U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today announced that his department is updating its policies to ensure that environmental burdens don’t disproportionately harm minority and low-income communities. Speaking today at a tribal nations conference hosted by the White House, Holder announced that the Justice Department is releasing a revised environmental justice strategy and guidance “outlining how we will work to use existing environmental and civil-rights laws to help ensure that all communities, regardless of their income or demographics, are protected from environmental harm.”
As Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz faced off against Muammar Qaddafi, the Soviet Union and Chinese communists. His latest cause, though, is one few fellow Republicans support: fighting climate change. Two years ago, Shultz was alarmed when a retired Navy admiral showed him a video of vanishing Arctic sea ice and explained the implications for global stability. Now, the former Cold Warrior drives an electric car, sports solar panels on his California roof and argues for government action against global warming at clean-energy conferences.
President Obama believes he can work with incoming Republican congressional majorities on reforming the tax code, upgrading crumbling infrastructure and greening the power grid, White House senior counselor John Podesta told a smart grid industry gathering today. Those issues will be reflected in Obama’s State of the Union address and in the fiscal 2015 budget request “that we’re finalizing as we speak,” he said.
Nonpartisan congressional budget scorers today revised downward their estimate of what it would cost the government to extend a key renewable energy incentive through the end of this year. The Joint Committee on Taxation released a revised cost estimate for H.R. 5771, a bill expected to pass the House this evening that would renew more than 50 expired tax breaks through the end of this year. JCT said it discovered a “computational error” in its cost estimate for the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which supports wind and select other forms of renewable energy.
Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has all but acknowledged that the House’s one-year extension of expired tax breaks would become law, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Wyden and other Democrats on his panel had been seeking a two-year extension of dozens of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013. But less than two hours after the House overwhelmingly approved its plan, Lindsey Held, a spokeswoman for Wyden, said “we are disappointed that at this point there doesn’t appear to be a procedural path forward.”
The Senate’s top Republican tax-writer today dismissed efforts to phase out a key renewable energy incentive over several years, saying it lacks “credibility” and indicating that a brief renewal included in a larger stopgap tax bill expected to pass by next week would likely mark an end to the credit. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who will chair the Finance Committee next year, said he expected passage of a bill to renew the production tax credit (PTC) along with dozens of expired tax breaks through the end of the year, although he planned to meet today with current Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has been pushing for a longer extension.
The House yesterday voted to retroactively renew dozens of lapsed tax breaks through the end of this year, a scenario that renewable energy boosters are resisting because they say it would provide too little time for the production tax credit (PTC) to spur any substantial new activity. Lawmakers from both parties lamented that they were left considering such a meager measure but said the worse move would be failing to do anything to renew the credits before the end of the year. Efforts to craft a more expansive bill fell apart last week following objections from the White House, and Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) effectively dropped his push for an alternative bill last night. The House bill, H.R. 5771, passed 378-46, with 26 Republicans and 20 Democrats dissenting. It is expected to clear the Senate next week.
The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, a bipartisan group of governors from windy states, also sent a letter to Capitol Hill yesterday urging at least a two-year extension and pointing to benefits in their states from the PTC. With so little time remaining before Congress is set to adjourn next week, PTC supporters face long odds of securing a longer extension before the end of this year. However, if the one-year bill ends up in defeat, it could create additional pressure for Senate Democrats to push for a two-year extension of all the credits in order to prevent complications on this year’s tax filings.
A federal appeals court today dismissed a request by a Midwest electric utility to overturn a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order requiring it to reconnect with a farm that refuses to pay for electricity. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that it does not have authority to review the FERC order at issue in Midland Power Cooperative v. FERC.
A Republican member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission blasted U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan yesterday, warning that the proposal could cost hundreds of billions of dollars and pose complex reliability problems. FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller said his concerns about EPA’s proposal for curbing carbon emissions at existing power plants have only grown in recent months as grid operators and other stakeholders have stepped forward, and questioned whether EPA is looking closely enough at challenges with implementing the proposal.