New Jersey residents just elected a Democrat to replace Christie — one with an ambitious alternative energy plan. One of the biggest energy-related consequences of the 2017 election is the gust of life breathed into offshore wind development in the densely populated and energy-hungry Garden State.
Gov.-elect Phil Murphy wants New Jersey to get all its energy from “clean” sources by the middle of the century.
To do so, Murphy promised to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, under which nine East Coast states cap and trade carbon dioxide to reduce climate-warming emissions from the power sector. And he set what his campaign calls “the most ambitious offshore wind target in the country” by promising to bring 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind power online by 2030.
Wind companies itching to build off the Jersey Shore are pleased with the prospect.
Murphy's "got a really good handle on this industry, not only from an economic perspective but from an environmental one as well,” said Paul Rich, director of project development at US Wind. “I think he’s poised to be bold where others have gotten cold feet.”
“We are hopeful that a Murphy administration will continue to move New Jersey forward in the development of a robust offshore wind industry,” said Thomas Brostrom, the North American president of Orsted (formerly DONG Energy).
Although land-based wind energy has taken off in the United States — pushing wind-generating capacity above that of hydropower by the end of 2016, more than any other renewable source — the nation has built only one commercial offshore wind farm, off the coast of Rhode Island's Block Island, despite the federal government awarding nearly a dozen commercial offshore wind leases for locations off the coasts of Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia.
With Christie leaving office, New Jersey could be next. Orsted, a Danish firm, along with US Wind, a subsidy of the Italian energy company Renexia, each hold federal leases to build off New Jersey. Another firm, Fisherman Energy, has proposed to build a wind farm in state waters near Atlantic City, as well.
While declining worldwide, the upfront costs of offshore wind are still much higher than onshore, and require more subsidization from federal and local governments to make financial sense to investors.
Until it expires in 2019, offshore wind developers can take advantage of an investment tax credit from the federal government. For seven years, New Jersey has had a law requiring the state to grant its own subsidy, too.
“We’re going to work to make New Jersey No. 1 in offshore wind production,” Christie said in 2011, not long after signing that measure.
But the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), whose chairman is chosen by the governor, never finalized rules for that subsidy.
Christie "realized that he needed to jettison anything that looked moderate" in order to win over conservatives nationwide "when people started looking at him as president timber,” said Jim Lanard, chief executive of Magellan Wind.
The board also rejected Fisherman Energy’s state-waters project three times. Without that greenlight, the federal Energy Department cut off funding to the project earlier this year, too.
"This election makes me confident that New Jersey government, including the BPU, will now evaluate offshore wind and specifically the Fishermen’s Energy project in a fair and balanced way," said Chris Wissemann, a board member and former chief executive of Fisherman Energy.
But the law, even if finalized by the Murphy administration, authorizes incentives for 1,100 megawatts of offshore generation at a minimum. But that’s less than a third of the target Murphy set for 2030 — meaning that the New Jersey’s Democratically controlled legislature probably needs to readdress the 2010 statute Christie signed to realize that goal.
The federal government presents another hurdle. The tax overhaul bill making its way through the House threatens to water down wind tax subsidies.
But that isn’t the biggest concern for the offshore wind industry. A trio of Republican senators from windy Midwestern states — Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), John Thune (S.D.) and Dean Heller (Nev.) — publicly oppose any alteration to wind tax credits. Even without the tax credits, “we believe that the offshore wind energy industry will continue to grow,” Lauren Burm, a spokeswoman for Orsted, North America, said by email.
And then there is President Trump. As a candidate, Trump railed against offshore wind power, once calling a set of turbines proposed near his Scottish golf course an act of “public vandalism.”
But since then, the Trump administration has sent positive signals to the offshore wind industry. The Interior Department auctioned off more than 100,000 acres of water off Kitty Hawk, N.C., with another 400,000 acres near New England water potentially on the way.
Both US Wind and Orsted say they want more federal leases granted in New Jersey, despite the competition it may bring to electricity markets. Other firms, including Magellan Wind, are eager to bid for a slice of New Jersey’s wind industry.
“We have said since we began our business in the U.S. in 2015 that we are here to build an industry, so more lease areas will help to build that pipeline of projects we need to keep the industry competitive and to attract the supply chain here,” said Burm of Orsted.
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- “Mr. Pruitt is welcome to officially fire me:” Following EPA head Scott Pruitt’s new directive to prohibit scientists who receive grants from the agency to serve as outside advisers, two scientists from the three main targeted boards gave up their grants. Seven scientists did not, per The Post's Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, and can no longer serve. But one researcher, they report, has challenged Pruitt to explicitly fire her.
“I just wanted to let you know that I am not officially resigning or stepping down from the board,” Robyn Wilson, an Ohio State University professor and risk analysis specialist wrote in response to an email from an EPA staffer saying she would no longer be needed in her advisory role.
“It seems as if the intention of the Administrator is to force us to choose between our grants and the board given the new policy. I simply will not do that as it is a false choice… Mr. Pruitt is welcome to officially fire me from the Board, as I am clearly not on the new list of SAB members. But given I had one year left in my term, and I was hired by the previous Administrator, it seems as if the appropriate way for him to enact this policy is to provide an official letter informing me that I am being let go before my term ends.”
