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SARL Members and Alumni News

Virginia’s move to join regional carbon market faces several challenges

Southeast Energy News | Posted on November 30, 2017

Despite a unanimous vote by a citizen’s air pollution board earlier this month, Virginia faces several hurdles, including possible court and legislative challenges, before it could join a regional carbon emissions trading network. “The biggest threat,” said Will Cleveland of the Southern Environmental Law Center, is “legislation in the General Assembly attacking or rolling back DEQ’s (Department of Environmental Quality) authority to address carbon pollution or some sort of budgetary maneuver to defund DEQ’s efforts.”“In court,” Cleveland added, “I’d anticipate litigation similar to (opponents’) challenges to the Clean Power Plan, attacking DEQ’s authority to regulate carbon.”The DEQ is the agency coordinating Virginia’s bid to link up with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, by early 2019.State Sen. Frank Wagner, who chairs the committee that presides over energy legislation in that chamber, has promised to bring in “all of the key players” with a “barrage of questions about the legality” of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive directive to link up with RGGI as a state-based replacement for the Clean Power Plan.

After Investing Billions, Is Illinois Grid Modernization Paying Off For Utilities And Customers?

Forbes | Posted on November 29, 2017

Illinois has invested billions in electricity grid infrastructure, and now ranks 2nd nationally on grid modernization, but are these bulky efforts actually paying off nearly six years into the state’s initiative? State utilities have markedly improved reliability and operational efficiency through innovative smart grid technologies, but Illinois’ ambitious goal of adding more than 4 gigawatts (GW) of new wind and solar requires more than a modern grid - it requires more flexibility from customers.Fortunately, realistic policy solutions are within reach. By removing market barriers to expand “real-time” power pricing options and maximize the benefits of smart meter investments, Illinois citizens could save billions and create a flexible grid capable of handling a massive expected influx of renewable energy by 2030.

High school senior proposes bill mandating ag education

Capital Press | Posted on November 29, 2017

 A high school senior will propose a bill during the 2018 Idaho legislative session requiring high school students to complete at least two agriculture education classes.If it passes, that means every student in the state would have to take at least two semesters of classes that teach them about agriculture. In other words, they would emerge from those classes with at least a basic understanding of the farming and ranching industry and where their food comes from, said Anna Peterson, 17, an FFA member at Skyview High School in Nampa who is proposing the legislation.

Rush of pot grows splits rural California before legal sales

News Observer | Posted on November 29, 2017

Marijuana has deeply divided financially strapped Calaveras County, among many where growers are increasingly open about their operations and are starting to encroach on neighborhoods.DiBasilio estimates the county — population 44,000 and about the size of Rhode Island — has more than 1,000 illegal farms in addition to the hundreds with permits or in the process of obtaining them. The influx has caused a backlash among residents and led to the ouster of some leaders who approved marijuana cultivation.Pot farmers operating legally, meanwhile, say they are helping the local economy and have threatened to sue over attempts to stop them.California is set to issue licenses in January to grow, transport and sell weed for recreational purposes, nearly 20 years after the state first authorized the drug's consumption with a doctor's recommendation.

State's solar energy program adds back grants

Biz Journal | Posted on November 29, 2017

Grants for solar energy manufacturing and arrays are being offered again in Pennsylvania. The Wolf administration announced this week that it had added back grants to the Solar Energy Program, which is designed to help finance solar energy projects and manufacturing in the state. The program is an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The program will now allow for grants of up to $5,000 or loans of up to $40,000 for each solar-manufacturing job created over three years for companies that make solar panels and equipment. It would also provide loans for companies that install solar energy projects for their own use. The funding is available to businesses, economic development organizations, cities, counties or school districts.

Critics: Ohio's plan to cut Lake Erie algae lacks direction

ABC News | Posted on November 29, 2017

Ohio's outline for sharply reducing what's making algae flourish in Lake Erie clearly shows that changes in farming methods are what's needed. The blueprint also has a long list of ways to do that, but some environmental groups say the state's updated plan still lacks clear direction about what should come next.The plan released Nov. 17 is designed to lay out how Ohio intends to reach its goal of making a 40 percent reduction of phosphorus that flows into the lake's western end within the next eight years.Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario along with Ohio signed a deal two years ago agreeing to make steep cuts of phosphorus, which mainly comes from farm fertilizers and livestock manure that winds up in streams and rivers and then feeds algae in the lake.Ohio's strategy calls for more than 50 steps to take or at least consider, including restoring wetlands along the lakeshore and looking at new limits on city wastewater plants.But critics say it lacks specifics.Gail Hesse, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes water program, compared the plan's list of actions with a grocery list. "They added more ingredients, but there's still no recipe," she said.The plan, for example, calls for continuing and expanding mostly voluntary farming practices — such as increasing soil testing and installing devices that control storm water — that are intended to slow fertilizer runoff. But what the plan doesn't get into is how much needs to be done or set goals to reach the 40 percent reduction, Hesse said.

