GOP Tax Plan Puts Wind Power at Risk. The House Republican tax plan released last week endangers wind power projects by retroactively rewriting Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance on the meaning of "construction." Wind projects often rely on the production tax credit (PTC), which provides a tax credit based on electricity production from the facility. Projects that qualified for the PTC by beginning construction in 2016 are currently slated to receive the full amount of the PTC ($24/MWh), which is being phased out in the next several years. The bill would make it more difficult for projects that qualified for the PTC in 2016 to maintain their qualified status. As a result, many wind projects currently in development would likely lose an important tax credit and may be scrapped. The bill also threatens to reduce the incentive amount for wind projects qualifying for the PTC from $24/MWh to $15/MWh.

Leaked DOI strategic plan favors oil and gas companies, ignores climate science. A five-year strategic plan drafted in September by the Department of the Interior was leaked to the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute and published on October 25. The plan makes no mention of climate change or climate science, a sharp departure from the 2014-2018 plan, which included 46 mentions of climate change and a commitment to ameliorate its impacts on heavily-affected areas. Instead, the proposed 2018-2022 plan emphasizes increasing U.S. "energy dominance" by making more public lands available to the oil and gas industries and speeding up the process of awarding drilling permits.

Senate Debates ANWR Drilling. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week held a hearing on the potential for oil and gas drilling in a 2,000-acre portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) known as the 1002 Area. ANWR covers more than 19 million acres of northeast Alaska and is home to polar bears, caribou, moose, and hundreds of species of birds. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) is leading the effort, saying it will create jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenues. Opponents, including Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), cast doubt on the rosy economic forecasts and argue that drilling would have negative environmental impacts on ANWR as well as on indigenous people like the Gwich'in tribe.

US Now Only Nation on Earth to Decline to Participate in the Paris Agreement. Despite being wracked by years of civil war, Syria has announced its intention to sign onto the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. This leaves the United States as the only country on Earth that will not participate in the Agreement. Earlier this year, Trump signaled his intention to withdraw from the Agreement in November 2020, which is the earliest date the United States can legally withdraw from the Agreement. The withdrawal is set to occur the day after the 2020 presidential election, highlighting the importance of that election. One hundred and ninety-six nations have signed onto the Agreement since it was drafted in 2015 and took effect in 2016.

ITC Recommends Tariff on Solar Equipment. After finding that foreign imports of solar equipment harmed the U.S. solar manufacturing industry, the International Trade Commission (ITC) released its recommendations to impose a tariff on imported solar equipment. Although lower than the tariffs requested by the petitioners, the ITC's recommendations could increase the price of solar panels an estimated 10-20 cents per watt. Solar industry groups have argued against the tariff, warning that increased costs will decrease demand and cost jobs in other areas of the solar industry. Solar manufacturing accounts for approximately 38,000 jobs, while solar installation accounts for over 137,000 jobs in the United States. The President has final say over whether a tariff is imposed and what that tariff should be; he is not bound by the ITC's recommendation.

Quick Takes:

  • A group of state and local officials and members of the business community are currently attending this year's United Nations' Climate Change Conference which is taking place right now in Bonn, Germany to signal their opposition to the Trump administration's stance on the Paris Agreement.
  • The Government Accountability Office is examining whether the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt violated laws concerning lobbying and propaganda by appearing in a video produced by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
  • Insect abundance and species diversity are steadily declining in the U.S. and Europe, threatening both agriculture and wildlife.