Virginia Senate panel advances fracking, offshore drilling bans

OIL & GAS: A Virginia Senate committee advances two bills that would ban offshore drilling and fracking in most of eastern Virginia. (Associated Press)

ALSO:
• Texas and Oklahoma are exploring the possibility of allowing oil and gas companies to discard wastewater in streams and rivers. (Grist)
• In the two years since an oil well explosion killed five people in Oklahoma, there have been few changes in safety rules. (Houston Chronicle)
• Oil and gas companies continue to find reserves deep in the Gulf of Mexico, despite scaling back drilling. (Offshore)

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Lawmakers in Carolinas seek to break utilities’ monopolies

UTILITIES: A group of lawmakers from North and South Carolina propose legislation that would study electricity market reforms in order to break up Duke and Dominion Energy’s monopolies and create a more competitive system. (WFAE)

ALSO: Western North Carolina residents address utility regulators at a hearing over Duke Energy’s proposal to raise rates to pay for coal ash cleanup and coal plant closures. (News Herald)

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COAL ASH:
• Two bills are introduced in Georgia: one that would require coal ash to be stored in facilities at least as secure as municipal landfills; another to raise the fee local governments can collect for dumping coal ash in landfills. (WABE)
• Georgia Power recorded an increase of $3.1 billion in December 2018 for expected costs related to coal ash regulations, and the 2020 update will be released soon.

Dominion to roll out electric school buses in Virginia this year

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Dominion Energy prepares for its first phase of a large electric school bus initiative in Virginia, with plans to deploy 50 electric buses to 16 municipalities by the end of 2020. (WHSV)

SOLAR:
• The Tennessee Valley Authority considers building a large solar farm on 3,000 acres of land it owns in northern Alabama. (AL.com)
• A Toyota dealership in Austin, Texas, unveils a 275 kilowatt solar project. (Austin American-Statesman)
• Connection to the power grid is a persistent and growing issue between solar developers and Duke Energy in North Carolina. (Charlotte Business Journal, subscription)

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Kentucky miners’ protest ends after coal company pays wages

COAL: A three-day protest by Kentucky coal miners who blocked a railroad track over unpaid wages ends after the company pays all wages. (Lexington Herald-Leader)

ALSO: A federal judge in West Virginia refuses to toss the conviction of former coal company CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate mine safety laws. (Associated Press)

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STORAGE: Florida Power & Light plans to install a mega-battery in a Miami neighborhood big enough to power 7,000 homes for four hours. (Miami Herald)

SOLAR:
• Solar company Silicon Ranch partners with a Georgia livestock farm to encourage regenerative agriculture practices on solar farms. (Solar Power World)
• The first solar panel installation project at West Virginia University, on the law school, should be completed in the spring or summer.

Major Texas oil, gas industry group says it accepts role in climate change

OIL & GAS: The head of the Texas Oil and Gas Association says his industry group agrees fossil fuels contribute to global warming and are “committed to a lower emissions future.” (Houston Public Media)

ALSO:
• Texas’ oil and gas industry could see a major slowdown in 2020 because of high production rates, lower global demand, and other factors. (Texas Tribune)
• A West Virginia House committee advances two bills that would expedite permitting of oil and gas wells in the state. (WV News) 

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PIPELINES: “I was just flabbergasted.” Activists fighting against a planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station in Union Hill, Virginia, react to last week’s federal court ruling against the project. (Energy News Network)

SOLAR: The Southeast will likely have strong solar capacity growth over the next decade despite the phase-out of federal subsidies, according to a research firm’s report.