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POLITICO New York Energy: MTA power investigation -- Pension doubles down on sustainability -- NYPA punts on Bitcoin power

By Danielle Muoio and Marie J. French | 01/31/2018 09:57 AM EDT

MTA POWER INVESTIGATION PUSHED — POLITICO's Dana Rubinstein: "For at least the third time in recent months, good-government groups are asking the Authorities Budget Office to investigate the MTA. In a letter to the ABO and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Reinvent Albany Executive Director John Kaehny and Straphangers Campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff have asked for an investigation into the "alleged manipulation of data related to NYC subway service delays." Emails recently obtained by the New York Daily News suggest the governor's office may have pressured the MTA to come up with a higher number of power-related incidents in an apparent effort to pin more blame for the subway's failures on Con Edison. As POLITICO reported in November, Cuomo's Public Service Commission also took the unusual step of ordering Con Ed to pay not only for repairs to its own infrastructure servicing the subway system, but also for repairs inside the subway system, too. There's a good chance those expenses will be passed on to utility customers. "Was false or misleading data generated by the [New York City Transit] used as a justification for Governor Cuomo to instruct the Public Service Commission (PSC) to order Con Edison, a private company, to perform historically unprecedented repairs on subway electrical systems that have never been Con Edison's responsibility?" the Kaehny-Russianoff letter asks. Read more here.

PENSION DOUBLES DOWN ON SUSTAINABILITY — The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Krouse: "One of the largest state pension funds in the country has doubled its investment in a low carbon-emissions index, the latest high-profile endorsement of sustainable investing strategies. The New York State Common Retirement Fund will now invest $4 billion in a so-called low-emissions index designed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management. The index is less exposed to companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. , and has a heavier bent toward stocks including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp.... State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the pension fund's investment lineup, said the Goldman-designed index has delivered returns that are comparable to the Russell 1000, a widely followed stock market index, since its inception in 2016. The investment has returned an estimated 19.93% from its inception Jan. 1, 2016, to Jan. 26, 2018, compared with 20.14% for the Russell 1000, a spokesman for the comptroller said." Read more here.

NYPA PUNTS ON BITCOIN POWER — POLITICO's Marie J. French: New York Power Authority board members appear skeptical of a plan to grant low-cost power to a cryptocurrency mining operation that says it would create 150 full-time, permanent jobs at an empty aluminum smelter in the North Country. The NYPA Board of Trustees deferred any action on an initial approval for a 15-megawatt power grant for Coinmint LLC, a company that mines Bitcoin, Dash and Ethereum. NYPA board members raised questions about the promised 150 jobs, the types of jobs and whether that type of business supported the mission of economic development for the available power. "Cryptocurrency — we're not expecting a lot of people addition, because that's counter to what it does," said Tracy McKibben, one of the trustees. "It doesn't rely on a lot of people, and in terms of revenue I'm not sure how they would be contributing and falling under economic development. ... I'm not sure why we think they will meet the qualifications." Power prices in the North Country are lower than downstate, making it an attractive area for power-intensive operations such as data centers. The area has also experienced a loss of demand for power as large manufacturing operations have closed down, creating more issues with transmitting hydropower generated by NYPA's dams to customers. The Coinmint data center would be located in the now-empty Alcoa East plant in Massena and has already signed a long-term lease, according to NYPA staff. Alcoa shut down the plant in 2014. Read more here.

GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING: Let us know if you have tips, story ideas or life advice. We're always here at dmuoio@politico.com and mfrench@politico.com.

And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one they can sign up here.

NYCHA BOILER BAILOUT — POLITICO's Sally Goldenberg: Mayor Bill de Blasio is allocating $200 million in his upcoming budget proposal for new heating systems at the New York City Housing Authority, following a breakdown in boilers at public housing developments across the city this winter. Read more here.

AROUND NEW YORK:

— The Somerset Town Board unanimously passed laws Monday that would make it almost impossible for Apex Clean Energy to construct its proposed wind-power project in the town.

— Here's what you need to know to catch a glimpse of the 'super blue blood moon' in the New York City area.

— Engadget dives in on how the solar tariff will impact installers, with a lot of focus on the New York market.

