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In Ohio, future of wind power turns on rules for siting turbines

by Carolyn Orr ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the northwest part of Ohio that he represents, state Sen. Cliff Hite says, “wind is our shale,” an energy resource that has the potential to boost revenue on agricultural land and improve the region’s entire economy. More »


New laws in Illinois, Michigan seek to tap power of energy efficiency

by Tim Anderson ~ February 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When it came to helping craft a complex, landmark package of bills to revamp the state’s energy policy and map out the future of electric power in Michigan, Sen. Mike Nofs tried to at least keep one part of the legislative work simple and unchanging — the measure’s overarching goals. “We wanted to control our destiny, regardless of the policies being set at the federal level,” he says. “And that meant focusing on affordability, reliability and clean energy.” That, in turn, led him and other lawmakers to make efficiency a big part of the state’s new energy law. Only weeks before, another Midwestern state, Illinois, also took sweeping actions on energy policy, with a law that includes new incentives and standards for its utilities to achieve greater efficiency. More »



Michigan looks to Ontario as provider in plan to boost Upper Peninsula’s electricity supply

by Ilene Grossman ~ January 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Michigan lawmakers are looking for ways to improve the availability, reliability and affordability of electricity in the state’s Upper Peninsula, and one potential solution is to bring in more power from neighboring Ontario.
In a letter this fall, the province backed Michigan’s request for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator to study the idea of extending electric-generating connections across the U.S.-Canada border. More »


Illinois approves a major overhaul of its energy policies

by Jon Davis ~ December 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois will give Exelon Corp. $235 million in ratepayer subsidies to keep the company’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants open, as part of a bipartisan deal that drew support from the state’s renewable-energy community. The legislation also updates Illinois’ renewable-energy portfolio standard, expands efficiency programs and preserves net metering for rooftop solar projects. The final version scrapped Exelon’s proposed mandatory demand charges on all residential customers.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed SB 2814 into law on Dec. 7. Exelon Corp. had said the two nuclear plants would soon close if the legislation failed to pass. Michigan’s Agency for Energy was watching the proceedings in Illinois with some interest, because the Clinton and Quad Cities plants contribute to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s reserve margin, upon which the state relies for summertime electricity imports.
Midwest Energy News reported on Dec. 5 that Michigan’s three nuclear power plants — Palisades, Cook and Fermi 2 — are on solid financial footing at least through 2021. Palisades’ power-purchase agreement with Consumers Energy expires in 2022, however.


As more nuclear plants close, Illinois bill seeks better market conditions for power source

by Katelyn Tye ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Three nuclear plants in the Midwest are scheduled to cease operations permanently over the next two years, on the heels of other recent, unexpected closures of plants around the country, including Kewaunee in Wisconsin. More ยป


Minnesota inks deal to power Capitol with renewable energy

by Jon Davis ~ November 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »

One-third of the electrical power used in Minnesota’s Capitol Complex will come from solar and wind sources under a new deal with Excel Energy. State officials say the 20-year agreement with Excel locks in prices for renewable energy that will save about $100,000 over that time period. The state spends about $5 million on electricity annually for the Capitol Complex.
The Renewable*Connect Government Pilot Program deal must be approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission. If successful, it could expand to other state or even local government buildings, says Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who announced the deal with Excel Energy-Minnesota in September.
In 2011, Gov. Mark Dayton directed state agencies via an executive order to reduce their carbon footprints. Energy consumption at the Capitol Complex has decreased 25 percent since 2008, state officials say. The state also created the Office of Enterprise Sustainability to reduce the state government’s overall carbon footprint, and launched a “Green Fleet Initiative” to improve fuel efficiency for state-owned vehicles.


