FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Thomas J. Schneider for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:I served as a Montana Public Service commissioner from 1977-1984 and again from 2003-2006. I’ve dealt with utilities, energy systems, financial and environmental costs and risks, and consumer protection issues in Montana and the West for four decades.I am deeply concerned about the rash of proposals and political posturing regarding the future of Colstrip, particularly the suggestion that Northwestern Energy (Northwestern) purchase a larger share of the Colstrip generation plant. Such a proposal is absolutely heading in the wrong direction. There are enormous economic and environmental risks associated with these coal-fired plants, especially Colstrip Units 1 and 2. North Western’s purchase of any additional share of the Colstrip plant could expose Montana ratepayers and taxpayers to unacceptable risks.There is no question that change is underway for coal mining, and the coal-fired power plants at Colstrip. The market for coal-fired electricity is dwindling as the four utilities and their customers on the West Coast, who own and buy about 2/3rds of Colstrip’s power, move toward cleaner energy. Recently enacted laws and regulatory actions in Washington and Oregon effectively direct these utilities to stop using Colstrip electricity within 15 years to reduce carbon emissions and to mitigate ongoing remediation costs and economic risks.The costs of competitive fuels and energy sources, including natural gas and renewable energy such as wind and solar, have fallen significantly in recent years. Coal mining and coal-fired electricity generation continue to experience declining production, bankruptcies and plant closures throughout the nation.The market is determining Colstrip’s fate. Concerns about the economic, public health, and environmental impacts of climate change are helping to drive the market.Colstrip’s economic and environmental risks are well documented, and numerous red flags have been raised, including in three independent reports by Northwestern, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), and UBS, an international financial firm.The WUTC found that environmental remediation and decommissioning costs for Colstrip Units 1 & 2 would be between $134 million and $195 million. The report also said that these costs would increase the longer the plant stays open. If Northwestern purchased those units, it would assume those obligations and that hefty price tag could be shouldered by Montana ratepayers and taxpayers.Over the past three years, Talen Energy, which operates the Colstrip plant and owns 50 percent of Colstrip Units 1 & 2 and 30 percent of Unit 3, has lowered the carrying value of its interest in Colstrip by a staggering 87 percent. This means that its share of Colstrip Units 1, 2, and 3 has no real value. UBS, an international financial firm, issued a report on March 7 of this year in which it called Colstrip a “money-losing” asset for Talen.In 2013, Northwestern determined that purchasing any portion of Colstrip would be a risky investment. When it purchased the hydroelectric dams from PPL, its analysis showed that also purchasing PPL’s share of the Colstrip plant would be a huge liability. At that time, Northwestern assigned a negative $340 million value to PPL’s coal plants and a negative $127 million value to Colstrip Units 1 and 2 specifically. Therefore, it is likely that Northwestern would only consider buying an additional interest in Colstrip if the Montana taxpayers and ratepayers subsidize the significant financial and environmental liabilities. That scenario would be disastrous and unacceptable.Montanans should be working on prudent Montana-specific energy solutions. Planning a different energy future will take time and resources. Considerable progress was being made to develop reasonable clean energy alternatives in Montana prior to the unprecedented action of the U.S. Supreme Court in staying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The delay has sidetracked productive efforts, and produced a rash of half-baked ideas and political theater from political candidates of both parties.Montana communities, taxpayers and electric customers deserve — and must demand — better from our leaders. Consumers and taxpayers need to be protected from unnecessary financial risk. Montana must facilitate the process and assure that: (1) the workers and the community of Colstrip obtain focused attention, increased certainty, reasoned support and replacement opportunities; (2) Northwestern and other transmission owners perform comprehensive resource and transmission planning studies for the 15-year horizon; (3) Colstrip generation owners perform detailed studies of necessary remediation requirements, costs, schedule, and provide adequate bonding and financial guarantees; and (4) fair access is provided to regional markets for Montana’s renewable energy by repurposing the Colstrip transmission capacity.Montana has a responsibility and an extraordinary opportunity to develop a better, smarter energy future. We must demand that our elected leaders do so. We must not squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.Thomas J. Schneider is a former commissioner of the Montana Public Service Commission and a founder of Montanans for Affordable Electricity.Montana has a chance at a smarter energy future Op-Ed: Montana Has a Chance at a Smarter Energy Future
