Monday, February 28, 2005
Robert W. Varney, the EPA's regional administrator, expressed a number of concerns in the letter, finding that the study did not provide adequate information on current environmental conditions or the impact of the proposed project. Varney also noted that the DEIS failed to address concerns previously raised by federal agencies and was especially critical of the Corps' failure to collect three years of data on bird impacts, as suggested by the Fish & Wildlife Service.
The letter also questioned the Corps' analysis of alternatives to the project, and in particular its evaluation of whether a scaled-down version could avoid or minimize potential impacts.
The EPA does not have the ultimate authority to block the Cape Wind project, but a negative review from the agency on the Final EIS could seriously affect the ability of the EIS to withstand scrutiny if challenged in court.
The Cape Cod Times & the Times Argus both have reports. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has a copy of the Boston Globe article on its website.
According to the article, a spokesman for the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the branch of the Department of the Interior responsible for determining state/federal boundaries, said that the change in the state boundary had nothing to do with the Cape Wind project, but was part of a nationwide reassessment. Massachusetts just happens to be the first reassessment completed.
Check out our previous post on the MA state boundary change for more background.
Friday, February 25, 2005
The new suit comes just weeks after a federal judge dismissed a case filed by the same plaintiffs in federal court against the developers of the Elk River Wind Farm. Among other things, the federal case alleged that operation of the wind farm would violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The judge dismissed the case for failure to state a valid legal claim.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
In a 24-3 vote, the Senate expressed support for Senate Bill S.52, which would require Vermont utilities to provide certain levels of electricity from new and existing renewable energy sources. Under the bill, the exact percentage of required renewable energy will be tied to a utility's incremental energy growth over 10 years, up to, but not exceeding, 10 percent. The State's Public Service Board will oversee implementation of the RPS, and would have authority to allow utilities to "opt out" if renewable power is too expensive or the program threatens to dramatically increase electricity rates.
The Vermont House is expected to take up discussion of the RPS bill shortly. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio (VPR) earlier this week, Republican Governor Jim Douglas reiterated his strong opposition to an RPS. A showdown on the bill is expected before the end of the legislative session.
VPR has more on the Senate RPS bill.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
The current IRS guidelines interpret the tax incentive to apply only to "mixtures" of biodiesel, and according to the IRS, that means producers of B100 are not eligible because the final product is not blended with regular diesel fuel. Thus, while B99 would qualify for the credit, B100, remarkably, would not.
As the group's comment letter points out, "the common terminology in the industry is to refer to blends of biodiesel – B20, B50, B100; similar to grades of gasoline – regular, unleaded, premium. Since biodiesel is inherently a blended mixture, it seems appropriate that the Service broadly interpret "mixture" to include all biodiesel blends including B100."
Excluding B100 from the incentive, would, according to the group, be inconsistent with the spirit of the tax incentive included in the American Job Creation Act of 2004, and would lead to perverse results. The group's comments call on the IRS to adopt an expansive interpretation of the term "mixture" that would apply to all biodiesel products from B1-B100.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
27 of the organizations comprising the Sustainable Energy Coalition requested that the Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources convene a conference to examine the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to meet U.S. energy needsThe letter, sent Monday, noted that the Senate recently held a conference on natural gas, and has plans to host a forum on coal energy issues, and the coalition called on the members of the committee to host a similar conference on renewable energy issues.
Monday, February 21, 2005
The lawsuit, which was filed last November by a number of environmental organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, claims that wind turbines at Altamont have killed 880 to 1,330 golden eagles, hawks, owls and other protected raptors each year for the past 20 years, in violation of California Fish and Game Code provisions as well as the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The plaintiffs assert that violations of these regulations and statutes amount to unfair business practices and seek damages in order to purchase and preserve bird habitats.
The defendant companies had moved to dismiss the suit, but Judge Ronald Sabraw concluded that the suit could continue. According to the Contra Costa report, the judge found that the plaintiffs could not prosecute the case on behalf of the general public, due to recent changes in California law, but that the suit was justified because the Plaintiffs, like all Californians, have a property interest in the wildlife killed by the turbines.
