Google, MidAmerican sign deal for Iowa wind power

WIND: Google signs a deal with MidAmerican Energy for 407 megawatts of wind energy to power a new Iowa data center. (Omaha World-Herald)

BIOFUELS: In response to market conditions, the EPA has retroactively lowered the cellulosic biofuel target for 2013. (The Hill)

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SOLAR: Xcel Energy sets off a bidding war in Minnesota as it calls for 100 megawatts of new projects. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

ALSO: This year marks the 60th anniversary of the development of the first solar photovoltaic cell. (Greentech Media)

OIL:
• A loophole in the law means transportation officials don’t review railroads’ emergency plans for oil train disasters. (EnergyWire)
• Railroad officials say current tanker cars have a one-in-four chance of leaking if they derail. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
• North Dakota drillers push back against calls to slow down production. (Associated Press)
• The Cowboy and Indian Alliance protests the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington, D.C. (Omaha World-Herald)
• North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes’ oil production would place it among the top ten states. (Associated Press)

OHIO: Opponents of a bill to freeze Ohio’s energy laws criticize state Sen. Bill Seitz’s behavior during hearings, which includes walking out on witnesses and invoking Hitler and Stalin. (Associated Press)

GRID: Michigan regulators are concerned about reliability in the Upper Peninsula, and American Electric Power expects demand in Ohio to fall 16 percent from 2011 levels by 2024. (Platts, Columbus Business First)

EFFICIENCY: Thousands of U.S. cities will compete for a new $5 million energy efficiency prize, and the transit agency serving the Minneapolis area shows off its new energy-saving light rail cars. (ClimateWire, Minnesota Public Radio)

FRACKING: Illinois activists send a letter with 2,700 signatures opposing fracking to Sen. Dick Durbin, and Exxon’s CEO drops out of a lawsuit challenging a fracking operation near his home. (Carbondale Southern, Columbus Business First)

FRAC SAND: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he doesn’t have the authority to impose a moratorium on frac sand mining. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

UTILITIES: A Michigan city hopes to save $54,000 over the next two years by switching natural gas providers. (MLive)

COAL: A Michigan utility pledges to find a new use for the site of a soon-to-be-retired coal plant. (MLive)

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POLLUTION: Activists in Muscatine, Iowa say “there’s been a change in attitude” about their city’s notorious air pollution. (Muscatine Journal)

COMMENTARY: Is cellulosic ethanol really worse for the climate than gasoline? Not so fast. (Great Plains Institute)

Critics decry ‘sweetheart’ loan deal for new nuclear plants

NUCLEAR: In what critics dub a “sweetheart deal,” documents show the Obama administration waived millions of dollars in loan fees for two new nuclear reactors. (Greenwire)

SOLAR: Minnesota lawmakers are expected to vote today on legislation that would prevent homeowners associations from banning solar panels, and a convent in Green Bay begins work on what will be one of the state’s largest solar arrays. (Midwest Energy News, Green Bay Press-Gazette)

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COAL: An Ohio utility says it needs more time to find a buyer for its coal plants, and coal mining company with operations in Indiana declares bankruptcy. (Platts, Indiana Public Media)

CLIMATE: How Keystone XL stacks up to EPA carbon rules in terms of impact on emissions. (New York Times)

FRACKING: Oil companies in North Dakota make deals to use water from flooded farmland for drilling, and why drilling companies are learning that smaller is better when it comes to land leasing. (Bismarck Tribune, Wall Street Journal)

FRAC SAND: An Iowa county approves new restrictions on frac sand mining. (KCRG)

OIL: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will visit the site of a December oil train explosion in North Dakota. (Associated Press)

GRID: Why batteries may not be the key to energy storage. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION: Some star athletes are shunning luxury SUVs for more fuel-efficient rides. (New York Times)

TECHNOLOGY: Ohio State students win a $100,000 prize for developing a battery that runs on potassium and air. (Columbus Business First)

MEDIA: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy talks about the Obama administrations climate efforts on the Daily Show. (Comedy Central)

COMMENTARY: How wind turbines compare to other bird killers, how Wisconsin would benefit from a carbon tax, and why Michigan should “follow the military’s lead to advance a 21st century energy sector.” (Bloomberg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Detroit News)

Study questions climate benefit of biofuels from cornfield waste

ETHANOL: A new study finds biofuels made from cornfield waste have a worse impact on climate than gasoline. (Associated Press)

COAL: Siding with North Dakota, a federal judge strikes down part of a Minnesota law requiring carbon offsets for imported coal power. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says the state will appeal the ruling. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio)

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NATURAL GAS: Ohio utilities are replacing thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines, some of which are more than 100 years old. (Midwest Energy News)

SOLAR: The solar industry “has now grown big enough to have enemies,” a recent landmark solar decision boosts the fortunes of a Minnesota renewable energy company, and an 8MW solar array atop a Superfund site — the largest of its kind in the U.S. — goes online in Indiana. (McClatchy, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Evansville Courier & Press)

KEYSTONE XL: The Obama administration delays a decision on Keystone XL until a court challenge in Nebraska is resolved. (Greenwire)

OHIO: The mayor of Columbus, Ohio says a bill to freeze the state’s renewable energy law “is harmful to consumers,” and an Ohio town will see its electricity rates increase 25 percent from a deal with the Prairie State coal plant. (Columbus Dispatch, Toledo Blade)

WIND: Alliant Energy’s CEO says wind energy is becoming cost-competitive without tax credits, and imported wind energy from Iowa is expected to lower utility rates in Chicago. (Forbes, Chicago Sun-Times)

FRACKING: Ohio regulators’ acknowledgment of a “probably” link between fracking and earthquakes could increase insurance costs for homeowners. (Columbus Business First)

FRAC SAND: More than 5,000 Minnesotans have signed a petition calling for a two-year moratorium on frac sand mining, and a former EPA official says Wisconsin needs to be responsive to complaints about mining operations. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wisconsin State Journal)

OIL: A refinery near Chicago was evacuated for several hours last week after an equipment malfunction. (Times of Northwest Indiana)

***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.***

EFFICIENCY: Researchers explore a correlation between “green” school buildings and better academic performance. (Columbus Dispatch)

COMMENTARY: Why Wisconsin needs to “make comprehensive energy reform a top priority.” (Wisconsin State Journal)

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)

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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.