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POLITICO New York Energy: Feds open up Long Island to offshore wind development; LED payments

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OPENS UP LONG ISLAND TO OFFSHORE WIND DEVELOPMENT — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: The federal government has designated an 81,000-acre area off Long Island for possible commercial offshore wind development. The move by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Wednesday to open the federal waters 11 miles off New York to major wind development projects will be a significant boost to the Cuomo administration’s aggressive climate policies. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will now conduct an environmental assessment, with a possible sale of leases to follow.

U.S. ATTORNEY INVESTIGATING LEAD AT NYCHA — POLITICO New York’s Laura Nahmias: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office is investigating environmental health conditions in New York City’s public housing and homeless shelters. On Wednesday, Bharara’s office applied to a U.S. District Judge seeking an order compelling the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to produce information about any individuals with elevated levels of lead in their blood living in New York City Housing Authority buildings, and any unsafe or unsanitary conditions in NYCHA apartments. In the application, filed Wednesday and obtained by POLITICO New York, the U.S. Attorney’s office wrote that it had first sought information about the housing authority and city homeless shelters from the DOHMH in November of 2015, but the Health Department said it could not respond to the request without a court order.

LAWMAKERS APPROVE LED FACILITY PAYMENTS — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: The Public Authorities Control Board on Wednesday approved a $90 million payment for construction of a Syracuse-area LED factory. The control board, which gives the Legislature control over some state spending, approved the funds with little commentary. The funds comprise the majority of the state’s commitment to build an LED manufacturing facility that is expected to bring in 420 jobs. Soraa, a California-based LED manufacturer, will spend $1.3 billion on the facility in the Syracuse suburb of DeWitt. The state has committed to spend $90 million to build and equip an 82,500-square-foot building, located at SUNY Poly's Central New York Hub for Emerging Industries.

SANITATION BUDGET HEARING — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: Sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia presented her department's Fiscal Year 2017 budget to the City Council's sanitation committee on Wednesday and received mostly positive reviews from Council members. The $1.64 billion budget marks an approximately 6 percent increase over last year's spending plan, with expansions in the city's organic waste collection program and curbside basket collection, more money for snow removal and a small increase in headcount. "It is our goal to promote and support a system of sustainable solid waste management that minimizes waste and maximizes recycling and reduces the amount of waste we dispose of by 90 percent by 2030," Garcia said during testimony, referring to Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to divert almost all of the city's waste from landfills within 14 years.


--SolarCity is set to announce the completion of 1,300 rooftop solar installations at U.S. Navy housing in New York and New Jersey as well as other states along the East Coast.

--Tompkins County lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to use water power for a portion of the government’s electrical needs.

--Riker’s Island was built on a landfill, emits dangerous clouds of methane and is sinking, in addition to being a miserable place to be locked up.

--A group of Warren County supervisors plans to ask colleagues Friday to push the state Attorney General's Office to act against a company some county officials and residents believe defrauded the county through alternative energy projects.

--Fulton Center gets LEED silver rating: Metro NY reports, “The MTA announced Wednesday that the agency’s Fulton Center station — located on Broadway between Fulton and Dey streets — has been awarded the LEED Silver rating.”

—PSEG hires Marketsmith to improve customer engagement in New Jersey and Long Island, NJBIZ reports.

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GAS PRICES DROP, AIRLINE PROFITS SOAR — The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder: “Airlines profits are soaring, but will wealthier airlines make passengers happier? After decades of pleading poverty, the industry is able to reshape air travel. Dramatically lower oil prices, years of cost-cutting and huge consolidation mean years of lasting profitability, airline executives say. Last year, industry profits tripled, to $23 billion. The four biggest airlines have $18 billion in cash on their balance sheets. If it were up to travelers, the money would be spent taking the hassle and strain out of air travel. It could restore some of the comforts that flew away with pillows and blankets. The starters: adequate leg room, lower punitive fees for schedule changes and equitable frequent-flier award availability.”

WORLD’S LARGEST PRIVATE COAL COMPANY MAY GO OUT OF BUSINESS — CNN’s Chris Isidore: “Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal producer, warned early Wednesday it may go out of business, the latest sign of the brutal conditions in the battered industry. In a regulatory filing, the company said that ongoing losses and its decision to miss certain interest payments mean it may not have enough cash to ‘sustain operations and continue as a going concern.’ The company has 7,600 employees at its ongoing operations. Peabody reported a loss of $2 billion last year, up from a $787 million slide the previous year.”

EMISSIONS FLAT AS ECONOMY GROWS — The Washington Post’s Christopher Mooney: “Roughly a year ago, the International Energy Agency announced a wonky yet nonetheless significant development. Looking at data for the year 2014, the agency found that although the global economy grew — by 3.4 percent that year — greenhouse gas emissions from the use of energy (their largest source) had not. They had stalled at about 32.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, just as in 2013. The agency called this a ‘decoupling’ of growth from carbon dioxide emissions, and noted that it was the ‘the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn.’ For decades prior to 2014, economic growth had pretty much always meant more pollution of the atmosphere, and a worsening climate problem.”

