Filed under: Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
New Belgium Brewing Company, along with Colorado renewable companies and a few dozen other organizations, has submitted a letter today to Governor John Hickenlooper, encouraging the state’s top official to move forward in a timely manner to impose the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan rule on carbon reduction, stressing the importance of renewable energy:
We, the undersigned companies and investors, have a significant presence in Colorado and strongly support the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Carbon Pollution Standards for existing power plants. These standards, also called the Clean Power Plan, are critical for moving our country toward a clean energy economy. The Plan’s flexible approach provides an exciting opportunity for states to customize their own energy portfolio, expand clean energy solutions, attract new industries to the state, and create thousands of jobs.
Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality. Clean energy solutions are cost effective and innovative ways to drive investment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, businesses rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions to cut costs and improve corporate performance. In 2014, a study by Ceres, Calvert Investments and the World Wildlife Fund revealed that 60 percent of Fortune100 companies have set their own clean energy targets and have saved more than $1 billion a year in the process.
Clear and consistent policies can send market signals that help businesses and investors plan for the future. We are seeking long-term policies that provide businesses the certainty needed to transition to a clean energy economy. Electric power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States and the Clean Power Plan will be pivotal in reducing their emissions.
As you develop your implementation plan we hope you will include the building blocks of renewable energy and energy efficiency, which will allow you to mitigate the risks of climate change and the volatility of fossil fuel prices.
To “send market signals,” this group would prefer onerous regulation that threatens places like Craig, Colorado and Moffat County in favor of preferred investments, and perhaps more importantly, preferred investors.
Send clear market signals = government picking energy winners and losers.
The full text of the letter and complete list of signatories:
Filed under: Abound Solar, Archive, CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, HB 1365, Legal, Legislation, PUC, renewable energy
The Clean Power Plan’s timeline for compliance may see an extension, and the final rule itself may be revealed next Monday:
The final version of President Obama’s signature climate change policy is expected to extend an earlier timeline for states to significantly cut planet-warming pollution from power plants, according to people familiar with the plan.
If enacted, the climate change plan, the final version of which is expected to be unveiled as early as Monday, could stand as the most significant action ever taken by an American president to curb global warming. But some environmental groups have cautioned that a later deadline for states to comply could make it tougher for the United States to meet Mr. Obama’s climate change pledges on the world stage.
The plan consists of three major environmental regulations, which combined are intended to drastically cut emissions of greenhouse gases. The rules take aim at coal-fired power plants, the largest source of greenhouse emissions, and are intended to spur a transformation of the nation’s power sector from fossil fuels to renewable sources such as wind and solar. Under the rules, the Environmental Protection Agency would require states to draft plans to lower emissions from power plants. The agency is also expected to issue its own model of a state-level plan, to be imposed on states that refuse to draft their own plans.
The final rules would extend the timeline for states and electric utilities to comply, compared with a draft proposal put forth by the E.P.A. in June last year, according to people who are familiar with the plan but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.
The Independence Institute’s backgrounder on the Clean Power Plan and its devastating effects on our energy choice and enormous costs to taxpayers and the economy in general can be found here.
Much of the public land in the Rocky Mountain west is administered not by the states but by the federal government all the way from DC–and the debate over who should ultimately preside over these vast swathes of federal land has seen a resurgence:
Not since the Sagebrush Rebellion in 1979 has the debate over whether it’s time for federal lands to fall to states’ control gained such attention, and the anti-federal-government sentiment and talking points aren’t likely to dissipate as the West heads toward the next presidential election.
The fight stirred in 2012 when the Utah legislature passed the Transfer of Public Lands Act to demand authority over millions of acres of federal land by last New Year’s Eve. It didn’t happen.
Eight states cumulatively considered 30 bills around the issue this year. In March, Republicans in the U.S. Senate passed, without a single Democratic vote, a symbolic resolution in support of transferring or trading land to states. The resolution, though, doesn’t give Congress or any federal agency additional power to make deals.
And in the last Colorado legislative session there were three bills around the subject. Only one passed. House Bill 1225, a bipartisan bill supported by environmental groups, strengthens communities’ position in saying how local federal lands are managed.
Opponents of devolving control of public lands to the states cite the enormous costs of maintaining them, arguing states are not prepared to shoulder the added burden of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual upkeep.
For example, a single wildfire could cripple Colorado, said Governor John Hickenlooper’s advisor:
The federal government also picks up the costs for wildfires on federal lands. But just one massive wildfire in Colorado — a state that can have several in one year — could obliterate the state budget, said John Swartout, a Republican who is Hickenlooper’s top policy adviser on land, wildlife and conservation issues.
“The solution is constructive engagement,” Swartout said. “Are we always going to be happy with all the decisions? No. But we’re going to get a lot farther helping create the final solution.”
More than 1/3 of Colorado is subject to federal jurisdiction. Whether or not the debate develops into a political conflagration or peters out in favor of other issues remains to be seen, but expect energy producers and environmental activists to keep a close eye on how the narrative proceeds.
WildEarth Guardians won’t hesitate to launch a legal battle, as a recent look at the group’s lawsuit filings shows:
Though a relatively small organization with only 26 people on staff, WildEarth Guardians’ litigious nature has established the environmental advocacy group as a dominant voice in the national debate about environmental policy.
From 2010 to present, Guardians have initiated a total of 152 cases in federal district courts and 55 in the Circuit Court of Appeals for a total of 207 cases. In 2010 alone they filed 61 claims — an average of about one per week.
However, Guardians’ pervasiveness in the courts has not gone without criticism.
In a 2012 analysis of WildEarth Guardians’ legal activity, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity claimed that Guardians has been “misusing the judicial system, exploiting poorly-written laws and taking advantage of taxpayers to pursue a narrow, litigation-driven, special interest agenda.”
For Coloradans, especially those in Craig and surrounding areas, lawsuits from the group have drawn the ire of residents and businesses for favoring costly litigation as a first-stop solution:
Lee Boughey, senior manager of corporate communications and public affairs for Tri-State, said in a statement that the courts should not be a first resort.
