By June 7, 2011 Read More →

General Information News: June 7 Update

Below is a list of stories currently in the news regarding climate and energy.

EPA Reportedly Ready to Seek Two-Month Delay for Draft GHG Rules
“Sources familiar with internal EPA operations say the agency plans to delay draft GHG emissions limits for power plants beyond the current July 26 deadline, Bloomberg reported. The news service said the agency had entered into an agreement with three environmental groups, 11 states and the District of Columbia and New York City to promptly issue the findings, but was now intent on seeking a two-month delay ‘to evaluate information from companies affected by the rule.’ A final rule is still expected Nov. 16.

Bloomberg wrote that the emissions regulations ‘would have the biggest effect on utilities that mostly burn coal to generate electricity.’ The possibility of a postponement was also reported by the National Journal, which wrote: ‘Multiple sources tell National Journal that EPA could delay for at least two months two sets of greenhouse gas standards for power plants and oil refineries.’ EPA chose not to comment on Thursday. An electric industry lobbyist who supports EPA’s efforts to control emissions said the agency was ‘looking to delay getting the [power plant] proposal out the door by two months, but retain the agreed-upon date to go final with the regulation.’ The source requested anonymity because EPA had not made any official announcement.”
Bloomberg <> , June 3; National Journal <> , June 2.

FERC Plans Pay-for-Performance Plan for Energy Storage Facilities
“FERC has published a notice that it intends to institute a pay-for-performance rule for energy storage for frequency regulation that would pay operators for the amount of on-demand power they put on the grid and for the speed at which they did it, the Nashua Telegraph reported. The rule could double or triple compensation to companies such as Beacon Power, which uses spinning flywheels to store and release large amounts of electricity very quickly.

Beacon Power’s 20-MW facility in New York, the company’s first industrial-grade plant, was expected to be fully operational this month. The company has plans for a similar facility in Pennsylvania and is in talks with other utilities about additional facilities. The New York facility is equipped with 200 Smart Energy 25 modules.”
Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph <> , June 5.

Kentucky Political Leaders Concerned About Federal War on Coal
“Kentucky State Rep. Jim Gooch Jr., chairman of the Kentucky State House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, said the federal government appears to be waging ‘a war on Kentucky’ by attempting to impose environmental surcharges on customers using coal-based power plants. Wrote BusinessWeek: ‘In an election-year move that plays well with Kentucky’s 18,000 miners and mine operators, Democrats and Republicans have been complaining equally about what they consider ‘overreaching’ by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration. In the latest development to ignite political rhetoric, Louisville Gas and Electric asked the Kentucky Public Service Commission to approve a $1.4 billion environmental surcharge to help pay for improvements at coal-fired plants to meet federal emission standards. Simultaneously, Kentucky Utilities asked the PSC for a $1.1 billion environmental surcharge to make similar improvements aimed at lowering emissions of greenhouses gases and other pollutants, including mercury.’

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recently told a group of Kentucky coal operators that he was concerned about EPA’s challenge to the coal industry. Wrote BusinessWeek: ‘McConnell said the EPA’s regulatory decisions ‘defy logic.’ He accused the agency of ‘changing the rules in the middle of the game’ ” with a burdensome permitting process that has made it difficult for coal operators to open new mines or expand existing ones.'”
Business Week <> , June 4.

President Obama Aims at Reforms Affecting Corporate Tax Breaks
“President Obama was expected to approach tax reform with a proposal to close dozens of corporate tax breaks and to use the revenues generated to lower the corporate tax rate, which could pass muster with the Republican House. The proposal was not expected to sit well with national and state organizations insisting that corporations should help pay down the $1.5-trillion federal deficit, McClatchy Newspaper reported from its Washington bureau. Caroline Harris, chief tax counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued that the deficit was not created by too little taxation, but by too much spending. She was quoted as saying: ‘If Congress can’t show fiscal austerity and make spending cuts, then taxing or putting the weight of deficit reduction on the backs of businesses that create jobs is not a good idea.’

Citizens for Tax Justice argued in a letter to Congress: “‘t makes no sense for Congress to debate cuts in public services that working families rely on while ignoring the public spending that benefits corporations and is hidden in the tax code.’ Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was quoted as saying: ‘It’s an opportunity to put into place some fair tax policies that, in fact, produce revenue from the richest people in this country and the richest corporations that should be paying.’ Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said passing legislation intended to increase corporate tax revenues would be extremely difficult: ‘It’s very hard to be revenue-neutral and reduce the [tax] rate, so going even further than that is a hard thing to do. Hard in terms of the substance. Hard in terms of the politics. Hard to do.'”
McClatchy Newspapers <> (Washington Bureau) via the Miami (Fla.) Herald, June 5.