BILL BLOCKING GMO-LABELLING STALLS IN SENATE — NPR’s Maria Godoy: “It's been called ‘perhaps the most contentious issue in the food industry:’ Should food products be labeled to indicate they contain genetically modified ingredients? Leading Republicans in the Senate tried to answer that question on Wednesday with a clear ‘no,’ but failed. The Senate rejected a bill that would have prevented any state from requiring GMO labels on food. The bill, sponsored by Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, would have created a voluntary national labeling standard for foods containing GMOs, but it would have blocked Vermont from implementing its first-in-the-nation mandatory GMO labeling law, currently set to take effect on July 1.”

HOUSE PANEL DENOUNCES EPA ON FLINT — The New York Times’ Abby Goodnough: "Members of a congressional oversight committee excoriated a former Environmental Protection Agency official on Tuesday for not responding more forcefully when she learned last year that Flint, Mich., was not adding a chemical to its new water supply that would have prevented the city’s pipes from corroding and leaching lead. The former official, Susan Hedman, testified that limited enforcement options had kept her from acting more aggressively to order corrosion control, saying, 'I don’t think E.P.A. did anything wrong, but I do believe we could have done more.' But committee members from both parties reacted furiously to her explanation, casting Ms. Hedman, who resigned in January as director of the E.P.A. regional office in charge of Michigan, as one of the primary villains in Flint’s water crisis and heaping contempt on her for more than four hours.”

TREES HANDLING CLIMATE CHANGE — The New York Times’ Tatiana Schlossberg: “The bend-don’t-break adaptability of trees extends to handling climate change, according to a new study that says forests may be able to deal with hotter temperatures and contribute less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than scientists previously thought. In addition to taking in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, plants also release it through a process called respiration. Globally, plant respiration contributes six times as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as fossil fuel emissions. Until now, most scientists have thought that a warming planet would cause plants to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn would cause more warming.”

LEAD PREVALENT IN DRINKING WATER — USA Today’s Alison Young and Mark Nichols: “While a harsh national spotlight focuses on the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation has identified almost 2,000 additional water systems spanning all 50 states where testing has shown excessive levels of lead contamination over the past four years. The water systems, which reported lead levels exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards, collectively supply water to 6 million people. About 350 of those systems provide drinking water to schools or day cares. The USA TODAY NETWORK investigation also found at least 180 of the water systems failed to notify consumers about the high lead levels as federal rules require.”

UTAH LOVES COAL — The Los Angeles Times’ William Yardley: “Environmentalists and energy experts have been saying it for a while now. So have private investors and federal regulators. Lawmakers across the West are increasingly saying it, too: The reign of King Coal is over. Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon just signed into law a measure that would eliminate coal from the state’s power supply in less than two decades. Here in Washington, the Legislature also just adopted a plan that would eliminate coal. Last year, California moved to use renewables for half of its electricity by 2030. And then there is Utah. In the final hours of the state’s legislative session last week , the Utah House of Representatives began final debate on a measure to loan $53 million for a planned export facility in San Francisco Bay that would ship Utah coal to Asia. The idea is to provide a guaranteed market for coal mined in southern Utah, a region hard hit by the declining domestic coal market.”

CLIMATE CHANGING EVERYTHING IN ALASKA — The Washington Post’s Ryan Schuessler: “It may sound strange to someone from the Lower 48, but in interior Alaska, 2 degrees Fahrenheit in early March is balmy. This winter’s record-setting warm temperatures are just the latest in an ongoing string of environmental changes for the indigenous Gwich’in village of Fort Yukon, ten miles north of the Arctic Circle in northeastern Alaska. In the Arctic, where the impact of climate change is being felt much faster than in the rest of the world, locals have been noticing changes for years: new flora and fauna, weaker ice, and shorter winters, to name a few.”

DISPATCH FROM ABU DHABI: RENEWABLES COULD SAVE $4.2T — Bloomberg: “Boosting renewable energy generation to meet global climate goals could save as much as $4.2 trillion a year by 2030, according to a new report asking lawmakers to strengthen clean energy policies. Doubling the renewable share of the world’s energy mix to 36 percent between now and 2030 would cost $290 billion a year and limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius, according to the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency report published Thursday. Mitigating against the harmful effects of global warming accounts for much of the savings.”

VENEZUELA SHUTTING DOWN FOR A WEEK — Bloomberg’s Andrew Rosati: “Venezuela is shutting down for a week as the government struggles with a deepening electricity crisis. President Nicolas Maduro gave everyone an extra three days off work next week, extending the two-day Easter holiday, according to a statement in the Official Gazette published late Tuesday. Maduro had originally said over the weekend that the extended holiday would only apply to state employees. The government has rationed electricity and water supplies across the country for months and urged citizens to avoid waste as Venezuela endures a prolonged drought that has slashed output at hydroelectric dams.”


--Oil rallies on output limits: OPEC signaled it would cut production, helping boost oil futures Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Light, sweet crude for April delivery settled up $2.12, or 5.8%, to $38.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the largest percentage gain in one day since Feb. 22.”

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