Update (2/23/05): Lawyer News has more on the recent ruling in the Altamont Pass case.
Bob Dinneen, President of RFA, testified before the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality last week. In his testimony Mr. Dinneen focused on the broad value of an national RFS, emphasizing that an RFS "provides a positive roadmap for reducing consumer fuel prices, increasing energy security, and stimulating rural economies by harnessing America's renewable energy potential." But Mr. Dinneen called on Congress to aim higher in its total production volumes for biofuels, noting that U.S. ethanol plants are already expected to produce more than 4 billion gallons in 2005, and that the proposed RFS only requires 5 billion gallons by 2012. "[I]t should be obvious," he stressed, "that the ethanol industry could supply a much greater volume of ethanol under an RFS."
A complete copy of the February 8, 2005 "discussion draft" of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, including the renewable fuels provision, is available on the Energy & Commerce Committee's website.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
The case, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound V. United States Department of the Army, No. 03-2604, follows on the heels another similar case filed by opponents of the Cape Wind project.
In this most recent case, the Alliance challenged the Corps' jurisdiction over Cape Wind Associates project, the Corps' interpretation of regulations governing navigability permits under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, and the adequacy of the Corps' NEPA evaluation and its Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The District Court of Massachusetts previously rejected the Alliance's claims, and granted summary judgment for the Corps in 2003. The 1st Circuit opinion issued yesterday upholds the District Court's grant of summary judgment. Appellate Law & Practice Blog has more on the 1st Circuit's analysis.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
State of Massachusetts Contemplating Boundary Change in Order to Assert Jurisdiction Over Cape Wind Project
The discovery of this pile of rocks comes just weeks after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from citizens in Massachusetts who disagreed with the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision's to uphold federal jurisdiction over the Cape Wind proposal. As we've explained in previous posts, federal law provides the U.S Army Corps of Engineers exclusive authority over projects that are within territorial U.S. waters, but more than three miles from shore. The Cape Wind Project currently sits just outside of the three mile boundary - but apparently not for long.
However, even with the change, only 10-13 of the 130 turbines would fall within the new jurisdictional boundary, and Cape Wind Associates, the project proponents, have expressed doubt that the change would have any substantive effect on their proposal. But the proposed adjustment gives clear indication of the political influence held by opponents, including Gov. Mitt Romney, who has previously taken a hard line against construction of the project.
National Public Radio's Morning Edition has several good reports on the Kyoto Protocol this morning, and the New York Times reports on efforts in the EU to comply with the treaty (registration required).
Contemplating the impact of a new proposal to place 10 wind turbines at a ski facility in New York's Adirondack Park, he writes:
These newer, more efficient turbines are enormous; part of me doesn't want to gaze out from the summit of Peaked Mountain or the marsh at Thirteenth Lake and see an industrial project in the distance. In the best of all possible worlds, we'd do without them.
But it's not the best of all possible worlds. Right now, the choice is between burning fossil fuels and making the transition, as quickly as possible, to renewable power. There are more than 100 coal-fired power plants on the drawing board in this country right now; if they are built we will spew ever more carbon into the atmosphere. And that will endanger not only the residents of low-lying tropical nations that will be swamped by rising oceans, but also the residents of the Siamese Pond Wilderness. The birch and beech and maple that turn this place glorious in the fall won't survive a rapid warming; the computer modeling for this part of the country, conducted at the University of New Hampshire, shows that if we continue with business as usual there won't even be winter as we've known it here by century's end, just one long chilly mud season.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Based on an extensive study prompted by the American Wind Energy Association and the Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has developed a new set of recommendations for lighting wind farms that will require fewer lights. It is hoped that the new recommendations will make wind farms less visible at night to surrounding areas, and, therefore, easier to site.The new recommendations are focused on designing a lighting system that will identify the whole wind farm as one large obstruction that should be avoided, rather than a series of smaller obstructions. FAA has not yet published the new recommendations on its website, but Jim Patterson, the FAA's principle investigator, will be discussing the FAA's process and recommendations at AWEA's upcoming Wind Power Project Siting Workshop in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 8-9.
