Environmental Issues

A Soaring Success

Luminant Completes Eagle Nest Relocation Effort

An abundance of wildlife, including numerous bald eagles, call Luminant’s sites and reclaimed land home. When Liberty Mine’s resident bald eagle pair returns this fall, they’ll find a few home renovations – most notably, a new nest location.

The eagles’ nest was recently moved away from mining activities to a new location on company property near Martin Creek Lake in Rusk County. The relocation was a collaborative effort between Luminant’s environmental team, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and avian experts at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.

“The eagles built their nest in 2015 near the company’s lignite coal mining operations. Although no longer listed as endangered, eagles are still protected and Luminant is required to maintain a 660-foot buffer with no mining activity around their nests,” said Pete Okonski, Luminant environmental specialist. “We want this eagle pair to thrive, so we began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and SFA several months ago to determine the new nest location and the best structure design to support the nest.”

Following permit approval by the federal agency, Luminant’s environmental team then began a 10-day monitoring period of the nest to ensure there was no eagle activity. With no eagles in sight, it was time for movingEagle Nest Relocation_rotator day.

“The nest was integrated into the top branching system of a 70-foot loblolly pine tree, which meant we needed to find a way to keep the nest intact,” said Sid Stroud, Luminant environmental manager. “After cutting away the extra limbs, we removed and transported the section of the tree with the nest and secured it on top of a platform made out of repurposed utility poles. This new vantage point provides the eagles with excellent visibility for locating fish and other prey.”

The nest, which is nearly four feet in diameter or approximately the size of semi-truck tire, is now located over 1,000 feet from the old nest site and is far removed from mining activities. According to Okonski, the relocation effort took innovation and teamwork to new heights.

“The entire project was extremely impressive. To see the way our teams and employees worked together, you would think we performed nest relocations on a regular basis,” Okonski said. “We take great pride in our reclamation practices, including our wildlife recovery, enhancement and management programs. We’re hopeful that the eagles will decide to make this new location their permanent home.”

Environmental employees will monitor the nest for eagle activity this fall and for eaglets in the spring.
“We’re respectful of the eagles and other wildlife that live at our facilities and reclaimed land,” Stroud said. “Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in eagle numbers across several of our sites. They truly are a majestic bird.”

Bald Eagle Highpoints: According to the National Eagle Center, the average bald eagle nest is four to five feet in diameter. Each year, the adult pair will add up to two feet of new material to the nest. The largest recorded nest, located in St. Petersburg, Fla., was nearly 10 feet in diameter, 20 feet deep and weighed nearly three tons.

POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for Nov. 17, 2015

Waste-to-Energy; National Community Solar Summit; NRC final rule

POV: Power Breakfast
A nearly daily update of energy-related news:
  • There are conflicting opinions when it comes to waste-to-energy efforts.  Two thought leaders – Nickolas J. Themelis and Jeffrey Morris – present their views on what is to be done with the 1.4 billion tons of municipal solid waste produced each year – a number that is forecasted to double in the next 10 years.
  • The National Community Solar Summit is meeting today at the White House where the Obama Administration is announcing 68 cities, states and business that are partnering to promote community solar.  There will be an emphasis on increasing solar energy for low and moderate income households. Currently, there are at least three Texas based companies, organizations and universities that have joined this effort.
  • The NRC has issued a final rule that amends how they add or edit rules, called the petition for rulemaking (PRM) process. The NRC has updated their website to better explain how to submit a petition.
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for Nov. 10, 2015

President Obama launches Facebook page; FERC asked to revisit PURPA; SEED Collaborative launch

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily update of energy-related news:

  • On November 9, 2105, President Obama launched his own Facebook page to talk about the issues facing the country. In his first post, he discussed efforts to address climate change and the upcoming meeting in Paris. More at The White House Blog.
  • The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is being asked to revisit PURPA, a law enacted in 1978 to promote the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Citing the change that has occurred in the electricity markets and electric grid in the past 40 years, several U.S. Senators are asking for a technical conference to review PURPA.
  • The Energy Department has announced the launch of the SEED Collaborative. The SEED Collaborative is designed to help select cities/states manage building energy performance while seeking opportunities to improve efficiencies. The cities and states that will participate will be announced in 2016.
FN Alex

New York Times Spotlights Texas Retail Electricity Market

Publication notes focus on innovation, customer service, TXU Energy Free Nights

FN Alex

There’s no doubt that Texas’ retail electric market is the most innovative and competitive in the country and today’s New York Times helps reinforce that point with a feature on TXU Energy Free Nights.

The front-page story features the experience of two customers who take advantage of the company’s unique plan by shifting their consumption to “free” time periods. By providing customers choices that fit their lifestyle and give them control over their monthly electric bill, TXU Energy is creating more satisfied and loyal customers.

