Oklahoma Will Charge Customers Who Install Their Own Solar Panels

The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) is promoting legislation with goals ranging from penalizing individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from fulfilling its currently legislated functions.  ALEC sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year.  Those measures were aimed at opposing renewable energy standards, pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline project, and barring any oversight of fracking (hydraulic fracturing).  One such “ALEC” bill has recently come to fruition in Oklahoma, where they’ll now be charging homeowners who have Solar Panels or Wind Turbine generators to use the grid when they have excess generation.  (Those who don’t generate, will NOT be charged grid usage fees, just those who do generate … will.)  In other words, homeowners in Oklahoma with solar panels have to pay the Utilities to let their solar generation support the Utility’s peaking needs.  

I have a solar panel array on my rooftop.  Sometimes I manage to generate more than I use, but that doesn’t happen 24 hours a day.  Nevada Energy utilizes my less expensive generation to help supply its generation needs.  Thus, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  Why should I have to pay to provide them with generation they’ll turn around and sell for more than it cost me to generate it?  

If Nevada is so stupid as to pass the same ill-advised legislation, I’ll invest in batteries and go completely off the grid!  Nevada Energy will just have to figure out where it’s going to get the money to build more expensive generation capabilities to meet its customer’s peaking needs when enough of us have had enough and start dropping off the grid altogether. — Vickie Rock, editor

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— by Kiley Kroh 

solar

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK).

On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard.

“We knew nothing about it and all of a sudden it’s attached to some other bill,” Ctaci Gary, owner of Sun City Oklahoma, told ThinkProgress. “It just appeared out of nowhere.”

Because the surcharge amount has not been determined, Gary is cautious about predicting the impact it will have on her business. She has already received multiple calls from people asking questions about the bill and wanting to have solar systems installed before the new fee takes effect. “We’re going to use it as a marketing tool,” Gary said. “People deserve to have an opportunity [to install their own solar panels] and not be charged.”

“It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own,” said Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman, Oklahoma, in a statement. “Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”

The bill was staunchly opposed by renewable energy advocates, environmental groups and the conservative group TUSK, but had the support of Oklahoma’s major utilities. “Representatives of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma said the surcharge is needed to recover some of the infrastructure costs to send excess electricity safely from distributed generation back to the grid,” the Oklahoman reported.

“We’re not anti-solar or anti-wind or trying to slow this down, we’re just trying to keep it fair,” Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Kathleen O’Shea told the Oklahoman. “We’ve been studying this trend. We know it’s coming, and we want to get ahead of it.”

But distributed energy sources also provide a clear value to utility companies. Solar generates during peak hours, when a utility has to provide electricity to more people than at other times during the day and energy costs are at their highest. Solar panels actually feed excess energy back to the grid, helping to alleviate the pressure during peak demand. In addition, because less electricity is being transmitted to customers through transmission lines, it saves utilities on the wear and tear to the lines and cost of replacing them with new ones.

As the use of solar power skyrockets across the U.S., fights have sprung up in several states over how much customers should be compensated for excess power produced by their solar panels and sold back to the grid — a policy known as net metering. Net metering laws have come under fire from the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group backed by fossil fuel corporations, utility companies, and the ultra-conservative Koch brothers. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have net metering policies in place and ALEC has set its sights on repealing them,referring to homeowners with their own solar panels as “freeriders on the system.” ALEC presented Gov. Fallin the Thomas Jefferson Freedom award last year for her “record of advancing the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty as a nationally recognized leader.”

Oklahoma “could be the first complete defeat for solar advocates in their fight against utility efforts to recover costs lost to DG [distributed generation] use,”writes Utility Dive. Net metering survived attacks in Colorado  and Kansas  and Vermont recently increased its policy in a bipartisan effort. Last year, Arizona added what amounts to a $5 per month surcharge for solar customers, a move that was widely seen as a compromise, particularly after ALEC and other Koch-backed groups got involved.

While any extra charge placed on potential customers is a concern, Gary hopes that like Arizona, Oklahoma’s fee is modest enough to protect her business from serious damage.

