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POLITICO New York Energy: Con Ed's tax battle; divestment fight

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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CON ED’S PERENNIAL TAX BATTLE — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: Con Edison was liable for more than $1.4 billion in property taxes last year and, according to a report filed this week with the Public Service Commission, the utility was not happy about it. Con Ed is among the biggest property taxpayers in the city and each year it submits a report to the state detailing how it is trying to keep the tax burden low for itself and its affiliate, Orange & Rockland. In the 16-page report it filed this week, Con Ed decries a system of tax assessment it sees as arbitrary and unfair.

EXEC: MORE HYDRO UNDER CUOMO CANAL PLAN — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: More hydropower dams could be built along the state’s canals if the Cuomo administration's plan to transfer the Canal Corporation to the New York Power Authority goes through, according to Brian Stratton, Canal Corporation's director. In his January State of the State proposal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed transferring the money-losing Canal Corporation — which doesn't generate significant income and generally loses tens of millions a year — away from the Thruway Authority. It marks a reversal of a policy instituted by his father that has been unpopular ever since. But Cuomo's plan has scant support in the Legislature.

KRUEGER, ORTIZ FACE OFF WITH PETROLEUM COUNCIL — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: State Sen. Liz Krueger and the head of the New York State Petroleum Council are in a public battle over the perceived virtues of divesting from fossil fuels. After a feisty exchange during a public forum in late February, Krueger and Assemblyman Félix Ortiz sent a letter Thursday to Karen Moreau, head of the petroleum council, which sought to refute claims made by Moreau on the economic disadvantages of divesting the state's pension from its fossil fuel holdings. The divestment movement has gained traction in recent years as colleges, charities and some public pension funds have dropped some or all of their fossil fuel holdings. In New York, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has stopped short of dropping all fossil fuel holdings, favoring an approach that would allow the state to have a voice in the deliberations of those energy companies in which it owns shares.

CUOMO, SCHUMER PRAISE INDICTMENT OF HACKERS — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer applauded the U.S. Justice Department Thursday for indicting seven people with ties to the Iranian government after they allegedly committed a series of cybercrimes, including the infiltration of a dam in Westchester County. “Everything from our banks to our critical infrastructure are at risk for damaging cyber-attacks like never before, and we must step up our counter-hacking game ASAP to deal with threats from places like Iran and would be terrorists," Schumer said in a statement.


--Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is among those who successfully pushed the SEC to require Exxon to better account for climate change, the New York Times reports.

--New Jersey State Sen. Ray Lesniak wants the state to join New York in investigating Exxon over climate change.

--Gasland director Josh Fox was arrested in D.C. during a “Pancakes not Pipelines” protest.

--National Grid is expanding its use of customer data as part of a growing partnership with Opower.

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ROCKEFELLER FAMILY FUND DROPS EXXON, COAL — Reuters: “The Rockefeller Family Fund said Wednesday it would divest from fossil fuels as quickly as possible and 'eliminate holdings' of Exxon Mobil Corp, saying the oil company associated with the family fortune has misled the public about climate change risks. Though only a sliver of the endowment's modest $130 million in assets is invested in fossil fuels, the move is notable because a century ago John D. Rockefeller Sr. made a fortune running Standard Oil, a precursor to Exxon Mobil. The charity said it would also divest from coal and Canadian oil sands. Given the threat posed to the survival of human and natural ecosystems, 'there is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons,' the Rockefeller Family Fund said.”

EPA FINDS RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL AT ST. LOUIS LANDFILL — The Associated Press: ”Radioactive material buried near an underground fire at a suburban St. Louis landfill has been found in areas where it was previously not suspected, but there is no increased health risk to residents or workers, Environmental Protection Agency officials said Thursday. The EPA released the first phase report of an investigation of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton [Missouri] where nuclear waste dating to the Manhattan Project was illegally dumped in the 1970s. Adding to the concern is the fact that an underground fire is smoldering at the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill.”

