NEW “Navigable Waters” Rule

January 24th, 2020

Something that drives me crazy — posting things without the underlying links. I’m seeing so many posts about slashing existing water rules and release of new dreadful rules that allow pollution, but there are no links to the actual rules they’ve trotted out. So I added to my Federal Register alert, still nothing. OK, and now yesterday and today there’s another wave of posts about it, that something was released, and still no links. Digging and digging here, and found it.

Final Rule: The Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States” pre-publication version

Water’s not my area, admittedly I don’t know much about it. That new rule, following on the repeal, is on the EPA website (what’s left of it).

There’s the “Clean Water Act” which I hear LOUDLY is being decimated. I’ve found the “new” rule is rooted in this administration’s objections to the 2015 expanded definition of “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Rule.

Intention to Review and Rescind or Revise the Clean Water Rule (Federal Register)

And so it goes… EPA and Army Repeal the 2015 Definition of “waters of the United States” oh, yeah, they did that..

Trump Administration Rolls Back Clean Water Protections

The focus is on discharging into streams and wetlands, well, correction, the focus is on Trump administration slashing, eliminating rules, to ALLOW discharging into streams and wetland.

So what happened yesterday, what I’ve been looking for, is that they signed a new “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” which is really one of those Orwellian things, name is just the opposite of what it does, because it changes the definition of waters to be protected, eliminates protections, and allows formerly waters that were protected to now be open season for pollution. Here’s the final “pre-publication” rule (which is why I’ve not been able to find it, not published yet, not published in FR Public Inspection yet either). Here it is, once more with feeling:

Final Rule: The Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States” pre-publication version

There’s also this, a different link: The Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States” – pre-publication version (PDF)(340 pp, 2 MB)

Check out this “Federalism Consultation” section from EPA page, a Clinton Administration E.O. that’s to address unfunded mandates and consult with states where federal changes can affect states (from EPA site):

Federalism Consultation – Consistent with E.O. 13132, Federalism, the EPA, Department of Army, and the Army Corps of Engineers consulted with state and local government officials, or their representative national organization, while developing a revised definition of “waters of the United States.”

And public comments on this rule change were posted to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149 and can be found here (from EPA site).

It’s similar to the way the Minnesota Senate DRAFT 5558-6 would change the definitions of “renewable energy” to incorporate burning garbage and nuclear as “renewable” cutting regulatory authority.

That’s an eagle who’d been feasting on the carcass in the foreground as I drove across 110th in Freeborn County. There’s a nest off to the right (west) a bit that the Freeborn Wind developers and Dept. of Commerce don’t want to acknowledge. Wind projects are supposed to be a ways from eagle nests and foraging grounds.

A CNN article today raised this issue today, near the 2nd anniversary of a tRump administration “clarification” that stated that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not prohibit incidental takes.

From that CNN post:

According to emails obtained by the Times, when the Michigan Department of Natural resources emailed the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service seeking clarification if it could cut down trees, they were told “The recent M -Opinion also removes the prohibition to removing trees with active nests as long as the intent of the action is the cutting of the trees (in this case for timber harvest).” The agency did lay out potential ways to limit the damage done to the birds and nests, but noted those actions were “strictly voluntary.”

So it looks like taking down trees with nests in them would be OK for right-of-way clearing, or removing “hazard trees” by wind project?

Wind and transmission projects in this area often, if not always, have required eagle take permits (how many Decorah eagles died due to transmission lines? Four, I think!). But with the tRump administration “deconstructing the administrative state” at every turn, well, guess what was issued? Open season on migratory birds. It’s the 2 year anniversary of removal of protections:

From this memo

For the reasons explained below, this Memorandum finds that, consistent with the text, history, and purpose of the MBTA, the
statute’s prohibitions on pursuing, hunting, taking, capturing, killing, or attempting to do the same apply only to affirmative actions that have as their purpose the taking or killing of migratory birds, their nests, or their eggs.

Yes, you heard that right, as of December 22, 2017, federal policy, interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, requires an take permit only for those activities that have the PURPOSE of “taking” a bird covered under the Act. So we won’t be seeing take permits required for wind and transmission projects.

And yet despite that policy turn around, he says things like this last week at “Turning Point.” He probably doesn’t even know that incidental takes are not an issue for wind projects:

So they make these things and then they put them up.  And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price.  They’re noisy.  They kill the birds.  You want to see a bird graveyard?  You just go.  Take a look.  A bird graveyard.  Go under a windmill someday.  You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.  (Laughter.)

You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle.  If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years.  A windmill will kill many bald eagles.  It’s true.

And you know what?  After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off.  That’s true, by the way.  This is — they make you turn it off after you — and yet, if you killed one they put you in jail.  That’s okay.  But why is it okay for these windmills to destroy the bird population?  And that’s what they’re doing.

