The Wyoming legislature did something no other state has done, the concluded they owned the wind and with great efficiency for a conservative state not traditionally tilted toward burdening the energy industry, they did something no other state has done, before or since: They taxed it. In the four years since Wyoming began taxing power generated by wind turbines, it has collected a little less than $15 million in revenue. No, that is not much money in a resource state rocked by the simultaneous decline in the prices of coal, oil and natural gas, a state trying to close a budget gap that could reach $500 million. But now, as one of the world's largest wind farms is about to begin construction here on a project aimed at providing clean electricity to nearly a million homes in California and the Southwest — potentially transforming this fossil fuel state into a major player in renewables — some powerful state lawmakers are looking to raise those taxes. And some in the wind industry, which has long benefited from incentives and subsidies, say they are worried. The company that has spent nine years trying to build the wind project says higher taxes could further delay or even halt the plan. “Just about every legislator we’ve met with asks us, ‘You tell us how much we can tax you before we put you out of business,’” said Bill Miller, chief executive of the Power Co. of Wyoming, which is planning the wind farm. “I just shake my head and say, ‘Zero.’”
The North Dakota Department of Health is investigating an oil spill on a western North Dakota butte where oil is seeping out of a hillside. Karl Rockeman, director of the Division of Water Quality, said late Friday that oil was discovered to be seeping out of the hillside in multiple locations. The company has recovered 504 barrels, or 21,168 gallons, of oil and 120 barrels, or 5,040 gallons, of produced water from holes drilled into the subsurface of the site. The total size of the spill is still being determined. “It may be larger than that yet as well,” Rockeman said. It’s unknown whether the spill has contaminated groundwater. The health department and the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division have been on site multiple times and continue to investigate. The cause is listed as a failure of an underground flow line. Rockeman said it appears likely that the line was leaking for some time before it was discovered.
A group of Illinois mayors and community leaders encouraged state lawmakers in a letter Tuesday to follow the lead of the state of New York, which has adopted a new energy program that will help preserve several of that state's struggling nuclear plants. The letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders was sent on the same day as Exelon Generation announced an agreement to assume ownership and management of Entergy Corp.'s James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, New York. The $110 million deal comes as the New York Public Service Commission approved a Clean Energy Standard last week that includes provisions to value nuclear energy for its low carbon attributes."New York’s Clean Energy Standard is a road map for effective policy in Illinois," said Tim Followell, city administrator of Clinton, Ill., which is home to one of the two nuclear plants that Exelon has said will be closed prematurely. Exelon announced plans in June to close the Clinton plant and the Quad-Cities Generating Station in Cordova.
Four Midwest states rank among the top in the nation for making it easier for corporations to gain better access to wind and solar. According to a report by Advanced Energy Economy. The report lists the top 11 states that are “above average” when it comes to clean energy resources available as well as having large industrial energy loads, which includes Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. The report makes six policy recommendations that would make it easier for large energy users in those states to access renewable energy. For the 11 states listed, the AEE report makes six specific policy recommendations that would enable companies to buy electricity from large, offsite clean energy projects as well as distributed energy projects. The recommendations involve renewable energy tariffs from utilities; “back-to-back” power purchase agreements; direct access tariffs; raising size limits on distributed generation projects; allowing for third-party ownership; and allowing for virtual or aggregated metering.
The often-maligned E. coli bacteria has powerhouse potential: in the lab, it has the ability to crank out fuels, pharmaceuticals and other useful products at a rapid rate. A research team has discovered a new way to remove a major stumbling block in the process, and boost biofuel production from E. coli.
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.