The worst oil bust since the 1980s is putting Texas and other oil producing states on the hook for thousands of newly abandoned drilling sites at a time when they have little money to plug wells and seal off environmental hazards. As U.S. rig counts plunge to historic lows, and with at least 60 oil producers declaring bankruptcy since 2014, energy-producing states are confronting both holes in their budgets and potentially leaking ones in the ground. In Texas alone, the roughly $165 million price tag of plugging nearly 10,000 abandoned wells is double the entire budget of the agency that regulates the industry.
The appropriations bill, as written, would exempt the military from Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which prohibits federal agencies from making bulk purchases of synthetic fuels with a larger greenhouse gas footprint than traditional petroleum. However, especially in the advanced biofuels industry, the military's use of biofuels has been a long standing source of encouragement for new technologies. These technologies, says NFU, that are held out of transportation fuel markets by the exploitative practices of Big Oil. Johnson concluded, “Section 526 is an important aspect of the Energy Independence and Security Act, one that has tremendous implications for family farmers’ ability to protect food security in a changing climate. I encourage lawmakers to carefully weigh the benefits of biofuels as they consider this provision.”
New York has an ambitious goal of getting 50 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030. To get there, the state will need to expand grid infrastructure to deliver renewable power from rural areas to load centers. But the state won't always have to build new infrastructure -- it can do more with what it has. The New York Power Authority and New York State Electric & Gas have just finished the first project that shows what is possible using existing infrastructure. NYPA completed a $120 million transmission upgrade, called the Marcy South Series Compensation Project, that will move up to 440 megawatts of additional capacity from upstate, where there are abundant wind and hydro resources, to downstate cities.
Coal producer Peabody Energy Corp plans to pay Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe — once a mentor to President Barack Obama — up to $75,000 per month to help fight the Clean Power Plan as the company works through a bankruptcy. Tribe said he will provide legal advice, research and analysis to Peabody for litigation against the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan. Tribe estimates Peabody will disburse to him at least $435,000 in 2016: $25,000 in May; $17,500 in June; $17,500 in July and from August 2016 to December 2016, $75,000 per month. The filing said Peabody currently did not owe Tribe for any services prior. Tribe is a professor of constitutional law and is renowned for a history of supporting liberal causes. In 2010, Obama appointed Tribe as senior counselor for access to justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The cost of renewables technology is set to keep falling into the next decade, boosting the economic case for clean energy, according to an industry group. The average cost of electricity from a photovoltaic system is forecast to plunge as much as 59 percent by 2025, according to a report Wednesday by the International Renewable Energy Agency. The technology last year produced energy that was already 58 percent cheaper than it was in 2010. Government policy can also play a role in reducing borrowing costs for project developers. “Solar doesn’t need a subsidy anymore, but regulatory frameworks that back long-term power purchase agreements will reduce solar’s cost of capital and make it possible to build it for below the cost of other sources,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Signed Monday afternoon, S. 260 is Gov. Peter Shumlin’s last bill. He said the bill addresses criticism of weak local control over wind and solar-energy projects, while simultaneously supporting the growth of green-energy infrastructure. The bill’s passage comes about a week after Shumlin vetoed S. 230, a very similar bill related to energy projects. On Thursday, the House and Senate pushed the bill S. 260 — essentially an updated version of S. 230 — through in one day. Towns and regional planning commissions can now indicate specific areas where such projects are acceptable. One municipal official said the new law respects Vermont’s renewable energy goals as well as the desires of citizens to protect scenic landscapes.
The linchpin of California’s climate change agenda, a program known as cap and trade, has become mired in legal, financial and political troubles that threaten to derail the state’s plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The program has been a symbol of the state’s leadership in the fight against global warming and a key source of funding, most notably for the high-speed rail project connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.
But the legality of cap and trade is being challenged in court by a business group, and questions are growing about whether state law allows it to operate past 2020. With the end of the legislative session in August, Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and interest groups of all stripes are laying the groundwork for what could become a battle royal over the future of California’s climate change programs. Unless the state acts, “the whole system could fail,” said Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). “If that happens, we could lose an entire stream of revenue to make our communities more sustainable.”
Between 2005 and 2010, increasing demand for biofuels contributed to growth in U.S. corn area by more than 6 million acres and channeled a third of U.S. corn output into ethanol feedstock. An understanding of the multiple effects of this rapid growth on rural economies can help inform policies geared toward greater economic and environmental sustainability. Focusing on just one of these effects, ERS researchers estimated the extent to which biofuel expansion helped reshape the spatial pattern of acreage and planting decisions across a wide swathe of the U.S. Corn Belt.
As Ohio pursues parallel -- and contrary -- paths in response to U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan, one central person who will help determine the state's energy future is Asim Haque, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. But the quirky energy politics of this purple state are not going to make it easy. Haque on May 9 was elevated to chairman of the commission by Gov. John Kasich (R) following the resignation of Andre Porter. Haque had been appointed to the commission in 2013 and was reappointed earlier this year to serve until 2021. He identifies with neither major political party and calls himself an independent. Republicans in the Ohio Legislature have been pushing for legislation that would require an agency to get approval from lawmakers before submitting a state plan to comply with the federal carbon rule for power plants. GOP leaders also want to extend a freeze on renewable energy and efficiency standards until 2020. Lawmakers adjourned before sending a bill to Kasich. Ohio would need to lower its power-sector carbon emissions rate 36 percent by 2030. That's a tougher goal than the roughly 28 percent decrease the state was assigned in EPA's draft rule.
A $150 million ratepayer-supported renewable energy program remains almost entirely untapped. The Green Energy Market Securitization program was rolled out with the prediction that money raised through bonds would be spent by November. Over 99 percent of the funds are untouched, and only 11 solar systems have been installed since the program started in summer 2015. Consumers can apply for financing to install renewable energy systems under the program. Nonprofit organizations are no longer eligible.