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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: ESCO crackdown on pause, SolarCity's mysterious funding

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.

JUDGE BLOCKS CUOMO ADMINISTRATION CRACKDOWN ON ESCOs—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: A judge's ruling that temporarily blocks the Cuomo administration’s crackdown on energy service companies is simply “procedural,” a Public Service Commission spokesman said Friday. On Friday, State Supreme Court justice Kimberly O'Connor issued a temporary restraining order, granting a request by the Retail Energy Supply Association, the industry group for ESCOs, which sell electricity and natural gas as alternatives to utilities with the promise of savings. The group called the crackdown an overreach by the administration and said it would cripple the industry. PSC spokesman James Denn said the state expected the order to be lifted after the two sides return to court in April.

SOLARCITY SAVED BY MYSTERIOUS STATE SLUSH FUND—The Buffalo News’ Tom Precious: “When the embarrassment of unpaid contractors working on the SolarCity project hit the headlines last week, the Cuomo administration turned to a quick and ready source of money to remedy the $82.4 million problem: SAM. The state has used a discretionary money pot formally known as the State and Municipal Facilities Program, or SAM, since 2013 to pay for everything from an outlet mall on Staten Island to dog parks to renovating the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan before Stephen Colbert took over the CBS late-night time slot.”

--The New York Post editorial board calls Cuomo’s SolarCity project the “Buffalo Boondoggle.”

FEDERAL REGULATORY INCREASE SCRUTINY OF INDIAN POINT—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Federal regulators will increase their oversight of the Indian Point nuclear center in the wake of a series of unplanned shutdowns. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Friday that it would increase inspections of the Unit 3 reactor, which had four unplanned shutdowns in 2015, including for a transformer fire and for electric disturbances and a faulty roof fan.

** 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: **


--A bad underground cable knocked out power to a large swath of downtown Albany on Sunday.

--GOP Sen. Kathy Marchione wants to wait until after the Hoosick Falls water crisis is solved, which could take years, before hearings are held to determine what went wrong.

--It’s not a matter of if, but when, an oil train will derail in upstate New York and federal and state officials are not taking the threat seriously enough, the Glens Falls Post-Star editorial board warns.

--Political reporters in Flint aren’t sure whether it’s safe to drink the water or not

GOOD MONDAY 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:

ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS WARN OF NUCLEAR SAFETY ISSUES—Syracuse Post-Standard’s Tim Knauss: “Seven electrical engineers who work for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have taken the unusual step of petitioning the NRC as private citizens in hopes of compelling regulators to fix a "significant safety concern'' that affects all but one of the nation's 100 nuclear plants. The petition filed this week by the NRC Seven, as some call them, is similar to what anti-nuclear activists or other outside watchdog groups would file to raise a concern with the NRC. The engineers say there is a design flaw in the electric power systems of all but one of the 100 U.S. nuclear plants.”

POLITICS IN FLINT, BUT FEW SOLUTIONS—POLITICO’s Annie Snider: “For Hillary Clinton, the city hosting Sunday’s Democratic debate is a place whose ‘children were poisoned by toxic water because their governor wanted to save a little money’ — but also, she declared on Super Tuesday, ‘a community that’s been knocked down but refused to be knocked out.’ But while Flint and its lead-contaminated drinking water have become almost a sacred cause among national Democratic leaders, residents of its hardest-hit neighborhoods say they’ve seen little benefit from the political spotlight shining on them. That includes Clinton’s own visit to the city early last month, when she declared that ‘what happened in Flint is immoral.’”

BRAZIL STATE-RUN OIL COMPANY IN SCANDAL—Vox’s Zack Beauchamp: “For the past two years, Brazil has been rocked by a major corruption scandal involving its state-run oil company, Petrobras. So major, in fact, that it looks like it might go all the way to the top. On Friday morning, Brazilian police raided the home of the country's previous president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The former president was detained for three hours of questioning, and then released. Lula, as he's generally referred to, is a member of the same political party as current President Dilma Rousseff. He's widely seen as her political mentor. That means any charges that emerge could end up having real consequences for Rousseff and for Brazilian politics more generally.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF AUBREY McCLENDON—The Wall Street Journal’s Russell Gold: “McClendon wasn’t the inventor of fracking, but he was its chief apostle. He led the energy revolution that has swept North America for the past decade. He convinced Wall Street to fund his company and others chasing gas deposits in shale rocks, and he sped up the metabolism of the sleepy domestic energy industry until it produced an abundance of natural gas and oil. This week, McClendon was indicted on a serious charge: conspiring to rig the price of oil and gas leases. It was the latest in a series of public setbacks and humiliations that led many to see him as a scoundrel. But there is no denying the significance of Aubrey McClendon: He didn’t just see the energy boom coming. He helped to create it. And he helped to change the global energy industry in ways that are still being felt from Tulsa to Tehran.”

PFOA NATIONAL THREAT—The Intercept’s Sharon Lerner: “Perfluorooctanoic acid, commonly known as PFOA or C8, is a “perfluorinated” chemical, which means that its base includes carbon chains attached to fluorine atoms. Because the fluorine-carbon bond is one of the strongest in chemistry, these compounds are incredibly stable, which makes them useful in industry. But that stability also makes them endure in the environment. Indeed, C8, which has recently been detected in upstate New York, in Vermont, and in Michigan’s Flint River, among other places, is expected to remain on the earth long after humans are extinct.“

JERRY BROWN’S MIXED CLIMATE LEGACY—The New York Times’ Ian Lovett and Michael Wines: “In his final term as California’s governor, Jerry Brown has made the battle against climate change a signature issue: He is fighting to vastly reduce the state’s emissions of greenhouse gases, to accelerate the move to electric cars and to rewire the state’s electrical grid. In December, he had a star turn with world leaders at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris. But despite all his efforts, California’s emissions rose modestly over the first three years after he took office in 2011, the last years for which data is available.”


Oil prices rose for the third consecutive weeks, Nicole Friedman writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“The number of rigs drilling for crude in the U.S., which is viewed as a rough proxy for activity in the oil industry, dropped by eight in the past week to 392, the lowest level since 2009, oil-field-services company Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday.”

** 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: **

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