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States standing strong on clean energy commitments amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Sam Kozel, Greentech Media


Highlights

States are accelerating clean energy policies in efforts to secure economic stability during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • A majority of states have also put in place moratoriums on service disconnections and power shutoffs as many people face unemployment and may not be able to pay bills. This also avoids disruptions for those who are working and learning remotely since many offices and schools are closed 
  • Multiple states have made clean energy a priority to jumpstart their economy and are calling to advance clean energy policy:
    • In Arizona, Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson (R) ​called upon the Arizona Public Utilities Commission​ to support a rulemaking change directing the state’s regulated utilities to generate 100% of their power from clean energy resources by 2050
    • In Connecticut, the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is ​extending certain deadlines for the state’s Renewable Energy Credits and Statewide Clean Energy Programs
    • Hawaii has reaffirmed its commitment to the state’s clean energy and climate goals, inviting input for new proposals and programs to support and expand job opportunities
    • New York passed the ​Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth & Community Benefit Act​ which will streamline siting for renewable energy projects across the state
    • California continues to advance its SB 100 clean energy goals of supplying 100 percent of retail electricity sales with renewable and zero-carbon resources by 2045

The Climate Center works toward electrifying buildings and vehicles using 100% clean energy sources such as solar and wind to eliminate fossil fuel-based emissions. 


Read more: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/for-many-regulators-covid-19-pandemic-reaffirms-clean-energy-priorities

COVID-19 will not slow the climate crisis. Only sound policy can.

From Science Daily


Highlights

Energy and climate policy researchers in Switzerland and Germany support policies allowing a clean energy transition guide the COVID-19 economic response.

  • The researchers suggest investing in solutions that would advance Paris Agreement climate goals and dismantle systems that hurt global emissions goals
  • Though there are fewer emissions due to shelter in place mandates, it does not mean any significant reductions in climate change impacts in the long term
  • By investing in the clean energy transition, the world could advance structural changes that would decarbonize the energy sector
  • Tobias S. Schmidt of ETH Zurich notes that previous economic recessions resulted in higher emissions once the economy stabilizes:

“It is essential that we not repeat the mistakes of the post-financial crisis bailouts, which often led to massive increases in CO2 emissions,” 

  • Future policy research should develop “shock-proof” policies that can withstand other future disasters 

Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean energy is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.


Read more: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200429152825.htm

 

Environmental groups sue EPA over ‘reckless’ response to coronavirus


Highlights

The National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of a dozen environmental groups.

  • Environmental groups across the country petitioned the EPA to publish an emergency rule that requires polluters to submit a public notice that they are taking advantage of newly relaxed emissions and pollutions standards
    • This petition comes days after the EPA relaxed pollution standards at the request of an oil industry trade group claiming it was necessary to loosen regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • These relaxed pollution standards will affect drinking water and air quality which directly impacts public health, especially in fence-line communities that border refineries and factories
    • Even with previous environmental regulations, these communities are still greatly impacted by emissions
    • A study focused on health hazards in vulnerable communities found that nearly 12,500 high-risk chemical facilities across the country place 39% of the U.S. population (124 million people) in constant risk of a chemical disaster, disproportionately affecting communities of color 
  • Juan Parras, founder and executive director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.), says relaxing these regulations is a direct violation of the EPA’s main objective:

“The EPA, in allowing this to happen, is basically going against its very core value, which is to protect health and human safety [against] industrial pollution,” 


Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean electricity is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.


Read more: https://grist.org/justice/environmental-groups-sue-epa-over-reckless-response-to-coronavirus

Trump’s move to suspend enforcement of environmental laws is a lifeline to the oil industry

By Marianne Levelle, Inside Climate News


Highlights

The Trump administration suspended U.S. environmental laws due to calls for help from the American Petroleum Institute. The suspension of the rules will ultimately lead to more pollution, making more people in frontline communities susceptible to health risks, including COVID-19. 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced a policy that suspended enforcement and civil penalties for regulated entities that can prove the ongoing pandemic caused failure to comply with the law, allowing the oil industry to violate air and water pollution regulations at refineries
  • Gina McCarthy of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calls the policy “an open license to pollute.” 
  • The industry sought out federal help after oil prices crashed due to Saudi  Arabia’s increase in oil production which impacted Russian and U.S. oil markets
  • Some members of Congress and oil executives wanted help in the form of direct financial support or trade halts with Saudi Arabia
  • The suspension of environmental laws will cause more pollution in communities surrounding refineries, making people more vulnerable to the respiratory effects of COVID-19

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must re-examine the ways in which we move around. The Climate Center is committed to working with state and local lawmakers to put us on track for a Climate-Safe California, which will include climate-safe transportation.


Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27032020/coronavirus-covid-19-EPA-API-environmental-enforcement

Trump rolls back Obama fuel economy rule, increasing emissions during a climate crisis

by Sean O’Kane, The Verge 


Highlights

President Trump has reversed an Obama-era policy that made new cars more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly, but faces lawsuits and pushback from various environmental groups and the State of California

  • Under the new rule, automakers will now have to increase the average fuel economy of their new cars by 1.5 percent every year through their 2026 model year lineup compared to the previous by 5 percent from Obama’s presidency
  • Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that the previous Obama-era standard has already helped cut carbon dioxide emissions by half a billion metric tons, and saved drivers $86 billion in fuel costs
  • The new standard is expected to release one billion metric tons more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increase gasoline consumption by around 80 billion gallons, and oil consumption by 2 billion barrels
  • The Trump administration argues that lowering the fuel economy standard will make cars more affordable by reducing the upfront cost of a new vehicle by around $1,000, leading car buyers to buy newer, safer cars
    • However, average new vehicle prices have risen in the US because automakers now heavily favor selling more expensive SUVs and trucks
    • Some experts disagree that these new fuel standards will save consumers money. New analysis shows that even if gas prices were cheap for the next three decades, the cost of ownership for the car is still high
  • The State of California has been against the new fuel standards and has made deals with Volkswagen, Ford, Honda, and BMW to commit to 3.7 percent year-over-year increases in average fuel economy while General Motors, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler filed support for the Trump administration to revoke California’s authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign includes supporting clean mobility, including a phase-out of all gas-powered vehicles.


Read more: https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/31/21201036/trump-epa-obama-fuel-economy-rule-rollback-emissions-consumer-cost?

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – March 27, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 disruption, the legislature has gone into recess until April 13 at the earliest. While the legislature is on recess, The Climate Center continues to analyze the bills that were introduced in February, and is in the process of determining positions on many of them. Below are several, but not all, of the key bills we are tracking. For a complete list of the 112 bills we are currently tracking in 2020, click HERE. Our next update will be published here on April 9. Please send updates, suggestions, corrections to woody@theclimatecenter.org

 

Assembly Bills

AB 345 (Muratsuchi) SUPPORT – This bill will, if enacted, establish regulations to protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities,  including a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors such as schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, residences, hospitals, and health clinics. See The Climate Center’s Letter of Support. STATUS: In the Senate. Read first time. Sent to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment to a policy committee.

 

AB 1839 (Bonta) WATCH – The “Green New Deal” bill. Introduced on January 6, this bill would create the California Green New Deal Council with a specified membership appointed by the Governor. The bill would require the California Green New Deal Council to submit a specified report to the Legislature no later than January 1, 2022. So far the plan is scant on specifics including how goals will be met or how much the State will pay to meet those goals. STATUS: Introduced in January 6. No committee assignment yet. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.  The Climate Center is still assessing the bill and has not yet taken a position.

AB 1847 (Levine) WATCH – This bill would authorize the CPUC (contingent on the Commission finding that an electrical corporation is not complying with State law, rules, or regulations) to appoint a public administrator to the electrical corporation for a period not to exceed 180 days. The bill would vest the public administrator with oversight authority over the electrical corporation’s activities that impact public safety. See the bill author’s factsheet. STATUS: In the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. No hearing date set.

AB 2145 (Ting) WATCH – This bill would state the intent of the legislature to enact legislation to reform the electric vehicle charging infrastructure approval process employed by the CPUC to help ensure that by 2030 California will safely install enough EV charging ports to meet the demand through public and private investment.