Fight over Dakota Access reflects rise in attention, resistance to new pipelines

by Jon Davis ~ October 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Out of sight, out of mind — until they aren’t — pipelines are as yet a necessary piece of the nation’s energy puzzle, moving oil and natural gas from their origins to refineries, and thence into our gas tanks, stoves, roads, roofs and more. But against a backdrop of heightened environmental and climate-change awareness, crude oil pipelines now also carry controversy, raising the stakes for the states. More »


Iowa blows by another milestone in wind energy generation

by Tim Anderson ~ April 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The nation’s leader in wind energy and use has hit yet another milestone. Iowa is now getting more than 30 percent of its electricity from this renewable source — the only U.S. state that has reached this threshold. According to Gov. Terry Branstad, the state has the potential to reach 40 percent within the next five years.
In 1983, Iowa became the first U.S. state to adopt a renewable portfolio standard. But in more recent years, the state has employed incentives to promote the growth of renewable energy, most notably through the use of production tax credits. These credits are available to utilities and independent power producers. Iowa state law also allows local communities to become “small wind innovation zones.” This designation is based on local ordinances that simplify the process for installing small-scale wind turbines.
Some Midwestern states are not far behind Iowa. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this region has five of the 10 U.S. states with the highest share of electricity generation coming from wind: Iowa (first in the nation, 31.3 percent); South Dakota (second, 25.5 percent); Kansas (third, 23.9 percent); North Dakota (fourth, 17.7 percent); and Minnesota (sixth, 17.0 percent).



Citing benefits of continental market, U.S., Canada, Mexico pursue closer ties on energy

by Ilene Grossman ~ March 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Canada and the United States have long been each other’s most important energy partners, with annual trade between the two countries in this economic sector at nearly $100 billion. Cross-border pipelines bring natural gas and oil south to major U.S. markets, and two Midwestern states, Minnesota and North Dakota, imported 12 percent of their electricity from Canada in 2014. “North America is an integrated market,” notes Dan D’Autremont, speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. But leaders at the federal, state and provincial levels are taking steps now to deepen the two countries’ relationship. More »


Rise in solar power generates interest among Midwest's state legislators

by Ilene Grossman ~ February 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The Midwest is not known as a center of solar energy development, but in fact, electricity from the sun is being generated across the region. Various market forces have driven down the costs of installing rooftop PVs, and various state policies are also encouraging an increased use of solar energy — tax exemptions and deductions, for example, as well as renewable portfolio standards and net metering laws. More »


CSG Midwest brings bipartisan legislative delegations to Canada, Germany for study trips on energy policy, innovation

Energy was at the top of the agenda of two recent study trips organized by CSG Midwest for legislators and other state officials. In November, an 11-person delegation visited Berlin and Dusseldorf as guests of the German government. Less than a month later, a different group of legislators traveled to Canada for a visit to a first-in-the-world power plant that captures and stores carbon dioxide emissions. More »


Midwest states take sides in fight over EPA’s Clean Power Plan

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »


With new federal regulations on power plants set to take effect in December, every Midwestern state is weighing in on a legal battle that will determine the future direction of U.S. energy policy. Attorneys general from 24 states — including Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — filed a lawsuit in late October to block the Clean Power Plan. This coalition of states argues that the rules are a costly, and illegal, overreach of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority. North Dakota has filed a separate lawsuit opposing the EPA’s actions.
The plan calls for mandatory reductions in carbon pollution by 2030. The amount of those cuts varies from state to state — for example, 23 percent in Indiana vs. 67 percent in South Dakota. These figures are based on the EPA’s determination of a state’s ability to make the transition away from coal-fired power plants.
The Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota attorneys general have filed a motion (along with 22 other states and cities) in support of the Clean Power Plan. The new rules, they say, will help states mitigate the threats that climate change poses to human health and the environment.


Do any states in the Midwest have bans on the construction of new nuclear power plants?

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2015 ~ Question of the Month »
Minnesota is the only U.S. state with an outright ban on construction of new nuclear power facilities. The state’s prohibition dates back to legislative actions taken in 1994 amid concerns and legal disputes about how and where to store the high-level radioactive waste from these plants. Minnesota has had two such facilities in operation since the early 1970s (Prairie Island, which has two units, and Monticello). More »


U.S. announces two-pronged plan for storage of ‘defense-only,’ commercial nuclear waste

by Katelyn Tye ~ May 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
For decades, the federal government’s plan for nuclear waste — both from production of nuclear weapons and from commercial nuclear reactors — has been to store all of it at a single, permanent geologic repository. But in March, the Obama administration announced a significant shift in that policy strategy. The U.S. Department of Energy now plans “to move forward with the planning for a consent-based, defense-only repository for some of the DOE-managed high-level wastes,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said. More »


