The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s monthly meeting in Washington, D.C., was disrupted today after climate activists opposed to the agency’s approval of natural gas projects tied to hydraulic fracturing refused to stop speaking. After trying at least twice without success to call the meeting to order, FERC Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur called for an unscheduled recess to allow security guards to usher out a dozen or so Beyond Extreme Energy activists. They chanted, “FERC doesn’t work!” and “Stop fracking.”
Energy and environmental interests spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on federal lobbying last year. While Capitol Hill may have offered little in legislation to lobby on, the Obama administration proposed a number of controversial regulations that pitted powerful industries against each other in Washington.
The Interior Department today announced the release of an environmental assessment of a plan to lease up to 300,000 acres off the coast of North Carolina for the construction of offshore wind farms. The plan calls for leasing a 122,000-acre wind energy area about 28 miles off the coast of Kitty Hawk and two additional areas of 52,000 acres and 134,000 acres beginning about 12 miles off Cape Fear.
U.S. EPA for months has said it worked with grid overseers when crafting its landmark Clean Power Plan in order to protect grid reliability, but at least one member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is publicly questioning the depth of that input. Republican FERC Commissioner Tony Clark told House and Senate Republicans in a letter this month that no commission members or agency staff had any “significant or meaningful role” in providing analysis to EPA on grid reliability on the Clean Power Plan, either before or after the proposal was released last summer.
Solar energy industry officials yesterday said they will seek an extension of a tax credit that is set to drop by two-thirds in 2016, adding another potentially contentious issue to the growing energy debate in Congress this year. Solar producers will lobby lawmakers to extend a 30 percent investment tax credit for commercial-scale projects that drops at the end of next year, said Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Rhone Resch.
Michigan’s use of wind energy is expanding. Enough turbines are expected to go up this year around the state, including in Mason County, to produce 250 megawatts.
The outgoing head of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality said today that he’s sure the Obama administration’s effort to combat climate change won’t waver — even though President Obama is losing two of his top environmental aides.
Brian Deese, deputy director of the White House budget office and a longtime aide to President Obama, will take over for John Podesta in February. The new gig — which comes with the title of senior adviser — will include taking over Podesta’s portfolio on climate and energy issues, which will be among the president’s “top priorities for the remainder of his term,” a White House official said yesterday.
The House yesterday approved a controversial bill to fast-track federal approval of natural gas pipelines despite sharp Democratic opposition and a veto threat from the White House. The chamber voted 253-169 to approve Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Kan.) “Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act,” H.R. 161, which would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a year to approve or deny a pipeline, and other agencies are given three or four months beyond that to complete their work on any additional permits, licenses or approvals that would be needed.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced that he has introduced an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill to establish a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that would create over a quarter of a million jobs, reduce pollution and save consumers billions of dollars. The legislation, which would help the United States become energy independent while establishing our leadership in clean energy production, would require utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2025.