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POLITICO New York Energy: Report says GE contaminated upstate drinking water; DEC commissioner search proves difficult

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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REPORT: GE CONTAMINATED DRINKING WATER — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Groundwater in at least three upstate towns is contaminated by pollutants that General Electric dumped into the Hudson River for decades, a new federal report has found. The Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees said Thursday that GE’s dumping of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into river exceeded state groundwater standards in Hudson Falls, Fort Edward, and Stillwater for a “repeated and prolonged” period of time. “Groundwater provides significant economic and ecological services to the public,” the trustees wrote. “The ability to use these services has been and continues to be severely curtailed as a result of the PCB and VOC releases.”

--Cuomo said he had not read the latest report, but said he was satisfied with the dredging GE had completed thus far and did not call on them to do any more about their pollution of the Hudson River. "They are completing what they agreed to complete, I know there are claims for them to do more above and beyond that," he said. “I think they should follow the law, and the agreements that have been made.”

CUOMO ADMINISTRATION STRUGGLING TO REPLACE MARTENS — State of Politics’ Liz Benjamin: “The Cuomo administration is having trouble finding a successor to former state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, according to multiple sources familiar with the search. Team Cuomo started looking for Martens’ replacement about six months ago, sources said. At least two potential commissioners have been mentioned — and even unofficially approached — for the job, but have so far declined to sign on. The names floated include: Stu Gruskin, who served as executive deputy commissioner at DEC from 2007 to 2010 and is now with the Nature Conservancy; and Lehner, who, until very recently, was the executive director of NRDC and the NRDC Action Fund.”

CITY HALL VS. STRINGER — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: The de Blasio administration accused city Comptroller Scott Stringer of cherry-picking data and ignoring industry standards in an audit he released accusing the city of falling behind on greenhouse gas emission reductions. The audit, released Thursday but completed in July, accuses the Department of Citywide Administrative Services of failing to monitor emission reductions adequately in city-owned buildings.


--The public comment period for the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline has been extended to Oct. 16.

--The union representing Verizon workers wants the company to investigate its copper network.

--NYPA and Con Ed take home solar prizes in the Solar Electric Power Association’s 2015 awards. The prizes go to utilities and power companies that do the most to increase access to solar. NYPA won the public power utility category and Con Edison won the investor-owned utility category.

--The city’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency made some staff moves with three promotions and two new hires, according to an email from director Dan Zarrilli.

HAPPY FRIDAY: We will be off until Tuesday but that does not mean we won’t be laboring through the weekend to bring you the latest energy news from here and beyond. 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:

OIL TRAINS WORRY CITY OFFICIALS ACROSS U.S. — The Associated Press: “They rumble past schools, homes and businesses in dozens of cities around the country — 100-car trains loaded with crude oil from the Upper Midwest. While railroads have long carried hazardous materials through congested urban areas, cities are now scrambling to formulate emergency plans and to train firefighters amid the latest safety threat: a fiftyfold increase in crude shipments that critics say has put millions of people living or working near the tracks at heightened risk of derailment, fire and explosion. After a series of fiery crashes, The Associated Press conducted a survey of nearly a dozen big cities that, collectively, see thousands of tank cars each week, revealing a patchwork of preparedness. Some have plans specifically for oil trains; others do not. Some fire departments have trained for an oil train disaster; others say they're planning on it. Some cities are sitting on huge quantities of fire-suppressing foam, others report much smaller stockpiles. The AP surveyed emergency management departments in Chicago; Philadelphia; Seattle; Cleveland; Minneapolis; Milwaukee; Pittsburgh; New Orleans; Sacramento, California; Newark, New Jersey; and Buffalo, New York.”

--Here’s a video of oil trains rolling through dense urban areas in some of the nation’s biggest cities.

BOOKER BACKS IRAN DEAL — Politico New Jersey’s Matt Friedman: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker will vote in favor of the nuclear deal with Iran. New Jersey’s junior Democratic senator announced his position Thursday afternoon in a 3,395-word essay after “hours and hours” of study, saying sanctions have “only delayed — not blocked — Iran’s potential nuclear breakout.” “We have now passed a point of no return that we should have never reached, leaving our nation to choose between two imperfect, dangerous and uncertain options. Left with these two choices, I nonetheless believe it is better to support a deeply flawed deal, for the alternative is worse,” Booker wrote. “Thus, I will vote in support of the deal. But the United States must recognize that to make this deal work, we must be more vigilant than ever in fighting Iranian aggression.” His position marks a break from his state's senior senator, Robert Menendez, who announced his opposition to the deal last month.

