President-elect Donald Trump picked Rick Perry to head the Energy Department on Wednesday, seeking to put the former Texas governor in control of an agency whose name he forgot during a presidential debate even as he vowed to abolish it. Perry, who ran for president in the past two election cycles, is likely to shift the department away from renewable energy and toward fossil fuels, whose production he championed while serving as governor for 14 years. His nomination — announced officially by Trump’s transition team a day after sources leaked the decision — stirred further alarm from environmental groups and others worried that the Trump administration will roll back efforts to expand renewable energy and give a powerful platform for officials questioning the scientific consensus on climate change.
Two power line projects that won federal approval Tuesday will give a big capacity boost to the Western energy grid, including power for up to 1 million homes from what’s on track to become the biggest wind farm in the U.S. The TransWest Express project will help California meet its goal of getting half its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 by carrying up to 3,000 megawatts from the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm in southern Wyoming. The new power lines would span 728 miles from the wind farm to southern Nevada, crossing northwest Colorado and all of Utah along the way. Denver-based The Anschutz Corp., which is behind the wind farm and 3,000-megawatt TransWest Express, could begin work on both within a couple years if remaining approvals and right-of-way acquisition for the power lines go smoothly.
Is hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — safe, as the oil and gas industry claims? Or does the controversial drilling technique that has spurred a domestic energy boom contaminate drinking water, as environmental groups and other critics charge? After six years and more than $29 million, the Environmental Protection Agency says it doesn’t know. A new report said fracking poses a risk to drinking water in some circumstances, but a lack of information precludes a definitive statement on how severe the risk is. “Because of the significant data gaps and uncertainties in the available data, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources” from fracking activities, the EPA said in a report that raises more questions than answers.The report removes a finding from a draft issued last year indicating that fracking has not caused “widespread, systemic” harm to drinking water in the United States. Industry groups had hailed the draft EPA study as proof that fracking is safe, while environmentalists seized on the report’s identification of cases where fracking-related activities polluted drinking water.
pipeline leak has spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek roughly two and a half hours from Cannon Ball, where protesters are camped out in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline.Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, as well as environmentalists from around the country, have fought the pipeline project on the grounds that it crosses beneath a lake that provides drinking water to native Americans. They say the route beneath Lake Oahe puts the water source in jeopardy and would destroy sacred land. North Dakota officials estimate more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek. State environmental scientist Bill Suess says a landowner discovered the spill on Dec. 5 near the city of Belfield, which is roughly 150 miles from the epicenter of the Dakota Access pipeline protest camps.
Matt Tracy and his partner, Catherine Mardosa, have experienced all the difficulties of farming in Rhode Island. There has been drought (still is), floods (the historic 2010 deluge), the ever-present challenge of finding agricultural space in a land-strapped state, and the high fixed costs of machinery, equipment and fuel. As part of their efforts to make Red Planet Farm more sustainable - both environmentally and, just as important, commercially - Tracy and Mardosa are getting ready to install solar panels on the five-acre plot they lease in Johnston to power refrigeration for harvested vegetables, a germination chamber for fragile seedlings and ventilation in their greenhouses.The ground-mounted solar array should help reduce the farm's operating costs for decades to come."That's the biggest benefit to the farmer," Tracy said. He and Mardosa wouldn't be able to pay for the 3.78-kilowatt system without the financial support of a new state initiative that aims to help farms invest in renewable energy and take steps to conserve energy. With a $14,930 grant that will pay for nearly two-thirds of the $23,000 solar array, they are among the inaugural recipients of funding through the Rhode Island Farm Energy Program. The grant program is in the first year of a three-year, $600,000 pilot. There are two funding rounds per year, in April and October, with a total of $200,000 granted annually.
