A federal judge has struck down the Obama administration's rules for hydraulic fracturing on public lands, a victory for oil and gas producers and state regulators who opposed the rules as an egregious overreach. The ruling, which the White House vowed to appeal, halts the administration's efforts to address what it sees as safety concerns in the industry and reverses what producers had seen as a first step toward full federal regulation of all fracking activity. The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lacked Congressional authority to set fracking regulations for federal and Indian lands, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl in Wyoming ruled. BLM's rules, issued in their final form in March 2015, would have required companies to provide data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on federally owned land.
A state Senate committee approved new restrictions on North Carolina wind farms near military bases and low-level flight corridors. The measure, which needs approval by the full Senate and House, would allow the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to recommend whether permits for wind farms should be allowed or denied, based on the farms’ expected impact on military bases.
A Raleigh judge dismissed a legal challenge Wednesday to the Amazon Wind Farm, clearing the way for the largest wind farm in the Southeast to continue with construction along the North Carolina coast. The 104-turbine wind farm is a private energy project commissioned by Amazon to power the online retailing giant’s data centers in Virginia. The $400-million wind farm spans an area of 34 square miles and is being built by Spanish developer Iberdrola Renewables.
The worst oil bust since the 1980s is putting Texas and other oil producing states on the hook for thousands of newly abandoned drilling sites at a time when they have little money to plug wells and seal off environmental hazards. As U.S. rig counts plunge to historic lows, and with at least 60 oil producers declaring bankruptcy since 2014, energy-producing states are confronting both holes in their budgets and potentially leaking ones in the ground. In Texas alone, the roughly $165 million price tag of plugging nearly 10,000 abandoned wells is double the entire budget of the agency that regulates the industry.
The appropriations bill, as written, would exempt the military from Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which prohibits federal agencies from making bulk purchases of synthetic fuels with a larger greenhouse gas footprint than traditional petroleum. However, especially in the advanced biofuels industry, the military's use of biofuels has been a long standing source of encouragement for new technologies. These technologies, says NFU, that are held out of transportation fuel markets by the exploitative practices of Big Oil. Johnson concluded, “Section 526 is an important aspect of the Energy Independence and Security Act, one that has tremendous implications for family farmers’ ability to protect food security in a changing climate. I encourage lawmakers to carefully weigh the benefits of biofuels as they consider this provision.”
New York has an ambitious goal of getting 50 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030. To get there, the state will need to expand grid infrastructure to deliver renewable power from rural areas to load centers. But the state won't always have to build new infrastructure -- it can do more with what it has. The New York Power Authority and New York State Electric & Gas have just finished the first project that shows what is possible using existing infrastructure. NYPA completed a $120 million transmission upgrade, called the Marcy South Series Compensation Project, that will move up to 440 megawatts of additional capacity from upstate, where there are abundant wind and hydro resources, to downstate cities.
Coal producer Peabody Energy Corp plans to pay Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe — once a mentor to President Barack Obama — up to $75,000 per month to help fight the Clean Power Plan as the company works through a bankruptcy. Tribe said he will provide legal advice, research and analysis to Peabody for litigation against the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan. Tribe estimates Peabody will disburse to him at least $435,000 in 2016: $25,000 in May; $17,500 in June; $17,500 in July and from August 2016 to December 2016, $75,000 per month. The filing said Peabody currently did not owe Tribe for any services prior. Tribe is a professor of constitutional law and is renowned for a history of supporting liberal causes. In 2010, Obama appointed Tribe as senior counselor for access to justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The cost of renewables technology is set to keep falling into the next decade, boosting the economic case for clean energy, according to an industry group. The average cost of electricity from a photovoltaic system is forecast to plunge as much as 59 percent by 2025, according to a report Wednesday by the International Renewable Energy Agency. The technology last year produced energy that was already 58 percent cheaper than it was in 2010. Government policy can also play a role in reducing borrowing costs for project developers. “Solar doesn’t need a subsidy anymore, but regulatory frameworks that back long-term power purchase agreements will reduce solar’s cost of capital and make it possible to build it for below the cost of other sources,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Signed Monday afternoon, S. 260 is Gov. Peter Shumlin’s last bill. He said the bill addresses criticism of weak local control over wind and solar-energy projects, while simultaneously supporting the growth of green-energy infrastructure. The bill’s passage comes about a week after Shumlin vetoed S. 230, a very similar bill related to energy projects. On Thursday, the House and Senate pushed the bill S. 260 — essentially an updated version of S. 230 — through in one day. Towns and regional planning commissions can now indicate specific areas where such projects are acceptable. One municipal official said the new law respects Vermont’s renewable energy goals as well as the desires of citizens to protect scenic landscapes.
The linchpin of California’s climate change agenda, a program known as cap and trade, has become mired in legal, financial and political troubles that threaten to derail the state’s plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The program has been a symbol of the state’s leadership in the fight against global warming and a key source of funding, most notably for the high-speed rail project connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.
But the legality of cap and trade is being challenged in court by a business group, and questions are growing about whether state law allows it to operate past 2020. With the end of the legislative session in August, Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and interest groups of all stripes are laying the groundwork for what could become a battle royal over the future of California’s climate change programs. Unless the state acts, “the whole system could fail,” said Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). “If that happens, we could lose an entire stream of revenue to make our communities more sustainable.”