Trump Pulls U.S. From Paris Agreement
President Donald Trump has announced he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, a global accord meant to combat climate change.
During a press conference, Trump said, “We’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”
At the U.N. COP21 event in Paris in 2015, leaders from nearly all of the world’s countries signed up to adopt the agreement. The accord set a goal of limiting a global warming increase to “well below” 2°C, and it called on countries to devise national climate plans to reduce emissions.
The Obama administration declared the deal “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history,” and the U.S. and China, two of the world’s largest polluters, ratified the agreement last December. For its part, the U.S. committed to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, as well as contribute funding to an international effort to help poor countries tackle climate change.
Trump claimed the Paris Agreement placed “onerous energy restrictions” and a “draconian financial and economic burden” on the U.S. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.
The president’s decision to pull out of the accord means the U.S. will join Syria and Nicaragua as the only three countries in the world not committed to the Paris Agreement. Notably, though, Syria has been torn apart by civil war, and Nicaragua has actually argued that the agreement doesn’t go far enough to combat climate change.
Trump’s announcement comes as no surprise, given that he vowed to “cancel” the Paris Agreement during his election campaign and didn’t join other world leaders in reiterating their commitments to the accord. However, environmentalists; energy stakeholders; U.S. and foreign officials; major corporations, including Apple, Google and Walmart; and even oil giants, such as BP and Shell, had urged Trump to stay in the agreement.
Following the president’s announcement, the Sierra Club and other environmental advocacy groups have expressed outrage. In a statement, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune calls Trump’s decision “one of the most ignorant and dangerous actions ever taken by any president.”
“Trump’s decision to ignore the vast majority of the American public and the scientific community will harm our country, costing us lives, jobs and our role as a world leader. Trump has isolated our country on the world stage, ceding our leadership position and our economic advantage on clean energy to India and China, and justifying it all by chanting a slogan from a baseball hat,” says Brune, apparently referring to Trump’s “make America great again” slogan.
In addition, Elon Musk, billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of electric vehicle and clean energy company Tesla, has announced he will no longer be a member of Trump’s presidential advisory councils. “Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote on Twitter. Similarly, Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., announced on Twitter he also will resign as a presidential advisor over Trump’s decision.
Nonetheless, Trump has also garnered some support from conservative groups and elected officials.
For example, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says in a statement, “I applaud President Trump and his administration for dealing yet another significant blow to the Obama administration’s assault on domestic energy production and jobs.” McConnell adds, “By withdrawing from this unattainable mandate, President Trump has reiterated his commitment to protecting middle-class families across the country and workers throughout coal country from higher energy prices and potential job loss.”
As the senator’s comments point out, the Trump administration has been working to roll back a number of Obama-era climate change policies, most notably the Clean Power Plan. However, although such federal policies and the U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement certainly boded well for the growth of renewables, clean energy groups suggest the country’s progress will continue regardless of Trump’s actions.
Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance, says, “Reasonable people can disagree about the impact of the Paris climate agreement, but regardless, the transformation of the electric power sector is well under way. Utilities across the United States are seeing changes in customer behavior and technological solutions that are driving innovation and adoption of distributed and clean energy resources.”
Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association, says, “We supported the Paris Agreement when it was signed and still believe the U.S. should be engaged. However, we expect America’s solar industry to continue to create jobs, boost the economy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions whether we are a part of the accord or not.”
Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, echoes those sentiments, saying the wind industry “expects to continue as an American economic success story.”
“We’re growing and hiring nine times faster than the average industry by providing affordable, reliable and clean electricity. Wind has created over 100,000 American jobs, and we now make parts for turbines in 500 factories across 41 states,” says Kiernan. “Wind already saves American companies and consumers billions a year on their energy bills. Current policies will keep wind power growing rapidly through 2020, and we see many positive trends that will continue to drive demand.”
Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council On Renewable Energy, says, “We are disappointed that the administration chose to withdraw from the Paris accord, placing at risk not just our climate, but also the role of American companies in leading the way to a global renewable energy boom that presents a multi-trillion-dollar business opportunity.”
Wetstone adds, “Despite the Paris exit, we are confident America’s thriving renewable energy sector will continue to play a leading role in reducing U.S. carbon emissions now and into the future.”
Moreover, Timothy McMahan, a partner at Stoel Rives who chairs the law firm’s Climate Change Initiative, suggests, “The federal government’s decision may embolden states, as well as local governments, to continue enacting clean energy policies and incentivizing clean energy technology investments.”
Indeed, state, local and utility policies have long played a major role in the development of U.S. renewables, and following Trump’s decision, elected officials from around the country have reiterated their support for cleaner energy. For example, California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee have just announced the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance. According to the governors, the new coalition will “convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.”– Joseph Bebon
Nevada Legislature Passes Renewables Bill
A bill increasing Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 40% by 2030 is awaiting action from Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is being pushed by renewable energy groups to give the bill the green light.
