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POLITICO New York Energy: Boosting oversight of PSC, NYSERDA; PFOA found in second upstate water supply

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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BILL WOULD BOOST LEGISLATURE’S OVERSIGHT OF PSC, NYSERDA — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: A new bill would increase the state Legislature’s oversight of both the Public Service Commission and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Republican state Sen. John DeFrancisco's proposal would give lawmakers more say over spending by the PSC and NYSERSA and over the $5 billion collected from ratepayers over the next decade to support the state’s plan to grow renewable energy. The bill appears to be aimed at the Cuomo administration’s Reforming Energy Vision initiative to increase the amount of renewable energy sources that power the grid and to make it more efficient. Critics contend REV could significantly raise rates for consumers.

SECOND WATER SUPPLY TESTS POSITIVE FOR PFOA — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: A second municipal water supply in upstate New York has tested positive for PFOA. Tests of the water for the town of sburgh in Rensselaer County came back positive for elevated levels of PFOA, the toxic chemical linked to cancer and other serious health conditions, town officials announced Saturday. The state Department of Health has warned local residents not to consume the water and bottled water is now being distributed. The tests show that the village wells tested at just below 100 parts per trillion, the level at which the federal Environmental Protection Agency has warned residents of Hoosick Falls against drinking the water.

URBAN PLANNING IN THE AGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: The designers, scientists, academics and officials who emerged from Rebuild By Design are now taking their collective experience and applying it to cities around the nation and the world, in a program called "100 Resilient Cities." Both programs are funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. They are developing a curriculum for future planners that reflects the various new roles they will have to play to build neighborhoods that thrive in times of peace and are protected in times of tempest. Gone, they say, are the days when an official, a planner and an architect could walk into an area and develop its identity from the top down.”

ASSEMBLYMAN PROPOSES CLEAN WATER INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Two Albany-area assemblymen and elected officials from the Capital District have proposed a program that would give municipalities state money to replace aging infrastructure. Republican Assemblymen James Tedisco and Steve McLaughlin argue that swapping out deteriorating pipes before they burst would save taxpayer money later. On Friday, they sent a letter to Senate majority leader John Flanagan and Assembly speaker Carl Heastie to request the establishment of an annual clean water infrastructure program that would provide money for municipalities to gradually replace their pipes.


--There is a proliferation of plastic in the waterways around New York City.

--New York has 900 solar projects underway through community campaigns that promote renewable energy.

--Thiele calls for more investment in renewable energy: The Shelter Island Reporter reports, “Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) is calling for modernization of Long Island’s energy supply to produce more affordable electricity.His call comes in the wake of PSEG-LI’s announcement that customers’ rates would be rising in March.”

--“State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office has weighed in with ‘concerns’ about a proposed $930 million financing request by LIPA that was held up from approval this week by the Public Authorities Control Board, Newsday’s Mark Harrington reports.

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FISH DEFORMITIES SPIKE AFTER OIL TRAIN SPILL — The Toronto Stars’ Alex Woods: “Scientists have recorded an ‘unprecedented’ spike in the fish deformities in the wake of the deadly 2013 train derailment and oil spill in Lac-Mégantic, Que., according to a provincial government report. The report into the effects of the disaster on the 185-km-long Chaudière River, which begins in Lac Mégantic, found that in some parts of the river, as many as 47 per cent of the fish they collected had an external deformation. The rate of deformations greatly surpassed that recorded in a similar fish population study in 1994. The study also found a “marked drop” in the river’s fish biomass, or total weight.”

MEET THE MUSLIMS OF COAL COUNTRY — Al-Jazeera’s Kevin Williams: “With its coal-caked hills, isolation and deep poverty, Southeastern Kentucky is probably not the first place that springs to mind when one considers the Muslim experience in America. But nonetheless, a small Muslim community has settled in the Appalachians, making a home forged in the ash-black-smudged margins. Friendships are made and communities are established, even as a wider debate rages around the prejudice of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims immigrating to the U.S. Bilal Ahmed, 22, is from Elizabethtown, an affluent area near Louisville.”

ARE ENERGY-SAVINGS SETTINGS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT? — Quartz’s Fairley: “Volkswagen’s deceptive engine controls, uncovered a few months ago, gave its cars a dual personality: one for everyday operation and a secret greener one used to rank higher than warranted on vehicle emissions tests. Regulators in the US and Europe are now examining whether some television manufacturers similarly misbehaved, programming their screens to detect a standard video test clip, dial down their brightness, and thus cheat on energy consumption tests. While action deliberately aimed at providing deceptively favorable information about environmental impacts could obviously make a person cynical about a company’s claims, efficiency advocates see similar risk hiding in the open in the “eco” buttons popping up on a wide array of products, from automobiles and TVs to dishwashers and water heaters.”

METHANOL IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST — The Associated Press’s Phuong Le: “The Pacific Northwest could become a major hub for methanol production if three proposed refineries are built along the Columbia River and Puget Sound. A China-backed consortium, Northwest Innovation Works, has proposed two plants in Washington and a third in Oregon to convert natural gas to methanol, which would be shipped to China to make plastics and other consumer goods. But those plans are running into opposition. On Friday, the company temporarily put its project in Tacoma on hold, saying it has been 'surprised by the tone and substance of vocal opposition.'”

RATTLESNAKE ISLAND — The Associated Press’ Mark Pratt: “A plan by the state to establish a colony of venomous timber rattlesnakes on an off-limits island in Massachusetts’ largest body of water has some rattled by visions of dangerous serpents slithering through the surrounding woods, attacking hikers, fishermen and hunters. Those are completely irrational fears based on the public’s aversion to snakes, said Tom French of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, who’s directing the project at the 39-square mile Quabbin Reservoir and representing the state at a public meeting Tuesday to address the concerns.”

WORLD ENERGY MEETING UNDER A CLOUD — The Wall Street Journal’s Erin Ailworth: “Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi will join top North American and European drillers in Houston this week to debate how long the oil bust could last and how geopolitics are reshaping the energy world. Hundreds of oil-and-gas executives and world leaders are expected to gather for IHS CERAWeek, the annual confab in the world’s energy capital, which routinely draws influential players across the sector. But this year’s event is taking place under a dark cloud as persistently low oil prices continue to exact a punishing toll on the industry. Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of energy research at IHS, will moderate five days of events spanning discussions on oil, natural gas, renewable power and politics. He said executives are obsessed with two big questions: how to stay competitive in a low oil-price world and how fast U.S. crude production will decline.”

DROP IN OIL PRICE ADDS TO BILL FOR ENERGY INVESTMENTS — The New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson: “If you own a piece of an energy limited partnership, you’ve suffered epic losses in recent months as the price of oil has crashed. Now you may be in for a surprise tax bill as well. Master limited partnerships, as these complex vehicles are known, are common in the energy industry. They’ve been around since the 1980s, but it wasn’t until recently that they took on star status among individual investors. (Pension funds usually steer clear of these partnerships because they create tax liabilities for them.)”


--Oil fell Friday: Continued oversupply and no real signs of cuts in production weighed on oil prices again Friday.

“Light, sweet crude for March delivery settled down $1.13, or 3.7%, to $29.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell $1.37, or 4%, to $32.91 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Natural gas fell to a two-month low on Friday thanks to warm weather, the Journal reports.

“Natural gas futures for March delivery settled down 4.8 cents, or 2.6%, at $1.804 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest level since Dec. 18.”

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