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Clean Energy & Energy Efficiency

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion made mul­ti­ple attempts to over­ride state clean ener­gy and ener­gy effi­cien­cy poli­cies. State attor­neys gen­er­al respond­ed by defend­ing their states’ rights to pro­mote clean ener­gy and ener­gy effi­cien­cy, pro­tect­ing con­sumers’ rights to ener­gy choic­es and fair deal­ing from ener­gy com­pa­nies, and object­ing to large ener­gy infra­struc­ture projects that do not sat­is­fy state and fed­er­al envi­ron­men­tal requirements. 

Attor­neys gen­er­al have tak­en action in sev­er­al juris­dic­tions to pro­tect states’ inter­ests and con­sumers and defend envi­ron­men­tal laws and rules.

Below is just a sam­pling of the many actions that attor­neys gen­er­al have tak­en to pro­tect states’ clean ener­gy rights; pro­mote com­pe­ti­tion and pro­tect con­sumers; and ensure envi­ron­men­tal laws and rules are fol­lowed in the Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (FERC); fed­er­al and state agen­cies; region­al trans­mis­sion orga­ni­za­tions that oper­ate whole­sale elec­tric­i­ty mar­kets under FERC’s juris­dic­tion (such as PJM and ISO-NE); fed­er­al and state courts; pub­lic util­i­ty com­mis­sions; and state legislatures. 

Insist­ing that the Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion & Fed­er­al Courts Respect States’ Rights to Shape their Pow­er Systems


Five attor­neys gen­er­al wrote an op-ed in Novem­ber 2018 ask­ing FERC to refrain from under­min­ing state clean ener­gy man­dates in reg­u­lat­ing the whole­sale orga­nized mar­kets oper­at­ed by PJM Inter­con­nec­tion, the region­al trans­mis­sion orga­ni­za­tion for twelve east­ern states and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

Eleven attor­neys gen­er­al wrote a let­ter in Octo­ber 2019 to FERC on oppor­tu­ni­ties to col­lab­o­rate on the pur­suit of afford­able, reli­able pow­er and to insist that FERC elim­i­nate bar­ri­ers to com­pe­ti­tion for renew­able ener­gy gen­er­a­tion and ener­gy effi­cien­cy while respect­ing state authority.

Mul­ti­ple attor­neys gen­er­al have repeat­ed­ly opposed (“PJM Interconnection’s Capac­i­ty Mar­ket”) efforts by FERC and PJM to put in place capac­i­ty mar­ket rules that pre­vent clean ener­gy resources from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the mar­ket, unlaw­ful­ly penal­iz­ing state pow­er pref­er­ences and increas­ing costs for consumers.

The attor­neys gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut and Mass­a­chu­setts, along with New Eng­land state agen­cies and con­sumer coun­sels, in Jan­u­ary 2020 sub­mit­ted a let­ter to FERC, urg­ing the Com­mis­sion to require the region­al grid oper­a­tor, ISO-NE, to allow com­pe­ti­tion in the ener­gy trans­mis­sion sys­tem to reduce cus­tomers’ costs and to facil­i­tate clean ener­gy generation.

Three attor­neys gen­er­al sent a let­ter to PJM in July 2019 on its search for its next pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive offi­cer, say­ing that PJM’s next leader should be an enthu­si­as­tic part­ner in states and local­i­ties’ efforts to address cli­mate change, pro­tect con­sumers, and pro­mote green eco­nom­ic development.”

Nine attor­neys gen­er­al filed joint com­ments in Decem­ber 2019 opposed to FERC’s pro­posed weak­en­ing of its reg­u­la­tions under the Pub­lic Util­i­ty Reg­u­la­to­ry Poli­cies Act (PUR­PA), which have played a crit­i­cal role in expand­ing the mar­ket for renew­able ener­gy. The attor­neys gen­er­al of Mass­a­chu­setts and North Car­oli­na sub­mit­ted their own state-spe­cif­ic com­ments to FERC on its pro­pos­al. In July 2020, FERC issued a final rule that large­ly ignored the con­cerns of the attor­neys gen­er­al in weak­en­ing PURPA’s reg­u­la­tions. In Novem­ber 2020, FERC denied all rehear­ing requests for the proposal.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Illi­nois, and a coali­tion of sev­en attor­neys gen­er­al as ami­cus curi­ae suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ed Illi­nois’ pre­rog­a­tive to imple­ment state zero emis­sion cred­it (ZEC) pro­grams, which com­pen­sates qual­i­fy­ing nuclear gen­er­a­tors for the zero car­bon emis­sions attrib­ut­es of their ener­gy gen­er­a­tion. The Sec­ond Cir­cuit upheld New York’s sim­i­lar ZEC pro­gram in 2018 against a chal­lenge opposed by eight attor­neys gen­er­al.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Ore­gon in April 2019 suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ed the state’s low car­bon fuel stan­dard, which seeks to reduce green­house gas emis­sions from use and pro­duc­tion of trans­porta­tion fuels in Ore­gon to at least ten per­cent low­er than 2010 lev­els by 2025. The trans­porta­tion sec­tor is now the largest source of car­bon emissions.

