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At first whiff, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s govt order centered on curbing meals waste and boosting recycling throughout Virginia may go an environmentalist’s sniff take a look at. 

Scratch a bit deeper, nonetheless, and that very same nostril detects a less-than-pleasant odor.

Conservationists don’t have any quibble with order No. 17’s initiative to maintain leftovers out of landfills by doubling down on composting efforts statewide.

The place they scent greenwashing is within the part that cancels an initiative by the earlier administration to eradicate single-use plastics. As an alternative, the brand new order urges state companies, parks, schools and universities to encourage recycling of the ever-present plastics.

“I might like to be constructive about this,” mentioned Tim Cywinski, spokesperson for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Membership. “Youngkin simply may’ve written an order that didn’t do away with the plastics phase-out.

“However each time he does one thing that appears good, he does one thing else and goes two steps backward.”

What’s the hurt in backtracking on plastics? The Sierra Membership is amongst these claiming it’s an invite for corporations with questionable claims about recycling plastic into gas or feedstock for extra plastic to maneuver into the state.

Actually, Youngkin’s early April order does simply that. The state Division of Environmental High quality is required to steer analysis on a report due subsequent spring that outlines how Virginia can entice entities specializing in post-consumer recycled merchandise.

That order refers to these companies as “clear know-how corporations.”

The American Chemistry Council has lobbied for years to find plastic recyclers in Virginia, based on the Sierra Membership.

“That is investing in one thing that’s simply going to pollute once more,” mentioned Connor Kish, Sierra’s legislative and political director. “What is obvious is that Gov. Youngkin’s govt order undoes plenty of good work.”

Plastic ‘recyclers’ are no-shows to date

Youngkin’s order suits with laws the Normal Meeting handed final yr — and signed into legislation by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam — that lowers the oversight burden for so-called “advanced recyclers” by classifying them as manufacturers somewhat than strong waste processors.

That change removes such recyclers from the oversight realm of the Virginia Strong Waste Administration Act.

“There’s a wholly completely different allowing course of for every of these,” Kish mentioned. “One concern is, the place is the plastic waste saved if these are labeled as manufacturing? 

“Air air pollution, water air pollution, actually all the pieces turns into an environmental concern for us if these amenities open.”

Plus, in 2020 Virginia legislators handed a separate invoice that helped superior recyclers acquire tax exemptions and credit.

Kish and his colleagues had their first scare on that entrance two years in the past when Northam introduced that Braven Environmental could be investing $31.7 million in a producing facility in Cumberland County. The county is 40-plus miles west of Richmond within the state’s Southside area.

Braven was known as “a pacesetter in deriving gas from landfill-bound plastic” in the news release. The corporate mentioned it breaks down waste plastics through pyrolysis, not incineration, so the gas is made with decrease carbon emissions than conventional oil or gasoline manufacturing.

The corporate claimed its native presence would curb carbon air pollution by reducing the necessity to transport waste plastic lengthy distances out of state.

Nonetheless, chemical recycling of plastic is pricey and inefficient as a result of it requires extraordinarily excessive temperatures. 

Sierrans tracked the Braven improvement, however minimally, Kish mentioned, “since you see flashy press releases about these corporations on a regular basis. They not often open and I felt this one was by no means going to take flight.”

Positive sufficient, in an under-the-radar transfer in early January, Braven withdrew from the deal and its dedication to rent as much as 80 workers. 

The funding sources behind such corporations are more and more tough to decipher, Kish mentioned, and the know-how doesn’t appear scalable past the laboratory.

“That’s why they fail to get off the bottom; they’ll’t do that in a worthwhile means,” he mentioned. “Numerous guarantees are made to communities after which they don’t present up.”

Momentum killer at GMU?

Youngkin’s order rescinds and replaces govt order 77, which Northam issued in March 2021.

The previous governor was heralded by green teams statewide for issuing what they known as one of many strongest govt orders nationwide aimed toward single-use plastics.

It not solely known as for banning disposable baggage and single-use foodware (bowls, utensils, plates, trays, and so on.) at state companies inside 4 months, but additionally directed companies and public universities to eradicate single-use plastic by 2025.

As well as, it instructed state leaders to deploy composting, reuse and different methods to scale back strong waste and divert waste from landfills.

Northam’s govt order impressed public establishments resembling George Mason College to launch its Round Financial system and Zero Waste Process Power in April 2021 to additional its sustainability efforts campuswide.

