A massive proposed wind power project on federal and private lands in southeast Wyoming has reached a critical regulatory milestone, with the state this week approving the final permit necessary to build up to 1,000 turbines in what would become one of the world’s largest onshore wind farms. The seven-member Wyoming Industrial Siting Council, which must approve all wind projects in the state larger than 30 turbines, voted unanimously after two days of public hearings to authorize the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project. If built, it would have the capacity to produce up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity, making it the biggest power-producing wind farm in North America.
A leading bird conservancy group has submitted a detailed plan to the Fish and Wildlife Service that includes revisions to its hotly debated eagle “take” rule that allows wind and other energy projects to injure, kill or disturb bald eagles for up to 30 years. The American Bird Conservancy’s 18-point plan, outlined in a formal comment letter sent yesterday to Fish and Wildlife, also calls for adopting mandatory conditions for siting wind projects instead of the current voluntary guidelines that the group says in the letter are “hindering FWS’ ability to do its important job of protecting our nation’s public trust resources, including its ecologically-important native birds and bats.”
The GreenChoice program let homes and businesses pay slightly more for their power and buy directly from wind farms, hoping to finance and encourage development. It worked so well that, by 2009, it was in trouble, and the program was scaled back. Texans in Austin and beyond were demanding more wind energy than power lines could carry, and clogged transmission infrastructure sent prices skyrocketing. When GreenChoice premiered, consumers opting for wind energy could lock into a ten-year fixed price just six cents per kilowatt-hour more than the standard cost at the time. By 2009 the difference had risen to $2.05, due largely to transmission overload.
U.S. EPA’s proposed rule for power plant carbon has seen an early salvo of legal attacks, with one lawsuit launched by Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. in June and a second, led by West Virginia and backed by 11 others states, last week. But with the rule still unformed, do these opponents have a target to aim at? Probably not, according to legal experts contacted by ClimateWire. At least not yet. “I’d characterize the Murray case as coming too soon, and the West Virginia case as coming too late,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School.
John Norris, a Democratic member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, plans to step down Aug. 20 to take a position as minister-counselor for the Department of Agriculture in Rome, cutting short his five-year term at the agency. Norris, who spent more than three decades running high-profile political campaigns in his home state of Iowa, said during an interview that he will work with the United Nations’ food agriculture program at the department.
The political action committee of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer today unveiled the second, wind-power-themed TV ad in a $2.6 million series of spots slamming Iowa Republican Senate nominee Joni Ernst for her endorsement of a conservative advocacy group’s pledge to oppose the elimination of tax credits.
Iowa is a leader in wind energy. We also need to be a leader in creating the infrastructure of transmission lines to share that energy with the rest of America. Infrastructure has always been the cornerstone of American progress, and wind energy is no exception. We are a state that exports food and fuel through many markets daily. The coupling of wind energy and transmission projects will encourage farm-to-market routes that allow millions of people to access lower priced electricity. Let’s send our extra electricity to market instead of wasting this important energy source. If we want the future of Iowa to be prosperous and want to continue to be a top wind energy producing and supplying state, we must invest in the future and install transmission lines.
A dozen states led by West Virginia and including Nebraska are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block a proposed rule that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. An environmental lawyer called the states’ attempt to stop the rule “laughable.”
The states that filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia are Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. West Virginia Atty. Gen. Patrick Morrisey said the EPA’s proposed rule will have “devastating effects on West Virginia’s jobs and its economy” by forcing some coal-fired plants to close. The plaintiffs said the EPA entered into a settlement agreement in 2011 with environmental groups and states allied with them to regulate existing coal-fired utilities under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. That section is the basis for the rules the Obama administration proposed in June.
A legal settlement between the Sierra Club and Mississippi Power Co. sets the stage for the utility to transition away from coal and expand renewable energy in the state. The agreement also leads the company’s sister utility in Alabama to close some additional coal-fired units, further shifting its parent, Southern Co., away from coal.