Five attor­neys gen­er­al in Feb­ru­ary 2020 filed an ami­cus brief sup­port­ing a FERC order that will allow ener­gy stor­age resources to par­tic­i­pate in whole­sale ener­gy mar­kets, assist­ing states in the tran­si­tion to the clean ener­gy econ­o­my. In July 2020, the D.C. Cir­cuit sided with the attor­neys gen­er­al in uphold­ing the FERC order. More infor­ma­tion about the lit­i­ga­tion can be found here(“State Ener­gy Stor­age Programs”).

Demand­ing that the Fed­er­al Ener­gy Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion Reform Its Process of Review­ing Gas Pipeline Applications


Twelve attor­neys gen­er­al filed a brief in sup­port of a chal­lenge to FERC’s prac­tice of issu­ing tolling orders to extend its own dead­line for decid­ing requests for rehear­ing. In the case of pipelines, FERC com­mon­ly delays its deci­sion on requests for rehear­ing – nec­es­sary before a par­ty can seek judi­cial review – while allow­ing pipeline con­struc­tion to pro­ceed. In June 2020, the D.C. Cir­cuit sided with the attor­neys gen­er­al and end­ed FERC’s prac­tice of issu­ing tolling orders in a deci­sion that also extends to FERC’s use of tolling orders in elec­tric­i­ty mat­ters under the Fed­er­al Pow­er Act. More infor­ma­tion about the lit­i­ga­tion can be found here (“End­ing FERC’s Abu­sive Use of Tolling Orders under the Nat­ur­al Gas Act”).

Eight attor­neys gen­er­al filed com­ments in July 2018 that the cur­rent FERC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process for gas pipelines fails in a num­ber of key respects, includ­ing approvals of gas pipelines that: are not need­ed; will cause sig­nif­i­cant envi­ron­men­tal harms (includ­ing exac­er­bat­ing cli­mate change); and fail to con­sid­er clean ener­gy alternatives.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of New York filed com­ments in July 2018 that empha­sized the harm landown­ers could suf­fer on the basis of FERC’s prac­tice of issu­ing con­di­tion­al cer­tifi­cates that allow nat­ur­al gas com­pa­nies to ini­ti­ate con­dem­na­tion activ­i­ties before state envi­ron­men­tal reviews have been completed.

Chal­leng­ing Ener­gy Depart­ment Efforts to Skirt its Ener­gy Effi­cien­cy Obligations


Nine attor­neys gen­er­al suc­ceed­ed in Octo­ber 2019 in secur­ing an order from the Ninth Cir­cuit that the Depart­ment of Ener­gy imple­ment long-delayed ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for appli­ances and indus­tri­al equip­ment that will result in sig­nif­i­cant con­sumers’ sav­ings and decreased pol­lu­tion. More infor­ma­tion about this lit­i­ga­tion can be found here(“Appli­ances and Indus­tri­al Equipment”).

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Cal­i­for­nia in Decem­ber 2019 suc­cess­ful­ly opposed an effort by the light­bulb indus­try to tem­porar­i­ly block California’s strength­ened light­bulb effi­cien­cy stan­dards from going into effect, which will reduce emis­sions and save con­sumers money.

Pur­su­ing State Objec­tions to Ener­gy-Relat­ed Projects


The attor­ney gen­er­al of New York in Decem­ber 2019, defend­ed the New York Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Conservation’s denial of a state water qual­i­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­tion under the Clean Water Act for a pro­posed nat­ur­al gas pipeline that would have impact­ed more than 250 streams and more than 80 acres of wetlands.

