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Sen. Fran Pavley: A quiet force in the climate storm


In a small hearing room decorated with paintings of birds and flowers, Sen. Fran Pavley – the great-granddaughter of a three-time presidential candidate – sat down to present the bill that will likely cement her legacy as the California Legislature’s most accomplished environmentalist.

As usual, her tone was understated, and her style more patient schoolmarm than zealous politician.

“It’s needed to be done based on the science, the impacts to California, nationally and the world,” Pavley, 66, told the panel of lawmakers, making eye contact over the glasses perched at the end of her nose.

Nearly a decade after pushing Assembly Bill 32 – California’s landmark climate change law that led to the cap and trade system – Pavley is back. This time, with a proposal to even further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Her Senate Bill 32 – the number neatly echoes the earlier bill – calls for California to look 35 years into the future to make enormous cuts to the kind of pollution responsible for global warming.


Pavley with then-Speaker Fabian Núñez on the day AB 32 passed in 2006 (AP file photo by Rich Pedroncelli)

Next year will be Pavley’s last in the Legislature, as term limits force her to move on. Typical of many bills she has championed during her legislative career, this one has generated pushback from the business community. Cutting emissions is costly, businesses argue, and the state hasn’t done enough to determine the impacts her earlier bill has had on California’s economy.

“Before we move ahead we need to take a look, seriously, at where we are today. What are the costs and benefits of what’s already happened?” Michael Shaw, a lobbyist for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, asked at the hearing, while Pavley sat beside him taking notes.

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Dan Walters: Anti-carbon crusade clouded with uncertainities

Gov. Jerry Brown wants California to set decarbonization example

He calls it a moral crusade to reduce state’s carbon footprint

But many questions remain about the effects on Californians’ lifestyles


Declaring it a moral imperative, California’s leading figures have embarked on a crusade to “decarbonize” the state, sharply reducing emissions of gases they say threaten to wreak havoc, even extinction, on the globe’s human population.

“We don’t even know how far we’ve gone, or if we’ve gone over the edge,” Gov. Jerry Brown said last week at a Vatican conference on climate change, tied to an encyclical by Pope Francis. “We are talking about extinction. We are talking about climate regimes that have not been seen for tens of millions of years. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.”

A first-stage decarbonization program is underway. But Brown and other political figures, such as Kevin de León, the president pro tem of the state Senate, want California to set a global example over the next 15 years by reducing petroleum consumption in cars and trucks by 50 percent, making buildings more energy-efficient and increasing electrical production from renewable sources – solar, wind and geothermal – from 33 percent, the current goal, to 50 percent. De León is carrying Senate Bill 350 that would implement those goals.

Their crusade, however, raises multiple questions:

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Cap and trade: Is California a leader or a loner?


It was mid-morning one day in May and somewhere deep inside a 25-story tower in Sacramento, an auction, cloaked in secrecy, was about to begin.

There was no gavel pounding. No shouting. No frenzy of traders running around.

Instead, an unknown number of state workers surrendered their cell phones, and took positions monitoring computer screens inside the building that houses California’s environmental agencies. Across the world, traders logged in, poised to buy permits that allow businesses in California to emit the kind of pollution responsible for global warming.

Four hours later, the auction was over and California state government was $626 million richer.

That’s the state’s cap and trade program at work, the only one like it in the country.

How many staff monitor the online auctions? Which companies bought the permits? State officials won’t say. Making too much information public, they say, could compromise the integrity of the quarterly auctions.

“What we don’t do and won’t do is get into the individual business strategies that companies use to decide when to buy, what auctions to participate in, who to trade with, and so forth,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, which runs the cap and trade program.

The secrecy around the auctions is meant to keep them fair and prevent participants from colluding; other carbon markets use a similar “sealed bid” technique.

Under California’s two-year-old cap and trade system, the state sets a limit on how much greenhouse gases businesses can emit, and reduces the amount each year. Companies decide how to stay below the cap: They can buy permits to pollute through the auction, change operations to use energy more efficiently or pay for “offsets,” which are environmentally beneficial projects somewhere else that allow businesses to continue sending emissions into the atmosphere in California.

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Tesla to build battery storage project for Escondido schools

By Pat Maio | 6 a.m. July 27, 2015

      Escondido — With power rates skyrocketing for San Diego County school districts, Tesla Motors Inc. has inked a deal to build stationary battery storage systems for three Escondido high schools — a project that officials hope could save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in electricity costs.

