Daily digest

Judge sharply critical of coal donations to N.D. regulators

COAL: A federal judge says it is “ill-advised” and “devoid of common sense” for North Dakota regulators to take campaign contributions from the coal industry, but nevertheless rejects a lawsuit challenging the legality of the practice. (Fargo Forum)

ALSO: A coal plant malfunction sends a cloud of fly ash over Springfield, Missouri. (Springfield News-Leader)

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TRANSMISSION: A pair of utilities propose a new transmission line connecting Madison and LaCrosse; and as landowners see neighbors receiving annual payments for wind turbines, they’re asking why they can’t get the same deal for power lines. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Midwest Energy News)

FRACKING: Michigan regulators propose tougher restrictions on fracking, in response to concerns raised at more than 200 public meetings over the past two years. (MLive)

OIL: Drilling activity slows in Kansas as an anticipated boom fails to materialize, North Dakota regulators approve a revised plan for drilling near Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and North Dakota’s attorney general warns the public’s tolerance for flaring natural gas “is coming to an end.” (Kansas City Star, Associated Press, Forum News Service)

PIPELINES: A report finds that federal regulators in charge of pipeline oversight spend more time at industry conferences than they do responding to spills and other incidents. (Huffington Post)

NUCLEAR: Former EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman is bullish on the future of Michigan’s Palisades nuclear plant, and the University of Missouri gets $1.8 million to study small modular reactors. (MLive, Associated Press)

OHIO: A new report ranks Ohio last among 12 Midwest states for renewable energy generation; meanwhile, the state’s largest rooftop solar array, atop a GM plant in Toledo, is on track to be completed next month. (Columbus Business First, Toledo Blade)

BIOFUELS: How cellulosic biofuel research is also expanding knowledge about insect species that once thrived on native prairies. (Pierre Capital Journal)

EFFICIENCY: A Minnesota project aims to catalog all of the state’s Energy Star-certified buildings. (Rochester Post-Bulletin)

TRANSPORTATION: An update on high-speed rail proposals around the U.S. (The Atlantic)

COMMENTARY: One study should ease climate concerns about methane emissions from fracking, while another says wider use of shale gas won’t provide any long-term climate benefits, either. (The Energy Collective, Climate Progress)

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