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Trump's EPA ignored Energy Department calls to limit biofuel waivers

Reuters | Posted on June 27, 2018

The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has consistently ignored recommendations from the Department of Energy to reject or limit waivers to oil refiners seeking exemptions from nation’s biofuels law, according to five sources familiar with the matter. The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard requires the firms to cover costs of blending corn-based ethanol into gasoline. But the EPA, after consulting with the energy department, can exempt small refineries in cases where compliance presents a “disproportionate economic hardship.”The waivers can save refiners tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year.Under EPA chief Scott Pruitt, an appointee of President Donald Trump, the agency has issued more than two dozen such exemptions in recent months - about triple the usual number granted under past administrations.During that time, EPA has consistently granted full waivers in cases where the energy department recommended only partial exemptions, and, at least once, granted a full approval when the energy department advised an outright rejection, according to two sources familiar with the decisions.

Michigan town approves wind farm moratorium amid backlash

WXYZ | Posted on June 27, 2018

An eastern Michigan town is halting consideration of wind turbine projects amid resident complaints over an energy company's proposal to build a wind farm in the area. Monitor Township officials unanimously approved a moratorium Monday on the construction of wind turbines until the township's planning commission can review its wind ordinance. More than 400 residents attended the township's Board of Trustees meeting this week to voice opposition to DTE Energy's wind farm proposal. Many cited excessive noise, health concerns, wildlife damage and impact to property values in their complaints.

Use waste plastics as chems feedstocks to drive circular economy

ICIS | Posted on June 26, 2018

Utilising waste plastics as feedstocks for the production of chemicals should be part of strategies to better deal with waste management, according to the American Chemistry Council’s vice president of plastics. Finding new uses for plastic waste as feedstocks for bio-based materials would help to create a truly circular economy, where petrochemicals firms produce polymer products and then utilise them once they have been used as a means of creating more, according to ACC vice president Steve Russell. Feedstock pricing is crucial in petrochemicals production and development of the bioplastics sector has been slower than expected, but the issue of waste plastic in the form of pollution, microplastics and ocean waste have become increasingly prominent in the popular consciousness throughout 2018.While pricing is likely to continue to be a factor in the growing market, one key to catalysing take-up of bio feedstocks will be to find cheap, reliable sources of material, according to Russell.

EPA to propose 19.88 billion gallon biofuels mandate, up 3 percent

Reuters | Posted on June 25, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose setting a 19.88-billion-gallon biofuels blending mandate in 2019 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), up about 3 percent from 2018, according to two sources briefed on the matter. The proposal will include 15 billion gallons for conventional biofuels like corn-based ethanol, unchanged from this year, and 4.88 billion gallons for advanced biofuels, up from 4.29 billion from this year, the sources said, asking not to be named. The targets for biodiesel will be 2.43 billion gallons, up from 2.1 billion this year. Biodiesel compliance credits, known as D4s, rose higher in early trading on news of the increased volumes, with trades at 53 cents each, up from 47 cents a day earlier, traders said. The proposal, which could come as early as Friday, is not expected to include any proposed reallocation of biofuels volumes waived under the EPA’s smaller refinery hardship waiver program, the sources said.

EPA to propose reallocating waived biofuels volumes to other refiners

Reuters | Posted on June 21, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose reallocating biofuel blending obligations waived under its small refinery exemption program to other refiners, in an announcement that could come as early as Friday, according to two sources familiar with the agency’s plans. The move is a nod to biofuel groups frustrated with the agency’s broad expansion of the waiver program under the Trump administration, but will antagonize refining companies who say it will unjustly increase their regulatory costs. U.S. renewable fuel credits tied to ethanol jumped by a nickel on Wednesday on the news, hitting 28 cents apiece, according to two traders. The EPA is expected to make the announcement as part of the release on Friday of the agency’s proposed annual biofuel blending mandates under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), one source told Reuters. The RFS requires refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into the fuel pool or buy compliance credits from those who do. Refineries with capacity of less than 75,000 barrels per day can seek waivers from the program if they can show that complying would cause them significant financial damage. The EPA under administrator Scott Pruitt has roughly tripled the number of waivers issued compared with the previous administration, drawing criticism that he is gutting the program. Biofuel groups say the waivers have cut the ethanol mandate from 15 billion gallons to 13.5 billion gallons.

PG&E to record $2.5B charge for California wildfires — and warns it could get worse

Utility Dive | Posted on June 21, 2018

PG&E Corp. and its subsidiary, Pacific Gas and Electric, announced today in an 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it will record a $2.5 billion pre-tax charge related to deadly wildfires in Northern California last year. The charge relates to the liability for the damage from 10 wildfires, but does not include potential government penalties or fines, or the impacts of seven other fires where PG&E does not believe it will take a loss. Earlier this month, Cal Fire, the state's fire management agency, said electric equipment owned by PG&E caused 12 wildfires that killed 18 people and burned hundreds of square miles. Some industry observers believe this could lead to bankruptcy for the utility.

Trump, Oil of Less Concern Than Climate Change for Top Companies

Bloomberg | Posted on June 13, 2018

The world’s biggest companies are increasingly worried about climate change. The terms “climate” and “weather” combined were among the most frequently discussed topics among executives of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies, beating “Trump,” “the dollar,” “oil” and “recession” according to analysis of 10 years of earnings call transcripts by S&P Global Ratings. “The effect of climate risk and severe weather events on corporate earnings is meaningful,” S&P said in the joint report with Hamilton, Bermuda-based Resilience Economics Ltd. “If left unmitigated, the financial impact could increase over time as climate change makes disruptive weather events more frequent and severe.”

Trump orders Perry to stop coal, nuclear retirements

Utility Dive | Posted on June 13, 2018

President Trump directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to stop the closure of coal and nuclear plants, pushed offline by cheaper electricity from natural gas and renewables. The president told Perry to “prepare immediate steps” to stop the plants from retiring, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, adding that “impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid."

Exelon CEO: No grid emergency to justify DOE coal, nuke bailout

Utility Dive | Posted on June 13, 2018

The CEO of the largest nuclear generator in the U.S. says the retirement of coal and nuclear plants does not constitute a grid emergency that warrants urgent intervention from the federal government, as President Donald Trump directed last week. Exelon CEO Chris Crane said the case for a grid emergency is difficult to make in the PJM Interconnection, the site of many potential retirements, when its reserve margin remains so high — 22% in its latest capacity auction. The company has not advocated for emergency action to save plants from retirement, he said. Crane said Exelon would rather work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and regional grid operators to devise market-based plans to value resilience attributes of generators, but with more guidance from DOE and other federal agencies as to the specific nature of national security threats to the grid.

For a small Colorado utility, 100% renewable energy is old news

Energy News | Posted on June 12, 2018

Aspen Electric, the municipal utility serving the resort town of the same name, achieved 100 percent renewables in 2015, and it didn’t break the bank to do so. Residential rates for Aspen’s customers rank among the lowest in Colorado, while meeting a 100 percent renewable energy goal set by Aspen’s city council 13 years earlier. And this month, upgrades to a Nebraska wind farm, of which Aspen Electric is a major customer, will push the utility’s costs even lower – dropping about 15 percent annually, or $475,000.