July 2021 Vol. 76 No. 7



Broadband Expansion Plan Approved for Two West Virginia Counties 

West Virginia officials approved a $61.3 million broadband infrastructure plan to build fiber lines in Logan and Mingo counties. 

The state Public Service Commission announced it approved the application from Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power. They plan to construct and install more than 400 miles of fiber in the southern counties. There are about 15,200 unserved potential customers in the area, according to the commission. 

The companies will be allowed to recover project costs through a surcharge to customers’ bills. The surcharge for customers is expected to be less than 20 cents per month. 

“Lack of broadband service has a crippling effect in rural areas of West Virginia,” said the chair of the Public Service Commission, Charlotte Lane. “Businesses, schools, and students have suffered and fallen behind due to the lack of connectivity.” 

US Appeals Court Ruling Setback for St. Louis-Area Pipeline 

A federal appeals court panel has struck down the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of a natural gas pipeline that runs through parts of Missouri and Illinois. 

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FERC “failed to adequately balance public benefits and adverse impacts” in approving the 65-mile-long Spire STL Pipeline and failed to prove that it was really needed. With its June 23 ruling, the court sent the matter back to FERC. 

A statement from Spire, a St. Louis-based natural gas company with 1.7 million customers in Missouri, Alabama and Mississippi, called the ruling disappointing and said the company is considering its next move. The statement said the ruling jeopardizes “reliable and critical energy access to 650,000 homes and businesses throughout the St. Louis region.” 

But the appeals panel wrote that the evidence showed the pipeline “is not being built to serve increasing load demand and that there is no indication the new pipeline will lead to cost savings.” 

FERC granted approval for the pipeline in 2018. Spire said it has been fully operational since 2019. The lawsuit challenging the pipeline was filed by the Environmental Defense Fund. 

Prysmian Group Awarded 350-mile HVDC Link Project 

SOO Green HVDC Link announced the selection of Prysmian Group to develop a 350-mile underground transmission project designed to supply low-cost renewable energy from Chicago to the Mid-Atlantic region. 

The 2,100-megawatt interregional project considered the first link in a national clean energy grid will connect two of the largest energy markets in the US. By linking the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) serving the central US, to the eastern PJM Interconnection, SOO Green will deliver abundant, low-cost renewable energy to population centers. 

With a value of approximately $900 million, Prysmian Group will HVDC cable with capacity to transmit enough renewable energy to power more than 1.2 million homes. The award is subject to the finalization of the contract. 

If finalized, the construction part of the project will be performed by Jingoli Power and will be added to the overall contract value. Prysmian will be responsible for the full turnkey contract. The 350-mile-long project will require 700 miles of paired ±525 kV cross-linked polyethylene class cables installed underground primarily along existing railroad rights-of-way connecting SOO Green’s converter station in northern Iowa to its Illinois converter station just west of Chicago. Cable production for the project is expected to start in 2023. 

Massachusetts City Reaches $100M Settlement to Repair Sewers 

The city of Quincy, Mass., has agreed to invest some $100 million over more than 10 years to repair its stormwater system after being sued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. attorney’s office for violations of the Clean Water Act. 

The city was sued two years ago after officials found that its wastewater system was discharging pollutants into waterways like Quincy Bay, Dorchester Bay, Hingham Bay, the Neponset River and Boston Harbor. 

Under the consent decree, the city will adhere to a schedule to identify and repair leaks in its stormwater and sewerage systems. It will first monitor stormwater outfalls that may contaminate beaches and post notices warning when there is potentially contaminated water. 

The repairs must be completed by 2034, and the city will pay a civil penalty of $115,000. 

Christopher Walker, chief of staff to Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, told the Boston Globe that the city has spent as much as $8 million of its $400 million annual budget on repairs of the wastewater system. 

Colorado Company Settles Alleged Clean Water Act Violations 

A Colorado company has agreed to settle alleged Clean Water Act violations stemming from the company’s oil production activities in North Dakota, federal officials said. 

As part of the settlement, Phoenix Petroleum LLC has agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said. 

The EPA said inspections of two of the Denver-based company’s tank batteries in Divide and Williams counties in 2015 found inadequate spill prevention plans and containment measures. 

The EPA said Phoenix in January submitted an acceptable spill prevention plan and “photographic evidence confirming the necessary technical corrections had been made at the two facilities.” 

Federal regulators said discharges from the facilities have the potential to impact White Earth Creek, a tributary to the White Earth River in western North Dakota. 

Citgo to Pay $19.7M for Louisiana Wastewater Spill Damage 

Citgo Petroleum Corp. of Houston has agreed to pay $19.7 million for environmental damage from a 2006 spill at a Louisiana refinery, the U.S. Department of Justice said. 

The agreement settles both state and federal environmental claims from the 2.2 million-gallon spill at the Lake Charles refinery’s wastewater treatment facility, a news release said. 

