Wisconsin regulators approve controversial transmission line

TRANSMISSION: Wisconsin regulators approve a controversial transmission project that will expand the state’s access to wind energy. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

SOLAR: How a Minnesota construction firm became one of the nation’s largest builders of solar installations. (Midwest Energy News)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join venture capitalists, civic leaders, and industry executives on April 14 at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago to watch fourteen cleantech startups compete for $1 million in total funding.***

UTILITIES: Minnesota regulators approve a rate increase for Xcel Energy, but reject a request by the utility to allow higher fixed charges, which opponents say would discourage efficiency. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

COAL: A Missouri town is the latest to launch a legal challenge over a deal with the Prairie State Energy Campus in Illinois. (SNL)

ILLINOIS: State lawmakers advance a bill that would establish a low-carbon portfolio standard. (Associated Press)

OIL TRAINS: 
• Minnesota officials advise people living near tracks to have evacuation plans. (Forum News Service)
• Minnesota lawmakers block an effort to speed up debate on a rail safety bill. (Forum News Service)
• Local officials raise concerns about a plan to route oil trains through downtown Minneapolis. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

FRACKING: More wastewater injection wells in Oklahoma are coming under scrutiny amid earthquake concerns. (EnergyWire)

FRAC SAND: Layoffs at a Wisconsin sand hauler could be an indication of impending setbacks for the state’s sand mining industry. (Madison Capital Times)

POLLUTION: Researchers find pollution from car exhaust and power plants can impact brain development in young children, impacting behavior. (Los Angeles Times)

NUCLEAR: An Illinois nuclear plant is back online after a planned refueling outage. (Quad-City Times)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join the solar industry in Minneapolis on May 13-14 at the Midwest Solar Expo! Expand your network and meet face-to-face with key Midwest solar industry players. Register today!***

CARBON CAPTURE: Industry groups challenge an EPA designation that classifies injected CO2 as “solid waste.” (Greenwire)

COMMENTARY: “Global warming” or “climate change”? It doesn’t matter. (Grist)

Illinois governor seeks to redirect clean-energy funds

ILLINOIS: A proposal from Gov. Bruce Rauner would seize $98 million from a ratepayer-funded clean energy program and apply it to the budget gap. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

EPA: Supreme Court justices appeared divided over whether the EPA should have included compliance costs in 2011 pollution rules, as Iowa’s governor and attorney general find themselves on opposite sides of the case. (Greenwire, Associated Press)

***SPONSORED LINK: Greentech Media’s Solar Summit is the industry’s premier annual gathering. Join leaders from across the solar value chain for 2+ days of groundbreaking content and unsurpassed networking opportunities. Get 15% off with code MWENRGY15.***

TRANSMISSION:
• Wisconsin regulators are expected to decide on the contested Badger-Coulee transmission project today. (La Crosse Tribune)
• Iowa lawmakers advance a bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for a transmission project. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

EFFICIENCY:
• More hospitals are turning to combined heat and power systems to save energy. (Midwest Energy News)
• Rural co-ops urge Congress to block an Energy Department rule banning electric water heaters, which are used in demand response programs. (Electric Co-op Today)

SOLAR:
• There is “a huge amount of history and emotion” regarding the site of a proposed Minnesota solar project. (Rochester Post-Bulletin)
• Recent approval of a solar project in Carbondale, Illinois includes provisions to minimize soil disruption at a brownfield site. (Carbondale Southern Illinoisan)

WIND:
• Clean-energy advocates seek to push wind energy beyond the Midwest. (ClimateWire)
• Developers of a South Dakota wind project will need to start over after officials rule they applied for the wrong permits for test towers. (Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

OIL AND GAS:
• North Dakota’s rig count drops below 100 for the first time in 5 years. (Associated Press)
• Leaders in North Dakota push to draw more manufacturing to diversify the state’s economy. (Reuters)
• A Siemens plant in Ohio that supplies the oil and gas industry is laying off 200 workers. (Columbus Dispatch)
• North Dakota may challenge new federal fracking rules for public lands. (Associated Press)
• Democrats in Congerss push to expand regulations governing oil trains. (The Hill)
• Pipe is already being stockpiled for a proposed project across South Dakota and Iowa. (Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

