Cost of solar energy vs. natural gas fired electricity

Email Message from James Kotcon to Monongalia County Commissioners, August 8, 2020

Dear Monongalia County Commissioners:

Thank you again for the one hour meeting this past Wednesday, in which we discussed the proposed Longview II (natural gas) and Longview III (solar panels) power plants. It was helpful in understanding the process and some of the issues under consideration for PILOT agreements applicable to these two facilities.

PILOT agreements are “payments in lieu of taxes” which can be interpreted as tax abatement or avoidance for the power company. The Mon County Commission is an important agent for our future.

We had discussed costs of solar energy, and the link below is from the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency (EIA). Tables 1a and 1b discuss the latest “Levelized Cost of Electricity” data for solar and other forms of energy (Feb. 2020). Solar consistently comes in cheaper than combined cycle gas plants, when accounting for existing tax credits.

The report also discusses “regional variability,” however, it is not clear how this applies to West Virginia. I am aware that Longview claims much higher costs for solar in their application, however, those data appear to be several years out of date. In addition, Longview has a history of underestimating the costs of fossil fuel facilities, whereas the cost of solar continues to decline each year.

I would certainly be interested in any recent estimates Longview might offer, or other sources you have to share.

The Energy Information Agency document can be found here:

>>> Jim Kotcon, Conservation Chair, WV Sierra Club


Black drill cuttings at the drill pad in Penna.

Gov. Cuomo signs hazardous waste bill, closing loophole allowing import of gas drilling waste from Pennsylvania

From an Article by Peter Mantius, The Water Front Online, August 5, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill August 3rd that makes New York the first state in the nation to apply hazardous waste laws to potentially toxic oil and gas byproducts.

The action, coming just months after the state codified into law its 2014 policy ban on fracking for shale, solidifies the governor’s legacy of applying public health standards to a powerful and often weakly regulated industry.

The bill’s legislative sponsors and leading environmental groups praised the governor for closing a “dangerous loophole” in the way oil and gas wastes are regulated.

However, throughout Cuomo’s near-decade in office, oil and gas drilling wastes from hundreds of fracked Pennsylvania wells have been dumped in upstate New York landfills and spread on the state’s roadways.

Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation supervised the flood of waste imports with apparent deference to the industry and its backers, downplaying the health risks and even denying outright the existence of the problem.

“No fracking waste is being dumped in New York,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told a legislative hearing on Sept. 7, 2016. That prompted the Poynter Institute’s Politifact to rate the statement “False” on its “Truth-O-Meter.”

That wasn’t an uncharacteristic stray statement. Asked late last month to comment on the hazardous waste bill, a DEC spokesperson provided an agency response that said, in part: “To be clear, there is no loophole for fracking waste.”

Fracking fluids, the July 28 DEC statement to WaterFront continued, are prohibited in New York landfills, while solid wastes imports that are permitted are carefully screened to “protect public health and the environment.”

Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany, said in an affidavit: “The net effect of New York accepting drill cuttings and de-watered mud from Pennsylvania fracking sites will be that New Yorkers will have an increased risk of cancer, especially lung and gastrointestinal cancers, and increase of birth defects coming from DNA damage and an increased risk of shortened life span.”

Anthony Ingraffea, a retired professor of rock mechanics at Cornell University, said in a recent interview: “Perhaps we’ll never know what the environmental and health impacts of all that (fracking waste) currently in New York will be. They’ve made our bed, and now we have to lie in it.”

Since January 2011, New York landfills have imported more than 638 thousand tons of waste from Marcellus shale gas wells in Pennsylvania, according to records that state maintains. (New York doesn’t maintain its own statistics).

Those landfills and unrelated transfer stations have imported more than four thousand barrels of liquid shale drilling wastes. (A graphic in the original article by Melissa Troutman of Earthworks uses Pennsylvania data to show NY imports of Pennsylvania’s shale waste from 2011 to 2019.)


NOTE: This excellent article is quite long and detailed. It should be read in its entirety. The author, Peter Mantius is the creator and editor of The Water Front Online, the region’s only news organization dedicated to environmental issues in the Finger Lakes and Upstate New York.


Costs and Benefits of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Debated in Newsprint

August 7, 2020

Many winners in scrapped pipeline project (Opinion) Letter to Editor of Charleston Gazette-Mail by Jim Kotcon and Kevin Campbell, August 4, 2020 Doug Reynolds, majority owner of HD Media LLC, which owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail, questioned in a recent op-ed whether anyone wins from the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline natural gas project. Unfortunately, [...]

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Human Society is Likely to Collapse by Mid-Century in Theory and Reality

August 6, 2020

Physicists: 90% Chance of Human Society Collapsing Within Decades From am Article by Jordan Davidson, Ecowatch, August 3, 2020 Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that [...]

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Promises of Sustainability from the Chemical Industry Reach New Height

August 5, 2020

Chemours’ Mark Vergnano championing sustainability in chem industry From an Article in Business & Industry Connection (BIC) Magazine, August 1, 2020 ACC chairman, Chemours CEO calls for new era of environmental stewardship As chairman of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) board of directors and co-chair of ACC’s Sustainability Committee, Chemours President and CEO Mark Vergnano [...]

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Water Wells Contaminated by Drilling & Fracking Concerns in Penna.

August 4, 2020

A decade of water woes in Butler County, Pennsylvania From an Article by Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 2, 2020 The Woodlands community in Butler County PA has dealt with water woes for a decade. On a steamy Monday evening in July, just as they have done every other Monday for too long, Janet and [...]

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ARCTIC WARMING & MELTING — Learning Our Lessons

August 3, 2020

A heat wave in Siberia signals dangerous Arctic warming Interview by Bobby Bascomb, Living on Earth, July 15, 2020 Siberia hit a record-high temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on June 20 in the town of Verkhoyansk, north of the Arctic Circle. Scientists say it is an ominous sign of things to come. “I was shocked [...]

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New Plans in Appalachia for Jobs and Environmental Quality

August 2, 2020

Appalachian ‘New Deal’ would create jobs, improve environment From an Article by Chrissy Suttles, Elwood City Ledger, July 21, 2020 Reimagine Appalachia on July 21st released a New Deal-style policy framework to expand economic opportunity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region. A collective of environmental and economic policy groups in the region want [...]

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BARGING Oil and Gas WASTE on the OHIO RIVER is Too Much RISK

August 1, 2020

Drinking Water Dilemma: Barging Oil and Gas Waste on the Ohio River From an Article by Robin Blakeman and Sarah Carballo, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, July 30, 2020 A new threat recently emerged for communities along the Ohio River. Three barge docks are proposed to be built along the river to transport oil and gas [...]

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Update on Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) — Pollution and Environmental Impacts

July 31, 2020

Stop Mountain Valley Pipeline from polluting Southwest Virginia’s water Essay by Nan Gray and Freeda Cathcart, Virginia Mercury, July 30, 2020 Southwest Virginia’s ecosystem is in peril from the negligent construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Our government must protect the water and our environment from the harm of the out-of-control gas industry. Virginia’s Department [...]

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