“Environmental policy, regulations and law should be set by state legislatures and Congress, and based on sound science, a thorough cost-benefit analysis and appropriate timeframes for implementation. These are difficult issues, and it is a far better for all stakeholders to commit to work together to develop sound regulatory policy that take these consideration into account, as opposed to running straight to the courts,” he said.
The group remains adamant, saying, the “legal system is oftentimes the last recourse of justice for interests and peoples that have been marginalized or whose issues haven’t been heard.”
In the case of Colowyo Mine, the marginalized appear to be the local residents, workers, and communities.
A pair of energy-related ballot measures will appear in November in Boulder, including a Climate Action tax:
Boulder officials also want to ask voters to extend the portion of the utility occupation tax on energy bills that replaces Xcel Energy’s franchise fee and provides roughly $4.1 million to the city’s general fund each year. It is not the portion of the tax that funds analysis and legal efforts toward municipalization, which is not on the ballot. The municipal energy utility would also have to pay a similar amount into the general fund, but that utility may not be up and running by 2017, when the tax expires. The proposed ballot measure would extend the tax through 2022.
The Climate Action Plan tax, which funds energy-efficiency programs and solar rebates, will also appear on the ballot. That tax expires in March 2018, and city leaders believe the programs ultimately will be paid for out of utility rates. However, that won’t be possible until the utility is up and running. The proposed ballot measure would extend the tax through March 2023 so that those programs could continue regardless of progress on the municipal utility.
Filed under: Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
The Department of the Interior refused to appeal a court ruling on the Colowyo Mine that could cost the jobs of 220 Colorado coal miners. This has added to the growing concerns of these miners and their families regarding the future of their livelihoods. WildEarth Guardians, who have been leading the campaign to close the mine, had a less than sympathetic message in response.
“My initial response is ‘tough sh**,’ ” Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians climate and energy program director, told the liberal Colorado Independent in a July 13 post.
“They [the Interior Department] didn’t appeal, and there is nothing they can do about it now,” Mr. Nichols said.
Supporters of the mine decried his comments Thursday as “callous” and an example of the group’s “out-of-control war on coal,” as Advancing Colorado’s Jonathan Lockwood put it.
“I wonder if Jeremy Nichols has the courage to say that directly — face-to-face — to the 220 coal miners who will lose their jobs if Nichols and WildEarth Guardians are successful in shutting down the Colowyo Mine,” said Amy Oliver Cooke, energy policy director at the free-market Independence Institute in Denver.
WildEarth Guardians’ disregard for the people in Northwest Colorado has done them little good. Following a large community outcry, 450 of 600 supporters listed online asked to be removed from the list.
In a press conference last Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Jewell spoke to the anticipated effects of the proposed rule intended to protect water in the proximity of coal mines. She made sure to emphasize the minimal impact it would have on communities reliant on coal income.
Jewell called the potential loss of approximately 200 jobs across coal country “relatively minor.”
The proposed rule would adversely affect 460 jobs but at the same time account for an additional 250 jobs created under the restoration actions required by the plan, Jewell said.
“The net impact is a couple of hundred jobs in coal country, specifically due to this rule,” she said. “So, it’s relatively minor.”
Some are unconvinced that the impact will be that insignificant.
According to Yampa Valley Data Partners, a nonprofit research organization, the top 10 taxpayers in Moffat County are energy related.
Although the rule proposes to create work based on restoration efforts, it is uncertain if the effort will balance out the loss of mining jobs.
“These jobs that would be added, in theory, would certainly have to be pretty high paying jobs to even come close to rivaling the economic impact of our coal mines,” said Keith Kramer, executive director of Yampa Valley Data Partners.
According to Yampa Valley Data Partners, mining industry jobs pay an average of $1,528 per week — 72 percent higher than an average job in Moffat County.
Proponents of both fracking and the Obama administrations environmental regulations have sited the 11% reduction in US CO2 emissions between 2007 and 2013 as evidence of their respective success. A new study out of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis suggests that neither contributed significantly to the reduction… and rather it was all a result of the recession.
“After 2007, decreasing emissions were largely a result of economic recession with changes in fuel mix (for example, substitution of natural gas for coal) playing a comparatively minor role,” the study found.
The study has been sent around as evidence that natural gas is not as “climate-friendly” as proponents say it is. Natural gas is often billed as more eco-friendly than coal because it emits fewer CO2 emissions than coal when burned to produce electricity.
“Natural gas emits half as much CO2 as coal when used to make electricity,” said IIASA researcher and lead author Laixiang Sun said in a statement. “This calculation fails to take into account the release of methane from natural-gas wells and pipelines, which also contributes to climate change.”
Naturally, both sides found ways to use the study to their advantage (or the others disadvantage).
Environmentalists and liberal news sites used the study to undercut claims that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is reducing emissions. Activists have used the study to claim reduced consumption, also known as a recession, and energy efficiency programs are doing more to fight global warming.
“In other words, what worked was cutting consumption and being more efficient – not fracking,” according to the environmentalist blog Desmogblog.
That may be the case, but there’s a flip side that environmentalists have not talked about. If increased use of natural gas was not a major reason for plunging CO2 emissions, it means Obama administration regulations have also done little to lower emissions.
This is not to say that EPA regulations or fracking will not positively impact the climate in the future. This study just shows that good old fashioned cutting back can have the big results we want.
A final ruling from the Environmental Protection Agency on nationwide carbon reduction regulations is on the horizon. The 35% reduction target for Colorado has some Colorado officials concerned about just how to reach the target… or if we should try to at all.
Dr. Larry Wolk, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said interested parties need to work together to satisfy federal rules.
“At some point we all sort of have to come together between the EPA and the state – and in this case Colorado – to say, this is how we want to pursue this, and this is how we want our own Clean Air Act to look,” Wolk said Thursday at an event in Denver hosted by Latino environmental leaders.
Once the final rule is in, state health officials will launch a stakeholder process. Next year, officials will continue developing the state-specific plan, which would be submitted that summer. The Legislature will then discuss the plan in 2017, before a final plan heads to the EPA.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said that Colorado will move forward, despite cries from Republicans to defy federal regulators. Critics of the proposal suggest that it would hurt the economy by slashing jobs and revenue.
