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POLITICO New York Energy: PSC rules on ESCOs; Cayuga misses approval

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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CAYUGA RULING A WIN FOR COAL OPPONENTS — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: After a long battle, the anti-coal forces have notched another victory in New York State. The Cayuga power plant near Ithaca, one of the few remaining coal plants in the state, will not get the approval or the $102 million needed to refuel and keep it viable, the state Public Service Commission ruled Tuesday. Instead, the state approved a proposal from New York State Electric & Gas and National Grid to upgrade transmission lines in the area, which the utilities have long argued was a better and more economic option to maintain reliability for the region.

STATE CRACKS DOWN ON ENERGY SERVICE COMPANIES — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: The state will crack down on energy service companies that deceive customers by promising utility bill savings that never materialize. The state has found that a number of the companies, or ESCOs, have been overcharging customers, particularly the elderly and non-native English speakers, the Public Service Commission announced Tuesday. State regulators found a few ESCOs were charging customers twice the rate of the local utility, while others were charging triple or even eight times as much.

ENTERGY REBUFFS FITZPATRICK PLAN — The Syracuse Post-Standard’s Tim Knauss: “The state Public Service Commission said [Tuesday] it is working on plans to provide financial assistance to the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in a desperate attempt to keep the plant from shutting down. PSC officials said they will undertake a rushed review of the plan and expect to have financial subsidies available for FitzPatrick by June, long before the plant's scheduled closure next January ... Entergy officials responded that it is too late to save FitzPatrick, which the company plans to close because it loses money. The company added that if Cuomo wants to reduce carbon emissions, he should back off his insistence that Entergy shut down the Indian Point nuclear facility, which Cuomo says is unsafe because of its proximity to New York City.”

FIRST DEC COMMISSIONER HENRY DIAMOND DEAD AT 83 — Times Union’s Casey Seiler: “Henry Diamond, the first commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, died Sunday at age 83 in Washington, D.C. In addition to his pioneering work at DEC — the first state agency of its kind in the nation — Diamond played key roles developing environmental and conservation policy at the federal level. Diamond began his career working with environmental advocate Laurence Rockefeller, and was a co-executive director of the 1965 White House Conference on Natural Beauty. Appointed to lead the newborn DEC by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1970, Diamond pressed for legislative and statewide voter approval of the 1972 Environmental Quality Bond Act. Diamond led a 533-mile bicycle ride across New York State to promote the $1.2 billion bond issue, which provided for water and air pollution control and land acquisition.”


--Indian Point is an “accident waiting to happen,” according to Riverkeeper.

--New York City is considering a ban on fracking waste.

--State Energy czar Richard Kauffman sat down with Columbia University energy experts to discuss Reforming Energy Vision plans.

GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING: 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:

$30 MILLION FOR FLINT WATER BILLS — The Associated Press’ Michael Gerstein: “The Michigan Senate acted quickly Tuesday to finalize legislation authorizing $30 million in supplemental aid to help pay Flint residents’ water bills, as lawmakers and public officials scramble to try to fix the lead-contaminated water supply. Senators voted unanimously to send the measure to Gov. Rick Snyder a day after a University of Michigan Flint professor said the city has more than 8,000 old lead pipes running from water mains to homes and businesses. Flint’s mayor plans to use that estimate to replace the lead service lines leading from city water mains in the street to homes, even as Snyder’s administration plans to use estimates from a Flint-based engineering firm.”

A BATTERY IN EVERY BASEMENT — Utility Dive’s Robert Walton: “During the 1928 Presidential campaign, an ad for Herbert Hoover in the New York Times promised 'a chicken in every pot, and a car in every garage.' Gary Connett, director of member services at Great River Energy, has his own version: 'A battery in every basement, and gas in every garage.' He's talking about water heaters and electric vehicle charging stations, two appliances which can be harnessed by utilities to shift demand and store energy. And while electric vehicles remain a nascent technology, water heaters are ubiquitous.”