The attor­ney gen­er­als of New Jer­sey and Mary­land in 2019 suc­cess­ful­ly attacked efforts by nat­ur­al gas pipeline com­pa­nies to con­demn state land to build nat­ur­al gas pipelines.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Wash­ing­ton, sup­port­ed by a coali­tion of six oth­er attor­neys gen­er­al, since 2018 has defend­ed the Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Ecology’s denial of a per­mit for the con­struc­tion of a coal export ter­mi­nal near the Colum­bia Riv­er because of the project’s sig­nif­i­cant and unavoid­able adverse envi­ron­men­tal impacts.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Vir­ginia pre­vailed, in the Supreme Court and over the Trump administration’s ami­cus brief, in June 2019 in his effort to defendVirginia’s decades-old ban on ura­ni­um min­ing, which is most­ly used as fuel for nuclear pow­er plants.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Rhode Island in Jan­u­ary 2018 ques­tioned the role of a new nat­ur­al gas plant giv­en the state’s green­house gas reduc­tion goals.

Enforc­ing and Enact­ing State Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion and Envi­ron­men­tal Laws


The attor­neys gen­er­al of Mass­a­chu­setts and New Mex­i­co brought law­suits to pro­tect con­sumers from decep­tive mar­ket­ing prac­tices and scams run by some com­pet­i­tive ener­gy and some clean ener­gy com­pa­nies. In August 2020, the Mass­a­chu­setts attor­ney gen­er­al reached a$10 mil­lion set­tle­ment with Star­i­on Ener­gy, which she had sued over its decep­tive sales tac­tics that lured cus­tomers into expen­sive con­tracts with high elec­tric­i­ty rates.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Vir­ginia, in Decem­ber 2019, enforced state envi­ron­men­tal laws, reg­u­la­tions, and per­mits against a pipeline com­pa­ny for alleged vio­la­tions of runoff and oth­er water qual­i­ty require­ments relat­ed to pipeline con­struc­tion. More infor­ma­tion about this law­suit can be found here(“Vir­ginia”).

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Penn­syl­va­nia, in Decem­ber 2017, sued a frack­ing com­pa­ny for alleged unfair and decep­tive con­duct when deal­ing with impact­ed landown­ers. In 2020, the attor­ney gen­er­al released a report on a two-year grand jury inves­ti­ga­tion into Pennsylvania’s frack­ing indus­try and the fail­ure of state agen­cies to ade­quate­ly reg­u­late the indus­try and pro­tect pub­lic health.

The attor­neys gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut, Illi­nois, Mary­land, Michi­gan, Rhode Island and Ver­mont have used their offices to warn con­sumers about decep­tive mar­ket­ing ener­gy prac­tices and scams.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Illi­nois ini­ti­at­ed leg­is­la­tion that was enact­ed in August 2019 to pro­vide con­sumers with mean­ing­ful infor­ma­tion to under­stand what choos­ing alter­na­tive elec­tric and gas sup­pli­ers as their ener­gy providers would mean for their util­i­ty bills.