Republicans fired a warning shot this year at the Legislature, proposing legislation that would have required both chambers to approve any plan that is sent to federal regulators. That proposal was killed by Democrats.
The Millennium Development goals, decided on by all governments in 2000, are set to expire at the end of this year. But the United Nations think there is still work to be done–and this work is reflected in the new “Sustainable Development Goals”. These new goals are to be used as a guide for all policies and agendas for the coming years.
1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
3) Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8 ) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation
10) Reduce inequality within and among countries
11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum)
14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
16) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development
Gina Larson is a Future Leaders intern and is currently a student at American University, majoring in International Relations.
Gone with the Wind: IRS can’t measure effectiveness of $14 billion dollars in green energy subsidies
Filed under: New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that IRS tax subsidies to green energy operators have resulted in $15.1 billion in foregone revenue to the federal government, $13.7 billion of which was lost to renewable energy projects.
The GAO has sounded its concern that Congress cannot evaluate the effectiveness of Investment Tax Credit (ITC) or Production Tax Credit (PTC) programs funded by this money. Evaluation becomes difficult when “the total generating capacity [the projects] supported is unknown because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not required to collect project level data from all taxpayers claiming the ITC or report the data it does collect, nor is it required to collect project-level data for the PTC.” So, as of now, any decisions made by Congress regarding the extension of the ITC or PTC are based on rough estimates, an environmental moral compass, or just how a representative is feeling that particular day.
What data has been reported suggests a certain government addiction to renewable energy subsides. From 2004 to 2013, around 2,000 renewable energy projects were built adding 69,000MW of generating capacity. This number, however, is dwarfed by the 157,000MW of generating capacity added by just the 500 traditional utility scale electricity generation projects built during the same time. For a tenth of the cost of renewable projects, traditional energy projects were able to generate more than double the energy.
In addition to green energy subsides, most states have implemented some form of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires a certain percentage of the electricity coming from retail service providers must be obtained from renewable sources. This artificial increase in demand along with subsides may be giving renewables like solar and wind a better chance than the technology in its current state deserves.
The GAO concludes that eliminating the ITC/PTC will almost certainly decrease the number of new renewable energy projects. Without these tax subsides green energy developer’s returns would decline and a rise in prices to compensate for the withdrawal of federal support would turn renewable energy into a luxury item.
Gina Larson is a Future Leaders intern and is currently a student at American University, majoring in International Relations.
July 16 Colorado Energy Roundup: Sec. Jewell adds Colowyo Mine visit; renewable energy mandate upheld
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, preferred energy, renewable energy
A week after the Department of the Interior declined to move forward with an appeal in the Colowyo Mine case, and facing mounting pressure to visit the northwest portion of Colorado during a scheduled trip to Aspen, Sec. Sally Jewell appears to have conceded to a meeting with county commissioners:
Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid said Wednesday that Jewell has added a meeting with northwest Colorado county commissioners to her itinerary Friday following her speech at the Aspen Institute.
“We look forward to meeting Secretary Jewell this Friday evening,” Kinkaid said. “I hope that she will be able to give us some assurances that our miners can keep working.”
He said he expected the meeting to include commissioners from Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, whose communities would bear the brunt of a mine closure. The meeting will take place in Glenwood Springs.
Jewell had come under pressure to visit the area after it was announced that she would deliver remarks Friday at the Aspen Institute, about a three-hour drive from Craig, where residents are alarmed about the future of the mine.
We’ll keep you posted on developments of the planned meeting.
The mandate, which voters passed in 2004 and expanded in 2010, was challenged by the free-market advocacy group Energy and Environment Legal Institute. The group argued that the renewable energy requirements violate the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit claimed that the requirement that large utilities such as Xcel Energy get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources violates constitutional protections for interstate commerce.
The plaintiffs argued that because electricity can go anywhere on the grid and come from anywhere on the grid, Colorado mandate illegally harms out-of-state companies.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver disagreed. The three-judge panel ruled that the mandate does not wrongly burden out-of-state coal producers. The judges also pointed out that Colorado voters approved the mandate.
The full text of the ruling can be found here.
For those who do not think increased energy costs–whether from increased cost of supply of fuel, onerous regulations, or government picking (more expensive) energy winners–affect lower and middle income families in Colorado, a new examination of the state’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) reveals how devastating even modest price increases in energy can be:
About 430,000 households in Colorado — 22 percent of all households — are eligible for federal energy assistance.
These households have incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $36,372 for a family of four.
About 13 percent of Colorado households are below the federal poverty line of $24,250 for a family of four.
The federal Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, or LEAP, administered by local agencies, provided $47 million for heating bills during the 2014-15 season.
The article laments that program has a low reach at the present time, with only 19 percent of those eligible receiving outreach.
But the article’s lede is buried–even small, incremental increases have a large and outsized effect on low-income folks given the portion of income they spend on energy:
Xcel, the state’s largest electricity utility, calculates monthly payments based on 3 percent of a household’s income.
Average households pay 2 percent to 3 percent for energy, compared with low-income households, which often pay as much as 50 percent.
“That leaves very little for food, clothing, medicine,” said Pat Boland, Xcel’s manager of customer policy and assistance.
“Once we get them in the door, we want to keep them in the door,” Boland said in a presentation.
According to the article, Black Hills reaches only 10 percent of those eligible within its system. It pays for the assistance by charging other ratepayers, and is considering a rate hike to cover the program, which is currently losing money. That hike, along with three other rate increases since 2008, make Black Hills among the most expensive electricity providers in the state, the Post article said.
Despite a quiet 2015, fracking is still maintaining a low boil on the backburner of the state’s energy debate, and there is every indication that it won’t be simmering any time soon, and Democratic Rep. Jared Polis told the Associated Press that options remain:
Polis said fracking could be on the 2016 ballot if state officials don’t further regulate the industry. He stopped short of saying whether he would organize the effort, but he wants lawmakers and regulators to adopt three proposals that weren’t formally recommended by the task force.
One would let local governments impose stricter rules than the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, charged with regulating drilling statewide. Another would change the commission’s role from facilitating oil and gas development to simply regulating it. The third would set up a panel to resolve disputes between energy companies and local governments or property owners before they land in court.