***SPONSORED LINK: The 10th annual Advancing Renewables in the Midwest conference will be April 6th & 7th in Columbia, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Expanding Opportunities.” Register today! ***

COMMENTARY:
• Should states be able to ignore carbon regulations? (Mother Jones)
• Michigan’s governor faces mixed messages from his own party on energy. (Crain’s Detroit Business)

Portman seeks to allow states to opt out of EPA climate plan

EFFICIENCY: Energy savings achieved by some Cleveland businesses and city agencies have put them well ahead of the benchmarks utilities must meet under Ohio’s energy efficiency standard. (Midwest Energy News)

ALSO: States with budding marijuana industries consider how to regulate their high energy consumption. (Washington Post)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join venture capitalists, civic leaders, and industry executives on April 14 at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago to watch fourteen cleantech startups compete for $1 million in total funding.***

EPA:
• Ohio Set. Rob Portman wants to allow states to opt out of carbon regulations. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
• Kansas lawmakers advance a bill directing state agencies to set up a carbon reduction plan. (Associated Press)

COAL:
• A financial analysis finds the U.S. coal sector is in “terminal decline.” (The Guardian)
• Opponents continue to fight a permit for an Ohio coal mine. (New Philadelphia Times Reporter)
• The Supreme Court case on EPA mercury rules won’t impact AEP’s decision to close several Ohio coal plants. (Columbus Business First)

OIL AND GAS: 
• A study finds billions of dollars from North Dakota’s oil boom leaving the state’s economy. (Fargo Forum)
• North Dakota regulators outline exceptions to flaring rules. (Dickinson Press)

SOLAR: Local officials in Carbondale, Illinois approve a solar project that was opposed by some residents. (Carbondale Southern Illinoisan)

WIND: Why General Motors is investing in wind energy. (Forbes)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join the solar industry in Minneapolis on May 13-14 at the Midwest Solar Expo! Expand your network and meet face-to-face with key Midwest solar industry players. Register today!***

SMART METERS: Ohio customers who refuse a smart meter will pay a lower monthly fee. (Columbus Business First)

COMMENTARY:
• Distributed generation is “going to happen anyway, and you just have to choose whether you’re gonna like it or not.” (Mother Jones)
• Will Minnesota policymakers follow major employers’ lead on clean energy? (MinnPost)

Supreme Court to hear key pollution case this week

SOLAR: A Kansas utility is proposing that customers who generate their own energy pay a higher fixed charge than other ratepayers. (Midwest Energy News)

POLLUTION: The Supreme Court will hear arguments on a key pollution rule this week; the ruling could have a major impact on Ohio and other Midwest states. (Bloomberg, Midwest Energy News archive)

***SPONSORED LINK: Greentech Media’s Solar Summit is the industry’s premier annual gathering. Join leaders from across the solar value chain for 2+ days of groundbreaking content and unsurpassed networking opportunities. Get 15% off with code MWENRGY15.***

OHIO: A report finds Ohio’s energy law “freeze” has resulted in millions of dollars in negative economic impacts. (Public News Service)

COAL:
• American Electric Power will close six coal plants by the end of May. (Platts)
• Coal gasification projects across the U.S. experience significant budget overruns. (Watchdog.org)

GRID: How a proposed transmission cable beneath Lake Erie will serve as an “extension cord” as U.S. coal plants retire. (EnergyWire)

UTILITIES:
• American Electric Power considers selling its barge subsidiary. (Columbus Dispatch)
• A Kansas utility will refund $38 million to customers after overcollecting on a fuel surcharge. (Wichita Eagle)
• Michigan regulators announce $22 million in federal grants for low-income utility bill assistance. (Associated Press)