On the Blogs: A ‘Thought Experiment’ on What the U.S. Coal Industry Could’ve Been FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Daniel Gross for Slate: Here’s a thought experiment. Between 2009 and 2015, the U.S. coal industry produced more than 7 billion tons of coal. What if the coal-producing industry in 2009 decided to tax itself—say, $2 for every ton mined—and then plowed that money into demonstration projects, carbon capture research, infrastructure, and subsidies for next-generation coal plants? What if it had invested $14 billion in efforts that would allow coal to be burned with no emissions, or with dramatically fewer emissions?Doing so would not have guaranteed success, or some miraculous breakthroughs. But I’m reasonably sure that we’d be on the third and fourth generation of carbon capture projects, instead of the first; that the costs of building new carbon-capture projects would be far lower than they are today; that researchers would have developed useful new procedures and equipment; that we’d have an industry that knows how to construct such projects on budget instead of incurring massive overruns.Of course, this would have required the sort of collective action and foresight of which few industries are capable. But had the coal industry done so, it would have had the possibility of positioning itself as part of the solution to lower emissions, rather than as the bulk of the problem.They didn’t have to tax themselves at all, they just needed to support Obama’s push for “clean coal” research and accept cap and trade legislation.You could argue that it’s not the miners’ responsibility to ensure that the use of their resource doesn’t produce negative externalities. They’re not the ones who buy and burn the coal, after all. But that’s not why they should’ve done it. As we’ve seen, the industry’s sole customers—electric utilities—now have choices in how they meet demand for electricity. They can convert plants to run on natural gas, or build large-scale renewables, or focus on efficiency and storage instead of production. They could pull plenty of levers if they want to cut emissions.The coal industry, which had the most to gain from investments in clean-coal technology, has run out of levers to pull.Full item: Could Coal Have Survived by Going Green?
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Charlotte Observer:Duke Energy plans to close its seven North Carolina coal plants during the next 30 years, according to filings this week with state regulators.Those plans include calling for the Allen Steam Station, just outside of Charlotte in Gaston County, to close in 10 years, according to Duke. Coal plants like Allen are made up of different coal units, which are projected to close at different times. The first three units at Allen are expected to close even sooner — by 2024.“As we lower our carbon footprint, Duke Energy is increasingly moving away from coal-fired generation and we are not including the addition of coal-fired generation going forward,” said Meredith Archie, spokeswoman for Duke.“This is not a Duke Energy phenomenon,” said David Doctor of E4 Carolinas, an association for Carolinas energy sector members. “This is a national phenomenon.” Utilities can retire coal plants and then add solar, wind and waste energy or natural gas plants to their systems, putting new capital on their books that will help them maintain their earnings, Doctor said.Duke’s final N.C. coal unit retirement is expected to occur in 2048 at the Rogers Energy Complex in Cliffside. That unit six opened in 2012 and “is one of the cleanest coal-powered plants in the United States,” according to Duke’s website.Duke’s 15-year projections fit in with the company’s sustainability goal to reduce “carbon emissions by more than 40 (percent) from 2005 levels by 2030. The plans accomplish this goal, despite serving more customer demand over the planning period and without federal or state carbon mandates,” the filing said.More: Duke Energy plans to close all of its NC coal plants. But it’ll take a while. Duke Energy outlines coal phase-out plans
Lincoln city council approves plans for largest solar farm in state of Nebraska FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Lincoln Journal Star:The Lincoln City Council on Monday paved the way for a solar farm east of Lincoln that would be the largest in the state.Council members voted 6-0 to grant a special permit to Ranger Power, a New York-based company that wants to build a 230-megawatt solar farm on roughly 1,100 acres in an area bounded by 128th Street, 148th Street and O Street and Havelock Avenue.The project is massive by Nebraska standards. If built to its proposed size, it would be more than five times the size of all installed solar energy projects in the state.Ranger Power officials said they chose the area east of Lincoln because it is close to the state’s two largest cities and also because it has existing infrastructure — in the form of a nearby transformer owned by Lincoln Electric System.Supporters of the project noted that it will produce clean energy, have a minimal effect on the area and also produce revenue for participating landowners, as well as the county as a whole. At full buildout, it’s estimated the project will produce more than $800,000 in property taxes annually for Lancaster County and the Waverly school district.More: Council OKs solar project that would be state’s largest
