Must a president do more than invoke “national security” to block plans by Chinese businessmen to build dozens of wind turbines in the United States? That was the question faced by a panel of appellate judges this morning that considered a long-running dispute involving several proposed wind farms near a military installation in Oregon, an obscure government agency tasked with monitoring foreign business activity and President Obama, who personally intervened to block the projects.
“Political realities,” not denial of human-caused climate change, have prevented Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and many other Republican lawmakers from taking a stand on the issue, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Friday. “As I talk to individual members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle, I would say that there is less debate on climate change, but we have a circumstance where it’s not a popular topic in some parts of the country for people to bring up,” Jewell said during a question-and-answer session with attendees of the National Wildlife Federation’s annual meeting here. Following a speech during which she named climate change as one of her top concerns as Interior secretary, Jewell offered McCain as an example of a politician who she believes has shifted his tone on the issue in response to his constituency.
In the final hours before it recessed for the year, the Kansas House of Representatives narrowly defeated another attempt by conservative lawmakers to effectively pull the plug on the state’s renewable energy mandate. The House voted 63-60 on Friday afternoon to block a measure that would have capped the renewable standard for utilities at 15 percent of retail load instead of 20 percent and done away with the requirement altogether in 2021. The legislative proposal was cast by Republican backers as a compromise after the same chamber voted down a bill that would have repealed the green energy mandate altogether.
Despite relentless legislative attacks funded by the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel special interest groups, state renewable electricity standards are holding their own and continue to drive investments in clean energy resources. And as long as legislators remain committed to well-informed policies that represent the will of the people instead of a few powerful special interests, renewable energy can continue to look forward to a bright future in the U.S.
Would you vote for a politician who works to raise your electric bills, kill jobs, discourage economic growth and investment, waste energy, and degrade the air you breathe? Ohioans may get the chance to cast such votes, or do the opposite, this year. That will depend on whether the Republican-controlled General Assembly passes a bill gutting the state law that sets sensible, effective standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. A Senate vote could come this week. How lawmakers vote on Senate Bill 310 may offer a useful reminder before the November election of whom they really work for: the constituents who put them in office, or the special-interest groups — in this instance electric utilities, fossil-fuel producers, and big industrial power users — that bankroll their campaigns.
The White House and federal agencies are planning a public outreach blitz today to coincide with the release of a high-profile scientific review of the effects climate change is already having on the United States. The president will give interviews to broadcast meteorologists at the White House to discuss the National Climate Assessment, and members of his Cabinet will make appearances inside and outside the Beltway to drive home the report’s point that climate change is already occurring and warrants aggressive action.
In the final days of the recently concluded Maryland General Assembly session, lawmakers voted to delay all wind projects of a certain height within 46 miles of the base until June 2015 — effectively killing plans for the Great Bay Wind Center. Now Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) must decide whether to veto the legislation, as environmental groups are demanding, or allow it to become law. Activists warn that the measure could scare away wind developers and taint O’Malley’s reputation as a dedicated environmentalist as he contemplates a run for the White House. “You’ve shown national-caliber leadership in getting policies in place,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune wrote in an April 11 letter, “but without construction of actual projects, Maryland residents won’t get the benefits they deserve.”
The Nebraska Public Power District is moving ahead with plans to build the first 345-kilovolt line in the Sand Hills, a vast expanse of grass-covered dunes in central and northern Nebraska that’s home to more cattle than people. The roughly 220-mile line, with an estimated cost of $328 million, would represent the largest transmission project built by NPPD since the late 1970s or early 1980s. Called the R-Project, the line has been in the works for two years, but NPPD has now proposed preferred and alternate routes. Releasing the route proposals has prompted concern among some landowners and wildlife groups, but also support from those who say the line will unlock the region for wind development.
NextEra Energy Inc.’s decision to form a separate company for its renewable portfolio is a signal that wind and solar projects have risen to the level of being a strong, steady, long-term investment, analysts say. The utility has long been the nation’s No. 1 developer of wind and solar generation, and its move to form a yield company or “yieldco” would allow it to quickly raise capital to support additional growth in the renewable energy industry, according to analysts interviewed by EnergyWire. Investors would have a new way to get better returns off energy and renewable projects. “Investors want yield, and because they [NextEra] continue to up the ante on additional renewables generation, they need to raise more capital to build more wind and solar,” said David Parker, a Tampa, Fla.-based utilities analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. “It shows the renewable industry continues to be positively viewed,” he said.
U.S. EPA scored a major victory this week when the Supreme Court upheld its program for harmful coal plant emissions that cross state lines, but the agency still faces important policy questions — as well as litigation — as it moves to implement the regime. In a 6-2 ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with the agency in a broad challenge from states and electric utilities to its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or CSAPR (Greenwire, April 29). The program encompasses 28 Eastern states, requiring upwind states to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants in order to help downwind states come into attainment with EPA’s air standards.