The Interior Department’s long-awaited decision today not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act was hailed as a conservation triumph by many officials and environmentalists but drew immediate threats of lawsuits and a congressional probe. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement here at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge outside Denver, hailing an “epic conservation effort” that rescued the mottled-brown bird from the brink of extinction.
Billionaire Phil Anschutz’s plans to build a $5 billion wind farm in southeast Wyoming will no longer be stymied by the mating dance of the greater sage grouse. The U.S. Interior Department’s decision Tuesday not to designate the bird as an endangered species means Anschutz’s Power Company of Wyoming LLC may now proceed with the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm. It also opens the door to oil and natural gas development in the region.
California has made tremendous progress cleaning its once-notorious air pollution over the last generation, with Los Angeles smog easing in response to the state’s ever-stricter emissions standards. The Air Resources Board reported that Californians’ cancer risk from toxic air pollution has declined 76% over more than two decades, a trend the agency attributes to the state’s array of regulations targeting everything from diesel trucks to dry cleaners.
Under the plan, electricity producers could choose between a production tax credit and an investment tax credit whose value is linked to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per kilowatt-hour. A similar credit would provide up to $1 per gallon for transportation fuels made from renewables or fossil fuels, while a separate “performance-based” incentive would reward homes and buildings that install efficiency equipment, again based on the amount of energy saved.
It would create a “performance-based incentive that would be neutral and flexible between clean electricity technologies,” according to a summary. Finance ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a former Energy Committee chairman, has long called for such an incentive, which would allow developers to choose between a production tax credit and an investment tax credit scaled to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per kilowatt-hour.
U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled energy legislation designed to hasten America’s adoption of cleaner energy, slash greenhouse gas emissions below the Obama administration’s goal, and help their party attract young voters in the 2016 elections. The bill, announced by Senate Democratic party leaders and the energy committee’s top Democrat, Senator Maria Cantwell, laid out the party’s vision for cutting emissions at least 34 percent by 2025.
Earlier Tuesday, meetings with governors from five U.S. states and local Chinese officials produced the deal to work on clean energy. “We can be the core for our national leaders to learn from,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has made five trips to China in five years, told his counterparts. Xi arrived in Seattle for talks on how U.S. and Chinese experts and businesses can collaborate on issues such as nuclear energy and smarter electricity use. The visit comes a year after Xi and Obama announced their nations would cooperate to fight climate change.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved its comprehensive energy package today by a wide margin, while separately lifting the crude export ban on a party-line vote. The bipartisan energy bill advanced on an 18-4 vote, with Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) opposing the measure.
The Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC, which includes Western states and some Canadian provinces) and Texas have both seen healthy growth in wind power over the last decade. But since 2013, wind build-out in the Western U.S. states has slowed down while Texas wind continues to flourish. The lesson for transmission planning is clear: if you build it, wind will come.
S.B. 350, better known for raising the Golden State’s renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030 and a bruising battle by oil companies to prevent it from including a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use, also contains language that would broaden the authority of state electricity market regulators, a move aimed at encouraging electricity trading across the West. Brown’s office inserted language just before the bill’s passage last week that would change the governance of the California Independent System Operator, the state-founded nonprofit that administers the electricity grid, and would allow other transmission-owning organizations to join it. If the bill is signed by Brown, the move could usher in a West-wide electricity market, which hasn’t been entertained since California’s energy crisis of 2000-01. Most of the rest of the country is organized under regional transmission organizations, but not the West.