The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear a case surrounding how much a utility is required to pay a family producing wind power. In a customary short order, the high court rejected an appeal from Gregory and Beverly Swecker, owners of a small farm in Iowa with a wind generator. The Sweckers sell surplus electric energy to Midland Power Cooperative and have been engaged in legal battles for more than a decade with the utility over the rate paid for their wind power.
Some wind resources are hundreds of miles from potential customers. Projects to build high voltage lines to carry that power to where it’s needed are regularly stymied by the regulatory environment.
Barely a month after world leaders signed a sweeping agreement to reduce carbon emissions, the global commitment to renewable energy sources faces its first big test as the price of oil collapses. Buoyed by low gas prices, Americans are largely eschewing electric cars in favor of lower-mileage trucks and sport utility vehicles. Yet the Obama administration has shown no signs of backing off its requirement that automakers nearly double the fuel economy of their vehicles by 2025.
A landmark Supreme Court opinion issued yesterday underscored the government’s power to regulate an evolving electric grid. In a 6-2 opinion, the high court sided with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by reviving the agency’s contentious “demand-response” rule aimed at encouraging energy conservation. A majority of the justices found that FERC did indeed have the authority to issue a regulation requiring that power users be paid for committing to scale back electricity use at times of peak demand.
The Senate may begin debating bipartisan energy legislation as early as this week, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The chamber is slated to vote on a motion to proceed to a House-passed bill that would impose new screening requirements on Iraqi and Syrian refugees. The legislation — which stems from mounting fears over domestic attacks from the Islamic State group — easily passed the House in November, but it’s unclear whether supporters can muster 60 votes to clear the procedural hurdle in the Senate.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) preached a message of fiscal restraint in his State of the State speech last week, warning that global vicissitudes can affect state coffers and that economic recessions are unpredictable and will unquestionably occur again. But he saved the finale for climate change, vowing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through 2050 and continue spreading his message of climate evangelism worldwide. While he didn’t break new ground, observers said he set a steady course for the coming year.
Opponents of the Obama’s administration Clean Power Plan downplayed a federal court decision yesterday that failed to block the rule while a legal challenge proceeds, saying they still expect to eventually halt the proposal for curbing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
The Obama administration has chalked up a series of early wins in the behemoth lawsuit challenging its signature climate rule. The latest: scoring a panel of judges that’s widely seen as favorable to the government. “They did get lucky,” said James Rubin, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP and former Justice Department attorney. “It could have been a lot worse.”
The New York State Public Service Commission approved a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund in a move to ramp up state efforts to promote a clean energy economy, address climate change and push down energy costs for residents, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced today. The fund will seek to attract third-party investments to support the state’s goal to transition 50 percent of its electricity needs to renewable sources by 2030.
Clark’s departure is now the second since Philip Moeller, who had been the commission’s other Republican member, stepped down in October to work for the Edison Electric Institute. FERC is designed to be a five-member commission. But if the White House doesn’t fill the GOP slots before Clark leaves, the top U.S. regulator of interstate electricity and natural gas will be down to three Democratic members.