Agency spokesman Liz Bowman told The Post that Pruitt “has issued a directive which clearly states his policy in this regard,” adding “we appreciate her service and desire to continue to serve.”
-- EPA is taking more advice from industry — and ignoring its own scientists: On Friday, Eilperin and Brady also reported on "a profound shift unfolding in the EPA under President Trump, in which the agency has reassessed its own data and analyses at the prompting of corporations." Examples include the EPA citing research conducted by Tennessee Tech University but underwritten by the biggest truck manufacturer challenging the emissions standards of freight trucks, Fitzgerald Glider Kits, and relying on work from Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures chlorpyrifos, questioning the agency's epidemiological studies showing the pesticide posed a potential health risk to fetal neurological development.
The shift drew condemnation from environmentalists but praise from longtime EPA critics, including outgoing House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.). “Throughout the Obama administration, Science Committee hearings repeatedly revealed faulty, one-sided science as the underpinnings of EPA regulations. Administrator Pruitt has taken a different approach,” Smith said in a statement. “His actions make clear that he is working to unburden American families and to ensure this administration’s policies are based on sound, transparent science.”
-- Pro-Trump group courts donors with Cabinet access: Politico's Maggie Severns reports on how deep-pocketed donors are cozying up to Energy Secretary Rick Perry without violating federal law. "Perry will headline an intimate gathering of high-powered business executives in Texas next week for the pro-Trump outside group America First Policies, the first in a series of 'roundtable discussions' giving donors face time with top Trump officials.
The Houston event featuring Perry, detailed in an invitation sent to a Republican donor and obtained by POLITICO, will include roughly 30 people and cover topics from energy policy to the Trump administration’s broader agenda, America First spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said. Perry will not solicit donations from the attendees at the Monday event, which would be a violation of federal law — but America First officials plan to ask for contributions after Perry leaves the room."
-- Trump vs. the world: Democratic leaders vowed at the climate conference in Bonn, Germany over the weekend that they would comply with the Paris climate deal despite the Trump administration’s intention to withdraw.
“It is important for the world to know the American government may have pulled out of the Paris agreement, but the American people are committed to its goals and there is nothing Washington can do to stop it,” former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the “America’s Pledge” talk, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Bloomberg added that the United States was already halfway to the goal of reducing emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025, as outline in the Paris accord.
The latest from Bonn:
- Former vice president Al Gore suggested the U.S. could remain in the Paris agreement if there’s a new president in 2020. “If there is a new president … a new president could simply give 30 days notice, and the United States is back in the agreement,” he said, per the Hill. The United States is not allowed to formally withdraw until November 5, 2020, which happens to be the date of the next presidential election.
- The group of Democratic leaders at the conference made up a “shadow delegation” behind the official American delegation, writes The New York Times’ Lisa Freidman: “The alternate American pavilion, with its free espresso truck, tins of themed M&M’s and wireless internet that tells new users 'the U.S. has not gone dark on climate action,' has rapidly become a hub of activity at the United Nations global warming negotiations taking place this week. On Saturday, a line of people waited in the rain to hear Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, Gov. Jerry Brown of California and a handful of United States senators, all Democrats, declare that much of America remains committed to reducing planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.”
- And per Politico, the Democratic governors, lawmakers and mayors mounted an insurgency at the conference: “While pavilion organizers plied guests with big-name speakers and free beer and wine, a subtler campaign was unfolding inside the conference halls. Starting late last week, a small delegation of U.S. senators, including [Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)], Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) — began meeting with officials from other countries in an effort to assuage nerves about Trump. Schatz said he and other lawmakers met with delegations from India and Japan and were planning to meet with representatives of the European Union, Mexico, Indonesia and Canada.”
- The New York Times takes a look at who could emerge as climate leaders as the United States bows out of that role.
-- Ahead of schedule, but still much to do: The Post’s Scott Wilson writes about the recovery efforts in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, which have largely been ahead of schedule. The government has paid out $1.4 billion in emergency housing and resources to make homes livable as soon as it was possible.
“But the challenges, which will take years to solve and will redraw this city’s geography in doing so, have moved inside homes and classrooms and government offices,” Wilson writes. “Debris piles have mostly disappeared. They have been replaced by contractor trucks parked in the driveways of thousands of Houston homes, the pounding of hammers and buzzing of saws coming from inside…. In addition to the emergency housing aid, the federal government, strained by competing disasters in South Florida and Puerto Rico, has paid out more than $4.2 billion in flood insurance claims associated with Harvey. But some, particularly those who have the least, complain about weeks-long delays and backed-up bills.”
-- There are lessons to learn, writes the New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman: “The story of Harvey, Houston and the city’s difficult path forward is a quintessentially American tale. Time and again, America has bent the land to its will, imposing the doctrine of Manifest Destiny on nature’s most daunting obstacles. We have bridged the continent with railways and roads, erected cities in the desert, and changed the course of rivers,” Kimmelman writes. “Unfortunately, nature always gets the last word. Houston’s growth contributed to the misery Harvey unleashed. The very forces that pushed the city forward are threatening its way of life.”
