The oil industry has left a big footprint along the Gulf Coast, where a Delaware-sized stretch of Louisiana has disappeared. But few politicians would blame Big Oil for ecosystem abuse in a state where the industry employs up to 300,000 people and injects $73 billion into the economy. Until now. Following the lead of Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana political orthodoxy is being turned upside-down as prominent leaders of both parties join lawsuits seeking billions of dollars for environmental improvement projects. Down in the pancake-flat bayou, it's not easy to see what made so much of the coast sink into the Gulf of Mexico. But land's end is much closer now, and what remains has been disrupted. Access canals carved by the oil industry run straight as arrows, rusting signs warn of underwater pipelines and abandoned drilling platforms sink into the muck. As the Alliance refinery billows with fumes, the surrounding pastures are slowly sinking. "Our coast is in crisis," Edwards wrote in a letter to oil executives after their initial meeting in May, calling for an "amicable solution" to avoid years of litigation. He was soon seconded by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose family of Louisiana Democrats long supported Big Oil. Landrieu accused former state leaders of allowing the industry to cripple "in a generation or two what Mother Nature built in 7,000 years," and said the damage has spread "through the marsh like an infection.
St. Louis-based coal miner Peabody Energy Corp. which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy asked a U.S. judge for permission to pay nearly $12 million in bonuses to the company's top six executives if it meets performance targets and emerges from bankruptcy. In a filing, Peabody said the incentives would help the company maximize its value for the benefit of all stakeholders. If the company falls short of the targets, executives will receive only their base salaries, which range from $444,000 to $1 million, Reuters reports.
Advocates say a little-known provision of the Clean Power Plan could become a powerful tool to advance environmental justice. TheClean Energy Incentive Program is aimed at “removing barriers to investment in energy efficiency and solar measures in low‐income communities," plus sparking "zero-emitting" renewable energy development, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes it. At a hearing in Chicago, people from across the country called on the agency to use the relatively modest program to help atone for a long history of disproportionate impacts of fossil fuels on low-income, black, Latino, Appalachian and Native American residents. The CEIP essentially creates a pool of carbon emissions allowances and Emissions Rate Credits that could be awarded to developers of renewable energy or energy efficiency programs, then sold on the market. The credits/allowances are considered to be equivalent to 300 short tons of carbon dioxide nationwide.
Colorado has become ground zero for a fight being waged around the world by people opposing fracking for a variety of health and environmental reasons. Two ballot initiatives are pushing for enough signatures to make the November ballot. Initiative 75 would allow local governments to regulate fracking sites in their jurisdiction. The effort is a direct response to a May decision by the Colorado Supreme Court, ruling that voter-approved bans on fracking in Fort Collins and Longmont were unlawful. Initiative 78 would require the energy industry to institute 2,500-foot setbacks between wellheads and schools, homes, and water sources. Energy companies claim that this restriction would severely impede their ability to work in the state. Proponents say it would protect people from the most direct impacts of gas development.
A vote by New York utility regulators approving nearly half a billion dollars in annual subsidies over the next two years for a trio of ailing nuclear plants was a victory for Exelon Corp., which owns two of the plants and is in talks with Entergy Corp. to buy the third. Now the polarizing debate moves back to Chicago-based Exelon's home state, where the clock continues to tick on a similar measure to aid a pair of nuclear plants ticketed for closure each of the next two years. Exelon announced plans to shut the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants in mid-2017 and -2018, respectively, at the expiration of their commitments to run. The company has said the plants -- and jobs and taxes they provide -- can still be spared. But doing so requires assurances that they won't continue to sustain millions of dollars in annual losses.
California's landmark cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions and proposed amendments to extend that system will be used to comply with U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan, the state said. The Golden State is the first in the country to publish a draft blueprint for fulfilling the federal agency's mandate, aimed at cutting existing power plant emissions, said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board. ARB's draft plan comes as a court weighs the validity of EPA's Clean Power Plan. The Supreme Court in February put EPA's rule on hold, pending an opinion on its legality from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and perhaps until the Supreme Court ultimately decides the case. That could take years. California is developing a compliance plan regardless. After the Supreme Court's action, ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols said that "California will not slow down our drive for clean air, renewable energy, and the good jobs that come from investing in green technologies."
The Texas company planning a crude oil pipeline that will cut across Iowa received the final federal permit approvals needed to proceed with construction. Documents posted by the Iowa Utilities Board show the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved 60 river crossings in Iowa for Dakota Access, a decision pipeline opponents hoped to stop.The company, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, plans construction of a $3.8 billion, 1,168-mile project that's already begun in Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota. Some preliminary work had also begun in Iowa but the final permits were needed for workers to complete large stretches of pipeline, including sections that cross major rivers.
For a glimpse of what New York’s just-announced clean energy standard could mean to the state’s economy, look West. New York’s plan to get 50 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030, matches the renewable standard set by California in 2015. It will make New York a major leader for clean energy (only tiny Vermont and Hawaii have higher standards than New York and California), setting an example for other states. Clean energy, quite simply, is a tremendous economic catalyst. Smart clean energy policies, we know from California and other states, create jobs and drive economic growth. New York already has had a taste of what clean energy can mean to the state’s economy. More than 85,000 New Yorkers work in clean energy in every county of the state.
Eastern Kentucky faces population loss and other challenges that complicate efforts to diversify its coal-dependent economy as the industry continues to bleed jobs. Coal jobs in the region dropped by 6.1 percent from April through June, according to a report from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. That was far less than the 21.6 percent decline in the first three months of 2016. Still, that was little cause for celebration in a place where the steep drop in coal jobs and production have hurt other businesses and revenue for local governments.
A federal court should take into account a case involving U.S. EPA's retroactive veto of a water permit for a mining project as it considers the legality of the Clean Power Plan, an opponent to the rule argued. The Competitive Enterprise Institute told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the dissent in the water permit case "strongly supports" its arguments that EPA failed to adequately consider the costs and benefits of its power plant rule. In the mining case, Arch Coal Inc. and its subsidiary, Mingo Logan Coal Co., had sought to overturn EPA's 2011 veto of the water permit for the controversial Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, W.Va. Last week, the D.C. Circuit upheld the agency's withdrawal of the permit, finding that the agency adequately explained its decision and that the action fell under the "broad veto power" provided under the Clean Water Act.