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By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman
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LAWMAKERS BOOST FUNDING FOR COMMUNITIES FACING POWER PLANT CLOSURES — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Lawmakers are likely to include at least $40 million in the state budget for communities facing the loss of a power-generating facility, according to sources close to the talks. Assembly Democrats had proposed a $50 million fund for communities facing the loss of a fossil fuel-burning plant, while Senate Republicans had proposed a $100 million fund to support struggling nuclear facilities. Last year, lawmakers approved $20 million for communities facing the loss of a power plant. In the current negotiations, the fund would be fuel-agnostic and apply to all generating facilities. Money from the fund would go directly to municipalities facing major holes in their budgets — not to the facilities themselves, as Republicans have proposed. http://politi.co/1UVsmcI
STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT: HOOSICK FALLS WATER SAFE TO DRINK — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: The water in Hoosick Falls is once again safe to drink, the state Department of Health said Wednesday, months after residents in the upstate village were warned consumption could be dangerous because of a toxic chemical in the public water supply. The health department said multiple tests indicate a temporary filter has effectively removed perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, from the municipal water supply. “Staff from DOH and the village have been working tirelessly in Hoosick Falls to install the filtration system and flush the entire distribution system,” health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.” http://politi.co/1UDq4zl
HOW NEW YORK GETS ITS WATER — New York Times Emily S. Rueb: “Safeguarding the city’s water begins with protecting land that surrounds the streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. The Catskill/Delaware watershed encompasses more than a million acres. The city, state and local governments and nonprofit land conservancies own 40 percent of the land. The rest is privately owned, but development is regulated to prevent pollutants from getting into the water supply. The city has also upgraded septic systems and wastewater treatment plants in communities around the watershed and helped build municipal salt sheds and manure sheds on dairy farms to prevent harmful runoff.” http://nyti.ms/1VUi8ci
OKLAHOMA AND ALABAMA OPPOSE SCHNEIDERMAN CLIMATE COALITION—Bloomberg’s Laurel Brubaker Calkins: “Oklahoma and Alabama accused a 17-member coalition of U.S. states and territories investigating whether Exxon Mobil Corp. and other energy companies misled investors and the public about how climate change might affect their businesses of trying to silence critics. ‘Reasonable minds can disagree about the science behind global warming, and disagree they do,’ Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a statement Wednesday. The debate ‘should not be silenced with threats of criminal prosecution by those who believe that their position is the only correct one and that all dissenting voices must therefore be intimidated and coerced into silence.’” http://bloom.bg/25xu7k6
AROUND NEW YORK:
--The state had no shooting-related hunting fatalities for the first time in decades. http://bit.ly/1VUfzqv
--Albany-area Price Chopper stores received honors for their energy efficiency and environmental design. http://bit.ly/1RKinDu
--’Gasland’ director Josh Fox made a short film about his opposition to the Constitution pipeline. http://bit.ly/1q3k2Lz
--The Thruway Authority is arguing against two Hudson Valley towns taking roles in the environmental review of the Pilgrim crude oil pipeline. http://bit.ly/21Untj7
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ICE SHEET MELTING FASTER THAN THOUGHT — The New York Times’ Justin Gillis: “For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization. The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur. Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner. http://nyti.ms/1SnSZB2
RENEWABLE U.S. NEEDS TRANSMISSION LINES — Vox’s David Roberts: “Wind and sunlight have many advantages as fuel sources, but one big drawback is that they aren't portable. You can't carry them to a power plant. You have to build the power plant wherever you find them. That puts the US in an awkward situation, because the most intense wind and sunlight tend to be found in remote, low-population areas — think the sunny desert Southwest or the windy Great Plains. In order to exploit that wind and sunlight, the US needs some way to carry the power generated there to the population centers where it's needed. That is to say: The US needs new high-voltage, long-distance power lines.” http://bit.ly/1Tgj2Pu
QUICK TURNAROUND AT STRUGGLING SOLAR PLANT — Bloomberg’s Joe Ryan: “The operator of a massive U.S. government-backed solar project in California that fell short of production targets says the facility more than doubled its output last month, putting it on pace to meet its obligations to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the world’s biggest solar-thermal power plant, generated 67,300 megawatt-hours electricity in February, up from about 30,300 a year earlier, according to NRG Energy Inc., which operates the faculty and co-owns it with BrightSource Energy Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
Mitchell Samuelian, NRG’s vice president of operation for utility-scale renewable generation, said the improved performance shows the plant’s technology is viable and that the facility is on track to fulfill its contractual obligations.” http://bloom.bg/1oko6oV
CANADA QUAKES LINKED TO FRACKING — EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan: “While man-made earthquakes in the central United States have been linked to disposal of drilling wastewater, a new paper links a growing pattern of quakes in western Canada to the specific practice of hydraulic fracturing. A team of scientists from Canadian universities and government agencies compared earthquakes in a broad swath of western Canada to ‘fracked’ oil and gas wells and found a strong correlation. ‘In western Canada,’ the study said, ‘most recent cases of induced seismicity are highly correlated in time and space with hydraulic fracturing.’” http://bit.ly/1Y1egEI
