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POLITICO New York Energy: Environmentalists turn to county work-around; Zibelman stands firm on recusal issue

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 newyork@politicopro.com 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.

GREEN GROUPS TURN TO COUNTY LEGISLATURES FOR ACTION—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: After years of disappointment from state lawmakers, environmental groups are turning to local county legislatures to pass laws. On Monday, Albany County lawmakers announced they would soon vote on a bill to ban microbeads, the tiny plastic particles found in many personal care products. Microbeads pass through water treatment plants and harm fish and other wildlife when they reach waterways. The ban, which legislators hope to approve by the end of the year and have in place by next summer, would follow a similar Erie County bill. After a push from advocates, legislatures are considering similar measures in three other counties. Turning to the counties to pass bills that fail year after year in the State Legislature is a becoming a well-worn strategy for advocates tired of fighting the same battle in the Capitol every year. http://politi.co/1UQLcCM

PSC CHIEF WON’T RECUSE HERSELF FROM MICROGRIDS — Newsday’s Mark Harrington: “Past ties to two companies that were awarded state grants to conduct microgrid studies, including one on Long Island, will not force the chairwoman of the state Public Service Commission to remove herself from involvement in the matters, the agency said. Last month, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority awarded more than a dozen $100,000 grants to municipalities and companies to examine the feasibility of microgrids, which allow critical services to operate in the event of a wider power outage. Anbaric Transmission and Viridity Energy were among the entities— which are contracted to municipalities — that received awards. PSC chairwoman Audrey Zibelman, who is also a NYSERDA board member, was a founder and past chief executive of Viridity. She had previously divested her ownership in the company after Politico New York reported her interest. Microgrids have been listed as a part of the state's Reforming the Energy Vision, an initiative that is being overseen by the PSC.” http://nwsdy.li/1Fb4YS7

POPE PREP BIGGEST IN CITY HISTORY — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: When Pope Francis arrives in New York City next week, he'll be joining 90 percent of the world's leaders who will be in town for the United Nations' 70th General Assembly. "This event is going to be the largest security challenge the department and the city have ever faced," police commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday during a briefing for reporters. "In addition to the Pope, we will have 170 confirmed world leaders in the city." Millions are expected to turn out to get a glimpse of the pontiff. The Pope will address the U.N. General Assembly, where he is expected to urge world leaders to work toward a credible global treaty on climate change when they meet in Paris in December. The Pope's landmark encyclical, Laudato Si', has presented the challenge of climate change as societal as much as scientific, saying the poor will be the most vulnerable to drought, flooding and food scarcity that's expected as a result of global warming. That focus on "climate justice" has won Pope Francis admirers in the secular environmental community as well, which will likely add to the throngs. http://politi.co/1Fb5DDa

AROUND NEW YORK:

--The federal Environmental Protection Agency has filed plans to dismantle a facility General Electric is using to clean polluted dredge from the Hudson River. http://politi.co/1Obj9JP

--The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has appointed a director of renewable thermal. http://politi.co/1KaQkXZ

--The South Colonie school district is building a solar farm to power its schools. http://bit.ly/1gmRFCs

--The state conducted more oil train inspections. http://on.ny.gov/1NsbGVo

--Hearings have begun on proposed outages of the Indian Point nuclear facility to reduce fish mortality. http://lohud.us/1KbcRpY

--Throwback Tuesday. On Sept. 14, 1915, the Buffalo News asked why gas prices were so much higher in Buffalo than Detroit. http://bit.ly/1KmqzHU

TOP OF THE TUESDAY: Please let us know if you have stories, ideas, complaints or even if you're just lonely. We're always here at dgiambusso@politico.com and swaldman@politico.com. And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one. Here’s a handy sign-up link: politi.co/1UqoEoB

BURN IT, MELT IT — The New York Times’ Justin Gillis: “Burning all the world’s deposits of coal, oil and natural gas would raise the temperature enough to melt the entire ice sheet covering Antarctica, driving the level of the sea up by more than 160 feet, scientists reported Friday. In a major surprise to the scientists, they found that half the melting could occur in as little as a thousand years, causing the ocean to rise by something on the order of a foot per decade, roughly 10 times the rate at which it is rising now. Such a pace would almost certainly throw human society into chaos, forcing a rapid retreat from the world’s coastal cities. The rest of the earth’s land ice would melt along with Antarctica, and warming ocean waters would expand, so that the total rise of the sea would likely exceed 200 feet, the scientists said.” http://nyti.ms/1URyRcj

SAFEST WAY TO TRANSPORT OIL? — The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Molinski: “The growing sense of potential danger has prompted critics and industry officials to ask: What is the safest way to transport oil? And are there ways to make the current methods safer? Among other things, they’re proposing tougher safety regulations, and using technological fixes like machines that travel along pipelines, looking for weak spots. One thing is certain: None of the existing methods of transport — rail, boats, trucks and pipelines — is going away. The oil industry believes the best thing to do, in terms of safety, profits and efficiency, is to keep all options on the table and make sure they are as safe as possible. ‘All four modes have always and will always be with us,’ says Kenneth Green,who has spent years researching crude-oil transportation safety for the Canada-based Fraser Institute. ‘What institutions must ensure is that the most oil moves by the safest way, with the caveat of ensuring we protect the health of humans and the environment.’” http://on.wsj.com/1gl2NQc

