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Credit: Bryan Olin Dozier/NurPhoto/Reuters (found on CNN)

The Biden Administration has decided the fate of Alaska’s Northern Slopes, and it’s not good

The Biden administration has issued their decision on ConocoPhillips’ proposed Willow Project, and it's not good

The Biden administration has issued their decision on ConocoPhillips’ proposed Willow Project. In case you haven’t heard about it yet, this is a huge long-term oil drilling investment by the petroleum refinery company in the northernmost borough of Alaska that would produce over an estimated 600 million barrels of oil, and close to 300 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere over the next 30 years. This is equivalent to emissions from roughly 70 coal fired power plants, or from 56 million vehicles over one year –  a “carbon bomb” some have labeled – and the President has signed off on its approval.

This is a major setback in President Biden’s commitment to end oil drilling on federal land, a pledge campaigned during his 2020 election season. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released their final environmental impact statement last month, recommending a reduction in the number of drilling pads from five to three, and the planting of trees to offset the carbon emissions. With the increase in pushback from the public and environmental groups this past year, the administration considered lowering the scope of the project to two pads, however, ultimately stuck with three to make it economically viable. Even with the newly announced protections of the U.S. Arctic Ocean and surrounding land surface, this will not prevent the degradation caused by oil drilling.

So, what are they saying in Alaska? The conversation is rather divided in the state, with the voice of legislators seeming to dominate. Major arguments in support of this development are concerned with the potential for massive revenues, job opportunities, and domestic energy production that would benefit the state. They are looking towards the estimated $1.25 billion in taxes to fund infrastructure improvements, and another $2.5 billion for a grant program for community initiatives to frame the Willow Project as a net benefit. One coalition of Alaska Native groups has extended their support, regarding this as an opportunity to gain basic services such as education, healthcare, and law enforcement.

On the other side, previously impacted residents of past ConocoPhillips ventures urged the President to reject any form of this project. The city of Nuiqsut, the closest residential area in proximity to the proposed site of the new drilling pads, is heavily concerned about the health and environmental risks posed. Just last year, the company’s oil field at the Alpine Central Facility had a methane gas leak, eight miles away from Nuiqsut. This prompted some of the 500 residents to flee the area, and now they are worried the Willow Project will bring even more dangers.

In any case, developing the Arctic Alaska for oil drilling purposes will threaten our global atmosphere, the local wildlife of the region, and push the global ice caps beyond the point of return. Many petitions have been passed through social media to urge the administration to put an end to the project; the #StopWillow campaign on Tiktok has reached over 50 million views, landing itself on the trending page where anybody on the platform can engage with it. Environmental organizations are preparing to challenge this decision legally, and we encourage you to stay up to date on this topic as we continue the fight against climate change.

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CA’s deadline to go solar to maximize savings is upcoming

The NEM 3 decision includes a “sunset period” that ends 120 days after the approval of the final decision, meaning anyone who goes solar before the sunset period date is still eligible for NEM 2.

In case you missed it, in December 2022, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a decision that ended a nearly two-year long battle between the investor-owned utilities and environmental groups over the future of rooftop solar in California. Although there was a coalition over 600 strong comprised of environmental and climate change organizations, nonprofits, schools, cities, churches, businesses and elected officials who spent two years urging the CPUC to keep solar growing sustainably, as instructed by law, the CPUC ultimately decided to side with the investor-owned utilities and made significant cuts to agreement solar customers go on, known as net energy metering. You can read more about the coalition here

Under the new net energy metering (NEM) agreement (known as NEM 3), solar customers will get about 75 percent less from the utility for the clean, local and reliable excess energy they share with their neighbors (which the utilities still charge their neighbors full transmission and distribution fees for). Just to give you a sense of how the new tariff compares to what solar customers are receiving currently, compensation for energy will go from an average of $.25/kWh all the way down to about $0.05/kWh. NEM 3 customers will also be forced to go on rates that have higher rates in the evening. All in all, these changes will nearly double the time it takes to pay off a residential system.  

There is some good news.  

If you already have solar, these changes will not affect you! All NEM 1 and NEM 2 customers will continue to receive benefits until their agreement expires, which is 20 years after the system was turned on. The only scenario that would make a customer lose their current NEM status is if a customer adds additional panels that exceed the allocated amount. 

The NEM 3 decision includes a “sunset period” that ends 120 days after the approval of the final decision, meaning anyone who goes solar before the sunset period date is still eligible for NEM 2. In order to go solar and receive maximum benefits, a solar contractor must submit a completed interconnection agreement without significant errors and a signed contract by April 14, although we recommend getting this submitted as soon as possible in case there are errors that need to be resolved. The solar power system can be installed after the cutoff date, so long as the application is submitted by April 14 and it is approved by the utility, however, if any significant changes are made to the equipment being used or system size, that would trigger a new application and cause the customer to lose their NEM 2 status.    

As the proceeding currently stands, customers should be prepared to go solar by the cutoff date, April 14, in order to receive the maximum benefits, however, there is a small possibility that this decision could be reversed entirely. Last month, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group and Protect Our Communities Foundation filed a formal appeal to reverse the CPUC’s final decision. The appeal highlighted ways in which the CPUC violated the law. 

