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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: Cuomo's nuclear plan a reach; GE to pay $2.25M fine

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

Good morning! Only POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it at that time, along with a customized real-time news feed of New York energy policy news throughout the day, please contact us at and we'll set you up for trial access. We’ll send the same newsletter to non-Pro subscribers at 10 a.m. Thank you for reading.

CUOMO PLAN TO SAVE NUKES UNLIKELY — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: On Wednesday, the Cuomo administration floated a plan to the Syracuse Post-Standard that would keep a troubled nuclear plant operating for at least a few more years, but the plan appears to be more negotiation tactic than concrete plan. Neither of the private companies involved committed to the idea, which could position Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a hero to the 600 employees of the James A. FitzPatrick plant in Oswego County who stand to lose their jobs starting next year. The idea proposed by the administration paints the governor as playing a key role in bringing together the two nuclear companies that potentially control the fate of the plant. But company officials say it's a nonstarter.

GE TO PAY $2.25M FINE — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: General Electric has agreed to pay $2.25 million fine for violating state and federal environmental laws in connection with an incinerator it once used at a manufacturing facility north of Albany. Between 1947 and 2007, at its plant in Waterford, GE manufactured sealants made of silicone, which generates hazardous waste. The company had permission to incinerate some of the waste, but had controls installed to prevent hazardous materials from being incinerated. However, federal prosecutors say, GE employees used a computer to override those controls. Between September 2006 and February 2007, employees overrode the system almost 1,900 times, prosecutors said, potentially exposing the public to harmful air pollution, including carbon dioxide, dioxins and furans.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPANY EXEC UNCOMFORTABLE WITH SKELOS ARRANGEMENT — POLITICO New York’s Josefa Velasquez: During a third day of testimony at the corruption trial of former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, an executive at an environmental technology company described tensions in his office, where Adam Skelos, the senator's son, was employed as a consultant. Under cross-examination by defense lawyers, Bjornulf White, a vice president at AbTech Industries, said he had grown uncomfortable with his relationship with the company’s CEO Glenn Rink. “Through the entire relationship I would correct his statements,” White said, adding that he was “generally uncomfortable with the way he would describe certain things and not others.”

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: Providing more than 61 percent of New York’s carbon-free electricity, nuclear energy plants play a vital role in achieving our clean-energy and carbon-reduction goals. New York’s nuclear energy fleet supports about 18,000 jobs and provides $2.5 billion to the state’s GDP. Learn more at **


--Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has petitioned the federal agency responsible for regulating oil trains to reduce the explosiveness of crude oil before it is shipped for transportation.

--Developers of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline announced Wednesday that they will host three public forums on the proposed 400-mile pipeline that will bring Pennsylvania’s fracked gas through New York into New England.

--Niagara County is latest New York county to consider a microbead ban.

--Grist looks at U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson’s climate actions in the House, and likes what it finds.

--Airbnb and NRG are collaborating to encourage people in the Airbnb world to install solar and encourage travelers to stay at their homes. Here’s the release.

--A century-old ladder factory near Albany is now one of the nation’s most energy-efficient residential developments.

SWEET THURSDAY: Let us know anytime if you have tips, story ideas or life advice. We're always here at and And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one. Here’s a handy sign-up link:

HOW CHEAP CRUDE STALLED OIL TRAINS — Bloomberg’s Matthew Phillips: “It’s been several months since an oil train accident grabbed big headlines — but not because there haven’t been any. A single weekend in November saw two trains derail in Wisconsin. The first spilled about 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River, followed a day later by a spill of about 1,000 gallons of North Dakota Bakken crude. This year has already been the costliest by far for crude train explosions. Derailments in 2015 have caused $29.7 million in damage, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, a huge increase from $7.5 million in 2014. Most of this year’s price tag can be attributed to two crashes within a three-week span. The Feb. 16 derailment of a CSX train in West Virginia triggered a massive explosion near a cluster of homes along the Kanawha River and led to more than $23 million in damage. A BNSF train that derailed and exploded in Illinois on March 5 caused an additional $5.5 million in damage. Both trains were carrying highly explosive crude from North Dakota.”

GRID OPERATOR: NEW ENGLAND HAS ENOUGH ELECTRICITY, BUT PIPELINE PROBLEMS PERSIST — Concord Monitor’s David Brooks: “New England has more than enough capacity to meet electricity demands this winter, but the organization that oversees the regional grid continues to warn that the region needs more reliable supplies of natural gas to avoid future problems. ISO New England, which operates the electricity grid in New England, said in its annual project for winter supplies that it has identified 4,220 megawatts of gas-fired power generation ‘at risk of not getting sufficient fuel on any given day.’ That is more than three times the output of Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant. Even so, and even with the closure of power plants such as Vermont Yankee, ISO New England’s winter report indicates that no power shortage is predicted this winter.”

