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Energy News

Seeking Certainty in Biofuels, But Finding Little

DTN | Posted on August 22, 2018

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler dropped into Iowa this week. Wheeler talked about "certainty" but offered none. Based on the news reports from the Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette, Wheeler didn't say EPA was going to back off on small-refinery exemptions, and he said the agency is stilling "looking into" the possibility of E15 year-round. There were still no answers about the biofuel demand lost from EPA's small-refinery exemptions, only Wheeler pointing out the need for more transparency. As DTN has reported, EPA granted more than 2.25 billion gallons of exemptions to the Renewable Fuels Standard for 2016 and 2017, which translates into basically 800 million bushels of lost corn demand.


Modernizing renewables mandates is no longer about the megawatts

Utility Dive | Posted on August 22, 2018

Mandate innovations should no longer be limited to megawatts of wind and solar. State mandates, called renewable portfolio standards (RPS), set a standard for the renewable MWs that state load serving entities (LSE) must have in their portfolios by a specified date. RPSs, mandated in D.C. and 29 states, are at least partially responsible for 56% of the 120 GW of renewables built since 2000, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. RPSs were conceived as a means to drive the market for renewables to achieve policy goals like reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and increasing power system reliability through resource diversity. As the supply of renewables has expanded, states like Massachusetts and Arizona are experimenting with new policies to achieve the same goals in new ways. Ideas like Massachusetts' Clean Energy Standard (CES) and Arizona's Clean Peak Standard (CPS) are gaining momentum as policymakers come to understand the need for ways to evolve the RPS concept.


EPA analysis of its own new climate proposal: thousands of people will die

Vox | Posted on August 22, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency has released the details of its plan to replace President Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, and it’s pretty much what we expected: a tepid pledge to fight climate change that’s actually a coal bailout.For the new proposal to stand, it has to be just as good as or better than the one it replaces in order to comply with the law. But it’s much weaker than the rule it’s replacing, so the EPA is arguing for a cost-benefit calculation that justifies a relaxed standard. Meanwhile, environmental activists and some states see this as a vulnerability and are girding themselves for a legal fight. The big difference is that rather than the federal government setting targets for states, states can set targets for themselves. The ACE also restricts what states can do to push coal-fired power plants to become cleaner.The CPP’s goal was to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030. The ACE would reduce emissions between 0.7 and 1.5 percent in the same time frame.But the EPA’s own calculations show the new proposal would lead to upward of 1,400 additional premature deaths each year due to higher levels of air pollution. So the EPA is trading the health and well-being of thousands of Americans for keeping polluting and often unprofitable power plants online.


States greet Trump's new coal rules with lawsuit threats

CBS | Posted on August 22, 2018

States with a history of fighting air pollution generated by coal-fired power plants criticized a move by President Donald Trump's administration to scale back federal restrictions on emissions, with some threatening court challenges. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was among those who pledged to "take legal action to ensure the federal government does its job" to protect the environment and people's health. She warned the Republican administration's move will have "disastrous consequences." New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood also vowed to sue the Environmental Protection Agency if the plan is approved. "If the Trump administration's proposal to dismantle the Clean Power Plan is adopted, we will work with our state and local partners to file suit to block it -- in order to protect New Yorkers, and all Americans, from the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change," Underwood said. Both attorneys general are part of a coalition that includes officials from 15 other states, the District of Columbia, four cities and one county who defend former President Barack Obama's 2015 Clean Power Plan. That plan requires reductions in climate-changing emissions from fossil-fuel-burning plants. Two other states and the city of Los Angeles also joined in comments the coalition filed in April opposing the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.


New Illinois law requires gas-leak notification for water protection

The Southern Illinoisan | Posted on August 22, 2018

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a law requiring owners of gas storage fields to notify local officials if a natural gas leak threatens drinking water supplies. The law is designed to protect the Mahomet Aquifer in east-central Illinois. It is the area's primary water source. It provides drinking water for more than 500,000 residents.The measure sponsored by Mahomet Republican Sen. Chapin Rose also requires annual storage-field inspections by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.


Pipeline company promotes landfarming to clean up North Dakota oil spills

Bismarck Tribune | Posted on August 22, 2018

A company that operates oil pipelines in North Dakota is promoting an alternative method to cleaning up spills: introducing bugs to contaminated soil. Targa Resources has a pilot project in McKenzie County that is using bioremediation, also known as landfarming, to remove spilled oil and allow the soil to be reused.“When you spill hydrocarbon, there are naturally occurring microbes − bugs − that immediately start to eat it,” said David McQuade, senior environmental director for Targa. “I’m adding a bunch more bugs that want to eat it at a faster rate.”The company successfully completed a landfarming project on the Fort Berthold Reservation last year that treated soil contaminated by an oil pipeline spill. Instead of hauling the soil to an industrial landfill, Targa got permission from the Tribal Business Council to do bioremediation at the company's facility in New Town.