OFFSHORE WIND COMING SOON — The International Business Times: “By the time summer rolls around, five wind turbines, each rising 600 feet, could be spinning in the Atlantic Ocean near Rhode Island. Two more could spring up off the coast of Virginia by late next year. America’s first offshore wind farms will arrive after more than a decade of fits and starts, and they could deliver a jolt of much-needed momentum to the struggling industry. Yet building the next, bigger offshore wind projects will require states stepping in to help defray the sky-high electricity costs and attract wary investors, analysts say. A handful of other East Coast wind farms are in the works, but none are likely to come online this decade without stronger clean energy policies, or better financial incentives. Meanwhile, as the U.S. completes its two tiny projects, thousands of wind turbines are already producing clean electricity off the shores of Europe, China and Japan.”

RIGS IDLING AS OIL SUPPLY MOUNTS — Bloomberg: “Explorers once again idled drilling rigs in U.S. oilfields as crude inventories continue climbing, boosted by a surge in imports. Rigs targeting oil in the U.S. fell by 15 to 372, after one rig was added last week, Baker Hughes Inc. said on its website Thursday. More than 150 have been parked since the start of the year. Natural gas rigs gained 3 to 92, bringing the total down by 12 to 464.”

SHARED SOLAR COULD BE NEXT BIG THING — The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney: “Solar has been growing extremely fast in these existing markets. But more and more, analysts say, there’s a middle-range market whose large potential is just becoming clear. It’s bigger than individual rooftop installations but smaller than vast solar farms. And it’s for a much broader and diverse range of people than fairly wealthy, suburban homeowners. It’s called community or 'shared' solar, meaning that multiple people get electricity from a mid-sized solar array on the top of, say, a condo building, or in a lot centered in a community, or perhaps an array or resource designated by their power company.”

POWER MARKETS LEANING RENEWABLE — Bloomberg’s Anna Hirtenstein: “If you’re a power plant developer, chances are you’ll be selling renewables in a developing nation in the decades ahead — even with fossil fuel prices bumping along historic lows. That’s been the conclusion for some time of the International Energy Agency and independent researchers such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A report out Thursday from the United Nations Environment Program using BNEF data gives more statistical backing for the trends. For the first time in 2015, more investment went into renewables than fossil fuels, and most of the money went to emerging markets.”

RENEWABLE RECORD — Climate Central: “Global investments in renewable energy, including wind and solar, hit a world record in 2015. The world collectively spent nearly $286 billion on renewable energy development in 2015. The investment comes following an unprecedented worldwide boom in renewables in 2014 that suggested some countries are shifting dramatically toward low-carbon energy. Rising investments are in part being driven by the falling cost of solar and wind farm construction.”

TEXAS POPULATION BOOMING DESPITE ENERGY DECLINE — Bloomberg: “U.S. oil prices tumbled from more than $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014 to less than $50 a year later, but that didn't stop workers from flocking to Texas, the nation's biggest energy-producing state. Eight of the top 20 counties that gained the most population last year were in Texas. Four Lone Star metros — Dallas, Houston (Harris County, in the chart below), San Antonio (Bexar County), and Austin (Travis County) — collectively added more than 412,000 people from July 2014 to July 2015, according to Census data published Thursday. Of those new residents, 63 percent had migrated from either elsewhere in the U.S. or from other countries.”


--Oil fell again on continued data showing too much supply, the Wall Street Journal.

“The benchmark U.S. oil contract ended down 0.8% at $39.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange — its third losing session in a row and now down nearly 5% from its 2016 peak set earlier in the week. The market fell early in the session and pared losses over the course of the day but never turned positive, coming on top of a 4% decline Wednesday. The global Brent contract fell 0.1% to $40.44 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.”

--Natural gas picked up as stockpiles proved to be less plentiful than previously thought.

“Natural gas futures rose 0.7% to settle at $1.8060 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after trading in negative territory before the data release. The market has been retreating from a one-month high after an early spring warm-up drained the last remaining hopes for gas-fired winter heating demand.”

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