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October 21 News: California Becomes First State to Adopt Cap and Trade Program

Other key stories below: Wind Power Record Set in Texas — 15.2% of Demand; EPA Plans to Regulate Water from Fracking

California Becomes First State to Adopt Cap-and-Trade Program

The California Air Resources Board on Thursday unanimously adopted the nation’s first state-administered cap-and-trade regulations, a landmark set of air pollution controls to address climate change and help the state achieve its ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The complex market system for the first time puts a price on heat-trapping pollution by allowing California’s dirtiest industries to trade carbon credits. The rules have been years in the making, overcoming legal challenges and an aggressive oil industry-sponsored ballot initiative.

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The air board met in Sacramento for more than eight hours in a packed hearing room. Board members listened to sometimes scathing comments from union workers fearful of losing their jobs and a parade of industry representatives who likewise characterized the regulations as anti-business. Other speakers called the proposal historic and groundbreaking.

Late in the day, as the eight board members voted to approve the regulations, to scattered applause, Chairman Mary Nichols looked up and said, “We’ve done something important.”

… Cap-and-trade is the centerpiece of AB 32, California’s historic climate change law that mandates a reduction in carbon pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. Beginning in 2013 the state’s largest carbon emitters will be required to meet the caps or buy credits if they cannot.

A second phase of compliance begins in 2015 and is expected to include 85% of California’s emissions sources.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a strong supporter of the original legislation, applauded the vote in a statement released Thursday evening.

“Today’s adoption of a cap-and-trade program is a major milestone for California’s continued leadership on reducing the world’s greenhouse gases. As I said both when we signed the legislation in 2006, and when we fought to protect it last year when Texas oil companies attempted to overturn it with Proposition 23, the most critical phase in the fight against climate change is diligently, aggressively, and correctly implementing this law.”

Wind Power Record Set in Texas

Wind turbines in Texas, in the service territory of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) — which is the main Texas electric grid — set a new electricity output record on October 7, it was reported this week.

The record? 15.2% of ERCOT’s electricity demand was supplied by wind on the afternoon of the 7th — 7,400 megawatts (MW).

“This new record set by wind on the main Texas grid is good news for consumers,” Michael Goggin, the America Wind Energy Association’s (or AWEA’s) Manager of Transmission Policy, said.”Wind generation offsets the use of expensive fossil fuels, is pollution-free, and uses virtually no water, unlike other sources of electricity.”

Wind’s tremendous water advantages (especially important with record-breaking heat and droughts hitting Texas and the Southwest, and stronger droughts projected in the coming decades, one of the long-predicted effects of global warming), is something we’ve covered a few times on CleanTechnica.

Venture Capital Deals Drop Across the Board, Cleantech Hit

Venture Capital deals in the third quarter of 2011 dropped 12 percent in dollars invested compared to last quarter. Clean technology and life sciences industries were particularly hard hit, according to a report released today by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

“Public policy challenges in the life sciences and clean technology sectors are impacting investment levels this quarter as is the IPO market that basically came to a screeching halt in August,” explained National Venture Capital Association president Mark Heesen in a statement.

The venture capital industry is often reflective of how the markets are doing, according to Heesen, though it does support company, product and job creation. Along with the drop in dollars invested, the number of deals made also decreased 14 percent to 876 completed deals, down from the 1,015 in quarter two 2011.

Clean technology fell in line with the overall venture capital economy, a 13 percent drop in dollars invested, totaling at $891 million. Last quarter the investors spent $1 billion on the industry.

Environmental Protection Agency Announces Plans to Regulate Water from Fracking

The Environmental Protection Agency said it planned to regulate wastewater discharged by companies producing natural gas from shale formations, including chemically laced water used in a controversial extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing.

The EPA’s initiative comes as water-intensive natural gas production has spread around the country, raising concerns about the effects on drinking-water supplies. The practice, also known as fracking, involves shooting water infused with chemicals and sand at high pressure into shale formations to unlock reservoirs of natural gas.

The EPA will try to determine what to do with water used during fracking, as well as water that is already underground and flows back up the well. Companies now often release the water from the production process into municipal wastewater systems. Those treatment facilities lack the technology to completely remove the chemicals, salt and minerals in the wastewater before sending it into streams and other surface water, said Ben Grumbles, president of Clean Water America Alliance, an association of municipal water districts and private industry.

Barraged with accusations from some congressional Republicans that EPA regulations kill jobs, the agency was careful to say that the new rules were not meant to crimp natural gas production.

Senators Weigh Keystone Pipeline Strategy

Senators battling the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline are mulling their options as the Obama administration’s decision on the controversial project looms.

Critics of the proposed $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline say the State Department’s favorable environmental analysis was flawed, and that the review lacked integrity because it was performed by a company with financial ties to pipeline developer TransCanada.

They’re pressing for a new analysis, and more broadly say the pipeline — which would bring oil sands from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf Coast refineries — is a bad idea. But with the Obama administration planning to make a final decision around the end of the year, what can they do about it? “I will have more to say about that down the road,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who said he’s concerned about the pipeline’s effect on prices and the possibility that the oil it brings could be exported.