Keystone XL moves to condemn private land in South Dakota for pipeline

Rapid City Journal | Posted on August 22, 2018

In the last few weeks up in windswept Harding County, sheriff's deputies have driven down long, dirt roads to serve court papers to landowners, announcing whether they like it or not, TransCanada would be running an oil pipeline onto their land.But at least one South Dakota landowner isn't relenting yet. Last month, in the courthouse in this remote northwest corner of the state just east of Montana, separate verified petitions for condemnation were filed in South Dakota's 4th Judicial Circuit against parcels of land owned by two Harding County families, including Jensen's. It's the latest baby step in the decade-long journey to build the nearly 1,200 miles of three-foot pipe proposed to run as the crow flies between Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, and Steele City, Neb. The pipeline, the energy company says, ensures a more direct and wider transfer of crude than the current Keystone line running south through the eastern edge of the plains states down to Texas refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2017, days into his administration, President Trump issued an executive order giving a green-light to Keystone XL, reversing an order by the Obama Administration. In November, the stand-off in Nebraska over the pipeline's route through the sensitive Sand Hills regions seemingly ended when Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 for an alternative route for the long-pending pipeline.However, the July 25 petition shows the pipeline company still has some work to do before boring pipe."Keystone was unable to acquire the necessary easements by agreement with Jeffrey and Christina Jensen," reads the petition, "and therefore seeks by this Verified Petition to exercise its right of eminent domain."TransCanada says in its latest quarterly report filed with the South Dakota PUC that is has 94 percent ownership of easements on private property. The pipeline would cross over 300 landowners' turf from northwest Harding County to south-central Tripp County. The company states it has not secured easements on state land.


Nearly 1000 workers have died in hydraulic fracturing accidents this decade

E & E News | Posted on August 22, 2018

Roger Cunningham. Charles "C.J." Bevins. Kyle Winter. These are just some of the nearly 1,000 workers who have lost their lives in the shale patch in the 10 years since hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies opened up new oil and gas resources across the country.In its annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the number of workers who have died on the job.At the height of the boom, federal officials noticed a startling trend in the industry's fatality rate, which compares the number of worker deaths against the total number of workers in an industry.The occurrence of worker deaths in oil and gas was seven times higher than the fatality rate across all industries.In 2016, the most recent year for which CFOI data are available, the energy industry's fatality rate was four times higher than the all-industry rate. Industry and safety experts have pointed to the data as an indicator that oil field safety measures are having their intended effect, but they still say even one death is too many.


Cheap Natural Gas and Renewables Could Close Half of US Coal Fleet by 2030

Green Tech Media | Posted on August 16, 2018

he U.S. coal power plant fleet has been shrinking for years, with the official tally of coal plants closed exceeding those still open as of late last year. Another 43 gigawatts, or about 18 percent of the remaining 249 gigawatts of capacity, is expected to close by 2030.  Absent “market interventions at a grand scale” — such as the Trump administration’s plan to force utilities to buy uncompetitive coal-fired power under the mandate of national security — the same trends are accelerating beyond current estimates, and could lead to the country’s coal fleet being nearly halved again by 2030. These are some of the conclusions of a note released this week by the research firm Rhodium Group. According to its analysis, while “the Department of Energy contemplates action to prop up ailing coal and nuclear plants, low natural-gas prices and cheap renewables have the potential to drive far more coal off the grid.”


A coal company and Interior teamed up to save a power plant

E & E News | Posted on August 16, 2018

A major coal company had plans to save one of the West's largest coal plants from closing. It just needed help from the Trump administration. So in September 2017, Peabody Energy Corp. sent the Interior Department a game plan for keeping the 2,100-megawatt coal-burning behemoth in Arizona rumbling. The company's mine supplies coal to the plant.Included on the coal company's wish list was eliminating environmental requirements for reducing haze. Peabody also asked the government to push the plant's largest customer to continue buying its electricity instead of renewable energy. Together, that could help prevent the plant from shuttering years ahead of schedule, the company told administration officials.It seemed to find supporters in Washington, D.C."I think these are reasonable requests that don't put us at risk," Scott J. Cameron, Interior's principal deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, wrote in a September email to his boss, Assistant Deputy Secretary James Cason.It was originally scheduled to run until 2044. Then, last year, four utilities with an ownership stake in the facility voted to shut it down at the end of 2019, citing competition from natural gas.The plant's fate might have been sealed if not for the federal government. The Bureau of Reclamation owns a 24 percent share in the plant, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made personal appeals to keep it open 


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