NStar, Northeast Utilities Say Merger Would Increase Policy Influence
“NStar and Northeast Utilities executives said their proposed merger would produce operational efficiencies, the Boston Globe reported. Northeast Utilities CEO Charles W. Shivery said the merged company would let the utilities ‘play a larger role in energy policy on a national scale than either one of us could have before.’ Shivery claimed that influence would translate ‘into more economic growth, which ultimately translates into benefit to our shareholders.’ NStar CEO Thomas J. May said: “We believe bigger is better here.” May pointed out that ‘size does help in the sense of entering into the dialogue’ for a national energy policy.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts spokesman Robert Rio said his group was happy to collaborate with the merged company to answer the question, ‘What is the best direction for Massachusetts in terms of energy policy?’ EEI spokesman Jim Owen noted that the proposed merger came at a time when ‘the utility sector is in the early stages of a relatively significant and long-term capital spend–a huge part of that will be environmental compliance.’ Owen said the combination of NStar and Northeast Utilities would “have a bigger voice in the conversation” about that investment.

Derek K. Murrow, energy and climate policy director with the advocacy group Environment Northeast, was quoted as saying: ‘A merged NU and NStar would be a political powerhouse in New England, and that power could be used to further environmental progress or delay it. They have yet to publicly commit to being proactive on environmental policy.'”
Boston (Mass.) Globe <> , June 5.

FERC Extends Review of Proposed PJM Demand Response Rule
“FERC said it would hold up, for five months, further consideration of a proposed PJM Interconnection rule that would change tariffs governing demand response by large consumers, Reuters reported. The rule would use average demand by a consumer during the five hours of highest demand over the previous year to cap payments to that consumer for its demand response measures.

FERC said PJM had failed to show that the rule was just and reasonable, and it may instead ‘be unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory or preferential or otherwise unlawful.’ FERC will conduct a technical conference on the rule within 60 days as part of its effort to obtain additional information. PJM said the rule would improve grid reliability, but demand-response companies sought payments to be based on the demand a consumer would have if a system emergency requiring it to cut demand did not occur.

PJM spokesman Ray Dotter was quoted as saying: ‘In its order, FERC shares PJM’s concern that consumers in the PJM region will pay only for the capacity that is actually delivered. We will supply the additional information that the Commission seeks to support the rule clarifications, which were supported by the vast majority of our members.'”
Reuters <> , June 3.

NRC’s Jaczko Expects More Westinghouse Data on AP1000 in June
“NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said Westinghouse Electric should submit new information on the design of its AP1000 nuclear reactor to the NRC at some point in June, the Associated Press reported. The NRC requested the additional data because of concerns with modeling. The Southern Co. said it had hoped to use the AP1000 design to add two units to its Vogtle plant and South Carolina Electric & Gas planned to build two AP1000 units in Fairfield County, S.C. Jaczko said such plans will depend on what changes might be necessary as a result of the new submission. Westinghouse Electric spokesman Scott Shaw was quoted as saying: ‘We feel that we’re on schedule and we’ll get design certification in the fall.'”
Associated Press <> via Bloomberg BusinessWeek, June 3.

Solar Oversupply in Pennsylvania Slashes Price for Credits
“The Philadelphia Inquirer contended that due to the emergence of significant solar use, ‘Pennsylvania’s booming solar industry is going bust.’ Nearly 71 MW of capacity has been installed, and the funds that were going to consumers installing solar systems, as a result of the oversupply, are dropping. So far, they have dropped from $300 per kWh to $100 per kWh. A 2004 Pennsylvania law established a 42-MW solar mandate, but various federal and state subsidies helped spur overbuilding and the resulting crash in prices for solar credits.

Astrum Solar CEO Vadim Polikov reflected industry sentiment in claiming that unless changes were made, solar installers ‘may very well be out of business’ later this year. Michael Flett, head of credits broker Flett Exchange, said the situation showed the danger of depending on income from selling credits to back solar installations.

Wrote the Inquirer: ‘Gov. [Tom] Corbett has not taken a public position, but the solar industry will frame the legislation as an effort to save Pennsylvania jobs, rather than an effort to prevent climate change.’ Andrew Kleeman, senior VP of Mercury Solar Systems, was quoted as saying: ‘The governor seems to be on the fence, neither an adversary nor an advocate.'”
Philadelphia (Pa.) Inquirer <> , June 5.

Westinghouse Electric Says Tests Show Strength of AP1000 Shield
“Westinghouse Electric said tests of the shield building for its AP1000 nuclear plant design conducted by Purdue University researchers showed that the building was robust enough to meet NRC rules for withstanding earthquakes and containing radiation in the event of a disaster, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. The building would consist of three feet of concrete with 1 3/4 inches of steel as reinforcement. The testing followed an NRC request for further information on the shield building design. NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said the agency came to the basic conclusion ‘that the shield building meets our essential requirements,’ but it was ‘still working with Westinghouse in taking care of some details in the analysis.’ An NRC report on the Purdue tests will be issued after a meeting with Westinghouse Electric in mid-July.”
Charlotte (N.C.) Business Journal <> , Pittsburgh (Pa.) Tribune-Review <> , June 4.

