2010 MD General Assembly Wrapup

Posted on April 15, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The 427th MD General Assembly has wrapped for the year.  Several important renewable energy bills were heard (and voted on) this year.

Clean Currents would like to thank those elected officials who remained committed to green issues.  We would also like to offer a “spanks” to those officials who continued to deny the urgency of pressing for greater renewable goals.


Thanks and Spanks for the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Session

The Maryland General Assembly has wrapped up for the year and now the politicians are about to enter full campaign mode. Who was good for clean energy, and deserves a “thanks” from us and who was bad and deserves a “spanks” from us? The number one priority of Clean Currents and the environmental plus solar business community was Governor Martin O’Malley’s solar RPS improvement. Thanks to the hard work of Governor O’Malley and his people at the Maryland Energy Administration, plus our staff here at Clean Currents and hundreds of likeminded supporters, the bill passed. This is a huge accomplishment in an election year session. Big Thanks to Governor O’Malley! The bill increases the value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits and requires more solar installations in the state. This means more money for homeowners and businesses that want to go green with solar panels.

In all, Clean Currents supported nine bills and opposed one as our top priorities for the session. Our record on these bills was pretty good. Of the nine we supported, four passed and will be signed into law, one passed the House but died in the Senate on Sine Die, and four were killed. The one bill we opposed was killed.

The bills that passed include the above-mentioned solar RPS bill (SB 277), as well as a bill to force the utilities to pay consumers for excess green power they generate via net metering (SB 355) and a bill to make it easier to install solar on master metered properties (SB 538).

BIG THANKS These are our big champions for the 2010 session:
Governor O’Malley, Senator Rob Garagiola (Potomac), Delegate Sue Hecht (Frederick)

THANKS These folks were consistent supporters of Clean Currents legislation, rock solid on solar and green energy.
Del. McHale came up with the amendment that saved the Governor’s solar RPS bill in House Economic Matters. Sen. Catherine Pugh (Baltimore) Sen. Kathy Klausemeier (Baltimore) Del. Herman Taylor (Silver Spring) Del. Roger Manno (Silver Spring) Del. Brian McHale (Baltimore)

BIG SPANKS There’s really one “superstar” of the anti-solar, anti-green energy side of the equation: Sen. EJ Pipkin (Eastern Shore)

SPANKS These folks voted against the Solar RPS bill and/or were not supportive of green electricity bills:
Sen. Delores Kelley (Baltimore) Sen. Alan Kittleman (Howard) Sen. Norman Stone (Baltimore County)Sen. Roy Dyson (Southern Md)Del. D Stifler

Finally, I want to give a big thanks to all who wrote letters, emailed, or called about the vital pieces of legislation we supported for a cleaner, greener future.

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Copenhagen Coverage…

Posted on December 8, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

In case you missed it, the Copenhagen UN Climate Talks (COP-15) kicked off yesterday. Union of Concerned Scientists has some great coverage of the summit including videos of what’s going on in the negotiations and background info on the talks and climate policy in general.

The UCS site can also help you contact your Senator and urge them to take action on climate…as Mike Tidwell suggested.

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Stop going green to stop climate change?

Posted on December 6, 2009. Filed under: Events, Recommendations | Tags: , , |

Mike Tidwell, executive director of CCAN, had an interesting and counter-intuitive at first glance piece in the Outlook section of the Post today. In it, he advocated that small green actions like replacing lightbulbs, or buying recycled wrapping paper are only giving people a false sense of progress against climate change, but in reality doing very little to address the problem. He urged people to stop “going green” altogether and instead put their time and energy towards fighting for real policy actions to create a legally binding response to climate change. He compared climate change to civil rights–indicating that voluntary measures are not enough and that laws need to change in order to create real progress. Even though integration was not flawless once it was required by law, it happened and the country moved forward:

“After many decades of public denial and inaction, the civil rights movement helped Americans to see Southern apartheid in moral terms. From there, the movement succeeded by working toward legal change. Segregation was phased out rapidly only because it was phased out through the law. These statutes didn’t erase racial prejudice from every American heart overnight. But through them, our country made staggering progress. Just consider who occupies the White House today.”

On the eve of the Copenhagen climate talks, Tidwell also points out that strong US leadership will drive the rest of the world to address this issue as well, and hints at his disappointment with President Obama’s current, “leadership from behind” on this issue.

Tidwell will be chatting on the Washington Post’s site about his piece tomorrow at 11AM, and its likely his opinions are bound to elicit various reactions from readers.

