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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: The ESCO crackdown begins; nuclear bird poop

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.

NEW YORK CRACKING DOWN ON ESCOs THAT IT NEEDS FOR REV — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: As New York moves toward becoming a state that receives half of its electric grid power from renewable energy, energy service companies are a primary vehicle for the Cuomo administration to put more green energy in the hands of the state’s consumers. But the administration is also grappling with how to handle the energy service companies on which it will depend. The industry is bedeviled by a history of shady business practices by some companies that state officials say prey upon the neediest New Yorkers, including low-income and elderly residents.

ENTERGY: BIRD POOP CAUSED INDIAN POINT SHUTDOWN — The Associated Press: "Bird droppings were the likely cause of a December shutdown at a nuclear power plant outside New York City, according to the operator. An Indian Point reactor safely shut down for three days starting Dec. 14 following an electrical disturbance on outdoor high voltage transmission lines, Entergy Corp. said. An outside expert is analyzing whether what's technically called bird "streaming" was the culprit. In a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month, the New Orleans-based company said the automatic reactor shutdown was apparently from bird feces that caused an electric arc between wires on a feeder line at a transmission tower."

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: Providing 61 percent of the state’s carbon-free electricity, New York’s nuclear energy plants are a necessary and valuable part of the state’s energy mix, and deserve the support of state lawmakers for their role in providing New York with reliable electricity while protecting the environment. Learn more: **


--Natural gas foes are suing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over a proposed pipeline.

--’Gasland’ director Josh Fox will bring his climate change documentary to the Albany region later this month.

--A recent round of state tests on 145 water wells in the town of Hoosick and village of Hoosick Falls showed slightly less than a third indicated a presence of a toxic chemical at levels exceeding the federal safety threshold.

--There are renewed concerns about the problem of lead in the water at Ithaca City School District buildings, as questions are being asked about the latest round of testing.

--The historic Kaufman Astoria Studios installed about 400 solar panels on the roof of one of the company’s buildings, DNAinfo reports.

--The city of Albany’s water does not contain PFOA.

--The DEC began training a new class of officers and forest rangers this week.

GOOD FRIDAY 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:

CHIEF JUSTICE REFUSES TO BLOCK OBAMA’S MERCURY REGS — The New York Times’ Adam Liptak and Coral Davenport: “In a significant victory for the Obama administration, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Thursday refused to block an Environmental Protection Agency regulation limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants.The decision comes three weeks after the full Supreme Court, in a highly unusual move, blocked another major Obama administration rule that would limit planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution from coal plants. Opponents of Mr. Obama’s environmental policies were buoyed by the high court’s decision to halt the global warming rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, reading it as a sign that the court was willing to halt other regulations while they undergo changes and review.”

EXXON CASE REFERRED TO FBI — InsideClimate News: “The U.S. Justice Department has forwarded a request from two congressmen seeking a federal probe of ExxonMobil to the FBI's criminal division. U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier sought the probe last year to determine whether the oil giant violated federal laws by ‘failing to disclose truthful information’ about climate change. In response, the Justice Department deferred to the FBI, saying it is that agency's responsibility to conduct an initial assessment of facts that prompted the congressmen's request. Such action is considered standard procedure, according to former federal prosecutors who say the response appears ambiguous as to what action may be taken by the FBI.”

HOUSTON’S COMING CRISIS — Propublica and Texas Tribune: “Houston’s perfect storm is coming — and it’s not a matter of if but when. The city has dodged it for decades, but the likelihood it will happen in any given year is nothing to scoff at; it’s much higher than your chance of dying in a car crash or in a firearm assault, and 2,400 times as high as your chance of being struck by lightning. If a storm hits the region in the right spot, ‘it’s going to kill America’s economy,’ said Pete Olson, a Republican congressman from Sugar Land, a Houston suburb. Such a storm would devastate the Houston Ship Channel, shuttering one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Flanked by 10 major refineries — including the nation’s largest — and dozens of chemical manufacturing plants, the Ship Channel is a crucial transportation route for crude oil and other key products, such as plastics and pesticides.”

FUEL ECONOMY IN VEHICLES HURT BY CHEAP GAS — Vox’s Brad Plumer: “One of the central planks in President Obama's climate plan is a rule to ratchet up fuel-economy standards through 2025. New US cars and light trucks are supposed to get better and better mileage with each passing year. At least, that was the dream. But now cheap oil is messing that up. Recent data from the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan shows that overall fuel economy for new cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks sold in the United States has been stagnating ever since oil prices crashed last year.”

