Six New Hampshire biomass plants might be in jeopardy of closing after a bill was recently vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu. The governor said the bill could have cost Granite Staters millions, but plant managers and employees said the plants are in jeopardy if lawmakers don't act. The governor issued the veto in June, saying the veto would not take anything away from the biomass industry. He said the bill would have given the industry an additional $30 million in subsidies, and vetoing it saved ratepayers about $25 million. Plant managers said the veto has already had an impact. At Pinetree, the pile of wood chips that fuels the plant is running low and will likely last for about a week."Once we go through that fuel, we will go into economic shutdown," manager Robert Lussier said.Officials at six biomass plants that employ about 900 people said they could close if nothing changes.
EPA Administrator and refining industry ally Scott Pruitt resigned earlier this month after losing the support of the White House. Shortly before his departure, the EPA implemented substantial reductions to biofuel blending volumes under the national blending mandate. Recently-released EPA documents show that the reductions were implemented in a way that will keep ethanol blending at roughly 10 vol% of gasoline consumption. The EPA documents also show that the reduction decision occurred shortly before Mr. Pruitt's departure. If finalized later this year, the reduction to future blending volumes will continue to put downward pressure on ethanol operating margins.
A five-year study in Chippewa County has transformed a reclaimed frac sand mine into a successful wild prairie. Researchers are hopeful that lessons learned can be used at other mining operations around the state beginning to fill in their pits. In a rare collaboration, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls worked with industrial sand mining firm Superior Silica Sands and Chippewa County’s Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management to learn how sand mining impacts soil that is stripped away, stored and replaced after mining operations wrap up. "Although sand mining is an inherently destructive process, we were able to reclaim within three years a reasonably diverse and fully vegetated native prairie on these pretty low nutrient, difficult soils," said Diboll.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded $69.9 million in grant funding to 40 dairy digester projects across the state. These projects, part of the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manure on California dairy farms. Financial assistance for the installation of dairy digesters comes from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that uses Cap-and-Trade program funds to support the state’s climate goals. CDFA and other state agencies are investing these proceeds in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide additional benefits to California communities. Dairy digester grant recipients will provide an estimated $95.5 million in matching funds for the development of their projects.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ditched a detailed plan that would have forced refiners to blend more biofuels into their gasoline and diesel in 2019 to compensate for volumes likely to be exempted under the agency’s small refinery hardship waiver program, according to newly released EPA documents. The plan would have boosted the renewable fuel blending obligation for the refining industry to 11.76 percent from 10.88 percent to offset volumes lost under the waiver program, which has been expanded sharply under President Donald Trump’s EPA, and keep overall blended volumes on target. The idea was aimed at assuaging the powerful U.S. corn lobby which has accused Trump’s EPA of undermining demand for biofuels like corn-based ethanol through the waiver program, but was scrapped amid intense protest from the refining industry. “What this shows is the EPA acknowledges it has the authority and the ability to reallocate the volumes lost under the small refinery exemption program,” Geoff Cooper, an executive at the Renewable Fuels Association, said on Wednesday.
The current zero-sum battle between corn states and the biofuels industry on the one hand, and oil refiners on the other, is not new, but it exploded into a fierce fight over the past year as the Environmental Protection Agency cracked open the door to a weakening of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The RFS dictates how much ethanol refiners need to procure. The exit of Scott Pruitt from the EPA could signal an end to open war between the ethanol and refining industries, returning it to a more familiar low-grade tug-of-war over annual blending requirements. The Trump administration has spent months trying to hammer out a compromise between refiners and the biofuels industry, but it has struggled to find any common ground. Advancing a proposal to the benefit of one side almost necessarily undermines the other. Ethanol producers argue the waivers are destroying the RIN market. But refiners say the RIN system is fundamentally flawed. “We simply want to correct the flawed and indefensible RINs compliance mechanism that is destroying the independent merchant refining industry and the thousands of families sustained by it,” Philadelphia Energy Solutions said in a February statement. This zero-sum dynamic has bedeviled the Trump administration, as it has prior administrations. But the support for refiners from Scott Pruitt’s EPA pushed the issue to the front burner, and the corn and ethanol industries, and their powerful allies in Congress, forced the issue.
The Gift & Thrift in Harrisonburg is one of more than one hundred thrift shops run by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Canada and the United States. Since 1972 they have raised more than $200 million to support domestic and international aid programs by the MCC. In addition to the thrift shop, the Harrisonburg complex of buildings hosts an artisan gift shop, a bookstore, a café, and a community center.To bring solar to the Gift & Thrift, the store and the MCC teamed up with local solar installer Secure Futures to create the “Thrifty Solar Barn Raising” team. They were one of over 170 teams nationwide selected to compete in the US Department of Energy’s Solar In Your Community Challenge, a $5 million contest that supports “innovative and replicable community-based solar business models and programs that will bring solar to underserved communities.”
When a company from Seattle came calling, wanting to lease some land on Jeff and Jackie Brunson’s 1,000-acre hay and oat farm for a solar energy project, they jumped at the idea, and the prospect of receiving regular rent checks. They did not anticipate the blowback — snarky texts, phone calls from neighbors, and county meetings where support for solar was scant.Critics said the project would remove too much land from agricultural production in central Washington. If approved by regulators, it would be one of the biggest solar generators ever built in the state, with five large arrays spread around the county, covering around 250 acres with sun-sucking panels.Ms. Brunson said the critics should mind their own business and respect property rights. “They want the romance of watching you farm,” Ms. Brunson, 59, said. “They move into their little piece of heaven, their little three acres, or their little 20 acres, and they don’t want any other changes around them.”
Virginia regulators have accused the builder of the Mountain Valley Pipeline of environmental violations punishable by fines and repair mandates, saying the company’s failure to install and maintain erosion-control devices has fouled 8,800 feet of streams in six locations.The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality gave Robert Cooper, project manager for EQT Corp. in Pittsburgh, a nine-page notice of violations on Monday. The energy company, which hopes to fill the line with natural gas by the end of the year and is permitted to continue working, has 10 days to respond.Five months into tree-clearing, grading and digging needed to bury the pipe, the $3 billion project faces possible state enforcement action for the first time. West Virginia previously notified EQT of alleged violations on that state’s portion of the pipeline.
North Dakota's attorney general is suing the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline over agricultural land the company owns in violation of a state law banning large corporations from owning farmland. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a civil complaint in state district court against Dakota Access LLC, a company formed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to build the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. The pipeline began operating a year ago. Dakota Access in September 2016 bought about 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares) from a ranch family in an area of southern North Dakota where thousands of pipeline opponents had gathered to protest. North Dakota law prohibits large corporations from owning and operating farms, to protect the state's family farming heritage, but Stenehjem reached a deal with the company under which he agreed not to immediately sue. He deemed the purchase temporarily necessary to provide a safer environment for pipeline workers. The agreement with the company expired at the end of last year but was extended through June. The company's "continued ownership of the land constitutes a continuing violation of state law,"