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4/15/2014 @ 9:39AM
Regulation is getting really complicated. Don’t expect it to get easier any time soon.
Countless articles have been written lately about the very real business challenges created by the onslaught of new regulation in everything from finance to technology to healthcare. The gripes are justified. Ten years ago there were 2 or 3 major regulators that most big companies had to deal with; now there are hundreds, creating a global patchwork of complex, often contradictory corporate compliance hurdles for multinational companies.
Why is this happening? One easy answer is that too-big-to-fail has led to a regulatory free-for-all that’s too-complex-to-manage. Sure, cash-strapped governments around the world see some new regulations as an opportunity to generate revenues and others as good sense guidelines to reduce the risk of another credit crunch. But there’s more to it than that. When you look closely at this golden age of regulatory scrupulosity, the real driver is innovation.
Innovation and regulation have a tenuous relationship at best. While the base goal of regulation is to keep a level playing field, the base goal of innovation is to disrupt the status quo in a way that often upsets that balance.Share This Post
Published April 10, 2014
California is known for being a leader in solar energy, but a small county in Northern California has taken things a step further. It has become the first county government in the state to not only zero-out its electric bill with renewable energy, but also to become grid positive. Yolo County (population 200,000), just west of Sacramento County, now produces 152 percent more energy from solar panels than it uses.
Terry Vernon, deputy director of Yolo County General Services, is behind much of the solar success. In 2010, the Yolo County government was facing an annual $1.4 million electric bill. Vernon knew there was a better way. In the 1980s, Vernon helped Stanford University put power back into the grid with a cogeneration plant that heated the entire campus. So he was no stranger to innovative energy solutions, and knew that he could help power Yolo County with renewables. The issue he was facing, however, was that Yolo County was, like the rest of the country, in a recession.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/04/10/how-small-county-california-went-grid-positiveShare This Post
By Rebecca Cole
Published April 14, 2014
In this final installment of our eLab Accelerator blog series (read part 1 and part 2), we are reviewing three teams who are focused on developing strategies to understand and achieve clean energy futures.
The increasing capability and affordability of renewables and distributed resources, the pressure to combat climate change, and the need for a more resilient electricity system are creating opportunities as well as challenges the likes of which our electricity system has never faced before. By working together, these teams recognize that successful solutions must address not only the technical but also the social and creative complexity facing the electricity system.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/04/14/3-pathways-clean-energyShare This Post
Hundreds of non-union workers in Irwindale may lose their jobs as part of Southern California Edison's plan to become more efficient.
By Marc Lifsher
April 15, 2014, 5:00 a.m.
Southern California Edison Co. plans to lay off hundreds of employees as part of a management streamlining and outsourcing of some functions such as information technology.
The number of workers affected by the cuts will be "in the high hundreds," said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), chairman of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. "It's pretty disappointing.... [The cuts] are not going to help" the California economy.
Padilla was briefed by his committee consultants, who said they were told that the utility expected to cut 500 in-house employees and another 400 to 500 contract workers beginning this summer. Most of the layoffs would be at Edison's sprawling Irwindale office complex.
The utility acknowledged in a statement its plans for cuts this summer — including greater use of outside vendors — but did not offer an estimate of the number of workers affected.
But in an April 1 memo provided to The Times in Sacramento, the Rosemead-based company said it is shrinking staffing and increasing outsourcing because "in recent years, SCE has experienced high growth in its employee base." The company currently has about 14,000 people.
"SCE's employment growth is not sustainable," the company memo said. "To continue to thrive and remain a viable employer, the company has been making difficult business decisions resulting in reductions in force. SCE does not take this action lightly and has put a lot of thought and consideration into ways it can support its employees through this difficult transition."
To read the entire article go to: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-edison-layoffs-20140415,0,5330268.storyShare This Post
By NEELA BANERJEE
Tribune Washington BureauApril 15, 2014
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's first-ever limits on air toxics, including emissions of mercury, arsenic and acid gases, preserving a far-reaching rule the White House had touted as central to President Barack Obama's environmental agenda.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the rule "was substantively and procedurally valid," turning aside challenges brought by Republican-led states that had argued it was onerous and environmental groups that had contended it did not go far enough.
The EPA called the decision "a victory for public health and the environment." Liz Purchia, a spokeswoman, said, "These practical and cost-effective standards will save thousands of lives each year, prevent heart and asthma attacks, while slashing emissions of the neurotoxin mercury, which can impair children's ability to learn."
Environmentalists also hailed the ruling, which John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council called a "sweeping victory." Walke said the rule was arguably the most "important regulation driving the cleanup of old, dirty coal plants."
