USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has completed a life cycle analysis of beef cattle production in the United States that concluded cattle convert feed about as efficiently as pork and poultry and are not large contributors to global warming. The scope of the analysis spanned five years, seven cattle-producing regions and used data from 2,270 survey responses and site visits nationwide."We found that the greenhouse gas emissions in our analysis were not all that different from what other credible studies had shown and were not a significant contributor to long-term global warming," said ARS agricultural engineer Alan Rotz, who led the analysis team.
More than 90% of coal plants that monitor groundwater pollution across the United States are leaking toxic coal ash pollution, according to a new national report based on industry disclosures. Of 265 coal plants that report groundwater tests, 243 disclosed unsafe levels of at least one coal ash pollutant, including arsenic, lithium and other contaminants, according to the new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice. The data, representing about three-quarters of U.S. coal plants, come from utility filings mandated by federal coal ash rules that the Trump administration is attempting to roll back. The remaining plants were either exempt from reporting groundwater tests or were eligible for reporting extensions.
The utility says its interim goal of 80 percent carbon reduction by 2030 can be met with existing technology. After that, it gets more difficult.In Colorado, Xcel Energy says its recently announced goal of 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 can be achieved with existing technology. Costs of renewables have declined, weather forecasts have improved, and engineers have learned how to integrate higher and higher levels of clean power without sacrificing reliability.
Increasing demand for renewable energy in Oregon has spurred a proposal to exempt most such projects from compulsory review by a statewide siting panel. Supporters argue it would be less expensive and time-consuming for county governments to review plans for solar arrays and other renewable energy facilities.However, advocates of farmland preservation argue that counties will scrutinize renewable energy projects less rigorously that the Energy Facility Siting Council, which aims to ensure such facilities meet statewide standards.Under House Bill 2329, the threshold for mandatory EFSC review of solar facilities would be increased from 100 to 200 acres of arable farmland and certain wind, geothermal and transmission projects would also be exempt from the statewide process.
A high-profile energy bill passed the Senate late Wednesday night after a procedural fight sparked by a Republican lawmaker’s lengthy filibuster.Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, held the Senate floor for nearly four hours in an attempt to force changes to the bill that would reshape New Mexico’s energy landscape by imposing renewable energy standards and providing financial assistance to the state’s largest utility to offset the cost of closing coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners region.In its current form, the measure would replace all of New Mexico’s carbon-emitting generation with clean-energy resources over the next 25 years.In addition, the bill would allow fixed-rate bonds to be issued to help PNM recover the costs associated with the transition to new energy sources.
Nonprofit advocacy groups linked to DTE Energy are waging a public campaign to significantly reduce the amount customers are paid for their solar power, in line with the utility’s request before Michigan regulators.While these groups — classified as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations — have been prominent in statewide elections and lobbying lawmakers on behalf of utility interests, the latest involves policy decisions at the Michigan Public Service Commission. Energy laws passed in 2016 with bipartisan support directed the MPSC to study the costs and benefits of net metering customers and require utilities to file new distributed generation programs. DTE is the first major utility to do so. DTE and its allies say net metering customers are being subsidized by all other ratepayers for their cost of using the grid. DTE proposescompensating customers for excess power at wholesale rates along with a monthly fee, similar to utility efforts in other states to curtail net metering.Critics of the utility campaign contend that the benefits net metering customers provide more broadly to the grid have not been fully studied in Michigan, such as helping reduce demand during peak periods in the summer and lower costs for all customers. Advocates also note that in the same rate case DTE is proposing to increase average residential rates by 9.1 percent, with low-income customers being hit the hardest. Net metering customers made up 0.12 percent of DTE’s 11,000 MW load in 2017.
More than 90 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants that are required to monitor groundwater near their coal ash dumps show unsafe levels of toxic metals, according to a study released on Monday by environmental groups, which cited the potential harm to drinking water. Data made public by power companies showed that of the 265 plants subject to the monitoring requirement, 241 - or 91 percent - showed unsafe levels of one or more coal ash components in nearby groundwater compared to EPA standards, according to the analysis by the groups.The report also found that 52 percent of those plants had unsafe levels of cancer-causing arsenic in nearby groundwater while 60 percent showed unsafe levels of lithium, which can cause neurological damage.
The William Crawford Gorgas Electric Generating Plant near Parrish is set to be retired in April, but Alabama Power customers will be repaying about $740 million in costs related to the Walker County coal power plant long after it closes, according to documents the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Alabama Power’s parent group, Southern Company, disclosed in its latest public 10-K filing that “approximately $740 million of net investment costs [from Plant Gorgas] will be transferred to a regulatory asset at the retirement date and recovered over the affected units’ remaining useful lives.” That will allow Alabama Power to recover the costs of investments it made in the coal-fired power plant, plus a profit margin set by the Alabama Public Service Commission, from customers through their electric bills.
Critics of the Green New Deal have attempted to smear its ideals, goals, and policies as dangerous “socialism,” displaying a deep skepticism of the government’s capacity to do good. But if ever a time called for dramatic democratic action, for thoughtful deliberation and policy development by our elected officials and our expert agencies, now is that time. Climate change is not just another environmental problem. Emerging impacts — floods, droughts, heat — provide only a taste of the anticipated devastation and its human and environmental costs. The time for slow and incremental responses is long gone. Transitioning away from unsustainable fossil fuels to a clean green economy is an urgent imperative. What is required is not just piecemeal environmental regulation, nicely tucked into its silo, but widespread shifts in energy sources, infrastructure, transportation, resource development, municipal design and more.That shift is not going to happen on its own. Although renewables are increasing and carbon-intensive coal plants are closing, the free market is not, and cannot, do enough. Shifting away from fossil fuels will require substantial deliberation about the most sustainable paths forward, significant shifts in utility and energy regulation as we move away from centralized fossil-fueled power plants, major investments in new infrastructure such as new transmission grids and charging infrastructure, and more sustainable urban development.
In early February, Martin County, Kentucky Sheriff John Kirk took to Facebook to announce that his office was unable to continue providing law enforcement, warning residents to protect themselves instead. “I have had to operate the last little bit with just myself and one other paid deputy. There are volunteers that help when they can,” he wrote. “I am going to have to cut even more tomorrow. I have no choice. I can’t expect people to work if I can’t pay them.” The lack of funding Kirk faces is an acute example of a growing crisis confronting the Central Appalachian states of Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. A decline in global demand for coal, plus competition from natural gas and renewables, has decimated the market and drastically reduced coal severance taxes, the fees coal companies pay to counties for extracting coal out of the ground. With counties stripped bare of their once bounteous cash flows from the coal industry, the revenue squeeze is exposing financial mismanagement, worsening a dire economic situation, and resulting in partial government shutdowns and cutbacks in core government services like infrastructure, education, and healthcare. “It’s a tough time to be in a small community that has relied for so many years on coal for its main economic driver,” said Rep. Angie Hatton, who represents Letcher County and part of Pike County in the Kentucky House of Representatives. “They’re cutting everything. We have laid off employees. Road maintenance, garbage service, water. Everything.”