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Energy Update: October 27, 2017

In the States

ME – A state legislative committee is planning to review legislation to create local microgrids, or local energy grids that are able to operate autonomously. The measure, sponsored by Representative Michael Devin, would allow municipalities to create electricity distribution systems independent of the central power network. Representative Devin argues that his bill would assist localities to become energy self-sufficient, noting that Vermont recently passed legislation to create microgrids that saved one town approximately $200,000. Governor Paul LePage’s Energy Office is still reviewing the legislation, and has questioned whether the measure would increase overall electrical costs while the state’s largest utility, Emera, has yet to take a position on the bill. Jim Cohen of Emera said ““The question is at what point in time, and in what situations, will they be cost-effective — and who should pay for those benefits that are location specific or even customer specific.” Maine legislative committee to consider community microgridsMicrogrid Knowledge


PA – In a letter to President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Governor Tom Wolf requested a waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard’s renewable volume obligations, expressing concern over the extraordinarily high renewable identification number prices that “are undermining the viability of the oil refining sector in the Northeast.” The Governor asked for the waiver to be effective until market prices deflate, noting that Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Monroe Energy have been negatively impacted in recent weeks. In response to the Governor’s letter, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dineen said “the RFS has actually helped, not harmed, the economy,” noting that the utilities mentioned by the Governor couldn’t compete with the “newer, more efficient refineries that have better access to lower-priced, lighter crude oil sources.” Wolf asks Trump for RFS waiver, RFA respondsEthanol Producer Magazine


VA – Governor Terry McAuliffe joined officials from Dominion Energy to celebrate the company’s first solar farm in Fauquier County. The solar panels, about 236,000 in total, are spread out across 125 acres, cost approximately $46 million to construct, and are projected to generate enough electricity to power 5,000 homes. The solar farm will begin operating October 1, adding about 20 megawatts (MWs) to Dominion’s more than 700 MW solar generating capacity in the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe, in his comments at the dedication ceremony, focused on the importance of renewable energy to the importance of business development to Virginia, saying ““This means high paying jobs in the Commonwealth of Virginia. You cannot recruit Microsoft [or] Amazon if you can’t provide them with renewable energy.” 20-megawatt Remington solar farm goes on the gridFauquier Now


WA – A company owned by Utah-based Lighthouse Resources is suing the state’s Department of Ecology following a denial of the company’s permit to export coal to Asia. Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, in its suit, claims the Department “violated federal and state laws when it denied the project a water quality certification last month,” and additionally noted the denial was based on “biased and prejudiced decision-making.” The company’s facility, if approved, would have managed up to 44 million tons of coal per year, including coal from Montana and Wyoming. Millennium CEO and President Bill Chapman said it has invested about $15 million in the permitting process, noting that the permit that was denied is one of 23 the project needs. Ecology Department Director Maia Bellon said in a statement that “there are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental effects for the project to move forward.” Coal-export terminal backer sues state over permit denialThe Washington Post


Regional and National

The Donald Trump administration announced plans to make nearly 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately equivalent to the size of the State of New Mexico, available for oil and gas exploration leases. All available un-leased areas on the Gulf’s Outer Continental Shelf adjacent to the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida will be part of this offering. The Obama administration had proposed a similar but smaller lease sale covering 66 million acres. While this part of the Gulf was the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill of 215 million gallons of crude in 2010, Interior Department officials believe the new leases can be administered without harming the environment. “American energy production can be competitive while remaining safe and environmentally sound,” said Vincent DeVito, Interior’s counselor for energy policy. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant was one of 12 public officials whose support was cited in the U.S. Department of Interior’s announcement of the sale. “Mississippi welcomes Secretary Zinke’s action to carry out the residents’ vision for American energy dominance,” Governor Bryant said. Trump to auction off a vast swath of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies – The Washington Post


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