To read the entire article go to: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/04/15/224559/appeals-court-upholds-epa-limits.html?sp=/99/200/260/Share This Post
Ronald R. Cooke | Apr 15, 2014
Comments about coal are usually not complimentary. Despite our dependence on it as a source of heat for electric power generation, environmentalists wish it would go away. On the other hand, advocates like to claim we have more than 110 years of coal left - "at present rates of consumption". Both sides are overlooking crucial points. Let's see if we can clarify the future use of coal as a fossil fuel resource.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.energybiz.com/article/14/04/peak-coal?utm_source=2014_04_16&utm_medium=eNL&utm_campaign=EB_DAILY&utm_content=243426Share This Post
By Alex Nussbaum
Oil fields are spinning off thousands of tons of low-level radioactive trash as the U.S. drilling boom leads to a surge in illegal dumping and states debate how much landfills can safely take.
State regulators are caught between environmental and public health groups demanding more regulation and the industry, which says it’s already taking proper precautions. As scientists debate the impact of small amounts of radiation on cancer risks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says there’s not enough evidence to say what level is safe.
Left to police the waste, state governments are increasing their scrutiny of well operators. Pennsylvania and West Virginia are revising limits for acceptable radiation levels and strengthening disposal rules. North Dakota’s doing the same after finding piles of garbage bags filled with radioactive debris in an abandoned building this year.
To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/04/16/illegal-dumping-of-radioactive-waste-surges-with-oil-boom/Share This Post
- April 16 at 5:30 am
Former president Jimmy Carter has joined a group of Nobel laureates who oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, warning President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry, “You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change."
By announcing his opposition, Carter becomes the first former president to come out against the controversial project. Two years ago former president George W. Bush called the proposal "a no-brainer," and that same year former president Bill Clinton said that the revised route of the pipeline avoided Nebraska's Sandhills region, ""So, I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work modeled on what was done with auto mileage agreement."
Prominent Democrats -- including those who have worked directly for Obama -- remain split on whether the president should grant TransCandada the right to build the nearly 1,700-mile pipeline. Americans continue to support the project by a wide margin, despite the fact that many environmentalists argue it will accelerate global warming by hastening the energy-intense extraction of heavy crude from Alberta's oil sands region.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/04/16/jimmy-carter-comes-out-against-keystone-xl-pipeline/Share This Post
By EMMA G. FITZSIMMONSAPRIL 16, 2014
The cleanup efforts on the Gulf Coast in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have entered a new phase, with the oil company BP announcing that it was ending its “active cleanup” of Louisiana’s coast almost four years after the disaster.
In a statement, BP said that the Coast Guard ended patrols on Tuesday of the final three miles of affected shoreline in Louisiana.
Still, the Coast Guard stressed that a more narrow cleanup response would continue and that crews would remain in the Gulf Coast to respond to new reports of oil. Teams will be prepositioned to provide a rapid response when they are needed, the Coast Guard said in a statement on Tuesday night.
“Let me be absolutely clear: This response is not over — not by a long shot,” said Capt. Thomas Sparks, the federal on-scene coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon Response. The transition to the new phase of the response,” he said, “does not end cleanup operations, and we continue to hold the responsible party accountable for Deepwater Horizon cleanup costs.”
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/us/bp-oil-cleanup-gulf-coast.html?ref=energy-environmentShare This Post
Posted: 04/13/2014 3:25 pm EDT Updated: 04/15/2014 10:59 am EDT
For those who see September 11 as the "ground zero" date for thinking about national security, they can add the August 14, 2003, grid failure to their view. That was when the nefarious action of a tree branch falling on a power line cut power for 50 million people in 7 industrial states plus Ontario for up to 2 days.
Then another date to add is April 16, 2013, when a still unknown group assaulted the grid serving Silicon Valley in a twenty-minute high precision shooting spree against a substation with 17 transformers. Appearing to have insider knowledge, the shooters targeted cooling units. Due to the time of day and year, the grid's load was low enough for sufficient extra juice to come from nearby power stations to prevent an outage. Disaster averted, but major lesson learned.
As Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has said often and publicly, this attack may have been a dress rehearsal for a wider attack against the nation. Maybe we could thank the attackers for showing us something critical to our survival.
As it is, cyber security for utilities is burgeoning. According to a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Department of Homeland Security responded to 198 cyber incidents in fiscal year 2012 across all critical infrastructure sectors, with forty-one percent involving the electricity sector.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield/for-energy-security-bring_b_5092181.htmlShare This Post
4/14/2014 @ 8:25PM
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said that utility regulators could fine electric utilities for failing to restore electric “service to customers in a safe and reasonably prompt manner” after a major storm.
In Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Company v. Department of Public Utilities, the five major utilities providing electric service in Massachusetts challenged the (state) constitutionality of a law passed in 2012 that prohibited utilities from recovering fines for poor performance from customers in their rates.
