Midterms 2018: Mixed Results for the Renewable Energy Agenda



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A majority of Americans support expanding accessibility to clean power , and yet it registers as a key voting issue.

This year’s midterm election was a bit different. Healthcare, the economy have been the voter priorities in 2018, however in some races and on some ballots energy was a principal focus. 

Here’s a rundown of the most important election results for its renewable energy agenda.

Climate Solutions Caucus gets banged

The Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Climate Solutions Caucus were hard hit Tuesday’s election. At least 13 of those 45 Republican Caucus members also have lost their seats along with five members saw their seats claimed by Democrats. As of Wednesday afternoon, 20 Republican members had won back their seats, together with just two races (Mia Love at Utah and Tom MacArthur at New Jersey) still too close to predict.

Most notably, Carlos Curbelo, the Republican co-chairman of this Climate Solutions Caucus, lost his seat in Florida. Curbelo sought to improve his credentials at a left-leaning district introducing a carbon tax before this season, but failed to get the capital he wanted.

Losing Republican Members of the House Climate Solutions Caucus

Updated: Wednesday, 5:00 p.m. EST

Some analysts dread damage to the Climate Solutions Caucus will erode all chance of departure lasting, bipartisan climate legislation (as mentioned in recent incidents of GTM’s Political Climate podcast). Save America, a politically conservative ecological group, blamed that the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters for slowing progress on climate change by opposing 27 of those 45 GOP Caucus members, such as Curbelo.

Congratulations @SierraClub . You defeated the climate action winner in Congress. Moderate, A man, whose absence will probably knock climate progress and the knees apart.

— ConservAmerica (@ConservAmerica) November 7, 2018

The Climate Solutions Caucus will now have to restructure (if it survives), as it takes equal participation from both parties. However, it’s uncertain how large of an effect this could have on climate action in Congress. Republican Caucus members have voted contrary to numerous pro-environment bills, regardless of their affiliation with the climate set.

With all Democrats now in charge of the House, they could establish new efforts to deal with other ecological issues and climate change, that have taken a back seat in light of Republicans&rsquoagenda. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she would reestablish the select committee in case her celebration required the House.

Democrats are also likely to drive for energy infrastructure to be able to deploy larger amounts of renewable energy, as outlined at the leadership’s “Better Deal” proposition. Steve Valk, communications manager for the Citizens Climate Lobby, said he s positive a climate bill will likely be introduced next session. He was also confident the Climate Solutions Caucus could continue to grow.

“The Climate Solutions Caucus will go on, even though people ’t dropped a number of Republicans, such as Carlos Curbelo,” Valk said in an interview.

Over the past two years the Caucus grew from six Republican members to 45 Republican members.  “That’s because our volunteers were engaged with their members of Congress in their districts and asking them to join,” he explained. “We’ll continue to do that and we’re confident we’ll find more Republicans to replace the ones who aren’t returning. ”

In other House race news, North Carolina Democrat Dan McCready, who ran on a clean energy platform in a conservative district, failed to win his race — but came close. 

Notably, Democrat Sean Casten secured a seat in the House on Tuesday while running explicitly on a climate and clean energy platform in a tight Illinois swing district. Casten has a background in the clean energy industry and has called for using “competitive markets to encourage energy innovation. ”

Nevada voters say yes to a 50% RPS, no to retail competition

Nevada voters passed Question 6 on Tuesday, which calls for the state to use 50 percent renewable energy by the year 2030. Supporters say Question 6 will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and create thousands of new Nevada jobs.

“Clean energy is putting Nevadans to work, with more than 25,000 strong employed in 2017,” said Ray Fakhoury, state policy manager with the national business group Advanced Energy Economy, in statement. “By increasing the state’s renewable standard, Nevada has set itself up to continue reaping the economic benefits for years to come. ”

Major corporations, including casinos and data centers, have recently been investing heavily in renewable energy in Nevada. With the passage of Question 6, Alli Gold Roberts, senior manager of state policy with Ceres, said the state is “poised to continue to attract corporate renewable energy investment. ”

Corporate clean energy buyers invested heavily in a separate Nevada ballot measure, Question 3, which sought to deregulate Nevada’s retail electricity market, but the measure was ultimately unsuccessful. Question 3 was the subject of fierce debate. According to the Nevada Independent, it was backed by Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Corp. (Adelson also happens to be a major Republican donor) and the data company Switch, as well as many clean energy and environmental groups.  

