Minnesota Ethanol Plant Fined $25K for Air Pollution and Noise

- December 11, 2014, Associated Press

The Corn Plus ethanol plant in the south-central Minnesota city of Winnebago has agreed to pay a $25,000 penalty and take steps to reduce its air pollution and noise levels.

The corrective actions announced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Wednesday mark the latest step by officials to bring the plant into compliance with environmental regulations.

Corn Plus has paid about $660,000 in state and federal penalties for air and water quality violations and agreed to environmental improvements costing nearly $700,000 since 2009.

Corn Plus has an application pending with the MPCA for renewal of its environmental permits. Under its latest agreement with the agency, the company must submit more information for that application to move forward.

$181,000 Fine for Ethanol Air Pollution in Albany, NY

- by Brian Nearing, December 12, 2014, Times Union

An oil terminal operator at the Port of Albany has been hit with a $181,000 penalty by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for air pollution violations that lasted nearly a year.

Buckeye Partners failed to properly control vapor emissions from ethanol — a corn-based biofuel used as a gasoline additive — from trucks being loaded at the port, according to a DEC news release issued late Friday. The violations "did not result in any material air quality impacts," according to the release.

As part of a consent order reached last month, the penalty includes a $145,000 "community benefit project" that Buckeye will pay for in the neighborhood around the port. DEC will work with the community to identify the project.

Covanta Settles for $536,211 in Lawsuit Over Biomass Ash Testing

-December 11, 2014, Bakersfield Californian

District attorneys from eight California counties announced Thursday the settlement of a civil environmental enforcement action against three subsidiaries of a New Jersey-based company.

The settlement covers Covanta Energy LLC's Kern County biomass energy facility in Delano, along with other company facilities in Mendota and Oroville.

Kern County will receive about $75,000 as its reimbursement for costs and penalties out of Covanta's total fine of $536,211.

Biomass energy plants burn forest, agricultural and urban wood fuels in order to generate electricity. They produce ash waste streams that are either sent to landfills or have other uses in road building or agriculture.

The civil enforcement action was filed in Sacramento County and asserted that biomass ash sampling and analysis at the three Covanta facilities was not sufficiently rigorous.

The facilities will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting any future violations of law and requiring adherence to the new sampling and testing program for their biomass ash.

In addition to Kern and Sacramento counties, other counties participating in the action were Butte, Fresno, Glenn, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne.

New Factsheet on Energy Justice Communities Map and Justice Map

I have created a new flyer for Energy Justice Communities Map, Justice Map, and the Spatial Justice Test for Race and Income. Feel free to use this flyer at any event (like a conference, protest, workshop, class, etc) where people might be interested in these projects.

So-Called Conservation Groups Betray Environmental Movement

- by Howie Wolke, December 11, 2014, Wilderness Watch

[Powerful piece by long-time nature defender, Howie Wolke, who laments the losing strategy of many foundation-funded mainstream enviro groups that have become nearly indistinguishable from industry in their advocacy for more public lands extraction. -Josh]

My name is Howie Wolke and I live in the foothills of the Gallatin Range in southern Montana just north of Yellowstone National Park, about a mile from the greater Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Complex. I’ve been a wilderness guide/outfitter for backpacking and canoe trips since 1978. I am also a past President and the current Vice-President of Wilderness Watch.

Tampa Man Sentenced for $3 Million Biofuels Fraud

- by Susan Salisbury, December 9, 2014, Palm Beach Post      

A Tampa man was sentenced today on charges he scammed investors out of more than $3 million after promising returns on bio-energy crops such as camelina that were not even planted

 

William A. Vasden Jr. who once headed the Florida Feedstock Growers Association, was sentenced to four years in federal prison in a Fort Myers courtrom.

Vasden was also charged with fraudulently applying for federal grant funds for alternative energy projects that never materialized.

The scam was uncovered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services during a top-to-bottom audit of outstanding grants and projects conducted immediately after the department assumed responsibility of the state’s Office of Energy.

“Our audit exposed several cases of fraud, saving more than $2.4 million in taxpayer dollars,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. “Misuse of public funds is unacceptable, and those who have committed fraud will be held accountable.”

Industry Take: How Will 2014 Elections Impact Biomass?