The legislation, which was passed after a series of storms in 2011 resulted in prolonged outages in Massachusetts, allows the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to impose non-recoverable sanctions on electric utilities that must be paid by shareholders.
In other words, the law expressly prohibits electric companies from passing the cost of these fines on to their customers “in any rate proceeding before the department.”
Unlike other fines, the 2012 legislation prohibited utilities from passing on the cost of paying fines to customers. In other words, the legislation allows state utility regulators to impose sanctions on utilities that must be paid by their shareholders.Share This Post
By Randy Record and David Orth
Randy Record is a director of Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County and a past president of the Association of California Water Agencies. David Orth is general manager of the Kings River Conservation District in Fresno County and a member of the ACWA board of directors.
Special to The Bee
Published: Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014 - 12:00 am
It’s the height of the spring planting season in the San Joaquin Valley. But this year, the sight of well-digging rigs is adding a new dimension to a problem quietly unfolding beneath large swaths of this fertile land.
Faced with the prospect of receiving little or no surface water due to drought, growers are relying on groundwater like never before to stay afloat this year. It’s a symptom of a problem that is sparking new levels of concern among the state’s water managers.
Three consecutive dry years and two decades of unreliable surface water supplies, along with significant increases in permanent agricultural plantings in some areas, are putting unprecedented strain on groundwater basins in the Valley and elsewhere in the state. In some areas, groundwater levels have dropped so much that the land is subsiding to an alarming degree with potentially catastrophic economic impacts.
Though the vast majority of California’s groundwater basins are under sound local and regional management, some are not. The decline of groundwater is becoming unsustainable in some basins, while local subsidence and degraded water quality continue to raise alarm. In some cases, unchecked new demands for groundwater in areas not under active management are stressing the resource to a tipping point.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/04/16/6327537/viewpoints-its-time-for-a-breakthrough.htmlShare This Post
Posted on Tuesday, April 15 at 10:59am | By Carolyn Lochhead
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s revised drought bill is coming under increasing attack from the left even as the California Democrat tries to woo Republicans to speed the bill’s passage through the Senate without committee consideration.
More than a dozen environmental groups, including Sierra Club California, Audubon California, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued a letter late Monday demanding changes to the revised bill, S.2198.
Feinstein has been pressuring state and federal water agencies to provide maximum pumping of the season’s March rains to provide relief to San Joaquin Valley farms, despite the dire straits of migrating salmon. Feinstein dropped $300 million in spending on drought relief projects to lure Senate GOP votes.
To read the entire article go to: http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2014/04/15/environmentalists-slam-dianne-feinsteins-drought-bill/Share This Post
Published: Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014 - 12:00 am
Californians agree their state is parched, but they diverge by region on how supplies dried up and what should be done about the drought.
“There’s clearly a consensus that the state has a serious water shortage,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said of a survey on the subject released Tuesday. “There, however, is no consensus to what got us into this situation.”
Most voters told the Field Poll the state is grappling with a serious water shortage, and nearly two-thirds described the shortfall as “extremely serious.” While recent rains have somewhat replenished snowpack and reservoirs, the current drought remains one of the state’s worst.
Assigning blame – beyond lack of rain – got more complicated. A substantial chunk of voters, about 37 percent, said the fault lies with inefficient water use. A quarter of voters, 27 percent, said the problem is a lack of water storage facilities, a designation that generally evokes surface storage projects like dams and reservoirs but can also include groundwater. Another quarter saw some combination of the two.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/04/16/6327692/field-poll-drought-responses-split.htmlShare This Post
—By Tom Philpott
| Wed Apr. 16, 2014 3:00 AM PDT
Like college sophomores philosophizing over bong hits late at night, the California North Coast's booming marijuana farms languish in the smoky haze of paradox. On the one hand, they're hyper-regulated—that is to say, illegal (with the exception of farms licensed to grow for the medical trade). On the other hand, being illegal, they're essentially not regulated at all, as my colleague Josh Harkinson showed in a recent piece.
A rogue grower tending a plot on a California state park isn't worried about running afoul of state fish-and-wildlife authorities for illegally diverting a stream for irrigation. Instead, he's scrambling to avoid being busted on federal drug charges—and will thus grab any resource necessary to churn out a fast-and-plentiful pot harvest.
And with California's drought settling in for a long, hot summer, that's bad news for ecosystems that rely on the state's increasingly scarce surface waters—including the once-prolific northern California salmon run. A recent article in the Mendocino County Press Democrat shows just how dire things have gotten in the state's pot-farm-heavy "Emerald Triangle" (Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties).
A pot plant consumes 6 gallons of water every day.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/your-pot-habit-sucks-salmonShare This Post