Energy

The Obama administration released the final version of the Clean Power Plan last week at a White House ceremony attended by a crowd of administration officials, members of Congress and environmental advocates. This highly anticipated plan is the first comprehensive federal rule to target carbon emissions from existing, new and modified power plants. It is touted as the most ambitious regulation ever aimed at combating climate change.

The Quadrennial Energy Review, or QER, is the federal government’s analysis of energy vulnerabilities. Released in April as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the QER’s goal is to strengthen energy policy by reviewing existing laws and regulations in order to recommend new policies while taking into account numerous perspectives. The first installment focuses on energy infrastructure, particularly transportation, storage and distribution--or TS&D--with additional installments coming every four years. The Department of Energy requested $500 million in the 2016 fiscal year budget as part of a down payment on the QER’s recommendations totaling $16 billion in expenditures.

CSG Midwest
Two years ago, an explosive fire caused by a rail tanker car carrying crude oil took 47 lives and destroyed much of the downtown Québec city of Lac Megantic. A number of nonfatal fires involving oil-carrying trains have followed, most recently this year in Illinois and North Dakota. These incidents have raised safety concerns on both sides of the border, as well as this question: What can governments do to prevent the accidents from occurring? This spring, a mix of new federal and state standards were unveiled that set new rules for tanker cars and what is being loaded on them.

All used nuclear fuel produced by the U.S. nuclear energy industry in the past 50 years—approximately 72,000 metric tons—if stacked end-to-end would cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of about seven yards. Although the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established a national program for the safe, permanent disposal of highly radioactive waste, currently there is no disposal site in the United States for spent rods from the more than 100 operating commercial nuclear reactors across the country. As the nation moves to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear energy may become an increasingly important element in the stability of the U.S. power system, intensifying the need for a permanent solution to spent fuel storage. This free webinar reviews current storage practices and explore challenges and opportunities for a permanent storage solution for the nation’s high-level radioactive spent fuel.

CSG Midwest
For decades, the federal government’s plan for nuclear waste — both from production of nuclear weapons and from commercial nuclear reactors — has been to store all of it at a single, permanent geologic repository. But in March, the Obama administration announced a significant shift in that policy strategy.
The U.S. Department of Energy now plans “to move forward with the planning for a consent-based, defense-only repository for some of the DOE-managed high-level wastes,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

“I believe that this case is the most important case regarding the energy system in this country that the Supreme Court has ever yet to consider.” Strong words from Former Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff (even though the last two landmark cases involving the nation’s electric grid were from 1923 and 1944).

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether FERC may regulate “demand response” payments offered to electric utility customers to reduce their electricity use during periods of high demand. State and local governments may save money through participating in demand response programs. But the Electric Power Supply Association argued, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, that FERC’s Order 745 encroaches on states’ regulatory authority.

CSG South

On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule under the authority of Section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. This Proposed Rule would establish state-specific goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions by setting firm carbon reduction standards that each state would have to meet beginning in 2020 and accelerating through 2030. While it is unclear whether the EPA will revise its Final Rule, which is expected by July 2015, many states in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments already have enacted legislation addressing the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule and its regulations.

This SLC Issue Alert provides an overview of some measures taken by state legislatures in the SLC region to address the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule through the 2014 legislative session. This Issue Alert is not a legal analysis of Section 111(d), nor does it take a position on compliance pathways or the EPA’s proposed state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) goals.

The Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in Oneok v. Learjet is a solid win for states, consumer protection, and the Ninth Circuit. The Court held the Natural Gas Act does not preempt state-law antitrust lawsuits alleging price manipulation that affect both federally regulated wholesale natural-gas prices and nonfederally regulated retail natural-gas prices.

Historically, federal regulation of the natural-gas industry has been divided into three segments:  production, interstate gas pipelines (wholesale), and local gas distribution (retail). The federal Natural Gas Act regulates only the second segment—the interstate shipment of gas including rate setting—states regulate the other segments. Since deregulation in the 1970s, pipeline wholesalers have sold natural gas at market rate based on price indices of voluntarily reported data of natural gas sales. In 2003 the indices were found to be inaccurate because natural-gas traders had been reporting false data. 

Interest in using solar energy to power homes continues to skyrocket and rural electric cooperatives are taking notice. Rural co-ops--nonprofit consumer-owned utilities--are responding to demands from their members looking to invest in community solar projects. Utilities are developing these programs, which allow customers to pay for the cost of one or more panels in exchange for a credit on their bill based on the energy the panels produce. This eCademy session features experts discussing the national trend of community solar programs and specific examples to help state policymakers better understand this emerging trend.

Interest in using solar energy to power homes continues to skyrocket and rural electric cooperatives are taking notice. Rural co-ops --nonprofit consumer-owned utilities-- are responding to demands from their members looking to invest in community solar projects. Utilities are developing these programs, which allow customers to pay for the cost of one or more panels in exchange for...

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