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States Turn Their Back on Renewable Energy
In the last week, two states—Virginia and Ohio—moved forward on policies that would significantly reduce statewide renewable energy projects. These two states show clear examples of what happens when policymakers and agencies fail to advance clean energy and instead support dirty fossil fuels.
In Virginia, Dominion Virginia Power informed environmental groups that the company has reached a tentative agreement with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to support legislation that would effectively repeal the state’s signature clean energy law. The move, environmentalists said, would not only harm the environment but also represents a de facto admission of guilt by Dominion, according to Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). The company has already accepted $77 million from ratepayers without making the clean energy investments that the General Assembly first intended with its original 2007 law.
According to a press release from CCAN:
Cuccinelli, a nationally known global warming denier who has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Virginia in the past to advance a radical anti-environmental agenda, has been critical of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law for some time. Dominion, meanwhile, has been publicly criticized for months by environmental and health leaders in the state for exploiting loopholes in the RPS energy law to gain millions of dollars in incentive payments from customers without developing a single wind farm or large solar project in the state.
Rather than work with lawmakers and advocates to strengthen the renewable energy standard and close controversial loopholes, Dominion has formed an alliance with Cuccinelli to render the law useless through a de facto repeal. As detailed to environmental advocates, Dominion and Cuccinelli are moving to repeal the performance incentive that serves as the law’s only mechanism for holding utilities accountable to fulfilling their clean energy goals. The Dominion-Cuccinelli proposal is a radical move that clean energy advocates statewide described as out of step with mainstream voters, a claim supported by recent polling.
“This is a sad, sad day for the state of Virginia,” said Dawone Robinson, Virginia policy coordinator, for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Citizens should tell Dominion and Cuccinelli to close the loopholes in the current clean energy law, not cynically repeal it completely.”
Hundreds of activists picketed Dominion’s downtown Richmond office for a week in October demanding that the company instead follow the proper intent of the law and earn its clean-energy incentives by investing in wind and solar power. Senator A. Donald McEachin and Delegate Alfonso Lopez are introducing common-sense legislation that would strengthen the RPS law by requiring Dominion to invest in wind and solar power in Virginia in order to qualify for these financial incentives, thus fulfilling the intent of the law to spur a clean energy industry in the commonwealth. A September statewide poll of likely voters showed that 63 percent of Virginians back this approach, according to CCAN.
“Kids with asthma, Hurricane Sandy victims and tourists who want to see the Shenandoah Mountains instead of smog—they all want clean energy in this state,” said Robinson. “And as in dozens of other states, our current clean electricity law can succeed if it is firmly reformed and Dominion agrees to stop gaming the rules. We need to fix the RPS law, not repeal it.”
Critics point out that the Dominion-Cuccinelli alliance to repeal the clean energy law in Virginia is consistent with nationwide efforts by the controversial and archconservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to CCAN. With funding from major oil and coal companies, ALEC has stated that it will prioritize efforts to repeal RPS laws in states from coast to coast in 2013 through its model “Electricity Freedom Act” legislation. The group is known for promoting a wide array of ultra-conservative policies, including the “stand your ground” gun law in Florida that police believe played a role in the death of an unarmed teenager in 2012.
Meanwhile, as climate scientists in Virginia and worldwide continue to document record heat, drought, sea-level rise and storms linked to global warming and fossil fuel use, Dominion Power continues to declare its overwhelming commitment to combusting dirty energy to meet the state’s future energy needs. In its most recent 15-year plan, Dominion said it still expects to generate the majority of its power for utility customers by burning fossil fuels, like coal and gas, in 2027. The company stated an astonishingly small 3.9 percent as its expected generation from clean, renewable energy sources in that year.
Last week in Ohio, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) rejected American Electric Power-Ohio's (AEP) proposed Turning Point solar farm project, a nearly 50 megawatt planned solar project that would have provided 650 jobs and been the largest U.S. solar project east of the Rocky Mountains, according to the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Public Utility Commission’s decision today. At a time when coal plants across Ohio are reaching the end of their lifespan, we need to plan for the future and move our state to cleaner sources of energy," said Robert Shields, chapter chair of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club. "The Turning Point solar project would have made Ohio a clean energy leader and created hundreds of good-paying, sustainable jobs. By turning its back on this critical solar project, the PUCO has dealt a blow to our ability to compete in a clean energy economy.”
“Napoleon, Ohio just opened a new solar panel factory to supply panels for the Turning Point project, and they were planning to hire mostly veterans to fill the 300 open positions,” said Daniel Sawmiller, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “As a veteran of the Iraq War, I am frustrated and disappointed that the commission would withdraw support from a project that would have provided an opportunity for employment for so many vets.”
AEP-Ohio sought to have the Turning Point project included as a necessary project under Ohio’s state renewable energy standard, a designation which would have attracted the financial support needed to move forward. The PUCO’s decision threatens the viability of the project.
“This ruling is a slap in the face to clean energy, new jobs and Southeast Ohio” said Brian Kaiser, director of Green Jobs & Innovation at the Ohio Environmental Council. “This solar project will add hundreds of jobs in a part of the state devastated by decades of economic decline.
“Let’s be clear, by rejecting the Turning Point solar project, the PUCO and this administration is turning its back on an innovative project that will expand the footprint of Ohio’s clean energy economy,” continued Kaiser.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
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The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."