Gov. Sandoval Vetoes Healthcare and Renewable Energy Bills

Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed Assembly Bill 374, which would have created a Medicaid buy-in option for all Nevadans. Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II released the following statement:

“Republicans like Senator Heller and Congressman Amodei are actively sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and trying to pass a bill that increases your costs, slashes your coverage, and eliminates key health care protections. Assemblyman Sprinkle’s Nevada Care Plan was motivated by the idea that health care should be a right, and his legislation was the product of diligent work, innovative policy ideas, and bipartisan collaboration. If Governor Sandoval had signed this bill, every Nevadan would have gained the opportunity to buy an affordable plan with Medicaid-like health benefits on the insurance market. Governor Sandoval’s disappointing veto leaves Nevadans more vulnerable to the GOP’s heartless and reckless health care policies in Washington.

Governor Sandoval’s disappointing veto leaves Nevadans more vulnerable to the GOP’s heartless and reckless health care policies in Washington” — NV Dems Chair William McCurdy II

Governor Brian Sandoval also vetoed Assembly Bill 206 to set a standard of getting 40% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030 and Senate Bill 392 to expand solar energy access to more communities including low-income families. Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II released a statement relative to those vetoes as well:

“During this past legislative session, Democrats worked in a bipartisan way to revitalize Nevada’s clean energy economy, and I’m proud of everything we accomplished together in Carson City. Governor Sandoval’s vetoes represent missed opportunities for us to seize the economic opportunity of renewable energy in our communities. Community solar would have helped families who rent and low-income neighborhoods reduce their energy bills through access to solar power, and an ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard would have created tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wages right here in Nevada. The fight will continue to build on our state’s clean energy progress and enact these common-sense policies next session.

Governor Sandoval’s vetoes represent missed opportunities for us to seize the economic opportunity of renewable energy in our communities” — NV Dems Chair William McCurdy II

‘Sheer Reckless Folly’: Trump Destroys Obama-Era Climate Rules

“Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump’s effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions”
— by Nika Knight, staff writer at CommonDreams

Smog envelopes the Salt Lake City skyline in November 2016. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/cc)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday set about aggressively dismantling Obama-era climate policies with an executive order decried as “sheer reckless folly,” which will increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the climate crisis.

“Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump’s effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions,” said David J. Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program, in a statement.

“This day may be remembered as a low point in human history—a time when the world’s preeminent power could have led the world to a better future but instead moved decisively toward catastrophe,” Arkush added.

The order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would have limited the emissions of coal-powered power plants. It also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing, repeals limits on methane emissions from fracking, and directs the agency to reconsider the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Environmental Policy Act guidance on greenhouse gas emissions.

“The EPA’s rollback of basic environmental rules demonstrates that when it comes to the health of our children, our communities, and our climate, this is an administration of lawlessness and disorder,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the grassroots sustainability group UPROSE, in statement.

“Indigenous peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused.”
—Tom BK Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

“For frontline communities, those of us impacted first and worst by the extraction economy, this means an escalation of public health crises, from asthma to cancer. It means an utter disregard for those of us most vulnerable to climate disasters,” Yeampierre added. “It means a world of volatility and exploitation for our children and grandchildren.”

Environmentalists, local and state leaders, and advocacy groups are vowing to resist.

“The best way to fight against these executive orders is to take to the streets,” as 350.org executive director May Boeve put it.

“President Donald Trump tearing apart the CPP is an act of aggression and violence against the sacredness of Mother Earth and Father Sky,” said Tom BK Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement. “Our indigenous prophecies and teachings tell us that Life as we know it is in danger. The atmosphere and the environment cannot absorb anymore concentration of greenhouse gases. As Indigenous peoples, we still understand our responsibility as guardians and the need to take action as defenders of the Earth. Indigenous peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused.”

“As a member of the climate justice movement, we stand defiant in the face of these orders and are prepared to hold the line,” Yeampierre said. “We will meet these violent policies with a deeper commitment to a Just Transition away from fossil fuels, toward renewable energy, local resiliency, and a regenerative economy worthy of leaving our children.”