Satirically, Youngkin acknowledged the northern Virginia college with a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award on March 29 — roughly every week earlier than he issued his govt order backpedaling on phasing out plastics.

George Mason was amongst six gold medal winners. The state lauded the college’s activity drive for a formidable and prolonged record of eco-accomplishments spurred by adopting a purchase much less, purchase higher procurement philosophy, changing extra disposables to reusables and revamping waste diversion practices.

For example, the duty drive gained kudos for eliminating 92,000 kilos of single-use and polystyrene gadgets in eating halls. As effectively, greater than 556,000 kilos of meals and different supplies from eating halls have been composted or recycled.

Curiously, the university’s task force website famous that the college eradicated single-use plastic water bottles in July 2021. Nonetheless, it not features a line about ridding the campus of all single-use plastic bottles by 2025. That sentence had included a caveat noting that restricted potential exemptions may be essential.

That text change was made after an Energy Information Community reporter despatched inquiries to a college spokesperson and the duty drive co-leader about how Youngkin’s govt order would have an effect on their plans for single-use plastics.

As effectively, the web site not makes the clear hyperlink between the creation of the duty drive and Northam’s 2021 order.

The duty drive co-leader didn’t reply to follow-up queries. Nonetheless, Stephanie Aaronson, deputy vp for college branding mentioned through electronic mail that “we plan to proceed our award-winning work, together with our already deliberate phaseout of single-use plastic bottles for gadgets accessible in aluminum cans or refill choices.” 

Cut back is the silent R

The globe is awash in tons of plastic waste. Cywinski, of the Sierra Membership, blames the fossil gas and petrochemical industries for creating the idea of plastic being recyclable, figuring out full effectively it wasn’t a viable resolution.

A new joint report by The Final Seaside Cleanup and Past Plastics estimates that the U.S. plastics recycling fee, which has by no means reached double digits, now hovers at a dismal 5% to six%. It estimates that per capita plastic waste era exploded by 263% from 1980 to 2018 — a bounce from 60 kilos to nearly 220 kilos per individual per yr.

The report really helpful that corporations and legislatures endorse insurance policies resembling single-use plastic bans to restrict manufacturing, utilization and disposal. The U.S. Division of Inside is evidently heeding that recommendation with a current proposal  to ban all single-use plastics by 2032 in nationwide parks and on affiliated public lands.

That’s why Kish and the Sierra Membership lament the stamping out of  Northam’s govt order.

Virginia could be smart to spend cash educating the general public about shrinking the state’s plastic footprint somewhat than dangle incentives to entice fossil gas corporations.

“We educate the three R’s,” Kish mentioned — cut back, reuse, recycle. “However too usually we skip the ‘cut back’ half.”

Derek Havens of Mason Neck in northern Virginia says amen to that. 

The 70-year-old was so irked by Youngkin’s turnabout that he vented through a mid-April letter to the editor revealed within the Washington Submit.

“It shouldn’t shock me that an environmental situation is getting used as political soccer,” he mentioned in a follow-up interview. “Recycling is a failed method to those single-use plastics.

“It’s only a ruse so residents really feel like we’re doing one thing.”



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US energy sector job growth outpaced overall employment in 2021, report finds

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US energy sector job growth outpaced overall employment in 2021, report finds




US energy sector job progress outpaced total employment in 2021, report finds































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Energy Efficiency

Georgia Power launches coal ash use project in at Plant Bowen

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Georgia Power launches coal ash use project in at Plant Bowen




Georgia Energy launches coal ash use challenge in at Plant Bowen





















Home Coal Georgia Energy launches coal ash use challenge at Plant Bowen








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Will carbon capture help clean N.M. power?

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Will carbon capture help clean N.M. power?



This story is co-published with High Country News, a nonprofit media group that covers points and tales that outline the Western United States.


As New Mexico lawmakers had been placing the ending touches on landmark laws to assist employees and communities transition from the closure of the state’s largest coal plant, the town of Farmington had different plans. 

“We have now reached a milestone that few individuals thought remotely potential,” Metropolis Supervisor Rob Mayes told the local newspaper in February 2019. An settlement was introduced between the town and a New York holding agency known as Acme Equities to maintain the ageing San Juan Producing Station working previous its scheduled 2022 retirement date. 

The state’s largest utility, Public Service Firm of New Mexico, or PNM, had deliberate to retire the large coal-fired energy plant, eliminating tons of of jobs and tens of millions in native tax income that the 2019 Energy Transition Act supposed to deal with. 

