Pruitt: ‘it’s a fair question’ whether EPA should regulate carbon

CLIMATE: New EPA director Scott Pruitt says “it’s a fair question” whether the agency has the “tools” to regulate carbon emissions. (Greenwire)

ALSO:
• How a spat between two North Carolina scientists fueled a climate denial conspiracy theory. (New York Times)
• The CEO of coal giant Murray Energy claims 4,000 scientists told him “global warming is a hoax” and the earth’s surface is cooling. (CNBC)

WIND:
• A North Dakota Republican introduces legislation to halt wind development for two years in an effort to boost the state’s coal plants. (Forum News Service)
• The wind industry has taken off in Texas thanks to its ability to help struggling farmers and create jobs.

Pruitt says first move as EPA chief will be to withdraw Clean Power Plan

CLEAN POWER PLAN: In his first interview as EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt says he expects to quickly withdraw the Clean Power Plan. (ThinkProgress)

HYDRO:
• California officials say the damaged Oroville Dam has been fortified and drained enough to handle incoming storms. (Los Angeles Times)
• The country’s aging hydropower infrastructure could represent an opportunity for wind and solar growth. (Motley Fool)

NUCLEAR:
• A wide-ranging series of events – including less demand for electricity, low natural-gas prices and the rise of wind and solar – have led to a troubled U.S. nuclear power industry. (New York Times)
• Experts say the $6.3 billion failure of Toshiba’s U.S. nuclear development arm could mean the end of U.S. nuclear construction for the foreseeable future. (MIT Technology Review)

COAL:
• Coal executive Robert Murray shares his thoughts on what the Trump administration means for the coal industry.

Court order not expected to derail Trump’s EPA nominee

EPA:
• U.S. senators are expected to vote today on whether to approve President Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, who has been ordered to turn over documents related to his communication with coal, oil and gas corporations. (Reuters, ThinkProgress)
• Nearly 800 former EPA officials send a letter urging the Senate to reject Pruitt, calling him an “endangerment to our health and environment,” while current employees are launching their own fight against his appointment. (Huffington Post, New York Times)

COAL: President Trump signs legislation to scrap a rule that prevents coal mining waste from being dumped into waterways. (The Hill)

COAL ASH: North Carolina residents whose water was contaminated by cancerous chemicals that leaked from Duke Energy’s coal ash pits are hesitant to accept a cash offer from the utility in exchange for legal rights. (Southeast Energy News)

OIL & GAS:
• The Colorado House rejects a routine budget bill in an apparent protest against the state’s attorney general, who filed a lawsuit against Boulder County regarding its moratorium on oil and gas drilling. (Denver Post)
• Demand for frac sand has surged in recent weeks as shale drillers anticipate “the next wave” of production.

Report: Solar market breaks records, over 14,600 MW installed in 2016

SOLAR: U.S. solar developers installed 14,626 megawatts of solar PV last year – a 95 percent increase over the previous record of 7,493 megawatts installed in 2015, according to a new report. (Greentech Media)

WIND:
• A 14-state power grid in the Southwest says it broke a wind energy record on Sunday, with turbines providing over 50 percent of electricity demand. (Reuters)
• With California conservationists increasingly opposing wind farms, developers are pushing farms to other states and creating new opportunities for wind power and transmission firms to import the electricity to California. (Reuters)

***SPONSORED LINK: Connect with more than 650 of the region’s best and brightest at MEEA’s 2017 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 22-24 in Chicago, featuring unparalleled networking, insightful panels and more. Register today!***

RENEWABLE ENERGY:
• Financial analysts say Republican plans to upend the tax code would present both benefits and challenges for wind and solar.

Trump repeals rule requiring oil companies to disclose foreign payments

POLICY:
• President Trump repeals an Obama-era rule that forced oil, natural gas and mining companies to disclose any payments they made abroad. (The Hill)
• Two previous rulings shed light on what President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee could mean for energy policy. (Utility Dive)

CLIMATE: Greenhouse gas emissions dropped in 2015, reducing America’s overall climate pollution to below 1994 levels, according to a new EPA report. (Climate Central)

CAP-AND-TRADE: A cap-and-trade program in Oregon would lower emissions and have little impact on the state’s economic output, according to a study from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. (Portland Business Journal)

SOLAR:
• Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission files an order to create shared solar projects that will be compensated differently based on the time of day that they provide power.

