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Renewable Energy a Hot Topic in Arizona


In November, Arizona voters may decide how much of their electricity must come from renewable energy. In anticipation, legislators are already passing bills on this issue. Renewable energy advocates, however, are not happy with what lawmakers are doing.


California billionaire Tom Steyer is bankrolling a movement to put a strict renewable energy mandate on the state ballot. This initiative would require that 50% of all electricity in the state must be generated from renewable sources by 2030. Nuclear power could not be counted as “renewable energy.” Current Arizona regulations mandate that 15% of all electricity must be from renewable sources by 2025.


Legislators responded by passing legislation specifying that if voters approve the initiative, the maximum fine that utilities would face for violating it would be $5,000. They are also considering placing an alternative measure on the ballot that would also impose a 50% renewable energy mandate, but allow it not to be implemented if it would raise consumers’ electricity rates.


Renewable energy advocates say that the legislature is trying to undermine their goal of forcing state utilities to produce cleaner energy. They contend that the legislation capping fines for non-compliant utilities essentially gives these utilities a license to ignore the new mandate, since the cost for violating it would be minimal. They also say that the alternative ballot proposal is a blatant attempt to confuse voters.


Those backing these legislative renewable energy measures counter that they are protecting Arizonans from out-of-state interest groups that are looking to confuse voters with an initiative that will impose heavy costs on consumers. Legislators say that they are merely giving Arizonans an alternative choice through another ballot measure. With renewable energy sources less reliable and more expensive than traditional energy sources, they contend, this referendum would give voters who support renewable energy more flexibility.


It remains to be seen if either of these measures will be on November’s ballot.


Do you think it is a good idea to mandate that 50% of Arizona’s energy must come from renewable energy sources?



Energy Issues Fueling Disagreement in North Carolina


From a natural gas pipeline to offshore drilling, energy issues are a top concern for North Carolina’s elected officials in early 2018.


The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a contentious issue since the proposal to extend it through North Carolina was announced. Environmentalists attacked it as being harmful to the environment, while business groups and unions supported the pipeline for its job-creating potential. North Carolina regulators recently approved permits allowing pipeline construction can begin, but this move spurred further controversy in the Tar Heel State.


On the same day state regulators approved permits for the pipeline, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced that the companies behind the pipeline were setting up a $57.8 million fund for the state to use for environmental and renewable energy projects. Republican legislators charged that this was a “slush fund” given in exchange for state approval, something the governor denied. The legislators then passed a bill, later signed by Gov. Cooper, re-directing the money put in this fund to be used for schools along the pipeline’s path.


Legislators are continuing to raise issues about whether Gov. Cooper acted properly. They note that he owns property along the path of the pipeline, although the governor has said he would not profit directly from any state funds related to building it. The chairman of the Senate Rules Committee is calling for an investigation into the governor’s role in setting up the $58 million fund. Regulators deny that their decision to approve the pipeline was linked to the agreement brokered by the governor to establish the fund.


While Gov. Cooper supports moving ahead with a natural gas pipeline through the state, he is fighting efforts to allow oil and natural gas production off of North Carolina’s coast. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration revealed an offshore energy plan that would permit oil and gas exploration in North Carolina’s coastal waters. Attorney General Josh Stein as well as some local and state lawmakers also oppose this plan.


The final decision on offshore drilling rests with the federal government. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has already exempted Florida from the areas where offshore drilling would be allowed. If the final federal plan includes North Carolina, Gov. Cooper has vowed to sue to stop it.


Do you think energy companies gave Gov. Cooper a “slush fund” in return for the state approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? Do you support offshore oil and natural gas production off of North Carolina’s coast?


Energy Issues at Play in Virginia Race


Republican Ed Gillespie thinks that the way to the Virginia governor’s mansion lies through coal country. His opponent, Democratic Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, embraces renewable energy sources as the way to advance Virginia. Their divergent views on energy issues present a stark choice for voters as they choose the commonwealth’s next governor in November.


Coal played a big role in the final gubernatorial debate held this week. The two candidates squared off at the University of Virginia’s campus in Wise, located in the southwest corner of the state. This is the middle of coal country, and Gillespie played up this fact repeatedly. He stressed his support for coal jobs, his backing of a coal tax credit, and his happiness that President Trump is reversing the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.


Lt. Governor Northam also declared his support for coal jobs, but then went on to discuss his view on renewable energy sources. He said that wind and solar “would move us to cleaner energy and a cleaner environment.”


Southwest Virginia has been hit hard due to the declining use of coal. While Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016, this region strongly supported Donald Trump. Many residents there blame environmental policies supported by Democrats for contributing to the problems in the coal industry. That view is shared by Gillespie.


Citing concerns about climate change, Lt. Governor Northam would like Virginia to focus on developing energy sources like wind and solar. Even with his opponent’s stronger embrace of coal, the lieutenant governor garnered the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America Virginia State Council of the Coal Miners.


