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Pipeline company promotes landfarming to clean up North Dakota oil spills

Bismarck Tribune | Posted on August 22, 2018

A company that operates oil pipelines in North Dakota is promoting an alternative method to cleaning up spills: introducing bugs to contaminated soil. Targa Resources has a pilot project in McKenzie County that is using bioremediation, also known as landfarming, to remove spilled oil and allow the soil to be reused.“When you spill hydrocarbon, there are naturally occurring microbes − bugs − that immediately start to eat it,” said David McQuade, senior environmental director for Targa. “I’m adding a bunch more bugs that want to eat it at a faster rate.”The company successfully completed a landfarming project on the Fort Berthold Reservation last year that treated soil contaminated by an oil pipeline spill. Instead of hauling the soil to an industrial landfill, Targa got permission from the Tribal Business Council to do bioremediation at the company's facility in New Town.

Keystone XL moves to condemn private land in South Dakota for pipeline

Rapid City Journal | Posted on August 22, 2018

In the last few weeks up in windswept Harding County, sheriff's deputies have driven down long, dirt roads to serve court papers to landowners, announcing whether they like it or not, TransCanada would be running an oil pipeline onto their land.But at least one South Dakota landowner isn't relenting yet. Last month, in the courthouse in this remote northwest corner of the state just east of Montana, separate verified petitions for condemnation were filed in South Dakota's 4th Judicial Circuit against parcels of land owned by two Harding County families, including Jensen's. It's the latest baby step in the decade-long journey to build the nearly 1,200 miles of three-foot pipe proposed to run as the crow flies between Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, and Steele City, Neb. The pipeline, the energy company says, ensures a more direct and wider transfer of crude than the current Keystone line running south through the eastern edge of the plains states down to Texas refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2017, days into his administration, President Trump issued an executive order giving a green-light to Keystone XL, reversing an order by the Obama Administration. In November, the stand-off in Nebraska over the pipeline's route through the sensitive Sand Hills regions seemingly ended when Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 for an alternative route for the long-pending pipeline.However, the July 25 petition shows the pipeline company still has some work to do before boring pipe."Keystone was unable to acquire the necessary easements by agreement with Jeffrey and Christina Jensen," reads the petition, "and therefore seeks by this Verified Petition to exercise its right of eminent domain."TransCanada says in its latest quarterly report filed with the South Dakota PUC that is has 94 percent ownership of easements on private property. The pipeline would cross over 300 landowners' turf from northwest Harding County to south-central Tripp County. The company states it has not secured easements on state land.

Nearly 1000 workers have died in hydraulic fracturing accidents this decade

E & E News | Posted on August 22, 2018

Roger Cunningham. Charles "C.J." Bevins. Kyle Winter. These are just some of the nearly 1,000 workers who have lost their lives in the shale patch in the 10 years since hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies opened up new oil and gas resources across the country.In its annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the number of workers who have died on the job.At the height of the boom, federal officials noticed a startling trend in the industry's fatality rate, which compares the number of worker deaths against the total number of workers in an industry.The occurrence of worker deaths in oil and gas was seven times higher than the fatality rate across all industries.In 2016, the most recent year for which CFOI data are available, the energy industry's fatality rate was four times higher than the all-industry rate. Industry and safety experts have pointed to the data as an indicator that oil field safety measures are having their intended effect, but they still say even one death is too many.

Cheap Natural Gas and Renewables Could Close Half of US Coal Fleet by 2030

Green Tech Media | Posted on August 16, 2018

he U.S. coal power plant fleet has been shrinking for years, with the official tally of coal plants closed exceeding those still open as of late last year. Another 43 gigawatts, or about 18 percent of the remaining 249 gigawatts of capacity, is expected to close by 2030.  Absent “market interventions at a grand scale” — such as the Trump administration’s plan to force utilities to buy uncompetitive coal-fired power under the mandate of national security — the same trends are accelerating beyond current estimates, and could lead to the country’s coal fleet being nearly halved again by 2030. These are some of the conclusions of a note released this week by the research firm Rhodium Group. According to its analysis, while “the Department of Energy contemplates action to prop up ailing coal and nuclear plants, low natural-gas prices and cheap renewables have the potential to drive far more coal off the grid.”

