Amid an exodus of White House environmental advisers, greens got reason to cheer late yesterday as Democratic heavy hitter John Podesta, a longtime critic of Canadian oil sands development, signed on as a White House adviser with a focus on climate change. A former chief of staff to President Clinton and founder of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, Podesta is a crucial ally of environmentalists pushing Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. His new job on Obama’s team, confirmed by a CAP colleague and first reported by The New York Times, comes nine days after an anti-KXL forum co-hosted by an arm of Podesta’s think tank. The appointment inspired activists to recirculate a speech he delivered more than three years ago blasting the Canadian oil sands as “polluting, destructive, expensive and energy intensive.”
President Obama, after a rocky year that leaves him at the lowest ebb of his presidency, is bringing into his White House circle the longtime Democratic strategist John D. Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. Mr. Podesta, who has agreed to serve as counselor for a year, led Mr. Obama’s presidential transition in 2008 and has been an outside adviser since then. He also has occasionally criticized the administration, if gently, from his perch as the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a center-left public policy research group that has provided personnel and policy ideas to the administration.
For once, Republican Sen. David Vitter and the green community are birds of a feather. Wildlife groups and the Senate GOP’s top environmental lawmaker are both irate over a new Interior Department rule allowing 30-year permits for wind farms to accidentally kill or injure bald and golden eagles. The rule was to be published in Monday’s Federal Register.
How dependent is renewable power capacity on policy? During today’s OnPoint, Christi Tezak, managing director of research at ClearView Energy Partners, discusses the changing dynamics of the renewable energy tax policy debate and the impact master limited partnerships could have on clean energy projects. She also explains how U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for power plants could affect state renewable portfolio standards.
The Interior Department late last week announced it is moving forward on Virginia’s plan to build a 12-megawatt wind project in the Atlantic Ocean after confirming there is no competitive interest in developing the area. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has been cleared to submit a formal proposal to erect two 6 MW research turbines, which would trigger a National Environmental Policy Act review.
Economists and regulators are beginning to see preliminary results from the potential scenarios under future regulations to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s fleet of power plants. In his Climate Action Plan released in June, President Obama directed U.S. EPA to craft a regulation that would set maximum carbon emissions standards from existing power plants by July 2014. EPA will promulgate the rule under Section 111 (d) of the Clean Air Act, which requires states to make individual plans to comply with EPA’s requirements.
Conventional wisdom says environmentalism suffered a near-death experience in 2010, when a sweeping climate change bill ran aground in the Democratic-run Senate. But aspiring eulogists for the green movement have gotten ample material in the years before and since that failure. Federal climate legislation is now an all-but-impossible goal. President Obama’s attempt to curb carbon through executive branch power is challenged at every turn by industry opponents and combative Republicans. The healthy decline in U.S. emissions that many greens welcome is in large part due to a natural gas boom, driven by hydraulic fracturing, that fractures the conservation community. Even winning votes for a simple bipartisan energy efficiency bill, for environmentalists, is a slog up Capitol Hill. E&E looks at the U.S. environmental movement as it hits middle age, with an in-depth examination of five groups that are driving the agenda in Congress and throughout the nation.
The wind credit is set to expire at the end of this calendar year, and currently Congress has not committed to extend it. Congress first passed the tax credit, which gives wind producers 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for their first 10 years of operation, in 1992. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Congress has extended the provision five times and has allowed it to sunset on four occasions. This ‘on-again/off-again’ status contributes to a boom-bust cycle of development that plagues the wind industry.” If extended, the tax credit is expected to be worth about $12 billion over the next decade.
The Interior Department announced today that it has finalized a new rule that will allow renewable energy and other projects to obtain permits to injure, kill or disturb bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years, a move that pleases the wind power industry but alarms environmentalists.
Michigan and New York renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are adding jobs and reviving economic growth
The policy known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), whereby retail electricity providers are mandated to meet an increasing share of sales from the competitive procurement of clean and renewable energy is proving successful as a viable framework for deploying a significant amount of renewable generation at the state level. 29 states in total plus Washington, D.C. are successfully deploying RPS policies to obtain homegrown, affordable, clean and renewable energy resources. In the last few weeks, Michigan and New York each completed policy reviews of their respective RPS programs.