After working behind the scenes for months, although, native officers as a substitute threw their help behind an obscure actual property hedge fund promising to maintain the plant and its related mine open by putting in the most important carbon seize system on an influence plant thus far — by far. 

The $1.4 billion plan baffled energy-economics consultants. In spite of everything, PNM was abandoning the plant into which it had simply invested tens of millions of {dollars} in pollution-control expertise as a result of it was now not economically tenable. It merely didn’t pencil out, as Karl Cates and Dennis Wamsted, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Monetary Evaluation IEEFA detailed in a July 2019 report

“IEEFA doesn’t see a lot probability of the challenge going ahead,” Cates and Wamsted wrote, “and the ensuing liabilities to the town, both approach, are probably vital.” 

Acme’s bid has been extra sturdy than critics anticipated, although. Three years later, with the plant’s closure impending, the trouble remains to be alive beneath a brand new title, Enchant Energy. And regardless of setbacks, missed benchmarks and questions in regards to the scheme’s viability, Enchant Energy continues to say it’s going to take over the plant later this summer time. 

Banking on tech and tax credit

Beneath the association, when PNM and the opposite house owners exit the San Juan plant, it’s going to depart the town of Farmington as its sole proprietor. Farmington will then switch the 95% stake to Enchant for $1 beneath the settlement. In change, the Farmington utility will proceed to obtain energy and, extra importantly, the financial advantages, from the continued operation of the plant and mine.

The San Juan Producing Station emits giant quantities of carbon dioxide. This coal-fired, electric energy plant positioned in northwestern New Mexico is located adjoining to the San Juan Coal Mine. Credit score: Jeremy Wade Shockley / for the Energy Information Community

In response to Enchant displays to state legislators and the U.S. Division of Energy, it could then spend an estimated $1.2 billion to retrofit the plant with amine-based carbon capture gear just like that used at Petra Nova, a coal plant in Texas. A further $200 million or extra could be spent for carbon transportation and subterranean storage infrastructure. This would come with a brand new carbon dioxide pipeline to faucet into an current line that carries the gasoline from southwest Colorado to the oilfields of the Permian Basin, the place it’s pumped into ageing wells to stimulate manufacturing, a course of often called enhanced oil restoration. 

Enchant plans to go to the tax fairness market, utilizing one thing known as part 45Q of the federal tax code, to boost capital to construct the contraption. The challenge “may be economically profitable as a result of underlying markets and applied sciences in addition to IRS Part 45Q tax credit,” mentioned Enchant Energy CEO Cindy Crane, in an e mail to the Energy Information Community.

The brand new guidelines provide a $35-per-ton credit score for carbon used for enhanced oil restoration and $50 per ton for geologically sequestering it with out utilizing it for oil manufacturing. The inducement might add as much as as a lot as $300 million per yr for Enchant if it captures as a lot carbon because it hopes to. However these aren’t direct funds, they’re tax credit, which means Enchant should promote them prematurely. 

“What we’re going to do,” Enchant co-founder Jason Selch advised E&E News in 2019, is “increase the cash to construct the challenge by monetizing the long run stream of tax credit.” An organization or investor that wants a tax credit score would purchase a share of the challenge in return for later receiving a portion of the credit. 

The Carbon Seize Coalition has been lobbying Congress to permit for direct money funds slightly than simply tax rebates, however thus far has been unsuccessful. It has, nonetheless, managed to slide a rise within the credit score quantities, in addition to direct fee, into the stalled Construct Again Higher invoice — each of which might be a boon to the challenge. 

Enchant additionally relies on different federal subsidies. Along with a $17.5 million federal grant for New Mexico Tech to check the feasibility of completely sequestering the captured carbon close by, the Energy Division has dedicated almost $6 million for an engineering research, which has but to be accomplished, in response to filings with the DOE. In a report back to the division, Enchant mentioned it’s now angling for federal infrastructure funds and looking out into the DOE Mortgage Program and Rural Utilities Service Loans.

As soon as the system is up and operating, in response to a pre-feasibility research, the coal plant would proceed to function because it has for the final 5 many years: Coal is burned to generate steam to show generators to generate electrical energy, producing exhaust, or flue gasoline. As an alternative of sending the flue gasoline out the smokestacks, nonetheless, will probably be “pre-scrubbed” of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides earlier than an amine solvent absorbs the CO2 from the scrubbed gasoline. (Amine is derived from ammonia, which is derived from pure gasoline through the carbon-intensive Haber-Bosch course of). The CO2 would then be faraway from the amine solvent, leading to a stream of carbon dioxide and steam, which works into the compressor, the place the steam is eliminated and the carbon dioxide is pressurized into pipeline-grade CO2. Enchant says it’s going to seize 90% of the plant’s carbon emissions, which at present working ranges would add as much as about 5.2 million tons per yr.