On other energy issues, Gillespie and Northam have stark differences. Gillespie supports hydraulic fracturing to develop shale gas and offshore drilling, while Northam opposes them. Northam backs Governor Terry McAuliffe’s initiative to limit carbon emissions, while Gillespie does not. Gillespie also supports two controversial natural gas pipelines, while Northam has not taken a stand on that issue.


Do you think that Lt. Governor Ralph Northam is right that Virginia should support renewable energy sources? Or do you prefer Ed Gillespie’s approach of making it easier to develop coal, natural gas, and oil in Virginia?


North Carolina House Bill 589


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in North Carolina, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 589, Change How Utilities Contract with Renewable Energy Facilities: Passed 34 to 11 in the state Senate on June 28, 2017. 


To restructure state electricity policy and place a four-year moratorium on new wind facilities. Currently, utilities are obligated to buy almost all renewable energy as it is produced regardless of system needs. This bill would have utilities field bids to get most of the state's expected renewable capacity under contract to dispatch as needed. It would also require cleanup and financial assurance rules for large solar projects, let military bases and public universities contract with renewable facilities, and let consumers contract with solar companies to install or lease solar facilities and participate in net metering.


Comment below to share what you think of North Carolina House Bill 589!



Pennsylvania Senate Bill 431


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Pennsylvania, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 431, Increase Fines for Littering: Passed 49 to 0 in the state Senate on July 8, 2017. 


To increase the fine for a first-time littering conviction from $300 to $1,000 and require that the offender pick up litter between 5 and 50 hours. For a second offense an offender could pay up to $2,000 and spend 100 hours picking up litte


Comment below to share what you think of Pennsylvania Senate Bill 431!





Ohio Senate Bill 2


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 2, Cleanup of Landfill Facilities and Properties: Passed 33 to 0 in the state Senate on March 15, 2017.


To authorize the Director of Environmental Protection to take actions to abate pollution or contamination at a location where hazardous waste was disposed, and to create processes to work with property owners and responsible parties to fund and complete such remediation projects.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio Senate Bill 2!



Colorado Senate Bill 301


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Colorado, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Senate Bill 301, Repeal and change certain energy-related programs: Passed 18 to 17 in the state Senate on May 10, 2017 and failed in the state House on May 10, 2017


To repeal certain energy-related programs, including the wind for schools grant program, the renewable energy and energy efficiency for schools loan program, certain programs for which the Colorado energy office is responsible, the green building incentive pilot program, the Colorado Clean Energy Finance Program Act. The bill removes certain responsibilities of the Colorado energy office and transfers others. One program change removes certain authorities related to energy-specific license plates to a nonprofit corporation, Natural Capitalism Solutions. The bill would increase the registration fee on electric motor vehicles.


Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 301!


More Offshore Drilling May be Coming



In late April, President Trump signed an executive order that could open up more areas in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic to offshore drilling. This move comes in sharp contrast to President Obama, whose actions sought to place more areas off-limits to oil and gas exploration off of America’s coastline.


President Trump’s order does not mean that offshore drilling in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf or other areas will happen; instead, it begins a regulatory process that could eventually lead to oil and gas production in these areas. This would take years, perhaps over a decade, to happen.


Reaction from energy companies has been supportive, while environmental groups have expressed their displeasure. Politicians from the affected states are falling on both sides of this issue.


In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Mark Warner, both Democrats, support offshore drilling as long as Virginia receives a share of the revenue from it. Republican Representative Barbara Comstock from that state has introduced legislation that would provide this revenue-sharing for the commonwealth. Other Republican members of that state’s delegation support offshore drilling, while Democratic members from the House delegation oppose it.


Alaska’s elected officials, such as Republican Rep. Don Young, are strongly in favor of expanded oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. At the opposite end of the country, Florida Democrats such as Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz have vowed to fight the president on this issue.


North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, has expressed concerns about offshore drilling but has not stated that he opposes the President’s action. GOP Congressman Richard Hudson has praised the president for his move.


Do you support offshore oil and gas exploration? Or do you think that drilling for oil and gas off of our nation’s coast is the wrong direction for our energy policy?


Ohio House Bill 114


Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


House Bill 114, Reduce renewable energy mandates: Passed 65 to 31 in the state House on March 30, 2017


To limit and reduce previous government mandates for "renewable" energy purchasing by utilities.


Comment below to share what you think of Ohio House Bill 114!


Trump Pulls US from Climate Agreement


The U.S. is going its own way on climate change policy. For President Trump, that’s exactly what he wants. His decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate change accord is a way to protect jobs and preserve national sovereignty. For critics, it means the U.S. will be making environmental problems worse.


What does President Trump’s decision mean?

The practical effects may be very little. The Paris climate accord sets carbon emissions goals for participating nations to meet, but these goals are voluntary. The goals for the U.S. would have been a 26-28% reduction in carbon by 2035. It is highly unlikely that this goal was achievable. There is no penalty if the U.S. would not have made those reductions, however.


