The Senate Finance Committee voted today to grant a reprieve to an assortment of expired energy tax credits, after wind opponents withdrew amendments targeting the renewable production tax credit. On a 23-3 vote, senators approved the extenders package, which revives 52 on-again, off-again tax breaks for two years. Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) were the lone votes in opposition. Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) opened the markup by urging his colleagues to focus on “relatively noncontroversial changes to recently expired tax provisions and the offsets needed for these changes.”
The Senate panel’s markup yesterday of a two-year extenders package for 52 tax breaks came months earlier than the usual, end-of-year debate over expiring subsidies. Last year, Congress waited until December to pass retroactive extensions of wind and solar tax credits that expired at the end of 2013, passing a retroactive one year extension that expired a few weeks later with the start of the new year. But, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) signaled yesterday that the lower chamber is no hurry to roll out similar legislation, citing the House Republican caucus’ desire to advance a bill that includes permanent tax extensions.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee have filed dozens of amendments to the extenders package that the panel will mark up this morning, including a bevy of proposals that would expand clean energy incentives. Not surprisingly, at least a half-dozen of the more than 100 amendments filed yesterday address the renewable production tax credit, which would be extended for two years under the committee’s base bill. While the majority of the amendments are unlikely to receive votes in committee, the markup will provide an opportunity for sponsors to test the waters for their proposals.
Rejecting Oklahoma’s aggressive calls for action, a federal judge has dismissed the state’s novel suit seeking an injunction blocking EPA from finalizing or implementing its greenhouse gas (GHG) rule for existing power plants, ruling that the state has not outlined any “exceptional circumstances” for why the court has jurisdiction to review the proposed GHG rule. In a July 17 ruling, Judge Claire Eagan of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma says that the state has not shown the court has jurisdiction to review the proposed rule and that plaintiffs will be able to make their case once EPA promulgates a final rule in the coming weeks.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ordered the Clean Energy Finance Corp., which funds renewable energy operations in the country, not to invest in wind and small-scale solar energy efforts. The action is the latest in a slew of measures initiated by Abbott — the leader of the conservative Liberal Party — that have sparked criticism that he is undoing the country’s progress on curtailing emissions. Australia’s per-capita carbon emissions in 2013 were among the highest in the world.
Only a few days before U.S. EPA announced its sweeping regulation to reduce power plants’ carbon pollution known as the Clean Power Plan, Administrator Gina McCarthy was scheduled to be in her office on a Saturday. McCarthy’s calendar, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, has her attending a meeting at noon that day titled “111D Prep.” Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act is what the agency argues grants EPA the legal standing to limit carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.
“On greenhouse gas emissions, California has always been an A student,” said Ashley Lawson, a senior carbon analyst at Thomson Reuters. “So to perform any better, you have to work really, really hard to go from an A to an A plus.” The rest of the country, which is replacing coal-fired power plants with less-polluting natural gas plants, “was able to go from a C to a B, with almost no effort at all,” she said
Attending the meeting is Gov. Jerry Brown of California, which has enacted the toughest greenhouse gas emissions standards in North America, as well as the mayors of Boston; Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oslo, Norway; San Francisco; Stockholm; and Vancouver. Many belong to the new Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, whose members have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 or sooner.
A federal judge Friday dismissed Oklahoma’s most recent challenge to President Obama’s proposed air standards for greenhouse gas emissions. Judge Claire Eagan for the Northern District of Oklahoma said the state failed to demonstrate that the court has jurisdiction over a rule that has yet to be finalized. The case was the latest attempt by Oklahoma to challenge the landmark standards, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, before they are finalized this summer.
“It’s always been a sort of energy hub for different technologies,” said Paul F. Curran, managing director of BQ Energy, a renewable-energy developer that is transforming the former steel mill into a green power plant. “We can put in more generation without having to build new infrastructure — big power lines and that type of thing — because the conventional Rust Belt power is retiring. So we can hop into the grid economically.”