- by Bob Cleaves, November 23, 2014, Biomass Magazine

On Nov. 4, Americans voted. This election was a decisive victory for Republicans. Senate, House, gubernatorial and even state legislature races across the country saw conservatives prevail. These results were expected, surprising to political types only in the thoroughness of the wins across the board.

What does this mean for biomass? It’s clear that this election signals the need to adjust our interactions with elected officials, but it’s not yet clear what shape that change will take. We will have a better sense of the new Congress’s direction after it is sworn in. The initial signs, however, indicate that there will be a lot we can work with, beginning with an emphasis on the economic benefits of biomass.

We expect that renewable energy, which had been gaining momentum as a key issue among Democratic leadership, will not be as high a priority for this Congress. Rather than focusing on the environmental benefits of biomass, there will likely be a renewed interest in biomass as an energy source that employs tens of thousands of Americans in rural areas.

Fracking Wastewater Treatment Facility Proposed in Pennsylvania

 - by Nicole Mulvaney, December 10, 2014, Times of Trenton

An Israeli water recycling company is proposing a hazardous waste treatment facility about 6 miles southwest of Trenton across the Delaware River in the Keystone Industrial Port Complex.

Elcon Recycling Center, which has an office in West Windsor, went before representatives of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday night detailing plans to construct the facility on 22 acres at 100 Dean Sievers Place.

Rengarajan Ramesh of Elcon said the facility will use environmentally sustainable technology to transform industrial liquid waste into clean water, cutting down more on solid waste and lowering air emissions compared to other industry practices.

“It will be a completely sealed system to the point there are no odors coming out,” Ramesh said.

Elcon’s proposal is unrelated to the hazardous waste incinerator proposed earlier this year in Bristol, Pa. and later put on hold.

About 90 to 95 percent of waste Elcon treats is water that has not been used in the fracking process and can be reused, Ramesh said. The existing site is considered a brownfield and Elcon plans to improve conditions there, he said.

But members of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Pennsylvania League of Women Voters said Elcon would annually treat 210,000 tons of raw hazardous waste, including mercury, lead and cadmium.

Red papers reading “hazardous waste” with a circle and line through the middle were handed out by group members present at the meeting.

Incineration would produce 39 tons of air emissions containing pollutants such as hydrochloric acid and nitrous oxide that could make their way to areas of Mercer County and Bordentown, environmentalists said.

Is Cellulosic Ethanol All it’s Cracked Up to Be?

[Though this article advocates for natural gas, it's a good summary of the shortcomings of cellulosic ethanol, or trees and plants converted into liquid fuels. - Josh]

- by Edward Dodge, December 10, 2014, Breaking Energy

The EPA has long promoted cellulosic ethanol as the future of biofuels, but technical challenges have kept production far below targets. A recent rule change allows RNG, renewable natural gas, to qualify as cellulosic biofuel even though RNG is not cellulosic, but this helps EPA appear to be meeting their goals.

RNG growth has been dramatic and is the lowest carbon vehicle fuel available today. Perhaps the EPA should be promoting a Renewable Gas Standard instead of a Renewable Fuel Standard.

In 2013, production of cellulosic ethanol was effectively zero, even though the legislated target volume for for 2013 was 1 billion gallons. In August 2013, EPA reduced the target to 6 million gallons, and again reduced the target retroactively to 810,185 gallons, less than 1 million. By all accounts this represents a complete failure of the cellulosic ethanol program. In July 2014 the EPA revised the cellulosic biofuel rules to allow RNG to be categorized as cellulosic.

Florida Waste Company Seeks to Close Incinerator, Transfer Trash

- by Brittany Wallman, December 9, 2014, Sun Sentinel

Neighbors of the "Mount Trashmore'' landfill in northern Broward descended on County Hall Tuesday, worried about plans to close a trash-burning incinerator in the region.

Hundreds piled into County Commission chambers, some having arrived on a bus from the Wynmoor Village senior condo coummunity in Coconut Creek. City officials and residents there fear the displaced trash could end up heaped upon the landfill, officially named Monarch Hill but long dubbed Mount Trashmore by locals.

Waste Management's Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. wants Broward County Commission approval to stop using the northern trash-to-energy plant. Under the proposal, the garbage would rumble south in trucks through the heart of the county to an incinerator on U.S. 441, north of Griffin Road.

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