The new recommendations suggest red or white synchronized flashing strobe lights, at most one half-mile apart, around the perimeter of the wind farm. Daytime lighting and dual lighting of the turbines were both deemed unnecessary.
The article follows publication of a report by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on the economic feasibility of wave power in the U.S.. The report, published in collaboration with the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), concludes that "wave energy conversion may be economically feasible within the territorial waters of the United States as soon as investments are made to enable wave technology to reach a cumulative production volume of 10,000 - 20,000 MW. (Land-based wind turbines, in comparison, generate 40,000 MW.)"
According to EPRI's Roger Bedard, the amount of wave energy available off the coasts of the United States is nine to ten times the energy currently generated by the country's hydroelectric dams
Alternative Energy Blog has more on the EPRI report and wave energy developments around the world.
The Commission's staff published a 32-page critique of the DEIS earlier this month, which outlines issues the Commission believes need to be addressed in a Supplemental DEIS. Among other things, the report asserts that the Corps has failed to adequately assess all reasonable alternatives to the proposed 130-turbine project, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to the Commission, omitted alternatives include:
- smaller facilities.
- Alternate configurations, including relocating some rows to be further
from shore and tighter spacing between turbines.
- A phased installation that would be typical of a precautionary approach to
- A distributed generation option that would consider several smaller wind
U.S. Geothermal said it has been awarded a $2.2 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Program to assist in the development and construction of an innovative power generation application at its Raft River 10 MW geothermal power project, if the company concludes that the new application is feasible. In September 2004, U.S. Geothermal and partners submitted a proposal to the DOE for an innovative power generation technology -- an ammonia adsorption power cycle ('AAPC') -- developed by ECC. The AAPC technology could prove to be a viable alternative to the technology currently used in the power generation process, providing more efficient production at lower cost. If accepted by U.S. Geothermal, the grant will be used for construction of its 10 MW power plant, using the new technology. If the engineering and design activities currently underway are successful, U.S. Geothermal intends to make a decision in late March 2005 to use the new technology in its plant and accept the US DOE grant.
Monday, February 14, 2005
The draft report, entitled The Effects of Integrating Wind Power on Transmission System Planning, Reliability, and Operations, concludes that the NY state power grid can support up to 3300 MW of wind power generation without substantial changes in the planning, operations, or reliability of the transmission system. Lss than 50 MW of wind power is currently generated in-state.
According to the report, pushing the state's wind energy supply to 3300 MW, or 10% of NY's peak power load, would reduce emissions and, contrary to some views, result in measurable cost savings - decreasing the "zonal spot prices" utilities pay to system operators by as much as 10%.
NYSERDA will be accepting comments on the Draft Final Report through the close of business on Friday, February 18, 2005. Comments may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renewable Energy Access.com and Poughkeepsie Journal have more on the report.
On October 12, 2004 a local group, Citizens For Responsible Wind Power, requested that the PSC take immediate action to implement a moratorium on all wind power development in West Virginia, including projects previously issued certificates authorizing construction of at least two wind farms.
On January 25, 2005, after consideration of substantial filings, the PSC issued a final order denying the petition, stating that "'[i]nformation of the caliber necessary to cause the commission to reassess its position in any previously granted wind power certificate case has not been brought to the commission's attention in the case. A blanket moratorium would deem all wind power projects as contrary to the public interest before the facts on each are fully known."
