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North Carolina pork industry appeals order suspending new biogas projects

Energy News Network | Posted on August 16, 2018

A North Carolina project harnessing gas from hog manure for use in a Duke Energy power plant was billed as a breakthrough when it came online in March. Now, supporters of the state’s fledgling biogas industry fear an order from state regulators will make the Duplin County venture a one-off.The ruling suspends new renewable natural gas projects, which purify methane captured from waste and inject it into pipelines, where it’s blended with conventional gas and burned to generate power.The technique isn’t the only way to convert waste-derived methane to electricity, but experts say it’s the most economical and essential for jumpstarting a biogas industry that’s struggled to gain a foothold here.The June ruling blindsided renewable energy developers, farmers, and other parties, who say regulators’ concerns about low-quality gas lack evidence. They also contend the three-year delay will make it impossible for utilities to meet a state mandate for swine-waste-to-energy.


Relaxed Fuel Standards Could Jeopardize Arizona’s Air Quality

E & E News | Posted on August 16, 2018

The Trump administration’s plan to roll back federal car standards promises to be a major fight with California and other liberal states. But it’s also opposed by at least one state that voted for President Trump. Arizona wants to maintain the aggressive standards established under former President Obama to avoid future regulations on air pollution, said Timothy Franquist, air quality director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). His office opposes Trump’s plan to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.“We are going to talk the language of both aisles that this is bad for the health, bad for the economy,” Franquist said of the president’s plan.


Many hoped for a rebound in Kentucky coal jobs under Trump. It hasn’t happened.

Kentucky.com | Posted on August 16, 2018

The number of coal jobs edged down in Kentucky between April and the end of June, illustrating the continued struggles of the industry despite President Donal Trump’s campaign promise to “put our miners back to work.” Statewide, the number of coal jobs averaged 6,238, according to a report published this week by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. That was down 0.9 percent from the first three months of the year, but it was 4.8 percent less than the same period in 2017, the report said. Jobs were down in both the state’s coalfields.Production also tailed off as summer approached — down 4.2 percent statewide from the first quarter, 2.5 percent in Western Kentucky and 6.3 percent in Eastern Kentucky.


Salting the earth: North Dakota farmers struggle with a toxic byproduct of the oil boom

NBC News | Posted on August 13, 2018

For the past two decades, Peterson and his wife Christine have been dealing with the spillage of saltwater — a byproduct of oil production — on their land, which grows peas, soybeans and various types of grain. Almost 40 years ago, they signed a contract with an oil company "land man" who came to their house and said there might be oil on their land. In 1997, two spills covered dozens of acres with more than 50,000 gallons of saltwater. A decade later, another 21,000 gallons of saltwater spilled. And since then, though their land never produced much oil or oil revenue, the Petersons say they have seen another 10 spills.They claim these spills were never properly cleaned up. Peterson says it's become his "life's mission" to get some justice for his land, so he and his wife are suing the oil company, Petro Harvester."It's incumbent on me to protect my property to the best of my ability for myself and my family," Peterson said. "Enough is enough."


Renewable Energy Saves Water and Creates Jobs

Scientific American | Posted on August 9, 2018

A common argument for expanding renewable energy sources is that technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines are responsible for far less carbon dioxide than power plants that burn fossil fuels. But two other powerful benefits should also be getting much more attention: the switch can save vast quantities of freshwater, and can create a large number of new, high-paying jobs. Want proof? Let’s look at the data that our detailed research has revealed. To provide electricity for an average home, a nuclear power plant requires 615 gallons of cooling water a day, a coal-fired plant requires 199 gallons per day, and a natural gas power plant requires 114 gallons per day. The stunning volume is a quiet thief that threatens the U.S. water supply.


