In state capitals across the country, legislators are debating proposals to roll back environmental rules, prodded by industry and advocacy groups eager to curtail regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gases. The measures, which have been introduced in about 18 states, lie at the heart of an effort to expand to the state level the battle over fossil fuel and renewable energy. The new rules would trim or abolish climate mandates — including those that require utilities to use solar and wind energy, as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would reduce carbon emissions from power plants. But the campaign — despite its backing from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity — has run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also said he wants to use this work period to pass a “tax extenders” bill to renew dozens of expired tax breaks, including the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) and several other energy-related incentives. Enacting such a bill is a top priority for Reid and new Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has said the breaks should be extended one last time before turning to comprehensive tax reform.
As the nuclear power industry struggles to remain competitive in electric power markets in the United States, how could a shift in energy policy framework affect the industry’s future? During today’s OnPoint, William Von Hoene Jr., senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Exelon Corp., the largest nuclear provider in the U.S., discusses the market and policy factors having the greatest impact on nuclear’s role in the electricity sector. He also discusses the future of Exelon’s business model.
An executive for the coalition of investors trying to build the country’s first offshore wind farm today said it will appeal a decision by New Jersey regulators to reject the $188 million project. “We plan to play out the process and file an appeal,” said Paul Gallagher, chief operating officer of Fishermen’s Energy, which first proposed the 25-megawatt wind farm off the Atlantic City coast in 2011. On Wednesday, the state Board of Public Utilities refused to reconsider its March 19 decision rejecting the plan. At that hearing, board members said they supported offshore wind energy but maintained the plan relies too heavily on unsecured federal grants, leaving ratepayers on the hook for millions of dollars.
Conservation groups have formally asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to develop a national plan for siting commercial-scale wind-power plants in locations that cause the least amount of impacts to birds, bats and other sensitive wildlife. The coalition of more than 70 groups — including the American Bird Conservancy, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the Trust for Public Land and WildEarth Guardians — sent a four-page letter to Jewell arguing that a detailed plan is needed to highlight areas best suited for large-scale wind development and, perhaps more importantly, to identify areas where such development would cause too many natural resource conflicts.
Technology giants Apple Inc. and Google Inc., marked this year’s Earth Day by applying new polish to their clean energy credentials and, in the case of Apple, sending a clear signal to its customers and the public that the company is working hard to become one of the world’s most eco-friendly brands. In what may be her highest-profile acts since joining Apple as vice president of environmental initiatives almost a year ago, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson gave a series of media interviews this week and posted a five-paragraph letter on Apple’s revamped environmental website detailing the company’s continued path toward environmental sustainability. Yet, she acknowledged more work needs to be done.
More Americans support U.S. EPA regulation of coal-fired power plant carbon than oppose it, according to survey results released today by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University. Out of 1,013 adults surveyed, 64 percent favored “strict” power plant rules, even when they were told “the cost of electricity to consumers and companies will likely increase.” Support for the rules among Democratic and Democratic-leaning respondents was stronger (80 percent) than opposition among Republicans (56 percent), and independents were evenly split at 50 percent.
A conflict between state laws continues to stifle renewable energy development in Illinois, a state with one of the most ambitious green power mandates that’s already among the nation’s largest wind energy producers. Illinois passed a measure in 2007 requiring investor-owned utilities Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois to gradually step up use of renewable energy to 25 percent in 2025. Wind development flourished in the state in subsequent years, driven partly by the law. Today, Illinois ranks fourth nationally, with more than 3,500 megawatts of wind generation capacity from 46 different wind farms dotting the northern half of the state, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association.
‘‘Out there, in much of the country, the talk is about the energy revolution, the abundance of energy that we have, the way that we are in fact drawing upon new resources . . . promoting renewables, at the same time reducing carbon emissions,’’ he said. “But yet if we come here, it’s not a discussion of abundance. It’s a discussion of, in particular, infrastructure constraints,’’ he said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said tech companies Microsoft and Google, with large data center investments in Iowa, rank among the top five organizations nationally for using electricity from renewable energy. EPA released its top 100 green power users today, with Intel Corp. leading the list, followed by Kohl’s Department Stores, Microsoft Corp., Whole Foods Market and Google. It comes a day after Google announced it was buying 407 megawatts of wind-sourced energy from MidAmerican Energy. The agreement provides enough power to operate its Council Bluffs operations and for future expansions, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company said.