It remains to be seen whether or not activists, with or without Polis’s sponsorship, pursue a strategy like they did in 2013, targeting friendly and even tossup municipalities with fracking bans and moratoria, or wait for statewide opportunities in the 2016 Presidential election cycle.
The Bureau of Land Management has closed off nearly 100,000 acres of federal land from future leasing:
The Bureau of Land Management rejected all 19 protests from conservation groups, the oil and gas industry and other interests in approving a new resource management plan for the Colorado River Valley Field Office.
The Colorado River Valley Field Office, in Silt, manages more than 500,000 acres of land and more than 700,000 acres of subsurface federal minerals in Garfield, Mesa, Rio Blanco, Pitkin, Eagle and Routt counties. The agency says the majority of the 147,500 acres with high potential for oil and gas production under the office’s jurisdiction are already leased and will continue producing under the plan.
The plan closes 98,100 acres for future leasing, including in the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area near New Castle, areas managed for wilderness characteristics, areas of critical environmental concern, municipalities and designated recreation areas.
A second Craig-area coal mine apparently also will have to undergo a remedial federal environmental review process if it hopes to avoid a shutdown based on a recent court order.
The Trapper Mine near Craig is now looking at going through the same kind of review currently underway in the case of the Colowyo Mine between Craig and Meeker following a federal judge’s ruling in May.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson, in a suit brought by WildEarth Guardians, found that the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement illegally approved expansions of the two mines because it failed to provide public notice of the decisions and account for the environmental impacts.
The Trapper Mine faces discrepancies over permitted areas and coverage under filings with Judge Jackson, who did not impose a similar ruling as that issued for the Colowyo Mine.
In a notice filed last week to alert the court about the new information, the Trapper attorneys said they support doing remedial environmental analysis involving the Trapper Mine after the Colowyo review is done.
Bob Postle, manager of the program support division for the OSMRE’s western region, said the notice has “just been filed, and we’re now working through how we’re going to address it.”
Given the discrepancies, it isn’t clear at this moment whether a new or remedial environmental review is necessary, according to Trapper’s legal counsel.
In a meeting with Republican Senator Cory Gardner, western slope businesses and entrepreneurs described facing onerous regulatory burdens imposed by DC bureaucrats:
A Moffat County sheepherder, Delta hardware shop owner and Grand Junction manufacturer all walked into a meeting Friday with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., each with much the same punchline in mind.
The common theme: The federal government is reaching too far into their businesses, discouraging them from seeking out new ways of doing business and growing.
Constraining regulations have “taken the creativity out of business,” Jim Kendrick, owner of Delta Hardware, told Gardner. “The move is to make us all do business the same way. That’s stifling growth.”
Gardner met with two dozen western Colorado business and economic leaders at Colorado Mesa University in hopes of finding ways to improve the state’s sputtering rural economy.
“I spend all my time on regulatory compliance and none of it on product development,” one Department of Defense contractor said. That would result in pushing more business to bigger vendors able to hurdle all of the regulatory red tape due to a larger staff.
July 9 Colorado Energy Roundup: government won’t appeal in Colowyo case, true costs of wind energy revealed
Filed under: Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, preferred energy, renewable energy, wind energy
Perhaps the most pressing energy and jobs-related issue in Colorado right now is the legal battle over the Colowyo Mine in the northwest part of the state:
The U.S. Department of the Interior has decided not to pursue an appeal of a federal court ruling that threatened to close Colowyo coal mine in Northwest Colorado.
According to a statement from Department of the Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw, “We are not appealing the court’s decision, but are on track to address the deficiencies in the Colowyo permit within the 120-day period.”
“We are disappointed that the government did not appeal the federal district court’s decision. Colowyo Mine remains confident that the U.S. Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining are making every effort to complete the required environmental review within the 120-day period ordered by the court,” Tri-State’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications and Public Affiars Lee Boughey wrote in an email. “These efforts help ensure compliance with the judge’s order while supporting the 220 employees of Colowyo Mine and communities across northwest Colorado.”
The legal decision in May that tripped off the permitting kerfuffle that endangers the operation of the Colowyo Mine stemmed from a lawsuit brought by WildEarth Guardians that the mine’s 2007 permit did not follow the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement requirements as well as National Environmental Policy Act rules.
Bipartisan efforts have poured in from across Colorado, as politicians, the business community, and legal experts recognize the importance and high stakes involved in the threat to the mine from a procedural and regulatory environment standpoint:
Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and [Rep. Scott] Tipton all joined Craig City Council and Moffat County Commissioners in addressing Jewell regarding the situation at Colowyo.
On July 2, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, the Colorado Competitive Council and the Colorado Energy Coalition sent a co-authored letter to Jewell voicing their concerns.
According to the letter, “this precedent could pose a threat to any activity on federal lands that performed an environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act in order to obtain federal leases and permits. That could stretch from energy development and mining, to agricultural grazing and ski resorts becoming vulnerable to retroactive legal challenges.”
Tri-State’s Boughey noted that the government’s appeal isn’t necessary, however:
The ColoWyo appeal isn’t dependent on any other party’s decision to appeal or not appeal Jackson’s decision, Boughey said.
“We believe the court made several significant errors, including misreading the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. This prejudices not only Colowyo but other mining operations, and sets a precedent that should raise concerns for the U.S. energy industry and other activities on federal land,” he said.
In essence, Tri-State and ColoWyo officials don’t think the federal Office of Surface Mining should be looking at power plant operations.
“The court’s requirement that the agency analyze emissions from power plants inappropriately expands National Environmental Policy Act analyses for mining plans beyond what is prescribed under the law,” Boughey said.
The Independence Institute will continue to monitor the developments in the Colowyo legal battle.
Meanwhile, the WildEarth Guardians continue their crusade against all natural resource extraction, as the Denver Post’s Vincent Carroll recently illustrated:
Jeremy Nichols may not be the official stand-up comic of green activism, but he seems to be auditioning for the role. How else to explain his risible claim in a recent Denver Post report on the struggling economy in northwest Colorado that WildEarth Guardians isn’t trying to shut down the Colowyo coal mine and throw 220 people out of work?