TAR SANDS KEEP PUMPING — InsideClimate News' Phil McKenna: "Like a supertanker unable to make quick turns, production from tar sands in the Canadian oil patch continues to increase despite prices so low producers have to sell their output at a loss. The industry's inability to cut production could have a profound impact on the climate as well as corporate bottom lines. Despite reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across Canada, continued tar sands oil production will most likely keep the nation from meeting targets it set as part of the international climate accord agreed to in Paris."

IT’S THE INTEREST RATES, STUPID — The Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Back: “Things that lurk in the shadows, especially when they involve crashing oil prices, are pretty scary for bank investors. Amid all the hand-wringing over murky energy exposures, though, it is the monster investors can see that is scariest of all. As J.P. Morgan Chase highlighted during its annual investor day Tuesday, the biggest threat to future earnings isn’t low oil prices, it is super low interest rates. And that ogre isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Granted, energy is a worry.”

U.S. BREAKING RUSSIA’S FUEL HOLD — The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Cheney and Andrew Holland: “Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate began considering a bill that, if passed, would certify the central role of liquefied natural gas in American foreign policy and help many European countries escape Russia’s energy dominance. The bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act proposes, among other things, to improve the way Washington approves permits for the export of LNG. Under a 1938 law, the government must first determine whether the proposed exports are 'consistent with the public interest.' There is no time frame for making that decision and the process leaves too much discretion to government bureaucrats.”

CHINESE COMPANY OVERTAKES GE IN WIND PRODUCTION — Scientific American: “General Electric Co. has ceded its position as the world’s No. 1 wind turbine manufacturer to a Chinese competitor, according to 2015 market data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. Ltd. received orders for 7.8 gigawatts of new wind turbines in 2015, exceeding GE, which dropped to No. 3 globally with 5.9 GW of new commissioned capacity, according to BNEF. Vestas Wind Systems A/S of Denmark attracted 7.3 GW of new orders in 2015, solidifying its No. 2 ranking in the global supply chain.”

SAUDI MINISTER SAYS NO CUTS IN PRODUCTION — The New York Times’ Clifford Krauss: “Saudi Arabia’s petroleum minister on Tuesday ruled out the possibility that a recently announced oil production freeze by several countries might lead to cuts to reverse the plunge in oil prices. ‘There is no sense wasting our time seeking production cuts,’ Ali bin Ibrahim al-Naimi told energy executives at the annual IHS Ceraweek conference. ‘That will not happen.’ Mr. al-Naimi’s comments put further pressure on oil prices, which are hovering just above $30 a barrel. Mr. al-Naimi is widely considered the most influential voice in energy policy in Saudi Arabia, which dominates the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting States, so his words are followed closely and typically move both energy and equity markets.”

ROBERT F. KENNEDY ON MIDDLE EAST OIL DISPUTES — From Politico: “In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I've made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.”

BARGAIN HUNTING FOR OIL — The Wall Street Journal: “The biggest U.S. IPO so far this year isn’t a profitable household name, it’s a blank check to go bargain hunting in the oil patch. Amid an otherwise frozen market for initial public offerings, Silver Run Acquisition Corp. raised $450 million in an upsized offering at $10 a share late Tuesday, according to people familiar with the deal. It hopes to snap up oil and gas assets on the cheap, according to offering documents. The private-equity-backed company has no assets or operations yet, but its chief executive, Mark Papa, was one of the most successful executives in the U.S. shale-drilling boom.”


--Oil drops on Saudi comments: If there’s no drop in production there will be a drop in oil prices. The Wall Street Journal reports prices snapped a recent winning streak Tuesday.

“Light, sweet crude for April delivery settled down $1.52, or 4.6%, to $31.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell $1.42, or 4.1%, to $33.27 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Natural gas drops on weather: Limited heating demand depressed prices Tuesday, the Journal reports.

“Futures for March delivery settled down 3.9 cents, or 2.1%, to $1.782 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since Dec. 18.”

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