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POLITICO New York Energy: Council to introduce gas safety bills; Schumer touts doubling of rail bridge inspectors

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.

COUNCIL TO INTRODUCE NINE GAS SAFETY BILLS — POLITICO New York’s Gloria Pazmino and David Giambusso: City Council members are set to introduce a slew of gas safety bills this week in the wake of two recent fatal explosions and the subsequent discovery of illegal gas hookups throughout the city. Council members, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, will introduce nine bills designed to increase inspections and promote gas safety throughout the city.

SCHUMER TOUTS DOUBLING OF BRIDGE INSPECTORS—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: The number of federal railroad bridge inspectors will double after a push from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, his office announced Monday. The Federal Railroad Administration had proposed that the number of inspectors increase from eight to 16, Schumer said. The FRA will also establish a nationwide registry of rail bridges and the date of their last inspection. There is currently just one rail bridge inspector for 3,000 privately owned rail bridges in New York, and that specialist is also responsible for 13 other states, Schumer said.

BROCKOVICH LAW FIRM TO FILE HOOSICK FALLS SUIT — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and the law firm that employs her are expanding their investigation into PFOA-tainted drinking water to the town of sburgh, Rensselaer County, and expect to soon file a lawsuit over water pollution in Hoosick Falls.

NY AMONG LEADERS OF NATIONAL SOLAR BOOM — Newsday's Mark Harrington: “New solar-power generation set a national record in 2015, topping the capacity of new natural gas-fired-power-plants for the first time, according to a research report Monday. Meanwhile, new wind-energy facilities topped both solar and natural gas plant capacity, according to the report by Boston-based GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Assn. Fossil-fuel plants still make up the lion’s share of U.S. energy production, however. New York, led by explosive growth on Long Island, ranked among the top five states in the country in solar power additions in 2015, jumping from seventh place in 2014 and ninth in 2013.”


--”FERC: PSE&G Can Recover Costs if Artificial Island Project is Canceled,” RTO Insider reports, “FERC on Thursday approved an incentive filing by PJM that will allow Public Service Electric and Gas to recoup all of its costs if the Artificial Island reliability project is canceled due to reasons beyond the company’s control."

--Video: LIPA trustee Matthew Cordaro once again shares his thoughts, from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on the price of oil. Cordaro predicts oil futures are beginning to bottom out.

--Ithaca College is constructing a 3-megawatt solar array, enough for about 10 percent of the college’s power.

--NJ utilities report on their post-blizzard performance: The reports and comments from state legislators were large positive.

--SolarCity has yanked its loan product about a year after its introduction.

--New York’s maple syrup industry is booming.

--The company that built the natural gas cogeneration plant some Warren County officials believe cost the county millions of dollars has alleged the county defaulted on the plant contracts by selling the property where the facility is located without its consent.

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SOLAR AT NIGHT — The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Henry Brean: “A new solar plant that can store the sun's energy and generate power day or night is now in full commercial operation outside of Tonopah. Electricity from the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, 225 miles northwest of Las Vegas, has begun flowing to homes in Southern Nevada, according to NV Energy, the facility's only customer. Santa Monica, California-based SolarReserve, owner of the project and its technology, touts Crescent Dunes as the world's first — and so far only — utility-scale solar power plant with fully integrated energy storage technology.”

COLORADO TO REQUEST SUPERFUND STATUS — The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Frosch: "Communities in southwestern Colorado, hit hard by a massive mine spill last summer, are poised to ask the government to designate the area a Superfund cleanup site. The request, if approved by local leaders on Monday night would be a turnabout for a region that had long resisted such a designation. Some residents worried it would tarnish the area’s reputation. Officials in San Juan County and the town of Silverton [were] expected to vote on the request after a public meeting, paving the way for the Environmental Protection Agency to place the region affected by the Gold King Mine spill on a 'National Priorities List' of the most polluted places in the U.S."

GATES: WE NEED A MIRACLE — Bloomberg’s Ashley Vance: “All we need is an energy miracle. No pressure, kids. So came the call from Bill Gates on Monday evening with the release of his annual letter. It tackles heady subjects with the billionaire's usual optimistically sober tone. Unlike letters past, Gates aimed this year's missive at teenagers instead of adults, arguing they're our best shot at solving the world's energy crisis.”

