News

$100M Maine wind farm faces rejection because of ‘scenic impacts’

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Some say that the visual impacts of wind turbines are “in the eye of the beholder.” But in Maine, a piece of legislation attempts to define when a wind farm mars the scenery and when it doesn’t. Recently, that law has been put to the test. A $100 million wind energy development in Maine proposed by the Boston-based company First Wind faces likely rejection by a state agency due to its effect on the surrounding area’s “scenic character.” Renewable energy advocates argue that such a decision could set a confusing precedent for future wind developers in the state. Last week, Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection delayed a decision to confirm or deny the state Department of Environmental Protection’s determination that the proposed Bowers Wind Project, a 16-turbine, 48-megawatt farm, would adversely affect views from the constellation of lakes, ponds and rivers that surround the project.

Utilities, Experts Discuss Impact of Renewable Energy in Midwest

Source: America's Power Plan • Posted: Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

The Midwest has become a major energy producing region — with renewable energy. Like oil in Texas and coal in Wyoming, wind power and ethanol have become major industries in the Midwest. By tapping into its enormous renewable energy potential and manufacturing know-how, the Midwest has boosted the economy and created thousands of jobs. This progress is detailed in a new report from the Energy Foundation, which is featured as a “Postcard from the Future of Energy” by America’s Power Plan.

Utility-scale solar development in Iowa would need mandate

Source: Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Iowa’s push for renewable energy has sparked a $10 billion investment in wind energy capacity, a new report shows. But what about solar? Jonathan Weisgall, Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs, said Iowa and other Midwestern states are unlikely to see large utilities invest in solar energy without setting standards that require it. Weisgall said regulators must weigh costs more heavily than developing renewable resources when electric generation is added in the Midwest. And solar energy isn’t cost-competitive with wind.

White House hopes report will create ‘sense of urgency’

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

The White House is currently vetting an EPA rule for existing power plant emissions that is due to be proposed next month and is likely to face considerable industry push-back. The administration is also plotting a U.S. commitment for post-2020 emissions reductions — an offering that must be released well before next year’s U.N. climate talks in Paris but that is already arousing the suspicions of Capitol Hill Republicans. But while the battle lines are drawn in the Washington, D.C., standoff over these and other aspects of the president’s Climate Action Plan, the White House has spent much of the last year trying to circumvent the inside-the-Beltway logjam and make its case directly to the voters.

With confirmation hearing set, Obama’s pick to lead agency faces uncomfortable questions

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Norman Bay, appears to have garnered some heavy-hitting support on a Senate panel critical to his confirmation this month. But challenges — and tough questions — loom, as a company targeted for investigation by FERC raises objections over Bay’s leadership as the head of the agency’s enforcement office. On one hand, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the new chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, appears to have warmed to the former New Mexico prosecutor. The Senate panel is slated to consider Obama’s nomination of Bay to lead FERC on May 20, alongside the president’s nomination of Cheryl LaFleur, the agency’s acting chairwoman, to another five-year term.

U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods

Source: By JUSTIN GILLIS, New York Times • Posted: Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects. Such sweeping changes have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most land areas of the country in the past century, the scientists found. If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane continue to escalate at a rapid pace, they said, the warming could conceivably exceed 10 degrees by the end of this century.

Berkshire Hathaway unit to buy Alberta power company

Source: Judy McKinnon, Wall Street Journal • Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. is selling its Alberta-based AltaLink power transmission company to Berkshire Hathaway Energy for $2.92 billion, the Canadian construction giant said.
AltaLink is the largest regulated electricity transmission company in Alberta. Under the terms of the sale, which still needs Canadian government approval, it will continue to be based out of Calgary and will function as a separate unit of Berkshire Hathaway Energy. The companies also said they will pursue joint transmission and distribution-development projects in Canada as well as the United States.

President’s power to block foreign investment at issue in wind-farm dispute

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Must a president do more than invoke “national security” to block plans by Chinese businessmen to build dozens of wind turbines in the United States? That was the question faced by a panel of appellate judges this morning that considered a long-running dispute involving several proposed wind farms near a military installation in Oregon, an obscure government agency tasked with monitoring foreign business activity and President Obama, who personally intervened to block the projects.

Jewell says ‘political realities’ keep McCain and other Republicans mum on climate change

Source: Elizabeth Harball and Evan Lehmann, E&E reporters • Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

“Political realities,” not denial of human-caused climate change, have prevented Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and many other Republican lawmakers from taking a stand on the issue, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Friday. “As I talk to individual members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle, I would say that there is less debate on climate change, but we have a circumstance where it’s not a popular topic in some parts of the country for people to bring up,” Jewell said during a question-and-answer session with attendees of the National Wildlife Federation’s annual meeting here. Following a speech during which she named climate change as one of her top concerns as Interior secretary, Jewell offered McCain as an example of a politician who she believes has shifted his tone on the issue in response to his constituency.

Kan. House blocks last-minute attempt to nullify renewable standard

Source: Jeffrey Tomich, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

In the final hours before it recessed for the year, the Kansas House of Representatives narrowly defeated another attempt by conservative lawmakers to effectively pull the plug on the state’s renewable energy mandate. The House voted 63-60 on Friday afternoon to block a measure that would have capped the renewable standard for utilities at 15 percent of retail load instead of 20 percent and done away with the requirement altogether in 2021. The legislative proposal was cast by Republican backers as a compromise after the same chamber voted down a bill that would have repealed the green energy mandate altogether.