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POLITICO New York Energy: Lawmakers question NYPA renewable push -- Trump dynasty at EPA -- PennEast denied

By Danielle Muoio and Marie J. French | 02/05/2018 10:00 AM EDT

NYPA RENEWABLE PUSH CRITICIZED — POLITICO's Marie J. French: Two lawmakers who closely monitor the New York Power Authority say they're concerned about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to expand the authority's ability to bolster his environmental agenda. Cuomo's executive budget included measures that would allow NYPA to issue bonds and use other capital to develop new renewables — including large-scale wind and solar — and sell the energy generated to its customers. The statutory proposal comes after NYPA issued a request for proposals last year seeking developers of new renewables to support Cuomo's 50 percent by 2030 goal for renewable electricity. Read more here.

TRUMP DYNASTY — POLITICO's Andrew Restuccia: A home improvement contractor married to one of Donald and Melania Trump's former household staffers is now working as an official at the Environmental Protection Agency, the latest example of someone with a personal connection to the Trump family finding work in the administration. Read more here.

PENNEAST DENIED — POLITICO's Danielle Muoio: In its first major act under the Murphy administration, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told PennEast in a letter Thursday that it has chosen to deny its permit application without prejudice for the 120-mile pipeline project. The letter was sent almost a year after the DEP ruled that PennEast submitted an incomplete application. PennEast cannot begin pipeline construction until it receives the permit. The application has been administratively closed since June, but the DEP letter says there's no longer an application pending before it. PennEast can choose to submit a new application for the permit. Read more here.

GOOD MONDAY 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.

AROUND NEW YORK:

— An invasive alga species native to Asia has been documented in the Great South Bay and elsewhere on Long Island's shores, turning the water red and creating surreal scenes where it has washed up along ice-logged waterways.

— After years of public debate, the Adirondack Park Agency voted 8-1 on Friday to approve a classification for the Boreas Ponds Tract that splits it into two main categories, Wilderness and Wild Forest.

— Billionaire Tom Golisano is refusing to pay his $90,000 school tax bill until officials in the Finger Lakes town of South Bristol find a way to control the geese ruining his lawn.

— Renewable energy developer sPower is suing Riverhead Town to stop the proposed $40 million sale of the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

— With spring approaching and concerns about Lake Ontario water levels, Cuomo is urging the federal government to implement emergency measures to protect communities from flooding.

— Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and the state Public Service Commission are approaching a settlement related to fines lodged against the power company for its handling of the March 2017 windstorms.

— Cuomo continued to call on Congress to fund a $94.4 billion disaster relief package for Puerto Rico at a rally in the Bronx on Saturday.

— The new federal tax cuts will be making National Fuel Gas Co. a lot more profitable this year.

— Residents of Chinatown are questioning the city's highly-touted weapon against rats: $7,000, solar-powered garbage cans

— A handful of Rockland towns and villages signed an agreement that would place the Champlain Hudson power line under a major roadway.

— COLUMN: The Manhattan Institute's Roberty Bryce says Cuomo's goal of reaching 50 percent renewable energy is "colliding headlong with reality."

— LETTER: A member of SHARE, a group organized to oppose NYPA's Empire State Plaza natural gas-powered microgrid plan, contrasts it with the SUNY chancellor's sustainability push.

— Residents from around the Hudson Valley gathered in Bedford for the 2020 Climate Action Summit this weekend.

— None of the money for broadband buildout announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to communities in Niagara or Orleans counties. Genesee County was also left out.

— Residents of the northwest corner of Greenwich are concerned and vigilant about a recent disclosure that PFOS had been found in a groundwater test well near the Westchester County Airport.

— The American chairwoman of the International Joint Commission, Commissioner Lana Pollack, defended Plan 2014.

— A $250,000 state grant will allow the Town of Hempstead to upgrade its hydrogen fueling facility.

ACROSS THE RIVER:

— Oyster Creek, the nation's oldest nuclear plant based in New Jersey, will close earlier than expected this October.

— Lacey is already looking to find a replacement for Oyster Creek, and is leaning toward building a natural gas plant.

— EDITORIAL: It's up to the DEP to stop PennEast.

NOT IN MY YARD — Forbes' William Pentland: "For the better part of the past year, a proposal to build power transmission lines that would carry hydropower from Canada through New Hampshire and into Massachusetts seemed like a fait accompli. That changed last week. The $1.6 billion Northern Pass Transmission (NPT) project, which is being developed by Eversource Energy and Hydro-Québec, would bring 1,090 megawatts of Canadian hydropower 192 miles across the state of New Hampshire." Read more here.

