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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, January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011

In the States

MN – Several bills have been drafted that would repeal, to differing degrees, a 2007 bipartisan law that bans new coal-fired power plants and the importing of coal-powered electricity until carbon offsets or a plan to lower emissions are in place.  Sponsors are saying that the law places unnecessary burdens on industry, slowing economic recovery once the recession is over.  Governor Mark Dayton has not said yet indicated whether he will veto any particular repeal bill, but he did campaign in part on maintaining a moratorium on new nuclear power plants that is a part of the same law.  Minn. Republicans hope to undo clean energy policiesMinnesota Public Radio

NM – A State Supreme Court ruling has reversed an order by Governor Susana Martinez that blocked publication of regulations aimed at reducing emissions from utilities and dairies within the State.  One of the regulations requires a three percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions every year.  The Court ruled that the regulations must be published in the State’s register, but opponents of the regulations plan to work with the Governor and the State legislature to change the rules.  Court reverses New Mexico Governor on environmental rulesNew York Times

State of the State Addresses

While approximately half of the Governors have given their State of the State or State of the Commonwealth addresses, the realities imposed by the financial downturn caused most Governors to focus their speeches on addressing fiscal difficulties and job creation rather than energy issues.  Still, some Governors incorporated energy plans tied to job creation and retention.

Several Governors cited recent energy business investments that would help lead their States to better fiscal times, including South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, all of whom who noted recent increased renewable energy investments or improvements.  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that Nordic Windpower USA’s new plant will create 200 jobs, and proposed to create more through the construction of a new nuclear power plant.  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour noted several investments in his State, including coal, oil, nuclear, LNG, solar, ethanol, coal-to-liquids, and carbon capture projects. 

A few Governors called for increased domestic renewable energy production.  For example, Hawaii Governor Neal Abercrombie expressed support for accelerating renewable energy projects in his State, and improving Hawaii’s energy security.  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called for more renewables on federal lands, saying, “I support all efforts to make Nevada the renewable energy capital of the country.” 

Some Governors discussed a mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy resources available to their states.  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said he hoped to make Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast” by investing, in part, in solar, wind, waste-to-energy, and biomass, and promoting offshore wind by leasing offshore parcels for wind energy production and serving as headquarters for the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium.  But he also called for increasing oil, coal, gas, and nuclear energy production.  While Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said that investments in hydroelectric power and renewable energy grants in his State would create jobs and help the State meet his goal of 50% renewable power by 2025, he also wants to lower taxes on oil production in order to create more jobs.  Wyoming Governor Matt Mead discussed “value-added” projects such as combing wind power with gas-fired turbines, as well the manufacturing of wind turbine components.  In addition, he supports continued use of coal while making it a cleaner fuel through carbon capture and sequestration, and also advocates greater use of carbon injection technologies for enhanced oil extraction, as well as coal gasification.  

In discussing his State’s abundant fossil fuel resources, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he will aggressively pursue the State’s lawsuit against the U.S. EPA over mountaintop removal regulations, and that he supports development of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia and carbon capture and sequestration.  

Links to all of the Governors’ addresses can be found at the State of the State Speeches Calendar on Stateline.org

National News

President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech to Congress last week, during which he issued a challenge of producing 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.  President Obama said that all forms of energy production are needed to meet this goal, and mentioned nuclear power, clean coal, and natural gas in addition to wind and solar.  U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who gave the Republican response to the State of the Union, emphasized the need for less government spending and a more limited government rather than new investments.  Several high-ranking Democrats expressed support for the idea of a broader clean energy mandate while most Republicans remained skeptical about incentivizing one energy type over another or imposing mandates on the private sector.  Senators laud “clean energy” pushPolitico and State of the Union (Transcript)White House and State of the Union Response (Transcript)House Budget Committee

According to a new report commissioned by the federal government as required in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, the United States military would not receive any significant benefit from greater use of alternative fuels.  The study, performed by the RAND Corporation, said that focusing on energy efficiency would have a greater impact on lowering greenhouse gases.  The report received criticism from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for the Navy Thomas W. Hicks, who said he was not consulted by RAND, and that the report ignores energy security issues, and from environmental groups, biofuels proponents, the Algal Biomass Organization, and others.  RAND says that while the military is a major consumer of liquid fuels, it still only uses two percent of the country’s daily intake, and since some biofuels are still in their infancy, the money spent on alternative fuels in the military would have a small effect on greenhouse gas emissions.  Alternative fuels don’t benefit the military, a RAND report saysNew York Times

 

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