In the story, Jim Burke, CEO of TXU Energy, said: “Consumer choice, with its impacts and benefits, will drive the future of the power industry.”

Innovations like TXU Energy Free Nights are made possible because Texas’ retail electric market, which features a robust smart meter infrastructure, intense competition and engaged consumers.

Congratulations and Thanks to the City of Dallas for Its Green Commitment

EPA names Dallas largest municipal user of green electricity

The Environment Protection Agency today announced that the City of Dallas is now the country’s No. 1 local government for the use of green electricity and the nation’s No. 7 green electricity user.

The announcement comes as part of the EPA’s Green Power Partners Program. The EPA says the businesses, governments and educational institutions in the program “are helping support the development of new renewable generation capacity nationwide while also helping protect the environment.”

As the city noted in a news release, it took its green power commitment from 50 percent to 100 percent under its new contract with TXU Energy. Overall, city facilities use more than 715,000 megawatt-hours of electricity a year. That’s enough electricity to run almost 50,000 average Texas homes. Since June 1, 100 percent of that electricity has been backed by renewable energy.

“This reflects a great commitment by the city, as well as our ability to develop comprehensive and customized electricity plans,” said Gabe Castro, vice president of business for TXU Energy. “We appreciate the opportunity to power the business and the safety of the City of Dallas.”

In addition to retail electricity services, TXU Energy has provided the City of Dallas with funding for energy conservation programs, including lighting and lighting controls that allow the city to spend less.

“TXU Energy’s help is an example of how public-private partnerships can deliver positive results for taxpayers,” Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said.

POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for Oct. 21, 2015

Demand response case in the highest court; Texans' complaints at lowest levels since '02; NRDC weighs in on CPP

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily round-up of energy-related news:

  • The Washington Post examines the electricity innovation case , “so controversial that it’s now before the Supreme Court.”  The case involves the complex intersection of demand response programs with FERC regulation and, in particular, the propriety of FERC’s overview of demand response programs that have historically been the exclusive domain of state regulators.
  • Texans appear to be happier than ever with their retail electricity providers, as reported by the Texas Tribune.  Complaints filed with regulators about electric companies and utilities this year fell to their lowest level since the state deregulated its power market in 2002, according to the analysis by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power.
  • In a sign of continuing disagreement over the impact of the Clean Power Plan, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) wrote that – while coal plants may close as a result of the Plan — wind and solar power and energy efficiency will more than make up for any shuttered plants.  The NRDC observes that, “Despite the headlines, a close look at ERCOT’s report confirms that Texas should have no problem meeting the Clean Power Plan’s carbon pollution limits.”
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for Oct. 20, 2015

Fixed costs possible increase; P&G turns to wind power; certain companies' commitment to reducing carbon emissions

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily round-up of energy-related news for your consideration:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that utilities — because the grid is becoming a more “complex machine — are seeking to increase their monthly fees by double-digit percentages, raising them to $25 or more a month regardless of the amount of power consumers use. The utilities argue that the fees should cover a bigger proportion of the fixed costs of the electric grid, including maintenance and repairs.
  • Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble is turning to wind power for of its North American plants that manufacture home care and fabric products.  To do so, P&G is teaming with EDF Renewable Energy to build a wind farm in Texas.  It is the Company’s biggest foray into wind power and, as The New York Times writes, represents an effort to, “garner good will with environmentally conscious consumers at a time when personal care companies are under more pressure than ever to respond to their concerns.”
  • The New York Times also covered the Obama Administration’s announcement that it had teamed up with 81 American companies to commit to a “large reduction” in carbon emissions.  For many of the companies involved, the actual emissions commitments were a combination of old and new programs. Nonetheless, the Administration summarized the development as showing that, “international action on climate [is] not only good for our climate but good for the bottom line.”
POV: Power Breakfast

Power Breakfast for Oct. 14, 2015

EDF reports on Texas; WSJ reports on coal mines for sale; Bloomberg reports on global energy trends

POV: Power Breakfast

A nearly daily round-up of energy-related news for your consideration:

  • The Environmental Defense Fund published a report yesterday that suggests Texas will be 88% of the way toward compliance with the Clean Power Plan by virtue of market trends and that the state should capitalize on its existing momentum. Here’s the full report: Well Within Reach: How Texas Can Comply with and Benefit from the Clean Power Plan, and here‘s the accompanying press release.
  • The WSJ reports many coal mines are for sale, but, “For now, analysts say, deal-making in the U.S. coal sector features mainly smaller players picking off modest mining operations.” (Sub. req.)
  • Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says we are in the “age of plenty” and cited three global trends: “1. Cheap fossil fuels are here to stay because production costs are tumbling. 2. Intermittent renewables will dominate electricity supply by 2040, with huge challenges for grid managers. 3. Electricity demand is flattening out, losing its link with economic growth.”