The attor­neys gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut, Illi­nois, Iowa, Michi­gan, and Vir­ginia urged their states’ pub­lic util­i­ties to com­ply with shut-off mora­to­ria for elec­tric pow­er, nat­ur­al gas, and water due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. The attor­ney gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut sup­port­ed extend­ing the shut­off mora­to­ri­um in his state until Feb­ru­ary 1, 2021, and issued a state­ment crit­i­ciz­ing the pub­lic utility’s deci­sion to end the emer­gency mora­to­ri­um in Octo­ber. After the shut-off mora­to­ria end­ed in their states, the attor­neys gen­er­al of Illi­nois and Mary­land issued guid­ance to pro­tect consumers.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Mass­a­chu­setts called on the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Util­i­ties in her com­mon­wealth to delay any rate increas­es asso­ci­at­ed with pipeline replace­ment projects for gas cus­tomers for at least three months dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, and the attor­neys gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. warned res­i­dents to be aware of util­i­ty scams dur­ing the pandemic.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Vir­ginia sent a let­ter to the state’s Gen­er­al Assem­bly in sup­port of the Vir­ginia Governor’s bud­get pro­pos­al to uti­lize Domin­ion Energy’s overearn­ings toward util­i­ty relief for Vir­gini­ans. The attor­ney gen­er­al of Wash­ing­ton issued a pro­pos­al to the Wash­ing­ton Util­i­ties and Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion to ban util­i­ty late fees and util­i­ty ser­vice dis­con­nec­tions until at least the end of April 2021 to pro­vide assis­tance to Wash­ing­to­ni­ans impact­ed by the pandemic.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Vir­ginia reached a set­tle­ment with Essex Solar over envi­ron­men­tal vio­la­tions dur­ing con­struc­tion and oper­a­tion activ­i­ties at its solar farm result­ing in repeat­ed dis­charges of pol­lu­tion in state waters.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Mass­a­chu­setts rep­re­sent­ed the state’s Depart­ment of Pub­lic Util­i­ties (DPU) in lit­i­ga­tion brought by a region­al pow­er pro­duc­er chal­leng­ing pow­er pur­chase agree­ments (PPAs) that DPU had award­ed in 2019 to Hydro-Québec. In Sep­tem­ber 2020, the Mass­a­chu­setts Supreme Court sided with the attor­ney gen­er­al, uphold­ing the PPAs, which are impor­tant to advanc­ing the devel­op­ment of the New Eng­land Clean Ener­gy Con­nect trans­mis­sion line.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Neva­da warned Nevadans to be cau­tious of increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed util­i­ty imposter scams attempt­ing to mis­lead and defraud con­sumers and small local busi­ness owners.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Ver­mont sent a let­ter inform­ing the Governor’s Office that he would defend any con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenges to the Glob­al Warm­ing Solu­tions Act (GWSA), includ­ing any brought by the Gov­er­nor or his admin­is­tra­tion. The GWSA instruct­ed a Cli­mate Coun­cil to devel­op a Cli­mate Action Plan to achieve mean­ing­ful reduc­tions in green­house gas emis­sions. The let­ter was prompt­ed in part by com­ments attrib­uted to the state’s Sec­re­tary of Admin­is­tra­tion at the first meet­ing of the Cli­mate Coun­cil that indi­cat­ed the admin­is­tra­tion may seek judi­cial action on the GWSA.

Pro­tect­ing Envi­ron­men­tal and Con­sumer Inter­ests in State Pub­lic Util­i­ty Com­mis­sion Proceedings


The attor­ney gen­er­al of Illi­nois, in July 2019, secured a $14 mil­lion set­tle­ment with a gas com­pa­ny that had over­charged cus­tomers with its cost­ly pipeline replace­ment program.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Ken­tucky, in May 2019, suc­cess­ful­ly opposed a pro­pos­al from a util­i­ty in the com­mon­wealth that would have raised cus­tomers’ month­ly bills an aver­age of nine per­cent a month.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut, in May 2019, secured the largest fine the Con­necti­cut Pub­lic Util­i­ties Reg­u­la­to­ry Author­i­ty (PURA) has ever lev­eled against an ener­gy com­pa­ny for vio­lat­ing the state’s con­sumer pro­tec­tion statutes in mar­ket­ing its ser­vices. In August 2020, the attor­ney gen­er­al sub­mit­ted tes­ti­mo­ny to PURA call­ing on Ever­source, a New Eng­land ener­gy com­pa­ny, to for­go its planned 2021 rate hike request and com­mit to real cost sav­ing mea­sures for consumers.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of North Car­oli­na chal­lenged in the North Car­oli­na Supreme Court in April 2019 an order by the North Car­oli­na Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion that allowed a util­i­ty to pass on to ratepay­ers the cost of clean­ing up mis­han­dled coal ash. In Decem­ber 2020, the North Car­oli­na Supreme Court issued a deci­sion that sent the mat­ter back to the North Car­oli­na Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion to con­sid­er a pro­pos­al to require the util­i­ty and its share­hold­ers to bear more of the costs of the coal ash cleanup. The attor­ney gen­er­al of North Car­oli­na released a state­ment say­ing he was pleased with the deci­sion and would con­tin­ue the fight at the Com­mis­sion to ensure that the util­i­ty pays for the cleanup. The fol­low­ing month, the attor­ney gen­er­al of North Car­oli­na announced a set­tle­ment with the util­i­ty that will save con­sumers over $1 bil­lion as the com­pa­ny cleans up the coal ash.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Michi­gan has saved util­i­ty con­sumers more than $300 mil­lion in pro­ceed­ings before the Michi­gan Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion since tak­ing office in Jan­u­ary 2019 and con­tin­ues to help save con­sumers mon­ey in rate cas­es, includ­ing, in Jan­u­ary 2020, through secur­ing dona­tions to non­prof­its that helps cus­tomers pay util­i­ty bills.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Min­neso­ta, in Jan­u­ary 2019, request­ed that the Min­neso­ta Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion reject a utility’s pro­posed pilot pro­gram for a green tar­iff for renew­able nat­ur­al gas because the pro­gram would be cost­ly for cus­tomers and would not pro­mote the state’s cli­mate and clean ener­gy goals.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Michi­gan filed tes­ti­mo­ny, in Feb­ru­ary 2019, oppos­ing a utility’s near­ly $10 mil­lion pro­posed rate increase as the pro­pos­al sad­dled con­sumers with costs unre­lat­ed to pro­vid­ing elec­tric­i­ty and did not pass on cor­po­rate tax sav­ings from the 2017 tax leg­is­la­tion to con­sumers. The attor­ney gen­er­al filed tes­ti­mo­ny again in July 2020 oppos­ing a utility’s $244 mil­lion annu­al rate increase request, call­ing it exces­sive and unnecessary.

