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ENERGY ISSUES COME INTO FOCUS IN MANY STATES FOR NOVEMBER ELECTIONS



As the U.S. increasingly becomes an energy powerhouse, states are key battlegrounds for innovative policymaking.

That makes the fall elections a focus for both proponents of the surge in fossil fuel energy development and opponents who advocate alternative energy solutions.

As Politico reports in a story about environmentalists focusing on state legislative races, "The states will be the battleground for Obama's signature climate policy -- EPA's greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants. The states are responsible for writing plans to meet the new carbon limits, and some greens worry that conservative groups like ALEC [the American Legislative Exchange Council] could persuade lawmakers to interfere."

States will need to continue to respond to EPA rulemaking on another aspect of energy development as well, as the EPA is now engaged in rulemaking on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The agency accepted public comment through September 18.

The use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is growing rapidly. "Natural gas developed through the use of hydraulic fracturing will rise to more than 75 percent of the domestic supply by 2035," reports the American Petroleum Institute.

Environmental interests have had some recent policy successes in the states. When Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick signed HB 4385/ S2214 in August, Massachusetts joined Wisconsin and New Hampshire "as the only states to provide incentives for the use of clean, renewable fuels to heat and cool buildings," writes David O'Connor in the Mintz Levin law firm blog, Energy Technology Matters. And in New York, hydraulic fracturing faces a moratorium.

Elsewhere, states are encouraging energy development. That includes California, where despite continued expansion of the state's cap-and-trade program and recently enacted comprehensive groundwater law, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has been open to fracking, drawing harsh criticism from his usual friends on the left.

Ohio's solar market has stalled after lawmakers froze the state's renewable energy law.

Meanwhile, energy-rich Alaska is promoting more development of natural gas, while in Colorado the state has pushed back against some local attempts to limit fracking.

And in New Mexico, both candidates for governor are encouraging development of the state's energy resources, differing on the means of moving forward.

The growth in fossil fuel energy development has led California billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer to invest $100 million into the election campaigns this year, some of which is going to state legislative candidates. For example, Steyer has given $1 million to Washington-based NextGen Climate Action Committee -- Washington, according to the Washington's Public Disclosure Commission.

Washington's Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has been supportive of climate change solutions, but he feels thwarted by the Republican-controlled Majority Coalition Caucus in the state Senate. NextGen is expected to target at least two state Senate candidates who would be more supportive of Inslee's ideas.

Steyer's defenders acknowledge his role but point to the vast sums poured into Republican campaigns by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

 


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