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Energy News

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.

EPA proposes major updates to RFS regulations

Biomass | Posted on October 4, 2016

On Oct. 3, the U.S. EPA released its proposed Renewable Enhancement and Growth Support rule, which aims to enhance the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program and related fuel regulations to support the growth of ethanol and other renewable fuels.  The proposal includes an updated regulatory structure to allow biofuels producers to partially process feedstock at one facility and convert the resulting material into fuels at another using existing pathways. It also updates fuel regulations to allow expanded availability of high-ethanol fuel blends for use in flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) and includes new feedstock approvals for cellulosic biofuels produced from short-rotation poplar and willow, cellulosic diesel produced from compressing of cellulosic feedstocks and petroleum, and renewable diesel and biodiesel produced from non-cellulosic portions of separated food waste. In addition, the EPA said it is seeking comments on a variety of other issues, including renewable identification number (RIN) generation for renewable electricity used as transportation fuel and requirements for facilities that could use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce carbon in the production of renewable fuels in the future.

Michigan has more lobbyists than lawmakers working on energy reform

Michigan Live | Posted on October 3, 2016

When it comes to deciding how to overhaul the state's energy policy, the Michigan legislature isn't suffering from a lack of input. According to an analysis from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, at least 145 registered lobbyists have either submitted position statements to committees about proposed energy reforms or are registered as working for key players. That means the lobbyists outnumber the 144 state legislators -- a number which is typically 148 but has been lowered due to two resignations and two deaths. After the Nov. 8 general election, three of those vacancies will be filled.

Wyoming's 1st major coal mine in decades clears council

AP | Posted on October 3, 2016

A state environmental review board voted Wednesday to allow Wyoming's first major coal mine in decades to proceed despite the objections of another coal company. Amid competition from natural gas and tougher environmental regulations, coal mines tend to be cutting back production or even shutting down — not opening anew. Kentucky-based Ramaco's relatively small Brook Mine would buck that trend but has faced opposition from another company and a ranch. The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council voted unanimously to allow Ramaco to go ahead despite the Big Horn Coal Company's objections.

Studies Link Biofuel Demand, Habitat Loss

Coastal review | Posted on September 29, 2016

As the U.S. and other countries have ramped up development of bio-energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, demand is rising for trees for wood pellets, or biomass, and agricultural products for liquefied biofuels.  A recent multi-year study by researchers at North Carolina State University and the U.S. Geological Survey, detailed in two papers printed in August in the journal “Global Change Biology Bioenergy,” indicates that the increased demand could come with a cost: a loss of forested land, especially mature pinelands, and because of that, less habitat for wildlife.

How An Engineer's Desperate Experiment Created Fracking

NPR | Posted on September 29, 2016

The fracking boom in America kicked off almost by accident. An engineer worried about losing his job kept experimenting until he hit on a technique that changed the world. Back in 1995, Nick Steinsberger was 31. He was working for an oil company called Mitchell Energy. And he had just gotten a promotion. He was put in charge of an area called the Barnett Shale. It was in central Texas. And the company had a bunch of natural gas wells there. A couple of months in, management called him in for a meeting.