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POLITICO New York Energy: McCoy pushes on oil trains; Cuomo presents a mega-digester

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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MCCOY JOINS FEDERAL SUIT OVER OIL TRAINS — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Albany County executive Dan McCoy has taken his aggressive push to crack down on oil trains to Washington, joining a lawsuit in federal court there accusing the federal government of not doing enough to regulate the trains. McCoy, who has urged the Cuomo administration to curb oil trains' expansion as his region has become a major hub for them, filed an amicus brief Tuesday in environmental groups' suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation in the Washington, D.C., federal appeals court. McCoy said the federal phase-out of the most dangerous oil tankers wasn't happening quickly enough; neither was the plan to implement improved braking systems, he said. He called for a quicker phase-out and braking implementation, as well as for greater disclosures of oil training routing decisions and for crude oil to be stabilized before it is shipped.

IT’S GIGANTIC — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: One of the biggest anaerobic digesters in the region is scheduled to be built on Long Island, the state announced Tuesday. The digester, essentially a giant set of eight tanks hooked up by pipes to a 90,000-square-foot warehouse, will be capable of converting roughly 160,000 tons of organic waste into natural gas, diverting the waste material from landfills. “This first-of-its kind project for Long Island and the greater New York metropolitan area will build upon this administration’s commitment to expand the state’s use of renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

CUOMO: MORE WORK TO BE DONE IN POST-FRACKING SOUTHERN TIER — POLITICO New York’s Jimmy Vielkind: Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged at the State Fair Tuesday that more work needs to be done in the Southern Tier. “You know, the state can only do so much and then it's up to the localities to also come up with a business plan,” he said. “But [the] Southern Tier, we have more work to do, there's no doubt about it. But overall, the arrows in every region are pointed up, and we just have to build on that.”


--The Public Service Commission has hired a spokesman for its plan to remake the energy grid to accommodate more renewable energy sources.

--A state settlement with Exxon for unlawful wastewater dumping into the Hudson dating to the 1980s is helping to pay for upgrades to river parks.

--Pojo praises Obama’s climate goals but says they have no chance of getting implemented any time soon.

--No drought in NJ (yet): Giambusso reports New Jersey is not in danger of a drought, despite warnings from United Water about low reservoir levels, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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STUDY: OIL EXPORTS COULD LOWER GAS PRICES — The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder and Christian Berthelsen: “A long-awaited study by the Obama administration has concluded that lifting the nation’s four-decade ban on exports of U.S. oil wouldn’t raise American gasoline prices and could even help lower them, raising the stakes in the debate over whether to lift or relax the ban. The report, issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an analytic division of the Energy Department, is expected to provide momentum to efforts by the oil industry and their supporters in Congress to end the ban. The effort has gained traction in Washington this year, though such a change still faces steep hurdles before it could ultimately be adopted. The conclusions were widely expected by the industry and policy makers, after the division issued a series of other studies leading up to the final one over the past year laying the groundwork for the findings.”

OBAMA’S ONE VOTE SHY ON IRAN DEAL — POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi and Seung Min Kim: “The next 'yes' vote will be the deciding vote for President Barack Obama’s Iran deal. Two key Senate Democrats — Chris Coons of Delaware and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania — declared their support for the nuclear agreement on Tuesday, putting the Obama administration just one Senate vote away from blocking congressional attempts to kill the accord. Coons, a key bellwether for Democrats on Iran, announced his position in a lengthy speech at the University of Delaware on Tuesday, saying that the potential consequences for U.S. allies, as well as the unlikelihood that negotiators could go back to secure a different outcome with Tehran, led him to reluctantly back the agreement.”

--The Times’ editorial board praises President Obama for hammering home the message of climate change while in Alaska but also says it would be good for him to figure out a policy to deal with a melting Arctic and the resources that can be mined there.

ROBOTS ARE BETTER DRIVERS: The New York Times reports that self-driving cars such as those being tested by Google on California roads are discovering that human beings can often turn into depraved, lawless animals when they get behind the wheel. Google cars are programmed to follow the letter of the traffic law and do annoying things like yield to pedestrians and let other cars go first at four-way stops. The self-driving cars have been in 16 fender benders since 2009 and each time a human was at fault. Had they been tested in New Jersey, that number would likely be much higher.

CALIFORNIA BILLS COULD HARM CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE — Vox’s David Roberts: “California is leading the nation on climate change and clean energy. But the next phase of its leadership is now on the line. At issue is a set of bills that would substantially expand the state's existing clean energy programs. The bills will come up for a vote in the California Assembly within the next week or two. The oil lobby has mounted a full-court press against the effort, and a handful of Democrats in the Assembly are wavering. The stakes could not be higher.”

