DC denied Texas’ motion to block regulators from issuing pollution permits to major sources of greenhouse gas emissions as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the third such denial.  All other States now either issue permits to these polluters or allow the U.S. EPA to issue them.  Texas will continue fighting the regulation in court on the grounds that the U.S. EPA lacks legal authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act.  A spokesperson for the Attorney General said the regulation puts “the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of Texas families and businesses at risk” and called the rules an “unlawful overreach.”  The U.S. EPA is seeking public input before issuing final regulations in Texas, where it is currently using interim regulations to issue permits to polluters.  Texas loses another round in fight over EPA regulation of greenhouse gasesDallas Morning News and EPA seeking input before finalizing Texas rulesHouston Chronicle

WA – Governors Christine Gregoire of Washington and Brian Schweitzer of Montana met recently to discuss a terminal planned in Washington State that would export coal extracted from Montana and Wyoming to China and other Asian countries.  After an initial approval by the county in which the terminal is proposed to be located, environmental groups appealed that decision and Washington’s Ecology Department has said environmental impacts from the intended use of the coal shipments should be taken into account during the permitting process.  Governor Schweitzer supports the project, citing the potential for job creation.  While Governor Gregoire does not want to stifle growth, she would like to ensure that environmental and regulatory processes are followed.  Montana, Washington Governors discuss coal exportsThe Olympian

WV – The U.S. EPA has revoked a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the largest mountaintop-removal coal mine in the State, citing the harmful effect the project would have on water quality downstream from the seven miles of streams it would bury.  Hal Quinn, President of the National Mining Association said the EPA is “weakening the trust U.S. businesses and workers need to make investments and secure jobs.”  The U.S. EPA maintains it reserves the power to intervene in permits issued by the Corps of Engineers and exercises this authority “for only unacceptable cases.”  EPA vetoes water permit for W. Va. mountaintop mineCharleston Daily Mail

 

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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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