The PSC concluded that the Commission's authority was expressly limited to reviewing individual certificate applications, and authority to impose a moratorium of the type requested rested with the legislature, not the Commission:
The West Virginia Legislature has charged the Commission with responsibility for siting of exempt wholesale generators, including wind power projects. Applicants are entitled to file petitions with the Commission for authority to proceed with a particular project and the public is entitled to express its concern with such projects. The Commission is empowered to proceed on a case-by-case basis and make a determination as to whether a particular project serves the interest of the public, the general interest of the state and local economy, and the interest of the applicant. West Virginia Code §24-2-11c(c). Obviously, this legislative mandate requires that the Commission proceed on a case by case basis. It is within the Legislature's power to enact legislation that would halt all construction on all wind power projects should it wish to do so and there were supporting public policy reasons. (See, e.g., Columbia Gas of West Virginia, Inc. v. Public Service Commission, 311 S.E.2d 137 (W.Va., 1983). However, to date, no such legislation exists.The decision to reject the moratorium gives the go-ahead to two developers who have PSC permits to build wind projects in Grant County, WV this year.
The lawsuit was filed in January by the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Foundation against the companies involved in the Elk River Windfarm - a $190M, 100 turbine project that is slated to begin construction in March. The 172 page complaint filed by the plaintiffs sought to prohibit commercial wind energy development in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, considered to be one of the best remaining examples in the Midwest of a tall grass prairie ecosystem.
The Judge has not yet issued a written opinion, but according to news reports, told attorneys in the case that he was dismissing the suit because the complaint failed to state a valid legal claim.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Friday, February 11, 2005
Ninth Circuit Rules that California's New Energy-Efficiency Regulations are Not Preempted by Federal Law
The case presented the question of whether federal law preempts California’s appliance regulations requiring appliance manufacturers to submit data about their appliances to California’s Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, mark their appliances with basic information such as brand name and energy performance, and be subjected to related compliance and enforcement rules. Four major appliance trade associations challenged the new rules, and the District Judge for the Eastern District of California agreed with the trade associations, finding that the new rules were preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 and subsequent amendments.
The Ninth Circuit, in an opinion issued late last week, reversed the District Court ruling, concluding that EPCA did not preempt the submission, marking, or enforcement provisions of California's new regulations.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Evolution Markets completed an auction of renewable energy certificates (RECs) for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC). While sales of RECs often attract less attention than the renewable energy projects that supply them, these sales frequently make the difference between a stalled project and a completed oneMTC, a public economic development agency that manages the state's Renewable Energy Trust, produced $256,151.33 from the sale of the Massachusetts "New" Renewable Certificates. The MTC auction, which was administered by brokers Evolution Markets, sold 5,011 Massachusetts "New" Renewable Certificates generated in the second and third quarters of 2004. The certificates are from the Ameresco Chicopee landfill gas-to-energy facility, which have been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources as an eligible source under the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard. Martha Broad, Manager of Renewable Energy Markets said the funds will go to support additional development or expansion of renewable energy facilities in the state.Complete auction results are available on the Evolutions Markets website.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
The big increases at DOE in nuclear & fossil fuel expenditures should come as no surprise - coal research up 261% (from $221 to $798M), nuke research up almost 40% (from $288M to $402M).
Renewable energy technologies made out with comparatively meager increases, particularly considering the total dollar amounts involved:
- funding for wind energy supply up 2.6% (from $39M to $40M);
- solar energy up 7.5% (from $80M to $86M);
- geothermal up 8.3% (from $24M to $26M);
- and hydrogen up 16.0% (from $80M to $91M).
A complete breakdown of the DOE line-item budget is available on-line.
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today announced the availability of a new report that highlights the Bush administration's efforts to increase interest in the development and use of renewable energy resources found on America's public lands. The 26-page report, Renewable Resources for America's Future, show that lands managed by the Department of the Interior provide 48 percent of the nation's geothermal energy, 17 percent of hydropower and close to 10 percent of the nation's wind energy production.A copy of the Renewable Resources in America's Future report is available on DOI's website.
The report summarizes the Department's recent accomplishments in support of the president's National Energy Policy. It also explains Departmental actions taken in response to the White House Report in Response to the National Energy Policy: Recommendations to Increase Renewable Energy Production on Federal Lands. This report recommended seven actions, five of which directly relate to Interior programs and activities. The recommendations all focus on encouraging renewable energy development such as geothermal, biomass, wind, solar and hydropower on federal lands.
