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POLITICO New York Energy: Another PSC recusal issue; Con Ed settles harassment suit

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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REGULATOR’S RECUSAL FROM TRANSMISSION ISSUE AT ODDS WITH DEVELOPER’S — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Fresh off a controversy over potential conflicts of interest with an energy company doing business in the state, New York’s top regulator is now in an odd disagreement with a company that filed a recusal on her behalf. On Sept. 2, Anbaric, a private company that is developing multiple transmission and microgrid projects for which it will need state approvals, filed a recusal for Public Service Commission chairwoman Audrey Zibelman on all matters involving the company, which is headed by Zibelman’s former business partner. It was a highly unusual move — typically, members of the PSC file their own recusals. It also turned out to be at odds with Zibelman’s interpretation of the situation.

CON ED SETTLES HARASSMENT SUIT — POLITICO New York’s Colby Hamilton: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a joint settlement Wednesday with Consolidated Edison of New York over sexual harassment charges made by female employees. “Sadly, the fight against gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace is ongoing, and we will use every tool we can to make it a thing of the past,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “This case should send a clear message to employers across New York State: All women, especially those working in male-dominated workplaces, deserve respect and equal treatment — as the law, basic decency, and the success of our economy require.” Con Ed will reserve up to $3.8 million for over 300 women who will be potentially eligible for the settlement, Schneiderman’s office said. The claims process will be administered by both the A.G.’s office and the EEOC.

NYC LEAKING GAS FROM OLD PIPELINES — Buzzfeed’s Dan Vergano and Aldhous: “Thanks to old and rusty pipelines, Manhattan leaks three to five times more natural gas than cities with newer infrastructure, according to a survey of three U.S. cities published on Wednesday. In recent years, cities across America have increasingly switched their heating and energy sources from coal, the leading fossil fuel linked to global warming, to the cheaper and cleaner natural gas, or methane. But environmental researchers have feared that this methane boom would cause urban gas lines to leak daunting amounts of natural gas. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas — about 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.”


--Monroe County will soon get two large solar farms capable of producing 11 megawatts of power, enough for 2,000 homes.

--An upstate casino filed a 3,000-page environmental review in response to a court decision.

--As part of his trip to address Puerto Rico’s deepening fiscal crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed state energy officials to help the island grow its renewable resources and make government buildings more energy efficient.

--Pilgrim pipeline foes are meeting with elected leaders in New Jersey’s Bergen County today to urge the county to oppose the oil pipeline.

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COURT DENIES STATES’ REQUEST TO BLOCK EPA CARBON RULES — The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder and Brent Kendall: “A federal court denied a request by more than a dozen states on Wednesday to temporarily block the Obama administration’s carbon regulations while they mount a full legal challenge to the rules. The decision is an early victory for the Environmental Protection Agency, which completed the rules last month calling for carbon emissions from power plants to be cut 32% by 2030 from 2005 levels. The regulations are the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s climate plan, and Wednesday’s ruling is an early legal salvo in what is expected to be a yearslong court battle over Mr. Obama’s climate agenda. Last month, 15 states asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to issue an emergency stay blocking the rules, noting that they would be required “to spend significant and irrevocable sovereign resources now” to be in a position to meet the initial deadline of Sept. 6, 2016 for states to submit compliance plans to the EPA. The court also rejected a request for an emergency stay brought by coal producer Peabody Energy Corp.”

A HOUSE GOP DIVIDED —The New York Times: “House Republican leaders on Wednesday postponed debate on President Obama’s landmark nuclear accord with Iran amid a revolt by some Republicans who claimed the White House had not disclosed secret side agreements on the deal. The delay of the historic debate because of Republican infighting opened a new twist in the White House’s effort to move forward with the accord, but it appeared it would have little impact on its prospects. Under the legislation passed this spring that gave Congress a say in the nuclear deal, lawmakers have until mid-September to approve or disapprove the accord. If they do nothing, it goes into force. On Tuesday, the administration succeeded in securing the votes needed in the Senate to block the Republican disapproval resolution on the deal in that chamber, sparing Mr. Obama from having to use his veto pen.”

