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.
Surging demand for renewable energy pushed global employment in the solar, wind and biofuels energy sectors to 6.5 million in 2013, a 14 percent increase from 2012, according to new figures released this week by the International Renewable Energy Agency. “Renewable energy employment continues to spread to more and more countries. Nonetheless, the bulk of employment remains concentrated in a small number of countries: China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany and Spain,” states the report issued by the Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-based trade group. China was the world’s No. 1 renewable energy sector employer for 2013 with 2.64 million workers, riding its dominant position in the manufacture and distribution of solar photovoltaic equipment as well as solar heating and cooling systems, according to the group’s “Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review” for 2014.
The Senate voted 96-3 Tuesday to advance a tax extenders bill, passing the first procedural hurdle. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on a motion to proceed to the Hire More Heroes Act, H.R. 3474, which will serve as the legislative vehicle for S. 2260, the EXPIRE Act. Nearly every Senate Republican joined Democrats to advance the $85 billion plus bill that extends tax credits, which expired at the beginning of the year. Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Mike Lee (Utah) voted against the motion.