Pointing to Friday’s positive jobs report for November, which showed that the economy had added 321,000 jobs, the largest one-month addition in nearly three years, Wyden said a longer extenders package would build on that progress. But he acknowledged that it was a long shot, given the limited amount of time remaining in the year. “I’ve made it clear that it’s hard to see a procedural path forward,” Wyden said. “But if you take a look at the economic news of last week, where things were starting to pick up a little bit, it’s clear if you provide some predictability and certainty that it would be possible to encourage the kind of investment that would cause those more encouraging numbers to grow.” The Senate is scheduled to adjourn Thursday and still has to act on yet-to-be-released legislation to fund the government past then and the annual defense authorization bill, which contains a massive and controversial package of public lands bills.
This week is also expected to bring Senate passage of two other pieces of year-end legislation that the House approved last week. One is a “tax extenders” bill that would renew through the end of this year more than 50 expired tax breaks, including incentives for renewable energy, biofuels and efficiency upgrades. Clean energy advocates last week said the bill was insufficient because it would only renew incentives like the production tax credit (PTC) for a few weeks, not nearly enough time to do the work necessary to start a new wind farm that could claim the credit.
But this is not happening. Although the goal is to shift consumption to off-peak hours when cheaper, cleaner electricity is available, experts say it is still many years away, despite billions in federal subsidies that have helped finance the switch to the so-called smart grid. Analysts say that most customers, and public service commissions, are simply not ready for the change to what is known as dynamic pricing, which is intended to benefit the whole system by reducing demand during peak hours. The idea is that as prices rise on summer afternoons or fall in the middle of the night, customers will learn to tailor their consumption — like running a dishwasher or washing machine, or charging an electric car — during times of better pricing.
Nebraska state Sen. Ken Haar (D) introduced a bill last year calling for a study of projected climate change impacts in the state that would be presented to the legislature. But the bill took an unexpected detour when state Sen. Beau McCoy (R) introduced an amendment limiting the study to “cyclical” climate causes, like volcanic eruptions or solar variations. In short, climate scientists funded to do the research by the state and for the state legislature to use in making climate-related decisions would not be permitted to consider human activity (the biggest driving factor of climate change) in their reports.
In Nebraska last year, partisan politics got in the way of a state-run study that would have assessed potential climate change impacts. In January 2013, state Sen. Ken Haar (D) introduced a bill for climate researchers to analyze the effects climate change will have on Nebraska. But the measure was quickly dragged down after Sen. Beau McCoy (R) tacked on an amendment that would require any research under the bill to be focused on “cyclical” climate changes, like volcanic eruptions, rather than man-made emissions.
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state. But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oiland gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.
As the dust settles in the wake of U.S. EPA’s comment deadline for its Clean Power Plan, state authorities who spent the last six months detailing technical questions and contentions with the draft rule are increasingly turning their attention toward the specifics of potential compliance pathways. A group of state energy officials and electric and air regulators are meeting behind closed doors in the Washington, D.C., area yesterday and today to discuss how energy efficiency programs could help states achieve required carbon emissions reductions, according to a meeting agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned senators that this week could be a long one. “Next week could be a long, long week spilling into the next week,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday night. “We have imperative things we have to do.” The Nevada lawmaker said the Senate has to pass a government funding bill and a defense spending measure before adjourning for the year. He also said he hopes to pass a tax extenders package, but he wasn’t sure if that would be possible.The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act and a one-year retroactive tax extension bill this week, but still has to pass the “cromnibus” — legislation that will prevent a government shutdown after Dec. 11.
But at this week’s public comments show, there is a deep partisan divide over the wisdom — indeed, the legality — of requiring states to reduce their power sectors’ greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. And if Republican governors refuse to cooperate with the rule, the end result may look a lot like the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In that scenario, the vast majority of Democratic-controlled states expanded Medicaid and created state-level health care exchanges, while most Republican states did nothing.
As Washington lawmakers consider extending clean energy tax incentives, how are states faring on their renewables policies? During today’s OnPoint, Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Clean Energy Program, discusses a new series of policy briefs analyzing state clean energy economies. Cuttino also weighs in on the heated congressional debate over the production tax credit.