Friday, February 04, 2005
According to the publisher, the site is intended to be "a platform for information, ideas and commentary on smart energy. It serves as a resource for businesses who want to be more responsible energy users, as well as for entrepreneurs and investors in the energy sector."
The site covers "energy-related technologies and best practices for business, including power management, demand response, clean & renewable energy, distributed generation, backup & premium power, building automation, conservation & efficiency, and more. "
Check out their 2005 Energy Priorities: the top five actions businesses can take to become more responsible energy users.
There were 850 pre-registered and over 100 day of show registrations. This business is hot. Some observations:Lyle, over at the Piedmont Biofuels Energy Blog, also posted throughout the event - day 1, day2, and day 3.
There are actual customers at the show. Farmers, entrepreneurs, distributors, retailers, large fuel consumers, and more. Actual customers of biodiesel. Companies that want to expand their investment in the business. This is a good sign. Many trade shows I have been to end up being alot of vendors talking to each other wondering where the real customers are. This is not the case here.
Total US Biodiesel production was between 30-35M gallons in 2004. It was roughly flat with 2003 due in large part to the 50% increase in soy prices during the year. The effects of the Soy price shock were somewhat blunted by the petrol price rises at the same time.
The Kansan.com has a more traditional report on the conference.
A quick round-up of recently proposed state legislation related to geothermal energy:
Iowa Senate Bill 20 (S.B. 20): An Act relating to notice regarding the use of geothermal energy in development plans for undeveloped land.
Montana Senate Bill 340 (S.B. 340): Proposes an $1500 income tax credit for residential geothermal heating and cooling systems.
New Hampshire House Bill 185 (H.B. 185): An Act establishing a committee to study the unique nature of geothermal properties capable of supporting energy for production.
North Dakota House Bill 1481 (H.B. 1481): Relates to a credit for installation of geothermal, solar, or wind energy devices under the simplified method of computing income tax.
Rhode Island Senate Bill 37 (S.B. 37): Proposes to add geothermal energy systems to the state tax credit/refund to purchasers of certain types of renewable energy systems.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
The RPS legislation could eventually force a showdown between the Democratically controlled legislature, and Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who during his campaign last fall said he was opposed to an RPS in Vermont.
John Bailey, over at The New Rules Project brought the oversight to our attention. Thanks John. For those who don't know, newrules.org is an excellent resource for information on a wide range of topics, including renewable energy issues. Add the RSS feed to your subscription list if you haven't already.
Neighbors fighting the construction of a solar power plant on the Butte College campus may appeal a ruling issued Wednesday that rejects, at least for now, their attempt to halt the project.According to the press report, opponents of the project are primarily raising process claims, arguing that the school failed to adequately notify surrounding residents. In his order denying the preliminary injunction, the judge also signaled that the plaintiffs would not succeed on the merits of their claim, due to their failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
In a written ruling released Wednesday, Butte County Superior Court Judge Thomas W. Kelly refused to issue a preliminary injunction seeking to bar the college from constructing a solar power facility on the school's Pentz Road campus.
The current phase of the campus solar power project is designed to produce just under 900 kilowatts of electricity, or about a third of the school's consumption.
Farmers in the heartland are trying to cash in on America's growing infatuation with biodiesel, the replacement for petroleum diesel that can be made from vegetable and animal oils and fats.On the other side, farmers are concerned that the non-standardized "homemade" biofuel produced by the "backyarders" is dangerous to the future of the industry itself: "The growers, for their part, fear backyarders and co-ops are selling an unreliable product that could turn off American consumers, if a few of them get a bad batch of the stuff."
The farmers, soybean growers from Midwestern states, are enlisting the help of environmentalists and celebrities, to give them the hip, eco-friendly image they need to reach young adults and baby boomers.
The relationship between soybean growers and environmentalists is proving a rocky one, however.
Many environmentalists have been making biodiesel in their backyards, basements and bathtubs for years, and promoting the fuel at a grass-roots level.
But the backyarders, as they are known, are also among the leading critics of the soybean growers' practices, particularly their use of GMO crops and herbicides.