 

AB 2689 (Kalra) Likely Support. – This bill updates Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) confidentiality provisions to allow a broader range of market experts to participate in complex IOU cost recovery proceedings and supports California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversight to protect customers from unreasonable or unjustified IOU rate increases. California IOU electric generation rates have increased 49% since 2013. Between 2008 and 2018, IOU customer rates doubled from $29.3 billion to $59.3 billion per year. AB 2689 would result in greater IOU accountability and improved consumer protection, safety, and affordability. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.
AB 2789 (Kamlager) WATCH – This bill would appropriate $1,500,000 and require the CPUC, in consultation with the CA Energy Commission, to request the California Council on Science and Technology to undertake and complete a study, as specified, relative to electrical grid outages and cost avoidance resulting from deployment of eligible renewable energy resources, battery storage systems, and demand response technologies. The bill would require the PUC to report the results of the study to the Legislature by January 1, 2022. STATUS: Awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee.
AB 3014 (Muratsuchi) WATCH – This bill aims to improve the reliability of California electric supply by reforming the State’s resource adequacy (RA) program. Specifically, this bill creates the Central Reliability Authority (CRA), a non-profit public benefit corporation, to purchase residual RA needed to meet state requirements while still allowing load-serving entities (LSEs), such as Community Choice Agencies (CCAs), to maintain their procurement autonomy. The newly created CRA also reduces costly RA purchases currently undertaken by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and greatly enhances the RA market. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.

AB 3021 (Ting) SUPPORT – This bill would appropriate $300,000,000 per fiscal year in the 2020–21, 2021–22, and 2022–23 fiscal years from the General Fund to the California Energy Commission to administer a program to provide resiliency grant funding and technical assistance to local educational agencies for the installation of energy storage systems. STATUS: Double-referred to Education and Natural Resources committees.

 

AB 3251 (Bauer-Kahan) WATCH – This bill would require that charging of energy storage systems be treated as load in calculations for demand response programs, and that capacity from energy storage systems installed on the customer side of the meter be allowed to be aggregated for purposes of determining resource adequacy capacity; and electricity exported to the grid from the customer side of the meter be allowed to count toward the capacity obligations of load-serving entities. STATUS: In Assembly, referred to Asm Energy Committee.

 

Senate Bills

SB 45 (Allen, et al) SUPPORT – Dubbed the “Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020.” This is a proposed $5.51 billion general obligation bond to be placed on the November 3, 2020 statewide general election. Specifically, $570 million will be made available for climate resiliency initiatives including microgrids, distributed generation, storage systems, in-home backup power, and community resiliency centers such as cooling centers, clean air centers, hydration stations, and emergency shelters. STATUS: Passed out of Senate, in the Assembly, held at the desk.

 

SB 378 (Wiener) WATCH – Would establish customer and local government protections related to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidents. Specifically, the bill requires IOUs to provide annual reports to the Wildfire Safety Division within the CPUC on the condition of their electrical equipment and provide maintenance logs to assess fire safety risk. The bill also requires the CPUC to develop procedures for consumers and local governments to recover costs from IOUs accrued during PSPS events, improves PSPS notification procedures, and makes IOUs subject to civil fines if the CPUC determines that the IOU failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner. STATUS: In the Assembly, pending committee referral.

SB 774 (Stern) WATCH – SB 774 would require IOUs to collaborate with the State’s Office of Emergency of Services and others to identify where back-up electricity sources may provide increased electrical distribution grid resiliency and would allow the IOUs to file applications with the CPUC to invest in, and deploy, microgrids to increase resiliency. Concerns focus on too much control being placed in the hands of the IOUs over microgrid development when other LSEs and stakeholders can and should play a role. STATUS: In the Assembly committee process with no committee assignment and no hearing date.

