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In Quiet End to a Coal Battle, Utility Puts Canceled Plant Parts Up for Sale

Some experts suggest coal owners may be hesitant to buy old plant designs like the shelved South Carolina facility because their emissions are too costly

By Maria Gallucci

Apr 5, 2011

A South Carolina utility is hoping to salvage some of the money it lost from a shelved coal-fired power plant by selling off its turbines, pumps, pipes and designs.

The move marks the quiet end of a very public, five-year saga over a controversial coal plant that was designed with earlier — and weaker — environmental standards in mind.

State-owned placed in March for parts to a 660-megawatt unit of the 1,320-megawatt Pee Dee Energy Center it planned to build by 2012.

The project was canceled last year due to falling energy demand and rising operational costs related to reducing its massive greenhouse gas and toxic emissions.

Mollie Grove, a spokesperson for the utility, said the sale had already peaked the interest of various undisclosed companies. "I think we'll be successful in selling [the parts]," she told SolveClimate News.

But with new U.S. EPA rules on carbon emissions and other hazardous pollutants underway, experts suggest that a deal for the old parts may be difficult as the industry is now building more efficient, less polluting power plants.

Japanese Disaster May Affect India’s Import of Foreign Nuclear Reactors

The country's nuclear power expansion depends on imports of equipment, including a new European reactor design under heavy scrutiny for safety risks

By Ranjit Devraj

Apr 4, 2011
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India

NEW DELHI—India's ambitious plans to quadruple its nuclear output by 2020, from the current 4,650 megawatts to 20,000 megawatts, may have taken a hit from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. 

The country's nuclear power expansion depends heavily on imports of nuclear equipment, leveraging the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which was sealed in 2008, and the India-specific waiver that Washington pursued with the 45-member (NSG) of nations. 

But in the wake of the Japan disaster, concerns are being raised about the safety risks of a new type of third-generation European reactor that India has selected for its next nuclear wave.

At the same time, Jairam Ramesh, minister for environment and forests, is urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to commission homemade reactors only.

For Singh, who oversaw three years of difficult negotiations with U.S. officials and steered the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal through India's parliament, such calls represent a major setback.

With Anti-EPA Votes on Hold, Nervous Dems and Green Groups Make Appeals

Four amendments to curb EPA's ability to cut CO2 are on the table, causing anxiety among many, though observers wonder if the votes will ever occur

By Elizabeth McGowan

Apr 4, 2011
Senator Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON—For weeks, a slew of conservative senators has been crowing about crippling EPA's ability to curb carbon with the Clean Air Act.

Now, however, observers are curious if those much-ballyhooed votes will ever occur.

Fervent vows to act last Wednesday were pushed off to Thursday — and then beyond. No doubt, that latest lack of action was due mostly to political gamesmanship, plus fears about the headlines that could have circulated Friday — April Fools' Day.

Whatever the reason, progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders couldn't stand idly by as some of his fellow Democrats and Republicans threatened to bludgeon his cherished Clean Air Act to an unrecognizable hue of black and blue.

The Vermont independent corralled 33 other members of the Democratic caucus into supporting touting the benefits of the 41-year-old measure.

In Spain, Solar Lobby and 3 Big Utilities Battle Over PV Subsidy Cuts

Spain's solar trade industry argues that PV projects have been sacrificed to keep profits from coal and gas plants high

Tim Webb,

Apr 3, 2011
Solar power in Spain

Spain had one of the world's most ambitious — and generous — plans to boost the amount of electricity it generates from the sun. That dream, for the solar industry at least, has turned sour.

Just days before Christmas, the government slashed the level of subsidies that all new and existing photovoltaic (PV) solar projects will receive. But even the powerful utility companies, who opposed the solar industry, are now warning that the fallout could be long-lasting and reach far beyond the energy sector.

The row has pitted the renewable lobby against Spain's three biggest utilities — , and — which have been urging the government to take action to stem the wave of subsidised renewable projects being built, particularly solar ones.

Carlos Salle, Iberdrola's director for regulation, told the Guardian that divisions between the renewable lobby and the rest of the energy industry are even deeper in Spain than elsewhere as a result. "We have more controversy here in Spain with renewables against non-renewables ... this is an aspect of our system — it provokes problems."

Another Madrid-based businessman, from one of Spain's leading companies, was franker, likening relations, only half-jokingly, as a "war." The (Asif), Spain's solar industry body, accuses politicians of telling lies, exaggerating the costs of generating electricity using solar PV to justify the cut in subsidies.

It is more than just bragging rights between rival generators at stake.

States Have Ultimate Say on Keystone Pipeline's Route, Federal Memo Suggests

Advocates say a federal memo that surfaced this week proves that states have the authority to regulate or reroute the controversial oil sands pipeline

By Elizabeth McGowan

Apr 1, 2011
oil pipeline

WASHINGTON—For close to a year, Nebraska activists have hounded their state elected officials to act on behalf of constituents feeling threatened by a Canadian company's proposal to construct a controversial tar sands oil pipeline.

But most state legislators have repeatedly shooed them away, claiming they have no such authority to regulate or route oil pipelines in the Cornhusker State. That task, they repeatedly insist, is up to Congress and other federal authorities.

Now, however, the advocates claim they have received solid proof — in the form of a from the — revealing that the governor, the attorney general and state legislators do indeed have that power.