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Moody’s warns that as investors zero-in on environmental, social and governance risks during the U.S. energy industry’s carbon transition, merchant coal generators face waning prospects for debt refinancing. “Among the power generation projects that we rate, merchant coal projects are among the most exposed to carbon transition risk because merchant coal plants are the most likely to experience the financial effects of carbon transition,” Moody’s analysts wrote in an Oct. 9 report.Electric utilities and power generators throughout the U.S. are adopting emissions reduction goals to align with the interests of customers and shareholders concerned about carbon exposure. About 9.7 GW of coal capacity is still expected to retire in 2019 despite the Trump administration’s scaled-back carbon emissions rule finalized in June, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.“ESG concerns have reduced the number of potential investors in merchant coal projects, leading to higher capital costs and greater credit protections for potential lenders,” the analysts wrote. “Future financings are likely to be materially more expensive and difficult, especially compared to recent natural gas-fired project financings.”In addition to an increased investor focus on ESG, “persistently low power prices” and “high leverage relative to sustained cash flow” also present economic challenges for merchant coal plants.Moody’s pointed out that the sponsor of Chief Power Finance LLC pulled a refinancing transaction in August because of market conditions, while Longview Intermediate Holdings C LLC and Sandy Creek Energy Associates LP will likely face challenges as they seek to refinance maturities within the next two years. The three coal-fired projects, Chief, Longview and Sandy Creek, have a combined $1.7 billion in debt maturing in the next two years, according to Moody’s.“Despite refinancing challenges, projects that we rate own some of the most efficient, environmentally compliant and well-maintained merchant coal plants in the U.S,” analysts wrote. “But these factors have not produced enough cash flow generation to fully offset the carbon transition risk.”More ($): Moody’s: Merchant coal plants face ‘heightened refinancing risk’ amid ESG wave Moody’s: Climate concerns raising refinancing costs for merchant coal plants in U.S.
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ReNews.biz:The U.S. now has more than 100GW of wind installed after it connected some 9.1GW of new projects to the grid last year.Total U.S. capacity now stands at 105GW, with 2019 additions representing 39 percent of all utility-scale power additions to the grid nationally.The figures, published in an annual report by U.S. wind association AWEA, show wind is the largest provider of renewable energy in the country, supplying over seven percent of the nation’s electricity last year.Last year, wind capacity grew by 9.6 percent nationally, spurred on by strong additions in the states of Texas and Iowa.Research shows the U.S. wind industry now supports a record 120,000 American jobs, 530 domestic factories and rakes in $1.6 billion a year for local states and communities, AWEA said.Last year was also a successful year for U.S. PPA deals in the wind sector, with corporate buyers announcing 8.7GW of new offtake agreements.More: U.S. passes 100GW wind milestone Installed U.S. wind capacity topped 100GW in 2019, trade group says
Do you have what it takes? Come test your hill climbing skills at the inaugural High Knob Hellbender 10K run in Norton, Va. on October 4, 2014.The 6.2-mile run is sure to be a mind-bending, heart-pounding, leg-crushing race to the top of High Knob, a more than 4,000-foot peak in the far corner of Southwest Virginia. The course begins in downtown Norton and climbs more than 2,000 feet to the mountain’s summit. A new observation tower atop High Knob offers a 360-degree view of distant peaks as far away as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and West Virginia.The inspiration for the race’s namesake is not only the hell-bending curves runners must navigate as they climb the mountain, but also the Eastern Hellbender – a large aquatic salamander that can be found in Virginia throughout the streams and tributaries of the New River drainage as well as in the Clinch, Powell, and Holston River tributaries of the Upper Tennessee River.All race proceeds will benefit the Clinch Coalition, a nonprofit group focused on protecting and preserving public lands within the Clinch Ranger District of the Jefferson National Forest.The top three men and women finishers and overall masters man and woman will receive awards.Online registration ends at midnight Friday, Oct. 3. Race day registration begins at 7:30 a.m. The race begins at 9 a.m. Register for the High Knob Hellbender and treat yourself to a challenge!
