Scott Pruitt spent nearly $3.5 million on security during his first year as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to an agency breakdown. Pruitt's round the clock security detail racked up the high costs through both travel and payroll expenses — costing taxpayers more than $760,000 in travel and more than $2.7 million in pay during the administrator's first year.
The demand for atomic energy is in decline. But before the country can abandon its plants, there's six decades of waste to deal with. It was just another day in the life of the defunct Hanford nuclear site, a remote part of Washington State that made most of the plutonium in America’s Cold War arsenal. On the morning of May 9, 2017, alarms sounded. Around 2,000 site workers were told to take cover indoors, and aircraft were banned from flying over the site for several hours. The roof of a tunnel had collapsed, exposing railcars that had been loaded with radioactive waste from plutonium production and then shunted underground and sealed in decades before. There was other stuff down there too. Nobody quite knew what. Record keeping was poor, but the contents of the tunnels certainly included carcasses from animal radiation experiments, including a reported 18 alligators. The emergency lasted only a few hours. The integrity of the waste was restored. But it was a chilling reminder of the site’s perilous radioactive legacy.Sprawling across 600 square miles of sagebrush semidesert, Hanford is a $100 billion cleanup burden, full of accidents waiting to happen. It is the biggest headache, but very far from being the only one, emerging in what increasingly look like the final years of America's nuclear age. Hanford has not produced plutonium for three decades. Nobody is making new material for bombs anymore. President Trump’s plans for more weapons can be met by recycling existing plutonium stocks. And even the civil nuclear industry, which still generates a fifth of America’s electricity, is in what looks like terminal decline. With cheap natural gas and renewable solar and wind energy increasingly available, the numbers no longer add up. Nuclear power plants across the nation are being closed with years of licensed operation unused.
At a West Virginia rally on tax cuts, President Donald Trump veered off on a subject that likely puzzled most of his audience. “Nine of your people just came up to me outside. ’Could you talk about 202?’” he said. “We’ll be looking at that 202. You know what a 202 is? We’re trying.”One person who undoubtedly knew what Trump was talking about last month was Jeff Miller, an energy lobbyist with whom the president had dined the night before. Miller had been hired by FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt power company that relies on coal and nuclear energy to produce electricity. His assignment: push the Trump administration to use a so-called 202 order — named for a provision of the Federal Power Act — to secure a bailout worth billions of dollars. Although Trump didn’t agree to the plan — he still hasn’t — for Miller, a president’s public declaration of interest amounted to a job well done.How a single lobbyist helped carry a long-shot idea from obscurity to the presidential stage is a twisty journey through the new swamp of Trump’s Washington. Rather than clearing out the lobbyists and campaign donors that spend big money to sway politicians, Trump and his advisers paved the way for a new cast of powerbrokers who have quickly embraced familiar ways to wield influence.Miller is among them. A well-connected GOP fundraiser, he has served as an adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a close friend. He ran Perry’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2016. And when Trump tapped Perry to lead the Energy Department, Miller shepherded his friend through confirmation, sitting behind him, next to the nominee’s wife, at the Senate hearing.
Newly released emails show senior Environmental Protection Agency officials collaborating with a conservative group that dismisses climate change to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming, counter negative news coverage and tout Administrator Scott Pruitt's stewardship of the agency. John Konkus, EPA's deputy associate administrator for public affairs, repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, according to the emails."If you send a list, we will make sure an invitation is sent," Konkus wrote to then-Heartland president Joseph Bast in May 2017, seeking suggestions on scientists and economists the EPA could invite to an annual EPA public hearing on the agency's science standards.Follow-up emails show Konkus and the Heartland Institute mustering scores of potential invitees known for rejecting scientific warnings of man-made climate-change, including from groups like Plants Need CO2, The Right Climate Stuff, and Junk Science.
