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July 1, 2015

Supreme Court delay of mercury rule might stall Clean Power Plan

CPP assumed other regulations could force coal retirements, says consultant

The Supreme Court’s indefinite delay this week of the EPA’s mercury and air toxics standards could gum up implementation of President Barack Obama’s key climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, according to a global energy-consulting firm.

The CPP assumed a certain number of coal-generation retirements would result from a combination of clean air requirements – the now-delayed Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS), the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Clean Power Plan, notes Olof Bystrom, one of 2,500 energy experts at DNV GL, advising global clients on traditional and sustainable electric generation.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


June 30, 2015

Texas No. 1 in coal-fired power affected by Supreme Court

16,500 MW of power at stake in mercury emissions case

Texas tops the list by far of states with the most fossil fuel-generating power plants not yet in compliance with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which suffered a setback yesterday when the Supreme Court sent the rules back to the agency and a lower court to consider $9.6 billion annually in cost concerns.

SNL Energy reports that Texas power companies have been granted up to an extra year to come into compliance with MATS for nearly 16,500 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. The time extensions are mostly to install mercury controls.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


June 29, 2015

Supreme Court rebuffs EPA’s mercury rule for coal-powered plants

EPA didn’t consider cost up-front; kids, pregnant women to suffer, say some

Five Supreme Court justices on Monday rebuked the EPA’s pricey mercury and toxic air pollutants rule for coal-fired power plants, sending the agency back to the drawing board for not considering high costs of the regulations up front.

Depending through which lens one views the high court’s action, this means owners of Texas’ aging and mercury-emitting coal fleet are the nation’s No. 1 beneficiary or that Texas pregnant women, infants, children and asthma sufferers are the ruling’s biggest losers.

The case, which pits protecting human and environmental health against industry complaints of  $9.6 billion annually in compliance costs, could prove a stumbling block for the Obama Administration’s overarching agenda to fight climate change by forcing old coal plants to retire. Still to come, the EPA is expected to issue its sweeping and final Clean Power Plan this August, under which Texas would need to slash its carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by nearly 40 percent.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


June 29, 2015

Supreme Court deals setback, 5-4, of EPA’s power plant mercury rule

Says agency can’t ignore costs, estimated at $9.6 billion annually

By Polly Ross Hughes


June 25, 2015

RRC Chairman Porter on Milton Rister retirement announcement

Announces nationwide search to replace retiring executive director

“The Railroad Commission will immediately begin a nationwide search for a new executive director, following Milton Rister’s announcement he will retire later this summer. This search will focus on a candidate with strong leadership capabilities and technical expertise, so that we may continue building on our legacy as the nation’s preeminent energy regulatory agency. I want to thank Milton for his service and wish him the best in the future.”


June 19, 2015

Oil bandits score with Abbott’s veto of HB 3291

Disappointed producers say organized crime steals $2.1 billion a year

Even the powerful oil industry sometimes loses at the legislative game, as Gov. Greg Abbott’s veto of a bill cracking down on organized crime in Texas oil fields shows.

HB 3291, dubbed the oil bandits bill by Texas Energy Report, bit the dust yesterday with a stroke of the governor’s pen. No doubt a slice of organized criminals breathed a sigh of relief that their illicit and lucrative activities will evade detection and prosecution for at least two more years.

The criminals, active back in the 1980s oil boom, have sprung back to life now that hydraulic fracturing is proving so effective in pulling once trapped oil out of tight shale formations.

These are a type of thieves that don’t wear masks or pull stockings over their heads to conceal their identities. More than likely, they look like they belong on the scene.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


June 18, 2015

U.S. Army steps toward hybrid wind-solar project at Fort Hood

Apex Clean Energy seek final award for renewable energy plans

Apex Clean Energy Inc. has received a notice of intent to award (NOIA) a large-scale solar and wind energy project at Fort Hood, a step toward moving the project at the Central Texas military post closer to construction, the company announced yesterday.

The hybrid wind and solar energy project will draw from solar energy produced on-site at Fort Hood and wind energy produced at Apex’s Cotton Plains Wind energy facility in Floyd County, the company noted.

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By Polly Ross Hughes


June 17, 2015

Study finds contaminated groundwater in Barnett Shale area

550 wells sampled, chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing found

Groundwater samples from the most productive areas of the Barnett Shale show elevated levels of chemical compounds used in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, according to a peer-reviewed study associated with the University of Texas at Arlington.  

The study, “A Comprehensive Analysis of Groundwater Quality in The Barnett Shale Region,” has been accepted for publication in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and could appear as early as Thursday or Friday, according to the lead author, Zacariah Louis Hildenbrand. The journal is published by the American Chemical Society.

“A total of 550 groundwater samples were screened for the presence of chemical compounds used in hydraulic fracturing, as well as for various metals and other dissolved ions. We detected elevated levels of 10 different metals and the presence of 19 different chemical compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene (BTEX),” according the study signed by 16 coauthors.  

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By Polly Ross Hughes


June 17, 2015

Study finds contaminated groundwater in Barnett Shale area

550 wells sampled, chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing found

Groundwater samples from the most productive areas of the Barnett Shale show elevated levels of chemical compounds used in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, according to a peer-reviewed study associated with the University of Texas at Arlington.

The study, “A Comprehensive Analysis of Groundwater Quality in The Barnett Shale Region,” has been accepted for publication in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and could appear as early as Thursday or Friday, according to the lead author, Zacariah Louis Hildenbrand. The journal is published by the American Chemical Society.

“A total of 550 groundwater samples were screened for the presence of chemical compounds used in hydraulic fracturing, as well as for various metals and other dissolved ions. We detected elevated levels of 10 different metals and the presence of 19 different chemical compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene (BTEX),” according the study signed by 16 coauthors.

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By Polly Ross Hughes