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What’s happening in Kansas could be happening in your state. It’s not completely clear that the efforts to rollback the statewide renewable energy requirements there — and in 16 other states — will succeed. But it is obvious that, nationally, the tax preference given to renewables is fading.
Here’s the parallel: Most free market planners are opposed to mandatory statutes that require utilities to offer certain amounts of green energy. Kansas has those, along with about 30 states — in some form or another. Meantime, the production tax credit given to wind energy expired at year-end 2013. While it could get resurrected in a tax compromise, it could also permanently die down.
Just how state legislators and federal lawmakers resolve those issues will have profound economic consequences: Utilities are devising their portfolio strategies while the associated businesses are trying to make their hiring plans. Reaching an equilibrium is never easy.Share This Post
By David Siders
Published: Saturday, Mar. 8, 2014 - 10:53 pm
Activists protesting Brown’s permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial form of oil extraction, held signs and chanted feet from the podium where Brown addressed the California Democratic Party’s annual convention. The demonstration provoked Brown to defend his environmental record and to accuse environmentalists, like other Californians, of driving too much.
“All you guys who like to make noise, just listen a moment,” Brown said. “Californians, and most of you included, are driving over 330 billion miles a year. Three hundred and thirty billion miles a year, and 99 percent is fossil fuel.”
The exchange overshadowed Brown’s first major speech since announcing just more than a week ago that he will seek re-election. The activists gained attention in part because of the boisterousness of their protest and in part because Brown – facing relatively safe election prospects – said little on any other subject he has not said before.
“You can be sure that everything that needs to be done to fight climate change that we can accomplish, we’ll do it,” Brown said. “And I ask all of you, every one of you in this room, to join in a crusade to protect our climate, to find other ways of mobility, and to make sure this California dream is alive and well both now and for generations to come.”
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/08/6221247/environmentalists-protest-gov.htmlShare This Post
on March 07, 2014 at 5:07 PM, updated March 07, 2014 at 5:18 PM
COLUMBUS - The "sweet spot" in Ohio's Utica shale is turning out to be much smaller than once believed, a veteran state geologist has concluded.
But the production so far from that small area has pushed companies that build gas processing plants into a construction frenzy in an effort to handle the billions cubic feet of gas being produced, according to an executive from a leading "midstream" company building in Ohio.
Larry Wickstrom, the former chief geologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and now in private business, told the 1500 attending the Ohio Oil and Gas Association's annual winter conference on Friday that the most productive wells drilled so far are in a strip that runs from Carroll County in the North to Washington County in the south.
"The real hot spot on the play will be more toward the south than some folks originally thought," he said.
Wickstrom noted that he has assembled privately available data and limited public data for his conclusions, not the final production data for all of 2013 that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has yet to publish.
Peter MacKenzie, the association's vice president of operations, on Thursday estimated that Ohio gas wells produced more than 203 billion cubic feet of gas in 2013 - more than double the 89.4 billion cubic feet produced in 2012.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2014/03/utica_shale_play_smaller_than.htmlShare This Post
Sand is used in the fracking process, and there's plenty of it to be mined in the upper Midwest. As a sand-mining boom has emerged, residents are divided over whether it's lifting or ruining their communities.
By Richard Mertens, Correspondent / March 9, 2014
Sand has become a valuable – and deeply divisive – commodity in the upper Midwest. Hydraulic fracturing, a method of extraction also known as fracking that has boosted oil and natural gas production across the United States, requires sand, and there's plenty of it here. And so in dozens of small towns and rural townships in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and especially Wisconsin, the demand for frac sand, as it's called, has brought a surge of new mining activity. Scores of companies have poured in, eager to take advantage of the thick sandstone that underlies the bluffs and ridges of the region's picturesque river country.
The sand rush has created jobs and enriched landowners, but it also has divided neighbors, strained local governments, and set off fierce debates over its benefits and its costs to the land, public health, and quality of life.
"I don't think we were surprised that they found ways to extract it," says John Kimmel, the mayor of Arcadia, a town of 3,000 residents in Wisconsin's Trempealeau County. "I think we were surprised at the effect it's had on the community – and on how many mines have just started to pop up all over."
To read the entire article go to: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2014/0309/Next-fracking-controversy-In-the-Midwest-a-storm-brews-over-frac-sand-videoShare This Post
LUSBY, Md. — Sixty miles from the nation’s capital, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, seven massive natural gas tanks tower over white pipelines that snake into the sea.
Their destination is an offshore dock one mile from the coast, with two piers that jut like outstretched arms into the water, waiting for massive tankers to unload liquefied natural gas destined for customers along the East Coast.
But Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources now wants to turn its entire Cove Point operation around, reversing the flow so it can liquefy the natural gas now pouring out of Pennsylvania wells and load it onto tankers bound for India and Japan.
Dominion’s plan to expand the 40-year-old Cove Point LNG terminal is one of roughly two dozen similar ventures around the United States aimed at exploiting the current drilling boom and giving natural gas producers a crack at Asian markets hungry for the fossil fuel.
The company has said the gas liquefied at its Cove Point facility could come from fields across the United States — including wells as far away as Texas — though the Marcellus is a likely source. For the next two decades, the natural gas would go to Tokyo’s Sumitomo Corp. and New Delhi-based GAIL India.
To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/03/09/stakes-are-high-for-lng-export-plan/Share This Post
Posted: 03/07/2014 3:46 pm EST Updated: 03/07/2014 3:59 pm EST
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center
In the overheated Capitol Hill politics, even energy efficiency is controversial. The bipartisan team of Senators Shaheen and Portman unfortunately face considerable hurdles in their common sense efforts to advance focused energy efficiency legislation.
By contrast, in the Midwest Heartland, there is a quiet revolution as game changing energy efficiency is moving forward. Midwest electricity demand is declining on a weather-normalized basis. This is attributable to:
1. Energy efficiency programs that utilities, environmental organizations and consumer groups are working together to design and effectively implement in several Midwest states. $2.5-$3 billion of energy efficiency program investments over the past several years are, indeed, moving the needle.
2. Federal appliance efficiency standards that are having an impact as people and business purchase new products and equipment. The much more energy efficient new models are replacing less efficient appliances and other equipment.
3. The technological improvements in lighting, air conditioners, refrigerators and chillers, a wide range of appliances, furnaces, computers, big-screen TVs and pumps and motors that people are installing in their homes and businesses. They're all more energy efficient which saves business and residential consumers money on their utility bills while also reducing pollution.
All of this is occurring at a time of overall Midwest regional economic growth.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-learner/game-changing-quiet-revol_b_4921199.htmlShare This Post
By Rebecca Leber on March 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm
BP CEO Robert Dudley had a busy year fighting the massive settlement he agreed to in 2012 that would pay for economic losses from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. His corporation may still be mired in lawsuits, but Dudley received a big pay raise last year that is worth triple his total pay from 2012. Counting his salary, bonus, and stock options, Dudley’s compensation was $8.7 million. With his pension included, Dudley cleared $13.2 million.
“BP has made strong progress over the past three years under Bob Dudley’s leadership – particularly in areas such as safety, operations and building for the future through reserve replacement – and his remuneration reflects this,” a BP spokesman said. “The great majority of his potential pay is directly dependent on BP’s performance in areas essential both to the delivery of the company’s strategy and to the long-term interests of its shareholders.”
When it comes to Dudley’s peers, CEO salaries are not a great indicator of performance. In the financial sector, 32 percent of the best-paid CEOs were the ones who would get bailouts, were fired, or caught for fraud. In 2010, when BP was still in damage-control over the spill, GOP lawmakers blocked raising the liability cap for oil spills at $75 million, which Democrats argued was a bailout for oil disasters. In fact, after former CEO Tony Hayward resigned from BP, he walked away with a year’s worth of salary, totaling $1.6 million and a $17 million pension. BP and the rest of the oil industry also continue to benefit from $4 billion in annual federal tax breaks.
Dudley now leads one of the most profitable oil companies in the world, pulling in a $13.4 billion profit last year. His leadership also includes defending BP’s aggressive legal tactics to lower its debts over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Payments to residents and local businesses “are going out to pay people who suffered, in many cases, no losses from the spill,” Dudley said in an interview last year. “And this is just not right. I don’t think it’s right for America.” But BP lost another one of its appeals this Tuesday to change the terms of its settlement with local businesses it claims filed exaggerated or invented losses. BP has so far paid a little over a third of a total $9.2 billion estimate.Share This Post
By MATTHEW L. WALDMARCH 9, 2014
Lessons From Fukushima
Three years after a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the crisis is still unfolding. In the United States, the disaster served as a warning to the nuclear industry.
PEACH BOTTOM, Pa. — Stored near the twin nuclear reactors here, safely above the flood level of the Susquehanna River, is a gleaming new six-wheel pickup truck with a metal blade on the front that can plow away debris from an earthquake or other disaster. Attached to the back is a trailer that carries a giant diesel-powered pump that can deliver 500 gallons of water a minute.
