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Chevron granted waiver from U.S. biofuel laws at Utah plant

Reuters | Posted on November 22, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted oil major Chevron Corp a 2017 hardship waiver from U.S. biofuel laws for its Utah refinery earlier this year.

Federal judge blocks construction of Keystone pipeline

USA Today | Posted on November 22, 2018

A federal judge issued an order Thursday blocking construction of the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline until further environmental analysis is conducted. The decision comes as TransCanada is preparing to build the oil pipeline beginning in northern Montana, with pipe being shipped to the state by train and trucked to locations along the line.Environmental groups that sued TransCanada and the U.S. Department of State in federal court in Great Falls called the decision to overturn the Trump administration-issued permit a landmark ruling.

No penalties for 90% of pipeline blasts

E&E News | Posted on November 21, 2018

 Federal regulators at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered Columbia to repair the line and inspect it at a higher standard. But they didn't seek a financial penalty. They rarely do. Since the beginning of 2010, interstate pipelines have exploded or caught fire 137 times, according to an E&E News analysis of interstate pipeline enforcement and incident data. In about 90 percent of those cases, PHMSA sought no fine.

There's still life in rural Tennessee, and electric co-ops power it

The Tennessean | Posted on November 21, 2018

You can’t deny it – big things are happening in Tennessee. Last season the Predators brought home the division title, and they now reside at the top of the Central Division. We’re home to the NFL and we have a beautiful new minor league baseball field.  A major league soccer team will soon play in a new stadium.Nashville is not alone. The New York Times named Chattanooga as one of 52 cities worldwide to visit, and in October, Bicycling Magazine named Knoxville one of the best bike cities in America.With so much new energy focused on Tennessee’s urban centers, it is easy to overlook the rest of the state. We shouldn’t.The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development reports that in 2017, 45 percent of all new Tennessee jobs – more than 9,700 – were created in the state’s rural counties. Oshkosh Corporation recently announced plans to bring 300 jobs to Jefferson City, Tyson Foods is bringing 1,800 jobs to Gibson and Obion counties and Stonepeak Ceramics is investing $70 million in its Crossville facility.

Renewables can challenge existing coal plants on price

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

Average costs for wind and solar energy can undercut existing coal generation even without subsidies, according to analysis from the research firm Lazard.The latest version of Lazard's levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis finds that U.S. onshore wind energy costs average between $26/MWh and $56/MWh without subsidies, while utility-scale solar averages between $36/MWh and $44/MWh. That challenges the average cost for existing U.S. coal plants, which Lazard pegs between $27/MWh and $45/MWh. Factoring in federal subsidies for wind and solar, the renewable resources become even more competitive against coal and challenge nuclear and gas plants. The findings come on the heels of multiple utility announcements that they will replace coal and nuclear plants with renewable energy and natural gas.

California PUC chair says state won't let PG&E go bankrupt

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

California's head utility regulator said Thursday he does not want utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to go bankrupt over escalating costs related to California's record wildfire season, sending shares soaring in after-hours trading. California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Chairman Michael Picker reportedly told financial analysts his agency would begin implementing a new state law that allows utilities to pass fire costs onto customers, while also expanding a probe into PG&E's corporate governance.Picker's announcement came after PG&E's power lines were linked to the ongoing Camp Fire in Northern California and PG&E withdrew all of its revolving credit lines, a move that can presage a bankruptcy filing. The utility's equipment was found responsible for 16 fires last year and this week its credit rating was downgraded by Moody's Investor Service and S&P.

Probe launched against PF & E after fires

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

The California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) said Monday it has launched investigations into the regulatory compliance of electric facilities owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) related to three deadly fires. The investor-owned utilities (IOUs) had separately filed electric safety incident reports on Thursday, alerting regulators of problems with a PG&E transmission line around the source of Butte County's Camp Fire and with SCE transmission lines near ground zero of Ventura County's Hill Fire and Los Angeles County's Woolsey Fire. The CPUC and CalFire have not made official determinations on the causes of the fires.PG&E has incurred more than $2 billion in costs, net of insurance recoveries, related to wildfires so far this year, as its equipment was determined to be the cause of several deadly fires. SCE told the Securities and Exchange Commission it expects to incur losses based on the potential that its equipment started a deadly fire in 2017, and has been sued over its role in the blaze.

Clean energy platforms win at the state level as 7 governor seats shift blue

Utility Drive | Posted on November 18, 2018

Several Democratic candidates ran their campaigns on clean energy in stark contrast to their opponents, which observers say may have helped win them the election.Seven governor's races flipped blue: Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico and Nevada. The Alaska governor's seat was the only one to flip Republican, while Florida and Georgia are still pending final vote counts.Although issues such as healthcare and immigration remained the top items for many candidates, observers say some of the gubernatorial candidates' strong stances on clean energy policy may have helped win them the election.

Green Plains shuts plant, faces ethanol downturn

Reuters | Posted on November 17, 2018

Green Plains Inc, the nation’s fourth-largest ethanol producer, has permanently shuttered a Virginia production plant and cut output at several other facilities as it tries to navigate a supply glut that has pummeled biofuel profits. Green Plains announced that it was closing a plant in the town of Hopewell that had capacity to produce 60 million gallons annually. Thirty-one jobs will be cut, it said in a news release. With ethanol plants in Corn Belt states such as Iowa and Illinois struggling to make money, further-flung facilities have been under even more pressure as bringing in corn from far away boosts feedstock costs.

Turning human excrement into biofuel

| Posted on November 17, 2018

team of researchers from Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has demonstrated, for the first time, a technique for converting human excrement into hydrochar—a safe, renewable biomass fuel that resembles charcoal—as well as a nutrient-rich fertilizer. According to the team, this process could potentially address two major issues that affect many less-affluent countries—poor sanitation and growing energy needs.In a pilot study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the researchers described how they used a technique known as “hydrothermal carbonization” to heat raw solid human waste in a special “pressure cooker” to three different temperatures (180, 210 and 240 degrees Celsius) for periods of either 30, 60 or 120 minutes.This sterilizes the human waste and dries it out, creating a solid coal-like substance known as hydrochar, which can be used for household cooking and heating. In addition, a nutrient-rich liquid is produced that could be used as a fertilizer. Last year, the BGU researchers carried out similar research using poultry excrement.