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Spokane Tribe, others call for better federal consultation on oil pipeline

The Spokesman Review | Posted on October 27, 2016

American Indian tribes in Washington, including the Spokane Tribe, called on President Barack Obama to overhaul the way the federal government consults with tribes on fossil fuel export and other projects.  The Spokane Tribe, Yakama Nation, Lummi Nation and Swinomish Indian Tribal Community released a five-point plan they say will improve the consultation process, protect sacred sites and provide greater recognition of tribal rights.

Ethanol Futures Hit Ceiling at $1.60 Per Gallon

DTN | Posted on October 27, 2016

Ethanol futures posted limited market movement Tuesday afternoon with prices hovering in a narrow trading range, as nearby contracts fell just 0.6 cent per gallon while deferred contracts fell 0.2 cent per gallon. November contracts fell to $1.60 per gallon as the market has been recently been capped at that level, given the lack of support in the corn and gasoline market over the last week. A combination of losses through the last week in the corn market, which fell about 8 cents per bushel, and moderate seasonal pressure starting to finally develop in RBOB gasoline and crude oil markets trickling into the complex appears to be limiting any upward market support through the end of the month. Trade activity through the ethanol market is likely to remain limited in the next several days as traders remain focused on not only the direction of corn markets, but the inventory levels of gasoline and ethanol markets. This could bring some additional price shifts to nearby contracts, but seasonal pressure is likely to continue through the end of the year as long-term pressure is likely.

State regulators cool to Kansas City utility’s electric vehicle plans

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 27, 2016

Efforts to expand electric vehicle infrastructure in the Kansas City are hitting a roadblock amid pushback from state regulators.  Early in 2015, Kansas City Power & Light announced it would install about 1,100 electric-vehicle charging stations in the greater Kansas City area. At the time, it apparently was the largest such undertaking in the country. The utility indicated that it wanted to give a nudge to the electrification of vehicles – a potential boon for KCP&L and electric utilities in general. But KCP&L is backing away. Following installation of about 230 of 315 charging stations it had planned for the Kansas side of the Kansas City metropolitan area (the project is also underway in Missouri), the utility put the other 85 on hold after the Kansas Corporation Commission last month denied the company’s request to charge ratepayers for the $5.6 million initiative.

How a relic could drive future utility regulation in Mo.

E & E Publishing | Posted on October 27, 2016

Could a nearly obsolete technology of the past — the humble pay phone — hold lessons for how utility regulators answer a key policy question about the future of utilities? The Missouri Public Service Commission's staff thinks so. The PSC is expected to vote today on an Ameren Missouri pilot project to build and operate six electric-vehicle charging stations between St. Louis and Jefferson City, Mo., in an effort to spark the EV market by helping eliminate so-called range anxiety. The commission has pondered for more than a year how to treat requests by investor-owned utilities seeking to develop EV charging stations and to recover at least a share of the costs from ratepayers. Last week, the commission asked parties involved in the Ameren case if they believe the PSC has oversight of EV charging, and whether utilities need to obtain specific approval to build and own them in their service areas. In its answer, the PSC staff said the operation of an EV charging station by a public utility undoubtedly falls within the commission's jurisdiction.

Ohio farmer/state rep wants to get rid of ‘gotcha’ moments in food inspections

Sentinel Tribune | Posted on October 26, 2016

OHio House Representative Brian Hill, R-Zanesville,is serving his second term and chairs the Agriculture and Rural Development committee. He is the last active farmer in the House.  One focus of his is House Bill 551, along with the latest water quality laws. House Bill 551 is geared toward those who conduct inspections of retail food establishments and food service operations.It is very unusual because both the restaurant association and those inspectors (normally at odds with each other) both came to us,” Hill said. “Those inspectors said, ‘We have a problem.’ The inspection process is not based on critical violations, it’s based on ‘gotchas,’” He explained that the goal of the inspection is to focus on risk-based matters. Right now, Hill said the inspections are focused on non-critical violations such as a light bulb out or a crack in a ceiling tile. He contends the inspections should be more focused on the critical violations such as continuing problems with water temperatures not being up to standards.“It’s all boring until you get sick. The focus needs to be on those critical situations, not going in and seeing a broken tile and saying, ‘Gotcha!’”

Keep it simple, states: Community solar developers say complex regulations stifle growth

Utility Drive | Posted on October 24, 2016

Community solar’s dilemma is described in the old saying that a giraffe is a horse designed by a committee.  Community solar was supposed to be the “promised land” where utilities, solar advocates, and environmentalists could forget bickering over net energy metering (NEM) and fight together for economically-viable clean energy. But instead of a boom, there are mostly unresolved debates over policies that seem to distort the promise.  Community solar, also referred to as “community shared solar” or “community solar gardens,” allow utility customers who cannot access rooftop solar to own a portion of a central-station array located near their power supplier’s distribution system.

Industry study: Value of Iowa wind energy outweighs its costs

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 24, 2016

The wind resource in Iowa is so productive and the cost of wind energy has been falling so precipitously that the value of wind now far exceeds its cost there, according to an industry study released this week.  The analysis, conducted by the American Wind Energy Association at the request of the non-profit Wind Energy Foundation, also claims that doubling the state’s installed wind capacity would lower the cost of power so much that the typical residential customer’s monthly bill would fall, possibly by as much as $10.

Beginning, Small and Urban Producers Gain Access to Credit

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on October 24, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of a streamlined version of USDA guaranteed loans, which are tailored for smaller scale farms and urban producers. The program, called EZ Guarantee Loans, uses a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from USDA-approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations. USDA today also unveiled a new category of lenders that will join traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions, in offering USDA EZ Guarantee Loans. Microlenders, which include Community Development Financial Institutions and Rural Rehabilitation Corporations, will be able to offer their customers up to $50,000 of EZ Guaranteed Loans, helping to reach urban areas and underserved producers. Banks, credit unions and other traditional USDA-approved leaners, can offer customers up to $100,000 to help with agricultural operation costs.

In Illinois, new rules expected to make solar faster and cheaper

Midwest Energy News | Posted on October 20, 2016

Illinois lawmakers have adopted new interconnection standards that will make the solar siting and installation process significantly quicker and cheaper, clean energy advocates and utilities say.  The Illinois state standards, adopted Oct. 11, are based on a rule establishing best practices that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted in late 2013. The standards are being held up as a model for other states, including Iowa and Minnesota, which are currently going through interconnection rule-making processes.  Interconnection is the process of making sure that a new solar installation won’t cause problems on the grid, including studying the infrastructure and typical supply and demand on that section of the grid and installing any equipment needed to moderate energy flow. In some states where large amounts of solar power were added to the grid quickly, including Hawaii, California and Massachusetts, backlogs in the interconnection process caused headaches for utilities, developers and customers hoping to install solar.

Ohio National Forest could be used for fracking

The Columbus Dispatch | Posted on October 20, 2016

The federal government has given notice that it plans to auction oil and gas lease rights for 1,600 acres of Wayne National Forest near Marietta, a step that could lead to fracking on public land.  Energy industry officials are applauding the decision, which affects parts of Monroe and Washington counties, while environmentalists are criticizing it.  With the notice, a 30-day clock starts in which opponents can file a formal protest. The government will review the objections before moving ahead with an online auction scheduled for Dec. 13.  The affected land is part of Ohio's only national forest, which covers more than 240,000 acres in the southeastern part of the state.  The proposed leases are "a step in the right direction," said Shawn Bennett, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a trade group. "It opens up lands that are required to be leased by several federal statutes."  Many environmental groups oppose the leases, saying this would be a step toward allowing widespread hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands.  "This decision is bad for wildlife, bad for recreation, and bad for the overall health of the Wayne," said Nathan Johnson, an attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council