WHERE WE’RE GOING
The Biden administration sent to Congress the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, including investments designed to build a foundation for a clean energy economy and to ensure the U.S. reaches net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This week, we cover several clean energy initiatives making news around Washington and across the country.
GENERATE THAT KIND OF POWER
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee debated resource-specific tax credits in S. 1265, the Clean Energy for America Act (CEAA). This bill intends to replace 40 individual tax incentives with broader, more uniform tax credits tied to carbon emissions reductions. Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) plans to place the CEAA directly onto the Senate calendar without further committee hearings after a vote on the amended bill ended in a tie split along party lines. Democratic members of the committee generally supported the bill, arguing that it would allow renewable energy and fossil fuels to compete in a free-market system, and would reduce carbon emissions. Republicans rejected the final version because the bill would promote renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels. We’re keeping watch.
THIS SUCKER’S ELECTRICAL
In other Senate news, legislation that would raise consumer tax credits for electric vehicles to $12,500 for the next five years passed the Finance Committee. The provision would expand the $7,500 tax credit for vehicles costing less than $80,000, eliminate the cap for automakers, add $2,500 for autos built by union members, and $2,500 for vehicles assembled in the United States. Right now, consumers who buy the first 200,000 electric vehicles from an automaker qualify for up to $7,500 in tax credits, and it’s not limited by the price of the vehicle.
The Nevada legislature approved a sweeping clean energy bill that aims to accelerate construction of a massive transmission project, increase spending on electric vehicle infrastructure, and require the Silver State to join a regional transmission organization (RTO) by 2030. Senate Bill 448 puts legislative backing behind the planned $2 billion "Greenlink Nevada," a transmission upgrade that would construct two new 525-kilovolt transmission lines, essentially linking the entire state. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D-NV) is expected to sign the clean energy legislation.
DIRECTLY INTO THE FLUX CAPACITOR
The Rhode Island Senate advanced its growing list of climate-action goals by passing the Renewable Energy Standard Act (S629 Substitute A). The measure will require all of Rhode Island’s electricity to originate from renewable energy sources by 2030. The bill’s sponsor said the legislation “codified an executive order” by the state’s former Governor, and current U.S. Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo. In Illinois, we are watching late developing legislation in Springfield that would phase out fossil fuels for energy production by setting ambitious goals to have 40% of the state’s energy coming from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% from renewables by 2050.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D-OR) signed two new bills that support the study of renewable hydrogen and the extension and reformation of the state’s clean vehicle rebate program. Senate Bill 333 authorizes the Oregon Department of Energy to study the benefits and barriers to renewable hydrogen production and use. The study is due no later than September 15, 2022.
EXPECTING TO SEE SOME WEATHER
And in Ohio, the state senate passed legislation granting new powers to county commissions to scuttle wind and solar development projects. Senate Bill 52 would require green energy developers to hold a public hearing with advance notice to local officials. County commissions could then pass resolutions to ban wind or solar projects outright or limit them to certain “energy development districts” in the county. The bill passed on a 20-13 vote, with five Republicans joining all eight members of the Democratic caucus in opposition.
In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court limited prosecutorial use of the nation’s main cybercrime law, the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The majority ruled that federal prosecutors can no longer use the CFAA to charge people who misuse databases they are otherwise entitled to access. The ruling comes six months after justices expressed concern over the government’s sweeping interpretation of CFAA. The Court found that the Government could place people in jeopardy for mundane activities like checking social media on their work computers. Writing for the majority, Justice Amy Coney Barrett held that the “Government’s interpretation of the statute would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity," and concurred with critics who said the broader interpretation would "criminalize everything from embellishing an online-dating profile to using a pseudonym on Facebook."
U.S. traffic deaths rose 7% to 38,680 in 2020. This represents the biggest increase in 13 years, even though people drove 13% fewer miles than in 2019. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that drivers took more risks on less-congested roads by speeding, failing to wear seat belts, or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol during the pandemic. Of additional note, motorcyclist deaths rose 9% last year to 5,015, and bicyclist deaths were up 5% to 846. Pedestrian deaths remained steady at 6,205. The total number of people killed in passenger vehicles rose 5% to 23,395.
Making Our Way Around the Country
Governor Pritzker signed into law the Prejudgment Interest Act (S.B. 72). The law authorizes prejudgment interest on damages related in personal injury and wrongful death claims, to be calculated at 6 percent per year, and accruing from the date of loss. The Act will take effect on July 1, 2021. And in other Illinois news, the Illinois General Assembly will send to the governor legislation (H.B. 3662) that would make staph infections compensable under rebuttable presumptions for firefighters and emergency medical technicians. This augments existing law on blood-borne pathogens, respiratory diseases, heart diseases, hypertension, cancers, and other illnesses. If signed by the governor, these presumptions would go into effect immediately.
In a related development, the California Senate rejected a measure that would have extended medical benefits available to health care workers who contracted COVID-19 on the job. Last year, the California Legislature passed a law that assumed COVID-19 was work-related. That law is scheduled to expire in 2023. The current measure would have made the presumption permanent, along with adding other presumptions to the workers' compensation law for hospital workers, including cancer under some circumstances, post-traumatic stress disorder, and certain respiratory diseases. The state senate adjourned before taking action on this extender bill.
The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a 2018 law that sought to impose new restrictions on collective bargaining for public sector unions, but exempted public safety unions from the requirements. In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled that the Missouri statute violated public employees’ constitutional right to receive equal protection under the law. Because unconstitutional provisions permeated the bill and they could not be severed, the Court declared the law entirely null and void.
THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM
Back to the main story this week, today marks the 60th birthday of Michael J. Fox, the iconic Canadian-American actor who played Marty McFly in the Back to the Future franchise of films. Today, Fox is one of the world’s leading advocates for Parkinson’s research and the author of one of our favorite quotes here at The Way—“Hope is informed optimism.” Next week, we’ll share with you some optimistic plans for future editions of The Way. Until then, we hope this week’s briefing finds you looking ahead to the summer. We’ll be here to keep you informed.