The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to consider President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during a May 20 hearing. What are the senators preparing to ask Norman Bay and how contentious could the hearing become? During today’s The Cutting Edge, E&E Dailyreporter Hannah Northey gives a behind-the-scenes look at the questions surrounding Bay’s nomination and possible outcomes of his confirmation proceedings.
In the New Mexico of the 1950s, the two brothers grew up steeped in the beauty of the landscape, the economics of energy and the power of science. They skied, fly-fished, explored on the family’s 50,000-acre sheep ranch, watched oil towns go boom and bust, and talked of the nuclear weapons up the road at Los Alamos. Today the work of Robert and William Nordhaus is profoundly shaping how the United States and other nations take on global warming.
A federal appellate court rejected a broad industry challenge today to U.S. EPA’s air standard for fine particles, ruling that the agency acted reasonably and has “substantial discretion” when setting pollution limits. The National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups had sought to vacate EPA’s decision more than a year ago to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particles, or soot, from 15 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over a year to 12 micrograms. The ruling by U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a Republican appointee who has previously criticized EPA air rules, said the petitioners “simply have not identified any way in which EPA jumped the rails of reasonableness in examining the science” that led to a more stringent standard.
A federal judge Friday denied a challenge to Colorado’s renewable-energy standard, filed by a free-market advocacy group. U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez dismissed the challenge of the Colorado law that requires larger utilities to get 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Martinez ruled that the renewable-energy mandate does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause, as argued by the Washington, D.C.-based Energy and Environment Legal Institute. “Plaintiffs have failed to show that the market shift away from coal and hydrocarbon electricity generation substantially burdens interstate commerce,” Martinez said in the decision.
But U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez sided with the defendants on Friday, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has frequently warned not to “second-guess the empirical judgments of lawmakers concerning the utility of legislation.” “In sum, the court finds that plaintiffs have failed to show a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the Renewables Quota or the RES in general burdens interstate commerce,” Judge Martinez wrote in the 23-page order dismissing the 2011 lawsuit. “As plaintiffs have failed to show that the RES burdens interstate commerce at all, much less that any such burden is clearly excessive in relation to the benefits conferred on the state by the RES, the court finds that summary judgment in also appropriate with regard to plaintiffs’ claim,” the judge continued.
The Senate this week is expected to take up legislation to extend dozens of temporary business tax breaks, including key incentives for renewable energy and alternative fuels.
The so-called tax extenders package could hit the floor by the end of this week, although a formal schedule was in flux as of last week. It would come on the heels of an expected defeat of energy efficiency legislation, which came up short amid failed negotiations during the last two weeks over what amendments Republicans would be able to offer
Fishermen’s Energy LLC, a company that has proposed a five-turbine, 25-megawatt offshore wind farm near Atlantic City, N.J., yesterday was named one of three offshore wind developers to receive up to $47 million in Department of Energy funding (E&ENews PM, May 7). Of the seven contenders vying for a DOE award, Fishermen’s Energy was the only fully permitted project. But over the past several months, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has twice denied bids by Fishermen’s to participate in a state program that would obligate utilities to buy power from the wind farm, in part because the developer had not yet secured the DOE grant.
President Obama will announce on Friday a handful of executive actions and private and nonprofit groups’ investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The initiatives will not amount to much in terms of energy policy or their impact on global warming. But they are part of a broader campaign to build public support for an Environmental Protection Agency rule that the White House will unveil in June. The rule, which has already run into objections, will limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and is expected to create a major new market for zero-carbon energy from sources like wind and solar.
The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition has released a letter to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expressing the group’s support for wind energy as an eligiblemeasure for states to utilize to comply with upcoming carbon emission rules. The EPA is currentlyworking on standards under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to limit carbon emissions from existingpower plants.
The Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition urged EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a letter yesterday to encourage states to tap their wind energy potential as they comply with the rule, which is due to be proposed next month. “Although some of our members do not agree with this proposed EPA action, we all urge you to consider wind energy as an effective and proven clean energy source for our consumers and businesses, as well as its positive impact on economic development of our states,” said the governors, led by South Dakota’s Dennis Daugaard (R) and Washington’s Jay Inslee (D).