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Ohio ruling expected to shrink credits paid for sending excess electricity to power grid

The Columbus Dispatch | Posted on November 9, 2017

Central Ohioans who have rooftop solar panels receive a credit on their electric bills for selling excess power back into the grid. After a ruling Wednesday by state utility regulators, that credit is likely to shrink.For an American Electric Power customer, the credit would be reduced by about 30 percent.The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio issued the 3-0 ruling in a case dealing with the rules for so-called “net metering,” a term that refers to the two-way flow of electricity for consumers who generate power through small-scale solar panels, wind turbines and the like.Right now, an AEP customer producing excess electricity receives a credit that is the equivalent of 5.86 cents per kilowatt hour sent back into the grid. For example, if a customer produces an excess of 100 kilowatt hours in a month, the current credit is $5.86. The amount rolls over and is applied to the next monthly bill.The PUCO ruling says that some parts of this credit no longer need to be applied. In the AEP example, this would reduce the amount of the credit by $1.81, or 31 percent percent, based on a review of AEP rates and confirmed by the company.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg Ethanol and Big Oil Are Advertising on Fox News to Try to Get Trump’s Attention

Bloomberg | Posted on November 8, 2017

Big Corn and Big Oil are taking their long-running fight over renewable fuels to Fox News in a bid for the attention of one of the network’s biggest fans -- President Donald Trump.  Advocates of ethanol -- the corn-based fuel that is mixed with gasoline in the U.S. -- started running a television commercial Monday on Fox News using campaign footage of Trump pledging to support the government’s existing Renewable Fuel Standard and thanking the president for upholding his promise. Last week, the oil industry ran an advertisement on the Fox & Friends show saying that Trump is “caving to ethanol lobbyists” and putting thousands of manufacturing jobs at risk with his support for the program.Other industries are also banking on Fox News being the way to Trump’s heart. Fox News host and Trump friend Sean Hannity cut an ad last month advocating for the U.S. solar industry in a campaign against import tariffs.

Syria joins Paris Climate Agreement, US only Nation Left Out

CNN | Posted on November 8, 2017

The United States is now a party of one in its stance on climate change.Syria will join the Paris climate agreement, leaving the US as the only country in the world not signed on to the landmark climate deal.Syrian officials announced their intention to ratify the accord at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany."I confirm that the Syrian Arab Republic supports the implementation of Paris climate change accord, in order to achieve the desired global goals and to reflect the principles of justice and shared responsibility, but in accordance with the capabilities of each of the signatories," Syria's Deputy Minister of Local Administration and Environment M. Wadah Katmawi said.Nicaragua was the only other hold-out, based on criticisms that it was "insufficient" in addressing climate change.However, the Central American country recently announced its intent to join the agreement. 

New Indiana solar law could cripple small businesses and customer savings

Indianapolis Star | Posted on November 7, 2017

The source of Rohaly's concern — and that of many other small business owners — is Senate Bill 309. The law, championed by the state's powerful utility industry, phases out net metering, which requires utilities to pay solar users for any excess energy that is created by their solar panels. The program was intended to provide an important incentive for Hoosiers to install expensive solar panels and produce their own energy that is better for the environment. Rohaly, who is the co-founder of Green Alternatives, Inc., is among thousands of solar providers and their employees, as well as ratepayers, consumer and environmental advocates, schools and municipalities, who are anxiously watching what will happen when the law, passed in May, begins phasing out net metering on Jan. 1, 2018. The law was pitched as a way to level the playing field between solar customers and the state's investor-owned utilities, who maintain net metering is an unnecessary subsidy paid for by other ratepayers. But an IndyStar investigation that looked at how such laws have played out in other states and how the law already is having an impact here suggests SB 309 could put an entire industry at risk of stagnation at best — and, at worst, collapse. Net metering, in its simplest form, credits customers for excess energy they produce that flows back to the grid — thus helping to offset electricity they consume from the utility at other times. More than 40 states have some variation of the rule.

