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Administration moves closer to opening Arctic refuge for oil

AP | Posted on January 2, 2019

The Trump administration moved closer to opening thousands of miles within Alaska’s pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, issuing a draft report that concluded the polar bears, caribou and other wildlife could safely share their untouched wilderness with oil and gas producers. The report released by the Bureau of Land Management studied the environmental impact of opening between two-thirds and all of 1.65 million acres (667,731 hectares) of coastal plain within the remote refuge for oil and gas leasing. The administration’s environmental review acknowledged that opening the coastal plains within the nation’s largest wildlife refuge would impact Alaska Native hunters, as well as caribou herds and other arctic animals and migratory birds that depend upon the refuge.The report concluded, however, that the lease sales could be carried out “while balancing biological and ecological concerns.”Official publication of Thursday’s environmental impact statement opens a period of public review, which ends in February. The report examines wildlife and habitat at risk from opening the wilderness area.For example, a declining local population of 900 polar bears uses the targeted area for raising cubs and hunting.The pounding of seismic testing for underground oil and gas reserves could drive those bears to abandon dens and the cubs in them, the report acknowledges.Bears at large would be at increased risk from oilfield spills and chemicals, traffic, and run-ins with oil and gas and construction crews, the report warns.“The potential for injury or mortality could be high when developing new oil and gas projects in polar bear habitat,” the report said.

2018 Farm Bill Includes Key Renewable Energy Program

Clean Technica | Posted on January 2, 2019

Funding for a wide-ranging renewable energy funding program that benefits farmers and other rural businesses somehow made it into the new Farm Bill intact.  REAP is already laying plans for its 2019 round of funding. Eligible clean power projects include:Biomass (for example: biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, and solid fuels)Geothermal for electric generation or direct use. Hydropower below 30 megawatts, Hydrogen, Small and large wind generation, Small and large solar generation, Ocean (tidal, current, thermal) generation, The REAP program also covers energy efficiency upgrades, including:High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC), Insulation, Lighting, Cooling or refrigeration units, Doors and windows, Electric, solar or gravity pumps for sprinkler pivots, Switching from a diesel to electric irrigation motor, Replacement of energy-inefficient equipment.

What it looks and sounds like when a gas driller overruns your land.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail | Posted on December 24, 2018

Stone built a new bridge across the creek and a new road right in front of the Martins’ house. The company told Martin it needed the road to reach the new natural gas wells it drilled on the new well pad for which it flattened an area she used to go to pray, bucolic hills forested with huge oak trees. Soon, hundreds of trucks rumbled past her house every day, spewing exhaust. Martin had asked the company to build the bridge farther up the creek, away from her house, and the well pad away from the oaks.But Martin didn’t have a say over any of this. While she owns the house and the surface land it sits on, she doesn’t own the natural gas underneath. And that gave Stone Energy not only the right to access her property, but also the right to tear down trees, build structures and send as much traffic as it deemed appropriate onto it.“It took the very core out of me to watch this pristine farm get torn up like this,” Martin said. “It just hurt.”

GOP Economic Outlook For Arctic Wilderness Drilling Is A ‘Pipe Dream,’ Report Finds

Huffington Post | Posted on December 24, 2018

New analysis makes a case for why oil development in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a bad deal, environmentally and economically.If the environmental risks of opening Alaska’s fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development weren’t enough cause for concern, a new analysis has found that the economic benefits the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have touted to push the plan are unattainable.The report, published by conservation nonprofit The Wilderness Society, comes as the Trump administration weighs a proposal to allow seismic surveys in the refuge. The surveys would be a key first step in the administration’s push to approve drilling leases as early as 2019.Late last year, GOP lawmakers passed a wildly unpopular tax bill that included a provision introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) requiring the Interior Department to approve at least two lease sales ― each consisting of at least 400,000 acres ― in the refuge’s 1.5 million-acre coastal plain, also known as the 1002 Area.