WHITE HOUSE NOM PULLED — Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis: "The White House has withdrawn its controversial nominee to head the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, whose selection failed to gather momentum with some Senate Republicans raising questions about her expertise." Read more here.

TRUMP EYES CALI DESERT — Huffington Post's Mary Papenfuss: "Trump administration officials announced this week that they're considering dropping protections for a vast swath of the California desert to open up more land to energy development." Read more here.

— California is gearing up to fight the Trump administration if it tries to take away the state's right to set its own emissions standards for vehicles.

DRILLING BATTLE BREWS — Washington Post's Darryl Fears: "As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke prepared to travel to the Carolinas to discuss offshore drilling, state attorneys general condemned the Trump administration's plan to expand development of oil and gas in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as 'outrageous' and 'reckless'." Read more here.

CT WANTS NUKE FINANCIALS — Reuters: "Connecticut state regulators said Dominion Energy Inc should offer evidence that its Millstone nuclear power plant is in danger of closing before participating in a state power procurement process that could boost its profits." Read more here.

BILL GATES' PROJECT CLEANUP — The Guardian's John Vidal: "It's nothing much to look at, but the tangle of pipes, pumps, tanks, reactors, chimneys and ducts on a messy industrial estate outside the logging town of Squamish in western Canada could just provide the fix to stop the world tipping into runaway climate change and substitute dwindling supplies of conventional fuel." Read more here.

TESLA BOLSTERS AUSSIE TIES — Engadget's Jon Fingas: "Tesla isn't done bolstering Australia's power grid just because its giant battery farm is up and running. South Australia premier Jay Weatherill has unveiled a partnership that will provide 5kW solar panels and Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries to 'at least' 50,000 homes in a bid to create the largest-ever 'virtual power plant,' where homes contribute their surplus energy to the grid." Read more here.

GARBAGE MOUNTAIN — Reuters' Ellen Francis: "Arpi Kruzian has lived on the coastline east of Beirut for three decades. But now her balcony has a different view: a massive mound of trash rising on the Mediterranean." Read more here.

To view online:
https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/newsletters/politico-new-york-energy/2018/02/05/lawmakers-question-nypa-renewable-push-030657

Stories from States Pro

Lawmakers skeptical of NYPA building new renewables Back

By Marie J. French | 02/05/2018 05:02 AM EDT

ALBANY — Two lawmakers who closely monitor the New York Power Authority say they're concerned about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to expand the authority's ability to bolster his environmental agenda.

Cuomo's executive budget included measures that would allow NYPA to issue bonds and use other capital to develop new renewables — including large-scale wind and solar — and sell the energy generated to its customers. The statutory proposal comes after NYPA issued a request for proposals last year seeking developers of new renewables to support Cuomo's 50 percent by 2030 goal for renewable electricity.

"Now to have them buy and own renewable energy resources is concerning, ultimately, because I think this agency is moving away from its primary and original mission in a lot of ways," said state Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome), who chairs the chamber's Energy Committee.

Griffo has long been critical of the governor's use of NYPA funds, most recently when responsibility for the state's money-losing Canal Corporation was shifted to the authority. That transfer is expected to replace the usual annual transfer of money from NYPA to the general fund.

NYPA's main role is managing the state's hydroelectric dams and providing low-cost power to public entities, including municipalities such as New York City and public agencies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It also owns and operates some transmission assets.

NYPA is the largest state-owned utility in the United States and had operating revenues of $2.5 billion in 2017. The authority is increasing its investments in energy efficiency projects and has been looking for ways to provide new renewable electricity to its customers since last year.

"The legislation will clarify and enhance the New York Power Authority's ability to meet the energy needs of public entities and its business customers, support the cost effective development of renewable resources in New York State, and advance the State's energy goals," NYPA spokesman Paul DeMichele said in a statement. "This will help to ensure that New York continues to lead in supporting informed consumer energy choices, developing new energy products and services, and protecting the environment while creating new jobs and economic opportunity throughout the State."

The need for new financing options is driven by NYPA's current $600 million commercial paper limit, which supports its high bond rating. Projected investments in new business lines for NYPA, including renewables, are set to exceed that figure by 2019, according to a presentation to the board in September.