Trump admin sees grim climate outcome in car rule

E & E News | Posted on August 9, 2018

The last time carbon dioxide levels hit the mark the Trump administration envisions for the end of the century, crocodiles roamed the poles and palm trees existed where glaciers are today. In fact, there were no glaciers — not even in Antarctica. Although the White House has avoided addressing climate change, it made a rare acknowledgement that its proposal to weaken vehicle fuel efficiency standards would contribute to a warmer planet. Its prediction for what the atmosphere will look like in 2100 startled climate scientists — a carbon dioxide concentration of 789.76 parts per million. That's nearly double current levels.Scientists said reaching that mark would be devastating for the planet. Although humans would survive, much of that would depend on the ability to adapt to new conditions. Food and water scarcity would result from changing precipitation patterns and higher temperatures. Potentially billions of people would struggle. Some species and ecosystems would collapse."By mid Century, food and especially water shortages will likely become so widespread that regional conflicts and environmental refugees will dwarf anything we see now, and hence it is not really livable for all humans," Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an email. "So the last time 800 ppm occurred is not really pertinent because there were not 10 billion people present."


Apple Is Leading a Plan to Develop Wind and Solar Power With Akamai, Etsy and Other Companies

Fortune | Posted on August 9, 2018

Apple is leading the development of two new wind and solar energy farms in Illinois in Virginia that will help not only bring green energy to its own operations, but also those of Akamai, Etsy, and Swiss Re. The new projects will generate 290 megawatts, enough to power 74,000 homes, to the electric grid that serves much of the eastern U.S. Apple is leading the development in part to bring renewable energy power to other companies.


Broadband access: A regulatory call to action to protect utilities against cyber threats

Utility Dive | Posted on August 9, 2018

Energy suppliers are taking cyber threats seriously by shoring up physical infrastructure and hardening against cyber warfare. But they are competing with one arm tied behind their backs because they are using decades-old private radio systems to control these facilities, as opposed to the advanced broadband technology available today.  That's because historically, most policymakers have been primarily focused on protecting consumers from rate hikes. That's an important objective. And Public Utility Commissions, or PUCs, also have the responsibility to facilitate technological and regulatory innovations that could enhance the consumer experience and promote more reliable and secure systems. By making access to dedicated broadband a priority for utilities — and by allowing them to include these investments in their rate base —​ PUCs will further enable grid modernization, vastly improving upon the dated technology employed today. That would result in the ability for first responders, health care providers and citizens to have lasting confidence in the reliability of the grid and the services they receive from it.


Hawaii's new fuel price performance incentive gives HECO 'skin in the game'

Utility Dive | Posted on August 9, 2018

Hawaii regulators took a step toward performance incentives for its dominant electric utility, but transitioning to true performance-based regulation (PBR) will be contentious, judging from the stakeholder response. The cost of importing expensive fuel oil for power generation in the state has led to many debates over the best way to align utility incentives with customer interests — such as using a sharing mechanism to split fuel price volatility risks between the utility's shareholders and its ratepayers. On June 22, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (HPUC) approved a risk sharing mechanism proposed by the environmental group Blue Planet in a new foray into performance-based incentives. Many in the state see the move as an indication that more reforms are coming in the state's regulatory docket on PBR, initiated this year.The new risk sharing mechanism is mean to give the Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) "skin in the game," said former Colorado regulator Ron Binz, who testified at the HPUC on behalf of Blue Planet. But both HECO and Hawaii's consumer advocate question whether the new PBR provision will ultimately serve customer interests.


FERC halts construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline after court ruling

Utility Dive | Posted on August 9, 2018

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday ordered a stop to construction of the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline after a federal appeals court threw out permits that allowed the project to build through less than four miles of national forest land. On July 27, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed permits granted by the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service in response to a challenge from environmental groups. FERC stopped construction because the decision may mean the project will have to be rerouted, it wrote in a letter to the developers.FERC last week also separately denied requests to review its initial approval of the project, but warned in its stop-work order that Mountain Valley "may need to revise substantial portions of the project route across non-federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review."


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