NUCLEAR RETIREMENTS COULD HURT CLEAN POWER GOALS — The Energy Collective’s Jesse Jenkins: “By 2030, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes its regulations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants will cut carbon emissions from the electricity sector 32 percent compared to 2005 levels. Reaching that goal depends on one big assumption, however: that the aging fleet of 99 nuclear reactors that now supply about one-fifth of America’s electricity continue operating. As a new analysis recently published by Third Way makes clear, if existing reactors retire en masse, it could be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to meet the EPA’s carbon reduction goals. And there’s simply nothing in the EPA rule to prevent nuclear retirements from ruining America’s climate progress.”

FRACKING COULD REACH CHEAPER NATURAL GAS FOR YEARS — The Wall Street Journal’s Russell Gold: “The U.S. may have even more — and much cheaper to get — supplies of natural gas than anyone imagined. Experimental wells in Louisiana by explorers including Comstock Resources Inc. and Chesapeake Energy Inc. are proving highly profitable even at today’s bargain-basement prices because of the sheer volume of fossil fuels that can be coaxed out of the ground. The trick is applying supersize versions of the horizontal-drilling and fracking techniques that worked successfully elsewhere to an area that hasn’t seen this approach yet. The gains come from extending the lateral portions of wells by thousands of feet and pumping them full of enormous volumes of sand, chemicals and water to flush out more hydrocarbons.”

NORTH PACIFIC IS WARMER AND STAYING WARM — InsideClimate News: “Warm sea temperatures are persisting in the North Pacific longer than at any other time on record, according to a new study published this week, and it is having a dramatic effect on distribution of marine life. In the last year and a half the northeastern part of the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the mainland of North America, has been warmer than at any time since 1900, when such record-keeping began. Sea temperatures there are between 5 degrees to 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher than is typical for this time of the year. A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers at the University of Exeter in England explores this climate pattern, which has in turn changed the habitats of sea life. Many subarctic species unable to adapt to warmer temperatures are seeking colder waters, displacing some populations by thousands of miles.”

TEXAS: FRACKING DIDN’T CAUSE QUAKES — The Associated Press: “The regulatory agency overseeing Texas’ oil and gas industry has determined that a series of small earthquakes in North Texas likely wasn’t caused by drilling operations by an ExxonMobil subsidiary. The preliminary findings mark the first decision by the Texas Railroad Commission since it was authorized last year to consider whether seismological activity was caused by injection wells, which store briny wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. The commission ordered hearings after a university study suggested two companies’ wells were responsible for quakes that shook Reno, Texas, in 2013 and 2014.”

WTO PANS INDIA’S SOLAR PROGRAM — The Wall Street Journal’s Rajesh Roy: “A World Trade Organization panel has ruled that India’s federal solar program violates global trade rules by imposing local-purchase requirements for solar cells and modules, two senior officials said Tuesday. The Indian government will appeal against the ruling in a case raised by the U.S., the two officials said. In a report sent to India and the U.S. late last week, the dispute settlement panel of WTO stated that New Delhi violated trade rules by imposing the local purchases under its federal solar program, one of the officials, who didn’t want to be identified, said. The panel also ruled against India’s incentive policies for domestic solar companies to manufacture solar cells and modules in the country, the official added.”

EXELON PLANS LAYOFFS — Crain’s Chicago Business: “Exelon is launching a major cost-cutting campaign that is expected to result in layoffs in Illinois and other markets where the power company operates. CEO Chris Crane informed employees of what he called the new “cost optimization program” in an internal memo dated Aug. 28 and obtained by Crain's. The cost reductions are targeted at Chicago-based Exelon's generation unit, which includes its power plants and retail electricity sales business, and its shared-services organization. That unit, Exelon Business Services, provides services like information technology, legal, human resources and communications to the company's operating companies.”

MORRISSEY FINALLY DECLARES WAR ON AUSTRALIA: After years of mounting tension between the iconic singer and the continent of Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s planned killing of 2 million feral cats has drawn a declaration of war from Morrissey who described the government as, “essentially a committee of sheep-farmers who have zero concerns about animal welfare or animal respect.” In comments reported in the Guardian, Morrissey concedes, “that the idiots rule the earth, but this is taking idiocy just too far.”


--Oil fell back on market-wide concerns over China, Nicole Friedman of the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled down $3.79, or 7.7%, to $45.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, slumped $4.59, or 8.5%, to $49.56 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, notching the largest one-day percentage decline since May 2011.”

--Natural gas boosted by heat: Friedman also reports that natural gas futures did well on expectations of a continued heat wave.

“Futures for October delivery settled up 1.3 cents, or 0.5%, at $2.702 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.”

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