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Is there hope for Copenhagen?

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

Copenhagen 2009The UN Climate Change Conference (COP-15), a huge milestone for international climate change policy, is fast approaching. But will this much anticipated conference yield any concrete results? The buzz this weekend suggested that it would not.

Recent statements by world leaders, including President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, attempt to soften expectations for the outcome of the meeting, framing it is a “stepping stone” to an eventual agreement rather than the birthplace of a binding international framework to replace Kyoto.

By calling the meeting a “stepping stone”, Secretary Clinton falls in the camp that believes international climate change policy will be like international trade policy–evolving rounds of agreements and negotiations without a concrete endpoint. The contrast to this evolving framework is an international treaty, like the Montreal Protocol, which addressed ozone depleting substances and was negotiated in the late 1980s.

At a side meeting during the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore this weekend, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Lokke Rasmussen indicated that it was unrealistic to expect a legally binding agreement out of the impending summit and that perhaps a more feasible goal was a politically binding promise to establish a treaty at a later meeting. According to Rasmussen, this would be, “one agreement, two steps”

So what does this mean for climate change policy? Its certainly a dissapointment for many climate change activists that were hoping to get a solid committment from the meeting. But was this ever a realistic expectation? As Andrew Revkin puts it in NY Times DotEarth Blog,

“Finding a common framework for action acceptable to 200-plus countries with variegated vulnerabilities, fuel choices, political systems and histories of emissions remains a daunting task.”

Clearly, the fact that a global agreement on climate change is going to be very difficult to reach, is not news in any way. Still, over the last year, there were many positive signs that encouraged many that an agreement would be possible. First of all, the new American President cared about climate change and appointed Todd Stern, a seasoned and informed climate envoy to represent the country in negotiations. A year ago, it seemed as though the US was ready to take the lead in the international climate policy and make an agreement happen. And Europeans were starting not to see us only as SUV driving, air conditioning- loving, fast food eaters.

And now? The European climate negotiators once again see the US as the obstacle to any progress on climate change. As the chief Spanish negotiator commented,

“There’s a certain level of frustration in seeing that not all countries share (the) vision.”

Its a tough time for a climate change agreement. In the US, record unemployment rates, a flailing economy, and the struggle for health care reform are dominating the scene, not leaving much energy for climate change. And without the US, there is no prospect for a global agreement. Still, domestic climate change legislation has passed the house and has been introduced in the Senate, despite other legislative priorities.

So Copenhagen may not be the meeting where a binding international agreement is negotiated, but it could be a constructive part of a continuing effort to find a solution to climate change.

Don’t give up hope just yet.

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MD Business Leaders Condemn the US Chamber of Commerce’s Climate Stance

Posted on October 15, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , |

We’ve been following the flood of resignations from the US Chamber of Commerce as a result of the organization’s climate policy, that started with a few utilities making the decision to not renew their memberships last month.  Most recently, consumer goods companies such as Apple, Nike and Levi Strauss and Company have also taken a stance.

Today, local business leaders in spoke out against the Chamber’s climate policy in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Gary Skulnik, President of Clean Currents, expressed his views about climate legislation and the Chamber’s policy:

“Every business talks ‘green’ these days, but the real test of a green commitment is where a business stands on supporting progressive environmental legislation at the state or national level…Clean Currents is proud to stand firmly in the true green camp in supporting serious legislation to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, as opposed to the U.S. Chamber and its head-in-the-sand approach.”

Representatives from groSolar, Biohabitats, and Sustainable Urban Infrastructures offered similar comments condeming the position of the US Chamber of Commerce and voicing their firm committment to climate legislation that would match the urgency and severity of the environmental problem at hand.

According to a Chesapeake Climate Action Network press release, the US Chamber of Commerce has opposed every piece of climate legislation proposed in Congress and has  spent $26 million on lobbying congress in the first half of 2009, which is double the amount spent by the next highest lobbyist, ExxonMobil.

Headlines from The Onion (Image from Climate Progress)

Headlines from The Onion (Image from Climate Progress)

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Move Over Health Care, Congress has a New Climate Bill to Pick Apart

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

Last week, the Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer introduced their version of a climate bill called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The title of the 800 + page bill, like the House American Clean Energy and Security Bill, does not use the terms “global warming” or “climate change”. Green Inc points out that this purposeful omission shows how politically contentious the topic of climate change remains and foreshadows continued struggle to reach agreement on a Senate bill.

