May
11
2017

Will U.S. Stay or Go in Paris Climate Deal?

According to a report from Reuters, the Trump administration will likely decide later this month whether the U.S. will remain party to the Paris climate deal.

“The president has been meeting with his team for quite a while on this matter, and he will not be making an announcement regarding that agreement until after he returns from the G-7,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained recently, referring to the Group of Seven meeting scheduled for May 26th and 27th in Italy.

Canceling the Paris agreement was initially a key part of President Donald Trump’s 100-day plan for energy policy. The president later softened that stance, saying the U.S. could remain in the deal if the nation received better terms.

“The reason that he’s seeking the advice of his team is to get options and then he’ll pursue the best one, but I’m not going to tell you which one that he’s going to do,” explained Spicer. “The president wants to continue to meet with his team … meet with not just the economic piece, but his environmental team, and come to a decision on what’s the best interests of the United States, using the expertise that surrounds him.”

According to reporting from Sean Moran of Breitbart, the move to withdraw from the Paris agreement is supported by Senior White House adviser Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, while White House advisers Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supporting continued U.S. participation in the climate deal.

While many industries oppose the deal, some companies such as BP Plc (formerly British Petroleum) and Microsoft Corp are urging the U.S. to remain part of the agreement. Others see talks surrounding the Paris climate deal as an opportunity to strengthen the U.S. position on world energy.

Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a major oil-producing state, and eight other Republican House of Representatives members sent a letter to President Trump urging him to use the country’s “seat at the Paris table to defend and promote our commercial interest, including our manufacturing and fossil fuel sectors.” Cramer helped to advise the president on energy and climate during the 2016 presidential campaign.

May
09
2017

Wind Turbines and Military Bases Not At Odds

There is little doubt that Oklahoma is a state with strong and proud ties to the U.S. military, with major installations across the state. In addition to Fort Sill, a primary training center for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, and McAlester Army Munitions Plant, the state is home to Altus, Tinker, and Vance Air Force bases. Oklahoma is also one of the nation’s most productive states for wind power. There is no reason that these two significant resources for Oklahoma can’t exist side by side, enriching the state.

Earlier this legislative session, the Oklahoma Legislature helped to resolve confusion about the siting of wind turbines in relation to airports. It turns out that some Oklahomans tried to avoid having wind turbines near their properties by taking advantage of a regulation that prohibits wind turbines from being located too close to an airport. By creating fake airports, so called “sham-ports”, those landowners tried to use a regulatory technicality to stop some of the state’s wind power production.

Fortunately, lawmakers wisely eliminated the “sham-port” loophole. Not only does this help ensure Oklahoma’s place as one of the nation’s leading wind states, it also benefits landowners whose properties are ideal for the siting of wind turbines. Today, more than a thousand Oklahomans own land that houses wind turbines. The leasing of turbines provides valuable income to these families, many of whom are farmers in western Oklahoma. Especially for farmers dealing with unpredictable crop and market conditions, wind leasing offers steady income and peace of mind. By taking action to close the “sham-port” loophole, state lawmakers helped preserve this stream of income and defend land values for current owners, as well as all of those who might see turbines built on their land in coming years.

Recently, though, another issue has threatened land values and the potential for wind turbine leasing. This time, the concern is the siting of wind power near military installations. Some are worried that wind turbines could interfere with military operations.

To be clear, operational integrity is something the military takes very seriously, which is why the Department of Defense already undergoes a rigorous assessment of whether the location of wind turbines could have any effect on military operations. In locations across the country, including North Carolina and Texas, extensive reviews have taken place to ensure that major wind installations don’t inhibit the operation of military bases in any way. For example, more than 600 wind turbines are today operating near Travis Air Force Base in California, with the nearest wind turbine less than 4.2 miles from radar. In North Carolina, a wind farm built by Amazon was approved by the U.S. Navy to build 104 wind turbines near a military facility, after those turbines were deemed to be no obstacle to operations.

Time after time, the military has declared in no uncertain terms that wind turbines can co-exist peacefully with military operations. They have affirmed this through careful and detailed analysis that looks at multiple contingencies and evaluates numerous concerns. This is true anywhere that wind turbines are built, including Oklahoma. Decades of experience back this up, too, as no military base has ever been shut down or been compromised by wind power production.

Members of the Oklahoma Legislature have a number of pressing issues in front of them as the legislative session comes to a close. However, the relationship between wind turbines and military installations is one that is sufficiently covered by the diligent work of the Department of Defense. As lawmakers conclude their work this year, let’s hope they show the wisdom to leave this issue to military officials. That means taking no action that could endanger the state’s wind production or hurt land values for farmers and other families who depend on wind leases.

May
01
2017

EPA Postpones Costly ELG Rule

Earlier this month, the EPA requested that ongoing litigation for its Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines (ELG rule) published by the Obama administration in November of 2015 be suspended for six months. Just this past week, the United States Court of Appeals granted this motion and agreed to hold the lawsuit in abeyance until August 2017.

The ELG rule aimed to place more stringent standards on effluent or wastewater limitations from power plants. How costly was the rule? The EPA estimated the measure to cost $480 million per year and have a reported average cost of $1.2 billion per year during the first five years of compliance. Under the leadership of new Administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA has issued a stay on the rule, postponing compliance until the lawsuit is settled.

“This action is another example of EPA implementing President Trump’s vision of being good stewards of our natural resources, while not developing regulations that hurt our economy and kill jobs,” says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

The ELG rule mainly targeted coal-fired power plants of 50 megawatts or more, which would have affected as many as 500 power plants in the United States. In response, industry groups filed suit a lawsuit, Southwestern Electric Power Co., et al v. EPA, that alleged that EPA greatly underestimated the overall costs of compliance. A number of voices, including the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and the American Public Power Association, also claimed that the costs from the ELG rule would result in job losses.

The cost of the rule would certainly have been high. For example, NRG Energy expected its costs to be around $200 million. American Electric Power faced even higher costs, with estimates ranging between $400 and $550 million. Smaller, local utilities may have had to pay even more in relation to their lower numbers of rate payers.

“Some of our nation’s largest job producers have objected to this rule, saying the requirements set by the Obama administration are not economically or technologically feasible within the proscribed timeframe. It is in the public’s best interest to reconsider the rule and assess the wide-ranging and sweeping objections that the agency received,” explained EPA Administrator Pruitt.

The delay of the ELG rule is a win for power producers and consumers. Rolling back costly regulations such as this one will ensure that low-cost, reliable power continues to remain available to the families and businesses who depend on it.