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California governor, lawmakers confront utility bankruptcy

Capital Press | Posted on January 22, 2019

The announcement by the nation's largest utility that it is filing for bankruptcy puts Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s problems squarely in the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers, who now must try to keep ratepayer costs down, ensure wildfire victims get the money they're owed and rethink California's energy picture in the face of climate change.  "This issue is all about three fundamental things: It is about safety, it's about reliability and it's about affordability," Newsom told reporters after spending the day in and out of meetings with lawmakers about the pending bankruptcy. The filing would not make the lawsuits disappear, but would result in all wildfire claims being consolidated into a single proceeding before a bankruptcy judge, not a jury. That could shield the company from excessive jury verdicts and buy time by putting a hold on the claims."The chances of victims getting what they would've gotten without a bankruptcy are not good," said state Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat.

Idaho’s new governor: ‘Climate change is real’

High Country News | Posted on January 22, 2019

Less than two weeks after being sworn in as the 33rd governor of Idaho, Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has broken with national party leaders on climate change, declaring unequivocally that the phenomenon is real.In an address Jan. 16 at an event organized by the Idaho Environmental Forum, an association focused on discussing environmental policy in the state, Little bluntly told the gathered crowd, “Climate change is real.” In the stunned silence that followed his unexpected pronouncement, he went on to discuss how he’d seen Idaho’s seasons shift over his lifetime: “I mean, I’m old enough that I remember feeding cows all winter long in deep snow … boy, back in the old days when I was a kid, we had winters.”

Vineyard Wind offers $6.2M to compensate R.I. fishermen

Providence Journal | Posted on January 22, 2019

Vineyard Wind is offering to pay Rhode Island fishermen $6.2 million in compensation for lost access to fishing grounds as part of a mitigation plan for its proposed offshore wind farm that also includes the creation of a $23-million fund to research new gear and technology to support safe fishing in and around wind turbines. As expected, the offer to the state’s fishermen who catch squid, lobster and Jonah crab in the project waters south of Martha’s Vineyard falls short of what they wanted.One benchmark for the potential drop in revenues they would suffer from losing access to the waters where Vineyard Wind wants to erect 84 giant turbines comes from an analysis by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which put the number at between $30.5 million and $35.6 million over the 30-year life of the wind farm.

Coal Ash Is Contaminating Groundwater in at least 22 States, Utility Reports Show

Inside Climate News | Posted on January 22, 2019

The clearest picture yet of coal ash contamination in the United States is emerging, with utilities reporting serious groundwater contamination in at least 22 states. At dozens of power plants across the country, including many in the Southeast, utilities have found coal-ash pollution severe enough to force them to propose cleanup plans. Those plans will likely become the next front in a decades-long battle over how to manage one of the nation's largest industrial waste streams—one tainted by toxic heavy metals.

Texas regulators defer to legislature on utility ownership of energy storage

Utility Dive | Posted on January 22, 2019

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) on Thursday deferred a decision on outstanding questions regarding the ownership of energy storage devices, leaving the matter for consideration by the state's legislature.In a report to the legislature earlier this month, the PUCT said ownership of energy storage devices has "emerged as an issue that would benefit from legislative clarity."The legislature's session runs from Jan. 8 until May 27. If the legislature does not act, the PUCT would revisit the issue, Chairman DeAnn Walker said.

Virginia rejects majority of Dominion's $6B grid modernization plan, smart meter rollout

Utility Dive | Posted on January 22, 2019

Virginia regulators on rejected large portions of Dominion Energy's grid transformation proposal, including smart meter deployment and other modernization efforts.The 10-year proposal would have cost approximately $6 billion, with the first three-year phase pegged at $1.5 billion. Regulators said Dominion's plan had not been shown to be cost effective, cutting $1.34 billion from the first phase and leaving just $154.5 million for security-related measures.While the State Corporation Commission (SCC) did approve Dominion's physical and cyber security plans, the denials sent the utility back to the drawing board in terms of developing a smarter and more efficient grid. The utility said it will take the commission's comments into account when it files its next proposal.

Federal judge links PG&E's uninsulated power lines to California wildfires

Utility Dive | Posted on January 22, 2019

The federal judge overseeing Pacific Gas & Electric's probation related to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion issued a preliminary finding on Thursday concluding the utility's equipment was a factor in sparking wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that devastated parts of Northern California.The ruling could lead to additional scrutiny or oversight for the utility, which announced Jan. 14 that it would file for bankruptcy protection due to mounting wildfire liabilities. U.S. District Judge William Alsup gave PG&E and the U.S. Justice Department until Jan. 23 to reply to concerns that uninsulated PG&E equipment caused "electrical sparks [to] drop into the vegetation below," creating "an extreme danger of igniting a wildfire."

Shift focus to responsible antibiotic use, not arbitrary reductions

Pig Health Today | Posted on January 20, 2019

 Some retailers and foodservice companies are asking for animals that have never received antibiotics (“no antibiotics ever” or NAE), but that request fails to recognize that animals — like people — get sick.That puts veterinarians in a corner, according to Joel Nerem, DVM, Pipestone Veterinary Services, Pipestone, Minnesota.“‘No antibiotics ever’ has become a very effective marketing tool,” for some retailers and foodservice companies, he told Pig Health Today.  He thinks a lot of this is driven by misconceptions about why and how antibiotics are used on the farm.“When you talk to consumers, they say, ‘I want to purchase meat that’s been raised without antibiotics.’ But when you start talking to them about the animals themselves — the fact that animals can become ill and need a veterinarian to diagnose and treat those illnesses, just like a human being seeks assistance from a physician — then they understand.“It’s about helping educate the consumer that we’re using antibiotics for the best interests of the animal,” Nerem added.The veterinarian believes it’s also important to share with consumers how the animal industry is using antibiotics responsibly. The new veterinary feed directive rules put in place in January 2017 provide an additional level of security by putting antibiotics under a veterinarian’s supervision.

Industry-led effort commits $1B to curb plastic pollution

Houston Chronicle | Posted on January 17, 2019

With more plastics piling into rivers and oceans, several of the world's biggest plastic chemical manufacturers are joining together in an  industry-led effort to curb plastic waste. A group of nearly 30 global companies have committed more than $1 billion into developing programs and technologies to better minimize, manage and prevent plastic waste.

Maryland Public Service Commission authorizes utilities to install 5,000 electric vehicle charging stations statewide

The Baltimore Sun | Posted on January 17, 2019

Maryland’s utility companies on Monday won state approval to install a network of more than 5,000 electric vehicle charging stations — fewer than they had hoped for, but a step toward the state’s ambitious goal of 300,000 electric vehicles on the streets by 2025. The Maryland Public Service Commission authorized BGE, Potomac Electric Power Co., Delmarva Power and Potomac Edison Co. to move forward with a modified, five-year pilot program of residential, workplace and public charging stations, paid for mostly by ratepayers.