The Obama administration is considering cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants by reaching beyond the plants themselves — an unusual approach that could run afoul of anti-pollution laws. People familiar with the discussions say the administration is seeking steep reductions — as much as 25 percent — that could be met if power plant owners expand renewable energy, improve the efficiency of their grids or encourage customers to use less power. There’s disagreement even within the administration about what’s allowable under the Clean Air Act, the law that gives it the authority to curb emissions. Some administration attorneys are warning that the government could lose a legal challenge if it seeks to regulate beyond a plant’s smokestack, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the rule is still being written.
While the extenders bill suffered a setback, it is not the end of the line for the $84 billion package. Reid voted “no” on the cloture motion to allow him to bring it back at a later date. Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he was open to a deal that would let Republicans secure at least a handful of votes on amendments related to the extenders package, but he said they have not yet presented a list of priorities to allow for such negotiations to proceed. “I’m going to do everything I can to bring about some agreement between the parties,” Wyden told reporters after the vote yesterday evening, predicting a path forward could be clearer as soon as next week.
Norman Bay, nominated by President Obama for the chairman spot on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will be asked about energy policy, enforcement and the direction of his agency tomorrow as he faces the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The confirmation hearing for Bay and FERC’s acting chairwoman, Cheryl LaFleur, will be watched closely for clues to the nominees’ positions on liquefied natural gas exports, transmission policy and renewable power.
The Houston company proposing to build a high-voltage direct current electric utility line across Kansas – to deliver Kansas-generated wind energy to eastern U.S. users – has received a key approval from federal regulators. Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC said it has secured approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to negotiate agreements to sell capacity on its proposed 3.5-GW overhead transmission line. The 750-mile-long Grain Belt Express will link wind farms in western Kansas with utilities, load-serving entities and clean energy generators in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, eventually transporting power for an estimated 1.4 million households annually, according to company estimates.
A federal judge’s recent dismissal of a suit challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s renewable energy mandate will give officials in other states confidence that their clean energy requirements can survive similar challenges, though experts say it’s unclear how strict the mandates can be without tripping over the dormant commerce clause of the Constitution. Fossil fuel advocates Energy and Environment Legal Institute had claimed Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, which requires state-regulated utilities to draw a percentage of their power from renewable sources, unlawfully regulates out-of-state, nonrenewable energy in violation of the dormant commerce clause — but that argument didn’t fly with U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez.
Long before it unveiled a major scientific report last week demonstrating how climate change is already affecting communities around the country, the White House had already settled on a strategy of making warming a hometown issue for as many Americans as possible. Cabinet members racked up frequent flyer miles last summer discussing the effects of climate change on crops in Des Moines, Iowa, or the job-creation potential of advanced energy technologies in Morgantown, W.Va., for example (E&E Daily, July 29, 2013).
The Environmental Protection Agency is on track to propose “legally sound” guidelines for limiting carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act for existing power plants June 2, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said May 13. Speaking to the Association of Climate Change Officers Climate Strategies Forum, McCarthy said she has been “extremely pleased” with the cooperation the EPA has received from various agencies that have helped to ensure that the standards are legally sound and account for the effects the rule could have on various areas of the economy.
Members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today disagreed about just how large an effect wind production tax credits are having on the U.S. nuclear fleet. Commissioner John Norris said the wind production tax credits that have drawn the ire of nuclear giant Exelon Corp. are a “distraction” that is not productive to the larger conversation about what’s challenging nuclear units.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday formally blocked amendments to a tax bill, setting up a procedural vote this afternoon amid continuing tension over floor procedure that could sink the legislation despite its substantial bipartisan support. Left hanging are a dozen energy tax incentives, including the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC), several alternative fuel credits and incentives for energy efficiency. Those are among the more than 50 expired tax breaks that would be reinstated by the Senate bill, although they face stiffer resistance in the House.
The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published Tuesday by a leading government-funded military research organization concluded. The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.