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POLITICO New York Energy: Pipeline capacity in Southern Tier threatens development; Con Ed's meters approved

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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PIPELINE CAPACITY THREATENS SOUTHERN TIER ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: A major economic development project planned for the Southern Tier may be threatened by the lack of natural gas connections, according to an upstate utility. Lawmakers and the region's business leaders say that even though the Southern Tier is relatively close to the fracking operations of Pennsylvania, economic development is being hurt because there isn't enough pipeline capacity for natural gas. “Industrial and commercial users are a little bit leery of relying on natural gas because of the lack of natural gas infrastructure being permitted in the state of New York,” said Dena Wiggins, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association. http://politi.co/1RpGiVG

CON ED’S SMART METERS APPROVED — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: “The Public Service Commission approved a large-scale, advanced metering initiative put forth by Con Edison that the utility says will lay the groundwork for a host of clean and efficient energy programs in New York State. The utility will roll out the program over the next five to six years, installing "smart meters" for 4.7 million customers starting in Staten Island, then Westchester, then the remaining four boroughs of New York City. In all, the program is expected to cost $1.6 billion, but Con Ed estimates it will yield $2.7 billion in benefits, according to a business plan for the program Con Ed issued in November.” http://politi.co/1R1L5kj

NY WIND COULD RIVAL NUCLEAR — Bloomberg’s Joe Ryan: “An area off the coast of New York designated for offshore wind farms has the potential to generate almost as much electricity as a nuclear power plant. The site has more than 81,000 acres (127 square miles), enough for turbines with as much as 900 megawatts of capacity, according to Willett Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware who studies offshore wind. That estimate, based on developers using 6- or 8-megawatt turbines, is about 30 percent bigger than earlier proposals for the wind energy area.” http://bloom.bg/1R1MhUQ

AROUND NEW YORK:

--The state Public Service Commission launched an investigation Thursday into the quality of Verizon’s copper line service. http://politi.co/1MqnFQd

--A coalition of eight local groups announced Thursday an effort to bring renewable energy and good-paying energy jobs to the Buffalo Niagara region. http://bit.ly/1U9Uzgb

--Two Con Ed workers rummaged through a sewer to rescue the bracelet of a Tribeca woman who dropped the jewelry into a grate. Needless to say, she was stoked. http://nyp.st/1S7jnS0

--Dozens of “We Are Seneca Lake” gas storage facility protesters were in court this week. http://bit.ly/1UiXLFy

--SUNY New Paltz is ahead of other campuses in meeting the governor’s 20 percent reduction in energy usage, the New Paltz Oracle reports. http://bit.ly/1R1M97G

GOOD FRIDAY MORNING: Let us know anytime if you have tips, story ideas or life advice. We're always here at dgiambusso@politico.com and swaldman@politico.com. And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one. Here’s a handy sign-up link: politi.co/1UqoEoB

MAJOR SOLAR FACILITY COULD BE SHUTTERED — The Wall Street Journal’s Cassandra Sweet: “A federally backed, $2.2 billion solar project in the California desert isn’t producing the electricity it is contractually required to deliver to PG&E Corp., which says the solar plant may be forced to shut down if it doesn’t receive a break from state regulators. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, owned by BrightSource Energy Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, uses more than 170,000 mirrors mounted to the ground to reflect sunlight to 450-foot-high towers topped by boilers that heat up to create steam, which in turn is used to generate electricity.” http://on.wsj.com/1Ve4YGs

CRUDE OIL’S COMEBACK — CNN’s Matt Egan: “Crude oil is back from the dead -- for now at least. Oil prices jumped to $40 a barrel on Thursday for the first time since early December. The milestone marks a dramatic 54% spike in the span of just five weeks when it hit a low of $26.05 a barrel. But the speed of the recovery — and the fragile drivers behind the move — are raising questions over whether the rebound can truly last. ‘The market is very, very skittish. We could continue to see volatility,’ said Tamar Essner, director of the energy team at Nasdaq.” http://cnnmon.ie/22ousGL

FEDS SEEK NEW RULES FOR NATURAL GAS PIPELINES — The Hill’s Timothy Cama: “The Department of Transportation is proposing new regulations for natural gas pipelines that would expand federal safety standards to a bigger group of pipelines. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) proposal would implement new assessment and repair criteria and apply them to gas lines in moderately populated areas. The rules previously only applied to densely populated areas. It would also make pre-1970 pipelines, previously left out of the regulatory reach, subject to many of the same rules older structures must follow. PHMSA said the proposal stems from a number of lessons learned through investigations and major disasters, like a 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people.” http://bit.ly/1LtMcJo