In a letter to Sandoval, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the Geothermal Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association note that the state last updated its RPS – 25% by 2025 – back in 2009; therefore, “it is time for Nevada to expand this successful state policy,” they write. The legislation, A.B.206, was passed earlier this week in the Nevada Senate.
In the past eight years, the groups say, the cost of renewable energy has “dramatically declined.” For example, solar costs have fallen up to 85% since 2009, and wind power costs in the western part of the country have fallen almost 50% since 2011, the letter points out.
“The state also has abundant untapped geothermal resources, and a combination of wind, solar and geothermal will, due to their different delivery profiles, provide needed grid diversity and balance to efficiently meet Nevada’s energy needs.”
Citing modeling from AWEA and the Western Resource Advocates, the letter also claims the RPS boost in the legislation could “attract over $3 billion in additional investment to the state.”
The Sierra Club adds in a press release that the passage of the bill is especially important following President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement – “ceding U.S. leadership in the clean energy economy.”
“As the White House steps aside from its leadership role in the growing clean energy economy, the Nevada legislature stepped up by passing A.B.206 to commit to harnessing our state’s vast renewable energy potential,” says Elspeth DiMarzio, the Sierra Club’s campaign representative in Nevada, in a statement. “This bipartisan commitment to renewable energy is the smart move for attracting investment and creating jobs, securing reliable and affordable energy, and ensuring future generations have clean air and clean water. Nevadans now look to Gov. Sandoval to sign this bill into law and secure the state’s role as a national clean energy leader.”
New York Rolls Out Renewables Initiative
In light of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced the Clean Climate Careers initiative, a multi-pronged strategy to grow the state’s clean energy economy and prepare citizens for careers in the industry. Importantly, the initiative also includes a major request for proposals (RFP) and a whopping $1.5 billion investment in renewable energy projects.
In partnership with Climate Jobs NY and the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Cuomo’s initiative focuses on accelerating energy efficiency and renewable energy growth to make New York a magnet for new energy technologies and creating 40,000 good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
As part of the first phase of the Clean Climate Careers initiative, New York state will make an investment of up to $1.5 billion in major renewable energy projects, including wind and solar, and significantly expand energy efficiency and solar installations at public buildings. According to the governor, the investment will result in an additional 2.5 million MWh of electricity a year, representing the largest clean energy procurement by a state in U.S. history.
“As the federal government abdicates its responsibility to address climate change – at the expense of our environment and economy – New York is leading the nation in advancing a clean energy future,” Cuomo says. “The Clean Climate Careers initiative is a groundbreaking investment, representing the largest state clean energy procurement in U.S. history. With this $1.8 billion initiative, New York continues to tackle the challenges of climate change and create the high-quality, good-paying careers of tomorrow.”
As part of the Clean Climate Careers initiative, the state is issuing RFPs for developers to build renewable energy projects that will generate 2.5 million MWh of electricity a year – enough to power approximately 350,000 homes. Combined, the RFPs are the first in a series of major procurements and are expected to result in the development of 40 to 60 large-scale renewable energy projects by 2022 under the Clean Energy Standard.
Complementary solicitations by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will invest up to $1.5 billion in wind, solar, small- and large-scale hydro, fuel cell, and other technologies. The NYSERDA solicitation will procure 1.5 million MWh of electricity from renewable energy sources, and the NYPA solicitation will procure an additional 1 million MWh.
In addition, the NYPA has established a new partnership with a consortium of banks that will – for the first time ever through the NYPA – enable municipalities to access low-cost capital from commercial banks to finance energy efficiency and solar projects, the release says. With this expanded investment, the NYPA will conduct 1,000 energy efficiency and solar audits for municipalities and school districts by 2020 to help support investments. The initiative will be available to local governments and municipalities.
The NYPA will also install more than 125 MW of solar capacity on schools and other public buildings by 2020, achieving a 300% increase in distributed solar projects at public facilities statewide.
Further, as part of the initiative, Cuomo has committed $15 million to educators and trainers who partner with the clean energy industry and unions to offer training and apprenticeship opportunities.
The governor also announced a new Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group, which will focus, in part, on developing policies and programs to ensure a “just transition” to a green and clean energy future, the release explains.
Additionally, Cuomo signed an executive order to commit New York to uphold the standards set forth in the Paris Accord and announced a U.S. Climate Alliance – along with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington State Gov. Jay R. Inslee – to convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.
“Now is the time for renewable energy,” comments Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the NYPA. “Through this sweeping investment in clean and green energy projects and jobs, we are aggressively moving closer toward Gov. Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard and pushing forward as a national leader. Through the largest-ever call for large-scale renewable projects; ramping up our investment in energy efficiency; and expanding use of renewable technologies, including solar, in schools and public buildings, we are spearheading transformative change throughout the industry. We are also ensuring that New York state’s energy mix is viable and affordable now and into the future.”
