Such a move would make Cincinnati the largest city in the United States to have its energy supply come from 100 percent renewable sources.
CINCINNATI — “Cincinnati is working on a new power aggregation deal right now that could lead to the entire city being powered from 100 percent renewable energy sources. The deal, city officials say, could be finalized within the coming months and be in place for consumers by summer 2012.
Such a move would make Cincinnati the largest city in the United States to have its energy supply come from 100 percent renewable sources, and it might be accomplished without any significant cost difference for ratepayers.
The way it would work, city officials tell UrbanCincy, is by requiring power providers to include quotes for both the cheapest electricity available and 100 percent renewable electricity. In Oak Park, Ill., for example, the bids came back so competitive that city officials decided to go with the 100 percent renewable solution.”
CINCINNATI — This afternoon, the nine members of City of Cincinnati’s Budget and Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve a reworded motion urging the administration to choose suppliers who offer 100% renewable energy for the city’s new aggregated buying group. All members of the full city council are on the Budget and Finance Committee, so the vote will likely remain unanimous when it formally goes before the full council in Wednesday’s meeting.
The motion was reworded after last week’s public hearing testimony to include disclosure requirements about natural gas that comes from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking; strengthening energy efficiency measures; and a requirement that the chosen Contractor use Small Business Enterprises that are certified by the city and help to promote small, minority and women-owned businesses.
The new motion, in its entirety now reads:
“We move that in developing the Request for Proposals (RFP) for electric power supply for the city’s opt-out aggregation program the administration request responses from potential suppliers reflecting 100% renewable energy credit (REC)-based sources of electric supply and weigh these responses among other criteria such as proposed rates, aggregation experience, and financial stability of the company in choosing a supplier.
We further move that the administration begin to develop criteria for programs to further enable residential and small commercial consumers to implement energy efficiency measures.
We further move that the administration develop criteria for the RFP requiring disclosure of whether and to what extent a responding bidder’s natural gas supply has been extracted through hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, from recently developed shale formations, and to weigh these responses among other criteria such as proposed rates, aggregation experience, and financial stability of the company in choosing a supplier.
We further move that the administration include in the RFP a requirement that the Contractor will use best efforts to recruit and maximize the participation of all qualified segments of the business community in subcontracting work, including the utilization of small, minority and women business enterprises. This includes the use of practices such as assuring the inclusion of qualified Small Business Enterprises (SBE) that are certified by the City’s Office of Contract Compliance in bid solicitations and dividing large contracts into smaller contracts when economically feasible.”
— Rachael Belz, Coal program organizer, Ohio Citizen Action
Greenpeace flew an airship over Cincinnati today with banners reading “Dump Duke Energy” and "Cleaner is Cheaper" to highlight the opportunity the city has to switch to a cheaper, renewable energy provider.
CINCINNATI — “For years, Duke Energy executives and their Wall Street investors have made millions of dollars on the backs of Ohio energy customers, while poisoning the air with coal fired power plants. Two of these old coal plants, Miami Fort and Beckjord, sit on either side of Cincinnati and have been pumping out pollution for the last sixty years. According to the Clean Air Task Force, the pollution from these two coal plants is responsible for 200 deaths, 313 heart attacks, over 3,200 asthma attacks and hundreds of hospital admissions and emergency room visits each year.
200 deaths per year. And that’s just two of Duke’s six coal plants in Ohio.
But all that could soon change. Last November, Cincinnati residents overwhelmingly voted to pass a ballot initiative allowing the city to pool its purchasing power and choose a new energy provider. (You can learn more about how communities in Ohio are coming together to negotiate better deals with energy providers in this report from Ohio Citizen Action.) Now, the Cincinnati City Council is considering what criteria to use when choosing a new energy provider, such as cost savings and renewable energy. Cincinnati could choose to require 100% renewable energy from any energy providers seeking a contract to supply electricity to the city. At a City Council hearing this past Monday, nearly every resident who testified urged the City Council to require any energy provider seeking to provide the city with power to use 100% renewable energy.”
Tighter regulation, bountiful natural gas and declining installation costs for renewable energy herald the end of America’s coal era
HARLAN COUNTY, KY — “But if the raw numbers look good, the trends tell a different story. Regulatory uncertainty and the emergence of alternative fuel sources (natural gas and renewables) will probably make America’s future far less coal-reliant than its past. In 2000 America got 52% of its electricity from coal; in 2010 that number was 45%. Robust as exports are, they account for less than one-tenth of American mined coal; exports cannot pick up the slack if America’s taste for coal declines. Appalachian coal production peaked in the early 1990s; the EIA forecasts a decline for the next three years, followed by two decades of low-level stability. Increased employment and declining productivity suggest that Appalachian coal is getting harder to find.
Toughening regulation has an effect, too. Coal-fired power plants are the source of more than one-third of greenhouse-gas emissions in America. Last July the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule that requires 28 states to reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide they emit; in December came another, reducing the amount of mercury and other toxic air pollutants that power plants can puff out.