The climate movement has numbers on its side, groups observe. “Millions of Americans have called for strong climate action, submitting more than 8 million comments asking the EPA to take action to cut carbon pollution from power plants,” noted Environment America. Recent polling confirms that a vast majority of Americans support climate action.

Moreover, despite the Trump administration’s dubious claims of job creation, the Department of Energy showed that renewable energy jobs have already overtaken fossil fuel industry jobs, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.

As the federal government gives up its role in the climate fight, many now see local and state leaders taking up the charge.

“The West Coast will be allied with the rest of the world that understands science.”
— Washington Gov. Jay Inslee”

[A]s our most successful climate programs face attack on the federal level, it is incumbent on states to double down on their climate commitments,” Environment America wrote. “We are calling on our governors to keep leading the charge and push the progress we need to tackle the climate crisis and get 100 percent renewable energy.”

West Coast politicians are already uniting under the umbrella of the Pacific Coast Collaborative to battle the federal government’s rightward turn on climate.

“As the governors of Washington, Oregon, and California and the mayors of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, we speak today in support of the Clean Power Plan,” the Pacific Coast Collaborative wrote in advance of the executive order. “We speak in unified opposition to the idea of any decision by the President to limit our region’s economic opportunities or our commitment to doing what’s right to make our cities and states cleaner and healthier for future generations.”

“The West Coast is going to move forward to beat climate change,” said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, according to Northwest Public Radio. “The West Coast going to move forward to build clean energy jobs. The West Coast will be allied with the rest of the world that understands science.”

“It is up to the American public to move the nation in the right direction on climate and clean energy despite the worst efforts of the so-called leader in the White House.” — David J. Arkush, Public Citizen

“Many states and cities in the West will continue to lead on clean energy because it makes economic sense, and those states that tie their fate to Scott Pruitt’s doomed strategy of delay and deny face an increasingly risky future,” said Bill Corcoran, Western campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

And despite the frightening actions of the Trump administration, states and cities are already taking strong action to fight climate change. California last week passed the nation’s strictest methane regulations, and on Monday the Maryland state senate passed a statewide fracking ban. Maryland’s Republican governor has already signaled his support for the ban.

People nationwide are also ready to rise up and march for climate justice.

“Even as Trump dismantles environmental protections to shore up the fossil fuel industry, support for action to stop global warming is at an all-time high,” said 350.org’s Boeve. “Now it’s up to communities to bring our vision of a healthy climate and a just transition to renewable energy to life.”

Those who support climate action and oppose Trump’s fossil fuel-friendly administration will gather for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., on April 29, as well as the March for Science in D.C. and elsewhere on April 22.

“From the upcoming congressional recess through the Peoples Climate March and beyond, we’ll be putting pressure on lawmakers to defend the climate and building power to stop the fossil fuel industry for good,” Boeve said.

“Now is the time to come together and build an economy where investments are made to benefit workers, communities of color, women, and low-income folks, not the fossil fuel industry,” said Rae Breaux, lead climate justice organizer for the People’s Action Institute, in a statement.

Public Citizen’s Arkush added: “It is up to the American public to move the nation in the right direction on climate and clean energy despite the worst efforts of the so-called leader in the White House.”


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#Rexxon ‘not aware’ of the existence of fossil fuel subsidies

But independent analysis suggests that Exxon gets as much as $1 billion in oil and gas subsidies.

Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill at his confirmation hearing to become the Secretary of State. CREDIT: Patsy Lynch/MediaPunch/IPX

During former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on Wednesday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) wanted to know how, if confirmed, the former oil executive would work to fulfill a 2009 G20 pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

“I’m not aware of anything the fossil fuel industry gets that I would characterize as a subsidy,” Tillerson responded. “Rather it’s simply the application of the tax code broadly, tax code that broadly applies to all industry.”