 

SB 917 (Wiener) WATCH – This bill renames the California Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority and via eminent domain takes control of PG&E to create the Northern California Energy Utility District and a public benefit corporation, Northern California Energy Utility Services, to carry out day to day operations. The key provision of the bill that is relevant to Community Choice Energy is: “10623: The authority of a community choice aggregator to provide electric service within the service territory of the district shall remain as if the district were an electrical corporation.” STATUS: Triple-referred to Senate Energy, Govt & Finance, and Judiciary Committees.
SB 947 (Dodd) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate financial performance-based incentives and performance-based metric tracking to identify mechanisms that may serve to better align electrical corporation operations, expenditures, and investments with public benefit goals. STATUS: In the Senate Energy & Utilities Committee.
SB 1215 (Stern) – SB 1215, the “California Emergency Services Act” establishes the Office of Emergency Services in the office of the Governor and provides that the office is responsible for the state’s emergency and disaster response services for natural, technological, or manmade disasters and emergencies. Creates a grant program for microgrids. STATUS: In Senate, double-referred to the Governmental Organization and Energy Committees.
SB 1240 (Skinner) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator, to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electrical corporations’ (Investor Owned Utilities’) distribution grids into more open access platforms that would allow local governments and other third parties to participate more easily in grid activities, as provided. The bill would require the commission to update the identification and evaluation at least once every two years. The bill would require the commission, beginning January 1, 2022, and biennially thereafter, to submit to the Legislature a report on the identification and evaluation of options. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: In Senate – referred to Senate Energy Committee.
SB 1258 (Stern) WATCH – Titled the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act, this bill would enact the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act to require the California Infrastructure Bank (IBank), in consultation with specified agencies to administer the Climate Catalyst Revolving Fund, which the bill would establish to provide financial assistance to eligible climate catalyst projects. STATUS: In the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.
SB 1314 (Dodd) SUPPORT – SB 1314, the Community Energy Resilience Act of 2020, would require the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. The bill would set forth guiding principles for plan development, including equitable access to reliable energy, as provided, and integration with other existing local planning documents. The bill would require a plan to, among other things, ensure a reliable electricity supply is maintained at critical facilities and identify areas most likely to experience a loss of electrical service. The bill would require the council to establish a stakeholder review board to provide statewide oversight for purposes of the grant program. The bill would require a local government, as a condition of receiving grant funding, to submit its plan and a report of project expenditures to the stakeholder review board within six months of completing the plan. The bill would require the stakeholder review board to annually report specified information about the grant program to the Legislature. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: Double-referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committees.
solar by Stacey Meinzen

Climate Center and partners: New Utility Reform and Clean Energy Resilience bills

URGENT: Have your organization sign on here to support utility reform and clean community energy resilience. Individuals, please reach out to your state elected officials here.

A key priority of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe CA effort is to advance the ability of local governments to create fossil fuel-free, safe, resilient and accessible local electricity systems.

Technology advances — including rapidly-declining costs for solar and battery storage — are making it possible to build an entirely new decentralized, integrated electricity grid.  This will require utility regulatory reform and new funding to empower local governments to be in charge of siting decisions about new energy infrastructure, rather than communities having decisions imposed upon them by distant corporate decisionmakers. Governor Newsom recently articulated some of the needed principles for this vision, echoing policy proposals that have been recommended by The Climate Center and partner organizations.

The Climate Center, in collaboration with Advanced Community Energy (ACE) initiative partners, recently advanced two bills in the California legislature to achieve these policy priorities:

