At the Big Law Business Summit last week, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ripped into Exxon Mobil for its stance on climate change. Schneiderman accused Exxon of glossing over the risks that climate change poses to its core businesses in its public securities statements, and then couching its disclosure as first amendment protected. “The first amendment doesn’t protect fraud – it doesn’t protect fraudulent speech,” he said. The Houston Chronicle published its investigation of the brewing legal threats that energy companies face as a result of their disclosures on climate change, comparing it to the situation tobacco companies faced in the late 1990s over their disclosures about the dangers of smoking. In 1998, attorneys general from 46 states struck a $200 billion settlement with tobacco companies, ending years of litigation about whether they mislead smokers about the health risks of their products. Now, there are 17 state attorneys general including Schneiderman investigating whether fossil fuel companies mislead investors in public disclosures about the risks associated with climate change.
Bioenergy produced from crops does not threaten food supplies, researchers funded by the U.S. government, World Bank and others said, dealing a potential blow to critics of the country's biofuels program. There is no clear relationship between biofuels and higher prices that threaten access to food, as some prior analysis has suggested, according to the research partly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Environmentalists and others have long argued that the increased use of ethanol, produced from corn in the United States and sugarcane in Brazil, threatens global food security, which the World Health Organization defines as "access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food." Critics of biofuels, which are used for transportation, say they could threaten food supplies.
Peabody Energy, America’s biggest coalmining company, has funded at least two dozen groups that cast doubt on manmade climate change and oppose environment regulations, analysis by the Guardian reveals. The funding spanned trade associations, corporate lobby groups, and industry front groups as well as conservative thinktanks and was exposed in court filings last month.
Minnesota’s rural distributed generation customers won a major victory this week when state regulators halted the practice by cooperatives of applying fixed charges for solar installations. Regulators ruled June 9 that cooperatives must file requests for small power production tariffs with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which makes the final determination on those fees. The commission ruled those fees must now be suspended until an investigation is completed. Rural cooperatives lost their argument that the PUC had no jurisdiction in the matter of fixed charges for solar customers. Co-ops believed their boards would be the final arbiters of those charges.
The Environmental Protection Agency must protect the Renewable Fuel Standard as Congress originally defined it nearly a decade ago, Iowa farmer Randy Caviness told the EPA at a public hearing today. He testified on behalf of Iowa Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“EPA’s decision not to follow the intent of Congress in the 2007 RFS is highly disappointing to all of agriculture,” said Caviness, who also serves as a member of AFBF Issue’s Advisory Committee on Energy. “This decision strikes a blow to conventional ethanol production and dampens the prospects for the further development of advanced biofuels.”
The award of a $500,000 grant from the prestigious W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Solutions from the Land (SfL) underscores the priority and responsibility that SfL takes in putting farmers first in developing practices and policies that can meet and address societal needs and challenges. The grant money will be used to design and begin implementing a three-to-five year climate smart/resilient agriculture action plan designed to help Upper Midwest farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions, improve the resiliency of their operations and further enable agricultural landscapes to deliver multiple food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystems services from the land.
SfL, a collaboration led by an acclaimed group of active farm, forestry and conservation leaders, will link with ‑ and build on ‑ the multi-stakeholder partnerships that have been developing in the region around water quality, food policy and sustainable agriculture projects. The initiative aims to connect leading innovators in dialogue and planning to improve climate resiliency, while achieving nutrition, energy, environmental, health and economic goals.
In California, there is so much solar energy that grid operators have to switch off solar farms. One solution of dealing with the additional power generated is to share the renewable wealth across state borders – but in the West, it's sparking some not-so-neighborly opposition. Nancy Traweek's job is to balance California's electrical grid at the California Independent System Operator, keeping the lights on for 30 million people. She relies on huge natural gas power plants that put out a steady stream of electricity. But lately, Traweek's job has gotten harder because of solar and wind power. If clouds come in, solar power drops off. "That needs to come from somewhere else immediately," she says. So Traweek has to keep the natural gas plants going in the background in case that happens. But running solar, gas and wind together is a problem because on certain days, they make more power than California needs. Traweek will have to tell solar farms to shut off.
Brad Allamong understands the concerns about a proposed $100 million wind farm to be built near Crossville. He has heard directly from some who fear the project's impact on the community. But Allamong is urging everyone not to jump to conclusions until they get a full understanding of the project's pros and cons.
"I don't know at this point whether or not a greater calm should prevail so the facts of the project could be understood," said Allamong, president and CEO of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce. The Crab Orchard Wind Project, to be built across 1,800 acres atop the Cumberland Plateau, has come under fire from residents who are worried that it would destroy the beauty of the scenic mountain landscape. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Rep. Diane Black recently added their voices to the chorus of opposition.
Consumer investments in distributed energy resources can save all ratepayers money by avoiding expensive grid infrastructure upgrades. Solar advocates have long been making this argument in regulatory proceedings around the country. Today, that vision is becoming a reality.
In late March, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) approved its 2015-2016 Transmission Plan, which calls for canceling 13 transmission projects planned in Pacific Gas & Electric territory. The low-voltage transmission projects were deemed no longer necessary in light of materially lower load forecast levels since the projects were approved several years ago.
In many parts of the country, areas that are now full of houses and schools and shopping centers were once oil and gas fields. You wouldn't know it by looking, but hidden underground, there are millions of abandoned wells. New development happening on top of those old wells can create a dangerous situation. In most states, there is no requirement for homeowners to be notified about abandoned oil and gas wells on their properties. In the Canadian province of Alberta, it's a different story. Theresa Watson, an engineering consultant and former Alberta energy regulator, started pushing for better tracking, monitoring and regulation of abandoned wells back in the early 2000s. That was when people started to move into rural areas that were once oil and gas fields. Alberta now has a 15-foot no-build zone around abandoned wells. Similar rules are lacking in most of the U.S., even as new development is encroaching on old oil and gas fields in places like the Front Range of Colorado.