Sunday, April 17, 2016

Energy, Transportation & Water News

Bill Would Change Electric Ratemaking in Missouri

State Rep. Rocky Miller, who represents parts of Camden and Miller Counties near Osage Beach, introduced the 21st Century Grid Modernization and Security Act (HB2816). The bill would substantially change the state’s method of regulating electric utility rates. The method is modeled on processes in Illinois and would allow annual adjustments to electric rates.

Another portion of the bill substantially changes provision related to special electric rates for aluminum smelters. This is largely driven by Noranda, which operates smelter in New Madrid. It seems unlikely that lower or more flexible electric rates will save the company from plummeting aluminum prices.

With the exception of Noranda, large electricity users in Missouri have generally come out against the proposal. Some companies that have expressed opposition to the bill are Purina, Bayer, Ford, General Motors and Procter & Gamble. You can read more about this topic here.

Poop to Power Project Coming to North Carolina

Duke Energy has contracted with Carbon Cycle Energy for the construction and operation of a facility to process animal waste to produce methane gas for fuel. Waste will come from area pig and chicken farms. The gas will be piped to Duke plants as fuel in electric power generation.

North Carolina is the second largest pork producing state in the U.S. Duke is a major electric power producer, particularly in the Carolinas. Carbon Cycle is based in Colorado.

Barrel Bob Found

Barrel Bob, a character that serves as spokesman for worksite safety for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), was found in Columbia on April 1 (no fooling) after he was stolen from his roadside station at highway construction site in Jefferson City on March 19.   The statue, constructed from used orange and reflective white barrels and cones, was previously set on fire by vandals at this location.

This statue was one of seven Barrel Bobs. Each of MoDOT’s districts has one. Bob was scheduled to make appearances at events to promote highway worksite safety beginning April 11, so the agency had resorted to building a new statue before Bob was found. You can find out more here, here and here.

Missourians Could Vote on Fuel Tax Increase

A bill (SB623) is making its way through the Missouri Senate that could increase the state fuel tax from 17 cents per gallon to 22.9 cents per gallon. The tax, if implemented, is expected to bring in $240 million annually. The bill would place a referendum on the November ballot, meaning it would have to be approved directly by voters. Before getting that far, it must complete its path through the General Assembly. The Senate is expected to pass the bill in its final vote in the first full week of April. Afterward it will be considered by the state House of Representatives, where it is not expected to be warmly received. You can read more about this here, here and here.

Significant funding for Missouri roads comes from the federal government (which has its own funding issues). MoDOT is preparing to use cash reserves to match federal grants for transportation projects (more here).

Name a Missouri Highway

An alternative to increased fuel taxes could be the auctioning of naming rights for highways. There is no estimate of how much revenue it could raise, but I’ll go out on a limb to say not enough to persuade the General Assembly to this bill. You can read the bill here. I have the impression the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who covered this story must have chuckled as he typed.

Antibiotic Resistance Found in Bacteria Downstream of Wastewater Discharge

Researchers studying the biofilm in a Spanish river found antibiotic resistance genes. These genes occurred as far as 1 km (0.6 mile) downstream from the of a wastewater treatment plant. The genes provide resistance to some antibiotics commonly used in hospitals. You can find more here. In response to the issue of pharmaceutical pollution, some chemists are considering biodegradable drugs.

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