China is considering a plan to buy more American coal as part of an effort to narrow its trade deficit with the U.S., according to people with knowledge of the matter. Chinese officials are currently looking at boosting purchases from West Virginia in particular, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly. They didn’t say whether Beijing is looking at buying more supplies from other states. A final decision hasn’t been made, they said.
The US power system is one of the largest, most complicated, and most expensive machines in the world, but the grid’s core infrastructure is old and is not aging gracefully. Nearly 500 gigawatts (GW), or about half of the existing thermal generator fleet (i.e., coal-, nuclear-, and gas-fired power plants) is likely to retire by 2030, leading to a gap in capacity that will need to be addressed with new investment. US electricity generators may be committing their customers and investors to as much as $1 trillion in future investment and fuel costs through 2030 as they rush to build new gas-fired power plants. Yet advances in renewable energy and distributed energy resources (DERs) offer lower rates and emissions-free energy while delivering all the grid reliability services that new power plants can, according to RMI’s The Economics of Clean Energy Portfolios report. RMI’s analysis finds that, because of recent innovation and rapid cost declines in renewable energy and DER technologies, clean energy portfolios can often be procured at significant net cost savings, with lower risk and zero carbon and air emissions, compared to building a new gas plant. More dramatically, the new-build costs of clean energy portfolios are falling quickly, and likely to beat just the operating costs of efficient gas-fired power plants within the next two decades—a sobering risk for investors and customers in a market with over $100 billion of already announced investment in new gas-fired power plants.
California’s recently approved solar roof mandate for all new homes came as a surprise to many people — even though stakeholders have been working on the rule change for roughly two years. That’s likely because the California Energy Commission (CEC) passed the requirement earlier this month as an update to the state’s 2019 Title 24, Part 6, Building Energy Efficiency Standards. Not quite everyday reading. The latest round of standards, which take effect in 2020, do enable some pretty groundbreaking developments in the advancement of clean energy. Besides the requirement that all new homes under three stories install solar panels — a first for the nation — the codes help to incentivize energy storage and include a host of energy efficiency upgrades that will collectively slash energy use in new homes by more than 50 percent.While the core elements of the new standards are now effectively locked in, the work that’s required to roll them out is only just beginning. Homebuilders, solar companies, efficiency experts, local governments, analysts and consumers are digging further into how the rules are structured to come up with compliance plans and to understand how California’s Title 24 codes will affect the clean energy industry overall. There’s a lot for stakeholders to grapple with.So to help in that effort, here are answers to some of the big questions that have cropped up in response to the historic new building codes, including an in-depth look at the cost-benefit analysis of mandating rooftop solar. There’s a lot here, but it’s a faster read than skimming through h
The number of contracts signed for wind power projects hit a record of 3,500 MW in Q1 2018, according to the American Wind Energy Association, signaling that 2018 should be a strong year for the renewable resource. There are now 33,449 MW of wind projects under construction or in advanced development in the U.S., a 40% increase from last year and the highest level since AWEA began compiling the metric at the beginning of 2016. Despite fears that changes in the tax code would slow wind power development, the tax equity market, the key financing vehicle for wind projects, appears to have adapted and survived intact.
For all the talk about coal-industry employment, solar energy accounted for more than twice as many jobs last year, about 350,000 workers. Solar produces about 1.9 percent of U.S. electricity, and is deepening its reach in the Southeast. And while natural gas employs about 7.7 percent more people than solar, more than 80 percent of those jobs are related to producing the fuel rather than using it to generate electricity.
Ag technology promoters are pedaling hard for biofuels-friendly policies in Washington, D.C., to make life livable for cash-strapped farmers supplying markets that didn't exist 30 years ago.Erick Lutt, director of industrial and environmental policy for Biotechnology Innovation Organization, speaking at the 2018 Bio Industry Summit on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo on May 15, said biofuels promoters are working to monitor and address mixed messages from the administration. He stressed the need for "stable policy to help continue to drive investment and advance in cellulosic biofuel