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SARL Members and Alumni News

New best friends: GOP governors and renewables

EEnews | Posted on June 26, 2017

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is fresh off a legislative session in which he signed nine bills aimed at supporting the clean energy sector. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a tax exemption that solar installers say is essential to jump-starting the residential and commercial market in the Sunshine State. And in Iowa, where wind now accounts for 36 percent of the state's electricity generation, newly installed Gov. Kim Reynolds recently finished an energy plan that calls for growing the wind, biofuels and solar industries."For years, our fields have fed the world. Now, they energize it. They produce products that fuel cars, and they host wind turbines that power our communities and businesses," Reynolds said in her inaugural address last month. "And yet those fields are filled with untapped potential. Our energy plan will help us continue to lead the way in wind energy and renewable fuels. Working together, we can have the most innovative energy policy in the country."The growing embrace of renewables by Republican governors stands in stark contrast to the president. Trump's budget request for fiscal 2018 includes a 70 percent reduction to the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has expressed concern about coal's decline and renewables' rise, has embarked on a grid reliability study. And in speeches across the country, Trump has railed against renewables while promising to revive the coal sector. But in states like Iowa and Nevada, which lack a local fossil fuel industry, Republican leaders are becoming increasingly comfortable with renewables. Wind now employs more than 8,000 people in Iowa. Two utilities in the Hawkeye State announced plans last year to invest $4.6 billion in new wind farms.Reynolds follows in the footsteps of longtime Gov. Terry Branstad (R), an outspoken wind advocate during six nonconsecutive terms in Des Moines. Branstad stepped down this year to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China.As lieutenant governor, Reynolds led efforts last year to complete an Iowa Energy Plan. It calls for more ambitious renewable energy targets, best practices to help municipalities site turbines and grid modernization pilot projects, among other measures.The state's wind industry has helped attract Facebook, Microsoft and Google data centers to Iowa, said Brenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor."In general, renewable energy has provided for local energy production, job and business growth, increases in property tax revenue, and clean energy production in our own backyard," Smith said.

Arkansas Plant Board Votes to Ban Dicamba

Arkansas Matters | Posted on June 23, 2017

The Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) has voted to ban the sale and use of in-crop dicamba, with an exemption for pastureland. The decision came in a meeting Friday to consider an emergency rule on the herbicide.The Agriculture Council of Arkansas says the 9-5 vote Friday morning also calls for expediting enforcement of new penalties."The proposed rule is the first step in the process of establishing an emergency rule. The next step includes a review of the proposed rule by the Governor before being submitted to the Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council for approval," according to Adriane Barnes, Director of Communication with the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

Troxler defends NC milk inspection program following alarming audit

WRAL | Posted on June 23, 2017

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler on Thursday responded to recent criticism by state auditors who say his agency's inspectors aren't tough enough on dairies when handling out grades on their milk.According to an audit released Wednesday, inspectors rarely took action when they noted repeated violations. In one case, for example, the inspector marked violations of the same two requirements for six successive inspections without suspending the dairy's permit to market its milk as Grade A.Troxler mostly spoke about what he called "inaccuracies" in the audit. He talked about the processes milk producers go through and the work of inspectors to make sure they are being followed.During the years the audit took place, Troxler said there were nearly 13,000 tests on milk samples. He said only one showed unacceptable bacteria levels, and Troxler claims that facility was suspended from producing Grade A milk."I can tell you I am very upset and disappointed," Troxler said. "I want to make it clear that we have a safe milk supply that is inspected. Milk is the most regulated commodity sold in the United States, and it's because of the processes involved."

Judge reverses key ruling in $1.4 billion timber class action

Capital Press | Posted on June 23, 2017

A judge has ruled that counties can’t sue the State of Oregon for financial damages, potentially undermining a $1.4 billion class action lawsuit over state logging practices.Linn County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Murphy has reversed an earlier ruling in the case, which held that Oregon’s “sovereign immunity” doesn’t bar counties from seeking such damages.In his most recent June 20 decision, Murphy has agreed with Oregon’s attorneys that counties — as subdivisions of the state — cannot sue the state government for money.Murphy said he’s “well aware this interpretation contradicts” his earlier opinion, but he will provide the plaintiff counties with “the opportunity to re-plead their case in such a manner that is supported by the law if they can.”“Like peeling a very large onion this case contains complex layers of legal issues and theory that can take time to unravel,” he said.The judge has left open the possibility for the plaintiffs to seek an “equitable” remedy, such as an injunction or order that requires the state government to take certain actions without paying financial damages.