MN:Ag loans expand for more pollution prevention; State extends eligibility to include larger livestock operations

Austin Daily Herald | Posted on November 28, 2017

Low-interest loans for projects that help prevent pollution are being expanded by the state to include larger livestock operations. Minnesota Department of Agriculture is expanding the Agricultural Best Management Practices – better known as AgBMP – loans under an agreement with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program in Louisiana. Livestock operations holding National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits or those with more than 1,000 animal units now can apply.A formal letter of understanding recently was signed recognizing the importance of coordinating pollution-prevention efforts throughout the Mississippi River watershed locally in Minnesota and in distant downstream areas, including the receiving waters of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.“This is great news for Mower County’s numerous livestock operators,” said Justin Hanson, district manager for Mower Soil & Water Conservation District. “We hope this leads to even more AgBMP funds being secured for local projects.”

New Hampshire: Jasper confirmed as agriculture commissioner with help from Dems

New Hampshire Union Leader | Posted on November 28, 2017

House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, won confirmation as commissioner of agriculture today, setting up a battle to replace him as the New Hampshire Legislature heads into the 2018 legislative session.The two Democrats on the council, Andru Volinsky of Concord and Chris Pappas of Manchester, helped deliver this appointment to Sununu, a first-term Republican. “I think if the person is qualified, you get your choice, governor,” Volinsky said.  Republican Councilors David Wheeler and Joseph Kenney said they could not support voting for Jasper until the end of the 2018 session.

State Legislative Update, AVMA

AVMA | Posted on November 28, 2017

Although most state legislatures are currently out of session, a number of state proposals related to animal welfare came forth this month from D.C., Michigan, New York, and Ohio. In Michigan, a new bill would prohibit any person from leaving or confining an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of the animal. The District of Columbia proposed a bill that would allow food establishments to permit dogs in outdoor dining areas and unenclosed sidewalk cafes. One of the bills introduced in New York would require a court to consider the best interest of a companion animal when awarding possession, of such animal, in a divorce or separation proceeding. New York lawmakers are also considering a bill that would prohibit any person from misrepresenting a companion animal and defines how a person could commit the crime of misrepresenting an animal. In Ohio, a bill has been put forth that would define what constitutes a “vicious dog” and modify the current definitions of a “dangerous dog” and a “nuisance dog.” This bill would also establish training requirements for dog wardens and deputies that includes 42 hours of initial training and 10 hours of continuing education within a time period established by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission.

To Keep Operating, New England Dairy Farm Looks To 'Milking Robots,' Tax Credits

New England Public Radio | Posted on November 22, 2017

This Thanksgiving, when scooping ice cream on top of warm apple pie, some Massachusetts lawmakers’ thoughts might turn to tax credits for dairy farmers. They would be expanded under a measure under consideration in the legislature. Given the state's fiscal situation, it isn't expected to become law anytime soon. We are currently milking about 155 cows in our new barn -- it's a 180-stall barn. We have two milking robots. Each milking robot can milk about 60 cows apiece, and — actually, I shouldn't call it a milking robot. It’s a voluntary milking system. The cows go and milk themselves. It's been phenomenal. It's our way of being ready for the next generation, investing in the next generation, being able to farm here in western Mass. Milk consumption is down, nationally, and milk prices are also down. And [State Rep.] Steve Kulick has filed a bill. It’s had some momentum in the past couple months. Right now it's sitting in Ways and Means. It would kind of bolster that milk price right now. What would that do here? So that's the dairy tax credit. And we do currently have a dairy tax credit, so it would be to increase that. It does make a difference to us now to have that. The dairy tax credit is when the price of milk that we are paid falls below the cost it takes us to make a gallon of milk. That's when the dairy tax credit kicks in. And the other important thing to point out about it is that is designed to help with our expenses. It is not designed for us to buy a new pickup truck, a new tractor. This is helping us pay our feed bill, our electric bill, our town taxes. It's for expenses, not for capital.