The House is planning to vote this week on a piecemeal bill that would reinstate dozens of expired tax breaks for this year, including those supporting renewable electricity, biofuels and energy efficiency, among others. The bill floated yesterday, H.R. 5771, came after the collapse last week of bipartisan negotiations around a much broader package, which would have included a longer-term phaseout of the production tax credit (PTC), which primarily benefits the wind industry (Greenwire, Nov. 26). But the broader debate over how to wean wind producers off the tax credit is widely expected to return next year, when Republicans will claim a majority in the House and Senate, aides and lobbyists said yesterday.
An “undeniable gut punch,” a “regulatory train wreck” and part of U.S. EPA’s “extreme environmentalist agenda” is how Republican lawmakers and industry groups are describing the Obama administration’s new proposal to clamp down on national smog standards. Administration officials and green groups insist that stricter standards for ground-level ozone are necessary to protect public health, but business groups are warning about skyrocketing costs and an inability to comply with tougher rules. Republican lawmakers today vowed to go to war over the rules, and the proposal is certain to spark protracted administrative and legal battles.
Attorneys general from 17 fossil-fuels-heavy states submitted joint comments to U.S. EPA yesterday, decrying its Clean Power Plan proposal as a bid to usurp state authority over the power grid. The group led by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) wrote that EPA’s proposal for power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions was an attempt to use the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d) to circumvent Congress and the states. “Congress did not hide the authority to impose a national energy policy in the ‘mousehole’ of this obscure, little-used provision of the Clean Air Act, which EPA has only invoked five times in 40 years,” they wrote.
As the clock winds down to tonight’s public comment witching hour, supporters and opponents of U.S. EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas rule for power plants jockeyed for attention. There were already 1.6 million public comments submitted on the proposal last week, but many combatants in the war over EPA climate policy held their fire until after Thanksgiving, releasing statements hours before the public comment period closes at midnight tonight.
The tax-writing committees are trying to renew a bundle of expired tax breaks such as the deductions for state and local sales taxes and the research and experimentation credit. Some, like tax credits for renewable energy projects such as wind farms, are a hard sell for GOP conservatives but are eagerly sought by Midwestern Republicans such as Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. The House has passed legislation that would make several of the tax breaks permanent; the Senate’s approach has been to extend them only for 2014 and 2015. Negotiators appeared close to an agreement last week only to have the White House put it on ice with a veto threat. The administration said an emerging plan by House Republicans and top Senate Democrats was tilted too far in favor of businesses.
The Supreme Court could still overturn much of Mr. Obama’s environmental legacy, although the justices so far have upheld the regulations in three significant cases. More challenges are expected, the most recent of which was taken up by the court on Tuesday. The act, however, was designed by lawmakers in a Democratic Congress to give the Environmental Protection Agency, which was created at the same time, great flexibility in its interpretation of the law.
While mitigating global climate change is an international issue, regulating pollution, which clouds communities neighborhood by neighborhood, is a local one. In an effort to quantify the economic benefits that would come from lowering particulate emissions and subsequently improving public health, a recent study published in the journal Climatic Change compared a variety of regulations for the transportation, building operation and power plant sectors. By implementing greenhouse-gas-slashing strategies, the researchers found, the United States could save $6 billion to $14 billion annually by 2020, depending on how policymakers achieve the reductions, or $40 to $93 per metric ton of reduced carbon dioxide emissions
The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death. The sweeping regulation, which are aimed at smog caused by power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, is the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration. Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach. The National Association of Manufacturers has called the proposal “the most expensive regulation ever.”
One day earlier this month, McKenna was making rounds with a visitor when he pulled the SUV into a farm where Leighton Yoder and his family raise Jersey cows and operate a small dairy. McKenna wasn’t there to talk about milk, but another farm product Yoder has been nurturing. “How’s the power?” asks McKenna from inside the Jeep. “It’s real good,” answers Yoder. “We’ve got strong sun and wind today. I figure I’m making more than 20,000 watts out there.”
The Illinois Commerce Commission has approved plans to build an electricity line designed to bring wind energy from Iowa to the state. The panel unanimously OK’d the Rock Island Clean Line proposal Tuesday, ending a two-year review of the project, The (Moline) Dispatch and Sauk Valley media reported. “The ICC approval is a great step forward for the Rock Island Clean Line project and brings Illinois one step closer to creating a cleaner energy future,” said Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC.