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Appeals court takes up challenge to Winona County's sand mining ban

The tiny particles of silica sand found in Winona County are very round and hard — perfect for "fracking," the process of extracting oil and gas from below ground.But Minnesota Sands LLC, which leases about 3,000 acres in the area, can't mine the sand because Winona County banned sand mining for industrial purposes in 2016, citing environmental and health concerns.It's still allowed for construction and agriculture, among other local uses. Minnesota Sands will argue in an appeals court hearing Thursday that the ban violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S.

Center offers local leaders help in navigating big wind energy deals

Several wind energy projects are being proposed and planned across the region and most of them need approval at the county level before advancing to state and federal levels. Lucas Nelsen, a program policy associate at the Lyons-based Center for Rural Affairs, says many county leaders don’t have the expertise needed to come up with appropriate rules and policies.“Counties can find themselves way over their heads just from the amount of information they have to dig through,” Nelsen says. “What we wanted to develop was a guide that just lays out the basic features of a wind energy ordinance.

Whatever Icahn Wants, Continued

Yet there's enough happening here for farmers to worry about the future level of demand for their products from China and ethanol. I will write about China in a future post. Today, a few words about ethanol. Let's start with the court case that the small refiners cite in their defense of the EPA's exemptions, Sinclair v. EPA. In it, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit said the EPA had misinterpreted the law in denying exemptions to the Renewable Fuels Standard to two small refineries in Wyoming.

Trump’s Solar Tariffs Cause a Scramble in the Industry

SunPower is the nation’s No. 2 commercial solar-power company, employing thousands of workers directly and indirectly. But it makes most of its solar panels abroad, and with the tariffs recently imposed by President Trump costing it as much as $2 million a week, SunPower is fighting for an exemption. One of its rivals, SolarWorld Americas, produces panels domestically.

Trump finally reaches ethanol deal, but questions linger

President Trump emerged from Tuesday’s talks about the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard with a deal that would satisfy both ethanol producers and oil refiners. Trump plans to increase the market for ethanol year-round. That will be done by allowing 15-percent ethanol fuels, or E15, to be sold all year and not subject to summer restrictions under Environmental Protection Agency rules. He also would boost ethanol exports, which have been harmed by Chinese retaliation to Trump’s tariffs, in a way that would increase ethanol credits for the refiners.

California Will Require Solar Power for New Homes

Long a leader and trendsetter in its clean-energy goals, California took a giant step, becoming the first state to require all new homes to have solar power. The new requirement, to take effect in two years, brings solar power into the mainstream in a way it has never been until now. It will add thousands of dollars to the cost of home when a shortage of affordable housing is one of California’s most pressing issues.

Landowners fight pipeline in case headed to US appeals court

The natural gas pipeline is routed to run through the southwest Virginia farm his family has owned for seven generations. The 88-year-old Navy veteran never considered signing an easement agreement with the developers, because he thought the whole thing seemed an affront to his property rights. But state law meant he couldn't even keep surveyors out. As work chugs along toward having the pipeline in service by the end of the year, Jones and a coalition of more than a dozen other like-minded Virginia and West Virginia landowners have taken their fight to court.

Solar farms set to sprout across Illinois

A new crop is ready to sprout on Illinois farms, with gleaming solar panels supplanting rows of corn and soybeans. Drawn by new state requirements and incentives, renewable energy developers are staking out turf on the rural fringes of the Chicago area and beyond, looking to build dozens of solar farms to feed the electric grids of Commonwealth Edison and other utilities. It’s a potential sea change in the Illinois energy landscape that proponents say is long overdue and will provide customers with a green power alternative.

Ted Cruz ups pressure on Trump to overhaul ethanol mandate

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and House lawmakers upped the pressure on President Trump to make a decision soon on a way to save oil refineries from the costs of meeting the Environmental Protection Agency's ethanol mandate. “The president can solve this with the stroke of a pen,” the Texas Republican said Thursday afternoon, joined by refinery workers and the steelworkers union.

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