ACTIVISM:
• BP withdraws from the American Legislative Exchange Council. (National Journal)
• Scientists urge science museums to cut ties with fossil fuel philanthropists. (New York Times)

OIL AND GAS:
• Scientists begin researching emissions from fracking sites. (Associated Press)
• A former Iowa lawmaker is walking across the state to protest a proposed oil pipeline. (WHO-TV)
• A drilling company is suing an Ohio town for access to water. (Columbus Business First)
• A hearing will be held next week on a proposed North Dakota pipeline. (Bismarck Tribune)

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Michigan researchers say electric cars can help reduce the urban heat island effect. (CityMetric)

***SPONSORED LINK: The 10th annual Advancing Renewables in the Midwest conference will be April 6th & 7th in Columbia, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Expanding Opportunities.” Register today! ***

EFFICIENCY: How Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program helps utilities become more efficient. (FierceEnergy)

COMMENTARY: What it means for utilities to focus on interactions instead of transactions, and why it may be critical for keeping the lights on. (Utility Dive)

Can the government reroute oil trains? Not very likely

MICHIGAN: Will natural gas or renewable energy be the cheaper way to meet EPA carbon targets? Michigan researchers have developed a tool to help answer that question. (Midwest Energy News)

ALSO: A leader in Michigan’s tourism industry says wind power is a key part of a “no regrets” energy policy. (MLive)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join venture capitalists, civic leaders, and industry executives on April 14 at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago to watch fourteen cleantech startups compete for $1 million in total funding.***

FRACKING:
New regulations governing fracking on federal lands are quickly challenged by the oil and gas industry. (New York Times, The Hill)
• Kansas regulators order limits on wastewater disposal in two counties. (Wichita Business Journal)

OIL TRAINS:
• Why government-ordered rerouting of oil trains is unlikely to happen. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
• The rail industry awaits tougher tank car rules. (Bismarck Tribune)

OIL AND GAS:
• North Dakota producers face conflicting orders on flaring. (Bismarck Tribune)
• A newspaper takes a closer look at the state of pipeline safety in Ohio. (Canton Repository)
• The oil boom has some North Dakota graduates returning home. (Associated Press)

SOLAR:
• How third-party solar leases can complicate home sales. (Los Angeles Times)
• A Minnesota city considers getting involved in the siting of a proposed solar garden. (Red Wing Republican Eagle)
• An Iowa university will host an open house for its new solar array. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

NUCLEAR:
• Michigan’s Fermi 2 plant shuts down after a water leak is discovered. (Associated Press)
• Michigan lawmakers push the feds to revive the Yucca Mountain waste storage project. (CBS Detroit)

COAL:
• Illinois officials seek more information on a permit application for a proposed coal mine. (Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette)
• An Ohio utility will be laying off 62 workers as it retires coal plants. (Columbus Business First)

KANSAS: Two proposals in the Kansas legislature would increase taxes on the renewable energy industry. (Associated Press)

ETHANOL: Illinois researchers say higher ethanol blends can significantly cut carbon emissions. (Crain’s Cleveland Business)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join the solar industry in Minneapolis on May 13-14 at the Midwest Solar Expo! Expand your network and meet face-to-face with key Midwest solar industry players. Register today!***

MEDIA: A Michigan reporter says he’s “dreaded” writing about the state’s energy policy debate because “the subject is mired in complexity” and “lacks reader appeal.” (MLive)

COMMENTARY:
• Laurence Tribe’s legal analysis of EPA authority “seems suspiciously contingent on which large corporation has hired him.” (Grist)
• Why coal can be cleaner, but never “clean.” (Forbes)

Energy Dept. says wind to be cheaper than gas in 10 years

MICHIGAN: Gov. Rick Snyder will unveil his energy plan today. (MLive)

WIND: The Department of Energy says wind power — without subsidies — will be cheaper than natural gas within a decade. (Bloomberg)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join venture capitalists, civic leaders, and industry executives on April 14 at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago to watch fourteen cleantech startups compete for $1 million in total funding.***

