Tuesday Roundup: Fights over Energy
Kentucky county passes moratorium opposing gas-liquids pipeline • Nez Perce attempt to block “megaload” carrying equipment to tar sands• Wind power has difficulty reaching customers • Labor uncertainties create push for mechanization in Maine.
Kylene White/The Courier-JournalOpponents of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline in Kentucky rallied in Frankfort last week on the steps of the State Capitol.
The pipeline would carry natural gas liquids, which contain a variety of “hazardous hydrocarbons,” according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
Several other Kentucky counties have passed resolutions opposing the pipeline, but Franklin County, which includes Frankfort, the state capital, is the first to enact a moratorium. The measure blocks for one year new applications for roadway crossings for pipelines carrying hazardous materials.
The impact of the moratorium is uncertain because the federal Department of Transportation preempts local and state safety standards.
After facing opposition in Kentucky, the company developing the pipeline announced a $400,000 annual grant program for communities along the pipeline’s route through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky.
Nez Perce Oppose “Megaload.” The Nez Perce Tribe and an environmental group are suing the U.S. Forest Service for not stopping shipment of massive equipment through tribal lands. The equipment is headed through Idaho and Montana en route to Alberta, Canada, where it will be used in tar sands mining.
Protesters tried to block the shipment, called the “megaload,” three nights last week, resulting in the arrest of 32 people. The protests on Idaho’s Highway 12 delayed the shipment of a two-story, 255-foot-long water evaporator. But the load eventually made its way through the state and into Montana.
The twisting road on which the equipment was transported runs through Nez Perce tribal lands and includes religious and cultural sites and a federally protected corridor.
Video shot by participants shows protesters blockading the highway in the face of tribal and state police. The protest was accompanied by Nez Perce drumming and singing.
A similar shipment of equipment through the Nez Perce tribal lands is expected at the end of August.
Wind Energy Dilemma. Power companies are having difficulty integrating wind generation into the power grid, the Associated Press reports, resulting in a scaling back of wind-power sources just at the time power demands are at their greatest.
During last month’s heat wave in the northeast, two wind farms in Maine and Vermont were ordered to reduce electrical production. The problem is how the power is delivered to customers:
Built on far-flung mountain ridges and hilltops, wind turbines routinely encounter bottlenecks as they send electricity to the regional power grid. At times of peak demand, energy producers are sometimes brought offline or scaled back to keep power lines from overheating, sagging or even catching fire. There’s also concern that if the system is operating at full capacity and a transmission line should fail, it could overload other sections of the grid and cause a broader failure.
British Fracking. Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is expanding in Great Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron is attempting to assuage concerns that the method of extracting natural gas will harm the environment, The Times of London reports.
Not Enough Labor. Blueberry producers in Maine are mechanizing harvesting in response to a labor shortage, Reuters reports. The work was previously done by migrant labor. But uncertainty about immigration reform and the supply of workers has pushed blueberry farmers to turn to machines. The Maine Wild Blueberry Association says the number of seasonal workers who pick berries has dropped by 80% in the past 15 years:
Jobs previously filled by those with dubious documents haven’t transferred to Americans, as some proponents of E-Verify anticipated. Instead, many of Maine’s largest growers have pushed to mechanize the harvest, eliminating many of the once-coveted seasonal jobs.
It is an unexpected consequence, observers said, of decades of uncertainty and political wrangling over immigration reform.
“Whether you’re running a business or a family, everyone here just wants some long-term clarity on the issue. You can’t plan for five years ahead because you don’t know what the law will look like,” said Ian Yaffe, executive director of Mano en Mano, a local group that aids migrant farm workers.