A retired mechanic from South Berwick who believes ethanol in gas may be to blame for Maine’s opioid crisis was a driving force behind Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to study the corn-derived gasoline additive. The mechanic, Ralph Stevens, 77, said in an interview that he believes emissions from the additive have prompted the state’s ongoing drug crisis and may be responsible for a host of other health problems. State Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, seized on Stevens’ concerns, and has worked with him to study the issue for over six years. A letter she sent to LePage urging him to take action included written testimony that Stevens submitted to the Legislature outlining his concerns about ethanol.
O’Connor believes the additive is causing health and even public safety problems. “It has caused increased allergies, increased asthma. I believe it exacerbates the condition that a lot of our veterans have with PTSD. I believe that it causes depression, anger,” said O’Connor, who also asserted a link to higher crime rates in urban areas, where more ethanol is burned. To better get LePage’s attention, she had 85 members of the Legislature sign a letter she had drafted urging him to take action. LePage’s order requires the state’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention and its Department of Environmental Protection to collect the available studies on the health and environmental impacts of burning gasoline that’s mixed with ethanol, review that information and report back on what should be done
Refineries across the nation are operating full-out and imports are pouring into the East Coast, boosting gasoline supplies to a record. At the same time, consumption has turned out to be less robust than thought. That’s weighed on prices, threatening to stem oil’s rebound from a 12-year low. The Energy Information Administration said in a monthly report on June 30 that demand in April was 9.21 million barrels a day, down from 9.49 million seen in weekly data. "The monthly data for April raises doubts about the idea that we have reliably robust gasoline demand to support the entire complex," said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New York. Gasoline stockpiles along the East Coast, which includes New York Harbor, the delivery point for U.S. futures contracts, surged to a record 72.5 million barrels in week ended June 24, EIA data show. Imports to the region jumped to a six-year seasonal high. Production climbed to a record in the previous week, as refiners typically run harder in the second quarter to meet summer peak driving season.
California is getting cleaner while also growing its economy dramatically, according to findings in a new study. The eighth annual California Green Innovation Index shows the state has grown its economy, as measured by gross domestic product, while being less carbon intensive.
A bipartisan group of 39 senators is calling on the EPA to produce a strong Renewable Fuel Standard when it releases its final rule setting 2017 blending requirements for ethanol and other biofuels later this year. In a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy, the senators, led by Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, said the final rule should support U.S. jobs, reduce the environmental impact on the transportation and energy sectors and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The lawmakers said that when Congress adopted the RFS in 2005, and expanded it in 2007, “it intended to put in place a stable, forward-looking policy to drive innovation and investments in biorefining capacity and distribution infrastructure to bring biofuels to American consumers.” The policy has spurred the growth of the renewable industry and the development of new types of biofuels, they said. However, the senators said EPA has undermined those gains in recent years by relying on concerns that the distribution infrastructure needed to transport renewable fuels is lacking. As a result, “biofuel investment has fallen and projects are moving overseas,” the senators wrote. The oil industry uses the distribution infrastructure argument in opposition to higher blending levels, but biofuels producers disagree.
A federal appeals court rejected environmentalists’ challenges to two liquefied natural gas export projects. The Sierra Club and its allies faulted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) decisions to approve projects in Texas and Louisiana. They said FERC’s environmental reviews failed to account for the impacts of increased natural gas drilling and the cumulative impacts of multiple natural gas export facilities. But the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed, saying FERC’s environmental reviews didn’t have to account for those factors. “The commission’s NEPA analysis did not have to address the indirect effects of the anticipated export of natural gas,” the court wrote regarding the Freeport LNG project in Texas. “That is because the Department of Energy, not the commission, has sole authority to license the export of any natural gas going through the Freeport facilities.” It used similar reasoning in the case regarding the Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana. The court’s argument stems from the fact that while FERC is responsible for approving the facilities themselves, the Energy Department has the separate task of considering applications to export natural gas. Therefore, any impacts from exports, like increased gas drilling and increased pollution, are the department's responsibility.
TransCanada Corp is formally requesting arbitration over U.S. President Barack Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, seeking $15 billion in damages. TransCanada submitted a notice for an arbitration claim in January and had then tried to negotiate with the U.S. government to "reach an amicable settlement," the company said in files posted on the pipeline's website.
As the General Assembly session wound down this month, the discussion around state energy issues focused on two controversial proposals. The first — legislation aimed at blocking a plan for a large fossil fuel-burning power plant in Burrillville — was killed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, but only after it won broad support in the House of Representatives. The second — a provision inserted into the House budget bill that would have shifted some interconnection costs for renewable energy projects from private developers to electric ratepayers — was removed after a group of legislators alleged that it was aimed only at benefiting one politically connected wind power company.
ov. Jay Inslee asked the Union Pacific Railroad on Friday to halt oil train shipments through Washington until the company does more walking inspections of its railroad track. Inslee joins Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who has repeatedly called for a moratorium on oil train traffic.
Minnesota will appeal a federal appellate court’s decision last week that Minnesota’s 2007 clean energy law illegally regulates out-of-state utilities. Gov. Mark Dayton announced the appeal of a decision by a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state is asking for a “rehearing.” Usually, that would entail an “en banc” review by the entire Eighth Circuit bench, which has more than 12 judges. Such court petitions aren’t easy to get accepted. In a win for North Dakota, the three-judge Eighth Circuit panel upheld a lower-court ruling that Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act interfered with federal law. The state law takes aim at coal, restricting electricity from power plants that increase greenhouse gases. However, North Dakota claimed the law hampered its ability to sell coal-based electricity into Minnesota and therefore to build new coal power plants.
The Oakland City Council voted unanimously Monday to block the handling and storage of coal in Oakland, effectively halting a developer’s controversial plan to ship coal from the port. The new ordinance, which requires a second vote to be made final, would thwart Oakland developer Phil Tagami’s plan to export coal from a terminal near the east end of the Bay Bridge. It’s become the focus of a heated political debate, infuriating environmentalists and labor leaders but garnering support from some West Oakland residents who say it would create vital jobs.