Advocates are convinced the federal document, which "surfaced" at the Nebraska Statehouse six months after it was written, proves that state authorities could be taking the initiative to protect residents' property rights and ensure that an oil pipeline doesn't harm ecologically sensitive landscapes, the economy or the public's health.

Green Building Leaders Press Industry to Halve CO2 of Building Materials

Advocates are challenging the global building sector to cut the carbon footprint of concrete and other products by 30% by 2014, and 50% by 2030

By Robert Gluck

Mar 31, 2011
A cement mixer

Edward Mazria, the American architect behind the influential to zero out fossil fuel use from all buildings, is turning to a new target: carbon-heavy construction materials.

The "," unveiled in February, challenges the global building community to cut the carbon footprint of concrete and other building materials by 50 percent by 2030, with an interim target of 30 percent beyond the average by 2014.

Executives eager to get their newly "green" products to market faster are embracing the effort.

"Moving these products into the marketplace has been difficult," said Jeff Davis, an executive at  Houston, Texas-based , a maker of ready-mix concrete that has developed a product with a 30 percent lower carbon dioxide footprint.

"Hopefully, the 2030 Challenge for Products will accelerate this process, challenging designers and specifiers to accept the advancements in concrete technology."

Poor Data Hampers EPA Coal Cleanup in Iowa's Most Polluted Town

Despite new, stricter pollution rules by EPA, the coal industry in Muscatine may get a pass from the agency until new data or models are produced

By B. Adam Burke,

Mar 31, 2011
Muscatine Coal Plant

An Iowa town with the worst air quality in the state is again under EPA scrutiny after years of maintaining allowable air pollution levels.

But plans to clean up emissions from burning coal won't be adopted for several years, leaving residents in a haze of regulation and red tape.

Last month, the EPA declared Iowa's pollution-fighting plans "substantially inadequate" for maintaining fine particulate matter standards in Muscatine, an industrial town on the Mississippi River.

The state has 18 months to craft new plans for EPA approval, and then local industry will have another two years to install equipment or decrease production and reduce emissions. Not meeting pollution standards can lead to withheld federal funding and, eventually, a federal implementation plan that comes directly from the EPA instead of the state.

Inspector General Gives EPA 90 Days to Assess Dangers of Coal Ash Products

An internal watchdog has told EPA to respond to research showing it has been promoting the use of coal ash products without assessing the health risks

By Elizabeth McGowan

Mar 30, 2011
Coal ash landfill

WASHINGTON—With all of the janitorial duties the EPA is being asked to perform on tasks left undone by the previous administration, perhaps mops should be standard issue at the agency.

Coal ash regulations are one of the latest additions to that catch-up list.

The agency's own internal watchdog has given authorities 90 days to respond to research showing the agency promoted the use of coal ash products — on farm fields, as structural fill for roadway embankments or bound into products such as wallboard, concrete, roofing materials and bricks — with incomplete information about potential risks to people's health and the environment.

The not-so-gentle reminder stems from a policy put in place during George W. Bush's presidency.

Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. sent his to Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA's .

Obama Calls for Deep Cuts in U.S. Oil Imports

Obama lays out four areas to help reach his goal to cut oil imports by a third: more oil and gas drilling, biofuels, natural-gas vehicles and efficiency

By Alister Bull and Patricia Zengerie,

Mar 30, 2011
Offshore drilling

President Barack Obama set an ambitious goal on Wednesday to cut U.S. oil imports by a third over 10 years, taking up a challenge that eluded previous U.S. leaders, as high gasoline prices threaten to undermine the country's economic recovery.

Obama outlined his strategy in a speech after spending days explaining U.S.-led military action in Libya, where fighting, accompanied by unrest elsewhere in the Arab world, has helped push U.S. gasoline prices toward $4 a gallon.

"There are no quick fixes...And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy," Obama said.

In his speech to roll out a blueprint on energy security that directly acknowledged the "big concern" caused by fuel prices, Obama said the country must curb dependence on foreign oil that makes up roughly half of its daily fuel needs.

But previous presidents have made similar promises on energy imports and failed. And any new policy initiatives can expect tough opposition from Republicans who control the House of Representatives and see high energy prices hurting Democrats in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Q&A: Can Canada's Pristine Boreal Forest Be Saved By Conservation?

'What you're really looking at here is cumulative development. In a sense, death by a thousand cuts'

Interview by David Sassoon

Mar 29, 2011
Map of Canada's boreal forest

The Pew Environment Group released a earlier this month urging protection of the Canadian boreal, the world's largest intact forest and the biggest carbon sink on land.

(Listen to the SolveClimate News podcast episode: Canada's Pristine Forest of Blue: Conservation or Death by 1,000 Cuts)

The study says the "forest of blue," which covers 60 percent of Canada's landmass and contains nearly 200 million acres of surface freshwater, is under threat from oil sands development, mining, logging and hydropower projects, despite efforts to protect large swathes of it. David Sassoon spoke with Steven Kallick, director of the at Pew, who has devoted much of his life to the boreal's conservation.

David Sassoon: What are some of the report's key findings?

Steven Kallick: The most important finding is that this area is the largest intact wetlands complex in the world. It has the most unfrozen surface freshwater of any ecosystem on the planet, and some of the world's largest lakes.

There's no other landscape like it. And the value of this resource goes way beyond the borders of Canada. It has global effects on climate, on carbon sequestration and on migratory wildlife that really make it a global concern.