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Senators from refinery states request Trump meeting on biofuels

Reuters | Posted on October 27, 2017

Nine U.S. senators from states that have oil refineries sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Thursday urging changes to the country’s biofuels policy and asking for a meeting to discuss the issue. The letter reflects growing tensions between refiners that oppose the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard - a law requiring them to blend increasing amounts of ethanol into the nation’s fuel each year - and the Midwest corn lobby that supports it.The Trump administration bowed to rising pressure from Midwest lawmakers last week, assuring them in letters and phone calls that it would ditch proposals, supported by the refining industry, to overhaul the biofuels policy.The senators said that decision could cost jobs.“If your administration does not make adjustments or reforms on matters related to the Renewable Fuel Standard, it will result in a loss of jobs around the country, particularly in our states,” according to the letter, which was signed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and six others.

Michigan bill looks to clarify tax exemptions for distributed generation projects

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 26, 2017

A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers introduced a bill last week that aims to clear up confusion over tax collections for small-scale distributed generation projects. HB 5143 would reinstate a tax exemption for “alternative energy personal property” that was in place for 10 years under the Michigan Next Energy Authority Act of 2002. That law — signed by former Republican Gov. John Engler — granted the exemption to 13 different kinds of small-scale renewable energy systems meant to offset any portion of a property’s energy use. The latest bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Tom Barrett and has two Democrat and four Republican co-sponsors, including House Energy Policy Chairman Gary Glenn, who has said he favors incentives for solar energy over mandates. It has been referred to the House Tax Policy Committee.While it applies to all types of properties, advocates say the bill is meant to provide clarity particularly for residential property owners with solar panels. Over the past several years, Michigan has seen a patchwork of communities that assess solar installations because they are improvements and boost the value of the property.

The Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan

The Nation | Posted on October 26, 2017

A leaked draft of a five-year plan reveals how the DOI will prioritize “energy dominance” over conservation. In the next five years, millions of acres of America’s public lands and waters, including some national monuments and relatively pristine coastal regions, could be auctioned off for oil and gas development, with little thought for environmental consequences.  The Department of the Interior’s strategic vision states that the DOI is committed to achieving “American energy dominance” through the exploitation of “vast amounts” of untapped energy reserves on public lands. Alarmingly, the policy blueprint—a 50-page document—does not once mention climate change or climate science. 

Tesla starts work on first Puerto Rico energy project to help rebuild island

CNBC | Posted on October 26, 2017

Tesla has begun making good on its promise to help Puerto Ricorebuild its energy grid after a devastating hurricane caused massive damage on the island. On Tuesday, Tesla announced via Twitter that Hospital del Nino in Puerto Rico is "first of many" solar and storage projects going live.

SD State regulators say no to Crocker Wind Farm

The Public Opinion | Posted on October 26, 2017

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission turned down an application Wednesday for a wind-energy complex proposed for Clark County.The regulatory panel voted 3-0 to reject Crocker Wind Farm. The project called for up to 200 turbines spread across more than 29,000 acres north of Clark.State law gave the commission six months to decide whether to grant a wind facility permit. The commission received the Crocker application July 25 and held a public input hearing Sept. 13 at Clark.Turbine locations were based on setbacks of 2,000 feet from non-participating residences.But the Clark County Board of Adjustment issued a conditional-use permit with setbacks of 3,960 feet.Almond said 35 turbines would be affected by the setbacks change.

Solar co-op innovator expanding nationwide, aims to empower homeowners

Southeast Energy News | Posted on October 25, 2017

A solar advocate who found a way to create bulk-purchase discounts for home rooftop systems is growing it into a national movement to assert what she feels are the rights of system owners. What launched as the Community Power Network in 2007 in the Washington, DC, home of Anya Schoolman is expanding under a new name – Solar United Neighbors(SUN). The new organization is targeting, Florida, Pennsylvania and other states by year’s end, with a goal of establishing operations in at all 50 states by the end of 2018.

Solar Energy Company Makes $1 Billion Bet on Oregon

US News and World Report | Posted on October 25, 2017

A national solar energy company is betting nearly $1 billion on an Oregon development spree, including five new solar farms in Marion and Polk counties.Cypress Creek Renewables, a developer that sells electricity to utility companies and already operates seven solar sites in Oregon, is building farms near Salem, Silverton, Gervais, Turner and Grand Ronde.Cypress Creek, which operates in 15 states, has its largest group of farms in North Carolina, where more than 100 are either operating or under construction, company officials say. The Marion and Polk county farms will cover about 12 acres each, producing enough energy to power some 450 homes. They should be churning out electricity by year's end or shortly afterward, company officials said. The farms will sell energy to Portland General Electric, which will send it to its utility ratepayers.

San Francisco sues Big Oil for climate adaptation

High Country News | Posted on October 25, 2017

On a Tuesday morning in October, just before noon, the San Francisco port is bustling with life. Shoppers line up for late summer produce and specialty coffee at a farmer’s market in front of the iconic Ferry Building, and suited professionals settle on benches near the water to enjoy their lunches. It’s unlikely that many of these daytime revelers realize that they are just a few feet from the seawall: a critical barricade protecting San Francisco from the looming impacts of climate change, and an accessory in a lawsuit that’s demanding oil companies pay for these impacts. Executive Director of the San Francisco Port Elaine Forbes, who has just switched from high-heels to walking shoes for our stroll, points to the crowd. “There’s 24 million people that come and go, use the seawall, and have no idea that it’s that core infrastructure that makes for this beautiful place.” Forbes leads me around the Ferry Building, walking along the water towards the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge to show me what’s at stake. The six-foot-tall seawall, which sits just below the cement we’re standing on, took nearly four decades to construct and was completed in 1916.  But more than a century later, the wall is badly in need of updates. And because of warming oceans, sea levels are expected to increase up to 66 inches between 2000-2100. Strengthening the wall has become the port’s top priority in light of this threat (as well as the potential for a large projected earthquake). The upgrades — which include an estimated $3 billion in sea level rise mitigation and $2 billion in earthquake retrofitting — will come at a huge cost to the city. “Right now, we have zero construction dollars,” Forbes says. To amass the funds, the city and the port are planning ballot initiatives and working with the US Army Corps of Engineers, which might chip in.

More pushback against coal export terminals

High Country News | Posted on October 24, 2017

In the 2010s, U.S. companies, eager to meet Asia’s growing demand for coal with exports from Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin, proposed six coal terminals in the Northwest. One in Longview, Washington, would ship about 44 million metric tons per year.  Anti-fossil-fuel activists protested, and five of the proposals were dropped.
In late September, the sixth terminal proposal, Longview, was stymied when the Washington Department of Ecology denied a water quality permit, citing “unavoidable and negative environmental impacts,” potential traffic congestion and health hazards. Proponents of the $650 million project, which would have handled 16 mile-long trains per day, said the regulatory bar was too high. Activists were elated. “While this fight continues in British Columbia, these victories against exporting coal show the world we need to look forward, not backwards,” said Eileen Quigley, director of Clean Energy Transition.

‘Landmark’ decision casts youth as official intervenors in pipeline case

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 23, 2017

In what is regarded as an unusual step, a group of 13 young people have joined together to become court sanctioned intervenors as they fight a proposed Enbridge Energy pipeline through northern Minnesota. Intervenors are sanctioned by the state Public Utilities Commission to represent parties in contested cases. They are generally lawyers and experts hired by energy firms, clean energy organizations, environmental groups, governmental agencies and an occasional citizen or two.