On June 1st, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord, sparking serious concern about the future of global efforts to mitigate climate change. In response, cities, states, and corporations across the United States are collaborating to submit a plan to the United Nations ensuring that the U.S. fulfills its emissions targets under the Paris accord – with or without support from the United States federal government.
Last week, the White House unveiled its $1.65 trillion blueprint for the FY2018 federal budget, which prioritizes discretionary defense spending, with an increase of $54 billion to $603 billion, by reducing total non-defense discretionary funds to $462 billion. Among the agencies targeted for budget cuts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would see its annual funding drop by 24 percent from $8.2 billion a year to $6.1 billion, and since much of that funding already goes to states and localities via grants, the reduction could have a significant impact on the agency’s primary functions. Along with direct funding cuts, the White House may reduce EPA staff by 20 percent, from about 15,000 to roughly 12,000. To learn more about which EPA programs could be cut and other effects the proposed budget could have on environmental and energy policy, read on!
A group of Republican senior statesmen is calling for a carbon tax to fight climate change. Led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Secretary of Treasury Henry M. Paulson Jr., the group believes a carbon tax, which depends on increasing fossil fuel prices to reduce consumption, is a “conservative climate solution” based on free-market principles. Baker and his colleagues met with White House officials on Wednesday to discuss their proposals, which would eliminate nearly all of the Obama Administration’s climate policies with a national carbon tax. This rising tax would start at $40 per ton and be returned to every American in the form of a quarterly check from the Social Security Administration. To learn more about their proposal, read on!
The House of Representatives and Senate returned September 6 from the long August recess that started in mid-July. The House is scheduled to be in session for four weeks and the Senate for five weeks before breaking again for the month of October to campaign. Energy legislation will be debated at the conference of the energy bills (S.2012 and H.R. 8) and potentially during an end of the year tax extenders debate. For further information on energy legislation updates, continue reading!
Last week Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) released a report entitled “Clean Jobs America,” a comprehensive analysis of clean energy and clean transportation jobs in the United States. The study found that over 2.5 million Americans are now employed in the clean energy sector, with energy efficiency accounting for nearly three out of every four clean energy jobs. Read on for a sector-by-sector breakdown of the employment numbers and analysis of the effect of recent international, federal and state policies on the clean energy economy.
The bipartisan energy bill, which Congress has focused on since the start of the new year, has been put on hold following a disagreement over federal aid to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The energy bill was debated on the Senate floor the past two weeks before coming to a halt last Thursday when senators could not agree on the size and scope of an aid package offered by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) to help Flint, Michigan.
Meanwhile, President Obama released his fiscal year 2017 budget request on February 9, which includes $32.5 billion for the Department of Energy. The request calls on the agency to increase clean energy efforts and spending, including $7.7 billion for clean energy across several agencies, about 76 percent of which would go to the DOE for vehicle and building efficiency programs, weatherization, and ARPA-E. Also on February 9, the Supreme Court stayed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan until all legal challenges are complete, thereby reversing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s January 21 decision. Lawsuits over the rule will continue at least into 2017, and the Supreme Court is expected to be the final arbiter of the regulation. For more on these developments and the latest from D.C., read this week’s update from ML Strategies.
Congress has spent a significant chunk of the new year focused on a bipartisan energy bill, which, if passed, would be the first broad bipartisan energy package in nearly ten years. The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012), which cleared, 18-4, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last summer, includes, among other things, language to increase energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy infrastructure, and grid security, as well as to impose deadlines on the Department of Energy to make final decisions on natural gas exports, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and expedite the licensing process for hydropower projects.
The Clean Power Plan, meanwhile, continues to come under fire, as 29 states and state agencies as well as numerous industry groups filed petitions January 26 with the Supreme Court asking the court to reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s January 21 decision not to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. In state news, the California Public Utilities Commission extended January 29 the state’s net metering program for another four years. Existing solar owners will maintain the right to sell excess power back to the grid for four years and new owners will be able to participate in the program after paying a one-time fee. For more on the latest energy happenings, read this week’s update from ML Strategies.
Tom Burton, Chair of Mintz Levin’s Energy Technology Practice, will publish a weekly installment providing insight into the challenges and possible solutions that, if implemented, promise a bright future as clean energy moves America forward. In this series, Tom will include one challenge per week and the potential solution(s). This is the third installment of the series. Click to read Part I and Part II.
On August 3, the Obama Administration released the much anticipated final Clean Power Plan (CPP). The nation’s first ever standard to address power plan pollution has an ambitious overall goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. The plan’s third building block specifically calls for increasing generation from renewable energy sources. States are expected to develop and implement their own plans. They are to choose from either an emissions standards model, based on direct emissions requirements, or a state measures model, which employs a mix of measures, that incorporates the three building blocks.
States that do not file a plan with EPA by their September 2018 deadline will face a federally imposed model called the Federal Implementation Plan (FIP). The FIP the Administration currently proposes would realize similar emissions reductions through cap and trade. EPA would either assign an emissions cap or require states to meet a rate across their power plant fleet. Currently, EPA is accepting comments on the FIP and will decide on an approach next summer. It’s been characterized as both a guide path as states craft plans and also a warning for non-compliers.
The Clean Power Plan comes with some intimidating issues, but offers several attractive opportunities for states, businesses, and consumers.
After an action packed few weeks for energy and environmental policy in Washington, Congress is in recess until after Labor Day. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is currently managing reactions to the Clean Power Plan – both positive and negative. The President is also preparing for historic climate centered meetings with Pope Francis in September and with other world leaders at COP21 in December. Read about these developments and more in the latest update from ML Strategies.
This week in Washington was filled with long awaited energy and climate developments. The Obama Administration revealed the final Clean Power Plan after a lengthy rulemaking and comment process. Congress was also active as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved its bipartisan broad energy package and the House moved on its own broad legislation. Read more on these and other pieces of energy and climate news from ML Strategies.