But FYI, bird takes have dropped dramatically in technology changes since the days of the Altamont Pass small turbine bird blenderizers. With larger, slower blades, spaced further apart fewer birds die. But some do! Particularly an issue if turbines are installed in migratory pathways, or foraging areas. Hence the need for a take permit, for siting away from bird areas, an attempt to put a limit on kills. That bird kills have been lowered doesn’t mean there’s reason to eliminate the take permits, no reason to eliminate prohibitions. WHY?

Jessica Salinas, bad move…

November 8th, 2019

Fraud, forgery, identify theft… not a good idea. SO glad you were not successful. Hope it gets even worse for you and that the police are knocking on your door soon!

Mercury in retrograde?

October 23rd, 2019

Little Sadie wondering if we’re ever going to get going again… so was I. Tooling down the interstate, after an agonizing few days with car problems, much worse for Alan than for me for sure, and after fixing 5 problems that came up one at a time, and suddenly, N-O-T-H-I-N-G, just idle, no acceleration whatsoever. Well, that sure sucked, and yet the good news was that right there ahead was a rest area. Coasted right in, and the throttle sensor was acting up. Turns out that shutting the van off and starting it up cleared it, and onward… until the next time… and over the next 200+ miles, it died 6 times. Didn’t shut off on entrance ramps, exits, or in the middle of a spaghetti bowl, so life is good, just on straight stretches, get over to the right, put on 4 ways, pop it into neutral, turn it off, count to 5, fire it up, rev to let transmission find the gears, and drop it in… Suffice it to say, it was stressful. This was one time that 1 million miles in a truck paid off…

Made it, only lost two days to other electrical problems of the van and trailer. It matters because I’ve had to cancel so many trips this year, all but one (not including camp-hosting), so I’m entitled to whine!

It’s BEEEEE-UUUUU-TIFUL, chilly but OK. Doooo, dooooo, doooooo, looking out my back door!

Picked up the tail light converter at Fleet Farm on the way, but had to order the throttle sensor, it’ll be here tomorrow, so I’m hoping for another trip next year where we won’t have to deal with unending problems. Also hoping that Kias aren’t built to self-destruct at 200,000… we’ll see. It’s been perfect, and CHEAP for almost a year now, but this is getting to be a bit much.

The wind last night was unreal, and though temp in low 40s, didn’t turn on the propane, and used a tiny electric heater to take off the morning chill. I saw that Duluth had major problems with wind and waves, and the shoreline here shows the high waves, lots of stuff washed up, and the waves were a bit high but not so bad:

Off to NAPA soon! Hope that resolves these electrical things, but I swear it’s Mercury throwing the wrench in!

Juhl in the news

September 22nd, 2019

Remember the Juhl Energy permit fiasco in Rock County earlier this month?

Rock County CUP granted

Now another Juhl project in the news, featuring Dan Juhl, who says he’s retired. HA! Doesn’t look like it… [After I published this, found another in the STrib, “Minnesota wind-solar hybrid project could be new frontier for renewable energy,” yup, “retired” guy on a big PR push!]

FYI, yes, distributed generation is where it’s at, siting small projects near load means that no new transmission is required, but because the massive transmission build-outs of CapX 2020 and MISO’s 17 project MVP portfolio have been built, well, it’s a little late.

BTW, Dan Juhl was present at the September 8, 2001 meeting at the Dinkytown Loring, after the first of Xcel’s 345kV transmission lines was proposed (Search for PUC Docket 01-1958) where Beth Soholt and Matt Schuerger asked a bunch of likely intervenors, “What would it take for you to approve of this project?” They never answered my question of what they were getting to promote it, but Matt Schuerger sure did get pissy and flustered and threatened to stomp out of the meeting! I did find documentation the $4.5 million (2001) and $8.1 million (2003) grants for “Wind on the Wires,” at that time a program of the Izaak Walton League. Clearly they got at least that much, and from other sources they got more, who knows how much… And all those transmission projects went through…

Anyway, here’s the recent report on a new project, from MPR:

New power generation: Rural co-op makes bet on wind, solar hybrid

The electricity we use is often generated hundreds of miles away. Dan Juhl wants to keep it local.

The longtime energy developer is convinced that small, hybrid solar-and-wind projects are the future of electricity generation in rural areas.  Much of the renewable electricity in the system now is generated by large wind farms or giant fields of solar panels. But Juhl envisions turning that approach on its head by creating dozens of small wind-and-solar sites that feed energy to consumers nearby. 

“The time is coming. The technology is there. It’s reliable, it’s efficient,” said Juhl, who has for years been developing renewable energy in Minnesota. “We’re not a bunch of wild-eyed hippies anymore. It’s the real deal.”

