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GOP's Pence berates 'war on coal' in VP debate; both sides upbeat after Clean Power Plan arguments

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GOP's Pence berates 'war on coal' in VP debate; both sides upbeat after Clean Power Plan arguments

Republicanvice presidential candidate Mike Pence promised that he and running mate DonaldTrump will free the coal industry from its regulatory burdens if they reach theWhite House, a much-visited theme in the 2016 elections that has divided theGOP and Democrats on energy.

Pencerailed against the Obama administration's "war on coal" four timeswithin the first 20 minutes of the vice presidential debate Oct. 4 and vowed toundo a "stifling avalanche of regulations" for the energy sector andother parts of the economy.

Supportersand detractors of the Clean Power Plan think the U.S. Court of Appeals for theDistrict of Columbia Circuit appeared to agree with them as it delved intostate and industry groups' legal challenge of the U.S. EPA's carbon-cuttingrule, making the Clean Power Plan's fate difficult to predict.

"Mostof the judges seemed to believe that the Clean Power Plan is a 'transformative'rule with 'vast economic and political significance'," said JeffHolmstead, a partner at law firm Bracewell LLP who is representing the AmericanCoalition for Clean Coal Electricity in the case. "Under a number ofSupreme Court decisions, this means that EPA must show it is authorized by a 'clearstatement' from Congress, but EPA was not able to point to any such clearstatement."

TheU.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrapped up amarathon session of oral arguments on the Clean Power Plan late Sept. 27 by questioning opponents'claims that the carbon-cutting rule is unconstitutional and that the U.S. EPAfailed to show its goals are achievable, among other issues.

Afterprobing the legalityof generation-shifting and promulgating the rule under Section 111(d) of theClean Air Act, the en banc panel of judges delved into whether the EPAinfringed on states' authority, gave sufficient notice and chance for commenton changes between the proposed and final rule, and demonstrated that thegeneration-shifting the rule will require is achievable.

Thejudges of a federal appeals court agreed that conflicting Senate and Houseamendments related to two sections of the Clean Air Act are certainlyconfusing. But in the absence of clarity, does that mean Congress alone mustspeak to the issue leaving the U.S. EPA unable to use one of those sections?

"Idon't know how the court is going to solve it, but they're going to have tograpple with it. Not only with what does the language of the statute authorizeEPA to do, but what do we take from Congressional inaction over the years,"said Thomas Lorenzen who represented several power cooperatives and their tradegroup, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Thefederal coal program should be overhauled with market-based changes thatinclude lease caps set to guide the country toward its climate goals, accordingto the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.

Inan Oct. 4 issue brief, the Center for American Progress, or CAP, put forth itsvision for a new federal coal leasing program that would consider U.S. climategoals, support economic transition in coal-dependent communities and be morelikely to survive legal and political challenges. The proposed program would bea credit-auction system that allows companies to bid on a pool of carboncredits to mine certain volumes of coal.

Thereport suggests that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management offer groups of leasestogether for bids rather than dealing with them case by case. One of thesesystems could involve so-called intertract bidding, which would pit bidsagainst one another that were not on the same tract of land.

TheU.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its draft environmental impactstatement for the Millennium BulkTerminals-Longview in Washington state.

BillChapman, CEO for Millennium Bulk Terminals, said in a Sept. 30 statement that "bothstate and county regulators made it clear in their draft environmental impactstatement that we can meet Washington's strict environmental standards."

NewYork's ambitious strategy to boost renewable energy could have little to noimpact on emissions while costing ratepayers nearly $3.4 billion in its firstfive years, a new study claims.

Theinitiative, which sets a goal of procuring 50% of the state's electricity fromrenewables and cutting greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 1990s levels, is "amassive unlegislated tax increase, imposed through utility charges," KenGirardin, a co-author of the "Green Overload" report and an EmpireCenter policy analyst, said in a statement.