Daily digest

U.S. Army approves final piece of Dakota Access pipeline; Standing Rock Sioux promise a legal fight

• The U.S. Army approves construction of the Dakota Access pipeline across a disputed section in North Dakota, clearing the way for the project’s completion; the Standing Rock Sioux vow to challenge the decision in court. (Associated Press)
• A federal judge says Dakota Access pipeline protesters involved with violent confrontations with police in November are unlikely to succeed in a lawsuit alleging excessive force and civil rights violations. (Associated Press)

• Minnesota’s largest utility will begin a program this spring allowing businesses and ratepayers to buy electricity directly from two renewable energy projects, though critics say it’s in direct competition with community solar. (Midwest Energy News)
• DTE Energy in Michigan is launching a similar pilot program allowing ratepayers to invest directly in renewable energy projects. (Crain’s Detroit Business)

***SPONSORED LINK: Join the Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) at the Energy Storage Conference, February 15 in Milwaukee. This conference will explore recent advances in energy storage technologies, as well as the applications and in-field examples of the role of energy storage. ***

• A new report shows more than 51,000 solar jobs were added nationwide in 2016, a 24.5 percent increase over 2015; solar now employs more than twice as many people as coal. (Washington Post, Vox)
• Several Midwest states also saw solar job growth in 2016, including Michigan (48%), Wisconsin (45%) and Ohio (21%). (Crain’s Detroit Business, Milwaukee Business Journal, Columbus Business First)
• A Wisconsin county may pursue a state grant to help cover the costs of solar installations on government buildings. (Baraboo News Republic)

CLIMATE: A coalition of veteran GOP policymakers will meet with top White House officials today about replacing Obama climate regulations with a nationwide carbon tax. (Washington Post)

• The recent resolution of two sex-bias lawsuits will result in the immediate hiring of women into Illinois coal production jobs. (Associated Press)
• Opponents of Peabody Energy’s reorganization plan file an emergency appeal against the company’s proposal, saying it violates U.S. bankruptcy laws by prematurely requiring creditors to promise to support it. (Reuters)
• A molecular biologist in Illinois expresses concern about the impacts of continuing to burn coal on human health. (McDonough County Voice)

UTILITIES: Michigan-based Consumers Energy said 2016 was a strong year for reliability even as the utility retired more than half of its coal-fired facilities. (RTO Insider)

NUCLEAR: South Dakota lawmakers advance a bill that would require the Legislature’s approval for nuclear waste sites. (Watertown Public Opinion)

OIL BY RAIL: A fiery collision between rail cars — including one that was carrying oil — in 2013 was the result of a defective axle, according to a long-awaited investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. (Forum News Service)

BIOFUELS: Half of the soybean oil produced at a planned $240 million soybean processing plant in North Dakota would produce biodiesel. (Associated Press)

COMMENTARY: Minnesota advocates argue that exempting local electric cooperatives from state regulatory oversight would restrict solar growth in rural parts of the state. (Midwest Energy News)

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