Could you imagine a small native brook trout swimming its way up the perched culvert pictured below? I can’t. There are numerous issues with the size and positioning of this culvert that will affect the population of North Carolina’s most beautiful fish.But I’m not here to give you a lesson on culverts—or to tell you how much I hate them and that I think they could have a huge negative effect on the population of North Carolina’s native brook trout. I’m here to tell you how you can help.The Southeastern chapter of Trout Unlimited has devised a plan to help fund a culvert restoration project through an exciting challenge that offers contestants a chance to get out on the water, fish their favorite streams, and win some awesome stuff.I’m talking about the 11-Mile Challenge. Trout Unlimited’s Southeast Conservation Project will reconnect 11 miles of native brook trout streams in the Southern Appalachians this year by removing fish passage barriers at bad culverts. Those 11 miles of connected water will make the best of our native brookies more resilient, longer-lived, and better to fish.So what do you have to do? Sign up at TU.org/11milechallenge, fish (wade-fish to be exact) 11 miles of whatever water you want, document it through their easy form, and let them know about any bad culverts you come across. What happens if you don’t fish all 11 miles by December? You’re in a lot of trouble.I’m kidding. The only repercussion is a loss of bragging rights. You’ll still be eligible to win the prizes provided by some awesome sponsors, including guide trips, a Fish-Skull Fly Tester from Flymen Fishing Co., a Tenkara set up, and some sweet fly tying materials and flies.11 miles is a lot of water to cover, but it can be done. In fact, one angler from Winston-Salem has already done it! The main objective is to spread awareness about the importance of stream restoration.Last week I got the chance to hang out with Mark Taylor and Damon Martin from Trout Unlimited and fish one of my favorite streams. We fished for 3 hours and only made it .72 miles. Thank the heavens they’ve given us until December to complete this! Check out our journey below. Cheers and happy fishing. Good luck!
Friday started on such a high note that I skipped instead of walked from one dreaded meeting to the next. I found myself smiling during challenging discussions. Want to know the secret to my blissed out state?Hint: three letters beginning with the letter “S,” but probably not the word that comes to mind.SUP, shorthand for standup paddleboard, was responsible for my good mood. Friday morning I saw my hometown river from a whole new perspective on a SUP tour with Kyle Ellison who recently launched Wai Mauna in Asheville. “Wai Mauna” translates as “mountain water,” a fitting name for this Hawaiian native who moved from the beaches of Maui to the mountains of Western North Carolina.Kyle tells me about the history of Hominy Creek as I get comfortable negotiating my board around rocks and on barely moving current. At the confluence of Hominy Creek and the French Broad, Kyle cautions me that the stronger current of the river will grab my broadside if I paddle perpendicular with the current. I take a decisive turning stroke and am paddling downstream with the current.With each paddle stroke, the sun appeared to hula-hoop across the river, golden orbs of light looping outward, fading away at the edges to a yellow glow that permeates the morning. Kyle uses a wide, stable board for his tours, which allows me to feel comfortable looking around.Standing up offers me a new perspective of the familiar – I see the just-below-the-surface rocks to avoid earlier and the light reflects off the waves creating stained-glass-like rays of greens. Kyle points to something floating on the water. It looks like a leaf, the palest possible pink without being mistaken for white.I spend a lot of time on the river in a kayak. Like most paddlers I know, the river has become a sacred place for me. Spending time on or near rivers is the closest I know to encountering the divine.I look closer and realize it’s a floating flower. The more I start looking for other pink blooms, I realize they surround us. Beyond the river, mountain laurel bushes still hold a few light pink budding beauties. Gratitude wells up inside of me for being there in that moment, paddling as the sun rises among the floating flowers.I thank the bushes for their willingness to let go of their beauty so that I can experience it like this, floating in the current beside