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Under Trump, E.P.A. Has Slowed Actions Against Polluters, and Put Limits on Enforcement Officers

The New York Times | Posted on December 13, 2017

The highway billboard at the entrance to town still displays a giant campaign photograph of President Trump, who handily won the election across industrial Ohio. But a revolt is brewing here in East Liverpool over Mr. Trump’s move to slow down the federal government’s policing of air and water pollution.The City Council moved unanimously last month to send a protest letter to the Environmental Protection Agency about a hazardous waste incinerator near downtown. Since Mr. Trump took office, the E.P.A. has not moved to punish the plant’s owner, even after extensive evidence was assembled during the Obama administration that the plant had repeatedly, and illegally, released harmful pollutants into the air.“I don’t know where we go,” Councilman William Hogue, a retired social studies teacher, said in frustration to his fellow council members. “They haven’t resolved anything.”Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, has said the Trump administration’s high-profile regulatory rollback does not mean a free pass for violators of environmental laws. But as the Trump administration moves from one attention-grabbing headline to the next, it has taken a significant but less-noticed turn in the enforcement of federal pollution laws.


How Arctic Drilling, Stymied for Decades, Made Surprise Return in Tax Bill

The New York Times | Posted on December 13, 2017

As another fevered push to open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration collapsed on the Senate floor in December 2005, Ted Stevens, then the powerful and wily Republican senator from Alaska, declared it “the saddest day of my life.” At that moment, it looked as though the decades-long fight over drilling in 1.5 million acres of the remote refuge could finally be at an end. Republicans essentially gave up for the remainder of the George W. Bush administration after Democrats won control of Congress, and the drilling proposal had no chance during the Obama years, so it virtually disappeared as a topic of congressional conversation.Now, almost out of nowhere, determined backers of drilling are on the verge of a remarkable comeback victory, nearing approval of the long-sought measure as part of the tax plan being negotiated between the House and Senate. The fight has a symbolic significance that is almost impossible to overstate, pitting the nation’s leading environmental groups against Alaskan lawmakers and energy companies over a slice of tundra on the North Slope of Alaska that is home to abundant wildlife, including caribou and polar bears.This latest effort has two distinct advantages for drilling proponents. It avoids a certain Democratic filibuster because of special rules being applied on the floor for considering the tax bill. And it simultaneously secures the vote of Senator Lisa Murkowski for the tax measure.


White House pressures Big Corn to meet on U.S. biofuels policy

Reuters | Posted on December 12, 2017

President Donald Trump’s administration called two lawmakers from the U.S. corn belt to convince them to join talks about potential changes to biofuels policy to ease the burden on oil refineries, according to a spokesman for one of the lawmakers and a source briefed on the matter.


Coal CEO: Senate tax plan 'wipes us out'

Northwest Arkansas News | Posted on December 12, 2017

Coal CEO Robert Murray warns that if the Senate version of tax reform is enacted by President Donald Trump, he'll be destroying thousands of coal mining jobs in the process. "We won't have enough cash flow to exist. It wipes us out," Murray told CNNMoney in an interview on Tuesday.Murray, a fierce supporter of Trump's efforts to revive coal, condemned the Senate bill as a "mockery" that would inflict a devastating tax hike on beleaguered coal mining firms as well as other capital-intensive companies.The tax bill the Senate passed last week would help companies by lowering the corporate tax rate, but it also eliminates some tax breaks.For coal companies, it could be a double-whammy. It would preserve the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and impose new limits on the interest payments that businesses can write off. Murray Energy estimates that these changes would raise its tax bill by $60 million per year.


Patagonia Joins Coalition Suing To Block Trump’s Federal Land Cuts

Huffington Post | Posted on December 12, 2017

Outdoor company Patagonia is a part of a coalition that has filed a federal complaint against President Donald Trump to block cuts to protected lands, according to a company news release. On Monday, Trump announced a plan to reduce the 1.3-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and cut Grand Staircase-Escalante’s 1.9 million acres to half its size. The retail company took a stand that day by using its website to bring awareness to the cuts, putting “The President Stole Your Land” on its home page. “The Administration’s unlawful actions betray our shared responsibility to protect iconic places for future generations and represent the largest elimination of protected land in American history,” Patagonia President and CEO Rose Marcario said in a statement. “We’ve fought to protect these places since we were founded and now we’ll continue that fight in the courts.” 


