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Salting the earth: North Dakota farmers struggle with a toxic byproduct of the oil boom

NBC News | Posted on August 13, 2018

For the past two decades, Peterson and his wife Christine have been dealing with the spillage of saltwater — a byproduct of oil production — on their land, which grows peas, soybeans and various types of grain. Almost 40 years ago, they signed a contract with an oil company "land man" who came to their house and said there might be oil on their land. In 1997, two spills covered dozens of acres with more than 50,000 gallons of saltwater. A decade later, another 21,000 gallons of saltwater spilled. And since then, though their land never produced much oil or oil revenue, the Petersons say they have seen another 10 spills.They claim these spills were never properly cleaned up. Peterson says it's become his "life's mission" to get some justice for his land, so he and his wife are suing the oil company, Petro Harvester."It's incumbent on me to protect my property to the best of my ability for myself and my family," Peterson said. "Enough is enough."

Renewable Energy Saves Water and Creates Jobs

Scientific American | Posted on August 9, 2018

A common argument for expanding renewable energy sources is that technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines are responsible for far less carbon dioxide than power plants that burn fossil fuels. But two other powerful benefits should also be getting much more attention: the switch can save vast quantities of freshwater, and can create a large number of new, high-paying jobs. Want proof? Let’s look at the data that our detailed research has revealed. To provide electricity for an average home, a nuclear power plant requires 615 gallons of cooling water a day, a coal-fired plant requires 199 gallons per day, and a natural gas power plant requires 114 gallons per day. The stunning volume is a quiet thief that threatens the U.S. water supply.

Trump admin sees grim climate outcome in car rule

E & E News | Posted on August 9, 2018

The last time carbon dioxide levels hit the mark the Trump administration envisions for the end of the century, crocodiles roamed the poles and palm trees existed where glaciers are today. In fact, there were no glaciers — not even in Antarctica. Although the White House has avoided addressing climate change, it made a rare acknowledgement that its proposal to weaken vehicle fuel efficiency standards would contribute to a warmer planet. Its prediction for what the atmosphere will look like in 2100 startled climate scientists — a carbon dioxide concentration of 789.76 parts per million. That's nearly double current levels.Scientists said reaching that mark would be devastating for the planet. Although humans would survive, much of that would depend on the ability to adapt to new conditions. Food and water scarcity would result from changing precipitation patterns and higher temperatures. Potentially billions of people would struggle. Some species and ecosystems would collapse."By mid Century, food and especially water shortages will likely become so widespread that regional conflicts and environmental refugees will dwarf anything we see now, and hence it is not really livable for all humans," Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an email. "So the last time 800 ppm occurred is not really pertinent because there were not 10 billion people present."

Apple Is Leading a Plan to Develop Wind and Solar Power With Akamai, Etsy and Other Companies

Fortune | Posted on August 9, 2018

Apple is leading the development of two new wind and solar energy farms in Illinois in Virginia that will help not only bring green energy to its own operations, but also those of Akamai, Etsy, and Swiss Re. The new projects will generate 290 megawatts, enough to power 74,000 homes, to the electric grid that serves much of the eastern U.S. Apple is leading the development in part to bring renewable energy power to other companies.

Broadband access: A regulatory call to action to protect utilities against cyber threats

Utility Dive | Posted on August 9, 2018

Energy suppliers are taking cyber threats seriously by shoring up physical infrastructure and hardening against cyber warfare. But they are competing with one arm tied behind their backs because they are using decades-old private radio systems to control these facilities, as opposed to the advanced broadband technology available today.  That's because historically, most policymakers have been primarily focused on protecting consumers from rate hikes. That's an important objective. And Public Utility Commissions, or PUCs, also have the responsibility to facilitate technological and regulatory innovations that could enhance the consumer experience and promote more reliable and secure systems. By making access to dedicated broadband a priority for utilities — and by allowing them to include these investments in their rate base —​ PUCs will further enable grid modernization, vastly improving upon the dated technology employed today. That would result in the ability for first responders, health care providers and citizens to have lasting confidence in the reliability of the grid and the services they receive from it.

Hawaii's new fuel price performance incentive gives HECO 'skin in the game'

Utility Dive | Posted on August 9, 2018

Hawaii regulators took a step toward performance incentives for its dominant electric utility, but transitioning to true performance-based regulation (PBR) will be contentious, judging from the stakeholder response. The cost of importing expensive fuel oil for power generation in the state has led to many debates over the best way to align utility incentives with customer interests — such as using a sharing mechanism to split fuel price volatility risks between the utility's shareholders and its ratepayers. On June 22, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (HPUC) approved a risk sharing mechanism proposed by the environmental group Blue Planet in a new foray into performance-based incentives. Many in the state see the move as an indication that more reforms are coming in the state's regulatory docket on PBR, initiated this year.The new risk sharing mechanism is mean to give the Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) "skin in the game," said former Colorado regulator Ron Binz, who testified at the HPUC on behalf of Blue Planet. But both HECO and Hawaii's consumer advocate question whether the new PBR provision will ultimately serve customer interests.

FERC halts construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline after court ruling

Utility Dive | Posted on August 9, 2018

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday ordered a stop to construction of the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline after a federal appeals court threw out permits that allowed the project to build through less than four miles of national forest land. On July 27, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed permits granted by the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service in response to a challenge from environmental groups. FERC stopped construction because the decision may mean the project will have to be rerouted, it wrote in a letter to the developers.FERC last week also separately denied requests to review its initial approval of the project, but warned in its stop-work order that Mountain Valley "may need to revise substantial portions of the project route across non-federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review."

Bloomer dairy farm sues Cornell electric company

The Chippewa Herald | Posted on August 8, 2018

A group of Bloomer dairy farmers is suing Cornell-based Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, claiming that stray voltage from the cooperative’s equipment is harming the dairy herd.The lawsuit was brought by LaGesse Dairy Farms. Thomas C., Catherine J. and Deanne M. LaGesse and Conrad Willi, all of Bloomer.Stray voltage levels are small degrees of voltage traveling through parts of livestock buildings or equipment, according to a 2010 report from the nonprofit Midwest Rural Energy Council.

Maryland launches community solar program, creating new green energy opportunities — but also potential conflicts

Baltimore Sun | Posted on August 8, 2018

Maryland has launched a pilot program that will allow anyone to power their home with solar panels — even if they are renters, condo-dwellers or live in the shade of trees. Solar developers are looking for hundreds of residents to subscribe to six power projects planned across the state, including recently announced sites in Owings Mills and Westminster. Their offers include discounts off standard electric rates.The developers need a critical mass of customers who are willing to buy the projects’ electricity before they can move forward with plans to install solar panels on about 80 acres, altogether. Under state rules, the customer base must include low- and moderate-income residents.

Power Worth Less Than Zero Spreads as Green Energy Floods the Grid

Bloomberg | Posted on August 8, 2018

Wind and solar farms are glutting networks more frequently, prompting a market signal for coal plants to shut off.  With wind and solar farms sprouting up in more areas -- and their power getting priority to feed into the grid in many places -- the amount of electricity being generated is outstripping demand during certain hours of the day.The result: power prices are slipping to zero or even below more often in more jurisdictions. That’s adding to headaches for generators from NRG Energy Inc. in California to RWE AG in Germany and Origin Energy Ltd. in Australia. Once confined to a curiosity for a few hours over windy Christmas holidays, sub-zero cost of electricity is becoming a reality for hundreds of hours in many markets, upending the economics of the business in the process.