A mixed bag of electoral victories in Washington state and Oregon on Tuesday night opened some room for the ambitious climate agendas of the states’ green-minded governors. But failure to tip the Washington Senate left environmentalists just shy of the across-the-board victory many had hoped for. Democrats in Oregon had previously dominated both chambers of the state Legislature but had seen several key environmental measures stalled by the defection of a single Democratic state senator, Betsy Johnson, across the aisle. By netting an additional seat Tuesday, Democrats now have the space they need to work around Johnson’s vote and move forward with measures on local coal traffic, carbon pricing and renewable energy.
The American Energy Alliance and 66 other groups sent a letter today to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) arguing that allowing the PTC to be extended this year would sacrifice leverage in upcoming tax reform negotiations and hand Democrats a win. “Rejecting efforts to extend the PTC is a meaningful way for this Congress to oppose the president’s climate plan,” the groups write. “A vote for extending the PTC is a vote for the president and the majority leader’s agenda.”
Sixty-six right-leaning groups are urging congressional Republicans not to revive or extend the wind production tax credit as part of a tax extenders package. The groups — including the American Energy Alliance, Heritage Action for America and Americans for Prosperity — call the PTC an important part of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “attack on affordable energy from natural gas, coal, and nuclear.”
President Obama today said there was room for agreement with Republican leaders on several issues after the GOP’s landslide victory last night, but he warned that he wouldn’t wait to act on parts of his agenda during his last two years in office. Speaking at the White House, Obama outlined possible areas of compromise, including tax reform, efforts to make college more affordable and a longtime Democratic goal to raise the minimum wage.
Wind turbines across the globe are being made taller to capture more energy from the stronger winds that blow at greater heights. But it’s not easy, or sometimes even economically feasible, to build taller towers, with shipping constraints on tower diameters and the expense involved in construction. Now Keystone Tower Systems — co-founded by Eric Smith ’01, SM ’07, Rosalind Takata ’00, SM ’06, and Alexander Slocum, the Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT — is developing a novel system that adapts a traditional pipe-making technology to churn out wind turbines on location, at wind farms, making taller towers more economically feasible.
The Senate’s surge into Republican hands yesterday ends an eight-year hold on power in which Democrats made failing attempts to slash carbon emissions amid sharp swings in the public’s mood on climate change and growing damage from natural disasters. Seats in key states like Colorado and Iowa turned to GOP candidates who at times campaigned against the expansion of environmental protections under President Obama. The conservative wave dismantles a Democratic shield that until now had protected U.S. EPA’s efforts to complete its climate rules from Republican attacks as the Obama era ticks toward its end in 2016.
Echoing the GOP wave in the U.S. Senate, Republicans picked up or held several key governor’s seats that could influence emissions trends and climate policies in some of the largest greenhouse gas-emitting states. In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott held off a challenge from Democrat Charlie Crist, dealing a significant blow to environmental billionaire Tom Steyer, whose NextGen Climate Action political action committee poured money into the contest and conducted an “ark tour” to highlight coastal threats. Incumbent Republican governors swept tight races in Wisconsin, Georgia, Michigan and Maine, which also were targeted by Steyer. Governor’s mansions flipped from Democrats to the GOP in Maryland, Arkansas and Massachusetts, which has not had a Republican governor since Mitt Romney in 2007.
John Abbe hadn’t heard of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission until a few weeks ago. Like many protesters rallying before the agency in Washington, D.C., this morning, he’s now convinced the little-known commission is rubber-stamping a wave of gas projects tied to a national oil and gas boom. Abbe actually set out from California eight months ago with more than 600 activists on a cross-country trek to raise awareness about climate change — a movement that led him and other protesters to FERC’s doorstep today.
Two major private transmission lines are proposed to move wind power from windy Wyoming (population 583,000) to power-hungry California (population 38.3 million). TransWest Express (TWE) and Zephyr are each backed by a tenacious company with deep pockets. But it is unclear if both of the high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) lines will be built because of the inherent risk of such multi-billion-dollar projects and the politics of California importing electricity.
The Senate wasn’t the only place where the GOP had a good night. Most eyes yesterday were on high-profile Senate races in the midterm election that handed Republicans the reins in the upper chamber of Congress. But Republicans also had a surprisingly good night in 36 gubernatorial elections, where a spate of close races fell in their favor. High-profile GOP governors in states including Florida, Maine and Wisconsin clinched second terms, after polls showed tight races leading up to Election Day. The GOP also made some surprising gains by snagging seats that had been held by Democrats, including in blue states Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.