The report that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued in November intends to begin closing the door on questions over what happened with Pavillion’s water, but did not take into account outside science saying that door should not be closed so quickly. An earlier article, published by Stanford University scientists in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, stated hydraulic fracturing had impacted drinking water in the Pavillion area, and called for further investigation. The article was not taken into account in the final DEQ Pavillion report, because it was published and sent to DEQ after the comment period on the agency’s report had ended, officials said. But the state report and the journal article come to dramatically different conclusions, and differ on key technical issues. It is the DEQ’s ultimate stance on those technical issues that underpin the agency’s conclusion on Pavillion. DEQ’s Nov. 10 report concluded that hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – for natural gas production is unlikely to have contaminated private wells in Pavillion, as some residents have charged. That conclusion absolves Encana, the energy giant who took over the Pavillion area gas fields in 2004, of major cleanup responsibilities going forward. Fundamental problems of technical standards and regulatory jurisdiction underlie the conflicting scientific assessments. The state report and the independent scientists disagree for instance, over what water, deep underground, should appropriately be called a drinking water resource.
While there may be some uncertainty as to how renewable energy policy may play out in Washington over the next few years, ongoing developments at the state level demonstrate the persistent strength of policy leadership being demonstrated across the country. Just last week, Illinois legislators locked in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – by 2025, at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity needs will be met with renewable energy sources like wind and solar.Furthermore, the measure, which Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law, also amends some language that, until now, had hindered the use of money from a multi-million-dollar fund that was set up to help pay for renewable energy projects. The legislation also establishes certain percentages for various renewables – utility scale wind and solar, community solar and rooftop solar – to meet the RPS goal. And, the bill expands a number of energy efficiency programs. Legislators chose to reject language that would have eliminated utility compensation at retail rates for residents who send excess energy from their rooftop solar systems back to the grid. One of the more significant provisions in the bill will require that renewable energy that contributes to the RPS target must be generated from within the state. Until now, utilities relied on renewable energy credits from wind farms in Texas, Iowa and other states. The in-state requirement will boost local economies and jobs that come from accelerated clean-energy technology development.
Critics of solar power have long contended that the technology is a hoax. The panels may appear to create clean energy but, when taking into account the fossil fuels burned to create electricity to manufacture the panels, they become quite dirty, opponents say. But a new study has found that solar panels make up for those emissions and then some over a 30-year lifetime. With advances made in the technology over the past four decades, solar panels now repay their energy consumption “multiple times,” according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. The study looked at data from solar panels going back to 1976 and determined that the total carbon costs of manufacturing solar panels, while high when the technology was still in nascent stages, was likely repaid in about 2011 when accounting for clean energy consumption displacing carbon dioxide. At the same time, renewable energy sources have become increasingly competitive compared to their fossil fuel counterparts. The strength of renewables remained visible even as crashing prices for oil, natural gas and coal were observed in the past couple of years.
Royal Dutch Shell has signed a provisional agreement to develop oil and gas fields in Iran, a move that could signal energy companies will not be deterred from doing business with the Islamic Republic despite uncertainty whether a Trump administration will scrap a nuclear deal agreed to by world powers. A spokesman for Shell said a memorandum of agreement was signed Wednesday with the National Iranian Oil Co. "to further explore areas of potential cooperation." The agreement is nonbinding and involves the development of Iran's oil fields in South Azadegan and Yadavaran and the Kish gas field.
A power line planned to run under Lake Champlain and link suppliers in Canada with consumers in southern New England has won a key federal permit, clearing its last big regulatory hurdle.Transmission Developers Inc. announced Monday its TDI-New England subsidiary had received a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy for the 154-mile, $1.2 billion power line, dubbed the New England Clean Power Link. CEO Donald Jessom said construction could start in late 2017 or early 2018."This interconnection is a vital link that will unleash low-carbon, cost-effective electricity from Canada for the benefit of New England, replacing fossil-fuel generators and lowering energy prices," Jessom, who's also CEO of the parent company, said in a statement.The company, which is owned by the New York-based Blackstone Group, said it hopes a key market for the power will be utilities in Massachusetts, where Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in August signed legislation calling for a request for power supply proposals that will close April 1.