New oil regulations in North Dakota aim to improve rail safety

by Tim Anderson ~ January 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »

In August of last year, monthly oil production in North Dakota reached yet another milestone. For the first time, more than 35 million barrels of oil were being produced. Just seven years ago, monthly production in the state was below 4 million barrels.
Over the past several years, too, a big change has occurred in how North Dakota’s oil is transported. Most of it now moves out of the state by rail rather than pipeline, and this shift has raised safety concerns inside and outside of North Dakota — especially in light of recent serious accidents and explosions involving oil tanker cars in the United States and Canada.
In December, North Dakota’s three-member Industrial Commission adopted new regulations to address some of those concerns. The state will now require well operators to meet a series of standards for the conditioning equipment that they use to separate volatile gases from crude oil, The Bismarck Tribune reports. The penalty for noncompliance will be up to $12,500 per day, and in his proposed biennial budget, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple calls for more staff to enforce the regulations. According to the Association of American Railroads, as of mid-2014, about 750,000 barrels of oil were being shipped out of North Dakota by rail every day.


World’s first commercial-scale carbon-capture coal plant opens in Saskatchewan

by Ilene Grossman ~ November 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In early October, a facility in the province of Saskatchewan became the first commercial-scale coal-fired plant with carbon capture and storage capability in the world. The Boundary Dam Power Station is run by SaskPower, a crown corporation — meaning it is owned by the provincial government but operates like a private company. The plant uses clean coal technology to prevent most of its carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from being released into the atmosphere. More »


With rise in rail transport of crude oil through region, new calls for tougher safety standards

by Ilene Grossman ~ October 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
On an average day in Minnesota, seven oil-carrying trains cross the state, usually through the heavily populated Twin Cities area. Each train has an average of 110 cars containing 3.3 million gallons of oil, for a total of 23 million gallons of crude oil crossing through the state each day. The increased activity in Minnesota reflects a national trend: huge growth in the shipment of crude oil by rail, from 9,500 rail carloads in 2008 to 415,000 in 2013. And the safety of these shipments has become a greater concern in the Midwest, in part because of recent serious rail accidents and explosions involving oil tanker cars in the United States and Canada. More »


North Dakota prevails in legal dispute over Minnesota energy law

by Tim Anderson ~ May 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Key parts of a 7-year-old Minnesota law designed to limit carbon dioxide emissions have been ruled an unconstitutional violation of the U.S. Commerce Clause. The decision was handed down by a federal judge in April. North Dakota brought the lawsuit against neighboring Minnesota and its Next Generation Energy Act. Under that 2007 law, Minnesota placed restrictions on the construction of new fossil fuel-fired power plants and sought to limit the importation of electricity from out-of-state, coal-fired facilities. For example, the construction of a new plant requires the carbon dioxide emissions from it to be offset by changes at older power plants that make them cleaner and more efficient.
The legal dispute centered on the restrictions placed on energy imports from other states — for instance, Minnesota’s use of coal-based electricity from North Dakota. In her ruling, the U.S. District Court judge said the Minnesota law was inconsistent with the “boundary-less nature of the electricity grid.”
Because the buying, selling and transmission of electricity occurs across multiple states in the region, she said, the practical effect of the law is that “out-of-state parties must conduct their out-of-state business according to Minnesota’s terms.” Minnesota will appeal the decision.


Dust pollution from open petcoke piles sparks push in Illinois, Michigan for enclosed storage

by Ilene Grossman ~ May 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
During the last year, residents of neighborhoods in Chicago and Detroit have had to deal with growing piles of petroleum coke, or petcoke. These piles were often left uncovered, allowing winds to disperse black dust into surrounding communities and nearby waterways. How can and should this residue be safely stored and transported? Proposed legislation in Illinois and Michigan would provide greater oversight and require more of the facilities storing the petcoke (storage is usually not done by the refinery, but instead by an outside
company). More »


Iowa deepens commitment to ethanol as EPA proposes easing biofuels mandate

by Carolyn Orr ~ December 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In mid-November the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply for the first time, potentially dealing a major setback to the ethanol industry. The announcement came a month after the state of Iowa announced plans to further develop the state's infrastructure for blender pumps. More »


