Great news out of Kansas! Just one day after the Kansas Senate voted to repeal the state’s renewable electricity standard (RES), the House of Representatives sent the measure packing by an overwhelming 77-44 vote margin. This is a victory for renewable energy in Kansas and across the nation. It is also yet another direct rebuke to the shady tactics and misleading cost analysis put forth by clean energy opponents like Americans for Prosperity, Heartland Institute, and ALEC; all of which are funded by the Kansas-based Koch brothers.
The Senate Finance Committee is aiming for next week to begin its consideration of how and whether to extend a bevy of temporary tax breaks that lapsed at the beginning of this year, such as the production tax credit (PTC) and other clean energy incentives. Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told reporters yesterday afternoon that he hoped to convene a markup Wednesday to consider a bill that would reinstate the business tax breaks, which are collectively known as extenders. Wyden said he hoped the bill would extend the provisions for two years, but he stressed that details of the bill, including its duration, were still being negotiated.
Dan Lashof, a veteran of the climate wars in Washington, D.C., for three decades, is moving to California to take the helm of billionaire Keystone XL pipeline foe Tom Steyer’s new advocacy group. Lashof, who has worked at the Natural Resources Defense Council since 1989, will take over April 1 as CEO of NextGen Climate America, the policy shop affiliated with the more political NextGen Climate Action. He will continue to play an advisory role at NRDC, but Clean Air Act lawyer David Doniger will replace him as head of the group’s climate and clean air program.
Public enthusiasm for state-level climate change policies has waned in recent years as rhetoric denying the role of humans in warming the planet has intensified and the federal government has taken the lead in tackling greenhouse gas emissions. The peak in public support for state climate policies came in the fall of 2008, according to a report released yesterday from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment, but has steadily declined ever since as respondents became more circumspect over how states should pursue climate policy. Most Americans still think states should have an active role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but support for strong policy responses has declined.
China has been using coal-fired power to fuel its economic development for decades. But there have been both environmental and human costs to the air pollution it generated. A new study from Columbia University and the Chongqing Medical University finds that children born near a coal-burning power plant in Tongliang County in central China were slower to develop and had less of a key protein that is crucial for brain development. Researchers looked at two sets of children, one born while the coal plant was operating and one born after. The differences were dramatic. Babies born after the coal plant closed in May 2004 had lower exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are chemicals that are often produced from coal plants.
“They go up, they go down, Slinky fashion,” said Francesca Cava, chief operating officer at Advanced Rail Energy Storage North America, the company behind the Nevada project. “For the most part, the technology we’re using is over a hundred years old — we’re not waiting for any scientific breakthroughs to be profitable.”
If approved by the House, the measure would go to Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who is allied with legislative leaders and groups opposing the RPS. But in the past, Brownback has praised Kansas wind development. The RPS was the result of a controversial deal brokered in 2009 by then-Gov. Mark Parkinson. In return for passage of the RPS, Parkinson vowed to help clear the way for Sunflower Electric Power Corp. to get a permit for an 895-megawatt, coal-fired plant in western Kansas.
Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, urged the Senate to not even take up the bill, Tuesday, noting that a survey showed widespread support for the standards and Gov. Sam Brownback has voiced support for the wind energy. But Americans For Prosperity has called repealing the standards one of its top priorities this session and bankrolled a controversial statewide radio and TV ad blitz attempting to tie the standards to former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and the federal health care reform. Several senators who voted to repeal the standards said they did so because it was time for the alternative energy companies to “stand on their own two feet.”
As U.S. EPA nears its June 1 deadline for releasing regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, stakeholders are aggressively pitching the agency on how best to craft its rule. During today’s OnPoint, Dan Lashof, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, discusses an updated analysis of the climate and economic impacts of NRDC’s widely publicized existing source recommendations.
fight over state standards for renewable energy generation has returned to the Kansas Senate. The so-called Renewable Portfolio Standards were set in place in 2009 as part of a deal for Kansas to issue a construction permit for a Sunflower Electric Cooperative coal-fired power plant near Holcomb. But they have pitted free-market conservatives against the industry.