The first and perhaps most obvious issue is that the decision violates a California law requiring the sustainable growth of rooftop solar. The California law is very clear in stating that the new NEM tariff must “ensure that customer-sited renewable distributed generation continues to grow sustainably,” During the course of the proceeding, some commissioner’s even stated that this decision may slow rooftop solar adoption but the CPUC has to consider other issues as well. The appeal rightfully argues that this decision is not the CPUC’s decision to make, as the law is very clear. 

The second issue is that the decision violates another California law that requires the CPUC to put forward an alternative option that would increase solar in communities of concern. The current California law states that any changes to NEM must include an option that will grow solar in “disadvantaged communities.” Not only does the decision actually make rooftop solar more expensive for everyone and disproportionately impacts communities of concern, but the CPUC promises funds to disadvantaged communities that are not available unless the legislature allocates them and are only for battery storage, not rooftop solar. 


The overarching issue of the entire proceeding is that the CPUC completely failed to account for all of the benefits and costs of rooftop solar. Any changes to NEM should have been based on the costs and benefits to all ratepayers and the CPUC not only disregarded the benefits of rooftop solar, but also misrepresented the impacts of long distance transmission lines. The appeal claims that in disregarding evidence presented to them, they violated their own process and precedent.  

What's next? 

Although the appeal is strong in its merits, this appeal is simply administrative, meaning that the CPUC has no real timeline to respond to the appeal or make any decisions. If the CPUC fails to respond within 90 days, the organizations that filed the appeal can escalate the appeal to an appeals court, which representatives have stated is the plan. 

The appeal is strong, and has already gained support from groups like and Solar Rights Alliance, however appeals similar to this have been filed in previous CPUC proceedings and were ultimately dismissed by a court of law and the CPUC. While we should remain optimistic about the appeal, customers should still plan to follow the current deadlines on the table to ensure they don’t miss the opportunity to go solar.   

Bottom line is that if you can go solar now, we recommend it as you’ll be able to maximize your savings and start producing clean energy soon!

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Newsom cuts climate program funding to address budget deficit in a climate emergency

The 2023-2024 budget Governor Gavin Newsom released earlier this month makes cuts to some of the state’s most impactful climate programs and initiatives due to a decline in the state’s General Fund.

In 2022, California saw the devastating effects of the climate crisis as wildfires, droughts, floods and record-breaking heat waves impacted our most vulnerable communities across the state. It is clear that California needs to take aggressive measures to accelerate the state’s transition to clean energy, reduce carbon emissions and transform our transportation system. Unfortunately, while it is clear that the state should increase funding for climate initiatives, the 2023-2024 budget Governor Gavin Newsom released earlier this month makes cuts to some of the state’s most impactful climate programs and initiatives due to a decline in the state’s General Fund. 

We often say that communities of concern are often hit first and worst with the impacts of the climate crisis, and California is witnessing that now with multi-family affordable housing complexes being flooded, infant mortality rates increasing in areas where there is significant air pollution as a result of fossil fuels and long term health issues like asthma and cancer have higher occurrences in communities of concern. 


With transportation being responsible for more than half of the state’s carbon emissions, it is clear that climate investments in transportation need to be prioritized not only for the state to meet its climate goals, but also because pollution from transportation is causing long term adverse health outcomes for communities of concern. In 2022, the state budget included $13.8 billion for transportation programs for projects to advance rail and transit connectivity, improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians and incentives for zero emission vehicles. This year, the budget includes a $2.7 million reduction in funding from last year making billion dollar cuts or delays in funding for programs. 


Although the Governor’s budget states that California “prioritizes affordability, reliability and safety as the state encourages efforts to decarbonize the grid and scale deployment of clean energy generation and storage,” programs to transform our energy system are among the programs with the most drastic cuts in funding compared to last year’s budget. The 2023-24 budget proposes a reduction of $897 million in General Fund and an additional $370 million in General Fund in delays to future years. 

One of the programs with the most drastic cuts in funding is for Low Income Residential Solar and Storage. The program will suffer a reduction of $270 million for solar and storage incentives in 2023-24, just as the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has finalized a decision to cut rooftop solar benefits for future customers

Another program to suffer reductions is the Equitable Building Decarbonization Program at the California Energy Commission, which not only includes a delay of $370 million in funds for this year, but also a reduction of $87 million for in the 2025 budget. 

Extreme Heat and Community Resilience 

In 2022, California experienced record-breaking heat waves that put a massive strain on our energy grid and resulted in deaths across the state. Despite knowledge of the fact that heat waves will continue to get worse as the climate crisis accelerates, funding for programs to address extreme heat and provide relief for communities suffered the most cuts in funding of any of the climate related programs, with a $735 million reduction across programs. 

Programs affected include the Extreme Heat and Community Resilience Program with a $25 million reduction, which is a 43 percent reduction compared to last year as well as programs to develop community resilience centers, which suffered a delay of $85 million to 2024.     

With a reduction or delay in funding to nearly every single climate program, some more than others, it does not seem as though the state government, which claims to be a leader in addressing climate change is prioritizing funding for programs but more importantly, not prioritizing the health and safety of the frontline communities who suffer the disproportionate impacts of climate change. 

Read more in Governor Newsom’s budget summary.    

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