AWEA Calls For Veto Override In Maryland Bill
The sponsors of Maryland’s Clean Energy Jobs Act, vetoed in 2016 by Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., joined other state lawmakers and renewable energy stakeholders at the Maryland State House to call for a veto override of the bill.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act – sponsored by Democratic lawmakers State Sen. Brian Feldman and Delegate Bill Frick – was approved by the General Assembly in April 2016. However, Hogan vetoed the legislation in May.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the bill would have increased the state’s renewable portfolio standard by 5% so that a quarter of Maryland’s energy would come from renewable sources by 2020.
Referencing the governor’s recently laid out environmental agenda for 2017, Tom Kiernan, AWEA’s president, says the group is “encouraged by Gov. Hogan’s intention to promote economic growth and environmental quality.”
However, Kiernan maintains that the Clean Energy Jobs Act would be the “most effective way for him to meet those goals.” Specifically, Kiernan says the bill would create “new jobs in wind power and other industries, while attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in new private investment to Maryland.”
“We strongly support a veto override. It will signal Maryland means business and is committed to job growth, while strengthening the state’s energy supply,” Kiernan concludes.
According to AWEA, Maryland risks losing jobs and investment in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar if the governor’s veto is permitted to stand. Wind power already supports close to 500 jobs in Maryland and has attracted $380 million in private investment to date, the group notes.
States Urge Trump To Defend Clean Power Plan
A coalition of 19 states and localities, led by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, has called on President-elect Donald Trump to continue the federal government’s defense of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP).
In a recent letter, the group urged Trump to reject what it calls “misguided advice” from a group of attorneys general, led by West Virginia, to discard the plan.
“Instead, we urge you to support the defense of this critically important rule and the implementation of its carefully constructed strategies to reduce emissions from the nation’s largest sources,” the letter says.
The Obama administration’s CPP calls for reducing carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. When the EPA published the final rule in the Federal Register in 2015, the West Virginia-led coalition filed a lawsuit that claimed the CPP could have “devastating impacts upon the states and their citizens.”
Led by Schneiderman, a coalition of 25 states, cities and counties later filed a motion to defend the CPP in federal appeals court. Then, in January 2016, the court rejected the objecting states’ request for a stay of the CPP while the legal battle went on. However, in February, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal initiative would, indeed, be stayed.
In September, the court heard oral arguments for a full day; a decision is expected to be made soon, according to a press release from Schneiderman.
The coalition’s letter, which details how the CPP is vital to efforts to limit carbon pollution, pushes back against “ill-conceived efforts” to urge the president-elect to unravel the plan – which, as the letter contends, would be contrary to the law.
In the letter, the coalition has also vowed to oppose any attempt to send the rule back to the EPA prior to the court’s issuing its decision.
“States like New York are on the front lines of climate change and have demonstrated how to cut pollution and emissions, while protecting affordable and reliable electricity, creating jobs and growing our economy,” says Schneiderman. “The Clean Power Plan builds on that successful work and is a blueprint for the critical action needed to fight climate change’s devastating environmental, economic and public health impacts. The science is clear, and far too much is at stake to turn back the clock on our climate efforts.”
Sierra Club Defends Wind Against Coal
The Sierra Club has filed its opening brief with the Oklahoma Supreme Court in an effort to overturn a decision by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) that approves Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s (OG&E) proposal to spend $500 million to retrofit OG&E’s Sooner Power Plant.
According to a press release from the group, the 37-year-old coal-fired power plant has “barely operated since 2015.”
The Sierra Club contends that the OCC’s decision unlawfully puts protecting shareholders from financial risk above protecting ratepayers.
If the decision stands, the group says, families, small businesses and churches in much of Oklahoma will experience large monthly rate increases to subsidize the operation of a plant that cannot economically compete with more modern sources of electricity, especially wind power, according to the Sierra Club.
“Customers are exasperated and ready to push back on OG&E’s many attempts to get ratepayers to bail out an idle, dirty coal plant built in the 1970s,” comments Johnson Bridgwater, director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club. “OG&E should use this money, time and effort to implement cleaner sources of energy that benefit the ratepayer, advance Oklahoma’s economy and provide entrepreneurs with a share in the booming clean energy economy. The OCC is constitutionally empowered to stand up for ratepayers, and right now, it is only standing up for OG&E’s shareholders.”
According to the Sierra Club, OG&E first requested approval in 2014 from the OCC to retrofit the Sooner Power Plant and to recover half a billion dollars of ratepayer money for the retrofit. The OCC denied that request, along with other requests, finding that OG&E failed to demonstrate the financial benefit.
Notably, according to the group, the OCC also concluded that OG&E’s plan put customers at risk because it missed opportunities to lock in record-low prices for wind power.
Barely two months after the OCC rejected OG&E’s first request for a bailout, the company filed another request seeking pre-approval of its decision to install scrubbers at the Sooner plant to remove the risk that shareholders would not be able to recover the $500 million for the retrofit.
The Sierra Club says OG&E did not provide any new information to alleviate the OCC’s concerns about risks to ratepayers; in fact, OG&E asked the OCC to make its decision based on the same record from the previous case, the group claims.
The Sierra Club and other parties asked the OCC to stand by its previous decision to protect ratepayers, considering the risks for ratepayers had increased since its previous decision. The independent regional electricity transmission organization, the Southwest Power Pool, had shut down OG&E’s Sooner plant in the intervening period and put it on standby reserve.
In May 2016, the OCC approved OG&E’s latest request. The OCC determined that its authority allowed it to pre-approve OG&E’s plan without addressing the plan’s impacts upon ratepayers, the Sierra Club says.
However, the group claims the OCC bypassed the “crucial questions” of cost and ratepayers’ interests, as well as stated it was relieving the risk to OG&E and its shareholders that it would be unable to recover those costs from the ratepayers in the future.
The Sierra Club’s brief argues that both the Oklahoma Constitution and statutes prohibit the OCC from shirking its obligations to protect ratepayers. The group says the commission’s general constitutional and statutory mandate is limited to ensuring that a utility’s decisions have “a reasonable and fair effect upon the rights of the public” – most importantly, a reasonable impact to ratepayers.
Firms Push For Low-Carbon Future
More than 530 companies and 100 investors – from Fortune 500 firms, to small, family-owned businesses – are calling on the Trump administration and Congress to support policies to accelerate a low-carbon future in order to help curb climate change.
The company signatories include DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hilton, HP Inc., IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, The Kellogg Co., Levi Strauss & Co., L’Oreal USA, NIKE, Mars Inc., Pacific Gas and Electric, Schneider Electric, Sealed Air, Starbucks, VF Corp., and Unilever. These signatories collectively take in nearly $1.15 trillion in annual revenue, are headquartered across 44 states and employ about 1.8 million people, according to nonprofit sustainability group Ceres.
The investor signatories – which, according to Ceres, collectively manage more than $2 trillion in assets – include institutional investors such as the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the California State Teachers Retirement System, Westpath Benefits and Investments, and Trillium Asset Management.