Michigan joined the list of Republican-led states in the coal-dependent Midwest that are putting the brakes on work to develop Clean Power Plan compliance strategies following last week’s surprising stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday’s decision by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) comes a day after Gov. Scott Walker (R) issued an executive order prohibiting Wisconsin agencies from working on the carbon rule. The Kansas Legislature is also moving quickly on a bill that would likewise suspend efforts on the Clean Power Plan. And similar legislation has been filed in neighboring Missouri.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) will attend an annual security conference in Munich this weekend where he’ll also participate in a discussion on climate change. Whitehouse and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to the Munich Security Conference. The senators have traveled together to previous security conferences in the German city.
Visiting this southwestern Alaska city on a cold but sunny day, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz yesterday released a study showing the Last Frontier could become a solar energy powerhouse. Its industry could rank “at least comparable if not favorable to that of Germany, which leads the world in solar PV installations,” he said.
Frank Kohlasch, one of the lead architects of Minnesota’s compliance strategy for the Obama administration’s signature climate regulation, had just arrived at St. Cloud State University last Tuesday when news broke that the Supreme Court had slammed the brakes on the federal effort. St. Cloud State was hosting the first of four statewide public “listening sessions” on U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, where Kohlasch and his Minnesota Pollution Control Agency colleagues expected questions from citizens about what exactly the agency would require of Minnesota’s power plants. But the first query stumped him.
Governors of 17 states today announced a new bipartisan agreement to promote clean energy but steered clear of touching on climate change. Led by California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), the pact is aimed at boosting energy efficiency and renewable energy, modernizing the electricity grid and promoting electric and alternative fuel vehicles.
“Last week, the Clean Power Plan was basically dead,” said Brian Potts, a lawyer with the Foley & Lardner law firm who represents companies on environmental regulatory issues. “But with Scalia’s death, everything has changed.” Environmental lawyers involved in the litigation who support the regulation told Reuters Monday that even before Scalia’s death they had been hopeful the Supreme Court would ultimately uphold it upon close consideration. But they said the change in the high court bolsters the rule’s chances.
Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Wednesday that he would keep working on compliance with EPA’s Clean Power Plan, as well as his own state-level rule to limit emissions from all large industrial sources. “Here in Washington state we are unfortunately already seeing the harmful impacts of climate change, and we will continue to take steps that reduce carbon and to lead the nation in clean energy,” he said in a statement. “The EPA’s Clean Power Plan remains a crucial tool to ensure that every state must do its part, and to empower them to do so.”
“There isn’t any link between renewables and lower oil prices in the short-term,” says Richard Chatterton, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It’s a common misconception from some observers that oil still plays a direct role in power generation in the majority of countries whereas that’s no longer the case.”
Three Democrats with key roles in energy policymaking yesterday called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to prop up the only existing federal law that encourages the use of renewable energy in electricity production. On June 29, FERC will hold a conference on implementation issues under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA, of 1978. The law created a market for power from non-utility power producers, including natural-gas-fired “cogeneration” plants and other renewable energy sources.
With the Supreme Court having eight sitting justices divided evenly among ideological lines in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, it won’t be easy to secure majority opinions. If the court splits 4-4, it upholds a lower court decision without setting a precedent.