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Battle Continues in Fight to Save States' Renewable Energy Policies
There was a series of attempts in 2013 and 2014 to repeal or weaken state laws that set targets for increasing the use of renewable energy. States across the country—including Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas and North Carolina, among others—faced campaigns against their renewable energy standards. All of those attempts were unsuccessful except in the case of Ohio.
Passed in 2008 with nearly unanimous support from both Republican and Democratic legislators, Ohio’s energy standards required utilities to meet 12.5 percent of electricity demand with renewable energy and to decrease energy use by more than 22 percent by 2025, with interim targets each year beforehand. The standards also required half of the renewable energy to come from in-state facilities.
Despite clear evidence that the standards had economic benefits, including increased in-state investment, employment and savings for ratepayers, S.B. 310 proposed to freeze the standards for two years and eliminate the in-state requirement for renewable energy. After the bill passed the state legislature in May 2014 and Gov. John Kasich (R) signed the bill into law the following month, Ohio became the first state to take regressive measures against its renewable energy standards. The future of the standards after the two-year period is uncertain.
Reports are now coming in from leaders in Ohio’s solar, wind and energy efficiency industries that employment and investment are draining from the state, as described in the Center for American Progress issue brief, The Economic Fallout of the Freeze on Ohio’s Clean Energy Sector.
There have already been several new attempts in 2015 to repeal or weaken state-level energy standards, and further attempts—backed by aggressive lobbying campaigns—are certainly forthcoming. For those states, Ohio serves as a cautionary tale of the in-state economic damage that could follow a rollback.
Selection of initial attempts to roll back state renewable energy schedules in 2015
A number of bills that target renewable energy standards have already been introduced to state legislatures in January and February of this year. Some have been successful, for example, in West Virginia; some have been unsuccessful, for example, in Colorado; and some are still under consideration.
Colorado law currently requires investor-owned utilities to generate 20 percent of their retail electric sales from renewable sources by 2015 and 30 percent by 2020. It also has a renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2020 for cooperative electric associations.
S.B. 44 proposed to roll back the requirements for investor-owned utilities to 15 percent by 2015 and for cooperative electric associations to 15 percent by 2020. The bill passed the Republican-controlled state senate by a margin of 18 to17, split along party lines. On March 3, the House committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs decided on a 6–5 vote along party lines to postpone the bill indefinitely.
While the bill was being debated, State Sen. Matt Jones (D) argued that the standards have reduced electricity rates for consumers and bolstered the state’s clean energy economy, which accounts for more than 22,000 jobs. Public opinion has supported the standards as well: Coloradans are 76 percent more likely to support a candidate who promotes renewable energy, according to the 2014 Colorado College State of the Rockies poll.
Connecticut’s standards currently require electricity providers to meet 27 percent of retail electricity through renewable sources by 2020, with interim targets each year beforehand.
H.B. 6026 was introduced in January, which proposes to suspend the state’s renewable energy standards for five years. It has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Technology.
Kansas currently requires that utilities meet 10 percent of their gross generation capacity through renewable sources through the end of 2015, after which they would be required to meet 15 percent through 2019 and 20 percent by 2020.
The state has already faced multiple efforts to weaken or eliminate its energy standards over the past three years, which have been supported by Koch Industries and affiliated groups, as well as utility interests.
This February, H.B. 2373 was introduced, which would eliminate the state’s renewable energy standards at the end of 2015. It has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Environment.
State law currently requires that electricity providers obtain renewable energy credits to cover nearly 25 percent of retail electricity by 2025, with interim targets each year beforehand.
H.B. 543 proposed to repeal the state’s renewable energy standards.[xvii] The bill was defeated in the New Hampshire House on March 4.
South Dakota currently has a voluntary goal that 10 percent of retail electricity should come from renewable, recycled, or conserved energy by 2015.
H.B. 1202 was introduced in February, which would roll back the goal to 10 percent by 2020. It has been referred to the Committee on Commerce and Energy.
West Virginia became the first state to repeal its alternative energy standards when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (R) signed H.B. 2001 on Feb. 3, 2015.
State law previously required that large-scale utilities meet a standard of 25 percent renewable or alternative energy by 2025, with interim targets of 10 percent by 2015 and 15 percent by 2020. The standards were not ambitious, however, as they allowed fossil sources such as natural gas, coal with the use of advanced coal technologies, and coal bed methane to qualify as alternative sources.
Gwynne Taraska is a senior policy advisor for the Center for American Progress. Alison Cassady is the director of domestic energy policy at the Center for American Progress.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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