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Energy News Roundup: Q&A with energy secretary Granholm, Indiana enviromental bills struggle, Ontario rate payers prepare for hike

Energy News Roundup: Q&A with energy secretary Granholm, Indiana enviromental bills struggle, Ontario rate payers prepare for hike
March 7, 2021 Natasha Blakely

Keep up with energy-related developments in the Great Lakes area with Great Lakes Now’s biweekly headline roundup.

In this edition: Environmentalists in Wisconsin sue EPA over regulation rollback favoring coal plants, bankruptcy plan for Ohio nuclear power company upheld by appeals court, Prairie Island tribe prepares for massive investment in renewable energy, and Ford Motors to invest millions for electric vehicle construction in southeast Michigan

Click on the headline to read the full story:

Indiana:

When the 2021 legislative session began, more than 75 bills related to the environment had been filed in Indiana’s General Assembly.

But as the session passes its halfway point, more than two-thirds of those bills are now dead. Thirteen alone died in the House Environmental Affairs Committee, which did not hear any of the bills assigned to it.

Many of those lost were issues that have been pushed by environmentalists for years. Some others could have had negative impacts on the environment.

Michigan:

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), who has come out in favor of shutting down the Canadian Line 5 oil pipeline in the Mackinac Straits, has been selected to lead the Senate panel responsible for overseeing the pipeline’s federal regulators.

Peters was named chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight and Ports on Friday. The panel primarily oversees national agencies governing pipeline, vehicle and traffic safety.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is objecting to the transfer of a nuclear power plant and a spent waste storage site on Lake Michigan, arguing that a Florida nuclear energy equipment company planning to take ownership of both sites lacks adequate financial resources and has underestimated decommissioning costs.

Minnesota:

MinnPost chatted with Gabriel Chan, the director of graduate study for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a fellow at the University’s Institute on the Environment, about why Texas’ energy grid failed, how Minnesota gets its energy and what energy production will look like in a climate-changed world.

Hennepin County is on the verge of playing a larger role in curbing global climate change, rolling out hundreds of new strategies aimed at driving down greenhouse gas emissions across the county.

The proposal recommends adding bike lanes on county roads, transitioning to a new fleet of electric cars and overhauling county buildings to maximize efficiency. The county would begin taking steps to adapt to a time when the local climate becomes more moderate, even modifying pavement and sidewalk designs to accommodate changes in freeze and thaw cycles.

Ohio:

Debris from a smokestack demolished Friday morning at the retired Walter C. Beckjord power plant has fallen into the Ohio River, officials with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said.

After standing for more than 50 years, the last smokestack at the former plant came down Friday morning as part of a years-long demolition project at the site.

Vipal Patel, a longtime federal prosecutor, will take over the lead in the largest bribery investigation in Ohio.

Patel became the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio on Monday, replacing his former boss, David DeVillers, whose last day was Friday. Former President Donald Trump appointed DeVillers.

President Joseph Biden will name a successor in the coming months, based on Ohio Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s recommendation.

The initiatives by Power a Clean Future Ohio, Policy Matters Ohio, and others aim to put meat on the bones of recommendations in a major national report released last month.

A National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine report last month concluded that deep emissions cuts by 2050 are both feasible and economic, with the potential to create a million or more jobs. A complete transformation of the country’s energy systems, though, is bound to create winners and losers — neither of which will be spread equally by race, class or region.

Duke Energy announced Monday it has begun work on a controversial 12-mile gas pipeline through Hamilton County despite residents and community leaders fighting for years to try to stop it.

The pipeline will serve customers in southwest Ohio and connect an existing Duke Energy Ohio pipeline near the intersection of Butler, Warren and Hamilton counties with an existing company pipeline in the Norwood area.

Ontario:

The Ontario Energy Board ruled Hydro One had to eliminate the rate which it had offered to many over the past four decades. Hydro One is now in the process of sending out new notices where rate payers will find themselves classified as either urban, medium or low density.

“That’s going to have implications for about 80,000 seasonal rate payers whose rates will essentially double when that goes into effect,” said Terry Rees, executive director of the Federation of Ontario Cottager’s Associations.

Wisconsin:

Wisconsin utility regulators are exploring policy changes that could change how utilities compensate customers who generate electricity for the grid.

The Public Service Commission voted 2-1 Thursday to adopt new frameworks for calculating the prices utilities pay for privately generated electricity.

Known as “distributed generation,” these systems — which can include rooftop solar panels and large industrial generators — allow businesses, municipalities and individuals to supply their own needs and send excess electricity onto the grid.

Feb. 1, Dane County, the City of Madison and Slipstream, a climate change nonprofit, received a grant from the Department of Energy to replace old infrastructure in the City-County Building, according to a press release. The renovations will go towards improving the building’s energy efficiency.

City Sustainability Program Coordinator Stacie Reece said the nearly $1 million DOE grant made it possible for the renovation in the City-County Building to go forward. Without the grant, it would have been expensive to retrofit the old pieces of infrastructure in the building, Reece said.

United States:

Jennifer Granholm, who was confirmed as secretary of energy by the Senate on Thursday, takes over a department with a $35 billion budget for an administration that has enthusiastically promoted the further development of clean energy. Even as the Senate vote was tallied, state legislators in Texas were holding hearings on the colossal power failures there of the week before. In a Friday interview with The Washington Post, Granholm had some advice for Texas. But with General Motors vowing to build only electric vehicles by 2035, the former governor of Michigan comes to office on the cusp of national transition.


Catch up on other Great Lakes energy headlines here:

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Recognition of tribal treaties, Michigan Green Bank, former Upper Peninsula mine sites

Great Lakes Energy News Roundup: Wisconsin groups sue EPA, Ohio’s ongoing nuclear power bankruptcy saga

Deja vu — former Michigan elected official leads national energy policy, again

Enbridge Line 3 divides Indigenous lands, people

With Line 5 closure, a ‘game of chicken’ over how to heat Upper Peninsula

Crisis Response: President Biden has already kickstarted the country’s new approach to climate change


Featured image: Jennifer Granholm’s Senate confirmation hearing, Jan. 27, 2021 (Image Credit: PBS NewsHour)

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