OPEC WANTS TO BREAK UP WITH US — Bloomberg’s Dan Murtaugh and Javier Blas: “OPEC and U.S. shale may need a relationship counselor. After first ignoring it, later worrying about it and ultimately launching a price war against it, OPEC has now concluded it doesn’t know how to coexist with the U.S. shale oil industry. 'Shale oil in the United States, I don’t know how we are going to live together,' Abdalla Salem El-Badri, OPEC secretary-general, told a packed room of industry executives from Texas and North Dakota at the annual IHS CERAWeek meeting in Houston.”

RADIOACTIVE WIND — The Associated Press: “The uncontrolled spread of small amounts of radioactive waste at Hanford [Washington] after a Nov. 17 windstorm is alarming, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a letter to the Department of Energy. The high winds pushed specks of contamination beyond Route 4, a public highway in Richland to the Wye Barricade entrance to Hanford.”

CHEMICAL BILL COMING TO THE WIRE — POLITICO’s Darren Goode: “Lawmakers are racing the clock to finish a widely supported chemical safety bill that is at risk of getting crowded off the congressional calendar. While negotiators are confident they can work out the differences between House- and Senate-passed updates to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, distractions are multiplying in a year when legislating already promised to be cut short by the presidential election.” [PRO]

REPORT: LOW GAS PRICES MAY SLOW RENEWABLES — POLITICO’s Esther Whieldon: “Declining natural gas prices could dampen renewable generation growth after 2020, according to a new report by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. While five-year extensions for tax credits targeted to wind and solar power will provide a boost for those industries, lower gas prices could eat into future gains. The tax credits would drive a net peak increase of 53 gigawatts of wind and solar power if gas prices remain stable but only 48 gigawatts if those prices drop, according to the report, which compared scenarios from the Energy Information Administration's 2015 Energy Outlook. Advocates downplayed the risk of falling gas prices on a White House press call today.” [PRO]

MEXICO MOVES UP IMPORTS — The Associated Press: “Mexican officials have moved up the date for opening the country’s market to imported fuels in an attempt to spur investment at a time when low oil prices have forced the government to cut spending. President Enrique Pena Nieto said Monday during a visit to Texas that businesses will be able to begin importing gasoline and diesel as of April 1, rather than 2017 as previously planned. The opening was part of historic energy-sector reforms.”

UK OFFSHORE INDUSTRY TEETERING ON CHEAP OIL — The Wall Street Journal’s Selina Williams: "The U.K.’s decades-old offshore oil-and-gas industry is perched ‘at the edge of a chasm’ amid a historic rout in oil prices that is pushing almost half of the sector’s producing fields into a loss and curbing investment in new ones, trade association Oil & Gas UK said in a report published Tuesday. Less than £1 billion ($1.41 billion) of fresh capital in new projects in the U.K. North Sea is expected to be approved this year, down from an average of £8 billion annually over the past five years."

CHINA CLOSING COAL MINES—Reuters: “China will aim to close more than 1,000 coal mines over this year, with a total production capacity of 60 million tonnes, as part of its plans to tackle a price-sapping supply glut in the sector, the country's energy regulator said. China is the world's top coal consumer but demand has been on the wane as economic growth slows and the country shifts away from fossil fuels in order to curb pollution. In a notice posted on its website on Monday, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said the closures would form part of the plan released earlier this month to shut as much as 500 million tonnes of surplus production capacity within the next three to five years.”


--Oil surges on production report: The IEA reported it expects U.S. oil production to taper off significantly in the next two years, boosting futures prices Monday. The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Light, sweet crude for March delivery settled up $1.84, or 6.2%, at $31.48 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The March contract expired at settlement Monday. The more-actively traded April contract rose $1.64, or 5.2%, to $33.39 a barrel.”

--Cooler weather boosts natural gas: Temperatures in the next two weeks will prop up demand, the Journal reports.

“Natural gas for March delivery settled up 1.7 cents, or 0.9%, at $1.821 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.”

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