Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Franklin, Benton PUDs Note Deadlines Set for Washington State Solar Incentive Program (Franklin & Benton PUDs, Tri-Cities, WA)

(Tri-Cities, WA) Deadlines have been set for a popular Washington renewable-energy incentive program that is nearing the maximum funding level and is expected to meet the incentive limit by June 2019.   Although funds may be exhausted at any time, Washington State University has notified utilities that customers installing residential scale solar projects have until February 14, 2019 to apply for the State Incentive Program.  After that date, customers will be put on a waitlist and applications will only be processed if funds are available.  This is due to the overall program nearing the state funding limit of $110 million, not each utility’s specific funding limit.  As of Oct. 17, 2018, around $95 million of the funds had been reserved either through application reviews already underway, existing contracts, or project certification or precertification.  However, there is a strong possibility that funds will be exhausted before the Washington State February 14th deadline.

Smaller projects, with capacities up to 12 kW (residential scale) or greater than 12 kW (commercial scale), must be installed and pass a final electrical inspection by Jan. 31, 2019, and then apply for incentive payments by Feb. 14, 2019. Application submittals or inspections after these dates will be placed on a waitlist and processed only if funds are available.

The two separate procedures and deadlines were established by Washington State University’s Energy Program, which administers the incentive program, to fairly allocate the remaining funding among the project categories.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Carbon Fee Initiative: High Stakes, High Spending in Washington State (Politico)

(Olympia, WA) – One week from today voters in Washington state will decide on a ballot measure that could make their state the first in the nation to require polluters to pay a fee on carbon pollution. But before voters head to the polls, a showdown is unfolding between grass-root environmental activists — who have the backing of billionaires like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg — and the oil and gas industry that has raised about twice as much to defeat the ballot initiative known as I-1631.

The fee would start at $15 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 and increase by $2 per year — plus inflation — until 2035. Seventy percent of the funds raised under the fee would go to pay for "clean air and clean energy" projects, 25 percent for "clean water and forest" projects and 5 percent would help communities adapt to climate change impacts, Pro's Anthony Adragna reports, with estimates suggesting I-1631 could generate $2.3 billion over the first five fiscal years.

Backers of the ballot measure have raised $15.2 million with the help of big-name donors like Gates and Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Powell Jobs, Anthony reports. But they are facing an opposition campaign that has raised nearly $30 million almost entirely from oil and gas companies, including BP America, Phillips 66 and Koch Industries. Opponents say they worry the funds raised by the carbon fee would not be spent effectively but could increase costs for low-income consumers.

One statewide poll from this month put the ballot initiative on course to pass with support of 50 percent of voters versus 36 percent opposed. "We believe strongly that the policy is built to reduce emissions and be effective and that it covers the economy-wide emissions in a reasonable and effective approach," Mike Stevens, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said in an interview. "This is a carefully constructed policy that very carefully evaluated the issues of exemptions and public oversight."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Scientists Declare Annual ‘Dead Zone’ Season Off Pacific Coast (Politico, Morning Energy)

(Washington, DC) – State ecologists on the West Coast say there is a new ‘season,’ akin to wildfire season: The time of year in which falling oxygen levels on the seafloor kill off commercial fishermen’s catches.

"We can now say that Oregon has a hypoxia season much like the wildfire season," Francis Chan, co-chair of a California task force tracking the growing problem known as hypoxia, told NPR on Sunday.

It’s become a regular danger: "Every summer we live on the knife's edge and during many years we cross the threshold into danger – including the past two years," Chan said. "When oxygen levels get low enough, many marine organisms who are place-bound, or cannot move away rapidly enough, die of oxygen starvation."

The presence of warmer water off the U.S. Pacific Coast, attributable to global warming, is causing oxygen levels on the seafloor to disappear, killing off the crabs and other sea creatures that commercial fishermen rely on.

Feds still plugging away on climate under Trump: The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is funding research to help policymakers understand the problem amid rising global temperatures, according to its website.

“Changes in both global and regional climates have the potential to make coastal and marine ecosystems even more vulnerable to hypoxic conditions,” says the agency. NOAA's coastal climate change program is conducting interdisciplinary research to understand the relationship between ecosystem function and climate change, it says.

Monday, October 15, 2018

FERC Nominee Will Have to Wait on His Senate Hearings (Politico, Morning Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The U-S Senate skipped town Thursday until after the election — leaving FERC nominee Bernard McNamee to wait for his turn before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. McNamee, the Energy Department's policy chief, had been scheduled to testify at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, less than two weeks after President Donald Trump tapped him for the fifth FERC seat. Democrats and consumer watchdogs balked at the speedy timeline for McNamee, a controversial pick thanks to his involvement in the administration's efforts to prop up lagging coal and nuclear power plants. But that hearing is likely to be rescheduled for some time in November now that senators are back to the campaign trail.

