Let’s Hope $3 Million Award for Fracking Damages Marks the Start of a Trend

April 24th, 2014

Let’s hope that this $3 million award for fracking damages is the first of many more to come.

Texas-based Aruba Petroleum Inc. will have to pay nearly $3 million to a family for the harm that Aruba’s hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — operations caused, after what the plaintiffs’ attorneys are calling the first trial regarding fracking damages in the United States.

Attorneys for Bob and Lisa Parr said that the fracking operations in Dallas County, Texas, “fouled the family’s 40-acre ranch property, their home and quality of life, sickened them and their pets and livestock,” law firm Matthews & Associates said in a Wednesday blog post following the previous day’s decision.

The jury verdict includes $2 million for physical pain and suffering, plus money for property and market value loss, future pain and suffering and mental anguish, the firm said. The plaintiffs said emissions and discharges from the operations, including hazardous gases, chemicals and wastes, caused damage starting in 2008.

The disturbing thing is that this isn’t an isolated incident, as the fracking industry routinely causes such “physical pain and suffering…property and market value loss, future pain and suffering and mental anguish.” Perhaps the Texas jury’s award in the Parrs’ case will be a model for many more around the nation?

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/24/14)

April 24th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/24/14).

  1. Rolling Stone reports: “Although no final decision has been made, two high-level sources in the Obama administration told me recently that the president has all but decided to deny the permit for the [Keystone XL] pipeline – a dramatic move that would light up Democratic voters and donors while further provoking the wrath of Big Oil.”
  2. According to The Hill, “A Duke Energy Corp. executive told North Carolina lawmakers Tuesday that moving its coal ash away from rivers and lakes in the state could cost up to $10 billion and take decades — and its customers are likely to pay for it.”
  3. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Federal officials announced tougher rules Wednesday designed to fight an uptick in black lung disease in some pockets of coal-mining country. The move represents the most significant changes to dust-control practices in mines since the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, which initiated modern health-and-safety requirements in mines nationwide. Industry groups criticized the rules, calling the changes too broad.”
  4. According to Slate: “Utility companies are waging war on the solar industry. But the clean energy movement has found an unexpected ally in their fight” – the Tea Party.
  5. Renewable Energy World writes, “2014 is predicted to be a breakout year for solar financing, as the industry eagerly pursues finance innovations. Many of these methods aren’t really new to other industries, but they are potentially game-changing when applied in the solar industry.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/23/14)

April 23rd, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/23/14).

  1. DeSmogBlog reports, “A jury in Dallas, TX today awarded $2.925 million to plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr, who sued Barnett shale fracking company Aruba Petroleum Inc. for intentionally causing a nuisance on the Parr’s property which impacted their health and ruined their drinking water.”
  2. According to Climate Progress, “A 43-acre solar farm is now generating power at a Superfund site in Indiana, making it the nation’s largest solar farm built on a Superfund site.”
  3. The Guardian reports: “The UK government has agreed deals to financially support eight major new renewable energy projects that will power millions of homes….The projects will create 8,500 jobs and add 4.5GW of electricity capacity to the national grid, around 4% of the UK’s generating capacity, or enough to power more than 3 million homes.”
  4. According to Renewable Energy World: ”The global geothermal industry had a boom year in 2013, bringing the most capacity online since 1997. The market saw 530 megawatts (MW) commissioned, which brought total global capacity to just over 12,000 MW, holding a steady 4 to 5 percent growth rate.”
  5. Mother Jones reports: “Taxpayers currently subsidize the oil industry by as much as $4.8 billion a year, with about half of that going to the big five oil companies—ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips—which get an average tax break of $3.34 on every barrel of domestic crude they produce. With Washington looking under the couch cushions for sources of new revenue, oil prices topping $100 a barrel, and the world feeling the heat from its dependence on fossil fuels, there’s been a renewed push to close these decades-old loopholes. But history suggests that Big Oil won’t let go of its perks without a brawl.”