BIOFUELS: Legislation to encourage advanced biofuels in Minnesota is criticized by clean-water advocates who say it will encourage more reliance on corn. (Midwest Energy News)

OIL AND GAS:
• Union leaders have reached a deal to end a nationwide refinery strike. (Reuters)
• A poll finds most North Dakotans support tougher rules on flaring. (Bismarck Tribune)
• North Dakota officials find more illegally dumped radioactive oil field waste. (Associated Press)
• Researchers develop a tool to compare the climate impact of different types of crude oil. (ClimateWire)
• Chesapeake Energy still has high hopes for Ohio’s Utica Shale. (Columbus Business First)

CLIMATE: More research suggests a warming Arctic is altering the jet stream, causing more extreme summers and winters. (Washington Post)

SOLAR:
• More than half of North American utility requests for proposals for clean energy last year were for solar power. (Bloomberg)
• An Ohio college gets the go-ahead to build a solar project on a biological reserve. (Columbus Dispatch)
• An Iowa county scales back its solar plans after meeting with MidAmerican Energy. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

TECHNOLOGY: A Wisconsin company introduces a new battery for on-site energy storage. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

COAL: We Energies seeks to sell a small coal plant near Milwaukee. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

COAL ASH: House Republicans seek to “bring much-needed certainty” to coal ash regulation. (The Hill)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join Wind on the Wires March 19 for the “Energizing the Future” gala featuring former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff & former Congressman Bob Inglis. Reduced rates for NGOs.***

NEWSMAKER: Naomi Oreskes, author of “Merchants of Doubt,” discusses the current state of climate change denial. (InsideClimate News)

COMMENTARY:
• Michigan’s governor should veto “the counterproductive mess bubbling up from the legislature.” (Huffington Post)
• A Michigan conservative group is not opposed to energy mandates. (MLive)
• A former Ohio regulator argues that rooftop solar is overvalued. (Utility Dive)

Minnesota regulators defer action on solar objection

SOLAR: Officials at a Lansing utility confirm they’re working on a 20 MW project that would double Michigan’s solar capacity. (Midwest Energy News)

ALSO: Minnesota regulators defer action on Xcel Energy’s request to limit the size of projects in the state’s community solar program. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

***SPONSORED LINK: Greentech Media’s Solar Summit is the industry’s premier annual gathering. Join leaders from across the solar value chain for 2+ days of groundbreaking content and unsurpassed networking opportunities. Get 15% off with code MWENRGY15.***

IOWA: Gov. Terry Branstad appoints a new chair to the state’s Utilities Board, one month after MidAmerican Energy met with the governor to complain about an unfavorable ruling. (Associated Press)

WIND: South Dakota legislators approve a bill to make taxes for wind farms more competitive with neighboring states. (Rapid City Journal)

EPA: A Minnesota official says increasing the state’s renewable energy standard “would certainly help” toward meeting EPA carbon rules, an Indiana official says the state may refuse to comply with the Clean Power Plan, and the chair of Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission says the state’s carbon target is unrealistic. (MinnPost, Indianapolis Star, WisBusiness)

TRANSMISSION: Regulatory staff in Missouri recommend rejecting the Grain Belt Express transmission line, saying the project “is not needed in Missouri.” (Columbia Daily Tribune)

OIL AND GAS:
• A company wants to resume wastewater disposal at an Ohio site that saw two earthquakes last year. (Alliance Review)
• Chesapeake Energy will test waterless fracking at an Ohio well. (Columbus Business First)
• An Ohio lawmaker seeks tougher penalties for wastewater violations. (Associated Press)
• North Dakota moves to regulate 20,000 miles of “gathering lines,” which have proven vulnerable to spills. (InsideClimate News)
• Lawmakers in North Dakota struggle to formulate a budget as oil prices fluctuate. (Bismarck Tribune)
• Don Johnson will star in an ABC-TV drama set in the Bakken oil patch. (Reuters)