      The Silicon Valley-based company — best known for its pioneering plug-in electric cars — unveiled home and industrial battery packs in April that can provide backup power or help businesses and government agencies avoid high-priced electricity. The Escondido Union School District is believed to be one of its first big clients.

      “The signficicance of this is that the school district, which is trapped by rising utility costs, can put more money into the classroom and have a positive impact on the environment,” said Michael Simonson, the district’s superintendent of business services.

      Tesla is building the world’s largest battery factory in the Nevada desert to realize its automotive and energy-storage dreams — a “Gigafactory” in the words of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who also runs the aerospace giant SpaceX and has close financial and family ties with solar installer and manufacturer SolarCity.

      California is expected to be a major market for big battery systems, as state utility regulators turn to energy storage to soak up excess electricity and recycle it — one solution to unpredictable output from solar and wind farms.

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      There is no “green case for fracking”: Study reveals the real reason why U.S. emissions declined

      WEDNESDAY, JUL 22, 2015 07:56 AM PDT

      It was the economic recession, not the natural gas boom, that caused greenhouse gas emissions to drop 11%



      (Credit: Calin Tatu/Shutterstock)

      Between 2007 and 2013 in the U.S., something sort of incredible happened: the amount of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions we were pumping into the atmosphere declined by 11 percent.

      That this dramatic turn of events coincided with the beginning of the U.S. fracking boom was deemed no coincidence, and thus began a politically friendly story we began telling ourselves: our increased use of natural gas, which is still a fossil fuel but which burns cleaner than coal, was largely responsible for the downturn. We were fracking our way clean out of the climate crisis — and could use natural gas as a crutch to lean on while we worked on switching over to clean energy.

      Sound too good to be true? According to a new study in the journal Nature Communications, that’s because it is. While natural gas did become a big part of our energy mix during this time, researchers found, the vast majority of the reductions in emissions can actually be attributed to the economic recession.

      “Although increased use of natural gas by the energy sector has helped to keep U.S. CO2 emissions from rising during the economic recovery,” the authors wrote, ”our decomposition analysis shows that decreases in the energy intensity of the manufacturing, transport and service sectors over the same period were even more important.”

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      Conventional Oil E&P — Where’s the Love?

      7/27/2015 @ 10:15AM 91 views


      Mark Nibbelink

      Mark Nibbelink is a co-founder of Drillinginfo. He currently works with Universities, Colleges and Consortia on student outreach.

      The story of the US domestic oil patch over the past 14 years has been squarely focused on unconventionals—Barnett Shale, Fayetteville, Woodford, Haynesville, Bakken, Eagle Ford, Mississippian Lime, Niobrara. As we all know, drilling results from these plays have catapulted the US into the position of being the largest gas producer in the world and the largest oil producer in the world (if we included NGLs).

      It has been a breathtaking pivot away from finding risk, ie “will I make a well?” to engineering risk, ie “how do I efficiently drill and frac while managing high cost operations?” The results speak for themselves, but have, in great part, ironically depressed the revenue model on which these unconventional plays were built.

      This sea change in risk definition has, unsurprisingly, come at the cost of conventional exploration. The graph below (source: Texas RRC) shows how the number of new field discoveries (NFD) has nosedived in tandem with the increased flow of capital into unconventional operations.


      Should anyone care? I mean, we have this unconventional wealth – the gift that can keep on giving – that is not yet thoroughly exploited. Joe Q Public can be forgiven that believing that we have what we need.


      But Joe Q does not sit in a C-level suite answerable to Wall Street, stock holders, private equity stakeholders, and large workforces. Joe Q does not have to show improving business results, but everyone in the oil patch does.

      So let’s get this on the table — conventional exploration needs to be a larger part of company exploration portfolios.

      Here’s why.

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      FreeWire Goes After Diesel Generator Market With Mobile Batteries

      Michael Kanellos Contributor

      I write about energy, transportation, food and data.

      Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

      GREEN TECH 7/27/2015 @ 9:56AM

      They are the noisiest, most annoying things about shooting a film on location.

      No, not the actors. The diesel generators.

      FreeWire, a startup out of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, has created a set of portable lithium ion battery packs that effectively replace diesel generators as a source of power at film sets, farmers’ markets and other public events where electricity is needed but grid connections may stink.  Lithium ion battery packs are cleaner, but they are also silent, reliable and don’t require trips to the gas station.