It’s an energy-intensive course of, to place it mildly. Petra Nova’s carbon seize gear gulped up a lot juice that it required its own, new natural gas-fired generator, sans carbon seize, in response to the federal Energy Data Administration. Enchant Energy estimates it’s going to use about 30% of the energy generated by the San Juan Producing Station — or sufficient to energy 160,000 households — to run the carbon seize gear. 

This is called parasitic load, which Mike Eisenfeld, energy and local weather director of the San Juan Residents Alliance, a Durango-based environmental group, says is a critical disadvantage, leaving the corporate much less electrical energy to promote and additional diminishing the monetary viability of the plan. 

Mike Eisenfeld, with San Juan Residents Alliance, close to his dwelling in Farmington, New Mexico; the Glade Run Recreation Space serves as a backdrop. Credit score: Jeremy Wade Shockley / for the Energy Information Community

Enchant, nonetheless, spins it as an asset: Enchant’s carbon seize gear is a built-in buyer for one-third of the ability Enchant produces. This may increasingly appear convoluted, however it suits into the carbon seize logic, wherein an influence plant that spews carbon dioxide as an undesirable byproduct is actually remodeled right into a carbon manufacturing facility with electrical energy as a fascinating byproduct. 

A number of coal vegetation have been semi-successfully retrofitted with carbon seize gear, however the San Juan Producing Station challenge could be the most important thus far — by far. The obvious buyer for electrical energy from the plant was utility PNM, however they aren’t interested by shopping for it, as PNM CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn emphasized in an investors’ call shortly after the deal was introduced. Different utilities are shying away from coal energy, as effectively, for each financial and environmental causes.

Enchant initially deliberate to promote the CO2 to Permian Basin oil producers for enhanced oil restoration. However when oil costs crashed throughout the pandemic, so too did the oilfield markets for carbon dioxide. Petra Nova, which was retrofitted by oil and gasoline firms particularly for enhanced oil restoration, shut down in 2020 for this very purpose. It has but to start out working once more, whilst oil costs have shot up above $100 per barrel. In response, Enchant has pivoted to give attention to sequestering the carbon underground, with the choice of piping it to oilfields if the financial surroundings is ripe. 

Missed deadlines

Enchant’s 2019 aim of getting the carbon seize gear in place by the point PNM exited has confirmed to be overly bold. The corporate repeatedly has missed its personal deadlines for crucial benchmarks similar to securing financing, energy buy agreements, coal contracts, transmission entry, or permits from federal and state regulators. 

This has heightened skepticism surrounding the plan. Final spring the IEEFA released a report detailing the shortage of progress, saying it’s additional proof the challenge isn’t financially viable, a sentiment echoed by state lawmakers at a July legislative session. Even Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett, who has been Enchant’s most outspoken supporter by far, advised lawmakers that “all people would really like us” to drop the challenge, earlier than reaffirming his backing. “Yeah, we wish to see a few of these milestones hit and the dates that had been set initially, however this can be a large, bushy, audacious aim,” he advised lawmakers.

Crane, acknowledging the missed deadlines, now says Enchant will function San Juan as a legacy plant, which means it’s going to proceed to emit carbon dioxide and different pollution unhindered, till it may possibly finance and assemble the carbon seize “island” and different infrastructure. That course of is anticipated to take three years, on the very least — the smaller Petra Nova retrofit required six years to assemble. However even this, Eisenfeld reiterated, would require acquiring a brand new contract for coal from Westmoreland, the proprietor of the feeder mine; entry to transmission and substations; and water rights. 


“The neighborhood is being bought that that may be a go. But it surely’s just about unimaginable to do it on time, if in any respect. It’s slicing us off from the truth verify we want.” 

Mike Eisenfeld


A stickier sticking level could be the Energy Transition Act, which instructs state environmental regulators to undertake requirements of efficiency that restrict coal plant carbon dioxide emissions to not more than 845 kilos per megawatt-hour starting in January 2023. With out carbon seize, the plant emits about 2,000 kilos per MWh, according to a Department of Energy study. Crane mentioned the corporate is “within the course of” of assembly the stipulations Eisenfeld famous, and is “working diligently to acquire … regulatory readability from the New Mexico Surroundings Division” relating to the emissions cap. 