Nine U.S. states seek to stop Trump administration's Atlantic oil testing

Reuters | Posted on December 21, 2018

Attorneys general from nine U.S. states sued the Trump administration on Thursday to stop future seismic tests for oil and gas deposits off the East Coast, joining a lawsuit from environmentalists concerned the tests harm whales and dolphins. Seismic testing uses air gun blasts to map out what resources lie beneath the ocean. Conservationists say the testing, a precursor to oil drilling, can disorient marine animals that rely on fine-tuned hearing to navigate and find food. The tests lead to beachings of an endangered species, the North Atlantic right whale, they say.New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said the tests would harm marine species, jeopardize coastal ecosystems and pose a “critical threat” to the natural resources, jobs and lives of New Yorkers. “The Trump administration has repeatedly put special interests before our environment and our communities,” Underwood said in a statement.

Coal:Looking into 2019, “there’s very little upside, let’s put it that way.”

Green Tech Media | Posted on December 20, 2018

It’s been a year of ups and downs for the coal industry. Even while the White House considered different ways to extend a lifeline for coal plants and proposed a replacement for the Clean Power Plan that may soften emissions regulations, many generators still faced a difficult market. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected this month that 2018 will end with 14 gigawatts of coal retirements, second to only 2015. Earlier in the year, a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis suggested retirements would even surpass 2015, at 15.4 gigawatts.

Philadelphia signs major commitment to new solar energy facility

Philly Voice | Posted on December 20, 2018

Philadelphia's pledge to run on 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 took a massive step forward on Tuesday afternoon.Mayor Jim Kenney has signed legislation that will enter the city into a power purchase agreement with a renewable energy developer to construct the state's largest solar facility in Adams County.Philadelphia will purchase all electricity produced at the 70-Megawatt site — about 22 percent of the city government's annual needs — for the next 20 years at a fixed rate competitive with conventional electricity prices, officials revealed.

Coalition of states to work to curb transportation emissions

AP | Posted on December 20, 2018

A coalition of nine Northeast and mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia have announced an agreement to work to impose regional limits on carbon emissions from transportation sources. The goal of the landmark agreement, announced Tuesday, is to create “a regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program.”The group said emissions from transportation sources account for the largest portion of the region’s carbon pollution.The states will work to draft a more detailed plan within a year. At that time each state will decide whether to formally adopt the policy. Proceeds from the program would go toward developing low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure — from bike lanes to public transit to zero-emission vehicles.The agreement is in part a recognition of the role that transportation plays in the release of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.The agreement was endorsed by Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Exxon Mobil secured U.S. hardship waiver from biofuels laws

Reuters | Posted on December 20, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted oil major Exxon Mobil Corp a financial hardship waiver this year temporarily freeing its Montana refinery from U.S. biofuel laws. Exxon, which reported earnings of almost $20 billion in 2017, became the largest known company to be awarded a such a waiver by the Trump administration’s EPA under a program meant to protect the smallest fuel facilities from going bust.Farm state lawmakers have complained that the hardship waivers are being overused in a way that is killing demand for corn-based ethanol, and they were likely to criticize the waiver awarded to one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies.

Miners replaced by machines

Charleston Gazette Mail | Posted on December 18, 2018

Around the world, in all types of mining, automated machines are replacing human diggers. Forbes magazine calls them “the robots that will mine in hell.”The magazine described a 7,000-foot-deep Arizona copper mine where temperatures are 175 degrees Fahrenheit and warm water drizzles constantly. Caterpillar and Komatsu are building “custom electric loaders, excavators and other robotic gear, equipped with thousands of sensors” to work in the hellish hole.“The machines will find the ore, mine it, and transport it to the surface under the watchful eye of technicians hundreds of miles away,” the business magazine said.Another report says China National Coal Group is using “completely deserted coal mining technology” at two mines. And Australia’s BHP (once Broken Hill Proprietary) is pushing a Next Generation Mining program that “includes autonomous drills and autonomous trucks.”An NBC News report says: “From robotic drills to self-driving ore trucks, automation is bringing a new measure of safety to mines.” Human miners can’t be killed on the job if there are no human miners. Mining professor Bernard Jung predicts “fully automated ‘man-less’ mines that are completely operated by machines.”