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Energy News

Michigan landowners’ long-shot lawsuit has high stakes for wind industry

Midwest Energy News | Posted on January 17, 2018

An unlikely legal win by neighbors of a Michigan wind farm would have the potential to chill wind energy development in the state, legal experts say. A group of landowners filed suit in state court in August alleging a wind project near Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula is causing adverse health effects. These include sleep interruption and deprivation, stress, “extreme fatigue, anxiety and emotional distress.”Those claims will be difficult to prove, legal experts said, but if the landowners are successful it could have significant implications. That’s why clean energy groups are closely watching the case, which resurfaced in circuit court a month after being dismissed by a federal judge in July.

Low gas prices set to drive decline in coal generation

Utility Dive | Posted on January 17, 2018

U.S. natural gas production is expected to reach the highest year-over-year increase in 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration’s new Short-term Energy Outlook (STEO). With more gas supplies, the EIA expects gas prices in 2018 and 2019 to sink below 2017 prices, making it a more economic and attractive fuel for power generation.The EIA, an arm of the Department of Energy, expects gas-fired plants to generate 34% of the electricity in the United States in 2019 while coal-fired generation falls to 28%.

The Tax Overhaul and Your Farm

Ag Web | Posted on January 11, 2018

Farms can fully deduct all farm assets purchased between Sept. 28, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2022.Section 179 is bumped to $1 million beginning in 2018 with a phase-out starting at $2.5 million.There’s almost an automatic 20% deduction for net farm income.The tax plan doubles the lifetime estate tax exemption to $11.2 million starting in 2018, and most farmers will be able to deduct all of their interest expense.Net operating losses can only be carried back two years and can only offset 80% of income going forward.Meals are only 50% deductible for farmers who provide them to employees on-site, and that will drop to zero beginning in 2026.

2 more lawsuits filed against Big Ox, South Sioux City

Sioux City Journal | Posted on January 11, 2018

Two more homeowners have sued Big Ox Energy and South Sioux City over odors and gases from the renewable energy plant, bringing the total number of lawsuits filed to 14.Tyler and Saira Muff and Kathryn Hunt both filed suit Monday in Dakota County District Court. They claim, as have homeowners in the other lawsuits, that odors and gases from the Big Ox plant damaged their homes and "much of their personal property is useless and has been reduced to waste." They also say the odors and gases have caused health problems that began soon after the plant began operations in September 2016. The 14 lawsuits, all filed since Nov. 29, allege that Big Ox and the city failed to operate wastewater treatment facilities and sewer systems to handle waste from the plant and prevent the release of hydrogen sulfate and other toxic gases. Health problems suffered by homeowners and their families include respiratory illnesses, headaches, nausea, anxiety and emotional distress.

How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became President Trump’s To-Do List

New York Times | Posted on January 11, 2018

President Trump’s first year in office has been a boon for the coal industry, with the Trump administration rolling back regulations on coal-fired power plants and withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate change agreement. Environmentalists have expressed alarm at the new direction, and have complained that Mr. Trump was following a blueprint from the coal industry. A confidential memo written by the head of the country’s largest coal mining company suggests they might not be wrong.The memo was written by Robert E. Murray, a longtime Trump supporter who donated $300,000 to the president’s inauguration. In it, Mr. Murray, the head of Murray Energy, presented Mr. Trump with a wish list of environmental rollbacks just weeks after the inauguration. Nearly a year later, the White House and federal agencies have completed or are on track to fulfill most of the 14 detailed requests, even with Monday’s decision by federal regulators to reject a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants.

The ‘bomb cyclone’ is contradicting Rick Perry’s argument for coal

The Washington Post | Posted on January 11, 2018

The cold weather and swirling winds gripping the northeastern United States have created the sort of winter scenario that Energy Secretary Rick Perry has cited as a reason to bolster the reliability of the grid by boosting coal and nuclear power plants. Perry said that only those power plants could assure reliability because only they could keep 90 days’ fuel supply on site. But so far in this windy two-week cold snap, the region’s electricity grid has responded with little disruption, and without any need to rev up aging coal plants, which supplied 6 percent of electricity in New England on Thursday. And the biggest failure Thursday came from a power line failure that forced Entergy Corp. to shut down its 688 megawatt Pilgrim nuclear power plant in eastern Massachusetts. No homes were affected, however, because the grid reserve was three times as big.

Billions From VW Settlement Boost Push to Clean Vehicles

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on January 8, 2018

South Carolina wants to replace aging school buses. Colorado plans to electrify Denver’s bus system. And Washington wants electric ferryboats for Puget Sound. As part of a 2016 federal court settlement after Volkswagen admitted programming its diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests, the automaker agreed to pay $2.8 billion to states to be used to reduce diesel pollution. And with money arriving as early as June, states are already deciding how to spend their share of the funds.The infusion of money comes at a time when states are struggling to meet air quality standards and believe they won’t be able to do it without widespread adoption of low- and no-emission vehicles, from the Nissan Leaf in someone’s driveway to propane-fueled city buses and electric freight locomotives in public and corporate fleets. The VW funds — ranging from $8 million to $423 million per state, depending on the number of diesel VWs sold — could jump-start a viable market for alternate-fuel and electric vehicles, clean energy experts and state officials say.

Tax bill rescinds tax on oil companies to fund spill response

The Washington Post | Posted on January 8, 2018

Congressional Republicans allowed a tax on oil companies that generated hundreds of millions of dollars annually for federal oil-spill response efforts to expire this week — a move that amounts to another corporate break for the industry.  The tax on companies selling oil in the United States generated an average of $500 million in federal revenue per year, according to the Government Accountability Office. The money, collected through a 9 cents-per-barrel tax on domestic crude oil and imported crude oil and petroleum products, constituted the main source of revenue for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.The fund has at least $5.75 billion in reserve. Intended to help the government respond quickly to accidents on land or offshore, it was established in 1986 but only got a stable source of funding in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.The tax, which expired on New Year's Eve, had lapsed before but was renewed under the bipartisan 2005 Energy Policy Act. Federal officials recently had debated whether it should be expanded to apply to oil sands products.

Gas, not renewables, driving coal, nuclear woes

Utility Dive | Posted on January 8, 2018

Low natural gas prices, not high renewable energy penetrations, are the main cause of low and negative electricity prices that are negatively impacting coal and nuclear operators, a new report from two DOE national labs finds. 

NC State project develops solar heaters for chicken houses

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on January 2, 2018

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a practical solar heater for poultry houses as part of a project partially funded by USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation, the organization announced. Sanjay Shah and his colleagues developed and tested the low-cost solar heater that warms the air as it passes through a black plastic housing that has been heated by the sun. The system is designed to supplement the heat generated in poultry houses using propane-fueled equipment and should reduce overall heating costs at poultry farms where the systems are installed, the group said.