Blog posts : "washington"
In the States
NM – Governor Susana Martinez has signed a bill into law that will streamline the permitting process for companies seeking to develop geothermal energy. Under the new law, geothermal developers are able to bypass the process of obtaining additional permits from the State in certain cases, though there are also protections for groundwater and the holders of water rights. Governor Martinez said that she hopes the bill will increase the production of renewable energy in New Mexico. N.M. streamlines geothermal permitting – Albuquerque Journal
OH – Governor John Kasich has proposed raising taxes on oil and natural gas liquids to potentially collect over $1 billion in additional revenue for the State by 2016. The additional revenues would be used to lower taxes on individuals and small businesses. If the proposal is approved, it would change the current rate structure of 20 cents per barrel of oil and no tax on natural gas liquids to 1.5 percent of market value for oil and natural gas liquids, which would be raised to four percent by 2014. The current rate of three cents per 1,000 cubic feet would remain for natural gas, unless it is extracted through hydraulic fracturing, which would trigger a one percent tax. The proposed increased rates are still lower than those of larger oil-producing states such as Texas, and would apply only to new horizontal-drilling sites and, in the case of natural gas, sites that produce over 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day. Governor Kasich is expected to revisit his already-announced budget to include the new taxes, as well as regulations on hydraulic fracturing. Kasich said to plan raising Ohio drilling tax as high as 4% – Bloomberg and Kasich to propose fee on fracking – Toledo Blade
WA – Governor Christine Gregoire has signed a bill into law that broadens the type of energy production facilities that are considered to be renewable energy under a voter-approved initiative that requires 15 percent of the State’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. The new law allows biomass energy production facilities older than 13 years old to count toward the requirement. While opposition from environmental groups stalled the bill this year and kept it from passing last year, opposition was dropped when the definitions of renewable energy were more narrowly defined. Washington state plan expands renewable energy law – News Tribune
Two separate bills are making their way through the House and Senate that would extend highway and transit funding beyond its current March 31 deadline, and Senators and Congressman are currently debating what will be included in the version from each chamber. Senate Republican amendments were voted down this week that would have bypassed the Obama Administration in the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline permitting process, required changes in new pollution regulations on industrial boilers, and encourage offshore oil drilling. That two-year, $109 billion transportation bill without those amendments is opposed by House Speaker John Boehner, who is currently gathering support for the House’s own five-year, $260 billion proposal. The House bill includes many of the provisions struck down in the Senate, but has stalled mainly due to the large price tag. Speaker Boehner warned Republican House members this week that if the House does not pass the measure, they will need to take up the Senate’s bill, pass a short term extension, or risk shutting down the transportation projects funded by the government and losing many jobs. Senate rejects GOP proposals that would overturn Obama environment, energy policies – Washington Post and House speaker gives Republicans highway ultimatum – Reuters and Boehner’s highway bill plea to GOP doesn’t deliver – Politico
The U.S. Department of Energy is soliciting proposals from companies that wish to bid for a newly-announced six-year $180 million demonstration project to develop offshore wind power. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the new program, saying that the initiative was designed to “catalyze the development of offshore wind in America” and help developers “design and demonstrate next generation wind energy technologies.” Of the funds, $20 million will be available to up to four companies in 2012, with the rest becoming available over the next five years. DOE launches 6-year, 180m offshore wind development initiative – CleanTechnica and Offshore wind gets $180 million boost from DOE (press release) – Energy Department
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has released a long-awaited proposal for a federal clean energy standard. The proposed legislation would require that 84 percent of the nation’s electricity produced by large utilities would be required to come from wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, or coal with carbon capture and sequestration by 2035. Senator Bingaman acknowledged the challenges the bill will face in the current Congress, saying, “Getting substantive legislation through both houses of Congress to the president’s signature is very difficult in this Congress.” While the White House expressed support for the measure, which resembles the president’s proposals in the two most recent State of the Union addresses, opponents say that the bill would raise energy costs. Senator Bingaman says that a U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis shows that the standards would have little or no impact on the economy. Bingaman launches uphill battle with ‘clean’ power proposal – The Hill
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
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 Transcript – White House and Energy Blueprint Fact Sheet – White House and Obama pitches ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy – National 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 response – McClatchy
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 XL – Lincoln 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 plan – NorthJersey.com and NJ energy master plan finalized: action on solar, but environmentalists still not happy – NJ.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 law – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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 gas – New 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
In the States
IA – In a speech to a renewable energy symposium, Governor Terry Branstad praised the wind energy industry in the State, saying that wind power could help achieve his stated goals of creating 200,000 jobs and increasing family income by 25 percent within five years. The Governor also said “I think that Iowa has the potential to be the leader of renewable energy.” Branstad talks alternative energy – Daily Iowan
MO – In the two years since Governor Jay Nixon signed an executive order requiring State agencies to use less energy, Missouri’s government has cut electricity use by 3% and propane and natural gas use by 15%. Following the Governor’s executive order, agencies replaced windows, upgraded lighting, and adjusted thermostats. The overall cut in energy usage by State agencies was 5.5 percent. Mo. Gov. says State cut energy use by 5.5 percent – Bloomberg BusinessWeek
NH – Governor John Lynch, in a press conference with U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu and University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston, announced the six companies that won a second round of funding from the State’s Green Launching Pad, which provides federal stimulus funds to clean energy companies in an effort to foster innovative energy technologies and create more jobs. Companies receiving the funds focus on a range of technologies, including clean energy storage, and hydroelectric and solar power. Governor Lynch called the first round of the project “a tremendous success,” and that he is “focused on making sure that we are growing the jobs and companies of the future right here in New Hampshire” through the Green Launching Pad. Green Launching Pad winners announced – New Hampshire Business Review and ‘Green’ firms in Granite State get help – Nashua Telegraph
WA – Governor Christine Gregoire has signed a bill that will phase out the State’s only existing coal-fired power plant and ban coal plants from the State in the future. Under the new law, the plant’s owner, TransAlta, must take one boiler at the power plant offline by 2020 and the other by 2025, and establish a $30 million fund for economic development in the county that houses the plant. TransAlta’s CEO, Steve Snyder, said the company plans to build a new gas-fired plant that will open by 2020. TransAlta may also build a wind farm elsewhere in the State and does not plan to eliminate any jobs during the transition. At the bill signing, Governor Gregoire said “Coal power was a part of our past. Our prosperity now depends on our ability to move forward with a clean energy future.” In Centralia, Gov. Gregoire signs bill that ends TransAlta’s coal use by 2025 – Olympian
WY – During a speech at an energy development conference, Governor Matt Mead said that rising oil prices are “a tax on all of us” and that the profitable extraction of energy resources in Wyoming is essential to furthering clean energy goals. Governor Mead said that energy development is vital to the State’s economy, but that it can be done without degrading the environment, saying “we want a clean environment, we want energy development, and those two are not mutually exclusive.” The Governor also said that “there’s just no question” that development must be done “in a timely and efficient manner.” Wyoming Governor Mead insists energy can be developed safely, quickly – Star-Tribune
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 emissions – Boston 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 permit – Detroit 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 Mexico – New 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 creation – The 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 gases – Dallas Morning News and EPA seeking input before finalizing Texas rules – Houston 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 exports – The 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 mine – Charleston Daily Mail
CO – The legislature is considering a new bill which would increase the tax on oil and gas companies by 1% and slowly eliminate a property tax credit to funnel money toward education funds. Proposal aims to raise taxes on oil, gas industry - Rocky Mountain News