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POLITICO New York Energy: State makes it easier for solar; NY greens on the road

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 newyork@politicopro.com and we'll set you up for trial access. Thank you for reading.

SUSTAINABLE WESTCHESTER SOON TO FLIP THE SWITCH — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: Come May, the group Sustainable Westchester will flip the switch on an experiment in buying power that has never been tested before in New York State but could prove to be a crucial element of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision. The group has corralled more than twenty municipalities into a buying bloc that allows them to purchase power on the wholesale market t more competitive rates than individual customers. The process is called "community choice aggregation" and it promises two basic advantages to the 112,000 homes and businesses that have signed on: cheaper power and, for the most part, cleaner power as well. http://politi.co/1pv2HdN

STATE MAKES IT EASIER FOR SOLAR PROJECTS TO CONNECT TO GRID—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: The state Public Service Commission announced new regulations this week that will make it easier for solar and other renewable energy projects to connect to the electrical grid. The state is looking to make its policies more friendly to renewable projects and Thursday’s move by the PSC will increase the size of projects that can qualify for the interconnection from 2 megawatts to 5 megawatts. Developers will have the expense of interconnection cut to 25 percent of the current amount. http://politi.co/1pDi1pr

NEW YORK ENVIRONMENTALISTS SET TREND—The New York Times’ John Schwartz: “They came here to get arrested. Nearly 60 protesters blocked the driveway of a storage plant for natural gas on March 7. Its owners want to expand the facility, which the opponents say would endanger nearby Seneca Lake. But their concerns were global, as well. ‘There’s a climate emergency happening,’ one of the protesters, Coby Schultz, said. ‘It’s a life-or-death struggle.’ The demonstration here was part of a wave of actions across the nation that combines traditional not-in-my-backyard protests against fossil-fuel projects with an overarching concern about climate change.” http://nyti.ms/1pDeTK1

PSEG L.I.’S POWER PLAN — Newsday’s Mark Harrington: “As PSEG Long Island completes an analysis of the region’s power sources, special interests are pushing for a range of new power projects in the face of projections that the system will have plenty of excess power for the next 12 years. The utility has been working for more than a year on the Integrated Resource Plan, which will analyze scores of prospective power options and include a breakdown of their potential impact on rates. Environmental groups, lawmakers, plant developers and citizens groups want the plan to show pathways, respectively, to increasing green energy, repowering old plants, building new ones, and keeping tax payments steady.” http://nwsdy.li/1pv2Xcz

AROUND NEW YORK:

--Gannett takes a look at the state’s zero-emissions credits designed to save nuclear facilities. http://press.sn/1pVjeIm

--Lawmakers have proposed a new bill that would fine drivers for idling their cars too long. on.rocne.ws/1ptmVo5

--Road salt is showing up in local bays and creeks, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports. http://on.rocne.ws/1pv2JCs

--Manhattan Community Board 5 is weighing a passive house measure and you can read it here: http://bit.ly/1pv2MOF

GOOD MONDAY 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

EPA A PUNCHING BAG FOR DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS—The New York Times’ Coral Davenport: “Under fierce attack from the political right, and with even some Democrats questioning its competence, the Environmental Protection Agency is facing a tumultuous election year — with rising regulatory responsibilities, falling budgets and its very existence at stake. The agency has long been a favorite political target for Republicans, who criticize its authority to regulate large areas of the American economy as it enacts rules to curb pollution. But the E.P.A.’s challenges in 2016 are multifaceted. The Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have questioned the agency’s handling of the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich. And a toxic wastewater spill in a Colorado river last year brought charges of incompetence from both parties.” http://nyti.ms/1VrXTlQ

HOW PEABODY COAL TOOK TAXPAYER MONEY TO ENRICH ITS EXECUTIVES—Vox’s David Roberts: “Peabody Energy, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, is the world's largest private sector coal company, with operations across the world from China to Germany, and the largest producer of US coal. It is also the Absolute Worst. A full accounting is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say, Peabody has a long history of mutual hostility with environmentalists. It has paid climate skeptics for research and funded climate skeptic organizations. (CEO Greg Boyce, before retiring in 2015, dismissed "climate theory" and its "flawed models.") It has paid prominent lawyers to concoct arguments against Obama's Clean Power Plan, the latest battle in a long war on clean air and water regulations. Lately it's been trying to sell the idea that coal is the only cure for poverty, which organizations like the World Bank and Oxfam reject out of hand.” http://bit.ly/1MiFS7q

U.S. CLIMATE REFUGEES — Bloomberg View: “Global warming presents governments the world over with two problems. One is to slow the pace of climate change. The other is to adapt to what humans have already wrought, either by protecting buildings and infrastructure from rising tides and extreme weather, or by moving people out of harm's way. The second part is harder -- so hard, in fact, that the U.S. government has never done it. At least not quite like this. In January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it would give Louisiana $48 million to resettle Isle de Jean Charles. The state won the money by promising not just to move its people, who are members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, but to do it in a way that creates a model that other towns and cities might share. (Most pressing are several communities in Alaska, which face similar challenges.)” http://bv.ms/1pv2Spl

ENERGY EFFICIENT LOW INCOME HOUSING— Sophia V. Schweitzer for Vox: “Improved energy efficiency has long been an option — and a money saver — for those who can afford the upfront costs. But the close to 5 million American households that call some form of low-income housing home, usually renters in multifamily buildings, are less likely than others to be able to afford or be empowered to make changes that in the long run would save both energy and money. So, ironically, they often pay the highest energy bills. A 2015 study by the nonprofit partnership Energy Efficiency For All suggests that implementing energy efficiency programs across a spectrum of affordable housing types could result in cost-effective energy savings of 15 to 30 percent, which even at the low end would represent large reductions in usage and savings.” http://bit.ly/1PkpMVI

‘BIG ASS’ WIND — Vice’s Motherboard: “A Department of Energy-funded research group spanning several American universities is proposing a wind energy scheme involving almost unimaginable scales. The technology, which is still several years off from even being tested, would be capable of generating 25 times the power of a contemporary conventional wind turbine, but it would also come at a cost: really big-ass turbine blades. How big? Each blade would span 656 feet, dwarfing the current largest blades in use (262 feet). This would require towers to be at least a third of a mile tall, or about 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building. The group's work was reported this week in the Los Angeles Times. The new turbine blades are more properly known as Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors. The utility of such big honking blades is partially that they're not always so big. As wind speeds increase, the blades are capable of retracting.” http://bit.ly/25e3elc

LIGHTS OUT FOR EARTH HOUR — The Associated Press: “Cities around the world turned out the lights Saturday evening to mark the 10th annual Earth Hour, a global movement dedicated to protecting the planet and highlighting the effects of climate change. As night came on, the lights went out in cities from South Korea to the United States in what the World Wildlife Fund describes as a moment of solidarity for climate action. The group sponsors the event and says people in 178 countries and territories had planned to participate. Lights went out for the hourlong event — from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time — in Beijing, Moscow, Beirut, Cairo, Athens, Rome, and Paris. The lights atop the Empire State Building in New York were dimmed, and some billboards in Times Square also went dark.” http://bit.ly/25e3MHE

CLIMATE CHANGE WARNINGS ON GAS PUMPS—Vox’s Heather Smith: “Later this year, someone stopping to fuel up in North Vancouver will be the first customer to see the controversial warning labels. They’ll be wrapped around the gas pump handles. The exact wording isn’t settled yet, but here’s the gist of it: Every time you pump gas, you’re contributing to air pollution and climate change.” http://bit.ly/1pSzRV2

OP-ED: SAUDIS WON’T LET OIL RISE TOO HIGH — Panos Mourdoukoutas for Forbes: “Saudi Arabia faces a stark choice: either let markets crush American frackers or watch American frackers crush markets. After testing the upper twenties for a couple times, oil prices have staged a huge rally lately, trading above the $40 mark.Energy companies have rallied along, helping major Wall Street averages race towards new highs. But the oil rally may not last for too long. Saudi Arabia won’t let it last, in our opinion.” http://onforb.es/1pv31sT

FUTURES:

--Oil rally floundered Friday: The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. data shows oil rigs have not declined, quashing hopes that production would slow down.

“The U.S. oil benchmark, which had been as much as 2.5% higher in early trading, fell after the release of the data, ending the day down 1.9% at $39.44 a barrel. Just one day earlier, the contract broke through the $40-a-barrel level for the first time since Dec. 3. The global Brent contract also turned negative for the day, ending down 0.8% at $41.20.” http://on.wsj.com/25e10Cn

--Natural gas also fell Friday: The Journal reports already weak winter demand is getting weaker as spring approaches.

“Natural gas futures for April delivery ended 1.5% lower at $1.9070 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gas prices have surged more than 15% since early March after hitting a 17-year low, but the market remains down 30% from year-ago levels amid surging supply and weak demand due to a mild winter.” http://on.wsj.com/25e16K3

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