I've been traveling for most of today, so in lieu of the normal newsletter, I wanted to highlight a few stories that have been popping up around the U.S.
(The edge of a fire scar from the 2020 LNU Complex fire over the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, California)
New York's legislative year is over, barring special sessions. Both an attempt at banning gas hookups in new buildings and a build up of publicly-owned renewables didn't make it to the legislative finish line, but a measure imposing a moratorium on fossil-fuel powered cryptocurrency mining in the state passed. (New York has had some high-profile conversions of otherwise dead gas and coal plants restarted exclusively for mining cryptocurrency.)
It's not a done deal yet — Gov. Kathy Hotchul hasn't committed to signing or vetoing the bill, and she's being lobbied heavily on the effort.
Speaking of climate plans — I've been trying to get my head across the why Napa County's climate plan has been a decade in the making — and is still not done. The famous wine region was one of the worst hit areas by the 2020 megafires in California.
The latest update?
The members of the county's climate action council strongly agree the cities and county's unincorporated land should have one combined plan. The actual greenhouse gas inventory will arrive this fall.
I moderated a panel on energy and efficiency for wineries this morning in Napa. As we started the panel, organizer Anna Brittain gestured at the fire scar on the hills outside of St. Helena, visible from the window. "Climate change is here," she said. Afterwards, I drove along the highway, dotted with signs encouraging people to vote yes on a ballot measure to increase a sales tax to fund wildfire prevention efforts.
At lunch, I talked to two winemakers about their own efforts to lower their emissions and the making that work visible to the very wealthy who visit the Napa vineyards. We didn't talk about the county climate plan, but one winemaker mentioned that Napa was slow to change in general — "We can rest on our laurels of great tasting wine," he said.
Utility commissions matter, District of Columbia edition:
Three individuals appointed by the mayor (and not directly accountable to voters) could stand in the way of the city meeting its climate goals, or they could push the District to take aggressive climate action, according to environmentalists and lawmakers who are urging the D.C. Public Service Commission to take a more proactive role in fighting climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Inside the city council, this is playing out over who is being appointed to the utility regulator. The appointee in question doesn't have any experience in renewable energy or modernizing the electric grid, and council members have said -- and passed a law -- that that's not good enough.
DC isn't alone at paying more attention to the regulators of our power supply -- I shared a story last week about criticism over the elected board in Montana becoming a "political retirement home", but there's also a question from within these boards themselves over whether they have the actual power to make climate policy. Says the DC appointee in question:
Thompson, during a hearing on his nomination, defended his and the commission’s work on climate and efforts to cut carbon emissions from District’s energy sector. “We fully understand and we feel like we have the authority to begin decarbonization,” he said. But he added that some people wanted the commission to take actions outside its power.
“When people begin to say, ‘well the commission should say Washington Gas should be prohibited from selling natural gas’ — we believe that’s not within our purview,” Thompson said.
It's a very hot potato indeed.
PG&E's "net-zero" plan aims for 2040, includes three gas plants.
Major utility Southern Company spent more than $60 million to fund climate change denial between 1993 and 2004
Startup is hiring for "green" jobs from communities hit by gun violence
“Oh my gosh, it’s my turn.”: "Elder power" a force in Virginia as more retirees step up climate action game