FLINT: WHAT THE HELL AND WHY — POLITICO’s Annie Snider: “A House hearing on the Flint water crisis erupted into a bitter partisan clash Thursday over who was to blame for lead contamination in the Michigan city, with Republicans chastising the EPA chief and Democrats unloading on Michigan's governor. House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) zeroed in on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for the agency's failure to act quickly to warn residents about the dangers of the lead contamination in the drinking water. ‘You had the opportunity, you had the presence, you had the authority, you had the backing of the federal government, and you did not act when you had the chance, and if you're going to do the courageous thing, you too should step down,’ Chaffetz, a frequent EPA critic, said to McCarthy. But McCarthy gave little ground, saying only that her agency ‘missed the opportunity’ last summer to alert Flint residents about the danger after a staff scientist found alarming levels of lead in the water at several residences. ‘The system failed. We were part of that system,’ she said. ‘I will take responsibility for not pushing hard enough, but I will not take responsibility for causing this problem. It was not EPA at the helm when this happened.’” http://politico.pro/1R1NQlG [federal Pro]

BLOOMBERG TO GO 100 PERCENT RENEWABLE — Bloomberg: “Bloomberg has expanded our commitment to renewable energy and sustainable business practices by partnering with RE100 and committing to using 100% clean energy by 2025. This partnership furthers our ongoing efforts to prove that sustainable business practices are good for the environment and good for business. RE100 is a collaborative, global initiative of leading businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity, working to significantly increase corporate demand for renewable energy. The initiative is led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP,(Carbon Disclosure Project) as part of the We Mean Business coalition.” http://bloom.bg/22qyZVO

FEDS TO AID APPALACHIA — The Associated Press: “Appalachian coal communities hit hard by layoffs will get $45 million in federal funding to help them diversify their economies, create new jobs and retrain workers. The Appalachian Regional Commission, the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Thursday that it’s part of a $65.8 million grant package through the Obama administration’s Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative, or POWER. While grants will support economic development efforts among regional partnerships in coal communities nationwide, the Appalachian Regional Commission will receive $45 million to distribute for such projects.” http://wapo.st/1R1LDXx

EPA TO ENLIST HELP IN POLICING BIOFUEL MARKET — Bloomberg: “The Environmental Protection Agency is enlisting the help of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission to help it police the creation and trading of biofuel credits, an opaque $1 billion market that has seen cases of fraud. The agencies said Thursday they signed a memorandum of understanding to share information. The accord also allows the CFTC to advise the EPA on investigations into potential fraud involving so-called Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs. RINs were created to help oil refiners comply with Renewable Fuel Standard, a law that requires them to use escalating volumes of biofuels. A party receives one RIN for each gallon of biofuel it blends with gasoline. That party can either keep the credit to show its adherence to the law or sell the RIN to someone else.” http://bloom.bg/1S7iKYU

TRANSCANADA TO BUY COLUMBIA — The Wall Street Journal: ”TransCanada Corp., the company behind the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project, agreed to buy Columbia Pipeline Group Inc. for $10.2 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported a week ago that TransCanada was in talks to buy Columbia. TransCanada has struggled to build new oil pipelines amid public and government concern that the projects would harm the environment and foster reliance on fossil fuels. The U.S. in November rejected the Calgary, Alberta, company’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported oil from Canada’s landlocked oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.” http://on.wsj.com/1R1LTpk

EPA TO SEND AID TO NEW MEXICO — The Associated Press: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is acknowledging the concerns of officials in New Mexico and elsewhere that spring runoff could stir up contaminants left behind by the Gold King Mine spill in southern Colorado. EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry, in a letter sent this week to the state’s congressional delegation, said the federal agency is providing $2 million for long-term monitoring and planning. States and tribes can apply their share to monitoring this spring.” http://wapo.st/1R1MEP2

WHAT WE’RE LEARNING ABOUT PLUTO — The New York Times Kenneth Chang: “The story of Pluto is largely a story of ice. On Earth, the only ice is frozen water. On Pluto, nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide also freeze solid. The most striking feature that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft saw when it flew past Pluto last July was a heart-shape region now named Tombaugh Regio after Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto. The left half is covered by mostly nitrogen snow; the right side is more methane ice. Eight months since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft had its quick, close-up look at Pluto, scientists are reaping the scientific rewards from a bounty of data the spacecraft collected. Mission scientists reported their findings in five articles published Thursday in the journal Science.” http://nyti.ms/1R1NlYR

FUTURES:

--Oil posts a sharp comeback: The Wall Street Journal reports that oil is bouncing back from record lows on hopes output will level off and end a global glut.

“The benchmark U.S. oil contract rose 4.5% to $40.20 a barrel Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its highest settlement since Dec. 3.” http://on.wsj.com/1R1OcIX

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