Updated: Ltr to Rep. Mark Amodei Opposing Passage of HR4923

by Vickie Rock

I am writing you today to urge you to vote NO on HR4923, the FY15 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. This legislation moves us backward on energy and environmental policy by slashing funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency while boosting funding for polluting, mature fossil fuel and nuclear generation technologies. The bill also contains dirty water policy riders that threaten the waters Americans depend on for drinking, swimming, fishing, and flood protection.

But if that isn’t enough, I understand that it also includes anti-environmental policy riders that jeopardize our health and the environment, including those that would prevent action to combat carbon pollution by undermining the president’s Climate Action Plan. I oppose those riders and urge you to take action to remove those riders.

Across the country, clean energy is providing new jobs, decreasing air and water pollution, saving consumers money, and helping to combat dangerous climate change that threatens our future. I’ve personally participated in that effort by installing 9KW of solar generation on my rooftop. Yet HR4923, as proposed by the GOP majority, chooses to ignore those efforts and instead, doubles down on the failed energy policies of the past. If it’s enacted as currently proposed, it would CUT funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and increase funding for fossil fuels that emit dangerous carbon pollution and contribute to global climate change.

HR4923 would increase costs to governments, insurance corporations and citizens from climate change-fueled extreme weather events like prolonged heat waves, more severe droughts, and an extended season of wildfires continue to rise. We should be increasing investment in cleaner technologies, not encouraging more production of dirty fossil fuels.

Then there’s the subject of the two harmful water policy riders. The first would PROHIBIT the Army Corps of Engineers from moving forward with their draft Clean Water Rule to protect small streams and wetlands that provide flood protection, filter pollution, and contribute to the drinking water for 117 million Americans. The second would PROHIBIT the Army Corps from updating the definition of “fill material,” which would allow mining companies to continue to dump toxic mining waste into mountain streams. Really? THAT is not GOOD policy and I urge support for any amendments that strike these harmful provisions. In addition I urge you to reject any attempts on the floor to add even more amendments that attack our important environmental protections. These policy riders should not be included in a spending bill, and they put the health and safety of Americans and our environment at risk.

PLEASE REJECT HR4923, a harmful spending bill that prioritizes the dirty energies of the past over the clean energies of our future and OPPOSE any anti-environmental amendments, including those that attempt to restrict the EPA’s ability to limit carbon pollution from power plants.


Update: 4/13/2014
If deliberately making the environment worse is your cup of TEA, like Rep. Mark Amodei and his brethren in the House Of Representatives, you’ll be thrilled to know that they just passed the mother of all anti Mother Nature bills. Rep. Mark Amodei voted “FOR” passage; Rep. Joe Heck at least had the good sense to see the folly in HR4923 and that it would harm his Nevada constituents.  Energy efficient light bulbs are out. Low flow toilets are out. Renewable energy programs get cut, while taxpayer subsidies for coal and other fossil fuels get increased. The EPA is forbidden to implement any action designed to fix climate change and even the study of climate change is banned. The Corps of Engineers can’t do anything to protect our streams and waterways.  And, funding for storing nuclear waste storage in Yucca Mountain is in.  There isn’t really any sense to any of this. It is just a collection of middle fingers to the Obama administration and environmentalists. Hopefully, the bill won’t go anywhere in the Senate or be signed into law by the President as it was passed by the House.

Still waiting on any response back from Representative Amodei’s office re: my letter requesting that he vote “NO” on this onerous bill.

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Oklahoma Will Charge Customers Who Install Their Own Solar Panels

The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) is promoting legislation with goals ranging from penalizing individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from fulfilling its currently legislated functions.  ALEC sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year.  Those measures were aimed at opposing renewable energy standards, pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline project, and barring any oversight of fracking (hydraulic fracturing).  One such “ALEC” bill has recently come to fruition in Oklahoma, where they’ll now be charging homeowners who have Solar Panels or Wind Turbine generators to use the grid when they have excess generation.  (Those who don’t generate, will NOT be charged grid usage fees, just those who do generate … will.)  In other words, homeowners in Oklahoma with solar panels have to pay the Utilities to let their solar generation support the Utility’s peaking needs.  

