Judge sides with North Dakota in Minnesota coal dispute

A federal judge on Friday struck down a portion of Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act, according to a report from Minnesota Public Radio.

Officials in North Dakota had challenged a provision of the law that required carbon emissions to be offset for new coal-fired electricity imported into the state. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson sided with North Dakota, saying the law violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In a news release, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said the state will appeal the decision.

“I will defend the State of Minnesota’s right to protect the quality of the air our citizens breathe.  The State Statute does not prevent anyone from building and operating a new power-generating facility, whose toxic emissions will affect Minnesota’s air quality. It only requires that those new emissions must be offset by the same or greater reduction in emissions from other plants. In other words, Minnesota’s law encourages the replacement of older, more-polluting power plants with more efficient, cleaner facilities.”

Read the full story from MPR here.

Read additional coverage from the Minneapolis Star Tribune here.

Read the judge’s ruling here.

Energy Department announces plan to cut solar red tape

SOLAR: The Energy Department announces a $15 million plan to help communities cut red tape for solar projects. (SNL)

ALSO: An internal report criticizes an Energy Department solar loan, a Lakota solar entrepreneur is honored by the White House, and a company that specializes in behind-the-meter energy storage wants to cooperate with utilities. (New York Times, Associated Press, Greentech Media)

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OHIO: The Evangelical Lutheran Church enters Ohio’s energy debate, opposing a bill to freeze the state’s renewable and efficiency laws. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

FRACKING: The natural gas industry tries to tame methane emissions, finding water for fracking becomes a “critical issue” in Ohio, and a poll finds most Ohioans support expanded oil and gas drilling. (National Journal, Columbus Business First, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

OIL: Operators of a Minnesota pipeline propose to expand its capacity, BNSF Railway says Canadian rules encourage the use of older tank cars to haul crude oil, and American Indian activists fight an Enbridge pipeline plan in Minnesota. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Fargo Forum)

EPA: The EPA says it will miss a deadline for power plant cooling water rules. (The Hill)

NUCLEAR: The new head of the Nuclear Energy Agency expects the first application for a small modular reactor in the U.S. to happen this year. (Associated Press)

COAL:
Coal makes a comeback in the U.S., but it’s unlikely to last. (McClatchy)
• A Wisconsin utility will begin receiving subsidies to continue operating an Upper Peninsula coal plant. (Marquette Mining Journal)
• FERC is concerned about coal shipment disruptions in the Midwest. (Platts)
• Another Illinois regulatory official is fired over concerns about campaign donations from coal companies. (Decatur Herald-Review)
• Does FutureGen have a future? (Illinois Times)
• Duke Energy says cleanup of a North Carolina coal ash spill won’t affect its bottom line. (Associated Press)

EFFICIENCY: Researchers develop a new material that can convert waste heat into electricity, and two Des Moines schools are on an EPA top ten list for energy savings. (Christian Science Monitor, KCCI)

PROPANE: Wisconsin declares another propane emergency as cold weather lingers. (LaCrosse Tribune)

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TRANSPORTATION: Sales are slow for Ford’s new natural gas-powered F150, with only about 200 sold so far. (Houston Chronicle)

COMMENTARY: “I thought of the idea that wind and sun could be major players as hippie-dippy wishful thinking. But I was wrong.” (New York Times)

Minnesota regulators to take up carbon costs today

PETCOKE: Feeling that elected officials have betrayed them in the battle over piles of petroleum coke on the Southeast Side of Chicago, residents have vowed to take the fight to the streets and into their own hands. (Midwest Energy News)

CLIMATE: Minnesota regulators are expected to update their figure for the cost of carbon emissions today, and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple says “it simply is not possible” to meet proposed new carbon restrictions “overnight.” (EnergyWire, Bismarck Tribune)

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OHIO: A new poll shows a large majority of Ohio voters favor renewable energy and efficiency programs; and Gov. John Kasich questions deregulation: “I’m not so sure it’s the smartest thing we’ve done in the state of Ohio.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch)