CREDIT: C-SPAN/YouTube

But environmental groups argue that Tillerson’s statements are misleading at best, noting fossil fuel companies like Exxon receive significant benefits from parts of the tax code that apply only to them — and no other industry.

“Rex Tillerson lied under oath today,” Alex Doukas, a senior campaigner with Oil Change International, told ThinkProgress. “Oil, gas, and coal corporations receive big subsidies in the U.S, and definitions used by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the International Energy Agency, and the International Monetary Fund would all agree on that point,” he said, adding that “these are hardly radically progressive organizations.”

According to analysis by Oil Change International — a research group focused on understanding the true costs of fossil fuels — Exxon receives anywhere from $700 million to $1 billion in government subsidies each year.

Those subsidies are doled out in a number of ways, which are perhaps best highlighted in a 2015 U.S. self-review, submitted to the G20, of the country’s fossil fuel subsidies. Subsidies can come from things like tax breaks, such as deductions for the “intangible drilling costs” or an oil and gas operation, or deductions for manufacturing fossil fuels domestically. They can also come from provisions that allow fossil fuel companies to set aside the costs of certain geological and geophysical expenditures. Under the current tax code, mining companies may deduct 70 percent of domestic exploration and development costs.

The 2015 U.S. review states that there are currently 16 federal fossil fuel production tax provisions that apply only to producers of fossil fuels, and no other industry.

As Exxon CEO, it’s likely Tillerson knew about these tax deductions available to the oil and gas industry, and knew the extent to which Exxon was taking advantage of them. As a company, Exxon has spent millions on lobbying related to fossil fuel subsidies — in 2012, they were the leading force on lobbying surrounding the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act, which would have repealed several tax breaks for five big oil companies, including Exxon. In 2016, they were the only company to register a lobbying presence with regards to the FAIR Energy Policy Act, which would have also ended certain big tax preferences for fossil fuel companies.

Under Tillerson, Exxon’s political spending greatly increased, growing from a little over $700,000 in 2004 to $1.5 million in 2016. And, according to OpenSecrets, each year, around 90 percent of that money went to Republican candidates, the same candidates more likely to vote against ending fossil fuel subsidies (in 2012, for example, only two Republican senators voted for the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act).

During Wednesday’s hearing, Tillerson made it clear that he would not support the G20 pledge to revoke fossil fuel subsidies as Secretary of State — a position he shares with President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called for an increase in fossil fuel production domestically.

“I think as the president-elect has made clear in his views, in his whole objective of his campaign, of putting America first, that he is not going to support anything that would put U.S. industry in any particular sector at a disadvantage to its competitors outside of the U.S., whether it’s automobile manufacturing or steel making or the oil and gas industry,” Tillerson said.

That’s not exactly true, however. Trump has promised to end federal funding for renewable energy development, a decision that would make U.S. industries like solar and wind much less competitive compared to international producers. China, for instance, recently announced that it plans to invest $360 billion in clean energy — a move that would create 13 million jobs by 2020. China already has over 40 percent of all jobs in renewables, globally. The U.S., meanwhile, claims just under 10 percent of the global renewable job share.


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‘Great Day for Clean Energy’ as Supreme Court Gives Renewables a Boost

SCOTUS upholds rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand

— by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

“Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable,” says Earthjustice. (Photo: Image Catalog/flickr/cc)

In a decision heralded as “great news for consumers and the environment,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a rule meant to incentivize electricity conservation and idle dirty fossil fuel power plants normally used during periods of high demand.

As Timothy Cama explains for The Hill, the court ruled (pdf) that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “did not exceed the authority Congress gave it when it wrote its ‘demand response’ rule, mandating that electric utilities pay customers to reduce use during peak demand periods.”

At the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, senior attorney Allison Clements offered further background:

In 2011, FERC (the agency that regulates our country’s high voltage electric transmission grid) issued a landmark rule called Order 745, which set compensation for demand response in wholesale energy markets. Under the rule, grid operators are required to pay demand response participants the same rates for reducing energy use as those paid to power suppliers for producing energy from resources like coal, natural gas, and wind and solar power. FERC said the rule reflected the common sense view that “markets function most effectively when both supply and demand resources have appropriate opportunities to participate.”