A coal company and Interior teamed up to save a power plant

E & E News | Posted on August 16, 2018

A major coal company had plans to save one of the West's largest coal plants from closing. It just needed help from the Trump administration. So in September 2017, Peabody Energy Corp. sent the Interior Department a game plan for keeping the 2,100-megawatt coal-burning behemoth in Arizona rumbling. The company's mine supplies coal to the plant.Included on the coal company's wish list was eliminating environmental requirements for reducing haze. Peabody also asked the government to push the plant's largest customer to continue buying its electricity instead of renewable energy. Together, that could help prevent the plant from shuttering years ahead of schedule, the company told administration officials.It seemed to find supporters in Washington, D.C."I think these are reasonable requests that don't put us at risk," Scott J. Cameron, Interior's principal deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, wrote in a September email to his boss, Assistant Deputy Secretary James Cason.It was originally scheduled to run until 2044. Then, last year, four utilities with an ownership stake in the facility voted to shut it down at the end of 2019, citing competition from natural gas.The plant's fate might have been sealed if not for the federal government. The Bureau of Reclamation owns a 24 percent share in the plant, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made personal appeals to keep it open 

In setback for TransCanada, judge orders Keystone XL pipeline review

Reuters | Posted on August 16, 2018

A federal judge in Montana on Wednesday ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review of a revised route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, possibly delaying the project’s construction and dealing the latest setback for Canada’s TransCanada Corp 

Water Use in Fracking Soars — Exceeding Rise in Fossil Fuels Produced, Study Says

Inside Climate News | Posted on August 16, 2018

As the fracking boom matures, the drilling industry's use of water and other fluids to produce oil and natural gas has grown dramatically in the past several years, outstripping the growth of the fossil fuels it produces. A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances says the trend—a greater environmental toll than previously described—results from recent changes in drilling practices as drillers compete to make new wells more productive. For example, well operators have increased the length of the horizontal portion of wells drilled through shale rock where rich reserves of oil and gas are locked up.They also have significantly increased the amount of water, sand and other materials they pump into the wells to hydraulically fracture the rock and thus release more hydrocarbons trapped within the shale.The amount of water used per well in fracking jumped by as much as 770 percent, or nearly 9-fold, between 2011 and 2016, the study says. Even more dramatically, wastewater production in each well's first year increased up to 15-fold over the same years.

Looking for breakthrough energy policies? Much of the action is in the states, former governor tells region's legislators

CSG Midwest | Posted on August 16, 2018

For policymakers interested in getting innovative energy bills signed into law, the nation’s capital is the last place to be, a former U.S. governor told the Midwest’s legislators in July. Instead, he said, go to Springfield, Lansing or the many other state capitals where policy breakthroughs have occurred.“We haven’t had comprehensive federal legislation since 2007, so what do we do? We turn to the states,” said Bill Ritter, currently the director of Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy.At any given time, Ritter noted during a session of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, his center is tracking up to 4,500 state-level energy bills. Legislatures not only are brimming with new ideas, he added, but they remain a place where compromises can be forged — across party lines and among competing stakeholder groups.“There may be partisanship at the state level, but it is oftentimes not intractable,” Ritter said. “It’s not the kind of partisanship where conversations break down.”Michigan and Illinois provide two cases in point. Lawmakers there successfully built support for measures (SB 437 and 438 in Michigan, and SB 2814 in Illinois) that are now viewed as cornerstones of the two states’ energy futures.

Colorado’s alternative energy economy boosted by wind and biofuels

The Denver Post | Posted on August 16, 2018

Mention alternative energy, and rooftop solar panels and electric vehicles may come to mind. But in Colorado, a disproportionate share of jobs in that emerging part of the economy are tied to wind turbines and biofuels, according to a new report from the business group Advanced Energy Economy. The alternative energy sector, or what the industry is now calling advanced energy, employs 3.2 million people in the United States, including 62,800 people in Colorado, a number close to Grand Junction’s population, according to the report.The biggest category in Colorado and across the country involves energy efficiency, with the bulk of those jobs on the installation side, i.e. construction trades, and to a lesser degree in research and manufacturing.

The Digest’s Top 10 Bio Innovations for the week

Biofuels Digest | Posted on August 16, 2018

In today’s Digest, spider silk applications including football helmets and hearing aids, biobased products from bellybutton bacteria, Elon Musk biobased surfboards, all the taste with half the sugar, cellulose in paints, edible cutlery, organic burial, 3D printing and more ready for you now at The Digest online.