me.I look up at Kyle and he smiles at me. “I knew you’d love the morning tour, it’s a special time to be on the river.”To make the tour even more appealing, Kyle gives $5 of every tour and $2 of every SUP rental to RiverLink , a non-profit that engages the community with the French Broad River.He says, “It’s simply the right thing to do. The river provides me with my livelihood as well as my entertainment, so it only makes sense to give back to the river in whatever capacity that I can. In Hawaii, where I was raised and moved from, the concept of ‘Mālama ‘Āina’ is a central to sustainable growth. Literally, ‘Mālama ‘Āina’ means to care for the land and it’s our duty to give back.”As Kyle finishes telling me about his connection with RiverLink, we see the RiverLink property where we will take and paddle toward the wooden steps built into the river bank. I carry my board up to Kyle’s van and trailer before parting ways.Perhaps it’s being on the water at dawn. Or the freedom of being a beginner again, exploring familiar terrain on a new craft. Or maybe it’s the ability to look at the river from a new angle. Whatever it is, being on a paddleboard leaves me with a sense of serenity, completely at peace with the day ahead. I soak up a lingering glance of the river and promise to come back soon.To book a sunrise tour with Kyle, visit his website.
Editor’s Note: Both the Blue Ridge and the Smoky Mountains abound with names that are deeply rooted in Native American culture and history. The names of places like Oconaluftee, Tuckasegee, and Nantahala can all be traced back to the Cherokee, while the term Appalachia itself is derived from the language of the Creek. In this installment of ‘Trailblazer Tributes’, we’ve taken one of these names—likely more familiar to you as a top-notch mountain biking destination—and unearthed the legend behind it—that of a little known Cherokee farmer by the name of Tsali. Springtime at the mouth of the Nantahala River always brings dizzying changes, intoxicating aromas, and the mysterious whispers of nature’s cycle. For an old Cherokee farmer it should have been a remarkable time, but as he sat on his cabin porch smoking tobacco, troublesome news occupied his thoughts. A powerful force threatened his beloved ancestral homeland, his farm, and his family. While great life-giving forces worked magically across the landscape of his mountain home, a horrible death march loomed on the horizon in the land of the setting sun.Very little is known of the Cherokee Indian Tsali. According to the 1835 census, he lived with his wife and his three sons in a cabin where the Nantahala River drained into the Little Tennessee. Although his birth date is unknown, he was roughly 60 years old at the time of the census. He farmed a small hillside plot and hunted wild game. He could read neither English nor Cherokee. If not for a short heroic episode in the autumn 1838, he would have passed into obscurity—another nameless victim.A rare rendering of Tsali.From the vantage point of post modernity the American frontier and the native inhabitants have always seemed ill-fated, victims of inevitable and unrelenting progress. Yet for many years the Cherokee coexisted with whites in the small agrarian republic of the early United States. Beginning in the 1790s the Cherokee freely adopted white lifestyles. They built churches, schools, mills, and cultivated farms. Cherokee chiefs tolerated the occasional broken treaty, and when grievances arose they traveled to Washington to meet a U.S. senate committee and plea that they might maintain “the blessings of civilization and Christianity on the soil of their rightful inheritance.” For Tsali and the rest of the Cherokee Nation their rights as Americans, and human beings, would rapidly erode after the election of 1828. Old Hickory, better known as Andrew Jackson, came to the presidency in the age of American democracy. “The majority is to govern,” Jackson declared, and with that majorities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee quickly laid plans for the displacement of the Cherokee. With Jackson’s federal troops in tow they had the muscle to get it done. In the summer of 1838 General George Winfield Scott, with a force of 7,000 soldiers, began rounding up Cherokee and detaining them in holding pens in Bushnell, where they would await the march west to Oklahoma. Legend says Tsali dreamed of a resistance. Almost every Cherokee, it is safe to say, yearned deeply to remain in their native hills. In late October