With its ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court essentially affirmed FERC’s position—and in turn, gave clean energy “a huge boost,” Clements said in a press statement. That’s because, she explained, “[i]f grid operators can count on fast-acting customer responses rather than plants that need more advanced notice to come online, they will have greater flexibility to meet electricity demand in situations when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.”

What’s more, said Sierra Club staff attorney Casey Roberts, “demand response programs make energy cheaper, ensure the reliability of the grid, and protect our air and water from fossil fuel pollution.”

As Politico points out:

The agency’s win is seen as a big loss for large “baseload” power sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, which have seen their profits decline over the last several years as electricity consumption has eased and renewables grew. Now they have to compete with industrial customers and others who will at times be paid at market rates to reduce their electricity use without having the costs of operating and maintaining a power plant themselves.

“This is a great day for clean energy and the health of a more affordable, stronger power grid,” added Earthjustice managing attorney of clean energy Jill Tauber on Monday. “Demand response provides tremendous benefits to our environment, helps consumers save money and makes our electricity grid more reliable.”


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Obama Takes a Walk on the Greener Side

As Nevada short-circuits its solar boom, the White House gets more committed to renewable energy.

— by

Emily Schwartz GrecoUntil now, President Barack Obama has embraced gas and oil fracking, encouraged the construction of new nuclear reactors, and hailed government investment in wind and solar power. In keeping with this “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, he’d call for climate action one minute and sign off on measures destined to boost carbon pollution the next.

Suddenly, it looks like Obama may have ditched his inherently contradictory approach.

“We’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy,” he asserted during his final State of the Union address. “I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”

Barack-Obama-solar-panel-green-energy
Wikipedia

Just three days later, the Obama administration moved in that direction by declaring a three-year moratorium on new leases to mine coal from federal land.

Obama’s speech also cast switching to renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels in a business-friendly light.

“We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy —  something environmentalists and tea partiers have teamed up to support,” he said. There’s plenty going on at a larger scale too. Wind and solar energy are generating more than half of the new power that came online last year.

The Republican Party’s obsession with “job creators” should make it a fan of green energy. Nearly 210,000 Americans now work for the solar industry, and some 73,000 are employed in the wind business. Renewable power forged at least 79,000 new jobs between 2008 and 2012 as 50,000 coal jobs vanished.

But the fossil fuel industries and their political allies won’t surrender without a fight. As Obama put it: “There are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.”

To see what he meant, check out what’s up in Nevada.

Right before Christmas, the state’s electric-sector regulators short-circuited policies that rewarded homeowners for investing in their own solar panels. Nevadans may end up paying for the privilege of generating their own electricity while simultaneously padding the profit margins of NV Energy, rather than getting compensated for it.

The Nevada Public Utility Commission, whose three members were all appointed by Republican governor Brian Sandoval, effectively killed demand for rooftop solar power and the jobs that diversifying industry would have created in Nevada—overnight. The new policies also punish consumers who previously bought or leased panels.

This about face prompted companies like SolarCity, Vivint, and Sunrun to shutter their operations in the state. SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is calling this move an act of “sabotage,” and two Las Vegas residents have already filed a class action lawsuit.

Along with rigging the rules, fossil fuel lobbyists are trying to extract new political favors. The coal industry, for example, wants new government handouts from West Virginia’s cash-strapped government. And, there are rumblings about a federal bailout for Big Oil.

This money ought to support and ramp up the green transition, not delay it. That’s what Obama meant when he asserted: “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future.”

And although polls have shown that government efforts to expand solar and wind power enjoy bipartisan support, GOP presidential contenders and many Republican leaders dismiss these increasingly competitive industries.

“Why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?” asked Obama, raising an excellent question. “The jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve  —  that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”

Indeed. Supposedly pro-business politicians who are out to kill the green energy boom make no sense. Neither does an all-of-the-above energy strategy.


Columnist Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org.