NUCLEAR: The IPCC says nuclear power will be needed to fight climate change, and Michigan’s Fermi 2 plant will be offline indefinitely for repairs. (ClimateWire, Toledo Blade)

COAL: This year’s cold winter pushed greater reliance on coal plants that are slated for retirement. (SNL)

ALSO: Chicago deals with the radioactive legacy of the gaslight era, and how coal drove a major energy disruption in the early 1800s. (Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic)

TRANSMISSION: A Minnesota utility files for permission to build a 350-mile transmission line to connect with Canadian hydropower, developers of a wind transmission line defend the project amid growing opposition, and the Center for Rural Affairs publishes a series of fact sheets on regional transmission projects. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Joseph News-Press, Transmission & Distribution World)

SMART GRID: ComEd seeks a rate increase to pay for smart grid upgrades in Illinois. (Chicago Tribune)

RENEWABLES: Global clean energy investment has increased 9 percent this year, led primarily by solar, and labor and environmental groups discuss growing the clean energy economy in Illinois. (Bloomberg, Peoria Public Radio)

OIL: North Dakota struggles to control radioactive oil field waste, why approving Keystone XL could lead to political consequences for President Obama, and a Canadian oil sands producer is given four months to halt emissions. (Wall Street Journal, Politico, CBC)

UTILITIES: A consumer group sues a Wisconsin utility over cost allocation for a coal-to-gas conversion, a Wisconsin co-op is recognized as a “champion of change” by the White House, and Xcel Energy continues to lead the nation in wind power. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WXOW, Denver Business Journal)

FRAC SAND: Officials in a Wisconsin county reject a proposed sand mining facility. (Winona Daily News)

COMMENTARY: A guide to the misinformation being used by industry groups in their effort to freeze Ohio’s energy laws. (Huffington Post)

Study finds people of color bear brunt of pollution impacts

POLLUTION: A federal court upholds the EPA’s mercury and air toxics rule, which is expected to save $90 billion a year in health costs. (Greenwire)

ALSO: University of Minnesota researchers find minority communities are disproportionately exposed to pollution from car exhaust and other sources. (Minnesota Public Radio)

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CLIMATE: The EPA finds U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 10 percent since 2005. (The Hill)

COAL: An Illinois county approves a road project related to a controversial coal mine, and a Michigan power plant has to import coal by truck because of ice on the Great Lakes. (Carbondale Southern, Platts)

FRACKING: Oil and gas companies worry about Ohio’s plan for seismic monitoring at drilling sites, and a truck driver is charged with a felony for dumping drilling wastewater in North Dakota. (Columbus Business First, Bismarck Tribune)

OIL: People who live along rail lines seek greater transparency about hazardous materials shipped by train. (New York Times)

IOWA: Two large Iowa utilities say there is more than 36 MW of customer-owned generation capacity in the state, and a congressman tours a farm-based solar installation. (Cedar Rapids Gazette, Newton Daily News)

MICHIGAN: In a video interview, Michigan Public Service Commissioner Greg White says the state’s renewable energy standard “has been successful … even more so than we anticipated.” (E&E TV)

SOLAR: A Wisconsin community solar project sells all its shares. (Renewable Energy World)

GRID: Ameren Illinois says its grid upgrades will save customers $57 million per year, consumer groups are skeptical of the figure. (Decatur Herald-Review)

***SPONSORED LINK: Register today ($15/individual) for the 15th Anniversary Conference of Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light “Climate Stewardship: Sustainability, Eco-Justice and Well-Being” on May 18 in Milwaukee. Keynote, workshops, exhibits and more. Be a sponsor, $100-$1,000.***

ETHANOL: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says the EPA will likely scale back changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

COMMENTARY: An Ohio state senator draws heat for comparing clean energy to the Bataan Death March, and how many jobs does fracking really create? (Sierra Club, National Journal)

Urgent climate warnings falling on deaf ears in Congress

CLIMATE: Climate urgency runs into political inertia in Washington, D.C. (New York Times)

UTILITIES: How advanced thermostats and other energy-monitoring devices pose another challenge to utilities’ business models. (EnergyWire)

