In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • A wind and solar chairman responds to Trump’s assertion that the Green New Deal is “ridiculous.”
  • EPA suspends environmental law enforcement, citing coronavirus.
  • A judge orders a full environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Need for green energy support

Tri Global Energy is the leading wind developer in Texas and one of the biggest wind developers in the US. It has successfully developed more than 3,500MW of projects that are currently in financing, construction, or operation. It currently develops wind and solar projects in Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, and Virginia. And Sunfinity Renewable Energy is a provider of residential, commercial, and utility solar energy.

John Billingsley is the chairman and CEO of both of those companies, and he is strongly urging lawmakers to ensure green energy is included in the next phase of stimulus spending. (Green energy was not in this week’s Senate’s stimulus bill, and the entire House of Representatives is currently flying to Washington, DC, because one representative, Thomas Massie (R-KY), said he won’t vote for the bill on the phone. I’m guessing he’s not going to win Capitol Hill’s popularity contest today.)

Here’s what Billingsley had to say in an email about what the renewable sector needs going forward:

Together, wind and solar energy represent hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs, billions of dollars in spending and tax revenues, and just as importantly, clean, renewable power for a better world.

President Trump tweeted about ‘the ridiculous Green New Deal’ and Republicans accused Democrat lawmakers of holding up the overall package with green initiatives, but this isn’t a political issue, it’s economics that are just as valid as airlines, hospitality, and many other important American industries.

Congress can support the clean energy industry simply by extending the safe harbor provisions, essentially freezing tax credits in place, and eliminate uncertainty and enable projects to move forward. Also, allowing developers to receive direct pay equal to the value of the credits helps ensure the availability of tax equity.

‘Open license to pollute’

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a suspension of the enforcement of environmental rules on Thursday, saying it “will generally not seek stipulated or other penalties for noncompliance with such obligations” during the coronavirus outbreak.

The EPA has not set an end date for this new policy, which can be read here.

The oil and gas industry has been lobbying the EPA for weeks for a relaxation of the rules, citing staffing issues, according to the Associated Press.

Andrew Wheeler, head of the EPA, said:

EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements.

This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.

Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an emailed statement:

This is an open license to pollute. Plain and simple. The administration should be giving its all toward making our country healthier right now. Instead it is taking advantage of an unprecedented public health crisis to do favors for polluters that threaten public health.

We can all appreciate the need for additional caution and flexibility in a time of crisis, but this brazen directive is an abdication of the EPA’s responsibility to protect our health.

Dakota Pipeline review

A federal judge has ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, three years after it opened.

US District Judge James Boasberg requested that both the US Army Corps of Engineers and environmental groups and Native American tribes submit briefings in April for and against the pipeline.

The pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois, is 1,000 miles long. The controversial area is a small portion under the Missouri River. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation lies downstream from that area, and they are concerned that a leak could contaminate their drinking water and lands.

According to NPR, Judge Boasberg stated:

The many commenters in this case pointed to serious gaps in crucial parts of the Corps’ analysis — to name a few, that the pipeline’s leak-detection system was unlikely to work, that it was not designed to catch slow spills, that the operator’s serious history of incidents had not been taken into account, that that the worst-case scenario used by the Corps was potentially only a fraction of what a realistic figure would be — and the Corps was not able to fill any of [the gaps in the analysis].

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