If the operators at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan had owned such equipment when the tsunami struck three years ago Tuesday, they might have staved off disaster, plant operators say.
Now, here at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant, which has the same design as Fukushima Daiichi, engineers and technicians are busy applying such lessons, preparing for a worst-case scenario even worse than the plant’s designers envisioned in the 1970s.
“After Fukushima, we have to ask, what if we were wrong?” said Michael Pacilio, Exelon’s chief nuclear officer, showing off the truck and other purchases.
Exelon operates 17 of the 100 commercial power reactors in this country, and expects to spend $400 million to $500 million in post-Fukushima upgrades
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/10/business/after-fukushima-utilities-prepare-for-worst.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0Share This Post
Duke Energy, the “coalition of the willing” and the open smart grid manifesto
March 4, 2014
For the past year or so, giant U.S. utility Duke Energy has been engaged in a potentially revolutionary project: getting some of the world’s biggest smart grid technology vendors to open up their systems, akin to how iOS and Android have opened the world’s smartphones.
Now Duke is recruiting new utility and vendor members as it publishes its open-source code manifesto.
The work started at Duke’s McAlpine pilot project in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the utility and its partners formed the “coalition of the willing” -- Accenture, Alstom, Ambient, Echelon, S&C Electric and Verizon -- to connect smart meters, solar inverters, battery controllers, distribution grid control systems and network nodes, all with open-source adapters that render them capable of “talking” to one another and make split-second grid balancing decisions.
At this January’s DistribuTECH conference, Duke and its coalition partners did their first off-site demo, showing how voltage and current sensing, fast-reacting grid support, and battery and inverter energy injection could smooth out a mockup of a set of grid-edge scenarios -- say, clouds passing over a big solar PV array -- in ways that centrally controlled systems simply couldn’t manage.Share This Post
HOUSTON — The booming oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin has created a voracious demand for power in West Texas, one that the grid is struggling to keep pace with, a Texas grid manager said Thursday.
“Growth out in the far West is 20 to 25 percent year over year. It has just exploded and it is all oil field load,” said Brad Jones, vice president of commercial operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid for most of Texas.
Jones was one of several speakers at a morning panel at the IHS CERAWeek energy summit in Houston, speaking about electricity issues confronting Texas.
But a lack of juice has not slowed down production, Jones added.
“Because it is difficult to build transmission and distribution fast enough to meet their needs, many of them are developing their fields and building their own microgrids on generators,” Jones said. “As soon as the distribution lines are built out to them, they move their generators to another location.”
The soaring electricity demand in West Texas is one of several issues Texas is facing, as the demands of the state’s growing population raise concerns about the grid’s reliability, panelists said.
To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/03/06/texas-grid-takes-on-the-drilling-boom/Share This Post
By Monte Morin
March 3, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
Americans use twice the amount of water they think they do, and appear to be particularly oblivious about how much H2O they flush down the toilet on a daily basis, according to new research.
In a paper published online Monday in the journal PNAS, a researcher concluded that Americans underestimated their water use by a factor of 2, and were only slightly aware of how much water goes into growing the food they eat.
"In general, people tend to underestimate water by a very large magnitude," said study author Shahzeen Attari, an assistant professor in the Department of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
The study's conclusions were based on an Internet survey of 1,020 people, and comes amid a national drought that extends from the Pacific Coast to portions of the Mississippi Valley, with the most severe conditions in California.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-americans-underestimate-personal-water-usage-study-says-20140227,0,3836890.storyShare This Post
By Katie Valentine on March 6, 2014 at 4:33 pm
A North Carolina county judge ruled Thursday that Duke Energy must immediately act to stop groundwater contamination coming from its 14 coal-fired power plants in the state.
The ruling, issued by Judge Paul Ridgeway, directs Duke to come up with a plan to clean up sites that have been contaminated by leaking coal ash ponds, reversing a 2012 North Carolina Environmental Management Commission ruling that Duke wasn’t required to immediately clean up contaminated groundwater from its operations. That ruling was contested by multiple environmental groups more than a year ago, but the new ruling comes just over a month after about 35 million gallons of coal ash from a Duke Energy coal ash basin spilled into the Dan River.