--Khamenei: No Israel in 25 years: Playing to the worst fears of opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Twitter that in 25 years Israel will not exist. “After nuclear negotiations, the Zionist regime said that they will not be worried about Iran in the next 25 years,” Khamenei wrote, according to a report in the New York Times. “I am telling you, first, you will not be around in 25 years’ time, and God willing, there will be no Zionist regime in 25 years. Second, during this period, the spirit of fighting, heroism and jihad will keep you worried every moment.”

--Very stupid people: In Washington on Wednesday, Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz protested the U.S. deal with Iran. “We are led by very, very stupid people,” Trump said, adding later, “We will have so much winning if I get elected, that you may get bored with winning."

SOLAR’S RECORD GROWTH — The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney: “The U.S. solar industry is on course for a new growth record in 2015, according to a new report that finds that solar photovoltaic installations now exceed 20 gigawatts in capacity and could surpass an unprecedented 7 gigawatts this year alone across all segments. A gigawatt is equivalent to 1 billion watts and can power some 164,000 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The new report, from GTM Research and SEIA, covers the second quarter of 2015, which set a new record for residential rooftop solar installations in particular, a category that saw 70 percent year-over-year growth. 473 megawatts of residential solar capacity were installed, or nearly half a gigawatt.”

--Goodbye, solar tax credit: John Farrell, writing in Clean Technica, argues the ups, but mostly downs of the soon-to-expire federal solar tax credit.

A HEART-WARMING, GLOBAL WARMING TALE — New York’s Jonathan Chait: “It is hard even to conceive of good global-warming news when bad news is the only kind that has ever existed. But guess what everyone’s been missing in the middle of their keening for the dear, soon-to-be-departed Earth? There is good news. And not just incremental good news but transformational good news, developments that have the potential to mitigate the worst effects of climate change to a degree many had feared impossible. Those who have consigned the world to its doom should reconsider. The technological and political underpinnings are at last in place to actually consummate the first global pact to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. The world is suddenly responding to the climate emergency with — by the standards of its previous behavior — astonishing speed. The game is not over. And the good guys are starting to win.”

INVESTORS’ CLASS ACTION BP SUIT CAN PROCEED — The Associated Press: “A federal appeals court says litigation alleging that BP misled investors about the rate of oil flowing after an offshore oil rig explosion in 2010 can proceed as a class action lawsuit. Tuesday’s 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means that the lawsuit, led by pension funds in New York and Ohio, can continue on behalf of all purchasers of certain types of BP securities during a 33-day period after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit says low estimates of the rate of oil spewing into the Gulf inflated securities prices.”

UTILITIES BUILT FOR ANOTHER AGE — Vox’s David Roberts: “No matter how individually virtuous utility executives may be, these running battles between utilities and clean energy will continue until the root problem is addressed and solved. The root problem is simple: it's the way utilities are structured. They are monopoly providers of a whole bundle of electricity services in a given geographic area. But technology has evolved to the point that many of those services could be provided just as reliably, or better, by participants in competitive markets — if there were any such markets. Competitors keep trying to squeeze into the electricity space and utilities keep using their monopoly power to try to squeeze them back out. That's what all the fights are about.”

SUNCOR PROMISES INCREASED EMISSIONS — Bloomberg: “Suncor Energy Inc. expects greenhouse-gas emissions from its operations to increase 28 percent in five years as it expands oil-sands production. Emissions including carbon dioxide will rise to about 26.2 million metric tons in 2019, from 20.5 million last year, the company said in its annual sustainability report. Emissions in 2014 declined 0.3 percent to 20.5 million tons, a level little changed since 2012.”

ENERGY ACTIVISTS RALLY IN MASSACHUSETTS — WAMC’s Paul Tuthill: “With the Massachusetts Legislature set to take up energy bills in the fall, advocates for clean energy are mobilizing across the state. A new coalition of activists was launched [Wednesday]. A coalition with more than 80 members from across the state, including environmental organizations, solar power businesses, neighborhood activists, and religious congregations, was announced at simultaneous news conferences Wednesday in a half dozen Massachusetts cities including Holyoke. Claire Miller of Toxics Action Center, one of the founding organizations, said the coalition members have endorsed a five-point agenda advocating local, clean, renewable energy.”