Illinois’ first fracking permit withdrawn

The State Journal Register | Posted on November 7, 2017

Woolsey Companies Inc., the Kansas firm awarded the first permit under the state’s 2013 “fracking” law, released a statement Friday citing regulatory compliance costs in the decision to drop drilling plans near the southeast Illinois community of Enfield. The practice relies on high pressure chemical and water injections to release oil and gas from deep-rock formation. “The process we have gone through to receive a permit was burdensome, time consuming and costly due to the current rules and regulations of Illinois,” the company stated, “and it appears that this process would continue for future permit applications.”The company said the area of southeast Illinois known as New Albany Shale had significant energy production potential, but that stringent Illinois rules combined with low oil and gas prices made the project too costly compared with other states.

Sixty-Four House Members Tell Pruitt RFS has Failed

DTN | Posted on November 7, 2017

A bipartisan group of 64 lawmakers in the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to consider what they say are the negative effects of the Renewable Fuel Standard, in a letter sent to Pruitt. Pressure applied to EPA on potential changes to the RFS in recent weeks by Midwest members of Congress, led the agency to back down. This week, the EPA sent the final 2018 renewable volume obligations in the RFS to the Office of Management and Budget.As a result of the agency's actions, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is holding up the confirmation of Bill Northey to a key USDA post, in attempt to convince President Donald Trump's administration to meet with federal lawmakers from oil-producing states about their RFS concerns.

DowDuPont to exit cellulosic biofuels business

Biofuels Digest | Posted on November 2, 2017

DowDuPont announced that it intends to sell its cellulosic biofuels business and its first commercial project, a 30 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. The Nevada project is still going through start-up. The Nevada plant will be ‘kept warm’ but not operated going forward until a buyer is found. 90 workers are currently employed at the plant, and it can be assumed that this will be reduced to a skeleton staff until a buyer is found. Ever since the Dow and DuPont merger was announced, there have been concerns about exactly where the cellulosic ethanol technology would fit in a company which avowedly planned, post-merger, to divide itself into three companies — one based on traditional chemicals, one on agriculture, one on speciality products and including the industrial biosciences.

Trump’s EPA says Obama’s climate plan would save thousands of lives each year

The Washington Post | Posted on November 2, 2017

A sweeping Obama-era climate rule could prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths per year by 2030, the Trump administration has found in its analysis of the plan, projecting that the plan could save more lives than the Obama administration said it would. The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is moving to repeal the plan.The rule in question is the Clean Power Plan, which consists of regulations on U.S. power plants aimed at decreasing the country’s contribution to global climate change by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. In practice, the rule is projected to move the energy sector away from coal-fired power plants and toward more natural gas-fired power plants, as well as wind and solar power sources.But when President Trump’s EPA released a draft analysis of its repeal of the plan last month, it said that in one scenario, the plan would prevent 1,900 to 4,500 premature deaths per year by 2030.That scenario is based on a 2017 “annual energy outlook” by the federal Energy Information Administration — which contained projections for the evolution of the U.S. power sector with, and without, the Clean Power Plan. It’s a more recent analysis than the ones EPA used under the Obama administration.

Awaiting Trump's coal comeback, miners reject retraining

Reuters | Posted on November 2, 2017

When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing. He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget. Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants.“I have a lot of faith in President Trump,” Sylvester said.But hundreds of coal-fired plants have closed in recent years, and cheap natural gas continues to erode domestic demand. The Appalachian region has lost about 33,500 mining jobs since 2011, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

USDA proposes lifting mining ban near Grand Canyon

Reuters | Posted on November 2, 2017

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday proposed lifting a mining ban on land near Grand Canyon National Park as part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to sweep away regulations impeding development.“Adoption of this recommendation could re-open lands to mineral entry pursuant to the United States mining laws facilitating exploration for, and possibly development of, uranium resources,” the department wrote in a report to the White House seen by Reuters.The area potentially affected by the reopening is managed by the department’s Forest Service.