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2 more Hoosiers plead guilty to RIN, tax credit fraud

Biodiesel | Posted on October 13, 2016

The owners of an Indiana biofuel producer pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and false statements for participating in a scheme that generated more than $60 million in fraudulent tax credits and U.S. EPA renewable fuels credits, or RINs, at Triton Energy LLC, a company that purported to produce and sell biofuel for use as transportation fuel.  Fred Witmer, 46, and Gary Jury, 58, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Magistrate Judge Susan Collins of the Northern District of Indiana, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstrom for the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott of the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office.  According to their pleas, Witmer and Jury were co-owners of Triton Energy LLC and Gen2 Renewable Diesel LLC, both located in Waterloo, Indiana. Witmer admitted to participating in a scheme with other co-conspirators to fraudulently claim tax credits and RIN credits on nonqualifying renewable fuel. Although the credits required that the fuel be used domestically for transportation, Witmer admitted selling it for uses that included the production of fire starter logs and asphalt and also for power generation. Jury admitted to participating in a conspiracy to fraudulently claim tax credits and to providing false statements to the EPA.

New regulations of shale drilling take effect in Pennsylvania

Farm and Dairy | Posted on October 12, 2016

New Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations on unconventional gas drillingtake effect Oct. 8. The new rules regulate unconventional drilling practices and hydraulic fracturing, as well as related activities. “These regulations are a long time in coming and have undergone one of the most transparent and participatory processes ever overseen by DEP,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. The new rules, which have been under development since 2011, are the first modernization of the Commonwealth’s oil and gas surface regulations since the implementation of new horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques to capture natural gas from Pennsylvania’s shale deposits.

Why climate change divides us

Christian Science Monitor | Posted on October 12, 2016

When it comes to global warming, the border between Weld and Larimer Counties might as well be a fault line.  They are two quintessentially Colorado counties – Weld stretching eastward from the shadow of the Rockies onto the wide and empty skirts of the high plains, while Larimer gathers up the cities that cluster against the foot of the Rockies north of Denver.  But their different character speaks to a broader divide nationwide. Weld voted for Mitt Romney in 2012; Larimer voted for President Obama. Larimer life rotates around Fort Collins, a college town as home of the local state university; Weld considered seceding from the state in 2013. They are blue and red America in miniature, and their different approaches to climate change mirror the rift within America itself. Polls show that the partisan divide is wider on climate change than any other issue. In 2001, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on whether climate change is real and human-caused was 17 percentage points. This year, the gap stands at 41 points. Just 43 percent of Republicans now believe climate change is human-caused, compared with 53 percent back then.

EPA announces settlement with Western Dubuque regarding RFS

Farm Futures | Posted on October 11, 2016

EPA and the Department of Justice announced a settlement with Western Dubuque to address alleged violations of the Renewable Fuel Standard on Oct. 4 and the filing of a complaint against NGL Crude Logistics, LLC and Western Dubuque Biodiesel LLC. Under the settlement, Western Dubuque has agreed to pay $6 million to resolve alleged Renewable Fuel Standard program violations for generating RINs for renewable fuel that was produced using unapproved feedstocks and production processes. A feedstock is the basic material used in the production of renewable fuel. The consent decree does not resolve any claims against NGL.

SD County -Moratorium on mining and alternative energy extended

Rapid CIty Journal | Posted on October 11, 2016

Pennington County commissioners voted  to extend a moratorium on construction permits related to mining and alternative energy for one year. The temporary moratorium was originally approved in April and essentially blocked issuance of construction permits for those types of operations. The move came after the commission denied a construction permit for Croell Redi-Mix, which wanted to expand its quarry south of Rapid City but faced strong opposition from residents.The company is now suing the county over the denial.Holli Hennies, commission office manager, said a county committee headed up by Commissioner Deb Hadcock that is currently working on regulations for solar should be finished with a set of rule in the next few weeks. At that time, commissioners will move on to figuring out how to handle future mining and construction permits. Hadcock said the Alternative Energy Committee has been meeting every other week to finish the ordinances for wind energy and solar energy that are completely new for the county. 