  • SB 1314  (Introduced by Senator Bill Dodd). The Community Energy Resilience Act requires the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments interested in developing clean energy-based community energy resilience plans.
    • Why the bill is needed: Climate change-driven drought and fire conditions, along with dangerously outdated electricity infrastructure, led to costly power shutoffs in 2019. In the wake of last year’s disasters and facing future shutoffs, utilities and local governments are scrambling to find solutions that keep the electricity flowing. Unfortunately, dirty fossil fuel back-up generators are being installed in towns, businesses and community facilities across the state. These short-term electricity sources are counter to state goals for greenhouse gas reductions, environmental protection, and public health and safety. Today’s cost-effective, clean and decentralized clean energy resources can provide a better solution:  when grid power is down, microgrids can disconnect from the larger grid to provide reliable clean power to key facilities such as fire stations and schools.  SB 1314 would initially prioritize funding lower-income communities in fire prone regions to plan for clean energy resilience. For additional information, see the recently released report by Vote Solar as well as the Community Energy Resilience Act Budget Request Letter submitted to legislators by The Climate Center and partners.
  • SB 1240 (Introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner). This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator (which manages the flow of electricity into and across the state), to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electricity distribution system to becoming an open local electricity market.
    • Why the bill is needed: The basic architecture of our electricity system hasn’t changed over the past hundred years, notwithstanding substantial technological advancements.  Power no longer flows one way, from distant large power plants to cities and homes. It is now possible for power to flow back and forth locally within a distribution system.    With the implementation of the state’s renewable energy goals, the growth of smart appliances and electric vehicles, and dramatically declining prices for clean energy, a cleaner, decentralized grid is now possible – which would require substantial changes in how our electricity system is managed. This new legislation, if passed, would speed the transition to a 21st century decentralized and clean electricity system. For additional information, read this Vox article.

We are grateful to Senators Dodd and Skinner for their leadership.  To help secure passage, we need organizations across California to register their support for these two bills.   Click here to add your organization to the list of supporters.

Senators energy package continues fracking and drilling

, Grist


Highlights:

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Joe Manchin (D) revealed the  American Energy Innovation Act of 2020

  • The bill does not stop drilling or fracking but does develop more solar and other renewable energy as well as carbon capture
  • Portions of the bill mention exporting natural gas, a known emitter of methane into the atmosphere
  • There is also mention of constructing new oil and gas facilities in Appalachia

Continued drilling and fracking will not deliver us to a climate-safe future.  The only way we will achieve rapid decarbonization on the timeline required by the science is through bold policy action


Read more: https://grist.org/politics/dont-call-it-a-climate-bill-senators-unveil-bipartisan-energy-package/

What would it take to get more farmers fighting climate change?

by Tom Philpott, Grist


Highlights

Maine Democrat Chellie Pingree introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act which aims to maximize carbon sequestration on farm and grazing lands.

  • The act aims to establish a national goal of net-zero greenhouse emissions from agriculture by no later than 2040, add more funding to food and agriculture research, maximize carbon capture on grazing lands, and reduce food waste by 75%
  • The Resilience Act also aims to maintain year-round cover on at least 75% of cropland in order to prevent erosion, create buffers during storms, and encourage more soil sequestration
  • The act will make it a requirement for farms to present a soil health plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to qualify for crop insurance subsidies
  • Though the bill will probably fail in a divided congress, it will set the stage for including agriculture in climate resiliency efforts in 2021

The Climate Center advocates for policies to fund and support carbon sequestration through healthy soils to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions at the speed and scale required by the science.


Read more: https://grist.org/climate/what-would-it-take-to-get-more-farmers-fighting-climate-change/

Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti Credit: Global Climate Action Summit , Nikki Ritcher Photography

L.A.’s Mayor launches directive to advance L.A.’s Green New Deal

LAMayor.org


Highlights:

Mayor Eric Garcetti recently signed an Executive Directive, L.A.’s Green New Deal, which includes measures to:

  • Promote walking, bicycling and micro-mobility with a comprehensive Citywide network of active transportation corridors, including Class IV protected bike lanes, Class I paths along regional waterways, and Class III low-stress neighborhood bike improvements.  
  • Support Metro in the development of a Congestion Pricing pilot program.
  • Develop a series of bus and light rail infrastructure improvements — such as bus-only lanes, signal priority, and queue jumpers and accelerate the City’s bus fleet target to be entirely zero-emission by 2028.
  • Encourage city pension boards to explore divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in the green economy.
  • Mandate that all new construction, major upgrades, and retrofits of municipally-owned buildings demonstrate a pathway to carbon neutrality.

The Climate Center’s rapid decarbonization campaign outlines a pathway to carbon neutrality by 2030 and becoming net carbon negative by 2035. The Climate Center supports several sustainable mobility measures similar to what Mayor Garcetti is endorsing.


Read More: https://www.lamayor.org/mayor-garcetti-launches-la%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98decade-action%E2%80%99-fight-climate-crisis