***SPONSORED LINK: Located in the heart of Chicago, Coalition is the Midwest’s energy and cleantech community hub, bringing together innovators, investors, entrepreneurs, NGOs and executives in a dynamic coworking environment. Check here for more information and upcoming events.***

WIND: Momentum builds to revive the production tax credit, global wind capacity is expected to double over the next five years, and construction of a new wind farm is expected to provide a financial boost for rural South Dakota communities. (Environment News Service, CleanTechnica, Forum News Service)

OIL: Crews are still working to clean up a March oil spill at an Ohio nature preserve, and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken says he will push for federal action on oil train safety. (Associated Press, Minnesota Public Radio)

BIOFUELS: The advanced biofuel industry is at a technological — and policy — turning point. (New York Times)

POLITICS: Clean-energy advocates fear fracking and natural gas will dominate election year conversations. (National Journal)

EFFICIENCY: Federal energy efficiency legislation, backed by Dow Chemical and other major companies, is expected to return to the Senate floor in May. (Bloomberg BNA)

COAL: Developers of the FutureGen project sign construction deals with unions, and students protest a St. Louis university’s ties with Peabody Coal. (Associated Press, St. Louis Business Journal)

NATURAL GAS: Alliant Energy gets final approval for a new power plant in Iowa. (Marshalltown Times-Republican)

SOLAR: A bill in Oklahoma would allow utilities to charge an extra fee to customers who generate their own power, and researchers develop solar panels that work well on cloudy days. (Tulsa World, The Atlantic)

OHIO: Former PUCO commissioner Todd Snitchler joins a law firm as an energy advisor. (Columbus Dispatch)

COMMENTARY: Why tar sands expansions pose a growing threat to the Great Lakes. (Midwest Energy News)

Ohio regulators link fracking to earthquakes

FRACKING: Ohio regulators acknowledge a link between fracking and earthquakes, and will require seismic monitoring at drilling sites. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

ALSO: Ohio lawmakers are “really close” to a deal on drilling taxes, and a measure to ban fracking will be on the ballot for a third time in Youngstown, Ohio. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Youngstown Vindicator)

***SPONSORED LINK: Take advantage of a wide-range of B2B and B2C training opportunities and set the pace for the Midwest solar future at the Midwest Solar Expo on May 16th at the Hilton Minneapolis. Register for this marquee event today!***

CLIMATE: The IPCC warns “we cannot afford to lose another decade” on emissions reductions, or it will be even more costly to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. (New York Times)

EFFICIENCY: Advocates want to make Chicago the most energy-efficient city in the U.S., but they’ll need help to get there; Detroit will seek energy upgrades for 10 public schools, and an Iowa greenhouse is warmed by waste industrial heat. (Midwest Energy News, Associated Press, Des Moines Register)

SOLAR: Some solar companies push back against the “value of solar” tariff, and a new report praises Milwaukee’s solar efforts but says it’s still falling behind other cities. (Greentech Media, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

WIND: North Dakota considers a decommissioning requirement for wind farms, and policy uncertainty holds back wind development in Kansas. (Fargo Forum, Lawrence Journal-World)

NUCLEAR: A scientist warns materials that would be stored in a proposed waste facility along Lake Huron are hundreds of times more radioactive than Canadian officials were told. (Detroit Free Press)

OIL: A North Dakota regulator says flaring rules could cut production by up to 30,000 barrels per day, rail executives say they don’t give preferential treatment to oil shipments, and an Enbridge official says “we welcome the dialogue” on pipelines’ impact on climate change. (Fargo Forum, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

AGGREGATION: A Houston company says it won’t renew electricity aggregation contracts with 10 Chicago suburbs. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

COAL: A Wisconsin coal-fired unit will shut down, and a carbon-capture project in Mississippi generates controversy over its cost. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bloomberg)

***SPONSORED LINK: Register today ($15/individual) for the 15th Anniversary Conference of Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light “Climate Stewardship: Sustainability, Eco-Justice and Well-Being” on May 18 in Milwaukee. Keynote, workshops, exhibits and more. Be a sponsor, $100-$1,000.***