“We want to have an honest discussion about the impact of coal and find a way to come together to figure out the next step,” Nichols, the group’s spokesman, maintained.
Why, of course. A group militantly opposed to fossil-fuel production files a lawsuit challenging the validity of a coal mine plan approved years ago — but does so only to provoke an “honest discussion.” Please.
WildEarth Guardians is opposed to all fossil-fuel extraction in the West, and makes no bones about it. In the winter 2013-14 edition of Wild Heart, Nichols outlined the group’s position on those other big fossil fuels, oil and natural gas.
“As communities in Colorado and elsewhere have learned well,” Nichols wrote, “it’s not enough to make oil and gas development cleaner or safer. For the sake of our health, our quality of life, and our future, it simply has to be stopped.”
“In some cases,” Nichols explained, “we can stop it cold … . In other cases, we can raise the cost of drilling to make it economically infeasible.”
The Colowyo Mine is still operating for now, but WildEarth’s apparent regulatory sabotage certainly seems consistent with its efforts to “stop it cold” when it comes to natural resources. Not to mention throwing 220 people out of work and disrupting the economy of an entire region.
Some “honest discussion.”
The price of a barrel of oil began to decline sharply in late 2014, prompting fears that the crashing crude market would tank the nation’s nascent energy resurgence, but despite falling numbers, 2015 still looks to be a year of production highs:
The amount of crude oil produced across the United States fell in May compared to April — but federal forecasters say 2015’s overall production is still “on track” to be the highest in 45 years.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Tuesday released its monthly short-term energy outlook, noting that crude oil production fell in May by about 50,000 barrels of oil per day compared with April.
In Colorado, oil production from the Niobrara field north of Denver, part of the larger Denver-Julesburg Basin, is expected to drop about 17,000 barrels per day in July compared to June, the EIA said.
The number of drilling rigs running in the state has dropped from 72 at the start of 2015 to 39 at the end of June as oil and gas companies have cut back on spending.
But, as we know from basic economics about supply and demand, lower oil prices mean lower gas prices, and that is driving demand back up to pre-recession levels:
But the on the consumer side, a better economy and low gasoline prices are expected to boost the amount of gasoline used in the U.S. by an estimated 170,000 barrels per day over 2014, the report said.
“U.S. gasoline demand will likely top 9 million barrels per day this year for the first time since 2007, which reflects record highway travel,” Sieminski said.
There’s no doubt that readers of the Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center blog and op-eds are familiar with the argument that electricity derived from wind energy is more costly than other forms of generation–namely coal and natural gas–when one accounts for the massive amount of Federal subsidies, incentives, and state and local renewable mandates and other handouts.
A new study from Utah State University once again confirms that conclusion–”when you take into account the true costs of wind, it’s around 48 per cent more expensive than the industry’s official estimates”:
“In this study, we refer to the ‘true cost’ of wind as the price tag consumers and society as a whole pay both to purchase wind-generated electricity and to subsidize the wind energy industry through taxes and government debt,” said Ryan Yonk Ph.D., one of the report’s authors and a founder of Strata Policy. “After examining all of these cost factors and carefully reviewing existing cost estimates, we were able to better understand how much higher the cost is for Americans.”
The peer-reviewed report accounted for the following factors:
The federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), a crucial subsidy for wind producers, has distorted the energy market by artificially lowering the cost of expensive technologies and directing taxpayer money to the wind industry.
States have enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that require utilities to purchase electricity produced from renewable sources, which drives up the cost of electricity for consumers.
Because wind resources are often located far from existing transmission lines, expanding the grid is expensive, and the costs are passed on to taxpayers and consumers.
Conventional generators must be kept on call as backup to meet demand when wind is unable to do so, driving up the cost of electricity for consumers.
“Innovation is a wonderful thing and renewable energy is no exception. Wind power has experienced tremendous growth since the 1990’s, but it has largely been a response to generous federal subsidies,” Yonk stated.
But Utah State University researchers aren’t the only ones pulling back the curtain on the true cost of wind. A new study from the Institute for Energy Research demonstrates that a real comparison between existing power plants and new power plant sources shows that wind power once again comes up short in the low cost department:
Today, the Institute for Energy Research released a first-of-its-kind study calculating the levelized cost of electricity from existing generation sources. Our study shows that on average, electricity from new wind resources is nearly four times more expensive than from existing nuclear and nearly three times more expensive than from existing coal. These are dramatic increases in the cost of generating electricity. This means that the premature closures of existing plants will unavoidably increase electricity rates for American families.
Almost all measures of the cost of electricity only assess building new plants–until now. Using data from the Energy Information Administration and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, we offer useful comparison between existing plants and new plants.
America’s electricity generation landscape is rapidly changing. Federal and state policies threaten to shutter more than 111 GW of existing coal and nuclear generation, while large amounts of renewables, such as wind, are forced on the grid. To understand the impacts of these policies, it is critical to understand the cost difference between existing and new sources of generation.
A link to the complete study can be found on the Institute’s release page.
Filed under: Abound Solar, Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
More reaction from the ongoing Colowyo Mine saga in northwest Colorado, as Colorado Public Radio profiled residents from the community on what the possible mine closure would mean:
It’s been nearly two months since a judge required the federal government to take another look at a 2007 mining plan it approved for the Colowyo Mine outside Craig. Reaction in the small town of 9,000 was swift with much of the frustration directed at WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group that initiated the lawsuit.
Brent Malley moved from Phoenix, Arizona, to Craig 10 years ago to work at the mine, which supplies fuel to the nearby Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association power plant. Tri-State also owns Colowyo.
“It’s a much cleaner coal, low sulfur. I deal with that on a daily basis,” said Malley, who analyzes the coal at Colowyo. “There’s a bias against coal and I think it comes from pre-World War II where you saw really dirty conditions and miners getting hurt.”
Another resident, Rev. Jason Wunsch, called the actions against the Colowyo Mine–and the community–by WildEarth Guardians an “abuse.”
“The way it went about things through litigation and not through organic community dialogue I think was both an abuse to the public, but I think it will be a loss for authentic environmentalists,” Wunsch told CPR.