The agreement also asks wealthier countries to send more foreign aid to poorer countries as a way to help those nations deal with climate change. Again, however, there is no penalty for failing to comply.


The overall goal of the treaty is to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees by the end of the century. There are 195 nations who have signed it.


While proponents of it acknowledge that the accord is not binding, they see it as a way to build consensus among nations to reduce carbon emissions. Critics, however, see complying with its standards as causing higher energy prices and job losses, without doing much to stop climate change.


The U.S. signed the agreement in 2016. This was controversial, since President Obama did not submit it to the Senate for ratification. His administration said that it was an “executive agreement,” not a treaty that requires approval by the Senate. According to the accord, withdrawal can only happen three years after the agreement goes into effect in a country and then one year after notification, so the U.S. date for withdrawal is actually in 2020.


Do you agree with the president’s decision to withdraw from this agreement? Or do you think that the U.S. should be working internationally to reduce carbon emissions?


Pennsylvania House Bill 187: Allow wind energy on preserved farmland


Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Pennsylvania, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!


Pennsylvania House Bill 187, Allow wind energy on preserved farmland: Passed 192 to 4 in the state House on May 10, 2017


To allow farmers who are enrolled in the commonwealth’s farmland preservation program to grant right-of-ways for wind energy systems.


Comment below to share what you think of Pennsylvania House Bill 187!


Ethanol Fuels Pennsylvania Senate Differences

In his race for re-election, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is touting his opposition to ethanol. Is this a winning issue for him? It just may be.

In 2005 and 2007, there was bipartisan support for legislation to impose and broaden the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This law mandates that a certain volume of biofuel must be used in gasoline. Because ethanol is the only commercially viable biofuel, the RFS has resulted in E10 (gasoline containing 10% ethanol) being widely sold across the U.S.

While there was bipartisan support for this biofuel mandate in 2007, there is growing bipartisan opposition to it now. Senator Toomey is one of the most vocal critics of the RFS in Congress. He has worked with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein on legislation and amendments that would eliminate the mandate.

According to the Morning Call, Senator Toomey’s opponent does not share his view: “McGinty, a long-time clean-energy advocate who served as a top environmental policy adviser to former Gov. Ed Rendell and former President Bill Clinton, supports the use of corn ethanol as a renewable fuel that can replace the need for some fossil fuels, according to her campaign.”

Ethanol producers agree with McGinty, saying, “Ethanol is one of the best tools we have to reduce harmful emissions and fight air pollution from our vehicles.” However, a recent report from a University of Michigan researcher concluded, “Despite their purported advantages, biofuels — created from crops such as corn or soybeans — cause more emissions of climate change-causing carbon dioxide than gasoline.”

There is strong political support for ethanol in farm states, especially Iowa. Senator Toomey may have picked a good issue for Pennsylvania, however, since the state is increasingly important for fossil fuels. In addition, as Senator Toomey points out, the ethanol mandate can be a burden on the state’s refineries.

Do you support ethanol in our fuel? Or do you think that it’s time for the ethanol mandate to be repealed?

Carbon Rules and the NC Governor’s Race

Should North Carolina comply with the Obama Administration’s attempt to regulate carbon emissions? Or should the state fight the EPA’s regulation?

That issue has come into play in the race between Republican Governor Pat McCrory and his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper. Twenty-six states are suing the Obama Administration over the Clean Power Plan. North Carolina is one of them, but at the direction of the governor, not the attorney general.

The Clean Power Plan is a regulation put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency that requires states to implement a plan to reduce carbon emissions. The states suing the EPA contend that the agency is going beyond the powers granted to it by law and forcing states to implement an energy plan that will increase electricity costs.

In most states, the Attorney General is the state official who filed suit against the Clean Power Plan. Not in North Carolina, however. Attorney General Cooper disagreed with his colleagues across the nation, saying, “Although this legislation poses constitutional questions, I am even more concerned that this action will risk North Carolina's well-deserved reputation for protecting the quality of our air, recruiting businesses that produce cutting-edged technologies and offering leadership around the world on energy issues.”

Instead, Cooper wants a cooperative approach with the federal government. The Citizen-Times reports that Cooper favors getting groups together to write a plan to comply with the federal carbon-cutting requirements.

Governor McCrory does not favor this collaborative approach with the EPA. He has strong words for the new rules, saying, “Not only will these new federal rules raise electricity rates, they have the potential to jeopardize the success we’ve made in making North Carolina’s air the cleanest it’s been since we began tracking air quality back in the 1970s.”

With Attorney General Cooper’s unwillingness to fight the rules in court, McCrory directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to file suit against this regulation. The state Senate also voted in favor of legislation that would block implementation of the rule.

Do you support Governor McCrory’s attempt to fight this regulation in court? Or do you think Attorney General Cooper is right in his call to work with the federal government to implement this rule?

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