Huge Victory in War Against Wind Power; GOP Moves to Stop EPA from Reducing Greenhouse Gasses
February 7, 2017
Stefanie Spear / EcoWatch & Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill to increase the use of wind and solar power to 25 percent by 2020, has been overridden by Maryland state lawmakers. Meanwhile, in DC, 114 GOP lawmakers have endorsed a bill that declares carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride are no longer "air pollutants."
Huge Win for Renewables in Maryland
As Lawmakers Override Governor's Veto
Stefanie Spear / EcoWatch
(February 5, 2017) -- Lawmakers in the Maryland Senate voted 32-13 Thursday to expand the state's renewable energy target restoring the Clean Energy Jobs Act and overriding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the measure in May of last year. The bill is now in effect.
The bill increases requirements to use energy sources like wind and solar power to 25 percent by 2020, increased from 20 percent by 2022. The renewable portfolio standard (RPS), according to the Maryland Climate Coalition, will result in an additional 250 megawatts of solar energy in the state and more than 1,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy in the region.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said this bill is a big win for Maryland's economy. Wind power relies on a robust American supply chain that consists of 500 factories across 43 states, the wind energy organization touts, with wind energy already providing $380 million of capital investment in Maryland, and wind turbine lease payments generating up to $1 million a year in the state.
"Making the Clean Energy Jobs Act law is the right decision for Maryland. Renewable energy legislation is pro-growth, pro-business, and means access to more jobs in Maryland," AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said. "From the Free State's population-hubs to majestic shores, this ensures more low-cost, homegrown American wind power reaches homeowners and businesses."
This bill will also benefit the solar energy industry. Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the bill will pave "the way for increased renewable energy in communities across the state.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act is named that for a reason. Today, the solar industry employs thousands of Marylanders who know firsthand that when you expand clean energy, you increase the number of well-paying local jobs."
Gov. Hogan criticized the veto of his bill and said it will raise electricity costs. He called it a "sunshine and wind tax." However, as AWEA pointed out in a blog post, meeting renewable energy goals created up to $4.9 billion in reduced consumer energy prices and added 200,000 American jobs, and $20 billion to annual GDP through 2013.
Maryland is not alone in wanting to grow its economy via renewable energy generation. States representing roughly a quarter of the US population—California, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and DC—have increased their renewable energy goals in the past year.
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory, state renewable portfolio standards have created $7.5 billion in annual environmental benefits from reduced air emissions, 27 billion gallons in reduced yearly water consumption and $1.3 billion to $4.9 billion in reduced consumer energy prices, including 200,000 American jobs and $20 billion in annual GDP.
"In the current face of fear, uncertainty, and at times outright denial of environmental problems at the federal level, the Clean Energy Jobs Act proves that states like Maryland will not remain quiet on our country's toughest challenges like climate change," David Smedick, Maryland Beyond Coal Campaign and policy representative for the Sierra Club, said.
Stefanie Spear is founder and CEO of EcoWatch
New Bill Would Block EPA
From Regulating Greenhouse Gases
Lorraine Chow / EcoWatch
(February 6, 2017) -- Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill to curtail the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to address climate change. The "Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017" (HR637) would amend the Clean Air Act so that:
"The term 'air pollutant' does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride."
The bill was introduced by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) and has already racked up 114 Republican co-sponsors. Palmer is a climate denier who once said that temperature data used to measure global climate change have been "falsified" and manipulated.
Palmer's latest proposal would nullify the EPA's regulation of carbon pollution, stating that "no federal agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under current law" and "no attempt to regulate greenhouse gases should be undertaken without further Congressional action."
Liz Perera, climate policy director at the Sierra Club, told Huffington Post that the resolution would make it nearly impossible for the federal government to fight climate change.
"This is the legislative equivalent of trying to ban fire trucks while your house is burning," she said, adding its sponsors "should be embarrassed for so blatantly ignoring reality and ashamed of themselves for so recklessly endangering our communities."
Furthermore, the measure contains a frightening provision saying that jobs should be prioritized over public and environmental health:
(a) In General -- Before proposing or finalizing any regulation, rule, or policy, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall provide an analysis of the regulation, rule, or policy and describe the direct and indirect net and gross impact of the regulation, rule, or policy on employment in the United States.
(b) Limitation -- No regulation, rule, or policy described in subsection (a) shall take effect if the regulation, rule, or policy has a negative impact on employment in the United States unless the regulation, rule, or policy is approved by Congress and signed by the President.
Congressman Palmer introduced a similar version of the bill in 2015 which also tried to "clarify" the definition of an air pollutant.
"The EPA has repeatedly claimed fighting climate change as justification for crafting onerous regulations that limit carbon dioxide, water vapor, and other compounds that are both essentially harmless and in fact required for life to flourish," Palmer said in 2015 statement.
"This is done using statutes Congress never contemplated could be read to regulate such common and essential substances. This bill reasserts Congress's authority by prohibiting the EPA from unilaterally continuing to cause severe economic damage by regulating greenhouse gases."
Fortunately, the bill does not seem to have any legs. David Doniger, a senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program told The Guardian that HR637 does not have much of a chance breaking through a Senate filibuster as Democrats would have near-universal opposition to it and even some moderate Republican Senators would vote against it as well.
Still, many Republican lawmakers have been galvanized by Donald Trump's presidential win. Trump notoriously campaigned on slashing Obama-era environmental regulations and rolling back the EPA.
US Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also recently proposed a measure to completely shutter the EPA. The house bill, introduced on Feb. 3., would terminate the agency by the end of 2018.
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