In a week filled with blockbuster Supreme Court decisions, the court’s ruling on the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury rule flew somewhat under the radar, but the agency’s illegal rule had already done the damage intended, and even offered the EPA an “out” in future rulemaking:
A measure of the Environmental Protection Agency’s radicalism is that on Monday even this Supreme Court shot down one of its regulatory abuses. The agency’s extraconstitutional law-writing was too much even for the Court willing last week to tolerate the rewriting of laws for ObamaCare subsidies and housing discrimination.
In Michigan v. EPA, several states and industry groups challenged a 2012 EPA rule related to mercury emissions, which was really a pretext to force most coal-fired power plants to shut down as part of the Administration’s climate agenda. Though the rule was then the most expensive the federal government had ever issued, the EPA said it had no obligation even to consider costs when deciding whether it was “appropriate and necessary” to regulate.
“One would not say that it is even rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,” Justice Antonin Scalia writes. “EPA’s interpretation precludes the agency from considering any type of cost—including, for instance, harms that regulation might do to human health or the environment.”
But imposing those economic costs and forcing the closure of coal-fired power plants in the process of the rule’s implementation had already occurred in between the 2012 promulgation of the rule and the Supreme Court’s finding this week. Too little, too late.
But while the initial reaction appeared to have a silver lining in forcing the EPA to consider costs, the agency got a reprieve from not only the minority who sided with the rule, but from the majority as well:
But here’s the, er, catch. Justice Scalia’s opinion says the agency can’t regulate without considering costs, but his decision also says the EPA can still decide what counts as a cost. Uh-oh.
And sure enough, Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent offers the EPA a soft-landing path for future law-writing. She does not say EPA can ignore costs altogether. But she and the three other liberals would have blessed the mercury rule because the EPA would allegedly scrutinize costs at some indeterminate point, eventually, down the line.
So while Michigan is a welcome rebuke to EPA arrogance, presumably the agency can still do most of what it wants as long as it claims to have considered costs. In any case, most of the utilities targeted by the EPA rule have already shut down those coal plants or spent billions to comply. They won the legal battle but lost the climate war.
In other words, the make-it-up-as-you-go agency’s agenda in bringing forth coal-killing regulations received the green light to conjure up any cost methodology it wanted to justify the rule, and to do so whenever it pleased.
That doesn’t bode well for future rule implementation of the EPA’s upcoming Clean Power Plan (carbon reduction) or ground-level ozone targets.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), in an op-ed at Forbes, illustrated the EPA’s attitude toward the Supreme Court’s ruling, and their attitude in general when it comes to their role in the rulemaking process:
To make matters worse, the EPA sees no problem in a regulatory process that forces electricity companies to comply with an illegal regulation. “EPA is disappointed that the Court did not uphold the rule, but this rule was issued more than three years ago, investments have been made and most plants are already well on their way to compliance,” an EPA spokesperson said in a statement.
As long as the rule did what was intended, even when dinged by the Supreme Court, the agency’s mission was accomplished.
New Belgium Brewing appears to be doubling down on its environmental commitment even as it is still contending with pushback on its support of WildEarth Guardians, the activist group responsible for threatening the Colowyo Mine (see above) through its litigation:
The beer industry is booming, but water resources are becoming scarce while warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are hurting hop production.
“They do say whiskey’s for drinking and waters for fighting out here. And there’s a reason they say that,” said New Belgium’s Bryan Simpson.
Now, brewers are finding ways to integrate green business practices and they want others to do the same. Three Colorado breweries are joining a national call-to-action, signing the “Brewer’s Climate Declaration.”
The declaration signed by New Belgium, along with a couple dozen other companies, sees climate change as a threat to its basic ingredients–water and hops:
Warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are harming the production of hops, a critical ingredient of beer that grows primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Rising demand and lower yields have driven the price of hops up by more than 250 percent over the past decade. Clean water resources, another key ingredient, are also becoming scarcer in the West as a result of climate-related droughts and reduced snow pack.
That’s why leading breweries are finding innovative ways to integrate sustainability into their business practices and finding economic opportunity through investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste recapture, and sustainable sourcing. To highlight the steps they are taking and issue a call to action to others, brewers are signing the Climate Declaration.
A Colorado thin-film solar supplier company goes belly-up due to flagging sales:
Faced with slumping sales in its solar inverter business, and no suitors willing to step in to buy it, Advanced Energy Industries, Inc., announced Monday it was getting out of the business.
The move will cost the company millions of dollars and likely hundreds of jobs.
The impact on jobs at the Fort Collins-based business is unknown, but the company said in a statement it expects to spend $260 million to $290 million to wind down the company, including $15 million in employee termination costs and $30 million to $45 million in severance and other expenses related to the decision.
As of Dec. 31, AE, which develops power and control technologies for thin-film manufacturing and solar-power generation, employed 1,583 people globally. Founded in Fort Collins in 1980, AE manufactures inverters in Fort Collins, Canada and China.
Abound Solar, a thin-film solar panel manufacturer, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 despite a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Tracking the declining global share of thin-film solar and difficulties seen in other companies in places like China, it’s easy to see that the once highly touted technology hasn’t caught fire the way proponents once envisioned.
Despite top rankings as a manufacturer of wind technology and employment of wind-related workers, Colorado must increase its wind energy efforts, according to a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs:
But the state needs to do more, according to the report.
The state needs to implement the federal Clean Power Plan, which would cut carbon emissions from “dirty” power plants in Colorado by 35 percent in part by increasing clean renewable energy.
Secondly, the state needs “new policy direction … to expand the state’s renewable energy portfolio.”
“Colorado’s leaders need to take action with policy opportunities that are good for its economy and good for its environment,” the 16-page report concludes.
Filed under: Abound Solar, CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legislation, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy
Last week at the Steamboat Institute, Independence Institute Energy Policy Center Director Amy Oliver Cooke moderated a panel entitled “The Coming Storm of Federal Energy Regulations and Their Impact on Colorado Business”–with attorney Ray Gifford discussing the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan,” Dan Byers of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offering an explanation of the newly proposed EPA ground-level ozone rule, and Lee Boughey of Tri-State Generation and Transmission revealing the impact of the WildEarth Guardians lawsuit and the Colowyo Mine:
Blowback over the controversial support of WildEarth Guardians and the lawsuit threatening the Colowyo Mine stirred up trouble not only for New Belgium Brewing Company but over 450 other businesses and organizations listed as WEG supporters who quickly pulled their names from a list of “supporters” on the activist group’s website:
Some businesses listed said they never gave anything to the group responsible for a lawsuit that put Colowyo Coal Mine at risk of closing.