PA:House and Senate bills aim to protect animals left in hot vehicles

Lancaster online | Posted on June 23, 2017

Pet owners who leave their dogs or cats in a vehicle in extreme heat conditions are the targets of bills being considered by both the state House and Senate this session.House Bill 1236 relieves a police officer, humane society police officer or firefighter who enters a vehicle to rescue a dog or cat from any liability for damage caused by the rescue.The House bill mandates that the officer first “makes a reasonable effort to locate the person who owes a duty of care to the animal,” “acts under a reasonable belief that the animal is in severe physical distress” and “takes reasonable steps to ensure or restore the well-being of the animal.”Further, the officer must leave a note on the vehicle informing the owner who took the animal and where it can be retrieved.Senate Bill 636 goes further, making it a summary offense to leave a dog or cat in an unattended vehicle in “extreme heat, endangering the dog’s or the cat’s health and well-being.”A first responder may “take any action to safeguard the dog or cat, including, but not limited to, breaking into the motor vehicle to remove the dog or cat” from the vehicle, the Senate bill says. The Senate bill also relieves the first responder of liability for damage to the vehicle and requires the responder to leave a note for the owner and take the dog or cat for medical treatment.

Governor Cuomo Announces Grand Opening of $4.9 Million Community Kitchen in Rochester

New York Governor | Posted on June 23, 2017

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand opening of Foodlink’s new $4.9 million community kitchen in Rochester. The 28,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility will enable the non-profit organization to significantly expand its programs and services geared toward ending hunger in the region.  "This project will broaden access to fresh food, provide employees with skills they need for future success, and support efforts to reduce poverty and end hunger across the region," Governor Cuomo said. "Our investments in community health and job creation are helping to move the Finger Lakes Forward.”The food hub’s new community kitchen will work to build community health and nutrition and to reduce poverty through targeted job creation in the culinary industry. The project will retain Foodlink’s 77 employees and create up to 34 new jobs over the next five years. Additionally, its Culinary Career Training program will also train 20 to 30 individuals by 2019 at the new facility located at 1999 Mt. Read Boulevard in Rochester.

Regulatory overhaul could give boost to independent generation in Michigan

Midwest Energy News | Posted on June 23, 2017

Advocates say recent regulatory changes in Michigan could spur more solar energy development from independent producers and ensure existing renewable energy generators are paid fair prices from utilities for their power. On May 31, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved changes to the way avoided costs are determined under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978. Avoided costs are those that utilities pay independent power producers for their electricity that the utility would have otherwise had to pay itself. In Michigan, there are 45 facilities under contract with utilities, mostly landfill gas and hydro.The long-awaited changes to determining avoided costs, which are the first in roughly 25 years in Michigan, could provide protection to independent power producers who say they are at risk of shutting down. In a rate caseinvolving Consumers Energy, producers feared their avoided costs would have been cut in half, making their plants not economically viable.

Federal Pullback, Climate Change Could Boost State Spending on Disasters

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on June 23, 2017

The roughly 150 mph winds hopped over Chef Menteur Highway and blew out walls at a NASA assembly plant. By the time the tornado fizzled out over Lake Borgne, it had caused millions of dollars of damage. Together with a cluster of other windstorms, it yielded the seventh presidentially declared major disaster of 2017. States have come to rely on these declarations, a practice that helps individuals and communities recover from disasters. And since the 1980s, the federal government has been on the hook for the majority of recovery costs when a disaster is declared.But as the country faces an increasing number of billion-dollar disasters, federal officials are considering scaling back that spending, aiming to save taxpayer money and encourage states to prepare for disasters with their own resources. And that has some local officials worried. Without the federal relief they depend on, many communities could be hamstrung after a disaster, unable to help their most vulnerable residents.Some could have to hold back so much money that other programs and services would suffer, said Bryan Koon, Florida’s emergency management director. “They would be miserable places to live and if you have a large enough disaster, they would be destroyed.”The proposed pullback, along with the threat of more frequent and intense natural disasters linked to climate change, is already forcing cities and states to change the way they prepare for — and recover from — events like tornadoes, forest fires, floods and hurricanes.

Ohio announces agriculture easements on 59 farms totalling 8700 acres

Peak of Ohio | Posted on June 23, 2017

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) this week announced approval for local sponsors to purchase agricultural easements on 58 family farms representing 8,737 acres in 28 counties. Logan County has several such easements in place. Local sponsoring organizations, which include land trusts, counties and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, receive funding from the Clean Ohio Fund to manage the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP). The easement ensures farms remain permanently in agricultural production. The program supports the state’s largest industry, food and agriculture.To be eligible for the program, farms must be larger than 40 acres or next to a preserved farm, actively engaged in farming, participate in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation program, demonstrate good stewardship of the land, have support from local government and not be in close proximity to development. Landowners may use the proceeds of the easement in any way they wish, but most reinvest it in their farm operation.

Oregon moves to strengthen its unique sanctuary state status

Statesman Journal | Posted on June 21, 2017

Oregon's Legislature took a step closer Tuesday to strengthening its unique sanctuary-state status, with the House passing a bill that would bar state and local agencies from asking about a person's immigration status and from disclosing information to federal officials, except in certain circumstances.  The bill, introduced at the request of Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, both Democrats, has sharply divided lawmakers along party lines in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.Oregon became America's first, and so far only, sanctuary state in 1987 with a law preventing law enforcement from detaining people who are in the United States illegally but have not broken other laws. In February, Brown ordered all state agencies to follow it. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill that would create another sanctuary state.A federal judge has blocked, at least temporarily, an executive order issued by Trump to cut funding to sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents.