Gas once again edges out coal as top U.S. electricity source

NATURAL GAS: Natural gas surpasses coal as the top electricity source in the U.S. for the second time. (Houston Chronicle)

CLEAN ENERGY: How falling prices for wind and solar are impacting capacity factors for fossil fuel generation. (Bloomberg)

• "Breaking safety laws wasn’t just permitted, it was expected," a federal prosecutor says in his opening statement in the criminal trial of coal baron Don Blankenship. (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
• Former miners in southern Illinois rally against company bankruptcies that would threaten their retiree benefits. (Southern Illinoisan)
• A law firm with ties to the coal industry has been investigating Oakland, California city council members who oppose an export terminal.

Report: Federal coal leasing leaves billions of dollars on the table

COAL: A new report says coal companies are being undercharged to mine on federal lands, to the tune of $1 billion per year. (U.S. News and World Report)

• West Virginia reaches an agreement with Patriot Coal that will set aside about $50 million for the coal company’s environmental cleanup responsibilities. (The Wall Street Journal)
• Patriot Coal says it is laying off about 1,000 coal miners in West Virginia. (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
• Advocates say a South Dakota utility overcharged customers for expenses related to a coal plant outage they say could have been prevented. (Associated Press) 

• Utah regulators hear arguments about the value of solar.

IEA: Clean energy needs to grow faster to meet climate targets

• The International Energy Agency says clean energy growth is off track to meet climate targets. (Washington Post)
• Minnesota's largest utility says it will retire two units at a large coal plant as part of a broader plan to cut carbon emissions 60 percent by 2030. Environmental groups praised the decision. (Midwest Energy News, Minnesota Public Radio)

• The U.S. EPA defends its new ozone pollution standard as environmental and public-health advocates say they will likely challenge the rule in court. (Greenwire)
• An Associated Press analysis pegs the death toll from VW's emission control evasion at 5 to 20 per year in the U.S.

• SolarCity claims it will offer the most efficient rooftop solar panel in the world. (ThinkProgress)
• A memo reveals that SunEdison will be laying off 10 percent of its workforce.

Michigan utility breaks ground on its first community solar project

NOTE TO READERS: Help us improve Midwest Energy News by taking this short, 10-question survey. The results are anonymous and will help us better understand our audience. Thank you! COAL: Xcel Energy says it will retire two units at a large coal plant in Minnesota as part of a broader plan to cut carbon emissions 60 percent by 2030. Environmental groups praised the decision. (Midwest Energy News, Minnesota Public Radio)

• Despite being required by law to consider the costs and benefits of the state's clean-energy standards, a legislative committee's report made no mention of the latter.

Environmentalists say new ozone rule falls short

• The EPA releases a tougher limit on smog-causing ozone, but falls short of a higher standard recommended by health exports. (New York Times) 
• The new standard left some businesses relieved and environmental and health leaders upset the initiative wasn’t stronger. (Wall Street Journal)

•  A clean-energy expert says renewable energy standards remain a powerful tool for states to comply with the federal plan. (Midwest Energy News)
• Industry experts say carbon capture isn't yet a viable option for states to comply, even though federal rules would allow it. (Columbus Business First)
• Leaders of a legislative panel tasked with drafting Kansas' state compliance plan reject climate science and would rather overturn the CPP.

Judge blocks federal fracking rules

FRACKING: A federal judge in Wyoming has blocked the Obama administration's fracking regulations that apply to federal and tribal land. (New York Times)

OHIO: Republican Gov. John Kasich says state legislators' efforts to freeze the state's clean-energy standards indefinitely are "unacceptable." (Associated Press, Gannett Ohio)

• More than 200 retired miners, wives and widows in Indiana would lose money set aside for health care coverage as part of a coal company bankruptcy. (ProPublica)
• Former coal baron Don Blankenship goes to trial today, facing up to 30 years in prison for his role in avoiding safety standards that led to miner deaths. (Associated Press)
• The EPA imposed new rules Wednesday to limit toxic pollutants from coal plants from entering into waterways.

Survey finds most conservatives acknowledge climate science

POLITICS: A new survey by GOP pollsters shows 54 percent of self-described conservative Republicans believe the world’s climate is changing and mankind is playing a role. (New York Times)

• A leading “clean coal” lobbying shop is cutting half its staff and reorganizing to reflect the U.S. coal industry’s market losses. (Politico)
• New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to divest the city's pension fund from coal. (Associated Press)

• Amazon secures approval for its planned 80 megawatt solar system on Virginia's Eastern Shore peninsula. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
A closer look at California's utility-solar fight.

Shell abandons Arctic drilling effort

CLIMATE: An analysis finds that new global pledges to lower emissions will only limit global warming to 6 degrees Fahrenheit, which scientists warn will still be catastrophic. (New York Times)

• After spending $7 billion, Shell abandons its Arctic drilling operation "for the foreseeable future." (Bloomberg, New York Times)
• A new report challenges industry claims that worker safety is improving. (Denver Post)
• Colorado drillers may soon be cut off from credit lines. (Denver Post)

• The EPA says it will add on-road tests to its vehicle emissions evaluations in response to VW's software designed to bypass regulations.