Santa Barbara Commits To 100% Renewable Energy
Santa Barbara, Calif., has become the 30th city in the country to officially commit to transition to 100% renewable energy, according to the Sierra Club.
Recently, the Santa Barbara City Council approved a measure that establishes a community-wide goal of switching to 100% renewable energy by 2030. The resolution also commits the city to transition all municipal buildings and operations to 50% clean energy by 2020.
According to the Sierra Club, Santa Barbara joins other California cities, including San Diego, San Francisco, South Lake Tahoe, Del Mar and Palo Alto, that have made 100% renewable energy commitments.
“President Trump may be withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, but cities are stepping up and re-committing to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris climate goals,” says Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. “I’m proud that Santa Barbara just adopted a 100 percent renewable energy goal and is joining other cities across the nation leading the way on clean energy at the local level.”
“We salute Santa Barbara for their leadership on 100 percent clean energy,” says Katie Davis, chair of the Sierra Club’s Santa Barbara Group. “To meet our international climate goals, we must transition away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Moving to 100 percent renewable energy isn’t just the right thing to do for our climate – it’s the smart thing to do for our local economy.”
The Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission also committed to transition all of Portland and Multnomah County to 100% renewable energy by 2050. According to the Sierra Club, Portland represents the first city in the Northwest to establish this goal, and Multnomah County is the first county in the U.S. to commit to transition entirely to renewable energy.
“In order to protect our environment and our communities from the threat posed by the Trump administration’s climate policies, local and state jurisdictions must step forward to make up the difference when crafting environmental policy,” says Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. “I am proud of the work we have done engaging stakeholders and the public on this important commitment. We must continue to lead the way.”
Vermont Proposes Onerous Sound Rule
The Vermont Public Service Board has rolled out a new proposal for standards regarding wind turbine sound levels – which some fear could hinder the future of wind energy in the state.
According to the Public Service Board, a June 2016 law required the board to adopt turbine noise rules before July 1 of this year. Following a request for proposals, several workshops and hearings, and public-comment periods, the final proposed rule was submitted to the Secretary of State and Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.
Under the final proposal, projects cannot exceed 42 decibels (dBA) “more than five percent of the time at a distance of 100 feet from the residence of a non-participating landowner.” However, for projects more than 150 kW, the level is set to 39 dBA between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
The board notes that it had originally proposed a level of 35 dBA for nighttime operations, but due to “well over 100 comments” stating that this level would be “too restrictive,” it was upped to 39 dBA.
In addition, the board has proposed a setback requirement for larger wind turbines: “[A]ll turbines and sound-producing equipment located within the footprint of the turbine array [must be] a horizontal distance of at least 10 times the height of the turbines – with a blade tip in its vertical position – from the nearest residence of a non-participating landowner.” In other words, if a turbine measures 500 feet, it would have to be situated 5,000 feet from a residence – i.e., nearly a mile away.
For turbines more than 150 kW, developers must follow the setback requirement and demonstrate via post-construction monitoring that the project is in compliance with the sound rules. For turbines 50 kW-150 kW, developers must either follow the setback requirement or conduct post-construction monitoring.
However, the rule makes things less stringent for developers with turbines up to 50 kW in capacity:
“For these turbines, there is no minimum setback requirement or a requirement for sound monitoring post-construction. Instead, petitions for small turbines must include certain certification documents regarding the sound levels produced by these turbines and a simplified demonstration that sound pressure levels at the closest residence will be within the applicable limit.”
In addition, “with respect to setbacks for large turbines,” the board says, it plans to offer a waiver system to allow for facilities to be situated closer to residences – as long as the developer can prove the turbine “would meet the applicable standards at a lesser distance due to unique terrain features or future improvements in turbine technology.”
Renewable Energy Vermont (REV), which says the rule could “effectively ban future wind energy generation in Vermont,” points out decibel levels for common noises. According to the group, a “soft whisper” is measured at 30 dBA, and rainfall or a refrigerator is measured at 50 dBA.
REV also argues that the “unprecedented standards are not grounded in peer-reviewed science” and that they set an “impracticable and lower sound level than any other state and Canada.”
“We could power more than half of Vermont’s homes with cost-effective wind energy and grow our economy – but not under these proposed rules,” the group says in a statement. “The latest proposed regulations set unreasonable requirements on farmers and landowners interested in helping lower our electricity costs with pollution-free community and utility wind projects.”
However, in its own comment on the proposed rule, the board maintained that the rule is “appropriately protective of the quality of life for Vermonters who must live near wind facilities that are sited in their communities.” In particular, the board believes the siting requirements “reflect appropriate consideration of the aesthetic impacts of the sound emissions from wind generation facilities, particularly in light of the rural character of Vermont.” – Betsy Lillian