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Prime Power - March 25, 2024


Congress Finalizes FY2024 Budget Process: On Saturday, President Biden signed the second FY2024 funding package, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State, and the legislative branch. Tucked into the six-bill minibus is a 40-year extension of the Price-Anderson Act, a law that requires federal regulators to limit financial liabilities for operators of nuclear reactors in the event of an incident. Without the extension, that liability protection would expire at the end of next year. Also included in the State Department’s budget are a number of provisions for international energy programs, with a stated “core objective of USAID’s programs” to “rapidly transition developing countries to sustainable, clean sources of energy.”

Environmental Protection Agency Releases Final Emissions Rule: On Wednesday, the EPA issued its final light-and medium-duty tailpipe emissions rules for model years 2027 through 2032 and beyond. The rule slightly relaxed initially proposed standards for the next three years, pressing for automakers to meet average emissions rates of 85 grams per mile and sets ambitious annual EV sales targets at 50% by 2030, the level President Joe Biden set out in a 2021 executive order. An earlier version of the rule had set the EV sales target at 67% by 2032. It will increase compliance costs for manufacturers by an average of $1,200 per light-duty vehicle, according to the EPA’s own analysis.

House Appropriations Holds Hearing on FY2025 DOE Budget Request: On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water held a hearing with DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm regarding the Administration’s FY2025 budget request. Committee Chair Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) stated support for nuclear and Office of Science provisions but criticized “disproportionate and unsustainable increases for energy efficiency and renewable energy activities.” Sec. Granholm also heard criticisms for an ongoing pause on new natural gas export terminal permits. Granholm, meanwhile, touted the budget proposals planned investments aimed at achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, leveraging research, development, and technology transfer, building infrastructure to support energy efficiency and security, and helping to create jobs and achieve emissions reductions in the industrial sector.  

DOE Released Off-Shore Wind Evaluation Report: On Thursday, the Department of Energy released their findings from the Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Study, evaluating transmission options to support offshore wind energy deployment along the Atlantic Coast. The report suggested that the industry needs to adopt standard high-voltage direct current technology so power lines are compatible across different offshore wind projects, states, and transmission cable vendors. The study also identified potential transmission corridors to consider shipping lanes, marine protected areas, and other factors.

Administration Facing Multiple Water System Concerns: The Biden Administration is facing two U.S. water infrastructure challenges highlighted this week. First, western states are arguing water use agreements negotiated between states should not require federal oversight. During oral arguments before the Supreme Court Wednesday, Justice Gorsuch said declaring the federal government has independent litigating authority in cases between the states “seems to me a dramatic expansion of this court’s original jurisdiction, not just in this case, but potentially with ramifications going forward.”  

Also, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan and President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan released a letter to governors warning of foreign cyberattacks targeting water and wastewater systems throughout the U.S. The letter named hacking operations based in China and Iran while pressing governors to investigate their state systems.

New York and California Press Major Environmental Legislation: On Wednesday, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would ban natural gas extraction utilizing liquefied carbon dioxide deep underground. Opponents say the practice is simply trying to use a different mix of chemicals to circumvent New York's ban on hydraulic fracturing. NY Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, said New York doesn't have much of an appetite for allowing fracking of any kind. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's office said she would review the legislation.

In California, Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph said Tuesday that the state plans to implement its first-in-the-nation corporate emissions reporting law despite legal and funding obstacles. Randolph said 2023-passed legislation requires large corporations doing business in the state to publicize their greenhouse gas emissions, although she stopped short of saying the agency would be able to enforce it starting in 2026. The Board is due to finalize rules by January 1, 2025, with the first reporting requirements due the following year.  

Biden Administration Releases Up to $10 Million for Renewable’s Interconnection to Electric Grid: On Tuesday, DOE announced the Solar and Wind Interconnection for Future Transmission (SWIFTR) funding opportunity. SWIFTR aims to provide up to $10 million to develop new analytical tools and approaches that will accelerate the reliable interconnection of renewable energy into the electrical grid. Concept papers for project funding are due April 17, and applications are due June 28.  

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