SUPREME COURT MAY BLOCK LAND-USE REGS — The Wall Street Journal’s Brent Kendall: “The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared likely to ease the way for landowners to bring court challenges when environmental regulators determine their property is subject to restricted use under the Clean Water Act. At issue is a clash between North Dakota-based Hawkes Co. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the firm’s plans to conduct peat harvesting on wetlands in the northern part of Minnesota. The Army Corps made a “jurisdictional determination” that the property contained waters of the U.S., which meant Hawkes would need a permit under the Clean Water Act to disturb the land. Hawkes is seeking to challenge the Army Corps’ determination in court without first having to go through the permitting process, which can be lengthy and expensive. The company argues the property isn’t subject to federal enforcement because the wetlands aren’t connected to any navigable waters, saying the land lies more than 120 miles from the Red River of the North. Federal authorities say they have jurisdiction because there is a significant nexus between the property and the river.” http://on.wsj.com/1SnRmn6
MYSTERIOUS DEATH HIGHLIGHTS OIL FIELD RISKS — NPR’s Emily Guerin: “On a cold night in January 2012, Dustin Bergsing climbed on top of a crude oil storage tank in North Dakota's Bakken oil field. His job was to open the hatch on top and drop a rope inside to measure the level of oil. But just after midnight, a co-worker found him dead, slumped next to the open hatch. Even though an autopsy showed Bergsing had hydrocarbons in his blood — things like benzene and butane — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's investigation found no safety violations. And it didn't fine the oil company. Reporter Mike Soraghan came across Bergsing's case while researching oil field fatalities for EnergyWire, an online business publication. ‘A 21-year-old kid just sort of dies out in the middle of nowhere and nothing happens?’ Soraghan says. ‘I just remember reading through it and thinking, 'That's it?' ‘With the help of Dr. Bob Harrison, who specializes in occupational and environmental medicine, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a pattern was uncovered: nine oil workers found dead on oil pads in the past six years, many of them young and otherwise healthy.” http://n.pr/25xfmOm
TRUMP GAS ADVISER CONNECTED TO KREMLIN — Bloomberg’s Zachary Milder: “A globe-trotting American investment banker who's built a career on deals with Russia and its state-run gas company, Carter Page says his business has suffered directly from the U.S. economic sanctions imposed after Russia's escalating involvement in the Ukraine. When Donald Trump named him last week as one of his foreign-policy advisers, Page says his e-mail inbox filled up with positive notes from Russian contacts. ‘So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,’ Page said in a two-hour interview last week. ‘There's a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.’” http://bloom.bg/1Y0PJQm
POLL OF THE DAY: Nationally, opposition to fracking has grown significantly in the last year, up to 51 percent from 40 percent last year, a new Gallup poll shows. http://bit.ly/1PFPpAq
SUNEDISON’S BUYING BINGE — Bloomberg’s Brian Eckhouse: “Just nine months ago, SunEdison Inc. was Wall Street’s favorite clean-energy company. It sopped up every dollar it could come by to finance a breathtaking buying binge of wind and solar farms, and in the process became the world’s largest renewable-energy company. Today, SunEdison is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy protection, its stock below $1. The company’s fall is largely its own doing, the almost inevitable result of an ascent that was built on financial engineering and cheap debt. But it had plenty of enablers in the form of bankers, who pocketed fees with each acquisition, and investors, who reaped attractive dividends in a protracted stretch of low interest rates.” http://bloom.bg/1SnTg75
CALIFORNIA SNOWPACK EASING DROUGHT — The Associated Press: “State water surveyors have found a nearly average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, setting the stage for tough decisions on water conservation requirements for California residents. Regulators say the key spring measurement on Wednesday found the snowpack at about 95 percent of normal. They intend to use the figure when they reopen a discussion on whether to ease or drop the savings mandates. During the historic drought, now in its fifth year, Californians have been ordered to use at least 20 percent less water. To comply, many have let lawns turn brown and flushed toilets less often. The snowpack was aided by an El Nino storm system that dumped more water on the northern part of the state while leaving southern areas relatively dry.” http://wapo.st/1SnRPpk
HELICOPTERS FEELING OIL DROP — The Wall Street Journal: “The energy-industry downturn has created a huge surplus of helicopters, a sharp turnaround from two years ago when oil-and-gas companies were forced to share rides to and from far-flung oil platforms. Operators such as CHC Group Ltd. and Bristow Group Inc. that ferry workers and cargo on behalf of the energy industry said they have been surprised by the severity of the downturn, and don’t see any prospects for recovery until next year at the earliest. The slump comes at a tough time for big helicopter makers such as Airbus Group SE and Textron Inc. that are introducing new models, and others such as General Electric Co., which paid $1.8 billion last year for Milestone Aviation Group, the largest helicopter-leasing company by sales.” http://on.wsj.com/1SnQIpy
--Oil settles slightly up after giving up much of what it gained Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled up 4 cents, or 0.1%, at $38.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices had peaked nearly 4% higher at $39.85 a barrel just after EIA’s inventory data release at 10:30 a.m. EDT. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 12 cents, or 0.3%, to $39.26 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. It had peaked at $40.61. Brent snapped a four-session losing streak, while U.S. oil halted its losing streak at five sessions.” http://on.wsj.com/1SnQWNm
--Natural gas inches up on signs of cold weather and diminished supply, the Journal reports.
“The May contract, however, only inched up from where it was yesterday, and at times traded lower with a heavy oversupply continuing to weigh on the market. Natural-gas futures for May delivery settled up 1.5 cents, or 0.8%, at $1.996 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.” http://on.wsj.com/1SnSgQs
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