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Lawmakers renew push for drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge

The Washington Post | Posted on February 23, 2017

Former U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski in 2001 gave a speech urging colleagues to approve oil drilling in America’s largest wildlife refuge. The Alaska Republican held up a blank sheet of paper to illustrate his point.  The field of white, he said, was all you could see each winter on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, implying that such a barren landscape would not be harmed by oil rigs. Sixteen years later, Murkowski’s daughter is trying again. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is sponsoring legislation to open the refuge that takes up Alaska’s northeast corner and is larger than West Virginia and Connecticut combined. With a Republican Congress and president, she’s hopeful that the timing is right.

Iowa farmers to appeal after losing Dakota Access pipeline challenge

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 23, 2017

Iowa farmers challenging construction of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline on their land will appeal to the Supreme Court after a Polk County district judge upheld the Iowa Utilities Board’s approval of the decision.  “We’re not giving up,” said Dick Lamb, one of 14 landowners in the case. “We don’t want this pipeline, and I think most Iowans don’t want it either.” The landowners have 30 days from District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell’s Feb. 15 decision to file their appeal. “We are disappointed,” said attorney Bill Hanigan of the Davis Brown law firm in Iowa, “but we’re not deterred. A private, out-of-state company, which doesn’t serve Iowans, should not be able to use eminent domain to seize Iowa farmland for the purpose of exporting crude oil.”

The Pruitt emails: E.P.A. chief was arm in arm with industry

The New York Times | Posted on February 23, 2017

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday.  The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health. Senate Democrats tried last week to postpone a final vote until the emails could be made public, but Republicans beat back the delay and approved his confirmation on Friday largely along party lines.

How an Interoffice Spat Erupted Into a Climate-Change Furor

New York Times | Posted on February 22, 2017

few weeks ago, on an obscure climate-change blog, a retired government scientist named John Bates blasted his former boss on an esoteric point having to do with archiving temperature data. It was little more than lingering workplace bad blood, said Dr. Bates’s former co-workers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dr. Bates had felt he deserved his boss’s job at NOAA, they said, not the demotion he received. “He’s retaliating. It’s like grade school,” said Glenn Rutledge, a former physical scientist at NOAA who worked with Dr. Bates. But in what seems like a remarkable example of office politics gone horribly wrong, within days the accusations were amplified and sensationalized — in the pages of the British tabloid The Mail on Sunday — inciting a global furor among climate-change deniers. The Mail claimed that Dr. Bates had revealed fraud in important research by NOAA that supports the widely held belief that climate change is real. “How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data,” the article’s headline said. The scientific community swiftly shot down the accusations, and affirmed the accuracy of the research. And Dr. Bates himself later stated in an interview with a business news site that he had not meant to suggest that his former boss had played fast and loose with temperature data. “The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data,” Dr. Bates said.

Minnesota Senate approves Becker power plant

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Posted on February 20, 2017

The Legislature moved to sidestep utility regulators and approve a new Xcel Energy power plant in central Minnesota.  The natural gas-fired plant in Becker is meant to offset losses from two coal-fired generators when they close in 2023 and 2026. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission sidelined Xcel's proposal in October. However, bills passed in both chambers of the Legislature mean the plant can move forward without fulfilling the regulator's request to research renewable energy options.

Indiana Senate panel OKs bill to reduce solar incentives

Sioux City Journal | Posted on February 20, 2017

An Indiana Senate panel gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill backed by the state's investor-owned power utilities that critics contend is an effort to muscle out smaller companies from the emerging solar energy market. The measure by Republican state Sen. Brandt Hershman was approved by thte Senate Utilities committee.Currently, solar panel owners who feed surplus energy into the power grid are compensated at a retail market rate, which supporters say enables them to pay off the expensive investment in solar within its useful life. Hershman's measure would drastically reduce that rate in five years, though it was amended Thursday after substantial opposition was voiced during a hearing last week.

Maryland Recognizes Critical Role States Can Play in Ag Energy Solutions

25 X 25 Blog | Posted on February 20, 2017

This week, the Maryland governor and agriculture secretary toured a state-subsidized, pilot, on-farm manure-to-energy project on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The project burns poultry litter that heats the poultry house while also reducing humidity and ammonia. It also underscores the role states can play in helping ag producers produce clean energy, meet their stewardship responsibilities and even potentially open new revenue streams for their operations. The system that Gov. Larry Hogan and Ag Secretary Joe Bartenfelder saw on Monday uses the litter from 160,000 chickens to produce an array of value-added benefits including heat, electricity, an improved environment for the birds, and a potentially high-value concentrated phosphorous fertilizer by-product. The facility at the Double Trouble Farm, which opened in December, represents one of several manure-to-energy projects that the state is funding to reduce poultry-related nutrients from entering storm water runoff and impacting the Chesapeake Bay.

Trump signs law rolling back disclosure rule for energy and mining companies

The Washington Post | Posted on February 16, 2017

President Trump signed his first piece of legislation on Tuesday, a measure that could presage the most aggressive assault on government regulations since President Reagan. The bill cancels out a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation that would have required oil and gas and mining companies to disclose in detail the payments they make to foreign governments in a bid to boost transparency in resource-rich countries. It is the first of a series of bills Congress is considering that would take advantage of the Congressional Review Act of 1996, which had been used only once before today. The act gives a new president and Congress the power to revoke rules and regulations promulgated by the previous administration in its final 60 legislative days.

Innovation is Driving Down Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Corn-based Ethanol

Science Blog | Posted on February 14, 2017

Ethanol production has changed significantly over the past ten years. U.S. production has ramped up from 3.9 to 14.8 billion gallons per year between 2005 and 2015. As demand for corn ethanol has increased, corn production in the US expanded from 11.8 billion bushels in 2004 to 13.6 billion bushels in 2015.  In addition to the gains from reduced levels of land conversion, the ICF report shows that the reductions in GHG emissions from corn ethanol are continually driven by a variety of improvements in efficiency, from the corn field to the ethanol refinery. On-farm conservation practices, such as reduced tillage and nitrogen management, improved the GHG balance of growing corn for ethanol. Production yields, measured in gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, have increased by 3.4 percent between 2006 and 2014.

Fight over renewable energy comes to New Hampshire

The Sacramento Bee | Posted on February 14, 2017

New Hampshire already lags behind most of its neighbors in expanding its use of renewable energy but that hasn't stopped several groups from using this legislative session to attack those nascent efforts. Led by the Americans for Prosperity,  these groups support a bill that would pull New Hampshire out of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The program has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from electrical generation in those eight states by 40 percent over the last decade. Another bill calls for repealing the state's Electric Renewable Energy Portfolio, which requires utilities to get a percentage of their power from renewable sources. Supporters of these bills argue they would help bring down energy prices, which are blamed for driving away business from the state. But opponents contend there is little connection between these programs and high energy prices. Instead, they see this as veiled effort to assist the fossil fuel industry that has struggled to compete against cleaner burning natural gas and renewable sources.