As expected, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed legislation that would have allowed Enbridge to build a controversial new oil pipeline without getting regulatory approval. The legislation would have terminated a three-year process before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that is nearly complete.The PUC is slated next month to decide if Enbridge's new Line 3 across northern Minnesota is needed, and if so, what route it should take."This bill pre-empts the long-standing PUC process, which has been established in law, and which has been used for years to make those complex and controversial decisions," Dayton said in a letter Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, speaker of the house.The legislation would also disregard the input of "thousands of Minnesotans who have participated in the [regulatory] process," including by attending public meetings and hearings, Dayton wrote.
Consumers are growing more concerned about climate change and their carbon footprint, according to an annual survey from Deloitte. The gap between environmental concern and consumer action is poised to shrink as tech-minded millennials make green choices in their daily lives. Interest is growing in home battery systems paired with solar panels and time-of-use rates, but privacy concerns could hold back adoption of smart home devices.
Currently, almost every gallon of gasoline contains 10% ethanol made from corn and 90% petroleum gasoline refined from crude oil as a result of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. (RFS). However, declining gasoline use is intensifying the existing fight between big oil companies and the corn ethanol industry (or Big Corn) over how much of the shrinking transportation fuel pie each gets. The most immediate impact of the RFS wars is to focus attention on corn ethanol and petroleum gasoline at the detriment of second-generation biofuels. These fuels — produced from the inedible parts of plants with much lower greenhouse gas emissions than corn ethanol — can also be blended with gasoline. Adding them to the fuel mix would lessen transportation-caused emissions considerably because they emit vastly less carbon than corn ethanol or petroleum gasoline.While commercialization of second-generation biofuel has been very slow up to now, with only negligible volumes produced in 2017, recent innovations by American companies provide some hope. Today, several firms are producing cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber, which would otherwise not be used productively. o Big Oil, EPA has secretly given compliance exemptions from using ethanol to several large and profitable firms that own small refineries. While EPA has the authority to exempt small refineries that suffer "disproportionate economic hardship" from complying with the statute, it has not demonstrated such hardship in these cases. Continuing these covert exemptions would be a back-door way to reduce the RFS mandate, and a reading of the law suggests it would be illegal. To placate the corn ethanol industry, the White House has proposed to allow year-round sales of gasoline containing 15% ethanol, up from the current 10%. However, because ethanol increases ozone levels, this violates current air quality standards specified in the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, EPA had previously determined that it could not legally make the change.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline project has been cited for failing to control erosion at two work sites just two months after construction started on the more than 300-mile (483-kilometer) pipeline through Virginia and West Virginia. The Roanoke Times reported Wednesday that an inspection found flaws in erosion and sediment control measures last month at two sites in Wetzel County. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation April 25, saying work crews failed to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving a site where a compressor station is under construction before first passing through a control device.At another site, erosion wasn't properly channeled down a hillside, causing a portion of the slope to give way.
Six Western states and national industry groups have lined up against Washington state in a legal battle over its decision to reject permits for a massive proposed coal-export terminal on the Columbia River.Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota and Nebraska filed a joint amicus brief, arguing in support of project backers and saying the case has broad implications for the export of commodities that are important to many states.
The big hydroelectric dams of the 20th century put the rivers of the West under their imposing concrete thumbs, but their unintended consequences have water managers and entrepreneurs thinking the future of hydroelectric power is small. Advances in technology, federal reforms and Colorado’s ideal geography and friendly policies are paving the way for a new wave of small hydropower projects in the state that could be the template for a new generation of hydroelectric power. In Montrose, Colorado, in the shadows of the Elk and San Juan mountain ranges, five small hydroelectric facilities are now incorporated into a canal system that delivers water to more than 83,000 acres of farmland for the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association. The hydroelectric generators combine a diversion from the canal with metal gates and a large metal pipe that carries water into what from the outside looks like an average metal storage shed. Inside the shed the deafening drone of the turbine equipment hums along during the seven months of the year when water moves through these irrigation canals.
