Virginia DEQ defends review process for pipeline

PIPELINES: The head of Virginia’s DEQ says “we are going way above and beyond” in determining what impact two pipelines projects would have on water quality, though environmental groups disagree. (Associated Press)

ALSO: More than two dozen faith leaders in Virginia have signed a letter opposing the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines projects. (Augusta Free Press)

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• Certain language in a solar bill passed by the North Carolina House and being considered by the Senate applies only to two Duke utilities. (Charlotte Business Journal)
• The PACE home improvement financing program says a lawsuit filed by customers, including those in Florida, is flawed and should be dismissed.

Duke Energy, advocates both praise North Carolina solar bill

SOLAR: A bill in North Carolina to establish competitive bids for solar projects and encourage new development has backing from both Duke Energy and clean energy advocates, and was approved by the House Wednesday. (Charlotte Business Journal, Green Tech Lead)

• North Carolina’s solar reform bill would revive and grow a Duke Energy Carolinas program to connect large-scale power users to clean energy resources. (Charlotte Business Journal)
• A North Carolina appeals court has ruled in favor of building and operating a solar farm, saying the county was wrong to deny FLS Energy the permit. (Progressive Pulse)

EFFICIENCY: Software developed by a Virginia Tech team that cuts energy use by small and medium-sized commercial buildings is filling an important niche in building efficiency. (Southeast Energy News)

• Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project have filed a lawsuit against Virginia’s DEQ over its water-quality permitting decision. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
• Three Virginia lawmakers plan to introduce legislation that improves how FERC reviews the state’s natural gas transmission pipelines and collects public input.

Bill that creates ‘fundamental shift’ in North Carolina solar policy moves forward

SOLAR: North Carolina lawmakers advance a bill that mandates a competitive-bidding process for utility-scale solar construction and encourages rooftop and community solar projects, with one lawmaker saying it is “a fundamental shift in energy policy in North Carolina.” (Charlotte Business Journal, Progressive Post)

ALSO: A Chinese engineering company has chosen the Carolinas to build several sites with thousands of solar panels. (Charlotte Business Journal)

• A fourth extension for an interim agreement between Georgia Power and Westinghouse over the Vogtle plant extends the deadline to Friday. (Augusta Chronicle)
• A federal committee filed a letter late Monday with the U.S. bankruptcy court saying it may investigate the possible sale of Westinghouse Co. assets to foreign businesses. (Post and Courier)
• The Public Service Commission is asking Georgia’s attorney general whether it would be legal for Georgia Power to stop charging its customers for the Vogtle nuclear power expansion project.

Alabama coal plant is microcosm of climate debate

EMISSIONS: An Alabama coal plant is the nation’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but for many the plant’s economic importance overshadows the impact. (Center for Public Integrity) 

• Efforts are underway for Georgia Power to assume control of daily operations at the troubled Vogtle plant, though paperwork has not been filed with bankruptcy courts or federal regulators. (Aiken Standard)
• Troubled Westinghouse Co. has agreed for a new contract with employees who make nuclear components at a New Hampshire plant, ending a two-week lockout. (Associated Press)
• Georgia Power and Westinghouse Co.

Delayed once again, Kemper plant may drop ‘clean coal’

COAL: Southern Co. may drop the “clean coal” component of its Kemper plant in Mississippi, which the company says will only be viable under higher natural gas prices. (POWER Magazine)

• A federal report released Friday shows the amount of coal used to make electricity in the U.S. sank to a 33-year low and another report says the U.S. added 400 coal mining jobs in May. (Lexington Herald Leader, WTVR)
• President Trump praises new coal mines opening up, but those mines are producing metallurgic coal used in steelmaking, not power plants. (NPR)

• Recently released records show many costly mistakes at the Summer nuclear project, which is $3 billion over budget and years behind schedule.

