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POLITICO New York Energy: Pipeline wars -- Astorino's Indian Point push continues -- Alarm bells on Russian takeover of Citgo

By David Giambusso and Marie J. French | 04/11/2017 09:59 AM EDT

NATIONAL FUEL CRITICIZES PIPELINE DECISION — POLITICO New York's Marie J. French: Stopping short of vowing legal action, an upstate New York company seeking to build a pipeline to bring natural gas north to New York and Canada from the Marcellus Shale has questioned the state's rejection of a key permit for the project. In a statement released Monday, National Fuel Gas president and CEO Ronald Tanski said the decision ignores the record and is inconsistent with federal clean water rules. The Department of Environmental Conservation notified Nation Fuel that it had rejected a water quality permit for the Williamsville-based company's proposed Northern Access pipeline shortly before midnight on Friday. The DEC analysis "attempts to set a new standard that cannot possibly be met by any infrastructure project in the state that crosses streams or wetlands, whether it is a road, bridge, water, or an energy infrastructure project," Tanski said. The $455 million project would have involved the construction of 97 miles of pipeline and crossed 192 streams. The DEC cited impacts on trout and lingering effects of the pipeline right-of-way in streams that it would have crossed...

... The state is currently defending in court its April 2016 rejection of the same type of permit for the Constitution Pipeline. The DEC cited similar concerns about the impact on trout and cumulative effects of stream crossings. Jefferies analyst Chris Sighinolfi said it would have seemed the Northern Access pipeline, pushed by an upstate New York-based company and terminating in the state, had a better chance of approval than the Constitution pipeline, which was proposed by out-of-state companies and not primarily intended to serve New York customers. The state's decisions appear to be increasingly politicized, he said. "It confirms the fears I think a lot of people have that it's sort of a new day when it comes to hydrocarbon development, regulatory approvals and processes in left-leaning states, chief among them New York," he said. "We had thought National Fuel's project carried significant positive political attributes and economic attributes... but it seems the political environmental agenda is just too strong to circumvent." Read more here.

ASTORINO STILL PUSHING INDIAN POINT SUIT — POLITICO New York's Nick Niedzwiadek: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on Monday promoted his intention to sue the state over Gov. Andrew Cuomo's planned closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, saying it's the county's way "to protect our own rights, because we were not at the table." Astorino, a Republican who is up for reelection this year, first announced the suit last week and expects to file the suit in early May. He said Cuomo and the state "completely disregarded" existing laws requiring environmental studies before, not after, a determination was made about what to do with the site. "If you don't have to do an environmental study on the closure of a nuclear cemetery — and that's what it's going to be, a nuclear cemetery for at least six decades — then why the hell do we even have environmental laws?" he said on Fred Dicker's radio program. Democrats on the county board of legislators have criticized Astorino's proposed lawsuit, saying it was "dead on arrival" and did not have majority support in the board. Read more here.

— Astorino is working to get the County Legislature on board by swinging a single Democratic vote to support it. "The County Executive is working to get Democrats to join Republicans in supporting the lawsuit and thinks he will be successful once the Democrats read it," spokesman Ned McCormack said in a statement.

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— Officials say all drinking water supplies are safe after approximately 475 gallons of home heating oil spilled into the Neversink River.

— A small stream originating behind the Kraft Heinz cream cheese plant in Lowville was running milky white Monday morning, but officials said the phenomenon was short-lived.

— BUDGET TAKE: The Natural Resources Defense Council's Rich Schrader summarizes the environmental wins in the state budget.

— More environmental groups are suing over a pipeline approved to run through the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

— A deadly fungus that has the potential to destroy countless oak trees is creeping into the Rochester region.

— There's good news from the first Riverkeeper study of sewage in the Upper Hudson: The water has the lowest level of contamination that Riverkeeper has ever measured.

U.S. SENATOR RAISES ALARM ON RUSSIAN TAKEOVER OF CITGO — POLITICO New York's David Giambusso: The Russian government may be on the verge of controlling a fleet of domestic oil refineries and pipelines, including one in Linden, Sen. Bob Menendez warned during a news conference Monday. Read more here.

UTILITIES WORRY ABOUT SECURITY — UtilityDive's Herman Trabish: "In Utility Dive's fourth annual State of the Electric Utility Survey, more than 600 utility professionals named cyber and physical security the most pressing concern for their companies, with 72% saying it is either 'important' or 'very important' today." Read more here.

THE DREAM OF RENEWABLE ENERGY IS ALIVE IN PORTLAND — "Portland and Multnomah County leaders plan to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050." Read more here.

IN ARIZ., THE FUTURE AFTER COAL — E&E News' Benjamin Storrow: "Electricity produced at Navajo Generating Station, one of America's largest coal plants, primes 15 pumps operated by the Central Arizona Project, an aqueduct that annually lifts 1.5 million acre-feet of water out of the Colorado River and sends it 336 miles south to Phoenix and Tucson. Now that's changing." Read more here.

SOLAR FINANCING SALE — Bloomberg's Brian Eckhouse: "Two years ago, solar and wind developers couldn't get enough of a security that helped finance their clean-energy projects. Now, a growing number are considering cashing out." Read more here.

CALIFORNIA'S NEGATIVE PRICES — UtilityDive's Robert Walton: "Solar capacity on the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) system spiked last year, leading to negative prices at times when output is highest but demand is not." Read more here.

TESLA MIC DROP — Bloomberg's David Welch: "Elon Musk's Tesla Inc. surpassed General Motors Co. to become America's most valuable carmaker, eclipsing a company whose well-being was once viewed as interdependent with the nation's." Read more here.

CARBON CAPTURE ENTERS NEW PHASE — The Washington Post's Chris Mooney: "A new large-scale technology has launched in Decatur, Illinois that, by combining together corn-based fuels with the burial of carbon dioxide deep underground, could potentially result in the active removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere." Read more here.

FREAKISH WINTER — Bloomberg's Brian Sullivan: "It's not your imagination. The weather has been weird. ... While some of the swings may result from chance, scientists agree climate change is adding to weather mayhem and that the world will have to brace for worse. " Read more here.

MIND THE (DATA) GAP — The New York Times' Henry Fountain: "Among the sweeping cuts in the Trump administration's 53-page budget blueprint released last month, one paragraph stood out to climate researchers. It proposed eliminating four of NASA's climate science missions, including instruments to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and oceans..." Read more here.

NUCLEAR WASTE SHIPMENTS TO UNDERGROUND PLANT RESUME — The Associated Press' Susan Montoya Bryan: "The nation's only underground nuclear repository has received its first shipment of waste, more than three years after shipping was halted in response to a radiation release that contaminated part of the facility and sidetracked the federal government's multibillion-dollar cleanup program." Read more here.

FARMERS GRAPPLE WITH NEW CLIMATE — The Huffington Post's Joseph Erbentraut: "Federal research indicates that extreme weather events like droughts and floods can harm crops and reduce yields ... Yet only a few [farmers] — perhaps about 16 percent, according to one survey of Iowa farmers — seem to believe that human activities are a primary cause of it." Read more here.


— Oil is on a roll with production disruptions in Canada and Libya and uncertainty over Syria, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"Light, sweet crude for May settled up 84 cents, or 1.6%, at $53.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange the highest settlement since March 7."

— Natural gas continued to drop as demand slackens amid warmer weather, the Journal reports.

"Natural gas for May delivery settled down 2.3 cents, or 0.7%, at $3.238 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its fifth losing session of the past seven."

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