Bird Deaths From Wind Farms Highlight Environmental Conflict
“The average annual death of 67 golden eagles at NextEra Energy’s Altamont Pass wind farm in California over the past three decades highlighted the difficulty of growing the wind industry while dealing with its environmental impacts, the Los Angeles Times reported today. NextEra Energy planned to replace aging wind turbines at Altamont Pass with a smaller number of high capacity turbines under an agreement with environmentalists and the California attorney general’s office.

A similar repowering project at a nearby wind farm was credited with cutting fatality rates for raptor species by 79 percent. However, the 102-turbine North Sky River farm in southern California proposed by NextEra Energy was seen as a potential threat to the California condor, golden eagle and other protected species. Audubon California spokesman Gary George commented: ‘We taxpayers have spent millions of dollars saving the California condor from extinction. How’s the public going to feel about wind energy if a condor hits the turbines?'”
Los Angeles Times <,0,4078175.story> , June 6.

Energy Secretary Urges Renewed Focus on Science Education
“Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a group of physicists, engineers and computer professionals at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Energy Sciences Building at Argonne National Laboratory that science education was the key to restoring innovation and recovering from the recession, the Courier-News reported. Chu was quoted as saying: ‘We have to inspire our youth to enter the sciences. There are a lot of opportunities in science. It is an opportunity for a good job, you work with honorable people, and if a student wants to get a job the prospect for a decent living is good.’ He said he believed clean energy, biofuels and research were critical for the future.”
Courier-News <> via the Chicago (Ill.) Sun-Times, June 4.

Florida Cities Install EV Charging Stations at Parking Facilities
“West Palm Beach, Fla., has installed six 240-volt public charging stations for electric vehicles at a parking garage, using about $59,000 of a $1-million federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, the West Palm Beach Post reported. Josh Nichols, the West Palm Beach sustainability officer, was quoted as saying: ‘We want to promote the deployment of electric vehicles, but we also want to capture the data to see who is using [the stations], when they are using them, how often.’ A seventh station will be dedicated to charging several Nissan Leafs the city bought to replace older cars. So far, the charging stations are free, but West Palm Beach could eventually have to charge by the hour, said Nichols. Three EV charging stations were installed in May at a parking lot in Delray Beach, paid for by donations from the nonprofit Plug-In Florida.”
West Palm Beach (Fla.) Post <> , June 4.

U.K. Researchers Work on Using Car Components as Capacitors
“Researchers at Imperial College London were working to develop body components for electric vehicles that can be used as capacitors to store a charge, the New York Times reported. The components would be made of carbon-fiber composite materials injected with lithium ions to serve as supplements to the batteries in the vehicle.

Emile Greenhalgh, head of the team of researchers, said the components could hold ‘fairly modest’ amounts of power, but ‘could be used to smooth the demands on the battery, thus enhancing its life.’ She said Volvo saw structural power, as the technology was known, as key to its development of EVs. Volvo engineer Per-Ivar Sellergren said a trunk floor capacitor being tested by Volvo could yield ’15 percent weight savings compared to the standard battery in a conventional structure.’ Sellergren said power from the trunk floor component could suffice to switch a car engine on and off in traffic.”
New York Times <> , June 5

N.Y. Times Editorial Backs Bryson for Commerce Secretary
“A New York Times editorial published today praised the nomination of John Bryson as President Obama’s new Commerce secretary. Wrote the Times: ‘Bryson–a former chairman of Edison International, a Southern California utility, and a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council–has already received a wide range of endorsements. Supporters include the Center for American Progress, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other advocacy groups, and the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the main utility industry group, the Edison Electric Institute.’

The editorial said Bryson’s ‘distinguished career as a businessman, public servant and environmentalist’ fully qualified him as head of Commerce. It urged the Senate ‘not to delay’ in confirming Bryson because ‘from all we know right now, he looks like the right businessman-environmentalist for the job.’ The Times stressed his focus on wind and solar at Edison International as an asset for work on improving the global position of the U.S. in alternative energy, and added that he could help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a part of the Commerce Department, monitor ‘the health of the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill.'”
New York Times <> , June 6.

L.A. Times Promotes Use of Smart Meters Amid Opposition
“The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, called for the city’s municipal utility to ‘get busy installing’ smart meters, although the newspaper recognized that it ‘isn’t likely to happen any time soon.’ Smart meters have come under fire as ‘irrational fear of electromagnetic radiation’ has risen in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Times wrote.

The newspaper wrote, ‘Smart meters have been installed all over the country without raising a comparable fuss, and it’s likely that the Bay Area brouhaha is more a function of distrust than a rational response to danger,’ then went on to ask, ‘Is there any justification for the health fears? Not much.’

While concerns have been heaviest in the northern part of the state, the Times pointed out that some residents in Burbank and Glendale have protested the installations by local municipal utilities.”
Los Angeles Times <,0,2129477.story> , June 5.