THE ‘GASLAND’ EFFECT — SNL Energy’s Bill Holland: “Audiences that saw the anti-fracking documentary ‘Gasland’ and lived in a community in the Marcellus Shale with an above-average number of nonprofit organizations were more likely to mobilize via Twitter and Facebook in favor of fracking bans, a soon-to-be published scientific study says. The study shows that while public curiosity about fracking spiked after the film debuted on HBO and later when it was nominated for an Oscar, seeing the movie was not enough motivation, by itself, for people to take action. But like the famous flaming faucets in the movie, "Gasland" lit a fire, the study said. "Gasland contributed not only to greater online searching about fracking, but also to increased social media chatter and heightened mass media coverage," lead author and University of Iowa sociologist Ion Vasi writes in his study of the impact of "Gasland" on the fracking debate and eventual bans in New York as well as cities such as Pittsburgh. "Local screenings of Gasland contributed to anti-fracking mobilizations, which, in turn, affected the passage of local fracking moratoria in the Marcellus Shale states."

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Here’s a video of Chris Christie saying that humans contribute to climate change by breathing and then saying he didn’t say it. Context alert: the video is prepared by Democrats and is spliced together for maximum effect. Christie could very well have been joking. Love him or hate him, the governor of New Jersey is a jokester.

CALIFORNIA’S GAS WARS — The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Megerian: “When Californians check their mailboxes or flip on their radios these days, they might be forgiven for thinking an election is around the corner. It's not, of course. But with just a week left for lawmakers to finish their work this year, a heated ad war is being fought over a bill to cut state gasoline consumption in half. The measure passed the state Senate but is the subject of a tough battle in the Assembly, where business-friendly Democrats hold more sway. If it succeeds, it will shift the state away from fossil fuels. Oil companies want to kill the bill and have blanketed the state with warnings — one radio spot sounds like a public service alert — that the government wants to track residents' driving, ration their gas and charge them for owning gas-guzzling trucks or minivans.”

ENERGY STORAGE PICKS UP — The Washington Post’s Chelsea Harvey: “Back in May, Tesla turned heads when it announced its plans for a new battery product, which would allow homes and large-scale commercial operations to store energy from solar panels or serve as a backup power source during grid outages. And now, a new report released Wednesday highlights the leaps and bounds this new industry — dubbed energy storage — is making, and predicts its continued growth in the coming year. The U.S. Energy Storage Monitor report, which is part of a series of documents published quarterly by GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association, claims that the second quarter of 2015 saw a six-fold increase in energy storage deployment since the first quarter.”

E.T. NOT PHONING HOME, YET: Sadly, the shriveled creature found at a Russian nuclear facility is not actually an alien, or so they would have us believe.

ANCIENT MAYANS MAY HAVE BEEN POLLUTERS: Researchers at the University of Texas believe they have found data showing that the ancient Mayans of Central America may have radically altered and destroyed their own environment 3,000 years ago.

WHAT A CLIMATE DEAL MIGHT LOOK LIKE—Bloomberg’s Ewa Krukowska: “A global climate deal may need a specific, long-term goal, one that goes beyond objectives for the next 10 or 15 years, according to negotiators. The challenge is finding one that will satisfy almost 200 nations when they meet in Paris in December. Some of the options under consideration as the latest round of talks wrap up Friday in Bonn were limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), phasing out fossil fuels and setting specific renewable-energy targets.”

WHATEVER IT IS, WE DON’T LIKE IT: POLITICO’s Andrew Restuccia reports that even before a Paris accord is reached, Republicans in Congress are planning ways to undermine it. GOP lawyers and lawmakers are dead set against President Obama committing the U.S. to anything without the Senate getting a chance to vote it down. [PRO]

FIRSTENERGY AND SUBSIDIZING COAL — Vox’s David Roberts: “FirstEnergy, a power company that serves 6 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, owns a handful of big nuclear and coal power plants that are no longer competitive in power markets. Rather than shut down the plants, the company is asking Ohio regulators to force customers to buy the plants' power for the next 15 years, an enormous subsidy that would ensure FirstEnergy shareholders a steady, predictable profit even as its ratepayers get hosed.”


--Oil boosted by European stimulus: Oil settled higher Thursday after the European Central Bank signaled it would expand its stimulus program, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled up 50 cents, or 1.1%, to $46.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 18 cents, or 0.4%, to $50.68 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

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