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Trump on Paris accord: 'We're getting out'

CNN | Posted on June 1, 2017

The decision amounts to a rebuttal of the worldwide effort to pressure Trump to remain a part of the agreement, which 195 nations signed onto. Foreign leaders, business executives and Trump's own daughter lobbied heavily for him to remain a part of the deal, but ultimately lost out to conservatives who claim the plan is bad for the United States."We're getting out. And we will start to renegotiate and we'll see if there's a better deal. If we can, great. If we can't, that's fine," he added.In triggering the official withdrawal procedures, Trump will spark a lengthy process that won't conclude until November 2020 -- the same month he's up for reelection, ensuring the issue becomes a major topic of debate in the next presidential contest. "The United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord," Trump said, saying it would include ending the implementation of carbon reduction targets set under Obama and ending contributions to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund.

The EPA just halted an Obama-era methane rule for oil and gas companies, 4 days before it would have taken effect

Business Insider | Posted on June 1, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday halted methane emission standards for oil and gas companies in its latest move to unwind Obama administration climate change rules, amid reports that the United States will withdraw from a global climate change agreement.The agency issued a 90-day stay of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry, which require companies to capture fugitive emissions, obtain engineer certifications and install leak detention devices while it reconsiders the rule.The rule, completed last year under former President Barack Obama, was due to go into effect on June 3.The EPA said it expects to prepare a proposed rule and launch a public comment period after the stay.Environmental groups vowed on Wednesday to block the EPA move in court.

Proposals could make it easier for farmers to profit from manure bioenergy

Midwest Energy News | Posted on May 30, 2017

A pair of federal efforts could make it more profitable to turn organic waste from agriculture and other sources into energy by taking advantage of the Renewable Fuel Standard. One is a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate that would create a 30 percent investment tax credit for qualifying biogas and nutrient-recovery systems. That would put renewable compressed natural gas on a similar footing with solar and wind energy.A separate approach, currently before the Environmental Protection Agency, aims to create a pathway that would pay biogas producers for providing power for electric vehicles.An energy consultant from Des Moines is one of several people in the U.S. trying to devise a record-keeping system that ultimately would pay biogas producers much more than they now earn for generating electricity.

Trump proposes selling Northwest's transmission grid

Oregon Live | Posted on May 30, 2017

Buried among the revenue-generating ideas in President Donald Trump's new budget proposal is a plan to sell off publicly owned transmission assets, including those operated by the Bonneville Power Administration.For public power companies – and really all utilities in the Northwest – the proposal will ring alarm bells and resurrect a debate about the control of assets that were built with federal dollars but paid for by local ratepayers.Bonneville operates three-quarters of the region's high-voltage transmission system, which it uses to market power from 31 hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin and wheel power around the Pacific Northwest and down to California.  The system spans 300,000 square miles, and includes more than 15,000 miles of lines and 299 substations that deliver electricity to some 12 million people. The agency provides transmission service to regional utilities, commercial customers and independent power producers, and it provides a slew of other services.

In the Pacific Northwest, Non-Wires Transmission Alternative ‘Reflects a Shift’ in Grid Planning

Green Tech Media | Posted on May 30, 2017

Can efficiency, demand response and distributed energy replace new power lines? The Bonneville Power Administration is finding out. The Bonneville Power Administration is taking its first step into “non-wires alternatives” for power grid investments -- not necessarily by choice, but certainly with a lot of preparation in advance. Last week, the federal agency that manages the Columbia River hydropower complex and power grid across the Pacific Northwest announced it has given up its nearly decade-long effort to build a new transmission line along the I-5 corridor. The project, which faced public opposition from the start, has also ballooned in cost from an initial estimate of $346 million to more than $1 billion. Instead, BPA will turn to non-wires alternatives -- demand-side resources like efficiency and demand response, as well as distributed energy such as rooftop solar -- as one of several parts of its replacement plan.   Non-wires alternatives are starting to take a role in distribution grid investment planning in states like California, New York and Hawaii. But Bonneville’s pilot project is taking the concept to the transmission system, or more specifically, a portion of stressed-out line between the cities of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, the most heavily populated part of the Columbia River basin. 