In Southeast, support and defiance of Trump’s climate decision

CLIMATE: Following President Trump’s announcement to exit the Paris accord, many states are pledging to take action, including Florida and South Carolina, which are vulnerable to rising sea levels. (Associated Press)

• Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said if President Trump “refuses to lead the response (to climate change), Virginia will.” (Virginian-Pilot)
• The mayors of Nashville, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Charlotte are among the growing list of municipal leaders pledging to move forward on climate action. (NewsChannel 5, Times-Picayune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WCNC, Curbed)
• Kentucky lawmakers react to the U.S. exit of the Paris accord, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying Trump is “protecting middle class families across the country and workers throughout coal country.” (WLKY, Washington Examiner)
• South Carolina Republicans defend Trump’s decision, while Sen. Lindsey Graham supports re-entering the accord if it becomes “a better deal for America and business.” (Post and Courier)
• Florida lawmakers from both parties respond unfavorably to Trump’s exit from the Paris accord, with one saying “this is a huge mistake.” (Miami Herald)
• Tennessee lawmakers and businesses have mixed responses to the U.S. leaving the Paris accord. (News Channel 5)
• Georgia lawmakers’ responses to the Paris accord exit fall along party lines.

Even in Kentucky, Paris agreement more popular than Trump

CLIMATE: According to a survey, the Paris climate change agreement is more popular than President Trump and the Republican senators urging him to withdraw from it, even in conservative states like Kentucky and Mississippi. (McClatchy)

• Republican and Democratic lawmakers from Florida voiced more opposition Wednesday over the U.S.’s possible exit from the Paris climate accord. (SaintPetersBlog)
• Although EPA head Scott Pruitt canceled his Lexington, Kentucky, appearance, protesters still gathered to voice their opposition to the Trump administration’s environmental policies. (Herald-Leader)
• A Republican-led panel of lawmakers voted on Wednesday for a nonpartisan board to look into the costs of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposal to regulate carbon emissions in Virginia. (NBC29)
• No one from McAuliffe’s office attended an emergency hearing on the plan called by a Republican candidate for governor. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

• A report released today by a public accountability non-profit details the political and financial relationships surrounding Dominion Resources as it seeks approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (Southeast Energy News)
• Resistance to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project continues to grow in the race for Virginia’s governor.

Virginia governor: ‘We’ve got to get our heads out of the sand’ on clean energy

CLEAN ENERGY: At a roundtable discussion, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says the state needs to push more aggressively for clean energy to attract new employers: “I’m not going to wait for the federal government on this.” (

• Two lawmakers, including one from Georgia, support a federal study to look into potential tariffs on imported solar panels. (The Hill)
• Construction on Tallahassee’s first solar power plant is underway and expected to provide power to more than 3,000 homes by this fall. (WFSU)
• Officials involved in public-private solar partnership facilitated by the Tennessee Valley Authority finalized some project details Tuesday. (Johnson City Press)
• North Carolina led the nation in new utility-scale solar capacity added to the grid in the first quarter, just ahead of Minnesota and Nevada. (Triad Business Journal)
• Champion Brands will receive 20 percent of its power at its Jacksonville headquarters from newly installed solar panels.

Even in Appalachia, utilities turning away from coal

COAL: While political leaders talk about reviving the industry, utilities in Appalachia and elsewhere continue moving away from coal. (New York Times)

• President Trump’s chief economic adviser causes a stir by saying coal “doesn’t really make that much sense anymore as a feedstock.” (Associated Press)
• Ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn his conviction for his role in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion. (Associated Press)
• Virginia will receive a $10 million grant to develop abandoned mines around the state. (Times News)
• Mississippi Power has until June 3 to make a case to raise customer rates to recover costs from its Kemper plant.

Competitors seek to take over Vogtle construction

CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, an item in Tuesday’s digest misattributed the quote “coal is not a viable fuel” to Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris. The quote is from the writer of the column, not Sideris. NUCLEAR:
• The Bechtel and Fluor companies are preparing bids to take over the construction of two nuclear reactors at Southern Co.’s Vogtle plant in Georgia from Westinghouse. (Bloomberg)
• Westinghouse has stopped making pension payments to former executives as the company continues to struggle with following its bankruptcy filing and uncertainty over the completion of two nuclear projects. (Reuters)
• The CEO of Westinghouse said in his first public speech since the company’s bankruptcy filing that it will emerge “quickly, better, stronger.” (Bloomberg BNA)

• A coal operation owned West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s family is appealing a $10,000 state fine related to the death of a worker.