I have a solar panel array on my rooftop.  Sometimes I manage to generate more than I use, but that doesn’t happen 24 hours a day.  Nevada Energy utilizes my less expensive generation to help supply its generation needs.  Thus, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  Why should I have to pay to provide them with generation they’ll turn around and sell for more than it cost me to generate it?  

If Nevada is so stupid as to pass the same ill-advised legislation, I’ll invest in batteries and go completely off the grid!  Nevada Energy will just have to figure out where it’s going to get the money to build more expensive generation capabilities to meet its customer’s peaking needs when enough of us have had enough and start dropping off the grid altogether. — Vickie Rock, editor

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— by Kiley Kroh 

solar

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK).

On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard.

“We knew nothing about it and all of a sudden it’s attached to some other bill,” Ctaci Gary, owner of Sun City Oklahoma, told ThinkProgress. “It just appeared out of nowhere.”

Because the surcharge amount has not been determined, Gary is cautious about predicting the impact it will have on her business. She has already received multiple calls from people asking questions about the bill and wanting to have solar systems installed before the new fee takes effect. “We’re going to use it as a marketing tool,” Gary said. “People deserve to have an opportunity [to install their own solar panels] and not be charged.”

“It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own,” said Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman, Oklahoma, in a statement. “Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”

The bill was staunchly opposed by renewable energy advocates, environmental groups and the conservative group TUSK, but had the support of Oklahoma’s major utilities. “Representatives of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma said the surcharge is needed to recover some of the infrastructure costs to send excess electricity safely from distributed generation back to the grid,” the Oklahoman reported.

“We’re not anti-solar or anti-wind or trying to slow this down, we’re just trying to keep it fair,” Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Kathleen O’Shea told the Oklahoman. “We’ve been studying this trend. We know it’s coming, and we want to get ahead of it.”

But distributed energy sources also provide a clear value to utility companies. Solar generates during peak hours, when a utility has to provide electricity to more people than at other times during the day and energy costs are at their highest. Solar panels actually feed excess energy back to the grid, helping to alleviate the pressure during peak demand. In addition, because less electricity is being transmitted to customers through transmission lines, it saves utilities on the wear and tear to the lines and cost of replacing them with new ones.

As the use of solar power skyrockets across the U.S., fights have sprung up in several states over how much customers should be compensated for excess power produced by their solar panels and sold back to the grid — a policy known as net metering. Net metering laws have come under fire from the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group backed by fossil fuel corporations, utility companies, and the ultra-conservative Koch brothers. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have net metering policies in place and ALEC has set its sights on repealing them,referring to homeowners with their own solar panels as “freeriders on the system.” ALEC presented Gov. Fallin the Thomas Jefferson Freedom award last year for her “record of advancing the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty as a nationally recognized leader.”

Oklahoma “could be the first complete defeat for solar advocates in their fight against utility efforts to recover costs lost to DG [distributed generation] use,”writes Utility Dive. Net metering survived attacks in Colorado  and Kansas  and Vermont recently increased its policy in a bipartisan effort. Last year, Arizona added what amounts to a $5 per month surcharge for solar customers, a move that was widely seen as a compromise, particularly after ALEC and other Koch-backed groups got involved.

While any extra charge placed on potential customers is a concern, Gary hopes that like Arizona, Oklahoma’s fee is modest enough to protect her business from serious damage.

Matt Kasper, energy research assistant at the Center for American Progress, contributed to this piece.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Shell Annual Report Delivers A Fossil-Fueled Bombshell

Believe it or not, Shell — of all companies — gets it.

— By Brett Fleishman

Brett_Fleischman

Royal Dutch Shell buried a bombshell in its recently released 2013 annual report.

Amid 200 pages of predictably and mind-numbingly dry text, the world’s seventh-largest oil company foreshadowed something big. Here are the exact words, which Shell buried in the  report’s “risk factors” section:

If we are unable to find economically viable, as well as publicly acceptable, solutions that reduce our CO2 emissions for new and existing projects or products, we may experience additional costs, delayed projects, reduced production and reduced demand for hydrocarbons.”

Believe it or not, Shell — of all companies — gets it.

Shell gets that unless things change quickly, another big financial market bubble has the potential to bring people to their knees.

It’s called the “Carbon Bubble,” and it’s a very simple equation.

Fossil-fuel companies already hold more coal, oil, and gas reserves than people and industry can possibly use before climate change reaches the point where life as we know it can’t continue.

