It was a tale of two votes as the Senate narrowly voted to confirm Norman Bay to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission while fellow nominee Cheryl LaFleur was approved by a strong majority to serve another five-year term. The Senate voted 52-45 to confirm Bay, who is currently FERC’s chief enforcement officer. He is the White House choice to lead the agency but will need to wait nine months to ascend to the chairman’s spot under a deal made with some of his critics to answer concerns about his inexperience in energy policy.
To meet their sustainability goals, 12 large American companies signed onto a set of buyers’ principles last week calling on utilities to expand and streamline opportunities for renewable energy procurement. The companies, including Bloomberg, General Motors Co., Sprint, Wal-Mart and Mars, are looking to engage with energy suppliers, particularly with debates on the future of the electricity system underway across the country.
U.S. EPA’s proposal for existing power plant greenhouse gases rests on a firm legal foundation of years of field research and decades of agency rulemaking precedent, EPA’s top lawyer for air quality issues told a room full of attorneys this afternoon. Joe Goffman said in remarks at an Environmental Law Institute event in Washington, D.C., today that his agency has had a lot of experience using the Clean Air Act to require pollution reductions from the power sector, having successfully used Section 111 to set “best system of emissions reduction” on 60 prior occasions.
The watchword was “flexibility.” Representatives from across the electricity sector kept coming back to that point as they gathered here yesterday to discuss paths forward under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Three panel members — from PJM Interconnection LLC, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Regulatory Assistance Project — agreed that states face a buffet of options in how to tackle the carbon proposal. They bandied about the benefits of the Obama administration’s approach, as well as their concerns.
As plans for offshore wind energy in Maryland move forward, federal and state officials yesterday announced a project that will study the marine mammal populations found in the development areas. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has pledged $1.1 million to study the bionetwork of the Maryland Wind Energy Area. The site, located about 10 nautical miles from Ocean City, Md., comprises nearly 80,000 acres and will be auctioned off for wind energy development in August (Greenwire, July 2).
Last month, Ohio Governor Kasich signed legislation putting a two-year ‘freeze’ on the state’s proven, successful, and money-saving renewable energy standard. Doing so, he is moving Ohio backward as other states move forward, developing job-creating CO2-neutral/CO2-light, clean renewable energy. This new state law freezes economic growth in a sector that employs 25,000 people in Ohio, while costing Ohio consumers plenty of their hard-earned money. This news underscores two important things: first, the power of incumbent fossil fuel interests to pass damaging, unpopular legislation, and secondly, just how out of step Ohio’s elected officials are with their own constituents.
The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on two nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that, if approved, would finally fill the long-vacant fifth commissioner seat but would also leave many questions. Under a delicate political deal with the White House, if confirmed, Norman Bay would start a four-year term as a FERC commissioner — filling a chair that has been empty for eight months — and Cheryl LaFleur would be approved for another five-year term on the commission. She has been acting chairwoman since the previous chairman, Jon Wellinghoff, stepped down last November.
President Obama’s nominee for chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission appears to have enough support to win Senate confirmation next week in a floor vote that’s likely to break along party lines. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture this week to vote Tuesday on the nominations of Obama’s pick for chairman, Norman Bay, to serve on the commission until 2018, and of Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to another five-year term (E&E Daily, July 10).
U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in an email circulated yesterday derided a New York Times story published earlier in the week that seemed to give an environmental group credit for the groundwork that led to her agency’s proposal limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. McCarthy called the article published Monday “preposterous” in a memo to EPA staff, dismissing the Times’ characterization that the Natural Resources Defense Council’s 2012 proposal “heavily influenced” her agency’s draft rule.
Atlantic Coast states should be proactive in boosting offshore wind energy as a solution to spiking electricity prices and impending carbon regulations, environmental groups say in a report released today. The report emphasizes the benefits of offshore wind — which it dubs an “energy gold mine” and “unmatched solution” for energy and environmental issues — and outlines the “critical role” of state governments in advancing the offshore market.