Sim­i­lar­ly, the attor­ney gen­er­al of Mass­a­chu­setts, in March 2019, chal­lenged a rul­ing by the Mass­a­chu­setts Depart­ment of Pub­lic Util­i­ties that the cor­po­rate tax sav­ings for the first half of 2018 could not be passed on to con­sumers because of the department’s gen­er­al prin­ci­ple against retroac­tive ratemaking.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of the Dis­trict of Colum­bia filed com­ments of the Depart­ment of Ener­gy and Envi­ron­ment on Behalf of the Dis­trict of Colum­bia Gov­ern­ment in Octo­ber 2018 urg­ing that infra­struc­ture deci­sions be made in line with the District’s clean ener­gy goals.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Mass­a­chu­setts, in Decem­ber 2018, suc­cess­ful­ly sup­port­ed the state’s ener­gy effi­cien­cy plan that will reduce green­house gas emis­sions and save con­sumers over $8 bil­lion after, in July of the pre­vi­ous year, par­tic­i­pat­ing in grid mod­ern­iza­tion pro­ceed­ings advo­cat­ing for, among oth­er things, access to data to max­i­mize pos­si­ble cus­tomer response dur­ing peak demand peri­ods in con­junc­tion with advanced meters.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of North Car­oli­na, in March 2019, request­ed that a util­i­ty revise its long term plan­ning doc­u­ment to take into account the costs to ratepay­ers from cli­mate change caused by the utility’s reliance on nat­ur­al gas pow­er generation.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of Con­necticut sub­mit­ted com­ments to PURA urg­ing reg­u­la­tors to con­sid­er ques­tions of equi­ty and fair­ness when delib­er­at­ing the fur­ther imple­men­ta­tion of smart meters in Con­necti­cut, not­ing that the costs and ben­e­fits of mod­ern ener­gy infra­struc­ture must be shared fair­ly by all con­sumers. The attor­ney gen­er­al also sub­mit­ted tes­ti­mo­ny to the Ener­gy and Tech­nol­o­gy Com­mit­tee of the Con­necti­cut State Leg­is­la­ture urg­ing action to strength­en ratepay­er protections.

The attor­ney gen­er­al of New Mex­i­co suc­cess­ful­ly opposed the con­struc­tion of a new gas-fired gen­er­a­tion plant. The attor­ney gen­er­al empha­sized that the plant would not pro­vide a net pub­lic ben­e­fit and that the util­i­ty had not con­sid­ered its oblig­a­tions under New Mexico’s Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dard any­where in its appli­ca­tion. The attor­ney gen­er­al also not­ed that the New Mex­i­co Pub­lic Reg­u­la­tion Com­mis­sion has tak­en a new stance that new fos­sil fuel gen­er­a­tion is not in the pub­lic inter­est. The pre­sid­ing admin­is­tra­tive law judge agreed, and the New Mex­i­co Pub­lic Reg­u­la­tion Com­mis­sion adopt­ed the Rec­om­mend­ed Decision.