Simply put, these companies have more product than they can sell. And their value is based on their total reserves. That means fossil-fuel assets are significantly overvalued.

Why hasn’t Wall Street imploded over this yet? Well, remember how “nobody” could see the housing bubble coming?

The truth is, Wall Street is still profiting from fossil fuels. And when economists and analysts tried to warn people about the housing bubble, just like some of them are now attempting to do about the carbon bubble, their foresight fell on deaf ears.

And if memories of the last economic crisis or even the phrase “market bubble” give you goose bumps, ask yourself how exposed you are to investments in oil, gas, and coal — the three kinds of fossil fuels. Does your pension plan, retirement plan, or family nest egg invest in the likes of Shell Oil?

As a senior analyst for 350.org, an activist organization that fights climate change, my job is to help persuade college endowments, city pension funds, and foundations to divest from fossil fuels.

In my conversations (really they’re debates) with boards of trustees and treasurers of multibillion-dollar pension funds and endowments, the biggest concern is always risk and return.

People charged with these investment decisions want to maximize returns.

Well, as our ability to burn carbon safely diminishes and the reserves of fossil-fuel companies increase, those investments will continue to become riskier and less profitable.

The logic is so clear, even Shell doesn’t think they are a good investment. The oil giant is looking for “viable solutions to reduce” its own CO2 emissions.

Shell’s not the only oil giant reckoning with this reality. Bowing to shareholder pressure, ExxonMobil just announced plans to produce a first-of-its-kind report showing how the growing trend in climate change activism is destabilizing their financial security.

“The deal is a big victory for the relatively new movement by some investors to get energy companies to consider how climate change policies will affect the bottom line,” according to Politico Morning Energy.

If you do one thing for your future, consider divesting from fossil fuels. It’s a great way to minimize your vulnerability to a serious financial crisis while investing in a more hospitable future for your children.

Brett Fleishman is a senior analyst for 350.org.  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org

Secretary Jewell Announces Two Solar Projects Approved in California, Nevada

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, create jobs and move our economy toward clean energy sources, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the approval of two solar energy projects located near the Nevada-California border that are expected to supply 550 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power about 170,000 homes, and support more than 700 jobs through construction and operations.

Today’s approvals bring to 50 the number of utility-scale renewable energy proposals and associated transmission that the Interior Department has approved since 2009, including 27 solar, 11 wind, and 12 geothermal projects. Together, the projects could support more than 20,000 construction and operations jobs and, when built, generate nearly 14,000 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 4.8 million homes. Thirteen of the projects are already in operation, including the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a 377-megawatt solar thermal plant that started commercial operations and delivering power to California’s electric grid last week.

“When President Obama first took office in 2009, there were no solar projects approved on public lands, and no process in place to move forward the hundreds of applications pending from businesses that wanted to harness renewable energy to help power our nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “With today’s milestone of 50 utility-scale renewable energy projects approved on public lands since our standing start in 2009, and with a number of those already producing energy for the nation’s electric grid, our clean energy future is bright.”

The first project is the 300-megawatt Stateline Solar Farm Project, a facility that will be built in San Bernardino County, California, on approximately 1,685 acres of public land located two miles south of the California-Nevada border. Using photovoltaic panels, the facility will generate enough electricity to power approximately 90,000 homes and create an estimated 400 jobs during construction and 12 permanent jobs during operations. The facility will connect to the grid via a 2.7-mile 220-kilovolt transmission line.

The second project is the 250-megawatt Silver State South Solar Project located near Primm, Nevada on approximately 2,400 acres of public land. The facility is expected to power approximately 80,000 homes and will be located adjacent to the 50-megawatt Silver State North Project, the first solar plant on public lands to deliver power to the grid. Silver State South will also use photovoltaic panels and will generate an estimated 300 jobs during construction and 15 permanent operations jobs.

Both projects are proposed by the company First Solar and have commitments from Southern California Edison to purchase the projects’ output for 20 years.

“These solar projects reflect exemplary cooperation between the Bureau of Land Management and other federal, state and local agencies, enabling a thorough environmental review and robust mitigation provisions,” said BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze. “Secretary Jewell’s commitment to a landscape-level approach represents a responsible balance between the need for renewable energy and our mandate to protect the public’s natural resources.”