McNamee had been scheduled to share the witness table with Rita Baranwal, Trump's pick to lead DOE's nuclear energy office, and National Park Service director nominee Raymond David Vela. Committee aides did not respond to requests for comment Thursday night. It remains to be seen whether this delay prevents McNamee from being confirmed this year, as Republicans would like to see.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Time to Vote on America's Water Infrastructure Act (Politico’s Morning Energy

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Shortly after a bitterly divided Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a vote today at 5:30 p.m. for a broad water resources infrastructure package S. 3021 (115) . The bill, America's Water Infrastructure Act, would authorize a slate of new Army Corps of Engineers port, levee and ecosystem restoration projects, and reauthorizes the Safe Drinking Water Act for the first time in two decades. Look for the measure, which passed the House by voice vote, to attract northwards of 85 votes. The leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee — Sens. John Barrasso and Tom Carper — told ME last week to expect about a day of debate before a final vote.

McConnell also filed cloture on the nomination of Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. That move sets up a likely vote on that nomination later this week. The administration first tapped Clark for the role in June 2017 and a coalition of industry groups urged his confirmation back in June.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The FERC and the Furious: Bernard McNamee Nominated to FERC Board (Politico Morning Energy)

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- President Donald Trump intends to nominate Bernard McNamee, the head of the Energy Department's policy office, to take over Rob Powerlson's seat at FERC, the White House announced Wednesday. McNamee played a crucial role in devising last year's proposed rule to bail out coal and nuclear plants struggling in the nation's power markets, which FERC shot down in January. If confirmed, he would also have a crucial vote on whatever DOE puts forward next. FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre welcomed McNamee's nomination, which would return the commission to full strength. "He is eminently qualified for the job, and I look forward to serving with him," McIntyre wrote on Twitter.

Industry is jittery: In principle, FERC's regulated industries prefer a full slate of commissioners to keep the business of the agency moving, but natural gas, renewable, and some electric power groups have spent months battling the Trump administration's attempts to intervene on behalf of coal and nuclear. "The industry is more than well aware of Bernard McNamee's rumored ties to helping craft the Department of Energy's NOPR, which FERC rejected last year," said one industry source opposed to the bailout. "We look forward to his confirmation hearing to learn more on his views on the role of competitive markets in supporting a level-playing field, and expect members of the Senate Energy Committee to make this a central point in confirming his nomination." Dena Wiggins, who leads the Natural Gas Supply Association, said her industry is "keenly interested in seeing FERC continue its work to support competitive markets as well provide a timely and thorough review of proposed pipeline projects."

Green groups concerned: Both Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council were out with negative reviews of McNamee's nomination. "FERC has a longstanding commitment to fuel-neutral regulation, but Mr. McNamee's past writings and career track record suggest that he would seek every opportunity possible to support fossil fuels," John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project housed within NRDC, said in a statement. "He even went so far as to state in an op-ed (The Hill) that fossil fuels 'dramatically improve' the human condition."

Start the clock: Once the White House officially sends McNamee's paperwork to the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee can schedule his nomination hearing. The math on the committee works in his favor — there's no obvious reason for Republicans to oppose him, and Sen. Joe Manchin is likely to vote for him too. But, for the moment, McNamee is riding solo when FERC picks typically move in bipartisan packages, leaving the timing around his confirmation uncertain. Democratic Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur's term ends next year, so the White House could roll out a new Democratic nominee (or renominate LaFleur herself) for that spot. Otherwise, McNamee may be waiting a while before he takes his seat at FERC. Oh, and there's an election in a few weeks that could throw a wrench into things, too.

Bonneville Power Administration Completes 35th Consecutive U-S Treasury Payment (Bonneville Power Administration)

(PORTLAND, OR) – The Bonneville Power Administration paid its 35th consecutive U.S. Treasury payment today. This year’s $862 million payment brings BPA’s cumulative payments to the Treasury during those 35 years to over $29.8 billion.

“This is a significant milestone that demonstrates BPA’s ability to meet all of its financial obligations on an ongoing basis, regardless of changing conditions and markets,” said Michelle Manary, BPA executive vice president and chief financial officer. “It’s also important because it provides a full and timely payment for the benefit of U.S. taxpayers.”

The Treasury payment is significant because it’s BPA’s lowest priority payment and is made only after all other financial obligations are paid in the fiscal year. BPA sets its rates to maintain an annual 97.5 percent probability of making this payment.

This year’s payment includes $569 million in principal, $226 million in interest and $27 million for irrigation assistance, which BPA provides to help irrigators repay their share of certain Reclamation projects.

BPA applied $93 million of credits toward this year’s Treasury payment. BPA received most of this credit under a section of the Northwest Power Act as reimbursement for the non-power share of fish and wildlife costs it pays annually.

In addition to the U.S. Treasury payment, BPA paid operations and maintenance expenses for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projects directly funded by BPA. This direct funding amounted to $421 million in fiscal year 2018.

BPA is a self-financed power marketing administration that receives no annual appropriation funding from Congress. Instead, BPA primarily recovers its costs through revenues from the sale of electric power and transmission services.