Daily on Energy: Lessons from Oregon’s clean electricity standard for Senate Democrats

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LESSONS FROM OREGON: Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed into law yesterday a clean electricity standard tied for the fastest timeline for eliminating emissions from the power sector out of all U.S. states, in what environmentalists hope is a model for a similar policy at the federal level.

The Beaver State’s legislation requires electricity companies and providers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 80% below baseline levels by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040.

It makes Oregon the eighth state to enact a legislative commitment to 100% clean or renewable electricity, and by aiming for 2040 to do it, it ties New York for the fastest statewide timeline in the nation. And it comes more than a year after Republican state representatives in Oregon refused to show up to vote on a cap-and-trade bill, preventing its passage.

Pam Kiely, associate vice president for U.S. climate at the Environmental Defense Fund, told me Oregon’s CES is nowhere near as ambitious as the cap-and-trade bill would have been, since that would apply economy-wide and the state produces most of its emissions from transportation, not power. But Kiely said Oregon’s success shows there is a “path forward” for federal policymakers through a CES, the hottest emissions reduction policy in the U.S., supplanting carbon pricing.

Lessons from Oregon: Kiely noted Oregon’s policy differs from the CES being conceived by Senate Democrats, who have to stray from the typical design of what is usually considered a regulatory mandate in order to comply with the strict budgetary rules of reconciliation. She warned Democrats risk their policy not having the same success at reducing emissions compared to Oregon because of those concessions.

As I reported previously, Senate Democrats are crafting the CES as a straightforward investment program, in which the government would incentivize utilities to use more clean power by providing subsidies.

Oregon’s CES, however, includes a more powerful stick by featuring an enforceable standard, not just incentives.

“Incentive-based strategies are a powerful tool in the climate toolkit,” Kiely said. “At the same time, it’s the enforceable requirement that’s the hallmark of a CES — what makes the policy a “standard,” and what will provide the certainty that the US will get the job done in the power sector.”

At the risk of getting too technical, in a typical CES framework like the one in Oregon, if a utility is not fulfilling its compliance obligation, the government can take an enforcement action that mandates the utility meet the standard.

For example, under the EPA’s enforcement program, the agency can assess penalties up to $25,000 a day if not companies are not meeting compliance obligations, Kiely said.

Another difference between Oregon’s law and Senate Democrats’ effort is the former is requiring an 80% cut in emissions by 2030 while the latter is looking to require utilities to generate 80% clean electricity by that year.

The difference matters because generating more clean energy doesn’t guarantee emissions fall. For example, if electricity demand is larger than expected in a given year, 80% clean energy would not achieve the same level of emissions reductions.

“It's important to ensure your policy is designed to actually guarantee your pollution outcome and having a design feature that actually checks against the tons of C02 emissions,” Kiely said.

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writer Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe). Email jsiegel@washingtonexaminer.com for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

SCHUMER UNDERSCORES BIG CLIMATE PROMISES: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged this morning that an infrastructure package will “reduce carbon pollution at the scale commensurate with the climate crisis we face.”

Schumer, in a press conference with environmental groups, added the bipartisan measure and larger Democratic-only reconciliation package will amount to "the largest investments to tackle the climate crisis and environmental justice ever" in U.S. history.

Schumer was joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We’re in a good place to reach the goals that are set out,” Pelosi said. “When they make that vote, it will be signed by Joe Biden, a pro-climate champion in the White House.”

Underscoring the “urgency” Democrats are feeling, Schumer declared global warming will be worse than the coronavirus pandemic without action.

“We are surrounded by evidence of the climate crisis – the fires out west, the heat waves, the floods. Everywhere you look. Because of global warming, things are getting worse and worse,” Schumer said.

“COVID was horrible,” he added. “But if we do nothing on climate, starting within a few years from now, each year will be worse than COVID and each year will be worse than the previous year.”

The Washington Examiner’s Emily Brooks has more from the presser.

BREAKING...SENATE NEGOTIATORS SAY THEY HAVE A BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE DEAL: A group of Senate negotiators said today they have reached a final deal on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that could be on the floor for a vote as soon as tonight, the Washington Examiner's Susan Ferrechio reports.

“We now have an agreement on the major issues,” Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, told reporters in the Capitol. “We are prepared to move forward.”

Schumer said he may bring up the measure for a key test vote as soon as tonight.

Lawmakers had been hammering out differences in an effort to reach bipartisan accord for several weeks. Republicans blocked debate on a framework measure last week, demanding more details and changes to the bill. Republicans said they were able to come to an agreement after working out differences on broadband and water infrastructure.“We are still finalizing the details, but we have reached agreement on the major issues,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican.

GRANHOLM MAKES PUSH FOR ELECTRIC TRUCKS: The Energy Department today announced $60 million in funding for 24 research and development projects aimed at reducing emissions from cars and light- and heavy-duty trucks.

The projects undertaken by industry and research institutions will focus on developing next generation lithium batteries with improved lifespan, lightweight materials to increase vehicle efficiency, tools to understand charging infrastructure needs for electric vehicles, and more.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was joined by members of Congress and electric-vehicle industry representatives at DOE headquarters this morning to announce the funding. Granholm also showcased two electric trucks manufactured by PACCAR, a past recipient of DOE research and development funding.

The trucks on display were the Kenworth T680 FCEV, a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle built in Washington State, and the Peterbilt 579EV, a battery electric vehicle built in Denton, Texas.