      The company recently did a test at the Rose Bowl, said Arcady Sosinov, CEO of FreeWire, whom, I have to mention, was born in the shadow of the Chernobyl disaster. (“Energy is my destiny,” he says). The Rose Bowl uses 160 diesel generators at events.

      The company also has a version on wheels, designed in conjunction with the Autodesk ADSK -1.16% Cleantech Partner Program that serves as an EV charger. Instead of telling employees to switch parking spots after two hours so someone else can use the charger, a company employee wheels around the FreeWire’s Mobi Charger from car to car. LinkedIn LNKD -3.25% has done a pilot program.

      So how do you make a moveable feast of lithium ion batteries economical? FreeWire stocks its Mobis with used batteries from EVs like the Nissan Leaf. The company gets the batteries when they are about 80% of full strength. In a Nissan Leaf, that moment comes around five to seven years after ownership.

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      California rice farmers put water rights to work for environment

      By Peter Fimrite

      July 25, 2015 Updated: July 25, 2015 9:10pm


      Photo: Michael Macor / Michael Macor / The Chronicle

      Top: Water from the Sacramento River flows in irrigation canals on the Davis Ranches in Colusa, which have some of the state’s oldest water rights.

      COLUSA — Don Bransford drove one recent day past rice fields stretching to the horizon, over a water-filled slough and into the gravel parking lot of a historic 1894 brick ranch house once owned by a Sacramento Valley farming pioneer.

      The president of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District Board of Directors entered the home just south of Colusa, prepared, as usual, to tout his district’s custodianship of some of the oldest claims to water in California.


      Photo: Connor Radnovich / Connor Radnovich / The Chronicle

      Above: A snowy egret takes off from a marsh in Colusa. Rice farmers in the area use their venerable water rights to help the ecosystem thrive.

      What he said would shock critics of California’s hierarchical water rights system. Rice farmers on a huge swath of land — about a half million acres on either side of the Sacramento River — are using their special right to expropriate water to help the environment.

      “The water rights we hold — which are some of the most senior rights on the river — are held in trust for the growers to use,” Bransford said. “This year, because of the drought, there was lots of pressure on us to transfer water south of the delta. We use the money we get for that to do salmon restoration, water storage projects and groundwater monitoring.”

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      Filed under: Water Comments Off

      Potholes on the road to highway funding might put us on a better course

      By Heather Smith on 24 Jul 2015

      The Highway Trust Fund is in trouble. No one wants to raise gas taxes, so the fund is running out of money. Its current funding will expire Aug. 1, yet the two houses of Congress are not particularly close to an agreement.

      Reading about all this, I found myself feeling strangely delighted. I thought of the story a friend once told me about how, when she was a child, the funeral home in her neighborhood caught fire, and she became convinced that no one was ever going to have to die again.

      Of course, it’s not that simple. The highway trust fund also includes a Mass Transit Fund, and a Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) trust fund, which I am sure qualifies as one of the most misleading acronyms ever. The two other programs only get a fraction of what highways get; most recently, the combined transit/highway funding split has been about 20 percent vs. 80 percent, and arguably the new legislation will make that split even wider — more like 6 percent to 94 percent.

      How much more highway do we need, really? As a nation, we spend more money building new roads than fixing existing ones; given how many roads we have already, should that be reversed? This week, Michael Grunwald made a great case for doing just that:

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      Pepco Maryland Found to Have the Slowest Solar Interconnection Times in the Nation


      An update on state-level clean energy news from around the country

      Julia Pyper
      July 23, 2015

      There’s been a fair amount of clean-energy-related news coming from in and around the Capital Beltway in recent weeks. In solar, a new report by EQ Research found that Pepco, which operates in parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C., takes a month longer to connect solar projects to the grid than any other utility in the country. More on that report at the top of our state roundup below.

      Another piece of recent news from D.C. was the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the U.S. EPA’s Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS). The court determined in a 5-4 vote that the EPA failed to adequately consider the costs and benefits of the MATS rule’s $9.6 billion price tag. The court did not strike down the rule, but deferred action to the lower court.

      The decision has sparked debate over the fate of the Clean Power Plan. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy insists the Maximum Achievable Control Technology Standards ruling will have no effect on the administration’s plan to limit emissions from power plants, and opponents continue to take it seriously. Since the Supreme Court ruling, the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research has sent letters to public utility commissioners in all 50 states, urging them to reject the Clean Power Plan.