New Hampshire’s renewable industry will get a boost – though at a possible cost to ratepayers – if three bills passed last week by lawmakers are signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu. Senate Bill 446 is perhaps the most far-reaching, increasing fivefold the size of projects that would qualify for net metering. That’s the current law that allows homeowners, small business and groups to get credit, and sometimes even cash, for generating their own electricity.SB 446 would extend the upper limit from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts, allowing large businesses, municipalities and even small hydro generators to take advantage of it, paving the way for much larger renewable energy projects.Critics, including utilities and some business groups, claim that generators are paid too much for the power, and this amounts to a subsidy paid for by other ratepayers. Advocates say that renewable energy saves money on distribution and generation costs.
The tiny particles of silica sand found in Winona County are very round and hard — perfect for "fracking," the process of extracting oil and gas from below ground.But Minnesota Sands LLC, which leases about 3,000 acres in the area, can't mine the sand because Winona County banned sand mining for industrial purposes in 2016, citing environmental and health concerns.It's still allowed for construction and agriculture, among other local uses. Minnesota Sands will argue in an appeals court hearing Thursday that the ban violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and that the ban devalued its land leases."We are appealing because the ban is a significant threat to anyone who benefits from the use of their land," said Minnesota Sands spokesperson Mike Zipko. "Allowing it to remain in place also creates a very real risk that Winona or other counties will build on this by passing or imposing other future unconstitutional restrictions on landowners."
Several wind energy projects are being proposed and planned across the region and most of them need approval at the county level before advancing to state and federal levels. Lucas Nelsen, a program policy associate at the Lyons-based Center for Rural Affairs, says many county leaders don’t have the expertise needed to come up with appropriate rules and policies.“Counties can find themselves way over their heads just from the amount of information they have to dig through,” Nelsen says. “What we wanted to develop was a guide that just lays out the basic features of a wind energy ordinance. It’s not exactly a blueprint you would adopt wholesale but it’s something that walks you through the pieces you’d expect to find in an ordinance.”Nelsen says many counties have a hard time finding a balance between development and private property rights.“You have to allow the public to come in and be a part of the process and try to find the middle ground, that’s the most important part,” Nelsen says. “Don’t just pass something to pass something. Really try to find a compromise that can ensure that people have the right to use their land but also people don’t feel like they’re being caught out by any development.”
Yet there's enough happening here for farmers to worry about the future level of demand for their products from China and ethanol. I will write about China in a future post. Today, a few words about ethanol. Let's start with the court case that the small refiners cite in their defense of the EPA's exemptions, Sinclair v. EPA. In it, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit said the EPA had misinterpreted the law in denying exemptions to the Renewable Fuels Standard to two small refineries in Wyoming. The court overturned the denials and instructed the EPA to reconsider Sinclair's petition using the court's interpretation of the law. Ethanol interests say the EPA has been granting exemptions at double the pace of previous years. Is the agency doing this relying on the Tenth Circuit ruling in the Sinclair case? If so, there are several things about that case that need saying. First, two other U.S. Appeals Courts -- the Eighth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit -- have reached a different conclusion about the validity of the EPA's statutory interpretation. The Tenth Circuit ruling attempts to distinguish those cases as different from Sinclair, but its attempts aren't terribly convincing. The public doesn't know where all the newly exempted refineries are located, but for any not in states under the Tenth Circuit's sway, the ruling wouldn't bind the EPA. Even in considering petitions from Tenth Circuit refineries, the EPA would not be required by the Sinclair case to grant every petition. The statute requires a showing of "disproportionate economic hardship." The court said the EPA had read this to mean the refinery must demonstrate "an existential threat" --compliance costs at a level threatening its long-term viability. The EPA denied doing that, and the dissenting Tenth Circuit judge agreed, saying the agency uses "a more nuanced analysis," as required by the statute. If that's really the case, the EPA could deny similar petitions explaining more clearly the nuanced way it reached its conclusions. Another is the EPA's exemption for small refineries owned by a big company -- Andeavor -- making a billion and a half dollars in profits.. This may comply with the letter of the law, which focuses on individual refineries and not companies, but it seems abusively far removed from the law's spirit. Most troubling is the exemption granted a refinery owned by Carl Icahn's CVR Energy. Before naming Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, then President-elect Donald Trump sent him to see Carl Icahn. In effect, then, Icahn helped Pruitt get his job, and now Pruitt's EPA is rewarding Icahn with regulatory relief to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.