With the Senate taking controversial votes this week to confirm Norman Bay to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and to confirm Cheryl LaFleur to another five-year term, what will the politics of the Senate’s deal mean for the commission’s near-term effectiveness? During today’s OnPoint, Marc Spitzer, a former FERC commissioner and now a partner at Steptoe & Johnson, discusses LaFleur’s success rate as acting chairwoman, a role that has been extended for nine months as part of the deal, and weighs in on who could be named the next chairman of FERC
Obama suggests states may have to make plans to adapt to climate change risks to receive federal disaster aid
Tucked into President Obama’s announcement on climate change yesterday was a detail that disaster experts say could spark widespread changes in coastal development. The understated measure had no dollar figure attached to it, and it seems to sidestep an explicit reference to climate change. Obama never bothered to mention it. But it could prompt states to think hard about things like sea-level rise and then come up with plans to avert damages, observers say.
Two separate blows to renewable energy measures in Ohio have put Gov. John Kasich on the defensive over his green energy record. Kasich recently signed Senate Bill 310 into law, freezing renewable energy standard increases for two years. Another bill has placed setback restrictions on wind turbines.
Utility regulators closed their summer meetings yesterday, but they know the real work on U.S. EPA’s carbon proposal lies ahead. Just not that far ahead. The EPA proposal, released last month, is expected to be finalized next year. Initial plans on how states will move to curb carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants are expected by mid-2016.
“What we’ve heard from a lot of states and companies is, ‘Well, gee, we started doing things to reduce our carbon footprint a long time ago — starting in 2005 or before,’” she said. “‘And we’ve done a lot of things already, and that doesn’t seem to be recognized in the rule.’”
While other states and critics of the Obama administration have howled about complying with its proposed rule slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Minnesota has been reining in its utilities’ carbon pollution for decades — not painlessly, but without breaking much of a sweat, either. Today, Minnesota gets more of its power from wind than all but four other states, and the amount of coal burned at power plants has dropped by more than a third from its 2003 peak. And while electricity consumption per person has been slowly falling nationwide for the last five years, Minnesota’s decline is steeper than the average.
As states, industry and other stakeholders prepare their public comments to U.S. EPA on the agency’s proposed existing power plant regulations, how much flexibility has been built into the rule and how much power do states have to either make or break the regulations? During today’s OnPoint, Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists and a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, discusses the challenges to linking state and federal goals on energy and environment agendas and the role regional trading systems should play in helping states comply with the rule.
Microsoft Corp. yesterday announced an agreement to buy 175 megawatts of wind energy from an Illinois project south of Chicago to power its data center in the city. The agreement is the latest in a string of contracts between renewable energy developers and technology giants looking to take advantage of relatively inexpensive wind power from the Plains. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft will buy output from the Pilot Hill wind farm in Kankakee and Iroquois counties in Illinois under a 20-year power purchase agreement with EDF Renewable Energy Inc. EDF is purchasing a 96 percent stake in the Illinois farm from Orion Energy Group LLC and Vision Energy LLC. Specific terms weren’t disclosed.
Despite Texas lawmakers’ ire at the Obama administration’s proposed carbon rule, some utilities — particularly municipal providers — say they are already on their way to meeting U.S. EPA targets to reduce emissions from existing power plants. Under EPA’s proposal, Texas power plants could have to reduce their emissions by up to 195 billion pounds of carbon dioxide over the next 18 years.
“Our energy world is changing, and really the key opportunity here is to embrace a direction that’s good and available and reliable and responsible and affordable for each state,” McCarthy said, “and to figure out how you can achieve these carbon pollution reductions in a way that’s moving in that same direction.” Her comments yesterday before the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, or NARUC, were brief — less than 30 minutes, including questions. But in what at times came across as barnstorming in the oil industry’s backyard, McCarthy described the thinking behind EPA’s plan to slash carbon emissions at power plants. Then President Obama’s top environmental regulator pressed for action by the states, as regulators consider the approach they’ll take to meet federal emissions targets.