FRAC SAND: After a Minnesota county fails to enact a ban on frac sand operations, mining opponents file an ethics complaint against the county’s zoning administrator. (Rochester Post-Bulletin)

MICHIGAN: Thousands of jobs will depend on the state’s energy policy direction. (Crain’s Detroit Business)

NUCLEAR: Safety advocates criticize federal regulators for not acting quickly enough on lessons from the Fukushima disaster. (The Hill)

***SPONSORED LINK: The 10th annual Advancing Renewables in the Midwest conference will be April 6th & 7th in Columbia, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Expanding Opportunities.” Register today! ***

TECHNOLOGY: How carbon-negative power plants could help stabilize the climate. (Vox)

COMMENTARY: Why the Exelon bill in Illinois would hold back renewable energy. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

Iowa lawmakers seek independent review of pipeline

ILLINOIS: Advocates try to gauge where Illinois is heading on energy under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. (Midwest Energy News)

ALSO: A state agency is expected to decide today whether to investigate an Integrys subsidiary for alleged abuse of a state gas line replacement program. (SNL)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join venture capitalists, civic leaders, and industry executives on April 14 at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago to watch fourteen cleantech startups compete for $1 million in total funding.***

COAL: Developers have pulled the plug on a controversial Indiana coal gasification plant. (Indianapolis Star) 

SOLAR: Owens Corning plans to build 2.4 MW worth of solar canopies over a Toledo parking lot, and could solar power surpass natural gas in the U.S.? (Toledo Blade, Quartz)

OIL AND GAS:
• Iowa lawmakers seek an independent environmental review for a proposed crude oil pipeline. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
• A Minnesota county may buy a piece of property to block oil trains from going into Minneapolis. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
• Minnesota lawmakers call for a tax on railroads to pay for safety improvements on oil train routes. (Minnesota Public Radio)
• A citizen lawsuit challenges a Wisconsin rail expansion. (Madison Capital Times)
• Ohio lawmakers amend a bill to require “zero surface impact” from fracking in state parks, but reject further protections. (Columbus Dispatch)
• Researchers develop a technique to treat drilling wastewater that also generates electricity. (Christian Science Monitor)
• A brine spill may have contaminated a North Dakota creek. (UPI)

KANSAS: Wind energy supporters urge Kansas lawmakers not to repeal the state’s renewable energy standard. (Topeka Capital Journal)

UTILITIES: A Missouri proposal would use tax credits instead of rate reductions as an incentive for new companies. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

TRANSMISSION: A Wisconsin regulator says he’s taken no position on a proposed transmission line despite he and his father owning land near one of the proposed routes. (La Crosse Tribune)

TECHNOLOGY: Wisconsin researchers combine solar and biomass technologies to develop a new energy storage technique. (Tech Times)

EPA: Wisconsin and EPA officials debate carbon regulations at a forum in Milwaukee. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join Wind on the Wires March 19 for the “Energizing the Future” gala featuring former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff & former Congressman Bob Inglis. Reduced rates for NGOs.***

TRANSPORTATION: Electric vehicles are a hot topic at a Minnesota energy conference. (St. Cloud Times)

COMMENTARY: A Michigan lawmaker “must think the arcane nature of energy policy allows him to hide his polluter and utility wish list masquerading as legislation in plain sight.” (NRDC Switchboard)

Indiana revokes permit for controversial coal-to-gas plant

EPA: Critics question the credibility of a report raising reliability issues with the Clean Power Plan, noting that the contractor that produced it has ties to a “clean coal” technology firm. (Midwest Energy News)

ALSO: A bill in Minnesota would give lawmakers final say over any carbon reduction plans. (Minnesota Public Radio)

***SPONSORED LINK: Greentech Media’s Solar Summit is the industry’s premier annual gathering. Join leaders from across the solar value chain for 2+ days of groundbreaking content and unsurpassed networking opportunities. Get 15% off with code MWENRGY15.***