      In Congress, lawmakers are battling over how to vote on the Iran nuclear deal, which will have implications for global oil prices. The House and Senate are also working on several pieces of energy legislation, including a Republican bill (S. 1227) that would bring microgrids to isolated areas. This week, the Senate Finance Committee passed a tax extenders bill that would continue the tax credit for wind through 2016. The bill did not include an extension for the solar ITC. Solar advocates are now pushing to have language added in an amendment.

      Meanwhile, the White House has introduced a plan to help lower-income Americans gain access to solar power. The initiative will leverage $520 million in new capital from foundations, local governments and social impact investors.

      And now for a look at the rest of the country. (You can find last month’s state update here.)

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      A look at California’s ambitious climate plans

      By Kate Galbraith on 23 Jul 2015

      Cross-posted from CALmatters

      Nearly a decade ago, California policymakers, facing a frightening future of shriveling snow packs and rising seas, created the nation’s most aggressive program to combat global warming.

      The 2006 law mandated broad reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Now, as the deadline approaches, Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers are intensifying their efforts. They are crafting emissions-reduction targets for 2030 and 2050 that will be far more difficult to meet. One bill seeks to slash petroleum use in vehicles to levels not seen since Lyndon Johnson’s presidency.

      Yet as the debate continues, a number of questions remain unanswered. Among them: Will other states or nations follow California in pursuing deep emissions cuts? Will California be able to meet the new targets, and if so, how? What are the total costs and benefits of the programs? How much will the price of gasoline and electricity increase?

      Here’s some of what we do know:

      • The state has emerged as a global leader in fighting climate change, despite producing only about 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It has created a dizzying array of programs to cut pollution, from reducing the carbon content of motor fuels to capping emissions at large factories.
      • The 2006 law, Assembly Bill 32, established a goal of cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2020. To meet that goal, emissions need to fall by 6 percent between 2013 (the latest year for which figures are available) and 2020. Brown and other political leaders expect that to happen. However, emissions have fallen only slightly since 2009, when the recession ended.
      • An executive order issued by Brown this spring would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. That will be much harder to achieve. Over the 10 years leading up to Brown’s deadline, emissions must fall up to seven times as fast as during the preceding decade. And emissions would have to fall another 40 percentage points by 2050 if a bill currently before the Assembly passes.
      • Cutting emissions brings costs. To date, consumers in the state have seen an estimated 3 to 5 percent rise in electricity rates, and are paying about an extra dime per gallon of gasoline, due to specific climate-related programs. Going forward, a study by a San Francisco consulting group found that deep emissions cuts by 2030 could carry costs of up to $23 billion yearly. That figure could go higher by 2050, according to the group, which did not tally the health benefits of cleaner air or the climate benefits of lower emissions.
      • Despite the pioneering policies, emissions have fallen more slowly in the state than in the rest of the nation. Greenhouse gas emissions in California dropped by 7 percent from their peak in 2004 to 2013, compared to 9 percent nationwide over the same period. Reducing emissions is harder here because the state’s economy is already relatively energy-frugal.

      When AB 32 passed, establishing the nation’s first broad plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, environmentalists hoped the action would touch off a revolution. The target established by the law was ambitious, especially considering the continuing population and economic growth. It built on an earlier groundbreaking bill to reduce the greenhouse gases in car exhaust.

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      PG&E files claim against Fresno County in pipeline blast

      JULY 22, 2015

      PG&E will seek more than $3 million in repair costs

      Utility used independent report findings to buoy its claims

      Shooting range gas line explosion was county negligence, PG&E says


      An investigator combs the area where a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipeline ruptured April 17, 2015, at the Fresno Sheriff’s Foundation shooting range. The explosion left one man dead and 12 injured. A report for the California Public Utilities Commission released Monday, July 6, 2015, concludes that the front-end loader visible in the photo caused the rupture. | Pacific Gas & Electric Co.


      Faulting Fresno County for causing the April 17 gas pipeline explosion at the Fresno Sheriff’s Foundation shooting range, Pacific Gas & Electric has filed a claim seeking more than $3 million.The claim, filed Monday with Fresno County, notes that the county’s negligence was cited in a report by Exponent, which was hired by the California Public Utilities Commission. Exponent said the pipeline rupture and explosion occurred when a county worker struck the pipeline with a front loader he was riding on a road above the shooting range while county jail inmates worked nearby.

      Thirteen people were injured, of whom one later died. Several lawsuits are already filed against the county and PG&E on behalf of the inmates.

      The utility said the costs to shut down and then repair the line will be significant. “Current estimates indicate the PG&E has suffered damages of at least $3 million caused by the explosion,” the claim said.

