Energy in the News: Friday, May 12

Friday, May 12, 2017

E.P.A. dismisses members of major scientific review board

The New York Times, feat. Joe Arvai

The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.

A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.

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Researchers provide steps for Flint residents to reduce bacteria in filtered water

Click-On Detroit, feat. Nancy Love

Researchers from Michigan universities and hospitals provided recommendations for Flint water customers to reduce bacteria in water and effectively use their tap water filters beyond manufacturers’ instructions.

All drinking water contains bacteria, the researchers said.

Previous studies have shown that the activated carbon block filters used in Flint can support bacteria growth. It’s still being investigated whether there are any harmful bacteria in the Flint-area filters.

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An outstanding adviser

University of Michigan Engineering, feat. Lut Raskin

Pioneering water quality researcher Professor Lutgarde “Lut” Raskin has been awarded a prestigious Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award.

Raskin, who is the Altarum/ERIM Russell O'Neal Professor of Engineering, is one of five University of Michigan faculty members selected for the honor. The awards are given by U-M’s Rackham Graduate School to recognize excellent faculty advisers.

“By leading a high impact research program that makes a difference worldwide, by creating an inclusive and interdisciplinary discovery and learning environment, and by supporting each student to reach their full potential as researchers and citizens, Professor Raskin has and continues to serve as an exemplary mentor to students at all levels,” said Kim Hayes, the Donald Malloure Department Chair in Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Arthur J. Decker Collegiate Professor of CEE.

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The lonely fight to save an EPA lab from Trump's climate cuts

E&E ClimateWire

Dozens of new cars and trucks go into surgery each day on the quiet green campus here in the heart of auto country. Engineers expose their guts, hook them up to big computers with wires and tubes, and pretend to drive them on massive treadmills in an effort to ensure new vehicles don't emit harmful pollution.

U.S. EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory is little known but envied around the world as the gold standard for crafting and policing environmental rules for vehicles. Now, the Trump administration's charge against its predecessor's climate change initiatives has put a target on its back.

The jobs of nearly half of the 436 scientists and engineers working here could be on the chopping block under President Trump's budget plan. But so far, only a handful of advocates have lined up to fight for the lab's future.

"This is a national treasure in Ann Arbor, and we will not let them destroy it," Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat representing the area, declared at a rally outside the lab Tuesday. She is one of the few prominent voices supporting the lab.

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Senate fails to repeal methane control rule in final antiregulation vote

Science

A Republican push to kill an Obama-era rule restricting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry fell short today. In a razor-thin 49–51 vote, the Senate rejected a resolution overturning the so-called methane rule.

The vote comes just as the clock runs out on a tool Republicans have used to do away with 14 regulations issued in the last months of the Obama administration. Thursday is the last day for Congress to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which gives Congress 60 working days to overturn new regulations. Until this year, the act had been used only once—in 2001—to overturn a workplace ergonomics rule.

The surprise deciding vote in the methane rule came from Senator John McCain (R–AZ). In a statement, McCain said although he has concerns about the current regulations, using the CRA would tie the hands of agencies, blocking them from issuing any “similar” rule in the future.

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To curb climate change, we need to protect and expand US forests

The Conversation

Forests have been removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon for more than 300 million years. When we cut down or burn trees and disturb forest soils, we release that stored carbon to the atmosphere. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from human activities have come from deforestation.

To slow climate change, we need to rapidly reduce global emissions from fossil fuels, biofuels, deforestation and wetland and agricultural soils. We need to also accelerate the removal of carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere.

In a new report published by the nonprofit Dogwood Alliance, my co-author Danna Smith and I show that we have a major opportunity to make progress on climate change by restoring degraded U.S. forests and soils. If we reduce logging and unsustainable uses of wood, we can increase the rate at which our forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and ensure that it will remain stored in healthy forests.

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Mich. utility eyes Supreme Court review in permit fight

E&E News

A Michigan electric utility plans to ask the Supreme Court to review a lower court's decision that favored U.S. EPA in a long-running legal battle over permitting at one of the nation's largest coal-fired power plants.

DTE Energy Co. said in a court filing yesterday that it will soon petition the high court seeking review of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision.

At issue is a 6th Circuit 2-1 ruling in January that upgrades at DTE's Monroe Power Plant counted as a "major modification" that should have triggered additional regulations.

"This case fairly cries out for Supreme Court intervention," DTE said in the filing.

The company is asking the 6th Circuit to withhold a mandate closing the case until the high court dispenses with the petition.

The 3,300-megawatt Monroe plant is at the edge of Lake Erie in southeastern Michigan. Litigation over the planned upgrade dates back to 2010 and centers on the overhaul of a generating unit.

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Clean energy groups leading on utility changes envisioned in Minnesota’s e21 Initiative

Midwest Energy News

Following a two-year study on how to transform utility regulation in Minnesota, clean energy groups are now closely involved with pilot projects that begin to implement some of those changes envisioned.

This month the Great Plains Institute and Center for Energy and Environment will oversee a group studying an Xcel Energy proposal that tests the concept of charging customers based on when they use energy under a time-of-use rate pilot.

The two groups also led the two-year effort known as the “e21 Initiative” that enlisted more than three dozen representatives of various energy-related organizations to imagine new ways to compensate utilities in a rapidly changing landscape.

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Trump's agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, declares that 'ethanol is here to stay'

Washington Examiner

For a few moments, President Trump seemed like he might back away from the country's costly ethanol mandate. First, Trump tapped an ethanol opponent to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Then in February the president plugged market deregulation for the renewable fuel industry instead of government subsidization.

But those hopes officially came crashing down this weekend when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue fastened a little pin to his jacket lapel that read "Don't mess with the RFS."

Flanked by Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Perdue doubled down, telling a herd of reporters at a local cattle lot that "ethanol is here to stay, and we're going to work for new technologies to be more efficient."

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