The Craig Daily Press published its first story about local liquor stores and restaurants pulling New Belgium and Breckenridge Brewery beer on June 8, and shortly thereafter, WildEarth Guardians staff deleted its webpage called “Businesses for Guardians.”
The newspaper then published the cached webpage of supporters, and less than 24 hours later, the environmentalists republished the webpage.
On that page, a total of 605 businesses across Colorado and New Mexico were listed as supporters. As of June 18, that number shrunk to 151 businesses listed as supporters.
A complete list of all companies previously named as “Businesses for Guardians” has been archived here as well.
“You don’t mess with my community,” one resident told the Craig Daily Press.
There’s no doubt the Colowyo Mine issue is already impacting the economy of the northwest corner of Colorado:
After less than six months of being in business, the owner of Stacks Smokehouse closed the doors to his restaurant due to Craig’s economic uncertainty in light of what’s happening at Colowyo Coal Mine.
Steve Fulton said his business — which opened in the former Double Barrel Steakhouse building on Feb. 20 — dropped 40 percent days after the community met on June 3 for a public meeting with Colowyo representatives.
Two Colorado counties have seen tremendous growth in jobs, despite the recent oil and gas downturn:
Two Colorado counties were among the three large U.S. counties with the fastest job growth rate in 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.
And Colorado overall ranked No. 3 for the rate of job growth among states.
In the counties ranking, Weld County topped the list for a second straight year. Weldco tied with Midland County, Texas, with a best-in-the-nation 8.0 percent increase in employment between December 2013 and December 2014, BLS said.
In 2013, Weld County posted 6 percent job growth.
And Adams County came in at No. 3 in the nation with a 6.4 percent growth rate.
In fact, Weld County saw a 19.6 percent gain in natural resources and mining employment over the 12-month period, adding a net 2,074 jobs, BLS estimates.
And Adams County is home to companies that service the energy industry.
Only North Dakota (4.5 percent) and Nevada (4.2 percent) outpaced Colorado’s job growth rate of 3.9 percent, according to the BLS.
Meanwhile in Indiana (from a press release):
Indianapolis – Governor Pence sent a letter today to President Obama informing him that unless the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan is demonstrably and significantly improved before being finalized Indiana will not comply. The Governor’s letter in full can be found attached.
“As I wrote to Administrator McCarthy on December 1, 2014, the proposed rules are ‘ill-conceived and poorly constructed’ and they exceed the EPA’s legal authority under the Clean Air Act,” wrote Pence. “If your administration proceeds to finalize the Clean Power Plan, and the final rule has not demonstrably and significantly improved from the proposed rule, Indiana will not comply. Our state will also reserve the right to use any legal means available to block the rule from being implemented.”
“Our nation needs an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that relies on a variety of different energy sources,” said Pence. “Energy policy should promote the safe, environmentally responsible stewardship of our natural resources with the goal of reliable, affordable energy. Your approach to energy policy places environmental concerns above all others.”
In addition Pence noted, “Higher electricity prices brought by the EPA’s plan will inhibit our ability to advance our manufacturing base and the jobs it creates.”
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan calls for a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels in Indiana by the year 2030. The proposed rules do not dictate how states achieve reduction. Instead, the rule suggests four building blocks as guidelines for compliance. The rules will increase the cost of electricity and force the premature closure of coal-fired power plants, leading to concerns of electricity shortages. On December 1, 2014, Governor Pence and Indiana State agencies submitted letters to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy detailing the proposed rules’ impact on Indiana and urging their immediate withdrawal.
More than 26,000 Hoosiers are employed in the coal industry in Indiana. Governor Pence has pledged to fight the EPA’s regulations with all legal means at Indiana’s disposal. Governor Pence’s comments today come on the heels of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissing State of West Virginia et al v. Environmental Protection Agency, Case No. 14-1112. Indiana was one of fourteen petitioners in the case, which asked the Court to review the legality of the EPA’s proposed regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The Court of Appeals’ decision was based on procedural, not substantive, issues and does not preclude future litigation challenging the regulation. Indiana intends to renew its challenge in the courts following the release of the final rule.
The EPA is expected to release the final rule in August.
A quick reminder of why government choosing energy winners and losers is a bad idea–an expensive burden on taxpayers and ratepayers alike.
June 18 Colorado Energy Roundup: Pushback on EPA ozone rule effect on rural US, oil and gas operations get the thumbs up from Colorado communities
Filed under: Archive, CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, preferred energy, solar energy, wind energy
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ozone rule–reducing acceptable ground-level ozone from 75 ppb to between 65 and 70–has drawn criticism from 22 medically trained members of Congress (E&E Greenwire, behind paywall:
In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the 22 Republican members of the House and Senate raised questions about the analysis underlying EPA’s conclusions about the public health benefits of a lower ozone limit.
EPA in November proposed to tighten the national ambient air quality standard for ozone from 75 parts per billion — last set in 2008 during the George W. Bush administration — to between 65 and 70 ppb after finding that the 75 ppb limit was no longer adequate to protect public health.
“As healthcare professionals, we rely upon the most accurate health data,” the group of lawmakers wrote. “From this vantage, we believe that the proposal’s harms outweigh its claimed benefits and are concerned it could ultimately undermine our constituents’ health.”
Of the lawmakers signing the letter, 13 have doctor of medicine degrees. Some of the other signatories have been trained as dentists or eye doctors. Two are registered nurses. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who has a doctor of medicine degree, led the effort.
From the letter to McCarthy:
Studies show that income is a key factor in public health, a link confirmed by our first-hand experience as medical professionals caring for patients, including the low income and uninsured. As well, stakeholders have noted serious questions regarding the health benefits EPA claims to support the proposal, and we are concerned that the uncertain benefits asserted by EPA in its ozone proposal will be overshadowed by its harm to the economy and human health. In light of the long-term continuing trend towards cleaner air, as well as ongoing work by states toward further improvements under existing regulations, we encourage EPA to protect American jobs, the economy, and public health by maintaining the existing ozone NAAQS [National Ambient Air Quality Standards].