LONG-AWAITED TRANSMISSION REQUESTS TO BOOST CAPACITY — The Associated Press: “Companies designing projects to bring clean electricity to southern New England say they're grateful Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have finally made a request for proposals to carry that power to the region. But meeting the region's longer-term goal of expanding the use of renewable electricity from wind, solar and hydro-electricity will require more transmission capacity than the states requested, said Edward Krapels, the CEO of Anbaric Transmission, which is proposing one project in Maine and another Vermont. ‘Having several states work together is just very constructive and allows larger scale renewable projects to get built, and we like that,’ Krapels said Tuesday.”

DC WEIGHS PEPCO, EXELON MERGER — The Washington Post: “The D.C. Public Service Commission on Wednesday began several days of hearings to determine whether it will reverse itself and approve a proposed $6.4 billion merger between utilities Exelon and Pepco. The three commission members burrowed deeply into the language and technicalities of the contentious deal. Analysts, environmentalists and industry experts from across the country are closely watching the hearings ­because of the merger’s size and the effect it can have on other potential mergers. For most of the day, the questioning was friendly but occasionally dry and highly technical, delving into obscure topics such as wind credits, workforce development, synergies, microgrids and other minutiae.”

VIDEO: Bloomberg video reports, “Ron Mock, CEO of Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Fund which manages C$155 billion, joins Bloomberg TV Canada's Pamela Ritchie to discuss why he's expecting to see a shift of money from traditional energy to clean energy.”

CALIFORNIA WATER WOES CONTINUE — The Associated Press: “Public water agencies that serve millions of residents in drought-weary California might only receive 10 percent of expected supplies in 2016 — half the amount that flowed to them this year through the state’s massive system of reservoirs and canals, state officials say. However, the early estimate could change, depending on the rain and snow that falls this winter, the state’s Department of Water Resources said Tuesday. Forecasters have said a strong El Nino weather system could drench California in the coming months. But one good winter might not be enough to rehydrate the parched state that has endured four bruising years of drought.”

BUSH WOULD HAVE SKIPPED PARIS — The New York Times: "Jeb Bush on Tuesday belittled President Obama’s trip to Paris for the global climate conference, saying that if he were president, he most likely would have skipped the meeting, where officials from nearly 200 nations are seeking to avert potentially catastrophic damage to the environment. Describing Mr. Obama’s remarks at a news conference in France, Mr. Bush said, 'He basically says, "Look, the discussion is over, anyone who disagrees with my nuanced, sophisticated views is an idiot." 'I just disagree with that,' Mr. Bush added."

EXXON HIRES HIGH-POWERED LAWYER TO FIGHT CLIMATE PROBE — Reuters’ Sarah Lynch: “Exxon Mobil Corp. has hired a star attorney in an aggressive response to mounting scrutiny over the company's climate change disclosures, according to people familiar with the matter. They identified the attorney as Theodore V. Wells, Jr., co-chair of the litigation department at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rikfind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began an investigation about a year ago into whether Exxon lied to investors about how climate change risks could hurt its bottom line. Schneiderman's office hit Exxon with subpoenas last month demanding a trove of financial records, emails and other documentation. The company is tentatively due to respond to the requests by mid-December, the sources said.”

DOMESTIC OIL DROPS BELOW $40 — The Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Friedman: “Oil prices fell below $40 a barrel Wednesday amid a growing glut, putting more pressure on an industry that already is a major weak spot for global growth. The immediate cause was a 10th straight weekly rise in U.S. inventories of crude oil at a time of year when they are expected to shrink. The market’s broader problem, however, is that producers in OPEC and the U.S. are locked in a battle for market share that has left the world flooded with oil. For the past several months, Saudi Arabia has led a policy of raising oil output to squeeze presumably weaker U.S. rivals in the U.S. and other countries. But American producers have proved surprisingly resilient, thanks to deep cost cuts and support from banks that have kept loans flowing, helping the industry weather the market’s collapse.”


--Oil: “Crude-oil futures fell 4.6% to $39.94 in New York on Wednesday, leaving them down about 25% for the year. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 4.4% to $42.49 on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Warm weather drops natural gas prices: The mild weather has been bad news for natural gas futures the Journal reports.

“Prices for the front-month January contract settled down 6.6 cents, or 3%, at $2.165 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are still about 13 cents higher than the three-year low that the front-month contract set in October, but since January became the front-month contract last week, it has plumbed depths rarely seen at this time of year.”

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: Some of America’s existing nuclear energy plants face early closure due to current economic and policy conditions. Providing more than 62% of America’s carbon-free electricity, existing, state-of-the-art nuclear energy plants play a vital role in achieving our clean-energy and carbon-reduction goals.

In New York, nuclear energy plants provide 31 percent of the state’s electricity and 61 percent of our carbon-free electricity. The existing nuclear energy plants in New York also support about 18,000 jobs and provide $2.5 billion to the state’s GDP.

If we want to keep New York working, we need policies that will keep New York’s state-of-the-art nuclear energy plants working for all of us. Join us at **

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