State and federal trustees will work together on restoration projects using nearly $19.2 million, the statement said. It said the remaining  
$528,000 will cover the remaining costs of the damage assessment. 

The payment is in addition to $97 million in earlier penalties and fines, the Justice Department said. It said Citgo has paid an $81 million Clean Water Act penalty, a $13 million criminal fine and $3 million to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. 

The “slop oil” and “untold millions of gallons of oily wastewater” spilled into the Calcasieu River and other waterways from overflowing wastewater tanks during a storm in 2006, the department said. 

Civil Engineers Give D.C. Infrastructure “C” Grade 

The National Capital Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the 2021 Report Card for Washington D.C.’s Infrastructure, giving it an overall grade of “C,” meaning its infrastructure is in mediocre condition. 

The district has implemented strategies to modernize its energy and wastewater infrastructure to ensure reliable service to District residents, it said, but the city’s levees and transit network are not prepared to meet future needs. 

“The capital’s infrastructure systems are getting closer to where we want them to be” said Ranjit Sahai, P.E., ASCE’s D.C. Report Card Committee Chair. “We have seen encouraging trends since the 2016 report was issued when the grade was a ‘C-‘, but D.C. must continue to explore all solutions to improve the grades if we are to accommodate a growing population and economy in the future.” 

D.C.’s energy (C+) and wastewater (B-) infrastructure have seen significant investment and innovative practices in recent years. D.C. has provided incentives to encourage more generation in the city from rooftop solar resources. The D.C. energy sector also landed the Power Line Undergrounding project in 2012, a $500 million, multi-year initiative to bury distribution lines to protect them from storms. 

Kentucky Town Receives Federal Funding for Water System 

The western Kentucky city of Earlington is receiving $610,000 in federal funding to improve its water infrastructure. 

The city will use the money for water system improvements. The project will also get $390,000 in local matching funds, according to a media release from the governor’s office. 

“These improvements will ensure the city of Earlington has the capacity to provide water and sanitation to any company looking to expand or relocate to our region,” Earlington Mayor Philip Hunt said. The improvements are expected to create 20 jobs. 

John Deere Celebrates 50 Years of Backhoe Loaders 

John Deere is celebrating 50 years of backhoe loaders, a history that started with the introduction of the JD310 model in 1971. Today, the 310L, the latest generation of the original model, remains a cornerstone within the John Deere backhoe lineup as a result of the continuous improvement to its design and performance. 

“This anniversary celebrates half a century of reliability and providing customer value stemming from the introduction of our backhoe lineup in 1971,” said Brian Hennings, product manager, John Deere Construction & Forestry. “We are proud of the advancements we’ve made to our backhoe loader line in the last 50 years and are committed to providing our customers with continued innovation.” 

As a commitment to the next generation of backhoe loaders, John Deere has begun joint-testing its first-ever battery electric backhoe loader with National Grid, an electricity, natural gas and clean energy delivery company. Aimed at lowering its carbon footprint and promoting sustainability, the Deere E-Power backhoe loader targets the performance of a 100-horsepower 310L diesel-powered machine, but with zero tailpipe emissions. 

As part of John Deere’s celebration of the anniversary, it has created a replica toy model of the original JD310 backhoe loader.  

Louisiana Plans $180M Fiber Expansion Effort 

Louisiana intends to spend $180 million over three years on grants to telecommunication firms that construct broadband internet infrastructure in underserved communities, hoping to lessen a technology gap exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

For thousands of Louisiana households and businesses, affordable high-speed internet is out of reach, making simple tasks of modern living such as internet browsing, online shopping or watching a YouTube video often impossible. 

The Advocate reports the problem is particularly acute in Louisiana’s rural communities — where residents are widely dispersed and internet providers have little incentive to shell out the capital it takes to install fiber cables, the gold standard of broadband capabilities. 

Louisiana lawmakers earmarked millions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief aid to try to address the problem by subsidizing broadband projects. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ newly created Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity will run the grant program. 

To get the grants, firms will have to cover at least 20 percent of costs and be required to provide high-speed internet at affordable prices for the next five years. The projects will be evaluated based on how many households and businesses they serve, and ones that receive buy-in from local governments will earn extra points. 

Rep. Daryl Deshotel, a Marksville Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the state’s economic growth will depend on lessening the connectivity divide. 

“Louisiana is going to battle with other states to attract new industries,” Deshotel told The Advocate. “Do we want to go to battle with 60 percent of our soldiers? Because that’s who participates in our digital economy at the moment.” 

To bring high-speed internet to every household in Louisiana, the state would need to invest around $1.1 billion, according to Veneeth Iyengar, head of Edwards’ Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity. 

With $180 million, up to 145,000 households could become connected to high-speed internet, Iyengar said. 

Complimenting those efforts is another $372 million the federal government awarded directly to providers last year to extend coverage over the next decade to 175,000 households and businesses. 

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