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Farmers fear ethanol talks could 'destroy' rural economy

Nebraska TV | Posted on March 30, 2018

Ethanol and oil are fighting over market share today, as the highway of tomorrow looks very different. “You're going to be looking at maybe less liquid fuel being used than we are today, whether it's electric vehicles coming on or fuel efficiency getting better, cars with better gas mileage,” said Troy Bredenkamp, Executive Director of Renewable Fuels Nebraska. Oil state senators like Ted Cruz say the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is broken, and he has said jobs at oil refineries are at stake.“These are blue–collar, working–class jobs, the kind that are the backbone of our economy, the kind that keep refineries going,” Cruz said in a speech on the Senate floor.But corn growers fear one proposed solution would immediately cut ethanol consumption by a billion gallons a year.“That would literally destroy the Midwest,” said Jan tenBensel, chair of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

RFA Opposes Proposed PES Settlement; Would Allow Refiner ‘to Have its Cake and Sell it Too’

Renewable Fuels Association | Posted on March 28, 2018

 The Renewable Fuels Association strongly opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed settlement agreement with Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) that would allow the bankrupt refiner to unjustifiably waive the vast majority of its Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs), it said in comments filed today with the U.S. Department of Justice. The proposed PES settlement agreement, which covers the refiner’s RVOs for January 2016-April 2018, should be rejected “because the terms are patently unfair, unreasonable, and inconsistent with the purposes of the RFS program,” RFA wrote. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Delaware has to approve PES’ proposed settlement agreement on April 4. As numerous independent reporters have concluded, the true causes of PES’ financial woes are: rerouting of lower-cost domestic crude oil supplies to Gulf coast refineries, antiquated technology, mismanagement, and lifting of the crude oil export ban.As RFA noted, “By allowing PES to retire only 138 million RINs for its pre-effective date obligation of more than 500 RINs, DOJ and EPA have effectively waived approximately three-quarters of PES’s RVOs for this period….Exacerbating its noncompliance, PES reportedly had been also selling roughly 40 million RINs in the fall of 2017, even as the March 2018 RVO compliance deadline approached. This is a classic case of a regulated entity being allowed to have its cake and sell it, too—while PES seeks to escape from its financial responsibilities under the RFS program, it embraces that same program for the limited purpose of profiting from it,” RFA added.

Cruz’s one-man energy crusade

McClatchy | Posted on March 28, 2018

Ted Cruz has a plan to fix an environmental regulation Texas oil refiners hate. Yet Cruz’s plan has not been widely embraced by the very industry he’s trying to help.Texas’ powerful oil and gas sector detests the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates that transportation fuel contain a certain quantity of renewable fuels. Cruz’s aggressive attempts to unravel that policy — by taking his case to the White House — could offer the quickest path to changes the industry wants.Rather than work with a divided Senate, Cruz is appealing to Trump’s anti-regulatory EPA to change a small piece of the 2005 regulation, a piece most in the energy industry believe would blow up the entire policy Cruz has long sought to abolish.

Oil companies not questioning climate science

Scientific American | Posted on March 26, 2018

Oil companies accused of raising ocean levelswon't question the existence of climate change in federal court today. Chevron Corp. is expected to take a lead role in a climate science “tutorial” at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The unusual hearing was required by Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing lawsuits filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland claiming that five oil giants are contributing to damages related to climate change.In the hours before the tutorial, which Alsup is using to gather historical observations about climatic conditions that can go back thousands of years, Chevron said it wouldn’t question the facts around rising temperatures. San Francisco and Oakland, along with several counties in California, are suing Chevron, BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC for allegedly downplaying the threat of climate change. The local governments claim that the oil majors knew years ago that the emissions related to their products could cause sea-level rise and contribute to other damages.

Ohio State coal tech captures CO2, but can it compete with renewables?

Energy News | Posted on March 26, 2018

A promising technology under development at The Ohio State University converts fossil fuels into electricity without emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If the method makes it out of the lab and into the real world, it could represent a breakthrough for “clean coal.” The process — known as coal-direct chemical looping — is “the most advanced and cost-effective approach to carbon capture we have reviewed to date,” said David Kraft, a fellow with Babcock & Wilcox, a power company that’s partnered with the university. “CDCL has potential to transform the power and petrochemical industries.”

‘I saw more dead birds in that one pit than hunters would poach’

High Country News | Posted on March 22, 2018

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.

Pruitt is expected to restrict science. Here's what it means

E & E News | Posted on March 22, 2018

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.

Fracking 'Almanac' Compiles Health Risks From the Drilling Practice

Public News Service | Posted on March 22, 2018

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.

Coal mine expansion could swallow family farms in southern Illinois

Energy News | Posted on March 22, 2018

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.

States vow to fight offshore drilling by any means at their disposal

Politico | Posted on March 21, 2018

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.