The Senate cleared a $41.6 billion package of tax breaks on Tuesday, sending the legislation to President Obama in one of the last substantive moves of this Congress. By a 76 to 16 vote, the Senate passed a measure that would extend more than four dozen tax breaks for both businesses and individuals just through 2014. Republicans and Democrats latched on to the one-year deal after the White House undercut negotiations on a broader bipartisan package, underscoring divisions between Democrats in the wake of this year’s heavy losses at the polls. Senators from both parties said Tuesday that they would have preferred legislation that restored the tax breaks through 2015.
A federal appeals court yesterday ruled that a controversial demand-response program can stay intact through Jan. 15 while the Obama administration seeks a Supreme Court review. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s request to extend the stay of a motion that would vacate Order 745, which directs demand-response providers such as factories or commercial buildings to receive full market prices when they curtail electricity use.
The Senate last night in a flurry of activity confirmed a handful of President Obama’s energy picks along with more than three dozen noncontroversial nominees, including a few who weren’t expected to cross the finish line. The upper chamber voted unanimously by voice vote to approve Colette Honorable to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Chris Smith to be the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for fossil energy, Estavan López to lead the Bureau of Reclamation, and John Cruden to be assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
In one of its last items of business before adjourning for the year, the Senate last night reinstated a bushel of expired tax incentives, including the production tax credit for wind energy — for two weeks. Following passage of the so-called tax extenders bill, the Senate confirmed dozens of nominees for key administration and judicial posts — including at the Interior and Energy departments (see related story). After that, the Senate adjourned for the year, joining the House, which ended its session last week. Congress returns Jan. 6.
Industry groups are asking a federal appeals court to vacate the government’s high-profile, demand-response program now instead of waiting to see whether the Supreme Court will review the case. The Edison Electric Institute and other utility groups urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday to reject FERC’s request to keep in place Order 745, which directs demand-response providers such as factories or commercial buildings to receive full market prices when they curtail electricity use.
Iowa could add about 1,300 more advanced energy jobs next year, pushing up employment in wind, solar, renewable fuels and energy efficiency to nearly 24,000, according to a report from the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. The Washington, D.C., advocacy group said advanced energy this year made up 1.3 percent of Iowa’s total workforce with 22,643 workers at 1,427 companies. It’s expected to climb 6 percent to 23,979 in 2015, according to the report that’s based on an industry survey.
The analysis also found that the market for wind power in the Midwest is already saturated with suppliers; neighboring Iowa gets 27 percent of its power from wind, mostly from MidAmerican Energy, the utility owned by Omaha’s Berkshire Hathaway. Also among the findings are that Nebraska offers lower financial incentives than other states and that the state suffers from “the perception of a more burdensome permitting and regulatory process.”
he Senate will vote Tuesday to clear two of President Obama’s more controversial nominees, clearing a major hurdle to finishing the 113th Congress this week. Senators will vote to end debate and confirm Sarah Saldaña, Obama’s nominee to head Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and Tony Blinken, the choice to serve as Deputy Secretary of State. Once they are out of the way, Senate aides expect an agreement to confirm Obama’s other pending nominees by midweek. That would speed up final votes on a package extending a variety of lapsed tax breaks and on the stalled Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.
On one side of the dispute, supporters say EPA carefully constructed the rule with a strong legal foundation, taking into consideration years of precedents affirming the agency’s right to regulate greenhouse gases. They say the standards for cutting emissions, or building blocks suggested by EPA, are based on proven methods that the energy industry itself has pursued around the country. On the other side, critics say the scope of the rule is unprecedented and the federal agency is violating states’ rights by issuing goals that can’t be met without employing “beyond-the-source” methods, like renewable power and energy efficiency programs. They say EPA doesn’t have jurisdiction to compel states to comply with the required cuts because it would have to base them on programs that are explicitly the business of state governments.
Nebraska has the capacity to build and export more renewable energy generated by wind farms than it does now, according to a study that will be released by the Nebraska Power Review Board Monday. The Nebraska Renewable Energy Export Study, mandated by the passage of LB1115 this past legislative session, said there is significant growth potential for renewable electricity generation in the state, both short- and long-term.