Minnesota poised to have strongest biodiesel mandate in the nation

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
A decade ago, Minnesota became the first U.S. state with a biodiesel mandate, a move that has since been followed by six other states (none in the Midwest). The state now hopes to advance production and use even further, with plans in place to adopt a first-in-the-nation B10 mandate: a requirement that all diesel fuel sold in the state contain 10 percent biodiesel and 90 percent petroleum. The higher mandate, set to take effect in July of next year, will only apply in warm-weather months.
Under Minnesota’s groundbreaking 2002 law, B2 was required. Subsequent legislation increased the mandate to B5 and called for an increase to B10 provided that a variety of conditions were met (a sufficient fuel and feedstock supply, for example, and an adequate blending infrastructure). The mandate will be raised to B20 in 2015 if those same conditions are met.
Though no other Midwestern states mandate that biodiesel be sold, some encourage or require its use in government vehicle fleets, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Five of the nation’s top 10 biodiesel-producing states are in the Midwest: Iowa (second), Illinois (fourth), Minnesota (fifth), Indiana (eighth) and North Dakota (10th).


Legislators voice concerns about Ontario proposal to store nuclear waste near Lake Huron

by Lisa Janairo ~ November 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Ontario Power Generation is planning to build a deep geologic repository less than a mile from Lake Huron in order to store its nuclear waste. The repository, if licensed, could open by 2018. It would be the first permanent disposal facility for radioactive waste to operate in the Great Lakes basin. More »


E15 pumps pop up in Midwest; North Dakota latest state with fuel mix

by Tim Anderson ~ October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »

Three months after an effort to block the sale of E15 stalled in the U.S. Supreme Court, the fuel blend began being offered in another Midwestern state. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced in September the availability of E15 (a mix of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) at six gas stations. He welcomed E15 as another way to grow the biofuels industry in North Dakota, where, since 2005, ethanol production has risen from about 30 million gallons per year to about 377.5 million.
A year ago, Kansas became the first U.S. state where E15 was sold. The fuel blend is also now available in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, more than 30 gas stations (nearly all in the Midwest) offer E15 blends.
A mix of groups unsuccessfully sought court action to overturn a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision permitting E15 sales. The American Petroleum Institute has called the EPA’s decision “premature and irresponsible." Concerns about E15 include its impact on older car models. In its decision, the EPA limited the use of E15 to cars with a model year of 2001 or newer.



Minnesota becomes third state in Midwest with a solar energy mandate

by Tim Anderson ~ 2013 MLC Annual Meeting Edition ~ Stateline Midwest »
Within seven years, Minnesota’s investor-owned utilities will have to supply 1.5 percent of their power from solar energy under a measure signed into law in May. Minnesota joins Illinois and Ohio — and 15 other U.S. states — with some type of solar energy mandate, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
In Illinois, the state’s renewable portfolio standard includes a solar “carve-out.” The standard calls for 25 percent of the electricity consumed in Illinois to come from renewable sources by 2025. Six percent of that renewable energy must be derived from solar power. Ohio’s solar mandate is 0.5 percent of total electricity generation by 2025.
Minnesota lawmakers opted for a solar “add-on” rather than a carve-out. The new 1.5 percent requirement for solar energy, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reports, is not part of the existing renewable portfolio standard — 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Minnesota’s solar mandate will have to be met in part through small-scale projects, such as the installation of solar panels on homes and businesses. The recently passed bill, HF 729, also includes incentives to purchase solar equipment and install solar panels.


Midwest's carbon footprint declined over past decade; state-level data also highlight shift from coal to natural gas and renewables

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
The Midwest’s carbon footprint got smaller over the past decade, a period of time in which the region’s mix of sources for electric power also changed significantly. According to federal data released in May, total energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide declined in all but four Midwestern states between 2000 and 2010: Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. On a per-capita basis, South Dakota’s carbon footprint was smaller as well. More »



Proposed federal legislation calls for nuclear waste from shutdown plants to have new home
by 2021

by Lisa Janairo ~ May 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Proposed legislation released on April 25 could pave the way toward solving a lingering problem for the nation’s nuclear energy industry — what to do with the waste. More »


