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.
(Photo by Michelle Carl via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeremy P. Jacobs
Federal judges Tuesday upheld U.S. EPA’s air standards for mercury and other hazardous pollutants in a major win for the Obama administration.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the agency acted reasonably in promulgating its 2012 mercury and air toxics, or MATS, rule, which was the most significant EPA regulation of President Obama’s first term.
It requires coal- and oil-burning power plants to slash emissions over the next several years by installing control technologies. EPA estimated that the standards — the first of their kind — would cost the electric generating industry $9.6 billion annually, one of the most expensive regulations ever issued by the agency.
The Boswell Energy Center near Cohasset, Minnesota. (Photo © Steve Roberts, used with permission)
The Sierra Club is repeating a threat of a lawsuit against a northern Minnesota utility, alleging thousands of pollution violations at its coal-fired power plants.
Minnesota Power is the latest Midwest utility to face a legal threat from the Sierra Club over alleged soot or particulate violations under the Clean Air Act. The environmental group has filed similar complaints against St. Louis-based Ameren and Detroit’s DTE Energy.
A letter of intent delivered to Minnesota Power late last week says the company committed more than 12,000 air quality violations at three facilities between 2009 and 2013.
“We clearly dispute what they’re claiming,” said Minnesota Power spokesman Pat Mullen.
Coal barges on the Ohio River. (Photo by Bill Alden via Creative Commons)
A case before the Ohio Supreme Court could leave the state’s ratepayers with no way to recover unreasonable utility overcharges.
American Electric Power-Ohio is challenging an order requiring it to credit customers for $35 million in excess coal costs. In another case just last month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that AEP could keep $368 million in past overcharges.
AEP argues that both cases involved “retroactive ratemaking” — going back and changing utility rates after the fact.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) says both cases show how the current regulatory scheme favors utilities.
Opponents of the Rocky Branch strip mine in Illinois block logging equipment on a nearby road. (Photo by Jeff Lucas via Creative Commons)
On March 13, a handful of local residents blocked a road through the forest in southern Illinois and attempted to prevent a contractor for Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, from bringing in logging equipment to clear the area for a new 1,000-acre mine.
The Rocky Branch strip mine would basically be an extension of Peabody’s existing Cottage Grove mine, which produces about two million tons of coal annually and supplies Tennessee Valley Authority power plants in Ohio.
Logging had already started before the residents blocked the road; and continued during and since the blockade, which lasted for about four hours. Nonetheless, residents said they prevented some equipment from being moved and made a strong statement against the mine.
Residents opposed to the mine are demanding Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan intervene and review the permit process surrounding Rocky Branch, and order Peabody to halt its logging operations in the meantime.
The case may also represent a broader shift in attitude in a part of Illinois that has long acquiesced to the coal industry.
Jeff Biggers is the author of “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland,” among other books.
By Jeff Biggers
As Illinois finds itself once again in the throes of a short-term coal rush with devastating health and environmental consequences, it’s time to finally turn the page on the past and transition to a future with more sustainable economic development.
It’s time for Illinois to pay its debt to downstate coal mining communities.
Last month, a coal miner friend in Eastern Kentucky reminded me how his state was finally entering a new era, and getting past the hand-wringing, the finger-pointing, and the false arguments on coal mining. Led by bipartisan politicians, Eastern Kentuckians gathered on Dec. 9 for a high-level government-sponsored summit on economic diversification.
Peabody Energy’s headquarters in St. Louis. (Photo by tolkien1914 via Creative Commons)
A debate in Minnesota about the social and environmental costs of power plant pollution has caught the attention of the world’s largest private-sector coal company.
Peabody Energy wants a seat at the table as Minnesota prepares to update a two-decade-old figure that’s meant to help inform planning decisions about electricity generation in the state.
The coal giant said Tuesday in a petition to Minnesota utility regulators that the outcome of the case will affect its business, and that no one involved in the process is currently representing its interests.
Petroleum coke piles along the Calumet River in Chicago in October. (Photo by Josh Mogerman via Creative Commons)
Representatives of Illinois’s coal, oil and gas, chemical, shipping and other industries on Wednesday denounced Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed emergency rules regarding the storage of petcoke – a byproduct of tar sands refining that is sold as fuel mostly to overseas customers.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency filed the proposed rules on January 16, and after an weeklong public comment period the Illinois Pollution Control Board will decide whether to adopt the rules. (UPDATE: The board rejected the rules on Thursday.)
On a press conference call, industry representatives blasted Quinn for invoking an emergency rulemaking process when they contend there is no emergency.
Coal being shipped by barge on the Ohio River near Derby, Indiana. (Photo by Cathy Haglund via Creative Commons)
While coal use has declined in recent years, most states are still spending billions to import the fuel for electricity generation, according to a new study.
Thirty-seven states spent $19.4 billion in 2012 importing 433 million tons of coal from other states and other countries, according to the report, “Burning Coal, Burning Cash,” released this week by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The study, an update to a comprehensive 2010 investigation by the UCS, shows that between 2008 and 2012 coal imports actually dropped significantly – especially from other countries — because of the shift to natural gas and wind as power sources and also due to flat-lining power demand.
Howard Learner is the executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.
This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which was struck down by a 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year.
Two judges had ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its bounds in ordering states to significantly reduce their air pollution because of the impact on neighboring states – namely the impact of Midwestern coal plant emissions on Eastern states. An evenly split 4-4 Supreme Court ruling on CSAPR – since Justice Samuel Alito recused himself – would mean the appeals court’s decision is upheld.
The CSAPR arguments are pegged to two joined cases filed against a Homer City, Pennsylvania coal plant owned by EME, the same parent company of Chicago’s now-closed coal plants. (See the Supreme Court blog’s coverage of the cases here.)
On the same day, the EPA defended its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) in front of a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The court is expected to look more favorably on the MATS rule than it did upon CSAPR last year, and a decision is expected within several months.
We talked with Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, about the significance of the arguments and his predictions about the outcome (the ELPC is a member of RE-AMP, which also publishes Midwest Energy News).