FRAC SAND: Environmental advocates concerned about frac sand impacts want pollution monitors installed in a Minnesota town. (Winona Daily News)

COMMENTARY: Solar power’s “almost violent” price drop, and why the fight against clean energy is futile. (CleanTechnica, Forbes)

 

Senators propose ‘victory bonds’ to finance clean energy

SOLAR: Missouri’s solar industry faces its own “death spiral” amid uncertainty over a state rebate program. (EnergyWire)

ALSO: Solar provided 22 percent of new U.S. grid capacity in 2013, and Xcel says it’s overpaying for solar power in Colorado. (Greentech Media, Denver Business Journal)

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OHIO: State regulators investigate a rate surcharge that FirstEnergy says it needs to impose because of high winter energy costs, and clean energy producers oppose legislation to freeze the state’s renewable standard. (Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press)

RENEWABLES: Senators propose “victory bonds” to pay for clean energy tax incentives. (The Hill)

TECHNOLOGY: Scientists develop a way to produce ethanol from carbon monoxide. (Reuters)

FRACKING: A county judge allows a lawsuit to stop fracking around an Ohio lake to move forward. (Columbus Dispatch)

OIL:
• Current testing methods may underestimate the explosiveness of crude oil. (Toronto Globe and Mail)
• Federal regulators say oil trains should have two-man crews. (Associated Press)
• Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx calls for a safer rail car. (Reuters)
• North Dakota cracks down on radioactive oil field waste. (Bismarck Tribune)
• North Dakota is flaring twice as much natural gas as it did in 2012. (Bloomberg)

EPA: The EPA has consulted with more than 200 different groups as it prepares carbon rules for existing power plants. (Bloomberg BNA)

EFFICIENCY: Walmart says its Ohio pilot project for LED store lighting was a success, and it plans to expand the concept to other locations. (Forbes)

SS BADGER: Crews begin installing coal ash retention systems on the SS Badger ferry. (Ludington Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION: Automakers discuss the future of fuels beyond gasoline. (MLive)

TRANSMISSION: North Dakota officials delay a decision on a controversial transmission line through a historic battlefield site. (Fargo Forum)

NUCLEAR: Federal regulators approve a uranium mining operation in South Dakota. (Rapid City Journal)

COMMENTARY: The Toledo Blade blames some lawmakers’ “fealty to profit-seeking utilities that don’t want to be regulated” for ongoing efforts to undo Ohio’s energy laws.

Ohio manufacturers sign letter opposing energy law ‘freeze’

OHIO: A group of large Ohio manufacturers, including Honda, Honeywell and Whirlpool, write a letter opposing a bill to freeze the state’s renewable and energy efficiency standards. (Columbus Business First)

ALSO: FirstEnergy’s CEO accuses policymakers of trying to “further advance the war on coal” to “achieve a social agenda that has little, if anything, to do with maintaining electric service.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join the conversation, expand your network and meet face-to-face with key Midwest solar industry players at the Midwest Solar Expo on May 16th at the Hilton Minneapolis. Sponsor this event and become a strategic player in the expanding Midwest solar market.***

SOLAR: If Minnesota’s value of solar tariff is optional, will utilities adopt it? A new report suggests they will. And Ameren gets state approval for a new 5.7 MW solar project in Missouri. (Midwest Energy News, St. Louis Business Journal)

OIL: The Minnesota Department of Commerce backs an Enbridge pipeline expansion plan, landowners in North Dakota’s oil patch say state environmental protections are “failing miserably,” and farmers worry about continued impacts from rail service disruption. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Fargo Forum, Bismarck Tribune)

ELECTRIC CARS: GM will spend $449 million to upgrade two Detroit-area plants to expand electric vehicle and battery production. (Detroit Free Press)

UTILITIES: The NRDC explains why “it doesn’t serve anybody if the utilities are caught in a death spiral,” and utilities disagree on how the EPA should regulate carbon emissions. (Forbes, Climate Central)

