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Energy Update: September 23, 2019

In the States


SD – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved eight wind energy projects that could bring 700 more turbines and an investment of $2.6 billion to the state by the end of 2020. Two additional wind energy projects currently under review could bring an additional 188 wind turbines and another $640 million in investments to South Dakota, bringing the potential total number of new turbines to 888 and the investment by energy companies to $3.26 billion. “For rural South Dakota, this is an awesome boom,” said Steven Wegman of the South Dakota Renewable Energy Association. “No one ever spent $300 million in Codington County in a construction season.” Although the new investment is expected to bring economic and environmental benefits, the construction projects face some opposition from local residents complaining about unsightly wind turbines in their backyards and conservationists concerned about their effects on local birds and wildlife. $3.3 billion wind investment will add 2,500 MW of clean energy in South DakotaSouth Dakota News Watch

 

PA – Governor Tom Wolf’s administration will promote clean transportation options by offering grants and rebates funded by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and the $8.5 million awarded to the state from Volkswagen’s emissions violations lawsuit. The grants and rebates will fund dozens of new electric vehicle charging stations. In addition to this funding, state utility regulators are working to smooth the transition to electric and other zero-emissions vehicles. Governor Wolf aims to reach the target of replacing 25% of the state’s passenger car fleet with battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars by 2025, as set by his January executive order. Pennsylvania taps federal program to help expand, promote alternative fuelsEnergy News Network

 

OH – A new lawsuit brought by FirstEnergy will challenge a voter referendum to strike down House Bill 6, a bill that props up FirstEnergy’s struggling power plants in Ohio. The original piece of legislation, signed by Governor Mike DeWine in July, would bail out the cash-strapped nuclear and coal plants with money raised from slight increases in customers’ utility bills. The controversial bill was met with opposition from some voters who organized a petition drive calling for a referendum on the bill that could potentially strike it down. After the referendum’s ballot language was approved in late August by the Ohio Attorney General, Dave Yost, First Energy filed a lawsuit seeking to block the voter referendum. The lawsuit is based on the legal argument that HB 6 is essentially a new tax, and therefore cannot be blocked by referendum under state law. The lawsuit is expected to hinge on whether the court determines the money raised by HB 6 will be used to benefit the general public, but critics argue that regardless of how the money will be spent, the “tax” argument relies on stretched legal reasoning. Unless the court blocks the referendum, voters opposing HB 6 will still have to collect the approximately 266,000 voter signatures needed by October 21 in order to get the referendum on the ballot. FirstEnergy referendum lawsuit may hinge on who benefits from subsidiesEnergy News Network

 

National

Con Edison and eight other U.S. utilities recently filed a legal challenge against The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. ACE, finalized by the Trump Administration in June of this year, is aimed at helping coal companies facing tough competition from renewable energy suppliers. It replaced a much stricter Obama-era rule that pushed utilities to drop coal and instead encourages coal plants to cut emissions by improving efficiency. The group of utilities companies, called the Power Companies Climate Coalition, argue that ACE undermines efforts already underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since the utility companies in the Coalition have already invested heavily in adopting new cutting technologies to meet state governments’ renewable energy requirements. A similar lawsuit was filed by mostly Democratic-led states and cities in August. U.S. utilities file legal challenge to Trump power plant ruleReuters

 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (OFE) announced approximately $110 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects related to carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) through three funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). Out of the total amount, $75 million is for awards selected under two FOAs announced earlier this fiscal year, while approximately $35 million is set aside for a new FOA for FY2020. These announcements are part of an effort by the Trump administration to strengthen the coal industry by attempting to make the industry more environmentally-friendly. The program has so far deployed various large-scale CCUS pilot and demonstration projects. Under the new FOA, projects selected must complete a detailed site characterization of a commercial-scale CO2 storage site (50 million metric tons of captured CO2 within a 30 year period), apply and obtain an underground injection control class VI permit to construct an injection well, complete a CO2 capture assessment, and perform all work required to obtain a National Environmental Policy Act determination for the site. U.S. Department of Energy Announces $110M for Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage — Energy.gov

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