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Energy News

After Standing Rock, protesting pipelines can get you a decade in prison and $100K in fines

Grist | Posted on May 16, 2019

Cherri Foytlin and her fellow protestors spent much of last summer suspended 35-feet in the air in “sky pods” tied to cypress trees. They were hoping to block the Bayou Bridge Pipeline from running through their part of Louisiana. At the time, Energy Transfer Partners was building the pipeline to move oil between Texas and St. James Parish in southern Louisiana, crisscrossing through the Atchafalaya Basin, one of the largest swamps in the country. Foytlin and others with the group L’Eau Est La Vie (“Water Is Life”) set up wooden platformsbetween trees along the proposed path of the pipeline. The construction crew couldn’t build the pipeline with a protestor dangling above.Though the protesters were on private land with the landowner’s permission, some were eventually arrested by St. Martin’s Parish Sheriff’s deputies in mid August. The pipeline was completed in March, yet Foytlin could still face up to five years in prison and $1,000 in fines.That’s because Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed HB 727 into law last spring, making trespassing on “critical infrastructure” property a much more serious crime than garden-variety trespassing. What was once a misdemeanor is now a felony. 

Minnesota nonprofits using community solar to help veterans, families in need

Energy News Network | Posted on May 16, 2019

Minnesota nonprofits are turning to community solar as a tool to fight poverty. Community solar typically involves households or businesses buying subscriptions to projects owned by a third-party developer. The power generated is credited to subscribers’ utility bills and generally reduces monthly payments.But the model comes with barriers such as credit score checks that can put it out of reach for some of those who have the most to potentially gain. Several Minnesota charities are experimenting with ways to spread the benefits.

'Impossible' research produces 400-year El Niño record, revealing startling changes

Science Daily | Posted on May 16, 2019

Coral experts around the world said it was impossible to extract a multi-century record of El Niño events. But now a persistent effort has produced the world's first 400-year long record of El Niño events. And the changes researchers have found to El Niños in recent decades are startling. The 400-year record revealed a clear change in El Niño types, with an increase of Central Pacific El Niño activity in the late 20th Century and suggested future changes to the strength of Eastern Pacific El Niños."We are seeing more El Niños forming in the central Pacific Ocean in recent decades, which is unusual across the past 400 years," said lead author Dr Mandy Freund.

Third-biggest US coal company files for bankruptcy

AP News | Posted on May 16, 2019

The nation’s third-largest coal company by production volume filed for bankruptcy Friday as utility companies increasingly turn to gas-fired generation and renewable energy for electricity. Gillette-based Cloud Peak Energy filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. The move was widely expected since at least March, when the company received the first of several extensions to make a $1.8 million loan payment. The latest extension expired Friday.

Ohio lawmakers seek to relax profit limits on FirstEnergy, other utilities | Posted on May 9, 2019

State rules to prevent significantly excessive profits by FirstEnergy and other Ohio utilities would be loosened by language slipped into Ohio’s massive two-year budget bill. If passed, the Akron-based utility would stand to make more money from ratepayers, rather than having to issue refunds to more than a million customers in northeast and north-central Ohio.The amendment, one of dozens added by lawmakers last week, would change the state’s calculation of what constitutes “significantly excessive” profits in a way that allows the utility’s subsidiaries -- Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison -- to “artificially dilute” the profits they report, said Jeff Jacobson of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel

In North Carolina, bill to raise electric vehicle registration fees stalls

Energy News Network | Posted on May 8, 2019

Meanwhile, a bill that would fine drivers for blocking charging stations advances in the House. Some North Carolina state lawmakers want to fine drivers of gasoline-powered cars for blocking charging plugs for electric vehicles. Others want to hike annual registration fees for plug-in cars to become the highest in the country.“On one side, you’ve got something good for [electric vehicles], on the other — really just the worst,” said freshman Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat from Cary, who authored a bill (S511) to outlaw blocking charging stations and has fought against raising electric vehicle fees.

Trump to Ease Drilling Rules Sparked by 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Bloomberg | Posted on May 8, 2019

The Trump administration is poised to relax offshore drilling requirements imposed in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people in 2010 and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The Interior Department will unveil its final plan Thursday to ease some of the mandates, following industry complaints they are unwieldy and expensive, said two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named before a formal announcement. The White House Office of Management and Budget said it had completed a review of the drafted regulation on Monday, clearing it for a final release.

Pipeline Protesters Could Face 10 Years in Prison Under Bill OK’d by Texas House

Texas Observer | Posted on May 7, 2019

Two industry-backed bills in the Texas Legislature would charge environmental activists who allegedly engage in civil disobedience at oil and gas sites with a felony.

EPA has received DOE input for 2018 small refinery waivers

Reuters | Posted on May 2, 2019

The Department of Energy has given the Environmental Protection Agency its scoring results for the 40 outstanding 2018 applications made by small refineries for waivers from U.S. biofuel laws. The recommendations from the Energy Department are a crucial step in the EPA’s process for weighing the exemption requests, which can save refineries millions of dollars in regulatory costs and have become the center of a bitter dispute between the rival oil and corn industries. The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is designed to help American farmers by requiring oil refiners to blend certain volumes of biofuels into their fuel each year or purchase credits from those that do. But small refineries with a production capacity of 75,000 barrels per day or less can secure waivers if they prove that compliance would cause them financial harm. Under President Donald Trump, the EPA has vastly expanded the number of waivers granted to refineries, angering Midwest farmers and their legislative backers who say the policy destroys demand for corn-based ethanol and other biofuels at a time they are already struggling.For 2017, the EPA granted 35 exemptions to small refineries, without denying any applications, up from seven exemptions issued in the last year of the Obama administration

EIA: Renewables to top coal generation for first time in April/May By Robert Walton

Utility Dive | Posted on May 1, 2019

Data in the U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest Short Term Energy Outlook forecasts renewable energy resources, including hydroelectricity, will generate more electricity in April and May than coal-fired plants. According to the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, this would be the first time renewable generation has surpassed coal. While there are seasonal factors at play, the group said it represents "signs of a tipping point" in the country's generation mix.According to the EIA, all renewables will produce 18% of U.S. electricity in 2019, and almost 20% in 2020. The agency also forecasts that wind generation will surpass hydro "to become the leading source of renewable electricity in both years."