Of the three main energy and environmental policymaking agencies, only DOE would see a budget increase. Its energy programs would grow $22 million to $10.2 billion next year, with increases across its most significant offices. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s budget authority would grow nearly $25 million compared to fiscal 2014, to $1.93 billion for this fiscal year; Nuclear Energy would receive $914 million, a $24 million increase from last year; and Fossil Energy would add nearly $9 million, securing $571 million in the bill.
Reid filed cloture on the defense bill Tuesday, likely setting up a vote Thursday to end an expected filibuster of the bill. A final vote would be held either Thursday or Friday. The Democratic leader said he would schedule a vote on a one-year extension of tax provisions after dealing with the omnibus and defense legislation. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is pushing for a longer-term tax package that would include a permanent extension of charitable tax breaks. But Reid sees little chance of passing it.
Some of the nation’s largest energy firms have formed tight relationships with Republican attorneys general, using the offices to bring credibility to industry advocacy against Obama administration pollution rules. While attorneys general are elected as legal representatives of state residents, many are using the positions to advocate for powerful corporate energy interests, documents show. When Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) wrote to U.S. EPA to argue the agency was overestimating the amount of air pollution generated from natural gas wells in his state, he used a three-page letter written by Devon Energy that he presented as his own.
EPA has argued that the so-called legislative “glitch” is an ambiguity and their interpretation should be granted deference under the 1984 Supreme Court precedent, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Tribe disagreed. He said that an “ambiguity” that qualifies for Chevron deference is the “existence of more than one possible meaning in the language” of a law. EPA’s argument that it may choose which version of 111(d) it wants is an “entirely novel” argument, he said. “Because of these constitutional questions,” Tribe wrote, “EPA is not entitled to deference under Chevron.”
The Obama administration signaled Friday that it will ask the Supreme Court to review a controversial court ruling that left a high-profile federal demand response program in disarray earlier this year. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in a letter asked the Supreme Court for an extension through Jan. 15 to file a petition for a writ of certiorari to review a federal court’s ruling that scrapped the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s demand-response program.
If wind turbines continue to spread across the Oregon landscape at their current rate, within 15 years the state’s wind could produce as much energy as nine coal plants. Those figures come from an analysis released Thursday by Environment Oregon, a group that advocates for renewable energy.
Pointing to Friday’s positive jobs report for November, which showed that the economy had added 321,000 jobs, the largest one-month addition in nearly three years, Wyden said a longer extenders package would build on that progress. But he acknowledged that it was a long shot, given the limited amount of time remaining in the year. “I’ve made it clear that it’s hard to see a procedural path forward,” Wyden said. “But if you take a look at the economic news of last week, where things were starting to pick up a little bit, it’s clear if you provide some predictability and certainty that it would be possible to encourage the kind of investment that would cause those more encouraging numbers to grow.” The Senate is scheduled to adjourn Thursday and still has to act on yet-to-be-released legislation to fund the government past then and the annual defense authorization bill, which contains a massive and controversial package of public lands bills.
This week is also expected to bring Senate passage of two other pieces of year-end legislation that the House approved last week. One is a “tax extenders” bill that would renew through the end of this year more than 50 expired tax breaks, including incentives for renewable energy, biofuels and efficiency upgrades. Clean energy advocates last week said the bill was insufficient because it would only renew incentives like the production tax credit (PTC) for a few weeks, not nearly enough time to do the work necessary to start a new wind farm that could claim the credit.
But this is not happening. Although the goal is to shift consumption to off-peak hours when cheaper, cleaner electricity is available, experts say it is still many years away, despite billions in federal subsidies that have helped finance the switch to the so-called smart grid. Analysts say that most customers, and public service commissions, are simply not ready for the change to what is known as dynamic pricing, which is intended to benefit the whole system by reducing demand during peak hours. The idea is that as prices rise on summer afternoons or fall in the middle of the night, customers will learn to tailor their consumption — like running a dishwasher or washing machine, or charging an electric car — during times of better pricing.
Nebraska state Sen. Ken Haar (D) introduced a bill last year calling for a study of projected climate change impacts in the state that would be presented to the legislature. But the bill took an unexpected detour when state Sen. Beau McCoy (R) introduced an amendment limiting the study to “cyclical” climate causes, like volcanic eruptions or solar variations. In short, climate scientists funded to do the research by the state and for the state legislature to use in making climate-related decisions would not be permitted to consider human activity (the biggest driving factor of climate change) in their reports.