Colorado regulators seize the climate fight in landmark ruling on carbon costs

Utility Dive | Posted on May 30, 2017

Just as the federal government is hitting the brakes on climate change mitigation, a number of states are stepping up their efforts.State efforts to expand renewable energy through mandates and incentives are well known, as are attempts to save nuclear generation from early retirement through subsidies. But in the middle of the country, one state is taking climate mitigation a step further through integrating a price on carbon into utility planning processes.This spring, Colorado utility regulators issued a landmark decision requiring Xcel Energy to include the health and environmental costs of greenhouse gas emissions in its integrated resource plans.

Texas lawmakers approve tax break limitations for wind turbines near military bases

Utility Drive | Posted on May 30, 2017

The Texas legislature has passed a bill that would eliminate tax abatements for wind turbines sited within 25 miles of military bases, over concerns they pose a safety risk to bases with aviation operations. Senate Bill 277 passed the House 76-65 on Tuesday, a day after a preliminary vote; the Senate passed the measure in April. Platts reports Gov. Greg Abbott's office has not indicated if he will sign the bill.Opponents of the bill say wind turbines do not pose a threat to military bases, and that the measure is political. 

Exxon Loses Appeal to Keep Auditor Records Secret in Climate Fraud Investigation

Inside Climate News | Posted on May 30, 2017

xxonMobil lost its appeal on Tuesday to keep records held by its auditors away from the New York attorney general's climate fraud probe. The documents could afford a candid—and perhaps damaging—glimpse into Exxon's private calculations of the business risks posed by climate change. They could contain anything from a smoking gun email to plodding, yet revealing, discussions related to Exxon's posture on global warming, including whether the company was adequately calculating climate change risks for investors. Exxon still has another opportunity to appeal.Investigators for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed PricewaterhouseCoopers records pertaining to Exxon's assessment of climate change as part of an investigation into Exxon that was opened in 2015.Exxon fought to have the subpoena voided, arguing the records were privileged communications with its auditor and should be kept from the eyes of investigators. The oil giant, headquartered in Dallas, based its argument on a Texas law that grants a privilege to auditors and clients much like that between a lawyer and client.A state court judge agreed with Schneiderman's office that there was no such protection afforded Exxon under New York law and ordered the documents handed over last year. Exxon appealed that decision.

Arizona Utility owner, ex-regulator, lobbyist indicted on bribery, fraud charges

Arizona Central | Posted on May 26, 2017

Former Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission Gary Pierce and water company owner George Johnson were indicted in federal court on charges of bribery, conspiracy and fraud. The charges filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday said Pierce approved higher rates for Johnson Utilities in the East Valley and Pinal County in exchange for $31,000, which the company funneled to his wife.Also named in the eight-count indictment were Sherry Pierce and lobbyist Jim Norton, who the indictment said "agreed to act as a conduit" between Johnson and Gary Pierce.The indictment also describes a plan for Pierce to buy a $350,000 land parcel with funds that actually were coming from Johnson, though the indictment does not indicate that transaction was completed.Pierce voted in 2011 to allow a rate increase for Johnson Utilities that the staff at the Corporation Commission opposed, and he voted in 2013 for a controversial change that allowed the utility to raise customer rates to pay the personal income tax of the company owners. Both hikes were approved by majority votes of the commission.Other water companies subsequently filed for similar increases allowing the collection of their owners' income taxes through utility rates. Norton, a managing partner at Axiom Public Affairs, wields considerable influence at the state Capitol, where he lobbies for business interests. He also has a strong personal relationship with Gov. Doug Ducey, whom he has known since college.


Nevada passes energy bills incentivizing solar energy

Nevada Sun | Posted on May 25, 2017

The Assembly passed the measures Monday to incentivize customers to install solar energy storage systems, research possible targets for utility companies to procure energy storage systems, and make it easier for residents to put up windmills. Assembly members also agreed with a Senate amendment to a bill that supporters say will help save energy and lower bills for customers, sending that to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk as well.