      County officials weren’t surprised by the legal filing. “We were expecting a claim from PG&E at some point,” Fresno County Counsel Dan Cederborg said Wednesday.

      If the county rejects the claim over the next 45 days, PG&E can then file a lawsuit.

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      Diablo’s Shifting Seismic Safety Methodologies

      July 23, 2015

      Seismic safety at the Diablo Canyon reactor along the coast of San Luis Obispo County has been a moving target since the Atomic Energy Commission approved construction of the plant in 1968.

      One year later the Hosgri fault off the coast of the reactor was discovered, after which Pacific Gas & Electric got an exception to the seismic safety design basis for the plant in 1977. Under its license, the design basis—considered the maximum amount of ground acceleration the plant could face in the event of an earthquake and still be able to be safely shutdown—was 0.40 the force of gravity, according to an analysis Cal Poly San Luis Obispo geologist Sam Blakeslee presented to the U.S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee late last year.

      Blakeslee, a Republican and former state senator representing San Luis Obispo, explained that the exception was based on “less-conservative assumptions” than those used to calculate the design basis. The exception allowed NRC to consider the plant seismically sound when facing an earthquake from Hosgri that would create 0.75 g of ground motion.

      Later in 1991, NRC modified the Hosgri exception to create another analysis tool, known as the LTSP, or Long-Term Seismic Program, however Blakeslee notes that it never became part of the plant’s actual operating license.

      Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Senior Resident Inspector at the plant Michael Peck noted in 2012 that legally under the facility’s operating license the Hosgri exception applies only to earthquakes that occur on that fault and not others.

      The problem was that after Hosgri was discovered a number of other faults were found near the plant, including most recently the Shoreline fault in 2008, which runs even closer to the plant than Hosgri.

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      Getting the BUGs Out of California’s Clean Energy Transition

      The Sierra Club argues that gas-burning BUGs (back-up generators) don’t belong in demand response programs.

      Alison Seel
      July 24, 2015

      On hot summer days in California, when electricity demand is high and the electric grid is stressed, grid operators turn to “demand response” programs: Large electric customers are called on to lower their electricity use for a few hours. The customers are paid for their load reduction, the utility avoids the need to build additional highly polluting and costly peaker power plants, and all Californians enjoy lower electricity prices and cleaner air.

      It sounds like a win-win-win proposition, and demand response programs are a top priority in California’s transition to a clean energy future.

      But there’s a hidden infestation plaguing California’s demand response programs: back-up generators or (more colorfully) “BUGs.”

      BUGs are stationary fossil-fueled generators. Their natural habitat is the back lot of industrial, medical, or school campuses, where they provide emergency power during a blackout. Because they’re intended to only be used in emergencies, historically their emissions were unregulated. Older models are usually diesel-fueled, similar to the engine in an 18-wheel semi. At their worst, these diesel engines can emit 100 times more pollution-per-kilowatt-hour than a conventional power plant. Some newer BUGs run on natural gas, but their impact on air pollution is still significant. Because BUGs are usually located in urban areas and are closer to the ground than big power plants, we inhale more of whatever pollution they emit: A person downwind of a small natural gas generator will inhale160 times more particulate matter for each unit of energy it generates, compared to inhaled pollution from a conventional power plant.

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      SoCal Edison Wants New Grid Batteries for ‘Just-in-Time’ Delivery


      California utility issues RFP for plug-and-play storage systems to fill broader range of grid needs

      Jeff St. John
      July 23, 2015

      Someday, grid batteries will come in standard packages, ready to be plugged in as fast as utilities can find places and use cases for them. At least, that’s how utility Southern California Edison would like its next round of energy storage systems to be delivered.

      Under a groundbreaking request for proposals (RFP) issued this week, SCE is calling for battery vendors to build “pre-engineered” storage systems, between 1 megawatt-hours and 16 megawatt-hours in size, that can be built, shipped, installed and up and running within 7 months of being contracted.

      SCE says it needs this standardized packaging and quick turnaround to allow storage systems to fit into fast-changing distribution grid project-planning cycles. This is the same way that utilities order transformers and other standard grid gear today.

      But for a grid storage industry that’s still moving from the pilot-project phase of development to broader commercial markets, it’s a novel concept. In fact, SCE’s new RFP may be the first time a utility has asked for this kind of arrangement for batteries, Mark Irwin, a director in SCE's advanced technology department, said in a Wednesday interview.

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