Here are some of the highlights of this bill from Wonk Room, Grist and the Washington Post:

  • Emissions reductions targets are set at 20% below 2005 levels, which is stronger than the 17% target in the House bill.
  • There are provisions to use revenues from carbon regulation to promote “green transportation” including bike paths
  • The bill allows for EPA regulation of coal plants (as does the house bill) and also includes provision to reward coal plants that switch to producing natural gas as urged by Senators from states with large natural gas reserves (Colorado, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kansas, New Mexico).
  • In Kerry’s words: This system is tough on corporate pollution, taking aim at America’s largest polluters: those emitting 25,000 tons of carbon each year. The 7,500 facilities covered in 2012—mostly power plants, industrial facilities and petroleum and petrochemical operations—account for nearly three-quarters of America’s carbon emissions. Farmers and nearly all small business are exempt. More than 98 percent of all American businesses fall below the threshold.”
  • Report about the efforts in major polluting countries such as China and India on how they are fairing in their efforts to  cut emissions.

The response to the bill has been mixed.

Some prominent environmentalists are supporting the bills tougher emissions reduction target. Carl Pope, President of the Sierra Club, offered the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Senate bill sets a strong short-term target for carbon pollution reductions and retains E.P.A.’s authority to regulate global warming emissions”

Al Gore also applauded the bill in a statement that was eerily similar to President Obama’s

“I applaud the leadership of Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry and their committees’ efforts to advance historic comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation in the U.S. Congress…Today’s Senate action brings our nation one step closer to enacting the policies that will create new jobs and industries by repowering America with clean energy, bring meaningful cuts in global warming pollution, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil… America has the opportunity to lead the international community and enact a truly global response to the climate crisis.”

On the other side of the debate, criticism from the American Petroleum Institute and Senator Inhofe (R-OK) focused on the vagueness of the bill and its lack of attention to nuclear regulatory issues. Frank Maisano argued against the the provision to “tailor” regulations to target polluters of 25,000 tons, in his October 5 Energy Update. He states:

Most experts know it is not practical to regulate major sources of 250 tons or more – as the CAA says – and still be able to function.”

Personally, I think its a sign of progress that Senators Kerry and Boxer have introduced this bill when congress (and the country) is absorbed in the health care debate and the economic crisis. It will be interesting to see how far it gets before Copenhagen in December.

Update: Here is the Union of Concerned Scientists Summary of the Bill

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Some Utilities are Seeing the Light on Climate Change

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

Utilities have been making news recently. Last week, Green Inc. tracked Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) withdrawal from the US Chamber of Commerce due to disagreements with the organization’s position on climate change. The Chamber has insisted on a  re-examination of the scientific evidence around climate change and has threatened to sue the EPA if a new investigation is not started.

The Chairman of PG&E, Peter Darbee, explained the decision in a letter to the Chamber last week:

“We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.”

As of today, Green Inc. reports that 2 other utilities have followed PG&E’s lead: PNM Resources (announcement last week) and Exelon (announcement today).

A spokesman for the US Chamber of Commerce offered this comment to Green Inc.:

“We’ve never questioned the science behind global warming.”

He went on to say that the Chamber had issues with the EPA’s finding that  greenhouse gases are a public health hazard and that they should be regulated. The Chamber supports the reduction of greenhouse gases in principle, but opposes regulation by the EPA, stating on their website:

“We support sound policies that incentivize innovation and new business opportunities rather than the approach coming out of the House and the EPA which will strangle business with thousands of new regulation and stifle America’s competitiveness”

Incentives for innovation and new business opportunities- that sounds great! But how can we do these things without a price on carbon? It seems to me (and this is in no way a unique thought) that as long as the environmental impact is not a factor in the bottom line for business, climate friendly technologies will not be able to compete with conventional ones. And as for America’s competitiveness, many experts believe that we are already falling behind in terms of green technologies. Check out this graphic Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, posted on his facebook page:

Disagreements about climate change legislation also prompted the withdrawal of Duke Energy (the country’s third largest utility) and Alstom from the American Council for Clean Coal Electricity earlier this month.

And just today, Duke Energy joined Florida Power and Light in announcing that all their fleet vehicle purchases would be plug in hybrid or fully electric by 2020!

SO it does appear that some utilities are taking climate change seriously..here’s to hoping the idea will catch on.

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Get Plugged In to the Latest Clean Energy News!

Posted on September 11, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Welcome to Clean Currently! Clean Currently will follow the latest clean energy news including cool clean technology and green products, developments in the wind and solar industry, clean energy events in the Maryland/DC metro area and Clean Currents news.

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