“The ruling leaves no doubt, Duke Energy is past due on its obligation to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination, its unlined coal ash pits, and the State has both the authority and a duty to require action now,” D.J. Gerken, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement. “This ruling enforces a common-sense requirement in existing law – before you can clean up contaminated groundwater, you first must stop the source of the contamination- in this case, Duke’s unlined coal ash pits.”Share This Post
By Ryan Koronowski on March 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm
Drill station control labels are used as signs for the different rooms at the Running Right Leadership Academy in Julian, Va., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. Alpha Natural Resources safety training center grew out of its $210 million non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Alpha Natural Resources, the third-largest coal company in the U.S., agreed to pay a $27.5 million fine after violating water pollution permits in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Over the last seven years, Alpha and its subsidiaries discharged heavy metals into waterways across those five Appalachian states 6,289 times, through 794 different discharge points, sometimes by as much as 35 times the legal limit.
The pollutants that spilled from the coal mines throughout Appalachia include “iron, pH, total suspended solids, aluminum, manganese, selenium, and salinity,” according to an EPA press release.
The giant coal company will also spend $200 million to stop sending toxic discharge into the nations rivers and streams. According to the AP, which obtained details about the settlement on Wednesday, “under the agreement, the mine operators will install wastewater treatment systems and take other measures aimed at reducing discharges from 79 active coal mines and 25 coal-processing plants in those five states.”
Cynthia Giles, who runs the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement office, told the AP that the settlement was “the biggest case for permit violations for numbers of violations and size of the penalty, which reflects the seriousness of violations.”
“This is the largest one, period.”
A big part of the reason this settlement was so comprehensive and expensive is because in 2011, Alpha Natural Resources bought a coal company called Massey Energy. Massey’s coal operations account for more than half of the violations represented in Wednesday’s settlement.
Alpha spent $7.1 billion to purchase Massey, and it has been picking up the pieces ever since. Months after the purchase agreement was announced, Massey was still fighting a legal battle over dumping 1.4 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry into old underground coal mines — knowing all the while that the mines leaked into the water supply. Alpha settled the lawsuit with hundreds of West Virginia residents in 2011.
Massey received global headlines for the tragic explosion in 2010 that killed 29 miners, and stayed in the headlines as Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s confrontational relationship with safety regulators prompted shareholder calls for his resignation. In 2009, Blankenship called the idea that safety regulators cared more about coal miners than he did “as silly as global warming.” This despite the small world encompassing coal industry and coal regulators: President Bush appointed a former Massey official to an MSHA review commission in 2002.
In 2012, Massey mine superintendent Gary May pled guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy over deceiving federal safety regulators. When the Mine Safety and Health Administration would come for an inspection, May would warn miners, increase air ventilation, falsify records, and cut corners in order to hide dangerous safety violations.
Though 2014 is barely two months old, the U.S. has seen a raft of coal spills — in West Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia again, and West Virginia again — signaling the problem of dirty coal is not going away.Share This Post
San Joaquin Valley growers' demand for water conflicts with the needs of delta agriculture.
By George Skelton Capitol Journal
March 9, 2014, 5:35 p.m.
SACRAMENTO — Forget farmers vs. fishermen — or south state vs. north state. California's current water war is being waged most intensely by farmers against fellow farmers.
It's a Central Valley civil war. And within that vast food-producing region — Bakersfield to Redding — it's the San Joaquin Valley vs. the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Southern California is a paying participant, siding with the San Joaquin, but in a less combative role. Its goal is to ensure a more reliable flow of delta water over the Tehachapi. Still unanswered, however, is how much more that would cost Southland ratepayers.
The San Joaquin — especially the Westside I-5 corridor — has the political power in this fight. The weaker delta has the water and thus, one could argue, the moral high ground.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-cap-drought-20140310,0,5765786.column?Share This Post
By JAMES MCWILLIAMS MARCH 7, 2014
James McWilliams is a professor of history at Texas State University and the author, most recently, of “The Politics of the Pasture: How Two Cattle Inspired a National Debate About Eating Animals .”
AUSTIN, Tex. — CALIFORNIA is experiencing one of its worst droughts on record. Just two and a half years ago, Folsom Lake, a major reservoir outside Sacramento, was at 83 percent capacity. Today it’s down to 36 percent. In January, there was no measurable rain in downtown Los Angeles. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. President Obama has pledged $183 million in emergency funding. The situation, despite last week’s deluge in Southern California, is dire.
With California producing nearly half of the fruit and vegetables grown in the United States, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and grapes. These crops are the ones that a recent report in the magazine Mother Jones highlighted as being unexpectedly water intensive. Who knew, for example, that it took 5.4 gallons to produce a head of broccoli, or 3.3 gallons to grow a single tomato? This information about the water footprint of food products — that is, the amount of water required to produce them — is important to understand, especially for a state that dedicates about 80 percent of its water to agriculture.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/opinion/meat-makes-the-planet-thirsty.html?_r=0Share This Post