When he drove out to inspect the half-acre pond, he found something far worse. As he expected, its banks were covered with dried oil. But it was the bottom of the abandoned pit that shocked him: It was blanketed with the bones of thousands of birds. “You see that carnage and you know there are 500 more pits with oil on them and you can’t see the bottom,” Mowad said. “It’s an ‘Oh, my God’ moment. If there are this many dead birds in this pit, can you imagine what’s in the others?” “I knew that I saw more dead birds in that one pit than hunters would poach my entire career,” Mowad, who is now retired, said of the 1996 discovery. “It was very clear to me that this is where our work priority should be.” Since the 1970s, federal officials had used the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to prosecute and fine companies that accidentally killed birds with oil pits, wind turbines, spills or other industrial hazards. But a legal decision issued in December by the Interior Department revoked that ability.
U.S. EPA chief Scott Pruitt is expected to roll out plans soon to restrict the agency's use of science in rulemakings, pitting him against critics who say it would threaten public health and environmental protections. In a closed-door meeting at the Heritage Foundation on Monday, Pruitt told a group of conservatives that he has plans for additional science reform at the agency, according to multiple attendees. EPA hasn't formally shared details of the plan, but it's widely expected to resemble an effort that Republican lawmakers and conservative groups have been pushing for years. It's been met with staunch resistance from Democrats and many scientists.The plan could come "sooner rather than later," said Steve Milloy, who served on Trump's EPA transition team and attended the meeting at the Heritage Foundation.
Health professionals have released their fifth compilation of data and reports showing the risks of fracking. Over the past five editions, scientific and medical findings in the compendium have grown, adding weight to the argument that oil and gas drilling are harmful to communities.
One of the authors of the report, Sandra Steingraber, is a biologist and co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York. She said people near fracking sites face the same kind of health risks, whether they're in Texas, Pennsylvania or North Dakota."We see signs of respiratory distress among people living close to drilling and fracking sites,” Steingraber said. “Most alarming to us, we see signs of impaired development among newborns born to pregnant women whose residences are close to drilling and fracking sites during their pregnancies."Steingraber said there are increased rates of illness and cancer near fracking sites, and there are greater risks in the air and water. Radioactive waste also is a concern. She said there are more than 1,000 studies on fracking and 85 percent show the practice is harmful. The American Petroleum Institute disputes these reports, saying fracking is safe and also provides economic benefits to communities.
Foresight Energy subsidiary is making claims on a four-decade-old contract between landowners and a government utility. Members of theEwing Northern Coal Association — local farmers who under the 1976 agreement promised to sell their coal mineral rights to the TVA. Farmers got about $1,000 for each coal-containing acre, with many owning 100 acres or more. The agreement also stipulated that if the TVA wanted to buy the farmers’ surface land in the future, the farmers would have to sell, receiving fair market value plus 10 percent.At the time, it seemed like a great deal. One hundred thousand dollars was a huge sum in those days. And coal mining was regularly done below farmland with little impact on the surface. So Kern’s father and other farmers didn’t think they would suffer any ill impacts from mining below their farms, and they didn’t think the TVA would really have any reason to demand they sell their land in the future. Besides, it was a patriotic era and they felt good about supporting the country’s energy security. Now Illinois operations typically use longwall mining, wherein a massive machine chews away whole seams of coal and lets the ceiling collapse behind it. This method causes widespread subsidence, wherein panels of earth sink by up to six feet, cracking the foundations and walls of houses and causing water to pool in depressions created in the land.
The move has drawn opposition from both Democratic and Republican leaders in nearly every affected state and mobilized the environmental community. From California to New York, lawmakers are considering ways to block the proposal, which would open vast new stretches of federal waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as in the Arctic and eastern Gulf of Mexico, to oil and gas exploration and extraction. They are considering laws to block the construction of pipelines or infrastructure in state-controlled waters that are needed to support drilling projects. Attorneys general have vowed to sue over Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke's proposal at the earliest possible moment, and state agencies plan to object to any lease sales using their joint authority under federal law over coastal waters.
The Trump administration broke the law when it missed a deadline last year in implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ozone pollution rule, a federal court ruled. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was supposed to announce by Oct. 1 which areas of the country were in compliance with the 2015 Obama administration rule.Pruitt later announced findings for areas that comply, but not for areas that do not. Judge Haywood Stirling Gilliam Jr. of the federal District Court for the District of Northern California said Monday that Pruitt broke the law, and ordered him to publish the findings for almost all of the rest of the country by April 30.
But for pipeline opponents in the Cornhusker State, the view from the ground is far from hopeless. Last November, in a perplexing three-to-two vote, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (NPSC) rejected TransCanada’s preferred route. Instead the commission okayed the company’s alternate choice, a path that differs from the original 63 miles in northeast Nebraska. Those 63 miles could make all the difference: a new route means new easements and likely a host of pricey new lawsuits. The decision was such a blow that the company requested the NPSC modify the wording of its decision. But the commission unanimously rejected the motion, a ruling that landowner attorney Brian Jorde called the “worst decision possible for TransCanada.”
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recently falsely claimed that wind turbines kill 750,000 birds each year. In actuality, wind turbines kill a little more than 350,000 birds annually — which is far fewer than cars, house cats, or plate-glass windows put to death. What’s the biggest threat to our flying friends? According to the Audubon Society, it’s climate change. The Acoustic Lighthouse generates a high-pitched sound that prompts birds to slow down. Birds hit the brakes by pointing their tail feathers down, which makes their body shift upright, causing them look ahead instead of at the ground. “All that’s missing is the brake-screeching sound,” Swaddle said.
This might be the future of wind repowering in the United States. In a first-of-its-kind project, the owner of a pioneering Illinois wind farm will bring down an aging fleet of 15-year-old turbines in a process akin to trees being logged in a forest. The Mendota Hills site, in operation since 2003, was the first utility-scale wind farm in Illinois. The project owner, Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy, is replacing sixty-three 850-kilowatt Gamesa turbines with twenty-nine 2.6-megawatt turbines from Siemens Gamesa. The new project will increase power capacity at the site from just over 50 megawatts to 76 megawatts.In an interview, CEO Greg Wolf told Greentech Media that Leeward is exploring repowering opportunities across its portfolio. Seventeen of the company’s 19 wind farms are beyond their 10-year Production Tax Credit (PTC) period. Mendota Hills is the oldest operating wind farm in its portfolio.
Big oil and big corn are touting opposing studies released this week on proposed biofuels policy reforms under consideration by the Trump administration, part of an ongoing clash between the two sides over the future of the program.Valero Energy Corp , a major oil refiner, funded a study by Charles River Associates that supports placing a cap on the price of biofuel blending credits under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) - a change meant to help refiners that complain the RFS now costs them a fortune.A rival report from Iowa State University, also released this week, said such a cap on credits would backfire by eroding U.S. demand for corn-based ethanol and potentially lowering corn prices, already under pressure from a supply glut. The corn industry did not directly fund the Iowa State study, but does provide funding to the university.The studies are meant to inform the administration's deliberations on how, and if, to reform the RFS - which has become a major point of tension between two of President Donald Trump's most important constituencies.