MICHIGAN HYDRO FACING CUTS — Utility Dive: Consumers Energy Co. and DTE Energy Co. are planning to cut the rate they pay small hydroelectric generators, potentially forcing the facilities offline. There are generators receiving 7 to 8 cents/kWh — and some higher — but the utilities are preparing to offer them the Midcontinent ISO rate of 4.5 cents/kWh. Some obververs fault the Michigan legislature, which has not given utilities guidance on how to set new avoided cost provisions requirements under the Public Utility Regulatory Power Act.”

BIG OIL BEATS BROWN — The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Megerian: “Unable to overcome fierce opposition from the oil industry and resistance from some Democrats, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders announced Wednesday that they will remove a major portion of an ambitious proposal to combat climate change. A provision calling for a 50% cut in petroleum use by 2030 will be dropped from legislation that includes the governor’s environmental goals, removing what was the main political obstacle to pass the bill before the Legislature’s session ends Friday. 'Oil has won the skirmish. But they've lost the bigger battle. Because I am more determined than ever,' the governor said.”

BETTING AGAINST LNG — Bloomberg: “Jim Chanos is locking horns with Carl Icahn over liquefied natural gas. Chanos said he’s betting against Cheniere Energy Inc., the U.S. natural-gas exporter whose biggest shareholder is Icahn. The liquefied natural gas, or LNG, industry is a 'looming disaster' and demand isn’t growing anymore, Chanos said Wednesday in an interview with CNBC. The outlook for multibillion-dollar natural gas export projects around the world has soured amid concern over the Chinese economy and falling oil prices. Liquid gas contracts have generally been linked to crude, meaning the price crash over the past year has taken a toll, said Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York."

CHEAP RUSSIAN GAS TEMPTING EUROPE — Bloomberg’s Anna Shiryaevskaya:

“Europe lowered purchases of liquefied natural gas for a third month in August as buyers boosted purchases of oil-linked fuel through pipelines from Russia. LNG imports by 10 nations in the region that receive the tanker-delivered fuel dropped 3.4 percent from a year earlier in August, after reaching a two-year high in March, according to data from Genscape Inc. Russian pipeline supplies soared about 20 percent from a year earlier in August, remaining at the highest level this year, tracking declining crude prices, according to data from Gazprom PJSC, the world’s biggest gas producer. Europe, which imports as much as 70 percent of its gas needs, has increased shipments from Russia as contract prices declined because they follow crude with several months delay.”

GREEN KNESSET: Le Monde reports that Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is looking to becoming the greenest in the world through a series of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.

PIPELINE AFFECTED BY OIL SLOWDOWN — Wall Street Journal’s Allison Sider: “Falling U.S. oil production and low crude prices are casting a shadow over one of the bigger energy-infrastructure building sprees: pipeline construction. The shale boom that began in 2008 created a huge need for new pipelines in places like North Dakota and West Texas—but many of those lines now have been built. Meanwhile, oil output has finally started to decline, according to federal estimates, in the wake of a 50% drop in the price of crude. ‘It’s hard for us to paint a scenario where, at least for the foreseeable future, any additional long-haul pipelines are needed,’ Michael Mears, chief executive of distribution operator Magellan Midstream Partners LP, recently said. The company has built and expanded oil arteries in Texas.”


--Oil takes a dive, on ample global supply the Wall Street Journal’s Timothy Puko reports.

“Light, sweet crude for October delivery lost $1.79, or 3.9%, to $44.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell $1.94, or 3.9%, to $47.58 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Both hit their lowest settlement since Aug. 27 and are down 59% from their highs in June of 2014.”

--Autumn cools natural gas prices, Puko reports.

“The front-month October contract settled down 5.9 cents, or 2.2%, at $2.651 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have traded in an 11-cent range near the seasonal low for more than two weeks, with the approaching end of summer weighing on the market.”

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