Minnesota ranked as Midwest's leader in energy efficiency

by Ilene Grossman ~ November 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
When it comes to promoting energy efficiency, Minnesota ranks highest in the Midwest, thanks in large part to the state’s strong efficiency standards and the conservation plans that it requires of utilities, according to a national scorecard released in October. More »


Court ruling on spent nuclear fuel forces U.S. to reassess storage rules, environmental impact

by Ilene Grossman ~ October 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In the Prairie Island Indian Community, some residents live as close as 600 yards from a facility storing highly radioactive spent fuel from a nearly 40-year-old nuclear power plant. The southeast Minnesota community has unwillingly become what state Public Utilities Commissioner David Boyd calls a “de facto storage site” for nuclear waste. And it is not alone. More »


How many states in the Midwest have adopted renewable portfolio standards, and how far along are the states in meeting them?

by Ilene Grossman ~ July/August 2012 ~ Question of the Month » 
In the Midwest, 10 of 11 states — all but Nebraska — have passed a renewable or alternative energy portfolio standard or voluntary goal. More »



Slew of state legislation surfaces in Midwest in response to rise in fracking activity

by Ilene Grossman ~ May 2012 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, holds the promise of increasing energy production, growing local economies and bolstering state tax revenues. But it also raises questions about the role of states in regulating operations, safeguarding water resources, and protecting landowners and communities. More »



New EPA emissions rules causing some of region's older power plants to shut down

by Ilene Grossman ~ April 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
New rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that limit emissions from power plants have already had one effect: Some of the Midwest’s older coal-fired facilities are shutting down. More »




5 Great Lakes states join forces to work on offshore wind energy policies


by Tim Anderson ~ April 2012

Five Great Lakes states have signed a memorandum of understanding with one another and the federal government to work more closely on offshore wind energy projects. More »


Blue Ribbon Commission sets new path for nuclear waste policy

by Lisa Janairo ~ March 2012 ~ Stateline Midwest »
After two years of study, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has issued its final recommendations for a new strategy for managing the nation’s high-level radioactive waste. Progress on the study had been closely monitored by two CSG Midwest committees, both of which have worked to provide state officials in the region with a voice on the future direction of U.S. policy. More »


Decision on oil pipeline runs through Midwest: Nebraska shows role for states in project that aims to boost U.S. use of Canadian oil

by Ilene Grossman ~ December 2011 ~ PDF of Stateline Midwest article »
TransCanada has faced many hurdles in its multi-year effort to get a new 1,700-mile oil pipeline built.
But this fall, the energy infrastructure company ran up against perhaps its stiffest opposition yet — from concerned residents and lawmakers in the state of Nebraska. More »



Bright idea? Illinois OKs $3 billion plan to build out smart grid

by Tim Anderson ~ November 2011 ~ Stateline Midwest

By overriding a gubernatorial veto in October, the Illinois General Assembly has paved the way for a 10-year, $3 billion investment in the state’s energy infrastructure.
The plan, as laid out in SB 1652, is for the state’s utilities to build out a “smart grid” that employs digital, interactive technologies to improve system reliability, reduce the frequency of outages and improve power restoration. In addition, smart meters will be installed in homes and businesses to help consumers track and manage their energy use.
According to the Chicago Tribune, multiple concerns were raised about SB 1652 as it advanced through the legislature: higher bills for ratepayers, a loosening of state oversight of the utilities, and a new formula determining the utilities’ annual profits. In response, the legislature passed a “trailer bill” to SB 1652.
That measure (HB 3036) reduces utility companies’ return on their investments, protects low-income residents from rate hikes, and requires that more than 2,500 statewide jobs be created at the peak of build-out of the smart grid. Utilities will face penalties for not meeting the jobs mandate, as well as for not improving performance and reliability.
Gov. Pat Quinn, though, still opposed SB 1652, saying it would result in “blockbuster annual rate hikes for consumers and businesses.”


How much Canadian oil and gas are imported into the Midwest?

by Ilene Grossman ~ July-August 2011 ~ Question of the Month
The U.S. is a net energy importer in terms of oil and gas trade with Canada. Canada’s energy exports to the United States were valued at $76 billion in 2009, while U.S. exports to Canada were valued at $11.5 billion. Canada provides 21 percent of U.S. crude oil imports (nearly 2.5 million barrels a day) and 87 percent of U.S. natural gas imports.  More »