The letter, citing a study from the National Association of Manufacturers, points out that at a 65 ppb threshold for ozone, rural areas like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon National Parks would fall into “non-attainment” of the new standard, and as much as over half the entire nation. This would lead, naturally, to job loss and economic turmoil, “making the proposal the most expensive regulation in U.S. history.”
Oil and gas development a boon to one Colorado community, whether or not the company’s investment pans out:
DE BEQUE — A natural gas project by Black Hills Exploration & Production in the De Beque area is involving some upfront investment risks by the company, but with the potential of large rewards for not only Black Hills but the region’s economy and tax base.
Whatever happens, the investment already is paying off for local farmers and ranchers, thanks to a pipeline and water pump station project that officials celebrated the completion of Friday. Black Hills paid for the $8 million project to help supply water for its hydraulic fracturing of wells, but most of the water will be used for irrigation, including by the town, which will reduce De Beque’s need to exercise its senior water rights at the expense of area ranchers.
The water project is an upfront investment that won’t fully pay off for Black Hills unless its De Beque drilling project proceeds to the development phase. But John Benton, vice president and general manager of Black Hills E&P, likes the fact that the company has built something of such value to the De Beque area no matter how its drilling project pans out.
“Regardless of whether we go forward or not with our program, it’s created something that will benefit the community for years to come,” he said.
If the project proceeds, Mesa County could see not only more jobs but an increased tax base.
Not all Colorado communities are filled with activists seeking to ban or otherwise hinder oil and gas development in their back yard:
A few years after a series of anti-oil-and-gas ordinances and ballot initiatives cascaded through several towns in Colorado, some local governments are speaking up in favor of the state’s multibillion-dollar energy industry.
In the last few months, trustees in the tiny town of Platteville in Weld County and commissioners from counties near Denver have signed letters and passed resolutions that speak in favor of the industry and its high-paying jobs.
“If there’s someone who comes in and wants to ban fracking, at that time we’ll vote on it,” Bonnie Dunston, Platteville’s mayor, told the Denver Business Journal.
“But we’re not going to ban fracking. Oil and gas does a lot for us, for our town, our community, and we’re just saying that we’re going to keep oil and gas going here in Platteville,” she said.
Douglas, Arapahoe, and Jefferson county officials have all recently either affirmed support for responsible development within the oil and gas industry or indicated their opposition to bans of any kind, according to DBJ. The officials noted that, while the counties did not see as much direct involvement within their borders compared to places like Weld County, many of their residents worked within the industry.
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Unlike Colorado’s failed attempt to provide state oversight to proposed Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” regulations, Kansas’ legislature has passed requirements for any CPP state implementation plan, including no plan at all, should it conflict with ongoing litigation against the EPA’s power to bring forth the CPP:
Kansas governor Sam Brownback (R) signed a bill setting parameters for how the state complies with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan.
The bill, HB 2233, requires state agencies responsible for drafting a state implementation plan (SIP) to examine potential electricity rate impacts that may arise from complying with the EPA rule to address CO2 emissions from existing power plants. The law mandates that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment identify ways to avoid unreasonable costs under a best system of emissions reductions, which may include emissions trading or emissions averaging across the generation fleet. Brownback signed the bill into law on 28 May.
The law creates an oversight committee of state lawmakers that will track the progress of and vote on the SIP. The Clean Power Plan Implementation Study Committee will run from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2017.
Like other states such as New Mexico, Kansas state agencies have called the EPA’s CPP into question, “citing concerns over its legality, federal overreach into grid reliability and a limited timeline for implementation.”
Those concerns have prompted Kansas to join other state attorneys general in legal challenges targeting EPA’s ability to bring forth regulations like those under the CPP:
Attorney general Derek Schmidt (R) is among 19 state attorneys general who have called on EPA to withdraw its proposed CO2 standards for new power plants, and the state is participating in two lawsuits challenging the Clean Power Plan proposal.
The new law allows state regulators to not submit a plan if the attorney general determines that such a plan would conflict with Kansas’ legal position in current or pending legal challenges against the rule.
In testifying for Colorado’s Electricity Consumers’ Protection Act (SB 258), attorney Mike Nasi outlined possible legal objections to the EPA’s proposed rules.
Colorado’s SB 258 would have tasked the Public Utilities Commission, with input from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as approval from the state legislative body, with creating a CPP SIP for the state that considered costs and required a full, public, and deliberative process rather than unilateral executive agency rulemaking from CDPHE under the Governor John Hickenlooper’s direction.
With the defeat of the bill, Governor Hickenlooper announced that, unlike Kansas’ measured approach, Colorado would capitulate to the EPA’s CPP and push forward with state implementation.
Colorado environmentalists and renewable energy advocates enjoy touting other states’ efforts on issues including renewable energy standards and renewable subsidies.
But this year, Kansas modified its RES, making the mandate a “voluntary goal”:
Kansas governor Sam Brownback (R) yesterday signed into law a bill converting the state’s renewable energy standard to a voluntary goal.
The bill, SB 91, replaces the state’s standard, which required 20pc renewable energy use by 2020, with a voluntary target on the same timetable. SB 91 also exempts existing renewable energy facilities in the state, mostly wind farms, from property taxes and gives new renewable energy facilities a 10-year property tax exemption.
Wind accounted for 21.7pc of Kansas’ generation mix in 2014, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
While the bill was supported by some state wind industry and business groups, environmentalists have criticized it, saying it should have at least called for a higher voluntary goal to give utilities “something to aspire to.”
In a free market, utilities and others involved with energy production will voluntarily move to where the market leads–they will “aspire to” serve their customers with an energy fuel mix that best suits the state’s and individual utility’s needs and consumer’s wants.
Government should not be picking energy or electricity winners and losers, and moving from a legal mandate to voluntary guidelines is a step in the right direction for free market energy, as is limiting a property tax exemption from permanent to a sunset at 10 years.