ACORE Panel Emphasizes Resiliency, Bipartisan Popularity of Clean Energy in States Across America

April 22nd, 2014

On April 11, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) held a fascinating media roundtable at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. ACORE President Michael Brower set the tone for the panels with his introductory remarks, in which he stressed that “renewable energy resources have historically held the goodwill of the majority of the American public,” but that media coverage doesn’t necessarily reflect that – or “align with the reality of the marketplace.” As Brower explained, the media has over-reported the relatively infrequent cleantech failures, while under-reporting its overwhelming successes. And, Brower added, many of those successes are happening in the states, where from “Maine to Georgia, to Kansas to Oregon and all those states in between,” we see “a new emergence of bipartisan-ism on clean and renewable energy.”

The first panel focused on national storylines, and we’ll talk about that in a future post at Scaling Green. For now, though, we want to focus on the second panel, moderated by Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media, which took a “deep dive” into what’s happening on the “frontlines” of the clean energy debate, in the states.  Lacey argued that the best national energy stories turn out to be state and local stories as well, from distributed generation to state renewable energy mixes to EPA regulations to fracking. As Lacey put it, “This industry is very much driven by local and state policies, and it’s always been that way….When you look at the national conversation, which is basically frozen now, everyone in the cleantech community is looking to the states, because that’s where the stories are playing out.” A few examples of what’s happening in the states regarding clean energy were provided by the panelists.

  • Ryan Randazzo of the Arizona Republic talked about the distributed solar/net metering debate in Arizona, where 90% of people support solar power, but where the state’s major electric utility, the Arizona Public Service Company, fought to charge rooftop solar customers a monthly fee and to pay them below market value for the power they feed back into the grid. In other news, Randazzo also noted that Arizona is in the running for a huge, multi-billion-dollar Tesla battery factory.
  • Ken Paulman of Midwest Energy News talked about the big headline from Minnesota, where that state recently became the first in the U.S. to pass a “value of solar” tariff. The “value of solar” approach takes into account such factors as the avoided costs of new transmission and generation and even the price of carbon emissions to determine a rate for solar power that the utility must pay to a customer who puts solar panels on their roof. In other news, Paulman noted that a judge recently ruled that solar is a better deal for Minnesota ratepayers than natural gas. Finally, Paulman stressed that rural communities across the Midwest are embracing solar power, with a large community solar array being built in conservative, rural, western Kansas. As Paulman put it, farmers are leading the way in adopting solar power, and it’s definitely not just “hippies from Madison” who want solar power, it’s something that people of all political bents want.
  • Varner Seaman of the Renewable Northwest Project discussed a recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) measure that could have gutted the Oregon Renewable Portfolio Standard, but fortunately didn’t succeed. In other good news, Seaman reported that Oregon just passed legislation to encourage communities to pool resources and develop solar together. In sum, Seaman argued that clean energy is just “good dollars and sense” for rural communities and for investors in states like Oregon.
  • Finally, Matt Kasper of the Center for American Progress talked about pro-fossil-fuel ALEC’s involvement in numerous states across the country in trying to repeal or weaken reneable energy standards. So far, fortunately, ALEC has largely failed, but the battle continues. In Kasper’s view, a major, underreported story is how broad coalitions have come together across the country in favor of clean energy and in opposition to attacks on the industry.

The bottom line is that cleantech is thriving at the state level, demonstrating a great deal of resiliency, bipartisan support, economic and environmental benefits to urban, suburban and rural communities alike. This is a major success story, and certainly deserves mainstream media coverage commensurate to its significance.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/22/14)

April 22nd, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/22/14).

  1. The Telegraph reports: “Britain must learn to ‘embrace’ onshore wind farms because they can ‘make a difference’ and produce significant amounts of energy, Ed Miliband has said. In a clear dividing line with the Consevatives, Mr Miliband said suggested that a commitment onshore wind farms are likely to form part of Labour’s manifesto for the next election.”
  2. According to Greentech Media: ”California is achieving its solar goals. But will the state need a shift in policy to keep doing more?”
  3. Politico reports, “Horses, Daryl Hannah, sacred fires and Neil Young — these are some of the things you’re likely to see on the National Mall starting Tuesday as part of the latest protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.”
  4. According to Renewable Energy World, “China, the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy, reiterated plans to boost construction of solar and wind power plants along with projects to transmit electricity from the clean sources.”
  5. Triple Pundit reports, “U.S. Wind Energy Could Double, But It’s Deja-vu All Over Again in Congress.”