CLIMATE: Unilever, Shell and 68 other major corporations call for a “rapid and focused response” to climate change, the UN says cars will become the largest driver of global emissions, and a Senate hearing on an EPA nominee turns into yet another debate over climate science. (BusinessGreen, Bloomberg, The Hill)

ENERGIEWENDE: Facing rising energy costs, Germany approves a plan to slow the growth of wind and solar power. (New York Times)

COAL: Two Ohio towns will have to pay for millions in stranded costs related to a canceled coal plant plan. (Hillsdale Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION: A plan to modify the gasoline tax to raise money for roads runs into political opposition in Iowa. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

BIOFUELS: A Minnesota bill would delay a 20 percent biodiesel mandate, currently scheduled to kick in next year. (Mankato Free Press)

COMMENTARY: Ohio newspapers ignore the ALEC connection to attacks on the state’s energy laws. (Media Matters)

If ‘value of solar’ is optional, will Minnesota utilities adopt it?

(Photo by Rob Rudloff via Creative Commons)

(Photo by Rob Rudloff via Creative Commons)

On its surface, Minnesota’s new value of solar law appears to contain a major loophole.

The law creates a methodology for utilities to calculate a rate for customer-generated solar power, based on avoided infrastructure, pollution and other costs.

However, the value of solar rate is voluntary. Utilities have the option of paying the new rate or continuing with the existing net metering policy, which compensates customers with small arrays at the retail rate.

The issue — whether customers or utilities should make that choice — was a bone of contention during the extensive stakeholder process to develop the policy, and remains so today.

In testimony to the Public Utilities Commission, Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest utility, estimated a value of solar rate of 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Meanwhile, Xcel’s residential retail rate is 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

So if the value of solar rate is higher than the retail rate, would utilities actually adopt it?

The answer, most likely, is yes, according to a new analysis released today by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Study finds wind power cutting U.S. carbon emissions

WIND: An industry study finds wind energy has cut U.S. power sector CO2 emissions by 4.4 percent; another report finds wind would be competitive with natural gas if carbon emissions were priced. (Huffington Post, BusinessGreen)

PIPELINES: Enbridge confirms plans to export Canadian oil via the U.S., a judge recommends allowing eminent domain for construction of an Illinois pipeline, and pipeline replacement work in Michigan will resume in May. (Reuters, EnergyWire, Associated Press)

***SPONSORED LINK: Greentech Media’s seventh annual Solar Summit returns to Phoenix this April 14-16th. Get 15% off with Promo Code: MID15. Register today!***

CLIMATE: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says states will have flexibility to implement new carbon rules: “Nothing we do can threaten reliability.” (Chicago Tribune)

ALSO: The Obama administration is concerned the IPCC is overestimating the cost of climate mitigation. (Bloomberg)

POLITICS: A College Republican event in northern Michigan makes the conservative case for clean energy and efficiency. (Marquette Mining Journal)

COAL: American Electric Power revises its projections, saying it will still get more than half of its energy from coal in 2020. (Platts)

COAL ASH: How North Carolina’s coal ash disaster was decades in the making. (Greensboro News & Record)

UTILITIES: Critics are concerned legislation shifting cleanup costs of old coal-gas sites to ratepayers could open the door for other, more costly projects. (Columbus Dispatch)

SOLAR: State officials sign off on a proposed solar project at the University of Illinois, and a community solar garden is planned at a former power plant site in Moorhead, Minnesota. (Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, Fargo Forum)

OIL: Ohio officials hear about North Dakota’s nearly $2 billion oil endowment (and higher drilling tax rates), and crews begin surveying for oil outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Columbus Dispatch, MLive)

FRAC SAND: Opponents will challenge an air permit for a proposed Wisconsin frac sand mine. (Winona Daily News)

TECHNOLOGY: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is expanding its battery research project with Johnson Controls. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

MEDIA: An analysis of cable news climate reporting finds there is still a significant amount of misleading coverage. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

COMMENTARY: A father’s perspective on climate change, and St. Louis doesn’t want Chicago’s petcoke either. (The Daily Beast, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)