Dan Juhl stands near a solar panel
Juhl Energy founder Dan Juhl stands near a solar panel at his home near Red Lake Falls, Minn., on Aug. 28. He recently installed the solar array at his home to charge his electric car.Dan Gunderson | MPR News

His concept: Pair two wind turbines and an array of solar panels to generate electricity that flows into the local energy grid.

The ultimate test of whether the approach is sustainable is the cost of the electricity it produces — and Juhl is certain that small solar-and-wind sites scattered around the state can produce electricity that’s cheaper than current market rates. 

To prove his theory, Juhl’s company — Juhl Energyhas built what he calls the first hybrid generating system in the country.

Making renewable local

To make this hybrid wind-and-solar approach work economically, Juhl first had to streamline the conversion process. Wind turbines and solar panels produce electricity differently, and that electricity must be converted before it can be sent to consumers. Juhl had to find a way to convert wind energy and solar energy into electricity through the same process.   

So, he partnered with electric behemoth General Electric to build the technology that would route the energy generated from wind turbines and solar panels through the same power conversion process, cutting the cost of combining wind and solar power at a single location. 

“We can produce and deliver clean power for less than the existing system,” Juhl said. He estimates the savings at about 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. The average residential price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity in Minnesota is about 14 cents.

The challenge, said Juhl, is convincing rural electric cooperatives that renewable energy can save them money. 

Tim Thompson is convinced. He’s CEO of Pelican Rapids, Minn.-based Lake Region Electric Cooperative, which serves west-central Minnesota and is buying the electricity that’s being produced from the first Juhl Energy hybrid system. 

Juhl’s single wind turbine and solar array hybrid near Rothsay, Minn., has only been operating since March, but Thompson said he expects his co-op will save about $150,000 annually because the electricity is cheaper than the market price the co-op pays for the rest of the electricity it uses.  

Lake Region Electric CEO Tim Thompson
Lake Region Electric Cooperative CEO Tim Thompson stands near a wind turbine near Rothsay. The turbine is part of a unique wind-and-solar hybrid electrical generation project. Dan Gunderson | MPR News

“Any time we can produce renewable energy at the local level, [and] our members consume that locally, we can save them a little bit of money in the process,” Thompson said. “That’s a perfect project for us.”

The electricity generated here flows into an existing Lake Region Electric substation 3 miles away. The power stays local: It’s used by the roughly 1,200 customers in the 150 square miles served by the substation. 

This $4.5 million project is smaller than what Juhl envisions as the ideal hybrid generation unit. The full system he’s designed would include solar panels combined with two wind turbines — double the amount at the Rothsay site.

A smaller scale for energy resilience

Renewable energy is often produced by massive wind farms or large fields of solar panels that generate electricity that’s transported onto the grid and used hundreds of miles away.  

But the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts significant growth in smaller, locally produced electricity, known as distributed power generation, in the next 30 years, as solar panels become less expensive to buy and install. 

Juhl said the small distributed model of electrical generation makes the system more reliable — and resilient.

If it’s not windy or sunny here, it’s probably windy or sunny [somewhere else],” he said. “And so a distributed model adds a much higher reliability to renewables than central station renewables.” 

A wind turbine in a corn field
A wind turbine towers over a cornfield near Rothsay earlier this week. The turbine is part of a wind-and-solar hybrid electrical generation system. Dan Gunderson | MPR News

The idea is that many small power generation units spread the risk when compared with large facilities that focus generation in a single area.

“I mean, there’s no fuel, no emissions, no waste, no water and no transmission costs,” Juhl said. “How can it not be economical to deliver power like that?”

Juhl envisions eventually adding battery storage in rural communities to help utilize the locally generated power. 

A customer in co-ops

While Juhl sees reluctance among many rural electric cooperatives to embrace the hybrid model, Thompson has no reservations. 

“As a member-owned cooperative, we really pay very close attention to what our members want and need,” Thompson said. “And the feedback from members is that they do want more renewable energy.”

Does that mean Thompson expects to see more of these projects on the Lake Region Electric system? Probably not — at least not in the short term. 

Lake Region Electric buys the bulk of the electricity it distributes to customers from Great River Energy, and — as is the case with most co-ops’ contracts with big power producers — its contract with Great River limits how much renewable electricity the cooperative can buy from other sources. This hybrid project with Juhl makes up about half the total allowed. 

Great River Energy produces 58 percent of all the electricity it sells from coal, and 25 percent from renewable energy sources like wind or solar. 

Most rural electric cooperatives are locked into long-term contracts that limit how much electricity they can buy from other sources. That would make expanding the hybrid model on a large scale fairly difficult. 

But Juhl said he’s been getting more inquiries from members of electric cooperative boards since the Rothsay project went online — and he’s hopeful that soon, his vision for locally generated renewable energy will power more rural communities.

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New Power Generation? Just saw the reincarnation at the Sheldon last year…

Oh… nevermind…