Matt Kasper, energy research assistant at the Center for American Progress, contributed to this piece.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

A Letter to Governor Sandoval

— originally drafted by Christian Gerlach and edited by Vickie Rock

Dear Governor Brian Sandoval,

Can you please explain why the Nevada Division of Water Resources has denied new water wells to farmers and ranchers due to drought in northern Nevada, yet that same Division has approved permits for oil companies like Noble Energy, a corporation that plans to use millions of gallons of our ground water to hydraulically fracture in a known seismic zone?

Farmers and ranchers actually return something of value to humanity.  Frackers, on the other hand, infuse our limited water resources with hundreds of nasty chemicals, including known carcinogens like benzene and glycol-ethers (precursors to plastics).  In that process, the water consumed by frackers is rendered unusable, except for more fracking.

Governor, you are allowing state agencies, that are supposed to protect our citizenry and natural resources, to disregard measures that ensure the public’s safety. SB390, as passed, makes it such that companies like Noble Energy can literally frack Nevadans, without any fear of recourse for any misdeeds or damage the create environmentally or ecologically.

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is being paid by Noble Energy to do studies on the areas that are going to be fracked.  And, according to the Nevada Division of Minerals, the results of DRI’s study can be kept confidential at the request of Noble Energy for potentially, an undisclosed amount of time. Studies are NOT being done independently of Noble Energy, and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection won’t be required until 2015 to come out with its own study of fracking’s impact.  How is this not a conflict of interest? Something that puts people’s livelihoods on the line? The people of rural Nevada don’t have the luxury of LakeTahoe or LakeMead. Northern Nevadans have water wells that could easily be poisoned through fracking processes.

On March 13th 2013,  KNPR’s State of Nevada had Rayola Dougher, a senior economic adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, as a guest. She misled KNPR’s listeners as to the safety of fracking.  Ms. Dougher failed to mention that the process is exempt from seven major federal regulations:

Really?  Please explain how SB390 which you signed into law will protect our municipal water supplies.  I’d love to hear or read that explanation.

Another fact, which was taken offline by Nevada Public Radio (@KNPR), is that a man by the name of David Focardi commented about the interview.  Mr. Focardi commented that he had worked on oil rigs in Nevada and that there was fresh water up to 14,000 feet deep. I reached out to Mr. Focardi, but he has yet to answer any of my correspondence.

According to Mr. Lowell Price of the Nevada Division of Minerals, fracking would take place in the 7000 to 9000 foot depth range.  And while our ground water aquifers may be at depths of say 14,000 feet, our “ground” is riddled with fault lines. Those fault lines mean that there may not be an impervious layer of rock between where hydraulic fracturing is proposed to take place and the actual aquifer feeding our communities with drinking water.  Those fault lines may also provide connections between subterraneous channels and the different aquifers of water supporting our communities.  Once that water is contaminated, what happens to our communities.  The only good that may come from fracking, if you really can call that “good” — is that I guess that would mean you won’t be grabbing any of that water from contaminated northern Nevada aquifers for use in Las Vegas and its suburbs.  But then, that’s a whole different letter for another day.

Fracking processes require thousands of gallons of water-laden frack fluid PER MINUTE pumped under high pressures into deep horizontally drilled oil/gas wells.  Frack fluid could be released through a fault line or a fracture created by fracking into municipal ground water. When I spoke to someone at the Desert Research Institute they said that a geological study is being done and any “study” would remain the proprietary information of Noble Energy.  So, even if Noble Energy or the Desert Research Institute found fault lines they won’t be required to tell anyone about it.  Reliance on secret and proprietary studies conducted by organizations that would have significant incentive to conceal any information that might have an adverse effect on approval, is tantamount to malfeasance in governance on your part.

I realize that if Noble Energy had to release information as to where the oil is, that could allow other oil companies to come in and undercut Noble Energy.  But there needs to be a work-around to ensure our water resources are not placed at risk.  The risk to human health and life should matter more than any sum of profit for a single corporation.

