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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign: Dunkirk is done; Exxon opponents fight after settlement

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

Good morning! Only POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it at that time, along with a customized real-time news feed of New York energy policy news throughout the day, please contact us at and we'll set you up for trial access. We’ll send the same newsletter to non-Pro subscribers at 10 a.m. Thank you for reading.

CUOMO GETS A REPRIEVE WITH PLANS TO MOTHBALL A COAL PLANT — Scott Waldman: Tuesday's announcement of plans to mothball a struggling coal-burning power plant in Western New York could cure a major headache for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Dunkirk plant outside Buffalo will be mothballed indefinitely starting in January, and plans to repower it are on hold, its operator NRG said Tuesday, less than two years after Cuomo touted those plans. In 2013, the governor traveled to the plant to announce that it would be converted to cleaner natural gas and remain open, preserving about $8 million in tax payments to local municipalities, including the school district.

EXXON OPPONENTS PRESS ON — David Giambusso: Just hours after a judge on Tuesday approved New Jersey's $225 million settlement with ExxonMobil, opponents of the deal were planning to fight the ruling. "I have an opening so big I could drive a Mack truck through it," state Sen. Ray Lesniak said in an interview with POLITICO New Jersey. The opinion, handed down by Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan, upholds the state's settlement with ExxonMobil — one legislators and environmental advocates have maligned as a sweetheart deal between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world. After the state filed suit for $8.9 billion in 2004, the fight wound its way through numerous court proceedings, and at least two gubernatorial administrations until Christie announced the $225 million settlement in February.

**A message from Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign: If New York is serious about tackling climate change, than we can no longer afford to keep fossil fuels on life support; having paid $4 million a month since 2013 to keep the uneconomical Cayuga coal-fired plant limping along, electricity bill payers shouldn’t be placed on the hook for $145 million more. Tell Governor Cuomo and his Public Service Commission to stop the Cayuga coal plant bail out. Click here to stop the Cayuga bailout.**


--A rural village in Western New York is the latest to consider going solar.

--A town outside Buffalo approved a 153-foot wind turbine.

--GE is building a $3 million warehouse south of Albany to cuts costs of shipping wind turbines.

--Gavin Donohue of Independent Power Producers of New York argues that open markets are the best way to meet the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING: Please let us know if you have stories, ideas, complaints or even if you're just lonely. We're always here at and And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one. Here’s a handy sign-up link:

CHRISTIE, BOTEACH URGE BOOKER AGAINST IRAN DEAL—David Giambusso: Using personal pleas to help persuade their "friend," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach urged U.S. Sen. Cory Booker on Tuesday to reject President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. During a standing room-only event at Rutgers University's Chabad House, Boteach, a friend of Booker's since the two attended graduate school at Oxford, appealed directly to New Jersey’s junior senator to say 'no' to the deal and fight a presidential veto if Congress rejects the accord.

--What are the odds? Carl Hulse of the New York Times argues it is unlikely a rejection of the Iran deal will win the day. If the Senate musters the 60 votes to reject the deal, President Obama will veto. Congress will need two thirds majority in both houses to override and that’s only happened 110 times since 1845.

KOCH RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT—POLITICO’s Mike Allen: “Charles Koch hit back at criticism of ‘the Koch brothers’ during President Barack Obama’s energy speech in Las Vegas earlier this week, saying he was “flabbergasted” by the attack and charging that Obama made the dig as a favor to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who appeared with him. “It’s beneath the president, the dignity of the president, to be doing that,” Koch said during a phone interview Tuesday. Koch’s blistering comments came as he and his brother David, whose conservative political network plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the 2016 election, have spoken out more frequently in an attempt to blunt Democratic attacks on their political influence and insinuations about their motives.”

UTILITY MERGER DENIED — The Washington Post’s Thomas Heath: “The D.C. Public Service Commission on Tuesday denied Chicago-based Exelon’s proposed $6.4 billion takeover of Pepco Holdings, a major setback for the giant utility marriage. The three-member commission unanimously rejected the utilities’ application, saying it was not in the best interests of the ratepayers. The commission said it found no evidence the combination would improve the reliability of service and the panel expressed concern about a new management structure at Exelon that would not include a Pepco member on its executive committee, “thereby diminishing the influence of Pepco within the new structure.”