second Lieutenant Andrew Jackson Smith and three soldiers invaded Tsali’s cabin.When Andrew Jackson came to power in 1828, one of his first objectives was the eradication of the Cherokee people.At gunpoint they forced his family, as well as his brother’s family, to gather whatever they could carry and march toward the stockade in Bushnell. Along the route soldiers began to prod Tsali’s wife with their bayonets. Unwilling to accept such degradation, the prisoners began their rebellion. Speaking secretly in the Cherokee language, Tsali and his fellow captives devised a plan to overtake the soldiers. In the ensuing struggle, a rifle discharged, leaving one soldier with a mortal head wound. According to the U.S. Military records, one of the captives drew a concealed axe and tomahawked it into the skull of a soldier. Lieutenant Smith fled for his life. In Bushnell he herded the previously captured Cherokee to Fort Cass in Calhoun. Meanwhile, Tsali’s party of 12 made their way north into present day Smoky Mountain National Park. Oral tradition maintains that they hid in a cave below Clingman’s Dome. On November 6, Colonel William S. Foster received orders to hunt down the fugitive band. General Winfield Scott, meanwhile, tactfully enlisted the dark forces of betrayal. “The individuals guilty of this unprovoked outrage must be shot down,” Scott declared. The Quallatown band of Oconaluftee Cherokee Indians lived outside of the Cherokee Nation, and although they were not required by law to emigrate, they were nonetheless threatened by the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Chief Drowning Bear and his white adopted son William Holland Thomas brokered a deal with General Scott that if they did not harbor fugitives and delivered Tsali’s band, they would remain in Quallatown on the Oconaluftee River.In the summer of 1838 General George Winfield Scott began rounding and detaining Cherokee Indians.Tsali’s and his fellow renegade farmers shivered through the frosty nights of the late fall, while Colonel Foster, nine companies of the fourth infantry, 31 Oconaluftee Cherokee led by Tsali’s former neighbor Euchella, and William Thomas Holland tracked the runaways like wild game. Cherokee legend says that Tsali learned of the agreement between the Oconaluftee and the Federal Government and willingly handed himself over as a sacrifice. Tsali, it is said, offered his own life if it meant his brethren could remain in their homeland. The official record suggest that Tsali never surrendered. Throughout November, soldiers captured and executed Tsali’s relatives Jake, George, and Lowan. Eventually the search party apprehended the rest of his family, killing his two eldest sons, while sparing his youngest boy, as well as his wife. The military continued their hunt for the four remaining fugitives, whom they regarded as the principal culprits in the upheaval. Soon only Tsali remained at large and with December approaching and their mission basically completed Foster’s troops pulled out of the mountains. Shortly thereafter Euchella and his men caught up to Tsali, cornering him in a rock shelter in the Smokies. On November 26th, the Oconaluftee Cherokee marched their captured brother to Big Bear Reserve, now Bryson City. The men tied Tsali to a tree and prepared for an execution at high noon. Oral tradition claims that as Tsali faced six musket barrels, he refused to wear a blindfold, preferring rather to stare his betrayers directly in their dark eyes. It is likely that he could see his beloved hills in distance.The historical and the legendary become clouded in the mists of time. Tsali’s tale is buried under the floodwaters of a TVA dam. It has been interpreted and retold by broken hearts. Records rely on broken treaties and the histories of ashamed parties. Ultimately, it matters very little if Tsali willingly laid down his life or if he hunkered deep in caves evading his captors as best he could for as long as he could. It matters not if he refused the blindfold or if he stoically absorbed his assassins bullets in darkness. Tsali, like Osceola, Chief Joseph, and so many others leaders of Native American resistance movements, bravely stood against the forces that fundamentally oppose human dignity and liberty. In that fight Tsali and his people lost a land that was blessed with life. Today they have reclaimed it, and as life-giving forces, like Elk and language, return to the Cherokee Nation, the young can stand on the shoulders of their forefathers, brave men like Tsali .