So I ask you Governor why frack with us or allow others to do so? There is already oil drilling in Nevada done without Fracking. Why must we frack? I say bring oil jobs to Nevada if you must, but don’t frack!  Now the reason I post this is because of what you promote, Governor Sandoval.  You keep saying it’s about jobs and that Hydraulic Fracturing would bring jobs to Nevada. The truth is, these jobs won’t be widespread nor will they sustainable lest there are thousands of oil/frack wells, like there are in Texas or North Dakota.  But, Mr. Governor, we do NOT have the water resources to make that happen.  And what water we do have, won’t be usable for human consumption once Frackers are done with it.  So. Mr. Governor, when all is said and done, what jobs you create would be for naught, as without drinkable water, Nevadans will no longer be able to live anywhere near the wastelands created by the Frackers.

Save Nevada’s Water —Ban Fracking in Nevada

TO: NEVADA’S GOVERNOR, NEVADA BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, AND NEVADA DIVISION OF MINERALS

Pass Legislation in the state of Nevada banning the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the extraction of natural gas and oil, and/or convince the administrators within The Nevada Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Division of Minerals with the power to stop the gas and oil companies from fracking Nevada and deny further permits to Noble Energy and others whom seek permits for similar purposes. But Don’t just wait for the Petition, give the powers that be a piece of your mind.

  • Call Governor Brian Sandoval at (702) 486-2500 and Phone: (775) 684-5670
  • Call The Nevada Division of Minerals Mr. Lowell Price or Alan Coyner (775) 684-7040
  • The Desert Research Institute (775) 673-7300
  • The Nevada Department Of Environmental Protection Mr. Alan Tinney (775) 687-9433

Why is this important?

Hydraulic Fracturing is the process by which thousands of gallons of water per minute and various chemicals including known carcinogens are injected underground at high pressures to break up rock to release natural gas and oil for extraction. This process is not the only way the gas and oil companies drill for gas and oil. It is just that this process releases more oil and natural gas in theory. The EPA website explains the process and has a subsequent link to an interactive presentation explaining the process in detail presented by National Geographic.

The problem is that this water after having been infused with the chemicals often gets into the water table and poisons the water. Furthermore hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and any oversight from government agencies because The 2005 Energy Act and the Halliburton Loophole.

(ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005. Go to Page 102, Section 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING. SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING. Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:

(1) UNDERGROUND INJECTION. The term underground injection

(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and

(B) EXCLUDES

(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and

(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.)

In England hydraulic fracturing has been linked to causing earth quakes by changing underground topography and resulting subterranean settling. In Oklahoma the state is investigating the link between hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes.

The problem has gotten so bad, that in some areas that get their water from wells, the wells themselves end up venting natural gas resulting in flammable water well heads and flammable gas build up in plumbing systems. In Wyoming hydraulic fracturing has poisoned ranchers water to the point to which one can fill up a trough and take a blow torch to the surface of it and form plastics from all the chemicals infused with the water.

Water is the most precious resource in the desert! The gas and oil companies plan on starting hydraulic fracturing in the state of Nevada. Proposed counties include Southern Clark, Nye, and Elko.

This could cripple our tourism industry too. There are assertions we lost a lot of visitors just with the talk of possible ground water contamination from the Yucca mountain project, so can you imagine what this could do to our state? Not to mention what could happen to the ranchers in northern Nevada, their waters, and industries. We need help getting the campaign off the ground. We need volunteers to collect signatures. We need to spread the word about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing. And we need to ban hydraulic fracturing in Nevada!

Sign-the-Petition-gold.fw

REFERENCES

A Deadly Power Surge

Fracking might be profitable, but whether it’s good for anything else is doubtful.

— by Jill Richardson

Jill Richardson

Jacki Schilke was suffering from symptoms ranging from rashes, pain, and lightheadedness to dental problems and urinating blood. The formerly healthy, 53-year-old cattle rancher’s body was under assault from a list of toxic chemicals as long as your arm.

