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Operator lowers pressure, slows gas leak in Alaska pipeline

News Advance | Posted on March 16, 2017

The owner of an underwater pipeline spewing processed natural gas into Alaska's Cook Inlet has lowered pressure in the line to reduce the leak. Repairs will continue to wait for ice in the inlet to clear because it's too dangerous to immediately start work, according to Hilcorp Alaska, LLC.The 8-inch leaking pipe sends natural gas from shore to four petroleum platforms in the inlet, home to a population of endangered beluga whales.


Interior Department to withdraw Obama-era fracking rule

The Washington Post | Posted on March 16, 2017

The Trump administration plans to withdraw and rewrite a 2015 rule aimed at limiting hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on public lands, the Interior Department indicated in court filings.  The move to rescind the 2015 regulation, which has been stayed in federal court, represents the latest effort by the new administration to ease restraints on oil and gas production in the United States. Interior’s Bureau of Land Management issued the rule in an effort to minimize the risk of water contamination through the practice, which involves injecting a mix of chemicals and water at high pressure into underground rock formations to force out oil and gas.


Southwestern utilities back down from rooftop solar fight

High Country News | Posted on March 15, 2017

Not long ago, major electric utilities in much of the Southwest seemed bent on chasing rooftop solar companies out of the region. They saw the booming industry as a threat to their profits and sought rate changes that would make solar panels less financially attractive to homeowners. The electric companies advocated slashing the compensation those customers get for sending their excess power to the grid and adding new fees to their electric bills.Because the electric companies are monopolies, state regulators have to approve such changes. In late 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada set new rates that were so unfavorable to solar customers that they nearly snuffed out the residential solar business in the state. The number of households applying to connect solar panels to the grid dropped from a peak of nearly 3,000 in August 2015 to just 14 in July the next year. The biggest solar installation companies left the state, laying off thousands of workers. But that’s not the end of the story. The public was outraged, and its objections resulted in a surprising shift: gradual rollback of the commission’s anti-solar decision. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to do away with utility monopolies. The public utility commission restored higher compensation rates for existing solar customers statewide and future customers in northern Nevada. It’s considering doing the same in the southern part of the state.


Oklahoma House Votes to Roll Back Tax Credit for Wind Energy

U.S. News & World Report | Posted on March 15, 2017

The Oklahoma House has approved legislation to roll back a state tax credit for the wind energy industry.The House passed the bill Thursday by a vote of 74-24 and sent it to the Senate for consideration.The bill modifies the tax credit for electricity generated by zero-emission facilities like wind turbines. It says facilities must be in operation by July 1 in order to qualify for the credit, instead of the current deadline of Jan. 1, 2021.Gov. Mary Fallin proposed eliminating the wind tax credit to increase revenue amid a projected $868 million budget shortfall next year. The tax credit will cost $40 million this year and will average $60 million a year over the next 15 years.


Scant demand for California cap-and-trade pollution permits

Capital Press | Posted on March 15, 2017

California saw another three months of weak demand for pollution permits amid persistent uncertainty about the future of the state’s cap on carbon emissions, according to state data.  California will take in only about $8 million from an auction that could have generated $592 million or more if all permits were sold. The program is a prime funding source for projects including high-speed rail and transit construction.  For years, each quarterly auction consistently generated hundreds of millions of dollars. Fewer than one in five permits were distributed at an auction last month, according to the data from the California Air Resources Board. The vast majority were sold by utilities, which get them for free from the state, while some were sold to polluters in Quebec, the Canadian province that sells permits at the same auction.But revenue has plummeted in three of the last four auctions amid a series of pressures that have depressed demand.A glut of permits on the market means companies don’t need to buy them at auction to authorize their emissions in the near future. A state appeals court is considering a case that challenges the authority for the state to sell pollution permits. And the Legislature is considering whether to give the program clear authority to continue past 2020.


Tax credit has helped create a robust industry in New Mexico

bizjournal | Posted on March 13, 2017

New Mexico has benefited from its renewable energy production tax credit, which has supported more than 11,000 jobs and represents $1.6 billion in economic activity, according to a new report. The report, released by Family Businesses for Affordable Energy this week, says the state has established has "a robust renewable energy generation sector with enormous potential for growth" and clean power is a wise investment for New Mexico. The credits are set to expire next year.


As energy mix becomes cleaner, Minnesotans paying less for it

Midwest Energy News | Posted on March 9, 2017

Consumers have seen flat or declining energy costs as renewable energy becomes a greater part of the energy mix of Minnesota and the nation. That’s one of the findings in the annual 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in partnership with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The report points out that in the United States, renewable energy, greater energy efficiency and low natural gas and gasoline prices have combined to drive down energy costs – as a percent of total household spending – to its lowest level in decades, according to business council president Lisa Jacobson.


Fuels America Cuts Ties With RFA

Hoosier Ag Today | Posted on March 9, 2017

A coalition of the nation’s top biofuels advocates united together as Fuels America resolved to reject a move by Carl Icahn (Eye’-Kahn), owner of CVR Refining, to destabilize the Renewable Fuels Standard. They’ve also severed ties with the Renewable Fuels Association. Fuels America says it represents diverse groups that are working to protect America’s Renewable Fuels Standard. A Fuels America statement says, “We adamantly oppose any effort to derail the RFS by shifting the point of obligation and exempting certain refiners and fuel importers from their responsibility to deliver cleaner and more affordable fuel options for consumers.” The group says in Icahn’s conflicted role of refiner as well as White House advisor, he’s now attempting to mislead biofuels advocates into accepting changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard in exchange for changing outdated Environmental Protection Agency regulations that limit the summer sales of ethanol.


As wind grows, so does its opposition

EEnews | Posted on March 6, 2017

Oklahoma wind developers are fresh off a record-setting year. Only Texas installed more wind capacity in 2016, a fact that thrusts the Sooner State's power markets into a sudden transition and is agitating opponents along the way. Wind barely registered in Oklahoma a decade ago, but it now accounts for 20 percent of the state's electricity generation.Instead of celebrating, industry leaders find themselves facing a torrent of anti-wind legislation in Oklahoma City, the state capital. By one tally, 88 bills concerning wind development have been filed in the opening days of the legislative session. They range from a proposal to provide advanced notification for new developments to a plan backed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) that would impose a 0.5-cent-per-kilowatt-hour tax on wind-generated electricity.Most expect Fallin's plan to fail. Wind's importance to the local power grid means there is little appetite among lawmakers to back a bill that could raise consumers' rates. But a proposal to end a tax credit that has helped make Oklahoma the third-largest producer of wind power in the country is gaining steam.


EPA halts inquiry into oil and gas industry emissions of methane

The Washington Post | Posted on March 6, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday announced it was withdrawing a request that operators of existing oil and gas wells provide the agency with extensive information about their equipment and its emissions of methane, undermining a last-ditch Obama administration climate change initiative. The EPA announcement was a first step towards reversing an Obama administration effort – which  only got underway two days after Donald Trump’s election – to gather information about  methane, a short-lived but extremely powerful climate pollutant which is responsible for about a quarter of global warming to date. The agency cited a letter sent by the attorneys general of several conservative and oil-producing states complaining that the information request “furthers the previous administration’s climate agenda and supports … the imposition of burdensome climate rules on existing sites, the cost and expense of which will be enormous.” Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, said the agency took those complaints seriously. “Today’s action will reduce burdens on businesses while we take a closer look at the need for additional information from this industry,” he said in a statement.


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