…The EIA forecasts that America will still obtain 39% of its energy from coal by 2035, but that assumes a consistent regulatory framework. Other sources are less sanguine. Deutsche Bank predicts that coal’s share will fall to 20% by 2030 as regulatory risk grows, with natural gas and renewables rising. That seems more likely. The EPA’s new emissions rules may have been stayed by the courts, but they loom nonetheless, hampering investment in coal.
The switch away from it will be painful for some. But as Robert Byrd, the late senator from West Virginia, once said, coal-dependent regions ‘can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it.’”
BEVERLY — “According to EPA data, last year the Beverly plant emitted 98,515 tons of sulfur dioxide, the third-highest total in the country, according to the EPA data.
The EPA wants limits on sulfur dioxide emissions under the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. To do that, the plant must install enormous scrubbers, that remove the sulfur dioxide from the exhaust emitted by the smokestacks.
The plant was built over 50 years ago. The Muskingum River plant has no scrubbers, and the company says it cannot add them in time to meet the EPA’s deadlines.
AEP Chairman Morris said that jobs will be created by retrofitting the plants, but he needs more time from the EPA.
‘We have to hire plumbers, electricians and painters – folks who do that kind of work when you retrofit a plant,’ Morris told The Washington Post.
‘Everyone has this idea that the EPA could shut a plant down,’ said Rachael Belz, organizer of the coal program at Ohio Citizen Action. “But these decisions are being made by AEP or Duke Energy. These are business decisions,” as reported by the Post.
The wood thrush is one of the species found to suffer neurological disorders caused by mercury exposure.
NEW YORK, NY — “The strict new federal standards limiting pollution from power plants are meant to safeguard human health. But they should have an important side benefit, according to a study being released on Tuesday: protecting a broad array of wildlife that has been harmed by mercury emissions.
Songbirds and bats suffer some of the same types of neurological disorders from mercury as humans and especially children do, says the study, “Hidden Risk,” by the Biodiversity Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in Gorham, Me., that investigates emerging environmental threats.
Methylmercury, the most toxic form of the heavy metal, was found to be widespread throughout the Northeast — not just in lakes and rivers, as had already been known, but also in forests, on mountaintops and in bogs and marshes that are home to birds long thought to be at minimal risk.
The new study found dangerously high levels of mercury in several Northeastern bird species, including rusty blackbirds, saltmarsh sparrows and wood thrushes. Previous studies have shown mercury’s effects on loons and other fish-eating waterfowl, as well as bald eagles, panthers and otters. In one study, zebra finches lost the ability to hit high notes in mating songs when mercury levels rose, affecting reproduction.”
U.S. firms face double threat of cheap natural gas, weak European demand
U.S. coal-mining companies are expected to provide cautious 2012 outlooks amid lower prices for coal used by electric utilities and steelmakers as they report results for the final quarter of last year. Above, a miner headed into the New Elk Coal Co.'s mine near Trinidad, Colo., last September.
WASHINGTON, DC — “This year’s outlook is grim for the U.S coal industry, which after two years of rising profits has begun closing mines, signaling a new wave of production cutbacks and, possibly, another round of industry consolidation.
The country’s biggest coal producers, which begin reporting fourth-quarter results on Tuesday with St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp., should provide insight into how bad this year could be. Most should meet Wall Street’s earnings expectations for the last quarter of 2011 on export gains over a year ago, while tempering investor expectations for 2012, say analysts.
The two biggest threats facing U.S. coal companies are the low price of domestic natural gas, which is making thermal coal a less-attractive fuel for their utility-customers, and the shaky economic picture in Europe, which is damping exports of metallurgical coal.
Demand among European steelmakers has fallen off, pushing down the benchmark price for the highest grades of coal by nearly 30% over the past year. Also damping prices is tougher federal emissions rules for U.S. utilities, resulting in more planned closures of coal-fired generating plants and eroding the market for thermal coal.”
“[I]t is unlikely that electric reliability will be harmed by the rule,” the nonpartisan CRS said in a Jan. 9 report first flagged Wednesday by BNA, a trade publication.
The regulations — which require coal- and oil-fired power plants to install technology to reduce harmful air pollution — might cause some plants to shut down, but the electric system has the capacity to make up for the closures, the report stated.
‘[A]lthough the rule may lead to the retirement or derating of some facilities, almost all of the capacity reductions will occur in areas that have substantial reserve margins,’ the report stated.”
BOSTON, MA — “Duke Energy Carolinas will retire 1,667 MW of unscrubbed coal-fired capacity under a prescribed, enforceable schedule under an air permit-related settlement the utility reached with several environmental groups, the groups said Tuesday.
The Southern Environmental Law Center negotiated the settlement on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the groups said in a joint statement.
Duke reached the settlement with the groups to resolve their administrative challenge to an air permit the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Division of Air Quality issued for construction and operation of Duke’s new 825-MW Cliffside Unit 6, a coal-fired facility now nearing completion near Shelby, North Carolina.”