Utilities vote to close major Arizona coal plant

COAL: Utilities vote to close a coal-fired power plant in Arizona that is considered one of the biggest polluters in the nation. (Arizona Republic)

ALSO:
• The maintenance chief at a coal mine in western Kentucky is indicted for falsifying a safety record and lying to federal inspectors. (Associated Press)
• Two companies behind a proposed coal-export terminal in Washington are appealing the state’s decision to deny an aquatic lands sublease needed to complete the project, saying the move infringes on their property rights. (Associated Press)

***SPONSORED LINK: Connect with more than 650 of the region’s best and brightest at MEEA’s 2017 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, February 22-24 in Chicago, featuring unparalleled networking, insightful panels and more. Register today!***

PIPELINES:
• Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirms Canada’s commitment to building the Keystone XL pipeline after a meeting with President Trump, saying the two nations will collaborate “on energy infrastructure projects that will create jobs while respecting the environment.”

GOP bill would gut EPA, kill greenhouse gas program

POLICY:
• A house Republican introduces legislation to scrap billions in EPA programs, including work on environmental justice, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. (The Hill)
• Some Michigan lawmakers are already looking to roll back the state’s widely praised energy reforms, which included the expansion of renewable energy and efficiency standards. (Midwest Energy News)

SOLAR:
• The Minnesota House of Representatives votes to end a solar incentive program that helps residents and businesses fund new solar systems whose equipment is manufactured in Minnesota. (Solar Industry)
• Arizona regulators approve new solar fees for Tucson Electric Power, amounting to $2.05 per month for residential solar customers. (Greentech Media)
• A 480-acre solar farm is expected to be the largest in Montana and the first on public land, but the state legislature is considering laws to weaken solar development.

Report: Wind now top source of renewable electricity capacity

WIND: Wind power has become the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the country, exceeding the generating capacity of hydroelectric power for the first time, according to a new report. (The Hill, New York Times)

ALSO:
• The first large-scale wind farm in North Carolina is fully operational, despite efforts by 10 legislators to shut the project down. (Associated Press)
• A Maine lawmaker submits a bill to stop an experimental floating wind farm from being built within 10 miles of a lobster conservation area. (Portland Press Herald)
• Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems tops the U.S. wind market, supplying 43 percent of wind power capacity. (Reuters)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join the Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) at the Energy Storage Conference, February 15 in Milwaukee.

Group sues to force EPA nominee to disclose energy industry ties

POLITICS: A watchdog group is suing EPA chief nominee Scott Pruitt to force him to respond to open records requests concerning his ties to the energy industry. (Huffington Post)

PIPELINES:
• The Army Corps of Engineers grants the final permit necessary to complete construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and developers say they plan to resume work immediately. (Reuters, Associated Press)
• Dakota Access Pipeline rallies are held in at least 26 states after opponents called for worldwide protests in response to the Army’s announcement that it will greenlight the final stage of the project without conducting an environmental review. (Grist, Associated Press)
• The Army Corps of Engineers is violating its legal obligations by backing out of a commitment to conduct a thorough environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to former interior secretary Sally Jewell. (Washington Post)
• The CEO of Wells Fargo says the bank is committed to financing the Dakota Access Pipeline and has “an obligation” to see the project through.

Conservatives to push Trump administration on carbon tax

CLIMATE: A coalition of veteran GOP policymakers will meet with top White House officials today about replacing Obama climate regulations with a nationwide carbon tax. (Washington Post)

ALSO: House Republicans vote to overturn a rule requiring federal land managers to consider climate change and other long-term effects of development on public lands, calling the rule an example of government overreach. (Associated Press)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join the Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) at the Energy Storage Conference, February 15 in Milwaukee. This conference will explore recent advances in energy storage technologies, as well as the applications and in-field examples of the role of energy storage. ***

PIPELINES:
• The Army Corps of Engineers says it will grant the necessary easement to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline and scrap an environmental review ordered by the Obama administration.