— It looks like Punxsutawney Phil won't see his shadow on Groundhog Day, which means nothing weatherwise.

— Ice jams near Sylvan Beach are still a flooding concern.

— The Village of Mamaroneck is set to open Harbor Island Park's shoreline year-round.

— NYPA says 145 entries have been received for a $2.5 million competition to reimagine the money-losing state canal system.

— Faced with opposition from the public union, St. Lawrence County legislators blocked a proposal to seek bids from outside companies interested in trucking the county's waste to the Rodman landfill in Jefferson County.

— After being closed for nearly a decade, the first bucket of zinc was extracted Monday from the former St. Lawrence Zinc Co. mine.

ACROSS THE RIVER:

— New Jersey withdrew from litigation over the EPA's Clean Power Plan.

— Gov. Phil Murphy is joining a slew of other state governors who are considering taxing or pricing carbon dioxide emissions.

— The state's Department of Environmental Protection has begun work on two projects totaling $29 million to repair beaches on southern Long Beach Island and Brigantine that have sustained significant erosion from storms.

— New Jersey's gas prices are at their highest levels in three years.

— Delays plaguing a post-Hurricane Sandy flood control project could "destroy" Seaside Heights' economy

— Tom's River spent $825,000 to clear streets after the "bomb cyclone."

PRUITT SKEWERED TRUMP — The New York Times' Coral Davenport: "A year before President Trump named Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, where he quickly became a presidential favorite by gutting pollution rules and slashing staff, Mr. Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general, assailed Mr. Trump on a talk radio show, saying he would be 'abusive to the Constitution.'" Read more here.

— Pruitt said he didn't recall the exchange.

EXXON OPENS IT PURSE STRINGS — The Wall Street Journal's Bradley Olson: "Exxon Mobil Corp. said Monday it plans to spend $50 billion to expand its business in the U.S. in the next five years, investments that were 'enhanced' by the American tax overhaul." Read more here.

UTILITY PLANNING CHAOS — UtilityDive's Herman Trabish: "How many roads must distribution system planning walk down, before it fully values distributed energy resources? The answer is not blowing in the wind but is elusive, according to a new report from Department of Energy researchers." Read more here.

ALASKA WANTS DRILLING LIMITS — Reuters' Yereth Rosen: "Alaska Governor Bill Walker said on Tuesday he has asked U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to pare back a Trump administration plan for oil and gas leasing off the state's coast." Read more here.

PITTSBURGH GAS PUSH — Pittsburgh Post-Gazettes' Laura Legere: "The state Senate's energy committee on Tuesday endorsed a resolution urging Gov. Tom Wolf to end a 3-year-old moratorium on new leases for oil and gas drilling under state forests, saying money from new leases could help address a state budget deficit." Read more here.

CHINESE SOLAR FIRM PLOTS U.S. MOVE — The Wall Street Journal's Erin Ailworth: "A Chinese solar manufacturer said Monday that it plans to open a plant in the U.S., a week after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar panels." Read more here.

WIND DEPLOYMENT SLOWS — Bloomberg's Jim Efstathiou: "The U.S. added 15 percent less wind power last year than in 2016 as developers paused for breath, safe in the knowledge that a federal tax credit doesn't run out until 2020." Read more here.

BATTERY BUS BOOST — Bloomberg's Dana Hull: "Mayors of some of California's largest cities are urging the state's influential environmental regulator to give the battery-powered bus market a boost." Read more here.

'GREENS' SUE TRUMP — Reuters' Laura Zuckerman: "Environmentalists sued the Trump administration on Tuesday, claiming its recovery plan for the endangered Mexican wolf would instead lead to the extinction of one of North America's most imperiled mammals." Read more here.

MONKEY FALLOUT — The New York Times' Jack Ewing: "Volkswagen suspended its chief lobbyist on Tuesday amid a growing furor over experiments on monkeys that were meant to promote the virtues of diesel-powered vehicles, but now threaten to further undermine the German car industry and to increase political instability in Berlin." Read more here.

To view online:
https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/newsletters/politico-new-york-energy/2018/01/31/mta-power-investigation-029374

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