Smart Grid Could Help with Power Outages, EPA Under Attack Again in Farm Bill, Ohio Rules on Fracking Waste Solution

The heat-driven storms, which pounded the United States east coast last weekend with little warning, knocked out power to 3 million homes and businesses. Many were without power for over 48 hours and even now, six days later, over a million are still in the dark.  Are we doomed to experience blackouts every time a big storm comes along or can all this smart grid technology find a way keep the lights from going out? 

Many in the busines say new technology may help restore power more quickly, but that we are stuck with our line-and-pole distribution system for decades to come. One solution is to make power locally produced. The idea is to combine small-scale power generation with bigger batteries inside the home as a way of weaning your house off the electric grid. That scenario could be a more reliable and quieter back-up system than a firing up a diesel generator when the lights go out, according to Bob Gohn, vice president of research for Boulder-based Pike Research.

A five-year bipartisan farm bill draft was released Thursday that attacked the much-maligned Environmental Protection Agency. Introduced by Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN), the bill passed previously in the House in March 2011 but failed in the Senate. The EPA under this bill would be prohibited from issuing permits under the Clean Water Act for certain pesticides already covered under the agency's Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

The Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission has ruled that Patriot Water Treatment company of Warren, Ohio cannot dump fracking waste into the nearby Mahoning River, and that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was wrong to bar the local sewage treatmant plants from accepting treated fracking waste from companies dumping wastes into the river. However, the city of Warren does not have the authority to accept fracking waste without permission from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. This department, though, does not allow disposal of fracking waste anywhere but in a disposal well. While the Ohio EPA gave tentative approval of Patriot and Warren forming a business partnership back in 2011 to treat the water from fracking, they reversed course later when they violated a law putting gas and oil waste regulations under the control of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.