Jay Apt, a professor of technology at Carnegie Mellon University says, "They're not going to tear down the coal plants, because they've seen this movie before. They will mothball those plants and start up the coal plants again" if natural gas prices rise.
PITTSBURGH — “Nationwide, the electricity generated by gas-fired plants has risen by more than 50 percent over the last decade, while coal-fired generation has declined slightly. The gas plants generated about 600 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2000 and 981 billion hours in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
During the same period coal generation declined from 1,966 billion hours to 1,850 billion hours, while hydroelectric and nuclear generation stayed about the same. The figures include electricity use by consumers and industry.
Nationwide, EIA said natural gas use for power generation rose 7 percent between 2009 and 2010. That’s about 515 billion cubic feet. The biggest jumps were in the Southeast, with use rising 24 percent in North Carolina, 18 percent in Virginia and 15 percent in South Carolina.
“Most of the people I know in the electric power industry are building natural gas” plants, said Jay Apt, a professor of technology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. That’s because of low prices over the last few years and the relatively low cost of building such plants, compared with coal-fired or nuclear.
But Apt cautions that the trend could stall because the basics of supply and demand mean that if too many plants embrace cheap gas, it won’t stay cheap.”
SEATTLE, WA — “Humans pump thousands of tons of vapor from the metallic element mercury into the atmosphere each year, and it can remain suspended for long periods before being changed into a form that is easily removed from the atmosphere.
New research shows that the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere work to transform elemental mercury into oxidized mercury, which can easily be deposited into aquatic ecosystems and ultimately enter the food chain.
‘The upper atmosphere is acting as a chemical reactor to make the mercury more able to be deposited to ecosystems,’ said Seth Lyman, who did the work as a research assistant professor in science and technology at the University of Washington Bothell.
Lyman, now with Utah State University’s Energy Dynamics Laboratory, is lead author of a paper documenting the research published online Dec. 19 by the journal Nature Geoscience. Daniel Jaffe, a science and technology professor at UW Bothell, is coauthor of the paper. The work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The findings come from data gathered during research flights in October and November 2010 over North America and Europe by a National Center for Atmospheric Research aircraft.”
At a Constellation plant, two capped smokestacks stand alongside a new one that belches steam.
BALTIMORE, MD — “As operators of coal-fired power plants around the country welcome a court-ordered delay on tighter pollution rules, the owner of a retrofitted plant here says that the rules cannot come too soon.
The company, Constellation Energy, says it is an issue of fairness. A little more than two years ago, it completed an $885 million installation that has vastly reduced emissions from two giant coal-burning units at its Brandon Shores plant here, within view of the city’s downtown office towers.
The goal was to comply with a Maryland law, but the company also anticipated that the federal Environmental Protection Agency would adopt similar limits. The agency followed through last year, completing a rule on sulfur and nitrogen emissions that was due to take effect on Sunday.
But last Friday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a stay of the regulations, ceding to challenges filed by several major coal-burning utilities, the State of Texas, the National Mining Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. They argued that the deadline was draconian, among other objections.”
CHARLESTON, WV — “As I’m catching up on all the news I missed being mostly unplugged for about two weeks, one thing that jumped out at my today was the above map, brought to us by the folks at DOE’s Energy Information Administration. The agency reports:
Coal-fired electric power plants make up the largest source of national sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) calls for a 53% reduction in SO2 emissions from the electric power sector by 2014. To meet this goal, plant owners can implement one of or a combination of three main strategies: use lower sulfur coal in their boilers, retire plants without emissions controls, or install emissions control equipment—primarily flue gas desulfurization (FGD) scrubbers. Plants with FGD equipment generated 58% of the total electricity generated from coal in 2010, while producing only 27% of total SO2 emissions.”
WASHINGTON, DC — “A federal court Friday put on hold a controversial Obama administration regulation aimed at reducing power plant pollution in 27 states that contributes to unhealthy air downwind.
More than a dozen electric power companies, municipal power plant operators and states had sought to delay the rules until the litigation plays out. A federal appeals court in Washington approved their request Friday.
…In the first two years, the EPA estimates that the regulation and some other steps would have slashed sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent from 2005 levels, and nitrogen oxides will be cut by more than half.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution from power plant smokestacks can be carried long distances by the wind and weather. As they drift, the pollutants react with other substances in the atmosphere to form smog and soot, which have been linked to various illnesses, including asthma, and have prevented many states and cities from complying with health-based standards set by law.”
2,307 neighbors have sent handwritten letters and telewires urging Duke Energy to retire Miami Fort Unit 6 and Beckjord coal plants as of July 15, 2011.
Letters to Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman
6,615 members have sent handwritten letters and petitions to Senator Brown urging him to support US EPA rules that will protect our health from polluting coal plants as of January 24, 2012.
3,751 members have petitioned Senator Portman urging him to support US EPA rules that will protect our health from polluting coal plants as of January 24, 2012.
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