BIOFUELS STRUGGLING — Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder: “Nearly 10 years ago, then-President George W. Bush promised to fund research in ‘cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switchgrass.’ But that promise of biofuels made from non-food products is still a long way off. A federal mandate, created during the Bush administration, to increase the share of biofuels in the gasoline supply is facing criticism on Capitol Hill and implementation challenges within the Obama administration. Meanwhile, low oil prices are making all biofuels less cost-competitive, especially fuels from novel feedstocks like algae.” http://on.wsj.com/1EYAnr9

CALIFORNIA STILL ABLAZE — The New York Times: “Despite the efforts of 8,800 firefighters, three major blazes whipping through California’s tinder-dry forests and brush had consumed a combined 270,000 acres and remained largely out of control, state officials said on Monday, forcing thousands of people to flee and destroying up to 1,000 buildings. At least one person has died in the fires, the governor’s office said on Monday. By morning, 800 to 1,000 people fleeing one fire’s path had poured into the Napa County Fairgrounds here, sleeping in camping tents, on cots or in their cars. Evacuees who had fled the scorched Lake County communities of Middletown, Cobb, and Hidden Valley Lakes, northwest of Sacramento, told one another their stories of racing the flames and of the last times they had seen their homes.” http://nyti.ms/1M843BO

YOUR DAILY SATIRE: “Atlantic Ocean Delighted to Move into Beautiful Beachfront Mansion Soon,” from The Onion. “I’m not quite ready yet, but in a couple years or so, I can definitely see myself in there, making the place completely my own. And the little beachside community that the house is located in is just so cute, too — I can’t wait to go through and visit all the shops and restaurants.” http://onion.com/1NzFIrM

OPPOSING EVERYTHING — VTDigger’s Erin Mansfield: “A New York City company is proposing to build four solar farms across Vermont that would each be 10 times larger than any other array operating in the state. And Vermont officials are not sure the state’s infrastructure can handle the load. Ranger Solar LLC, based in Manhattan with an office in Maine, wants to build four 20-megawatt solar farms in Ludlow, Barton, Highgate and Sheldon, according to paperwork filed in August with the utility-regulating Vermont Public Service Board. Ranger Solar started up in April, has raised $7 million from private investors to build solar, and is developing a 500-megawatt portfolio to build in the near term. The four planned projects in Vermont would be part of that New England portfolio. Each farm would be under a separate limited liability company: Coolidge Solar I LLC, Burton Hill Solar LLC, Highgate Solar I LLC and Sheldon Solar LLC. Two of those companies have the same address in Maine, and the other two have the same address in Palo Alto, California. All of the companies are registered in Delaware.” http://bit.ly/1M4WqMz

DEADLY OIL VAPORS — EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan: “The danger of vapors from storage tanks has been poorly understood in the oil field, even flatly denied at times. But documents from the litigation that followed [Colorado truck driver Jim] Freemyer's death map out in chilling detail just how toxic gases from oil field storage tanks can kill people. All crude oil has toxic compounds called volatile hydrocarbons, such as benzene, butane and propane. Shale oil, such as that from Colorado's Niobrara formation, has more than conventional crude. It's related to why trains loaded with shale crude explode when they derail. Lighter than the rest of the oil, the vapors bubble up in storage tanks and collect above the liquid. They can burst out of the tank with enough force to knock off a worker's hard hat.” http://bit.ly/1FI3Ikq

KILLING COAL — Bloomberg’s Tim Loh: “Robert E. Murray, the coal miner who has sued the Obama administration over environmental regulations, said Thursday that his industry’s facing its biggest regulatory threat yet. It’s not the Clean Power Plan Obama announced last month that calls for less emissions-intensive electricity generation. It’s a set of regulations the Interior Department is proposing to protect water supplies and the environment from coal mining operations. The founder and chief executive officer of Murray Energy Corp. said at a press conference that the so-called Stream Protection Rule would kill an industry practice known as ‘longwall mining.’ The technique, which involves multiple revolving blades cutting coal from a seam into slices, is key to operations run by closely held Murray Energy. It has emerged as one of the cheapest and most efficient ways for miners to weather the worst industry downturn in decades.” http://bloom.bg/1LuQxoQ

IT’S RAINING IN OIL COUNTRY — The Wall Street Journal: “U.S. energy companies have defied financial gravity for more than a year, borrowing and spending billions of dollars to pump oil, even as crude prices plummeted. Until now. The oil patch is expected to finally face a financial reckoning, experts say, with carnage occurring as early as this month. One trigger: Smaller drillers are bracing for cuts to their credit lines in October as banks re-evaluate how much energy companies’ oil and gas properties are worth. But with oil trading below $45 a barrel, bigger oil outfits are struggling to stay profitable, too. Jim Flores, vice chairman of Freeport-McMoRan Inc., which pumps oil in the Gulf of Mexico, explained the industry’s conundrum this way: 'It’s raining and it’s going to rain for a long time. We’re all going to get wet. A few people are going to drown. You just have to make it to the other side.'" http://on.wsj.com/1Fb7dov

FUTURES:

--Gas, oil futures slide: The Wall Street Journal reports that oil and gasoline took a hit as driving season comes to a close and the U.S. is left with a glut of fuel on its hands.

“Gasoline prices settled down 6.56 cents, or 4.8%, at $1.3043 a gallon, the lowest settlement since Jan. 15 … Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled down 63 cents, or 1.4%, to $44 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell $1.77, or 3.7%, to $46.37 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.” http://on.wsj.com/1Fb81K9

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