U.S. trade deficit hits nine-month high; oil prices lift imports

Reuters | Posted on December 7, 2017

The U.S. trade deficit increased to a nine-month high in October due to rising oil prices and the widening of America’s long-standing deficits with China and Mexico.The worsening trade deficit came even as exports to China and Mexico were the strongest in more than three years, which some economists said challenged the Trump administration’s argument that the United States was being disadvantaged in its dealings with trade partners.“This leaves the Trump economics team empty handed when it comes to its mission to improve the unfair terms of trade which sent factories offshore starting a couple of decades ago,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the trade gap widened 8.6 percent to $48.7 billion, the highest level since January. The politically sensitive U.S.-China trade deficit increased 1.7 percent to $35.2 billion and the deficit with Mexico surged 15.9 percent to $6.6 billion.


EPA Releases 2018 Ethanol Volumes at Maximum Levels; Chicken Producers Cry Foul

National Chicken Council | Posted on December 7, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it is mandating the statutory maximum 15 billion gallons of ethanol be added to the domestic fuel supply in 2018, the second consecutive year EPA has mandated the maximum amount of ethanol allowed under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The currently mandated volume for 2017 is also 15 billion gallons; with only weeks left in 2017, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy is forecasting the total domestic use of ethanol for the year to be just 14.4 billion gallons.“Corn ethanol, of all blends, has saturated the domestic market, and the industry, protected by the RFS, just continues to produce ethanol at a pace faster than consumption can grow,” noted the National Chicken Council in comments submitted in August to the EPA.


Developer seeks to bury transmission lines along railroad corridors

Midwest Energy News | Posted on December 7, 2017

While proposed long-distance, high-voltage transmission projects continue to be stymied by hostile landowners and disapproving state regulators, a new transmission strategy is taking root in the Midwest. The Direct Connect Development Company has been working on a plan for an underground transmission line along existing railroad tracks from north-central Iowa to the Chicago area. The goal is to provide a way to move additional wind energy from Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota to a transfer point in the Chicago area. From there, the power could move farther east into regions with more electricity demand.And because the line with a capacity of 2,100 megawatts (MW) would be mostly invisible, it might elude some of the problems that have dogged transmission lines that would tower overhead while crossing Midwestern farm fields. Direct Connect CEO Trey Ward said the Canadian Pacific Railway has agreed to allow the comany to bury the line within its right of way, which extends for about 85 percent of the 349-mile route.


Fifty US cities back clean power

Innovators Magazine | Posted on December 5, 2017

Fifty American cities have now pledged to move towards getting their energy from 100% renewable sources.Truckee has the honour of being the location that achieves the new landmark, joining cities like San Diego and San Francisco in committing to 100% clean energy.“Truckee’s commitment to 100% clean energy including electricity, heating, and transportation is good for our community and our planet. Our town is on the front lines of climate change and we understand how serious this is. Reducing our emissions will create jobs and long-term economic sustainability as we uphold our responsibility as stewards of the environment,” Truckee Mayor Morgan Goodwin said in a statement.Truckee says it will be using 100% clean electricity across the town by 2030, and that all energy sources will be 100% clean by 2050.

 


Commission seeks fracturing ban in watershed supplying NYC

Chron | Posted on December 5, 2017

A commission that oversees water quality for the watershed that supplies Philadelphia and half of New York City with drinking water took another step Thursday toward permanently banning natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, despite industry opposition. The Delaware River Basin Commission's newly published draft regulations would enact a formal ban on fracking, as well as put additional restrictions to make it harder, if not impossible, for the industry to dispose wastewater within the watershed or use water from the river and its tributaries for fracking outside the basin.


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