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Washington regulators approve tight rules on community solar

| Posted on October 7, 2018

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on Wednesday adopted rules regulating community solar entities outside of the electric utilities that provide those programs.The rules require "company registration, consumer protections, records keeping and reporting," and were adopted by the commission based on SB 5939, which directed the commission to establish these rules, "similar to guidelines for other regulated industries" in Washington, Kate Griffith, UTC spokesperson told Utility Dive.Some community solar advocates have raised concerns that these rules would inhibit smaller entities from pursuing community solar projects, filing joint comments when they were proposed in August. The commission responded to the comments in its ruling, saying they did "not find the proposed rules to be unduly burdensome.

Major Utah oil-shale project clears ‘tremendous milestone,’ but at what cost to the environment?

Salt Lake Tribune | Posted on October 4, 2018

orth America’s first commercial oil-shale operation cleared perhaps its biggest hurdle when the federal government authorized a 14-mile corridor across public land in eastern Utah’s Uinta Basin to service a proposed strip mine and processing plant that could produce 50,000 barrels of crude a day — but also deplete the Green River.The Bureau of Land Management issued the decision last week after a six-year environmental review that dodged studying impacts associated with the controversial South Project, proposed by Estonia-based Enefit American Oil on private land 40 miles southeast of Vernal.Environmental activists argue that this omission renders the decision suspect because the 9,000-acre mine’s impacts to air quality, groundwater, the Green and White rivers and the landscape remain unknown.“The utility project’s reason for existence is to service and facilitate the South Project development,” said Michael Toll, a staff attorney with the Grand Canyon Trust. “Because they are so related, the BLM cannot simply analyze the impacts of the utility project without fully analyzing the South Project.”The BLM contends the oil-shale mine could operate without a right of way; and the project’s impacts would be worse, given the vast amount of trucking that would be needed to get water to the mine and processing plant and crude to transportation hubs.

A new take on energy conservation in the heartland

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 3, 2018

Most people are familiar with the concept of renewable energy, but Iowa farmer and resource conservationist Andy Johnson wants to renew something else — a policy vehicle that will allow his county and potentially thousands of others to make community driven investments in energy savings and clean energy production. Specifically, Johnson and others are  working to apply the concept of soil and water conservation districts to energy, and they have created the nation’s first “Energy District” in rural Winneshiek County.  Johnson seized upon the idea after moving back to his family dairy and Christmas tree farm outside of Decorah in 2007.  “There were many conversations happening here about how to move the community forward as a whole around sustainable energy, and many entities had been doing important work already” he said. “The model of a replicable, locally led change agent entity, based on the soil and water conservation districts, was my contribution to that discussion.”  The Winneshiek Energy District, a standalone nonprofit organization where Johnson serves as executive director, was created in 2010. The organization concentrated during the early years on developing three key strategies to see if their work could have an impact. One was conducting high-quality comprehensive energy audits and plans for homes, farms and businesses, helping energy users understand the opportunities for energy savings and the steps to take to realize them. Johnson calculates that nearly 90% of businesses in Decorah that participated in energy audits,  followed through with the energy efficiency recommendations. That 90% conversion rate compares to only 10% of conversions from energy audits performed by many utility companies, says Johnson. In many cases, this has also led to an increase in investments in solar arrays by many of those same businesses.  A second strategy was an effort to create an energy marketplace in which multiple actors are in place to make both energy efficiency services and green energy production a profitable economic enterprise.

Maine: LePage’s secretive wind energy commission appears near collapse

Portland Press Herald | Posted on September 27, 2018

Chris O'Neil, a consultant to wind power opponents, quit the Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission last week, the third departure in recent months from the panel that LePage exempted from Maine's right-to-know law.

Wheat straw-Cellulosic biorefinery to break ground in North Dakota

Biomass Magazine | Posted on September 26, 2018

A biorefinery that will produce 16 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol and 120,000 of lignin pellets is set to break ground in Spiritwood, North Dakota, in the spring of 2019. The facility, under development by New Energy Blue, will feature Inbicon technology. The proposed plant, known as New Energy Spirit Biomass Refinery LLC, will be located in Spiritwood Energy Park near Jamestown, North Dakota, adjacent to Dakota Spirit AgEnergy LLC, an existing 70 MMgy corn ethanol plant, and Spiritwood Station, a 99-megawatt coal-fired power plant that produces electricity and steam.

Should plastics be a source of energy?

Chemical and Engineering News | Posted on September 26, 2018

The plastic waste problem has grown into a crisis over the past year as more people have become aware of ocean plastic litter and China shut its doors to waste plastics imports from the rest of the world. In the U.S., little plastic is being recycled, and the prospects for boosting recycling significantly and in short order are slim. Some observers are arguing for burning plastic that can’t be recycled to extract its energy value. But that might be easier said than done. Burning more plastics in waste-to-energy facilities poses economic and societal challenges. Making fuels out of plastics shows long-term promise, but plants need to be built.

The Battle Over Arizona’s Clean Energy Mix

Green Tech Media | Posted on September 26, 2018

As debate rages over increasing Arizona’s RPS, the largest utility—and strongest RPS opponent—has announced new clean energy programs and incentives. This column explores the state’s mismatched clean energy outlook. In November, residents will vote on whether or not to enshrine the increase in Arizona’s constitution under Proposition 127. The state’s current RPS is 15 percent by 2025. Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility, is strongly opposed to the increase. In July, Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, a political action committee funded by APS’ parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corp., filed a lawsuit to keep the renewable energy initiative off the ballot. The PAC claims proponents of the measure failed to gather enough valid signatures. The effort to increase Arizona’s RPS is being led by Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, which is backed by San Francisco-based billionaire Tom Steyer. Over the summer, the group submitted more than double the required number of signatures to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot. The group has raised just over $8 million to date.Meanwhile, Pinnacle West has spent $11 million to keep the RPS measure off of the ballot this fall. 

Ryan Zinke to the oil and gas industry: “Our government should work for you”

Vox | Posted on September 26, 2018

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gave the keynote address at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association’s fall meeting in Lafayette, Louisiana. He told the conference over lunch “our government should work for you." And according to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, the industry members in the room were thrilled with the pledge, giving Zinke a standing ovation.

California urges Trump administration to abandon fuel rule plan

Reuters | Posted on September 26, 2018

California’s top air regulator urged the Trump administration on Sunday to abandon a plan to freeze fuel efficiency standards through 2026, as automakers urged state and federal regulators to reach agreement to extend nationwide rules. Mary Nichols, who chairs the state’s Air Resources Board, asked the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency to reverse course, saying the plan to freeze requirements at 2020 levels “turns its back on decades of progress in cleaning up cars and trucks.”

87 days of smog: Southern California just saw its longest streak of bad air in decades

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on September 26, 2018

Southern Californians might remember the summer of 2018 for its sweltering heat waves, record ocean temperatures and destructive wildfires. But it also claimed another distinction: the summer we went nearly three months without a day of clean air.The region violated federal smog standards for 87 consecutive days, the longest stretch of bad air in at least 20 years, state monitoring data show. The streak is the latest sign that Southern California’s battle against smog is faltering after decades of dramatic improvement.