The carbon dioxide cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in June 2009 did so with scant Republican support — but if it came to the floor today, the GOP tally might be zero. The five GOP supporters of the measure by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who are still roaming the halls of the Capitol — eight voted for it in total — are increasingly reluctant to talk about climate change with reporters. Three others are gone — one voluntarily, two because they lost elections.
At least a half-dozen states saw an introduction of legislation to repeal or weaken RPS laws, though none has been enacted. And renewable proponents were able to go on the offense in a few states like Colorado, where legislators voted to strengthen an existing RPS. The repeal push is being driven by many of the same conservative groups that have lobbied against federal policies like the production tax credit, which Congress extended in January over the objection of some tea party-backed lawmakers.
More than six years after he departed the Republican Party to become an independent, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee made another shift today, registering as a Democrat. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office told The Providence Journal that Chafee’s decision came as “a recognition that the Democratic Party and he are aligned on policies and principles.”
Nebraska, an also-ran so far in the race to develop wind energy, took another step Wednesday to try to catch up with the pack. On a 38-2 vote, state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill granting sales tax breaks to wind farms. Proponents said the measure would make the state competitive for projects that are now going to Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma, where such breaks are already offered.
One reason that offshore wind has not caught on in the United States is the steep cost of erecting a tower in the water, but researchers at the University of Maine tried another approach on Friday by launching a floating wind machine. It is the first offshore wind installation in United States waters, according to the Energy Department, which helped pay for it.
The Energy Department and University of Maine announced today the launch of the nation’s first grid-connected offshore floating wind turbine prototype off the shore of Castine, Maine. The 65-foot-high prototype is the world’s first concrete-composite floating wind turbine to be deployed. It is only one-eighth the size of a planned 6-megawatt, 423-foot rotor diameter design that will anchor a larger wind farm planned by the University of Maine-led DeepCwind Consortium.
The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said today that he’s stepping down because he has been there “a long time” and has managed to push through major reforms in grid planning and oversight of the energy markets. “I’ve been there seven years, which is a long time for a FERC commissioner,” Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said during an interview with C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” “I think it’s time to move on, look for other opportunities and sort of turn it over to the next group.”
A former Nevada consumer advocate, Wellinghoff came to FERC to fill a vacant seat in 2006 with the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). He was reconfirmed in 2008 for a full five-year term as a commissioner, and Obama tapped him in March 2009 to become chairman — a step that didn’t require Senate confirmation. His current term expires June 30. It remains unclear whether Obama will tap a sitting Democratic FERC commissioner — Cheryl LaFleur or John Norris — to take the commission gavel or whether he will pick an outsider.
Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy utility said Wednesday that it will buy Nevada electric and natural gas company NV Energy for $5.6 billion as it expands its footprint in the energy sector. MidAmerican has been aggressively investing in renewable energy projects in recent years, and the companies expect that MidAmerican’s experience will help NV Energy develop renewable projects in Nevada, which has vast solar, wind and geothermal resources.
The Obama administration announced today it has granted final approval of the Alta East Wind Project in Southern California that includes a first-ever authorization allowing the project proponent to injure or kill an endangered condor during the 30-year life of the project. The Bureau of Land Management’s announcement that it has approved a record of decision (ROD) and plans to issue a right of way grant authorizing the 153-megawatt project touched off a wave of concern among environmental groups, who fear that authorizing the “take” of a California condor could set a dangerous precedent.