"You really have to get at the underlying financial viability of these projects," said Assemblywoman Addie Jenne (D-Theresa). "There's a lot more involved in the viability of solar and wind generation that would make me leery of forcing more financial liability on NYPA."

Jenne's North Country district includes NYPA's oldest hydroelectric dam, the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena. She closely watches developments at the Power Authority and has often raised concerns about it straying beyond its mission and being used as a "cash cow."

Jenne said she would look at whether NYPA should be restricted on these types of projects to investing in hydropower, noting there are struggling small hydroelectric plants that could use more attention from the state.

Griffo also has concerns about the financial viability of these projects and the ultimate impact on the Power Authority.

"There's a concern that it will conflict with the wholesale competitive electricity market and the companies that are already making investments," Griffo said of the proposal for NYPA to finance new renewables. "That is a potential cost to the consumer because now you're putting additional burdens on the Power Authority relative to bonding and there's a cost associated with that long term."

Cuomo's proposal also would expand the range of energy-efficiency projects the authority can do, and the types of customers for whom it can do those projects. The new language would make it clear that NYPA can finance projects such as microgrids and energy management services. NYPA already has engaged in developing microgrids for customers such as SUNY.

The measure would allow NYPA to provide energy efficiency services to nonprofits such as those set up under the state's community choice aggregation program.

To view online click here.


Back

DEP denies PennEast permit application Back

By Danielle Muoio | 02/02/2018 12:17 PM EDT

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told the PennEast pipeline project in a letter Thursday that it has chosen to deny its permit application without prejudice for the 120-mile pipeline project.

The letter was sent almost a year after the DEP ruled that PennEast submitted an incomplete application. PennEast cannot begin pipeline construction of the until it receives the permit.

The application has been administratively closed since June, but the DEP letter says there's no longer an application pending before it. PennEast can choose to submit a new application for the permit.

"To date, PennEast has not submitted any further documentation or a complete application," the Feb. 1 letter reads. "Accordingly, the NJDEP hereby denies without prejudice the application. As a result, no application for a freshwater wetlands individual permit is currently pending in any form before the department."

The notice was sent after PennEast was granted a key approval in January by the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee that could help it finish its application. PennEast has said it's confident it can submit a full application to the DEP once it completes land assessments. But the DEP letter shows the company still has a long way to go before construction can begin.

The project has run into roadblocks from property owners along the proposed 118-mile route from Luzerne County, Pa., to Mercer County, N.J. Landowners have refused to give PennEast surveyors permission to access their land, meaning the pipeline's application lacks significant data regarding environmental impact.

But FERC granted a "certificate of public convenience and necessity" for the pipeline that will now allow PennEast to access the private land to complete the surveys.

PennEast spokeswoman Pat Kornick said the letter from the state DEP was not unexpected and the company plans to get the necessary land assessments for the application.

"Since PennEast Pipeline received federal approval, landowners have contacted PennEast about providing survey permission, and PennEast will continue to work with other landowners in accordance with the FERC order," Kornick said in a statement.

Not all the landowners are ready to comply.

Landowners that would have the natural gas pipeline cut through their property have been told they have until Feb. 5 to accept the company's offer for easement, the Morning Call first reported. The easement would compensate landowners for allowing PennEast to access their property.

PennEast claims its monetary offers come at a premium. But only 50 percent of landowners have chosen to accept the deal, Kornick told POLITICO.

Those who choose not to accept PennEast's offer by Monday will have to go to court to settle on a final price. That could delay the application process even further.

The pipeline is expected to run through the properties of roughly 700 landowners — 500 in Pennsylvania and 300 in New Jersey.

Tom Gilbert, campaign director for New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said in a statement he was pleased that the DEP sent the notice on the heels of the FERC decision.

"We are pleased that NJDEP has denied PennEast's illegal and premature application," Gilbert said. "FERC's determination is explicitly conditioned on securing permits from NJDEP, and NJDEP has made it clear that PennEast hasn't even started that process."

The project will also need approval from the Delaware River Basin Commission.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who sits on the commission, said he was against the project on the campaign trail.

"Governor Murphy has directed his team to take a hard look at this project in connection with an updated energy master plan, which will focus on renewable energy and shifting away from outdated energy sources," Murphy spokesman Dan Bryan told POLITICO after the FERC ruling.

Read the full letter here.

To view online click here.


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