But Schilke’s lucky — so far — compared to five of her cows. They died.

Richardson-Fracking-Oly-Pentax

The rancher’s problems might become worse in time, since the chemicals causing her acute problems are also linked to chronic, deadly diseases like cancer.

What’s afflicting Schilke and her cows? The oil and gas drilling craze known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. As The Nation magazine and the Great Plains Examiner reported last year, Oasis Petroleum started fracking on land three miles from her ranch in 2010. Oasis got money, the world got more energy from the gas they drilled, and Schilke got sick. Now, she won’t even eat her own beef.

If the results of fracking were virtually unknown a decade ago, before it became a common practice in states like Pennsylvania and Schilke’s home of North Dakota, there’s no mystery remaining now.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, when you pump a cocktail of toxic chemicals into the ground to dislodge fossil fuels, there’s a cocktail of toxic chemicals in the ground. And some of those toxins don’t stay put. Those toxic chemicals make their way into the water, the soil, and the air, and they’re EXEMPT from regulation under the Clean Water Act.  You can thank Dick Cheney for that reckless action.

And the toxins flow from there — into the living things that rely on the water: the soil, the air, plants, animals, and us. We’re fracking our food.

Yet President Barack Obama is a big fracking supporter. He called natural gas a form of “clean energy” in the big address on global warming he delivered in June, touting the nation’s production of more natural gas “than any other country on Earth.” Then he said, “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”

Right. Compared to other forms of dirty energy, natural gas might reduce our carbon emissions. But at what cost?

If our only energy options were oil, coal, and natural gas, we’d be in a rotten Catch-22. Luckily, we have more choices than that. There are growing solar, wind, and geothermal options. Perhaps the most overlooked alternative is increasing efficiency.

I visited the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, two years ago. The school had made a big effort to reduce its energy use. In one building, I saw a hallway that used to have its lights turned on all the time. The builders had never even installed switches to turn them off.

Decades ago, energy was “too cheap to meter.” It seemed cheaper to just leave the lights on all the time than to wire them to be turned off. That’s changed. After some retrofitting, the lights can be turned off.

How many other buildings and homes have no light switches, insufficient insulation, or old, power-guzzling appliances? How many are still being built without taking advantage of the most up-to-date methods that curb energy use?

Obama proudly spoke of doubling America’s use of solar and wind power in the last four years, with plans to double them yet again. He’s right. We increased wind and solar energy from less than 1 percent of our energy in 2007 to less than 2 percent in 2011. (Meanwhile, our reliance on natural gas crept up from 28 percent to 30 percent of total energy consumption, and our total use of energy overall rose in those four years by 9.4 percent — with most of the increase coming from dirty sources.)

Fracking might be profitable, but whether it’s good for anything else is doubtful. Emissions during the fracking process outweigh any benefits of reduced emissions when the fuel obtained is burned. Besides, how does fracking American land make sense if it’s poisoning our food and water supply with chemicals that give us cancer?

Let’s solve our energy problems by increasing efficiency and by turning to truly clean sources of energy: renewable options like solar, wind, and geothermal power.


OtherWords

columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.  OtherWords.org.  Photo Credit:  Oly-Pentax/Flickr

Ban Fracking in Nevada

— by Christian Gerlach

I started my own campaign on CREDO’s new site that allows activists to start their own petitions.

My petition, which is to the Nevada Legislature and Governor Sandoval, asks the following:

Please pass an amendment to the Nevada state constitution banning the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the state of Nevada.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process by which water and various chemicals, including known carcinogens, are injected underground at high pressur to break up rock to release natural gas and oil for extraction.

The problem is that this water, after having been infused with the chemicals, often gets into the water table and poisons the water. Furthermore, hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and any oversight from government agencies because of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and its “Halliburton loophole,” which excludes fracking companies (like Halliburton) from regulation.

Water is our most precious resource in the desert! We need to spread the word about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing in order to ban hydraulic fracturing in Nevada!

Click here to learn more and add your name to my petition to ban fracking in Nevada.