OFFSHORE DRILLING CAUSES INCREASING DIVIDE — The New York Times’ Coral Davenport: Within weeks, the Obama administration is expected to release a proposal to open up vast tracts of federal waters in the southern Atlantic to oil and gas drilling for the first time, and a divide is growing between the Southeast’s coast and its landlocked capitals. The plan, written by the Interior Department, is expected to delineate the waters that would eventually be auctioned and leased to energy companies, which in turn would bring the drilling industry to the banks of Georgia, Virginia and North and South Carolina, along with thousands of oil rigs well over the horizon from the beach.

MCCLENDON DEATH CASTS CLOUD OVER PROBE — The Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. Justice Department moved to dismiss an indictment against Aubrey McClendon a day after the shale-drilling pioneer died in a fiery car crash, casting uncertainty over a broader probe into alleged bid-rigging of oil and gas leases. Mr. McClendon, the former chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., was the only person charged thus far in what the Justice Department has described as an 'ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the oil industry.' His indictment sent tremors through the energy sector, as other companies and investors fretted over who else could face charges.”

EPA PREFERS SENATE CHEMICAL BILL — The Hill’s Timothy Cama: “The Obama administration prefers many aspects of the Senate’s chemical safety reform bill to those in matching House legislation, it told leading lawmakers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined its thoughts on the competing bills in a January letter, obtained by The Hill, to the lawmakers negotiating a resolution between the bills. Both bills aim to improve upon the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, under which it has been extraordinarily difficult for the EPA to actually ban any harmful substances, such as asbestos. The EPA found a lot to like in the Senate’s bill, often preferring its provisions on various issues over the House’s.”

OIL FORCES OKLAHOMA CUTS — The Associated Press: "Oklahoma will slash spending across the board by 7 percent for the remaining four months of the fiscal year to cope with a sharp drop in oil and natural gas prices that has hurt state revenue, and a top education official said the cuts will force many rural school districts to reduce classes to four days a week. State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger ordered the cuts — on top of previous reductions of 3 percent that began in January — and warned lawmakers that Oklahoma faces a $1.3 billion budget hole for the fiscal year beginning in July that could result in more reductions 'right through the bone.'"

IRAN FALLING SHORT ON OIL PROMISES — Bloomberg: "Iran’s return to global oil markets after sanctions were lifted isn’t living up to the country’s grand ambitions, or at least not yet. Six weeks after the historic nuclear deal that allowed Iran to resume oil sales around the world, the OPEC member is shipping barely a third of the extra 500,000 barrels a day it had vowed to unleash within weeks of sanctions being lifted. The country faces hurdles at every step, whether reviving output from aging oil wells or overcoming lingering banking constraints that have forced it to sell crude in barter arrangements, according to BNP Paribas SA."

PARIS DEAL WAITING ON EMISSIONS INFO — By POLITICO's Kalina Oroschakoff: “The EU will start the ratification process of the Paris climate agreement only once member countries know how much they have to cut emissions in sectors such as transport or agriculture, an EU source said Thursday. 'Member states need to know what their efforts are, for example in the non-traded sectors, before they can finalize the domestic preparations for ratification,' the source said. Commission proposals on how to divide emissions cuts - called effort-sharing - in sectors such as transport (excluding aviation and maritime shipping), buildings, and agriculture are expected before the summer.”


--Oil snaps a three-day winning streak on news of continued oversupply, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The benchmark U.S. crude contract fell 9 cents or 0.3% to $34.57 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after a 5.7% gain over the first three trading sessions of the week. The global Brent contract settled up 0.4% at $37.07 a barrel on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange. The markets toggled around the break-even point for much of the trading session Thursday.”

--Natural gas still slipping, also on too much supply, the Journal reports.

"Natural gas futures lost 2.3% to settle at $1.6390 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, extending a 34% slide since early January. The market is trading at its lowest level in 17 years. Robust output from U.S. shale production and weak demand thanks to mild winter weather have weighed on the market."

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: New York’s existing nuclear energy plants provide 61 percent of the state’s carbon-free electricity and play a vital role in achieving our clean-energy and carbon-reduction goals. Additional premature retirements of safe, reliable nuclear energy plants mean New Yorkers would pay more for electricity, the economy would suffer and we would face substantially higher carbon emissions.

New York has taken an essential step forward to address the premature closures of our nuclear energy plants. The proposed development of a Clean Energy Standard by the Public Service Commission would, for the first time, ensure that existing nuclear plants are valued for their carbon-free attributes.

We urge the state to include all of New York’s existing nuclear energy plants, regardless of their geography in the state, in the proposed Clean Energy Standard. All nuclear energy facilities bring significant reliability and clean-air benefits to New York. Learn more: **

te to include all of New York’s existing nuclear energy plants, regardless of their geography in the state, in the proposed Clean Energy Standard. All nuclear energy facilities bring significant reliability and clean-air benefits to New York. Learn more: **

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