--The latest on Puerto Rico:
- The director of Puerto Rico’s Emergency Management Agency has resigned as the island continues to recover. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Abner Gomez’ resignation, per the Associated Press, but didn't give a reason for his departure. Public Security Secretary Hector Pesquera is now running the agency.
- Media coverage of the recovery on the island has dropped markedly, per Media Matters. On Oct. 3, the day Trump visited the U.S. territory, 22 segments ran on prime-time cable news, per the analysis.By Nov. 3, just one segment ran.
- The New York Times reported on the discrepancy between pay for the linemen that worked for Whitefish Energy, the small Montana-based firm that received a contract to help repair the power grid on the island. Electrical workers who were hired to work for Whitefish earned between $42 to $100 an hour, per the report. “But the Montana company that hired the workers, Whitefish Energy Holdings, had a contract that allowed it to bill the Puerto Rican public power company, known as Prepa, $319 an hour for linemen, a rate that industry experts said was far above the norm even for emergency work — and almost 17 times the average salary of their counterparts in Puerto Rico."
-- Pipeline politics: The Justice Department said last week it would prosecute protesters who damage oil pipelines or other energy infrastructure, reports Reuters. The department’s pledge follows a letter from dozens of lawmakers asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether domestic terrorism included protesters who shut down oil pipelines in October 2016, per the report.
Flashback: In August, Dakota Access Pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners sued Greenpeace and other environmentalists, arguing it broke anti-terrorism and organized crime law. A similar racketeering suit from a Canadian logging company, Resolute Forest Products, against Greenpeace from the same law firm was dismissed by a federal judge in October — showing, it seemed, the outer limits of the legal pressure companies can put on activists. But the announcement from the Trump administration opens a new avenue for extraction firms looking to have their grievances addressed.
-- Big insurers brace for perilous future as climate risks escalate: Bloomberg News's Jess Shankleman reports about a day the global insurance industry is dreading: "After one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons in history, the world’s biggest insurers say the industry needs to get its act together if it wants to survive climate change. Insuring against weather natural disasters could reach unaffordable levels for households and companies, while the potential damage is so unpredictable it may be impossible to model -- an unacceptable risk to insurers. 'Sometime in the future there will be the situation where people cannot afford any longer to buy catastrophe insurance -- this is what we want to avoid,' Ernst Rauch, the head of the Corporate Climate Centre at Munich Re."
-- "A long-term trend, or just a one-off little blip?:" A new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters published to coincide with the climate talks in Bonn found that global carbon dioxide emissions are projected to rise up to 2 percent in 2017. More from The Post's Chris Mooney: "Despite global economic growth, total emissions held level from 2014 to 2016 at about 36 billion tons per year, stoking hope among many climate change advocates that emissions had reached an all-time high point and would subsequently begin to decline. But that was not to be, the new analysis suggests.. The renewed rise is a troubling development for the global effort to keep atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases below the levels needed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The more we emit now, scientists say, the more severe cuts will have to be later."
The causes: "In particular, China’s emissions were projected to increase by 3.5 percent in 2017 as the country consumed more of all three of the top fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and oil. China is the single largest emitting country. India, which has been experiencing rapid emissions growth, will pull back to 2 percent growth in 2017 because of economic contraction, the research suggests. Emissions from the United States and European Union are projected to decline 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. But emissions for the rest of the globe – which, in total, are even larger than China’s – will rise by close to 2 percent, according to the projection."
“It’s too early to say whether it’s a long-term trend, or just a one-off little blip,” said Glen Peters, one of the study’s co-authors and a researcher at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo.
-- "A public health emergency:" In New Delhi, where toxic smog is so bad that thousands of schools had been ordered closed, United Airlines has temporarily halted flights until the air quality improves. “United has temporarily suspended our Newark-Delhi flights due to poor air quality concerns in Delhi and currently has waiver policies in place for customers who are traveling to, from or through Delhi,” the company said in an email, per The Post's Vidhi Doshi and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. “We are monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency, and are coordinating with respective government agencies.”
- Energy Secretary Rick Perry will host the North American Energy Ministerial in Houston, Tex. on Tuesday.
- The House Natural Resources Committee holds an oversight hearing on “The Need for Transparent Financial Accountability in Territories’ Disaster Recovery Efforts” on Tuesday.
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing on response and recovery to environmental concerns from the 2017 hurricane season on Tuesday.
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety holds a hearing on Tuesday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on "Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands" on Tuesday.
- The Hill holds an event on digitalizing infrastructure on Tuesday.
- Roll Call hosts Energy Decoded on Wednesday.
- The Progressive Policy Institute & Common Good host “Rebuilding America: What are we Waiting For?” on Thursday.
All the times members of the Trump campaign interacted with Russians:
Republican lawmakers are split on whether Roy Moore, the embattled Alabama Republican, should continue his run for Senate given allegations against him:
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., has reopened as a memorial to the 26 people were killed there in a shooting on Nov. 5:
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