There are going to be a lot of red eyes in the Senate chamber tomorrow. When votes are done for the evening tonight, more than half of the Senate’s Democrats will begin taking their turns occupying the chamber floor to talk about climate change. The all-night talkathon will stretch from last votes until 9 a.m. tomorrow and will feature at least 28 of the Senate’s 53 Democratic members
At issue is the production tax credit (PTC), which was established in 1992 as a temporary subsidy for wind farms and select other renewable energy projects, valued at $15 per megawatt-hour for the first 10 years a facility operates. The credit has been extended numerous times since, although it is now expired for projects that were not underway by Dec. 31, 2013. Its value has risen with inflation, to $23 per MWh last year. Camp, a Michigan Republican, proposed eliminating that inflation adjustment for companies already receiving the PTC. So if his draft became law — a near impossibility in the near term, to be sure — any companies that began taking the PTC in the last 10 years would see the value of the credit fall by about 35 percent.
“It takes about two minutes for me to just become ‘Boots’ to everybody,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s easy. There’s a lot of Mikes in this world.” He added, “I can count on one hand the number of people in this building who call me by my first name.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said Wednesday he plans a trip to Iowa this month, hoping to make climate change an issue in the 2016 Iowa presidential caucuses. Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, is coming to Iowa at the invitation of state Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who has written a book about the impacts of climate change. Whitehouse plans stops in Des Moines and Shenandoah, and will also visit Omaha, Neb.
While Gov. Deval Patrick has made trips to Quebec for discussions about importing electricity from the Canadian region’s enormous hydroelectric facilities, Sullivan said that is not the only form of green energy in play. “It may very well be hydro, but it also could be on-shore wind, could be off-shore wind,” Sullivan said. There are a number of proposed wind farms seeking permits or in development in Maine and New Hampshire, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, including Oakfield Wind, a 150,000 kilowatt permitted project near the Canadian border in Maine and North Country Wind, a 180,000 project under development in New Hampshire, north of Mount Washington.
The House voted 229-183 to block U.S. EPA’s plans to limit power plant carbon emissions, striking at the heart of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The measure by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) would prevent EPA from finalizing its proposal to require carbon capture and storage technology for all new coal-fired power plants and would make rules for existing power plants contingent on congressional approval. Ten Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the bill, and Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.) and Frank LoBiondo (N.J.) voted against it.
What’s happening in Kansas could be happening in your state. It’s not completely clear that the efforts to rollback the statewide renewable energy requirements there — and in 16 other states — will succeed. But it is obvious that, nationally, the tax preference given to renewables is fading. Here’s the parallel: Most free market planners are opposed to mandatory statutes that require utilities to offer certain amounts of green energy. Kansas has those, along with about 30 states — in some form or another. Meantime, the production tax credit given to wind energy expired at year-end 2013. While it could get resurrected in a tax compromise, it could also permanently die down.
A coalition of governors who advocate for wind energy want to work with the nation’s energy regulators to prepare the grid for more wind. Members of the Governors Wind Energy Coalition got the ball rolling earlier this month in a meeting with Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioners (FERC), discussing transmission development, grid modernization, regional cooperation, coordinated regional operations and other ways in which the parties can promote the deployment of wind energy. “The value of wind energy resources to our states’ economies cannot be unlocked unless they have access to a market,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, chairman of the Coalition, said in a statement. “Long-distance transmission is the critical link between these resources and the customers who want clean and less expensive energy.”
Two bird advocacy groups, fresh off a successful effort to block a wind turbine project at an Air National Guard base in northern Ohio, are raising concerns about an even larger proposed wind project at a nearby business park on the shores of Lake Erie that they say could harm bald eagles and other sensitive wildlife. But the owners of the Lake Erie Business Park in Port Clinton where the wind turbines would be sited say they have not finalized plans to build as many as five additional turbines to one already installed there last year, and that development is not imminent.
The head of the Bonneville Power Administration has named two top staff members, filling a pair of key vacancies at the head of the troubled agency. BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer selected Greg Delwiche to serve as the agency’s deputy administrator and named Claudia Andrews as its chief operating officer. Andrews replaces former Chief Operating Officer Anita Decker, who resigned after being put on administrative leave last year.