First Solar has agreed to undertake significant project design changes and mitigation measures to minimize impacts to wildlife, water, historical, cultural and other resources. For example, the BLM worked on the Stateline proposal to reduce the project’s footprint by more than 20 percent to avoid and minimize project impacts. In addition, as part of ongoing efforts to protect the threatened Desert Tortoise, the BLM is expanding the nearby Ivanpah Desert Wildlife Management Area by more than 20,000 acres and requiring that the developer achieve 3:1 compensatory mitigation for Desert Tortoise for its 1,685 acres.

For the Silver State South project, the project design was modified to reduce the size of the facility by 100 megawatts. Mitigation measures include soil stabilization to prevent erosion and polluted runoff. In addition, the developer must fund over $3.6 million for Desert Tortoise mitigation and $3.5 million for studies intended to guide future efforts to protect the Desert Tortoise in the project area. The company must also assess the project’s potential adverse impact if archaeological properties at the site are found to be eligible for National Register of Historic Places listing.

“As we implement the President’s Climate Action Plan to generate jobs, cut carbon pollution and move our economy toward clean energy sources, we need to do so in a way that takes the long view and avoids or minimizes conflicts with important natural and cultural resources,” added Jewell.

Additional information on the projects is available here.

Moving to Cleaner Energy — Letting the Sun Shine In

Why would the ALEC network of state-level lobbyists want to make solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses?

By Isaiah J. Poole

Isaiah_Poole

Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.

I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.

Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.

caf-alec-Brookhaven National LaboratoryWhat’s not to love?

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?

Yes, according to ALEC, an organization that specializes in getting the right-wing agenda written into state laws, people like me who invest in energy-efficiency and shrinking our carbon footprints ought to be penalized.

Why does ALEC want us punished? Since it’s bankrolled by, among others, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, it’s hard not to surmise that they’re worried about a threat to fossil fuels businesses. Koch Industries’ operations include refineries, oil and natural gas pipelines, and petrochemicals

That’s no conspiracy theory. Recently the British newspaper The Guardian wrote about the assault on solar panels as part of a broader exposé on ALEC.

John Eick, the legislative analyst for ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture program, confirmed to The Guardian that the organization would support making solar panel users pay extra for the electricity they generate. That’s already about to happen in Arizona, where homeowners who use solar panels will pay an average of about $5 extra a month for the privilege, starting in January.

The solar power industry called the new rule a victory only because power companies in the state were demanding assessments of as much as $100 a month — more than high enough to deter families from considering switching to solar.

Making solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses is part of a larger ALEC objective, affirmed at its recent annual meeting, to continue its effort to eliminate state renewable energy mandates.

According to meeting minutes, ALEC has already succeeded in getting legislation introduced in 15 states to “reform, freeze, or repeal their state’s renewable mandate.” ALEC lobbyists are pushing policies through states that will speed up climate change and increase pollution. They’re threatening the renewable energy industry, which is already creating new jobs and saving money for homeowners and businesses.

Without the current policy paralysis in Washington and a lack of bold, creative thinking about how to build a new, green economy at the national level, they wouldn’t be making so much headway.

My organization, Institute for America’s Future — together with the Center for American Progress and the BlueGreen Alliance — recently published a report that shows what’s at stake with ALEC’s destructive agenda.

Our “green industrial revolution” report recommends tying together a series of regional solutions that take advantage of the unique assets of each part of the country, such as the abundance of sun in the West and the wind off the Atlantic coast, into a cohesive whole.

These regional strategies would be supported by smart federal policies, such as establishing a price for carbon emissions and a national clean energy standard, creating certainty and stability in the alternative energy tax credit market, and providing strong support for advanced energy manufacturing.

This is the way to unleash the kind of innovation and job creation our economy — and our rapidly warming planet — desperately needs.

My solar panels are the envy of my block and I wish more of my neighbors will be able to make the same choice I did. But they won’t if fossil-fuel dinosaurs like the Koch brothers and right-wing organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council keep casting their dark clouds on efforts to build a clean energy future.

It’s time for them to step aside and let the sun shine in.


Isaiah J. Poole is the editor of OurFuture.org, the website of the Campaign for America’s Future. OurFuture.org.  Photo credit to:  Brookhaven National Laboratory/Flickr,  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org