Despite Downturn, States Press Ahead with Renewable and Greenhouse Gas Initiatives

Despite the economic crash, a number of states are continuing to push ahead with various renewable energy and climate change initiatives. 

In the waning days of his tenure, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the nation's first law authorizing the development of new clean coal facilities and mandating carbon sequestration in connection with electric generation. Among other things, Illinois' Clean Coal Portfolio Standard Law creates a framework for developing coal gasification projects with carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage, authorizes the development of two clean coal facilities in the state (a 500 MW coal-to-electricity power plant and a coal-to-natural gas power plant), and requires that by 2017 all new coal plants built in Illinois must store at least 90% of their total CO2 emissions.  The law also creates a market for the new projects:  Illinois electric utilities and retail suppliers must purchase up to 5% of their electricity from clean coal facilities.  Putting the state's money where its mouth is, the legislation commits $18 million for studies of a proposed coal gasification plant in Taylorville, Illinois, which, once completed, will be the largest coal-fired plant testing carbon capture and sequestration technology in the US.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued an interim policy under which the state will review potential CO2 emissions as part of the permitting process for all new baseload electric generation units proposed to be built in Kansas.  The interim policy will apply retroactively to all baseload power plants that have sought permits since April 2007 (when the US Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA ruling that CO2 is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act).  The department noted it would update this policy if and when Congress enacts legislation to control CO2 emissions.

Finally, in her February 3 "state of the state" speech, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm called for reducing the state's reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation by 45% by 2020.  To achieve this, the governor proposed decoupling utility earnings from electricity and natural gas sales as a way to allow utilities to earn money for improving their customers' energy efficiency.  In addition, Governor Granholm called for a "feed-in tariff" that would allow utility customers to sell unused electricity from rooftop solar panels and small-scale wind turbines back to utilities.  The governor also announced she had directed the state's Department of Environmental Quality and Public Service Commission to consider "all feasible and prudent alternatives" before approving any new coal-fired generation in the state.