Duke Energy to Remove Coal Ash From North Carolina Plant

ABC News | Posted on October 11, 2016

Duke Energy has agreed to remove millions of tons of coal ash containing toxic heavy metals from a power plant in North Carolina.  The nation's largest electricity company announced Wednesday that it would dig up three huge pits of water-logged ash at the Buck Steam Station near Salisbury. The ash will be dried and either offered for use in making concrete or moved to lined landfills elsewhere. Duke agreed to remove the dumps to settle a federal lawsuit filed two years ago by the Southern Environmental Law Center. The ash — left behind when coal is burned to generate electricity — contains such toxic chemicals as lead and mercury, which over time can seep into the groundwater.

Minnesota Judge Upholds State's Biodiesel Mandate

Trucking Info | Posted on October 11, 2016

An effort to block a Minnesota state mandate that requires all diesel fuel sold at the pump to be at least 10% biofuel has been blocked by a district court judge. In 2015, trucking groups within the state filed a lawsuit claiming the mandate conflicted with federal Clean Air and Renewable Fuels laws. The lawsuit was brought by the Minnesota Trucking Association, the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.  The suit sought an injunction to block the mandate and a future increase to 20% biofuel. It argued that the mandate would result in higher maintenance costs and engine problems, as well as a safety hazard because older vehicles were not designed to run on biofuel blends of 10-20%. The judge ruled the Clean Air Act did not pre-empt Minnesota’s mandate, and added that if the state mandate actually violated the Clean Air Act that the EPA would have filed its own injunction.

Canada ratifies Paris climate change deal in boost for Trudeau

Reuters | Posted on October 11, 2016

Canada's Parliament ratified the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions, bolstering Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's bid to tackle climate change after a decade of inaction by the previous government.  Legislators voted 207-81 to formally back the deal, which is designed to encourage a move away from fossil fuels. Trudeau's Liberals hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons and the result was never in doubt. The Liberals took over last November from the right-wing Conservatives, who during their time in power withdrew Canada from the earlier Kyoto climate change accord on the grounds it would harm the economy, and opposed any form of carbon pricing. "This is a really great day ... after 10 years of inaction, of not taking serious steps to tackle climate change, we're finally doing it," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told reporters before the vote. The United Nations said earlier on Wednesday that the global agreement on climate change had passed the thresh old for ratification and that the deal would start formally in 30 days.In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama hailed it as a "historic day" for protecting the planet. The United States and China ratified the agreement last month in a joint step by the world's top emitters. The deal will take force on Nov. 4, four days before the U.S. presidential election in which Republican Donald Trump opposes the accord and Democrat Hillary Clinton strongly supports it.

Wind is the new corn for struggling farmers

Bloomberg | Posted on October 11, 2016

Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago. As commodity prices threaten to reach decade lows and farmers struggle to meet debt payments, wind has become the newest cash crop, saving family farms across a wide swath of the heartland.  The money Richard Wilson earns from leasing his land for about 35 turbines run by the Golden West Wind Energy Center outside Colorado Springs has kept him from having to sell off pieces of the 6,000-acre cattle and wheat ranch his family has owned since 1948. “We weren’t making enough money to sustain ourselves,” he says. “Now we’re in a position where we can operate our farm for another generation at least.” For others, turbines spin off six-figure incomes that have allowed them to retire from farming altogether. “One turbine has changed my life,” says Ed Woolsey, a fifth-generation Iowa farmer and a principal with Crosswinds Energy Project, a community collective that manages 10 turbines and sells the power they generate to rural electric cooperatives. “Before, I raised corn and soybeans and cattle. Now I don’t. I’m a wind farmer.” Woolsey leases his farm to others to cultivate. Neither he nor Wilson would disclose how much he earns, but landowners who sign lease agreements with wind companies typically get between $7,000 and $10,000 per turbine each year.

Ontario cancels plans for more green energy citing strong electricity supply

CBC | Posted on October 4, 2016

Ontario's Liberal government took steps to take some pressure off of rising electricity rates, cancelling plans to sign contracts for up to 1,000 megawatts of power from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the move will save up to $3.8 billion of the costs projected in the 2013 long-term energy plan, and will keep about $2.45 a month from being added to hydro bills for homeowners and small businesses. The Independent Electricity System Operator's planning outlook determined Ontario has a "a strong supply of clean power" for the next decade, added Thibeault.