4 Ways Colorado Is Expediting Renewable Energy
By Michael Hiatt
The growing revolt at the state level over Trump's climate policies reflects unwillingness among policymakers to turn away from years of work transitioning to clean energy. Colorado is a case in point. Gov. John Hickenlooper's recent executive order committing Colorado to meeting or exceeding the greenhouse gas reduction targets set in Paris follows regulatory developments that will propel the state toward a new clean energy economy.
Colorado has long been a national leader in developing clean, renewable energy. In 2016, it was the seventh largest wind producing state and the eleventh largest solar producing state. More than 25 percent of the electricity generated by Colorado's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, last year came from renewable energy resources. In addition, renewables' share of the generation mix will increase to 30 percent by 2020 under the state's Renewable Energy Standard.
Currently, four recent regulatory developments are poised to accelerate Colorado's clean energy transition:
1. Wind and utility-scale solar are the cheapest resources in Colorado, today and in the future.
In May 2016, Xcel filed its long-term electric resource plan, which forecasts current and future energy prices. Xcel's plan makes it clear that both wind and utility-scale solar are currently the cheapest resources in Colorado, and Xcel anticipates it will soon purchase significant amounts of new wind and solar to take advantage of these low renewable prices. What's more, Xcel concluded that wind and utility-scale solar will likely remain the cheapest resources in the future, even as the current federal tax incentives are phased out.
Working with Vote Solar, Earthjustice intervened in the Colorado Public Utilities Commission proceeding regarding Xcel's plan to ensure it evaluated solar on a level playing field with fossil fuels. Earthjustice attorneys successfully argued the plan should incorporate the social cost of carbon when Xcel calculates the costs of burning fossil fuels.
2. Distributed solar will continue to grow in Colorado through a landmark settlement agreement.
Partnering with Vote Solar, Earthjustice helped negotiate a landmark settlement agreement that preserves net metering and ensured these distributed solar resources will continue to grow in the future. As a result of the settlement, Xcel will add an additional 225 megawatts of rooftop solar and 105 megawatts of community solar by 2019. (There are currently more than 275 megawatts of rooftop solar on Xcel's system and approximately 30 megawatts of community solar projects).
The settlement will also implement a voluntary trial program to analyze a new time-of-use (TOU) rate design. This new TOU rate should further incentivize the optimal deployment of rooftop solar, energy storage and other distributed energy resources.
3. Decoupling will provide a new policy tool to encourage the growth of rooftop solar and energy efficiency, while maximizing benefits for low-usage and low-income customers.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission recently approved a decoupling mechanism for Xcel, which Earthjustice worked with Vote Solar to support. Decoupling removes a utility's disincentive to promote rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and other measures that reduce electricity sales. This new decoupling mechanism should help ensure Xcel continues to support rooftop solar and energy efficiency in the future.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission also adopted Earthjustice's recommendations that benefit low-usage and low-income customers. The "Tucson Model" applies decoupling credits to low-usage rate tiers and decoupling charges to high-usage rate tiers in order to maximize benefits for low-usage and low-income customers. Colorado is the first state to implement the "Tucson Model" for decoupling.
4. Xcel begins construction on an additional 650 megawatts of clean energy.
Xcel recently began construction on the Rush Creek wind farm located on Colorado's eastern plains. Rush Creek will generate 600 megawatts of electricity when it is completed in 2018. The project will be Colorado's largest wind farm, and it will consist of 300 wind turbines that will be built in Colorado.
Xcel will soon begin construction on a 50-megawatt utility-scale solar facility as part of its new Renewable*Connect program. The Renewable*Connect program will allow Xcel customers to directly subscribe to the electricity generated from a large solar facility. This new solar program is due to the settlement agreement achieved by Earthjustice and Vote Solar.
This recent good news from Colorado indicates that clean energy will continue to grow and prosper despite the Trump administration, even in states with a substantial fossil fuel industry. Colorado shows that while there may be dark storm clouds at the federal level, the future of clean energy is clear.
Santa Barbara Becomes First California City to Pass Resolution Against Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
The Santa Barbara City Council approved a resolution Tuesday opposing new drilling off the California coast and fracking in existing offshore oil and gas wells. The resolution is the first in a new statewide campaign to rally local governments against proposals to expand offshore fossil fuel extraction in federal waters.
The vote—which makes Santa Barbara the first California city to oppose both fracking and new offshore drilling—follows President Trump's April 28 executive order urging federal agencies to expand oil and gas leasing in federal waters. The order could expose the Pacific Ocean to new oil leasing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Starting Wednesday, the vast majority of Americans can learn about every potentially harmful chemical in their drinking water and what scientists say are the safe levels of those contaminants. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The organization has earned a reputation for ambitious data-mining research projects that shake up policy debates and consumer markets. EWG's online Farm Subsidy Database, listing millions of subsidy recipients, and its Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products, draw tens of millions of visitors every year.
By Stacy Malkan
Ever since they classified the world's most widely used herbicide as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a team of international scientists at the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer research group have been under withering attack by the agrichemical industry and its surrogates.
In a front-page series, The Monsanto Papers, the French newspaper Le Monde described the attacks as "the pesticide giant's war on science," and reported, "to save glyphosate, the firm [Monsanto] undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means."
The lengthy report from the Energy and Policy Institute uses reams of archival documents to demonstrate that utility industry representatives knew as far back as 1968 that burning fossil fuels could trigger "catastrophic effects" on the climate.
By Sharon Kelly
The Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP Tuesday to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.
On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.
By Andy Rowell
The UK has followed France in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, as part of its plan to tackle chronic air pollution in cities. The government has been coming under intense pressure to act, with an estimated 40,000 people dying prematurely a year from air pollution.
By Colleen Curry
People traveling across America today can, if they're lucky, pitch a tent in the same exact spot that early American explorers and map-makers Lewis and Clark did, amid the jagged rocks and sweeping plains of the Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana.
Brent Rose, a journalist and filmmaker who has been traveling around the U.S. in a van for two years, was one of the lucky ones.
Kyara, a killer whale born at SeaWorld San Antonio just three months ago, died Monday at the park, as reported in this video from Newsy. Kyara is the last orca to be born in captivity under the SeaWorld breeding program, which shut down in 2016.
In a statement, SeaWorld said the cause of death was "likely pneumonia" and that "Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week."