MIDWEST GASOLINE PRICES TO DROP — The New York Times: “BP has restarted a large distillation unit at a refinery outside Chicago that broke down on Aug. 8 and caused a jump in gasoline prices across the Midwest. Energy experts said the repair at the refinery, in Whiting, Ind., should give drivers around the Great Lakes region relief at the pump in the coming weeks, while gasoline prices across most of the rest of the country are declining rapidly.”

CONSUMERS CARE ABOUT GAS PRICES MORE THAN CHINA — The Wall Street Journal’s Jon Hilsenrath and Nick Timiraos: “Falling gasoline prices are more meaningful than Wall Street’s gyrations to most working-class Americans ‘who don’t care where Apple stock is trading,’ said Andy Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants Inc., which operates the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains. He said the closely held company plans to add a substantial number of restaurants in the U.S. this year. Many U.S. companies find themselves trying to navigate a two-tiered global outlook, marked by small gains at home and new worries in China and Asia, a stark contrast from China’s boom days of a few years ago.”

COAL MONEY FUNDS CLIMATE SKEPTICS — The Intercept’s Lee Fang: “Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal companies in America, was a player in major congressional election efforts last year — but you won’t find records of their corporate donations on the Federal Election Commission website or in any public record. You will, however, find signs of the Virginia-based coal giant’s secret political activities buried in a creditor document filed last Thursday. The recent downturn in coal prices and high debts forced the company to seek bankruptcy protection earlier this month.”

METHANE SHAMING: InsideClimate News reports about companies that track and map methane leaks in the infrastructure maintained by utilities to move companies to more quickly plug the leaks. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100 year period.

OIL TRAIN OPPOSITION GROWS IN CALIFORNIA — The Mercury News’ Eric Kurhi: “Santa Clara County will join scores of cities, counties and school districts opposing a plan that would bring mile-long trains laden with crude oil rumbling through their neighborhoods, a situation county officials claim would be a disaster waiting to happen. Standing near a Union Pacific rail line on the outskirts of Japantown on Monday, county supervisors and fire officials said the trains have a history of derailments, spills, fires and explosions. Such a catastrophe could happen here, they argue, if San Luis Obispo County approves a rail project that would allow the crude to be transported to a refinery there from fields in the Midwest and Canada. The oil would pass through much of the Bay Area on the way down.”

CALIFORNIA GOV.: OIL INDUSTRY IS ‘DESTRUCTIVE — The Hill’s Devin Henry: “The oil industry is selling a ‘highly destructive’ product, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said this week as he pushes a bill to cut the state’s oil consumption. Oil companies ‘have a product that is highly destructive, while highly valuable at the same time,’ Brown told reporters on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports. ‘And we're trying to work out the right policies.’ Brown and his allies in the state Legislature are working to pass a bill that would cut the state’s oil consumption in half by 2030. The state Senate has already passed the bill, and members of the Assembly are considering it during a session set to end next month.”

U.S., CHINA TALK ‘CLEAN COAL’ — The Associated Press: “U.S. and China officials worked toward an agreement Tuesday to advance ‘clean coal’ technologies that purport to reduce the fuel's contribution to climate change — and could offer a potential lifeline for an industry that's seen its fortunes fade. The agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and China's National Energy Administration would emphasize collaboration on measures to capture the greenhouse gases produced from burning coal, said Christopher Smith, the Energy Department's assistant secretary for fossil energy.”


--Oil rallies: China’s interest rate cut helped spur an oil rally even as markets elsewhere tanked, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled up $1.07, or 2.8%, at $39.31 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 52 cents, or 1.2%, to $43.21 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

**A message from Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign: The Public Service Commission has already approved millions of dollars to prop up the dirty, outdated Cayuga coal-fired power plant. Now they are considering spending $145 million more of our hard-earned money to let this plant continue polluting New York’s air and water. For a fraction of this amount we can make sure that the region has reliable power while workers and communities are protected through the transition to modern, clean energy sources. With the increasing cost of coal and a shrinking industry, the time for change in New York is now. Tell Governor Cuomo that we need to stop bailing out coal plants and take the steps needed to lead the renewable energy transition. Your comments are a key part of making it clear: New Yorkers know that it’s time to act on climate and we can start by ending the bail out of coal right here in our state. Click here to tell Governor Cuomo to stop the coal bailouts and support renewable energy.**

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