But there were also concerns about how Question 3 would affect electricity rates and clean energy adoption. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, and Western Resource Advocates came out against deregulating Nevada’s electricity market because of the disruption they said it would cause to the state's clean energy progress. NV Energy also opposed Question 3, and planned to spend $30 million on defeating it.

Nevada voters previously approved Question 3 on the 2016 ballot by a wide margin. But with Tuesday’s vote, the measure fails. In Nevada, proposals that would change the state constitution are required to pass in two successive even-numbered election years in order to be adopted.

Question 6, to boost the RPS to 50 percent, will now have to pass again in 2020 in order to become law. AEE’s Fakhoury said consumers could see benefits sooner than that. “Passing with wide support, the legislature and governor-elect should move forward in the upcoming legislative session to enact this landmark increase,” he said.

Arizona rejects 50% RPS

Arizona voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 127 on Tuesday, a constitutional amendment that would have required 50 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. It’s a significant victory for the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service (APS), which spent heavily to oppose the measure. California billionaire Tom Steyer's political group NextGen America funded efforts in support of the measure.

Proposition 127 was by far the most expensive ballot initiative in Arizona state history. Opponents said the measure would increase electric bills by forcing utilities to build new solar and wind plants, which would result in the early closure of coal plants and the state's lone nuclear plant. Supporters argued those claims were unfounded given that renewable energy resources are now competitive with fossil fuels, even when coupled with battery storage.

APS was particularly outspoken about losing the Palo Verde nuclear plant if the RPS measure passed. If that plant goes offline, the utility argued, greenhouse gas emissions in the state would rise.

While Proposition 127 has failed, Arizona regulators are still considering a proposal to increase Arizona’s RPS to 80 percent by 2050 and broaden it to also include nuclear power. APS generally supports that plan.

“We've said throughout this campaign there is a better way to create a clean-energy future for Arizona that is also affordable and reliable,” said APS Chairman, President and CEO Don Brandt, at a Tuesday announcement.

Now the campaign is finished, he explained the utility wishes to “keep the dialogue with Arizonans about fresh electricity and identify specific opportunities for APS to build energy infrastructure that will position Arizona for the long run. ” 

Washington state rejects an carbon cost — again

Washington state has failed, once again, to pass on a carbon tax. Initiative 1631, that the Carbon Emissions Fee Measure, could have set a carbon fee beginning at $15 a ton in 2020, increasing to approximately $55 a ton in 2035, depending on inflation.

This is the second election in a row where Washington voters have rejected a ballot initiative that could set a price. The very first such ballot was proposed in 2016 and neglected.

Tuesday’s loss may cast doubt on the wider narrative that says will lead on climate action in the absence of federal direction, or it may indicate that Americans simply aren’t prepared to put behind a carbon tax. It might have come down to spending. Supporters of Initiative 1631 spent at least $12 million to progress the step, while competitions spent over $25 million.

Colorado votes a fracking ban

Colorado voters rejected a measure Tuesday that could have blocked new oil and gas drilling within 2,500 feet of houses, universities and other busy areas.

Proposition 112 originated from complaints that fracking was encroaching on populated places, creating safety and health issues. An investigation showed that the step could have blocked new oil and gas wells around 85 percent of nonfederal land in Colorado, that will be America’s fifth-largest gas-producing along with seventh-largest oil-producing state.

Florida voters reject offshore drilling — and e-cigarettes?

Offshore oil drilling and e-cigarette utilize in the office were both rejected by Florida voters on Tuesday, as a portion of the same — strange — ballot step. The two apparently unrelated issues were coupled with Florida’s Amendment 9, recognized the “fresh air, clean water” change. The Constitution Revision Commission’s choice to approve the joint action for the ballot before this season has been roundly criticized.

While voters agreed to ban oil and gas drilling off the coast of the Sunshine State, oil and gas businesses say the ballot is reckless, given Florida currently has statute in place that makes it illegal to drill inside state-controlled oceans. Environmentalists generally endorsed Amendment 9, but cautioned there remains a threat the Trump administration will allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters just beyond Florida’s jurisdiction.

Californians maintain the gasoline tax

No one really wants to pay more for fuel, and yet voters in California simply chose to maintain the state’s greater gas tax set up. California Republicans campaigned about the tax repeal, whilst Governor Jerry Brown warned such a move would cut off the source for road repairs.

Democrats handed the petrol tax as part of SB 1, which also pledges that revenues will go to bicycle and pedestrian paths, railroad jobs and toward the state parks and agriculture departments.


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