“Fossil-fuel powered cars and trucks are a leading cause of air pollution and carbon emissions, and that is why we are focusing on decarbonizing the transportation sector to achieve President Biden’s climate goals,” Granholm said.

US OIL DEMAND JUMPS AGAIN: U.S. oil demand rose for the second straight week, rising to 21.1 million barrels per day from 20.6 million barrels p/d the week prior, the Energy Information Administration said today in its Weekly Petroleum Status report.

Consumption of gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel increased across the board for the week ending July 23.

Jet fuel demand especially surged, averaging 1.7 million barrels p/d, the highest total in 16 months, according to research group ClearView Energy Partners.

EIA also reported a crude oil inventory draw of 4.1 million barrels after a stock build last week, boosting crude prices this morning.

At the time of writing, Brent crude was trading at $74.88 while the U.S. benchmark WTI traded at $72.17.

RENEWABLES BEAT NUCLEAR AND COAL IN 2020: Renewables became the second-most dominant power source on the U.S. grid last year behind natural gas for the first time, the EIA said in a note today.

Wind, solar, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal combined to generate a record 834 billion kilowatthours of electricity, or about 21% of the power generated in the U.S.

Renewables surpassed both nuclear and coal for the first time on record, EIA said, due mostly to significantly less coal power and steadily more use of wind and solar.

But coal-fired electricity generation is expected to increase in 2021 as natural gas prices continue to rise, making the dirtier fossil fuel more economically competitive.

STONE-MANNING CLEARS HURDLE: The Senate by the slimmest of margins yesterday moved Biden’s embattled nominee Tracy Stone-Manning to head the Bureau of Land Management one step closer to confirmation, foreshadowing a squeaker of a final vote to approve her.

All Democrats, including centrists Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, stuck together in a 50-49 vote to discharge Stone-Manning’s nomination from committee to the Senate floor.

No Republican senators voted to advance Stone-Manning, who they accuse of having a past affiliation with an "ecoterrorist" organization and deceiving Congress regarding a three-decade-old “tree spiking” criminal case.

The procedural step was required because the Energy and Natural Resources Committee deadlocked on Stone-Manning’s nomination in a 10-10 vote.

CYBERSECURITY OFFICIALS PRESS CONGRESS ON RANSOMWARE: Federal cybersecurity officials yesterday called on Congress to pass new laws that would force businesses and organizations to disclose ransomware attacks, an indication of the growing urgency of countering the problem of hacks, the Washington Examiner’s Nihal Krishan reports.

Mandatory disclosure of ransomware attacks on private entities to federal authorities would allow the government to better track hacks, catch the perpetrators, and prevent future attacks, said Richard Downing, a top official in the criminal division at the Justice Department.

He testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee alongside Eric Goldstein, the executive assistant director for cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

"Mandatory reporting of data breaches and attacks is the big thing we're looking for from Congress," Goldstein told Nihal.

Grid at ‘urgent risk’: In another hearing yesterday Goldstein told House Oversight Committee lawmakers that the country will be at "urgent risk" of a cyberattack that disrupts the electric grid or other critical energy infrastructure if private businesses nationwide don't "urgently invest" in the needed cybersecurity protections.”

Despite cyberattacks being a common problem in the past decade, it is the recent series of massive attacks on the computer systems of the federal government, the Colonial Pipeline, and the meat producer JBS that have brought mainstream awareness to the need for increased cybersecurity protections within governments and businesses.

YOUTH CONSERVATIVE GROUPS PLAN CLIMATE SUMMIT IN GLASGOW: A coalition of conservative environmental groups from the U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia announced today they are hosting an international climate summit featuring center-right legislators and youth leaders on the sidelines of the big UN Climate Conference in Glasgow this October.

The American Conservation Coalition, Conservative Environment Network, and Coalition for Conservation said in a joint press release that they intend to push for policymakers across the world to pursue “market-based solutions” to climate change. The groups also intend to highlight youth interest in climate action on the center-right, and to connect lawmakers with the “next generation.”

Visit the summit website here.

The Rundown

Washington Post Biden plan would tighten mileage for new cars over the next four years

Reuters Coal country cleanup: Biden plan sketches out possible future for former miners

Bloomberg Pension funds talk green while holding billions in polluter stocks

Reuters US studies plan to pay fishing industry for offshore wind impacts



3 p.m. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions will host a fireside chat with Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to discuss his carbon pricing bill, the “Save our Future Act.”


9 a.m. 210 Cannon. The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing titled “Financing Climate Solutions and Job Creation.”

10 a.m. 406 Dirksen. The Senate Committee Environment and Public Works Committee’s chemical safety subcommittee will hold a hearing on three of Biden’s nominees to be members of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board.

12 p.m. The American Council for Capital Formation will host a webinar conversation with Reps. Kurt Schrader, Democrat of Oregon, and David McKinley, Republican of West Virginia, on their clean electricity standard bill, the Clean Energy Future through Innovation Act.

12 p.m. The Bipartisan Policy Center will host David Hayes, White House advisor, and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for a webinar conversation on “offshore wind's important role in the expansion of zero-carbon energy production.”

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Tags: Energy and Environment, Daily on Energy

Original Author: Josh Siegel

Original Location: Daily on Energy: Lessons from Oregon’s clean electricity standard for Senate Democrats

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