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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: NRG to mothball Astoria units; sustainable bathrooms

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

Good morning! Only POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive an enhanced version of this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it, 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. Thank you for reading.

NRG ASKS TO MOTHBALL ASTORIA UNITS — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: NRG Energy has asked New York State for permission to mothball three units at its Astoria Gas Turbine generating station in Queens, according to a request filed with the state Department of Public Service. Plants in Astoria are a major source of electricity for the power hungry city, and the NRG facility provides roughly 610 megawatts.

POTTY TALK: Washington Square Park is home to an award-winning bathroom that has won plaudits for its design and environmental attributes. The public restroom, designed by BKSK Architects LLP, received two awards this year — one from the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects and another, the Palladio Award, for traditional design. The 3,100-square-foot building is crescent-shaped, “similar to a pergola,” with solar panels on its roof and a pump extracting heat from the ground.

BUDDING CONTROVERSY? — POLITICO New York’s Sally Goldenberg: “The de Blasio administration is ending 2015 by addressing a long-standing controversy over the fate of 43 community gardens on city-owned land with a decision that has prompted mixed reactions among New Yorkers close to the divisive issue.”

** 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 **


--An at-risk building owned by the estranged wife of Robert Durst is on the city’s watchlist for a number of utility violations, DNA Info reports. “The building's also been without cooking gas for four months, and currently has 49 open violations for transgressions including water leaks, loose light fixtures and a front door that won't close all the way.”

--Ossining cyclist joins Asia sustainability ride: “An Ossining cyclist is getting ready to participate in an upcoming nine-day bicycle trip in Southeast Asia to promote sustainability and to raise money for environmental causes.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR! We’ll be off until Monday but 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:

MUSK V. RUSSIA — Bloomberg’s Alexei Anishchuk: “Elon Musk’s success in launching reusable space rockets means Russia must make its own projects cheaper as the cash-strapped country struggles to retain its share of the market, the country’s defense-industry chief said. 'The main goal today is to make space cheap,' Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who’s in charge of defense, told Rossiya 24 TV in an interview on Wednesday in Moscow.”

SHELL OPENS THREE WELLS — The New York Times: “Two decades after being discovered, natural gas began flowing on Wednesday from wells off Ireland’s northwest coast. Royal Dutch Shell, the oil company, said it had begun producing gas from undersea wells, part of an effort for Ireland to produce more of its own resources. Opening the taps in the Corrib field, more than 50 miles offshore, is a breakthrough for the oil and gas industry in Ireland, which had mostly disappointing results in recent years while encountering resistance from environmental groups.”

‘SO MUCH OIL’: It’s not every day that Gawker writes about commodities prices. Aggregating mostly from the Wall Street Journal’s commodities reporter, Nicole Friedman, Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan puts the oil situation into a unique (and largely accurate) hot take: ”What happened is that America, the greatest country in the world, started producing a lot of its own oil, so our friends in the Middle East got sad because we weren’t buying all of our oil from them any more, so they started pumping out SO MUCH OIL that oil prices dropped low as hell, because there was suddenly SO MUCH OIL everywhere, in the hope that the rest of the world’s oil producers would look at how hard it was to make money selling this crap now at these rock bottom prices and say 'eh, fuck this,' and give up the old 'oil game,' and then after they got out of the business we would turn back to our friends in the Middle East, who could then start raising the price again.”

--Here is the piece on the same theme by Friedman:

LEADING TO AN OIL SHORTAGE? — The Wall Street Journal: “With the world awash in crude, the oil industry is contemplating a new problem the oversupply could tee up: an oil shortage. As the oil glut has sent prices to decade lows, plummeting investment by oil-producing countries such as Venezuela and Russia and oil drillers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC means fewer barrels will be produced.”

GE TO SEPARATE RENEWABLE UNIT — Reuters: “General Electric Co said it would separate its renewable energy business from its power unit, following the acquisition of Alstom's energy business. The new unit, called renewable energy, will include wind- and hydro-power businesses acquired from Alstom, the company said. GE will also move a part of its distributed power business, which makes turbines, to its oil and gas unit from its power unit.”

WHERE ARE THE MEGADEALS? — The Wall Street Journal: “U.S. oil and gas companies are selling assets and acreage piecemeal as they jockey to survive a downturn in energy prices, and the trend for small transactions looks likely to heat up next year. Few energy companies have engaged in the large-scale mergers that many industry experts predicted would occur after oil prices plunged a year ago.”

ENERGY LEADS ANOTHER DOUR DAY ON WALL ST. — The Associated Press: “The latest downturn in crude oil prices put investors in a selling mood Wednesday, pulling U.S. stocks lower for the second time this week. The market decline, which wiped out some of the gains from a rally the day before, came on lighter-than-usual trading ahead of the New Year's Day holiday. Energy companies fell the most among the 10 sectors in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, 1.5%. The sector is down 23.8% for the year. Southwestern Energy fell 6.8%, while Consol Energy sank 5.6%. The price of oil shed 3.4% on Wednesday, extending its losses for the year to nearly 40%.”

SPACE FUEL — The Washington Post: “Just in time for the new year, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have unveiled the fruits of a different kind of energy research: For the first time in nearly three decades, they’ve produced a special fuel that scientists hope will power the future exploration of deep space.”


--Oil tumbles on supply: As stated earlier, there’s way too much oil on the market right now.

“Light, sweet crude for February delivery settled down $1.27, or 3.35%, at $36.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, declined $1.33, or 3.5%, to $36.46 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Natural gas sinks on weather: Apparently it’s not going to be as cold as we thought.

“Futures for February delivery settled down 15.6 cents, or 6.6%, at $2.214 a million British thermal units.”

** 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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