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California's cap-and-trade program faces daunting hurdles to avoid collapse

Los Angeles Times | Posted on June 16, 2016

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.”

The Power of Proximity: Ethanol Refineries Drive Increased Corn Planting in Their Vicinity

USDA - Amber Waves | Posted on June 16, 2016

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.

Ohio PUC chairman seeks balance in tackling carbon emissions

E & E Publishing | Posted on June 16, 2016

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.

Slow start for $150 million renewable energy program

Miami Herald | Posted on June 15, 2016

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.




Could $200 Billion Tobacco-Type Settlement Be Coming Over ‘Climate Change?’

Bloomberg | Posted on June 15, 2016

At the Big Law Business Summit last week, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ripped into Exxon Mobil for its stance on climate change. Schneiderman accused Exxon of glossing over the risks that climate change poses to its core businesses in its public securities statements, and then couching its disclosure as first amendment protected. “The first amendment doesn’t protect fraud – it doesn’t protect fraudulent speech,” he said. The Houston Chronicle published its investigation of the brewing legal threats that energy companies face as a result of their disclosures on climate change, comparing it to the situation tobacco companies faced in the late 1990s over their disclosures about the dangers of smoking.  In 1998, attorneys general from 46 states struck a $200 billion settlement with tobacco companies, ending years of litigation about whether they mislead smokers about the health risks of their products. Now, there are 17 state attorneys general including Schneiderman investigating whether fossil fuel companies mislead investors in public disclosures about the risks associated with climate change.

Ethanol, bioenergy no threat to food security: report

reuters | Posted on June 15, 2016

Bioenergy produced from crops does not threaten food supplies, researchers funded by the U.S. government, World Bank and others said, dealing a potential blow to critics of the country's biofuels program.  There is no clear relationship between biofuels and higher prices that threaten access to food, as some prior analysis has suggested, according to the research partly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Environmentalists and others have long argued that the increased use of ethanol, produced from corn in the United States and sugarcane in Brazil, threatens global food security, which the World Health Organization defines as "access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food." Critics of biofuels, which are used for transportation, say they could threaten food supplies.

Biggest US coal company funded dozens of groups questioning climate change

The Guardian | Posted on June 15, 2016

Peabody Energy, America’s biggest coalmining company, has funded at least two dozen groups that cast doubt on manmade climate change and oppose environment regulations, analysis by the Guardian reveals.  The funding spanned trade associations, corporate lobby groups, and industry front groups as well as conservative thinktanks and was exposed in court filings last month.

Minnesota regulators halt rural co-ops’ fixed charges for solar

Midwest Energy News | Posted on June 15, 2016

Minnesota’s rural distributed generation customers won a major victory this week when state regulators halted the practice by cooperatives of applying fixed charges for solar installations.  Regulators ruled June 9 that cooperatives must file requests for small power production tariffs with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which makes the final determination on those fees. The commission ruled those fees must now be suspended until an investigation is completed.  Rural cooperatives lost their argument that the PUC had no jurisdiction in the matter of fixed charges for solar customers. Co-ops believed their boards would be the final arbiters of those charges.

Reducing the RFS, Bad for the Environment and Economy, Farmers Tell EPA

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on June 15, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency must protect the Renewable Fuel Standard as Congress originally defined it nearly a decade ago, Iowa farmer Randy Caviness told the EPA at a public hearing today. He testified on behalf of Iowa Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“EPA’s decision not to follow the intent of Congress in the 2007 RFS is highly disappointing to all of agriculture,” said Caviness, who also serves as a member of AFBF Issue’s Advisory Committee on Energy. “This decision strikes a blow to conventional ethanol production and dampens the prospects for the further development of advanced biofuels.”

Solutions from the Land's 'Farmer-First' Climate Smart Agriculture Principle

25 X 25 | Posted on June 8, 2016

The award of a $500,000 grant from the prestigious W.K. Kellogg Foundation to  Solutions from the Land (SfL) underscores the priority and responsibility that SfL takes in putting farmers first in developing practices and policies that can meet and address societal needs and challenges. The grant money will be used to design and begin implementing a three-to-five year climate smart/resilient agriculture action plan designed to help Upper Midwest farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions, improve the resiliency of their operations and further enable agricultural landscapes to deliver multiple food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystems services from the land.

SfL, a collaboration led by an acclaimed group of active farm, forestry and conservation leaders, will link with ‑ and build on ‑ the multi-stakeholder partnerships that have been developing in the region around water quality, food policy and sustainable agriculture projects. The initiative aims to connect leading innovators in dialogue and planning to improve climate resiliency, while achieving nutrition, energy, environmental, health and economic goals.