GREEN ECONOMY: A series of reports finds nearly 30,000 jobs in three Midwest states supported by the wind and solar industries; and renewable energy, though still a small segment of the energy mix, continues to grow faster than fossil fuels. (Midwest Energy News, Washington Post)

COAL: Indiana officials revoke a permit for a controversial proposed coal-to-gas plant; and regulators had issued more than a dozen safety citations to the owner of a West Virginia mine that collapsed on Sunday, killing an Ohio man. (RTV-6, Associated Press)

SOLAR: A Michigan utility is withdrawing plans for a solar array at the Ann Arbor airport, citing opposition from a neighboring township. (MLive)

OIL TRAINS: Four recent derailments show that newer rail cars are failing to prevent fires and explosions, increasing the pressure to reduce volatility of North Dakota crude at the source. Minnesota and Wisconsin lawmakers are also calling for tougher regulations(Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, La Crosse Tribune)

FRACKING: Legal experts say that despite a recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling, local governments still have options for restricting drilling. (EnergyWire)

NUCLEAR: Regulators grant a 20-year operating license extension to a Missouri nuclear plant. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

UTILITIES: Amid shareholder pressure, a Wisconsin utility agrees to expand renewable energy development. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

POLLUTION: As a Michigan group of governments pushes back against tougher ozone regulations, residents say the state isn’t doing enough to control pollution in general. (MLive, Detroit News)

BIOFUEL: A new Kansas plant begins producing ethanol from crop waste. (Kansas City Public Media)

***SPONSORED LINK: The 10th annual Advancing Renewables in the Midwest conference will be April 6th & 7th in Columbia, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Expanding Opportunities.” Register today! ***

CLIMATE: Climate deniers go on the offensive against science historian Naomi Oreskes ahead of the release of a documentary based on her book “Merchants of Doubt.” (ClimateWire)

COMMENTARY: Advocates say the Clean Power Plan will be good for Minnesota’s economy; a Duluth newspaper says not so fast. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Duluth News Tribune)

Oil train derailment ‘imminent’ threat to Mississippi River

OIL: An Illinois oil train derailment poses an “imminent and substantial danger” of contaminating the Mississippi River, the train was en route to Chicago. (Los Angeles Times, ABC7)

ALSO: The White House considered tougher federal standards to control volatility of Bakken crude oil, but left it up to North Dakota instead. (Reuters)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join venture capitalists, civic leaders, and industry executives on April 14 at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago to watch fourteen cleantech startups compete for $1 million in total funding.***

CLIMATE: A small Michigan town has a plan to run on 100 percent renewable energy. (Midwest Energy News)

SOLAR: The Washington Post explores utility efforts to slow the growth of rooftop solar., and an Iowa court ruling has led to an explosion in public-sector solar projects. (Washington Post, Cedar Rapids Gazette)

TRANSMISSION: Backers say transmission should be a component of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, as utilities invest billions in the grid to support the expansion of renewable energy. (EnergyWire, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

COAL: One worker is killed and two more are injured in a collapse at a West Virginia coal mine owned by Ohio-based Murray Energy, and Southern Illinois lawmakers push back against plans by Gov. Bruce Rauner to eliminate state funding for marketing the coal industry. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Carbondale Southern Illinoisan)

UTILITIES: A Kansas utility’s rate proposal would give customers four options to support renewable energy. (Topeka Capital-Journal)

NUCLEAR: Minnesota regulators rule that Xcel Energy can’t collect profits from cost overruns at a nuclear plant. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

GRID: A report projects the energy storage market will more than triple this year. (Greentech Media)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join Wind on the Wires March 19 for the “Energizing the Future” gala featuring former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff & former Congressman Bob Inglis. Reduced rates for NGOs.***

POLLUTION: Lawmakers struggle with how to control emissions from wood burning, still a primary source of heat for many low-income rural homeowners. (Associated Press)

COMMENTARY: Why clean energy is good business for Iowa farmers. (Des Moines Register)