And so they’ll should promote the ability. PNM couldn’t purchase it even when it needed to, thanks to a different provision within the Energy Transition Act prohibiting it from buying electrical energy that emits greater than 400 kilos of CO2 per MWh. The municipal utility of Logan, Utah, is considering purchasing a small amount of power from Enchant, however Logan environmentalists are pushing again in opposition to taking up any further coal-generated electrical energy, with or with out carbon seize — a hurdle Enchant is prone to face wherever it tries to hawk energy. 

As an alternative of scaling again their ambitions, nonetheless, Enchant’s principals proceed to broaden them. In a 2022 Energy Division submitting, it mentioned its technique was to “give attention to large-scale decarbonization tasks initially within the Midwest and Western United States,” and Crane confirmed that “different carbon seize tasks are being targeted on,” although she declined to supply specifics. Proposals to supply blue hydrogen utilizing pure gasoline as feedstock would wish carbon seize and a spot to retailer it. 

Enchant introduced in March that Navajo Transitional Energy Firm, which is owned by the tribe, had invested within the firm — seemingly an enormous increase for its efforts. Neither Enchant nor NTEC would disclose the quantity of the funding, nonetheless. 

If Enchant can’t meet these deadlines, and the ability plant and mine shut for good later this yr, then all the planning, advertising and cash that has gone into the trouble thus far may have been “a expensive distraction from efforts that might truly assist employees and communities within the 4 Corners,” mentioned Camilla Feibelman, Rio Grande Chapter Director for the Sierra Membership.

Whereas native officers have continued to pursue non-fossil gas financial improvement, their give attention to Enchant, in response to Feibelman and Eisenfeld, has created false hope that the coal jobs and tax income gained’t go away, leaving them unprepared once they do. It has additionally diverted sources within the type of Farmington workers time and authorized prices — the town agreed to pay as much as $4 million of Enchant’s authorized tab, to be reimbursed “when the CO2 seize gear achieves business operation.”

“The neighborhood is being bought that that may be a go,” Eisenfeld mentioned. “But it surely’s just about unimaginable to do it on time, if in any respect. It’s slicing us off from the truth verify we want.”

In the meantime, coal would proceed to be mined and burned — and greenhouse gases emitted — at present charges till the carbon seize gear is constructed. And even when, or if, it will definitely does reduce carbon emissions by 90% as deliberate, it’s going to proceed to have environmental and human well being impacts disproportionately borne by close by low-income and predominantly Navajo communities. 

Assuming that Enchant continues to function the plant at present ranges, which it should do to generate and seize satisfactory volumes of carbon, the plant will emit mercury, sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants at roughly the identical fee because it does now. It should proceed to suck 5.8 billion gallons of water per year out of the dwindling San Juan River for cooling, steam era and different makes use of, and can in all probability want extra to run the carbon seize gear. It should proceed to kick out tens of millions of tons of coal combustion waste — ash, clinker, slag and different strong residues — to be disposed of within the mine, thus probably exacerbating long-standing groundwater contamination within the space. And, assuming the San Juan Mine continues to function beneath the present regime, it’s going to additionally proceed to emit at the very least 10,000 metric tons of methane per year, a greenhouse gasoline way more potent than carbon dioxide.

That’s along with considerations surrounding the piping and storage of carbon dioxide, mentioned Norman Norvelle, who labored as a chemist for El Paso Pure Gasoline. When water will get into the pipe it may possibly mix with carbon dioxide to kind carbonic acid, which may corrode the road, inflicting it to rupture and permitting the carbon dioxide to flee. El Paso, Norvelle mentioned, “had traces rupturing in all places” after it began piping coalbed methane — which has extra water and carbon dioxide than different pure gasoline — across the area. According to the Pipeline Safety Trust, carbon dioxide in excessive concentrations is an asphyxiant that may journey lengthy distances at deadly concentrations. 

“Enchant’s proposed CCUS [carbon capture, utilization and storage] challenge for SJGS [San Juan Generating Station] is in essence a far-fetched quest for a backed, tax credit-based carbon dioxide manufacturing facility, blind to the prices of coal generated electrical energy, environmental liabilities, and historic legacies of the positioning,” mentioned Eisenfeld, in testimony to state regulators in 2020. 

“Enchant’s plan isn’t reasonable and definitely gained’t assist the area,” mentioned Robyn Jackson, interim govt director of Diné CARE. “We have now to consider another type of financial improvement that isn’t primarily based on useful resource extraction that sacrifices our land and folks.”



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