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POLITICO New York Energy: DEC off GE dredging letter; NYC cool on coal

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.

STATE REFUSES TO SIGN HUDSON RIVER DREDGING LETTER — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: There was a glaring omission in a letter the federal trustees in charge of the Hudson River’s health sent federal regulators Tuesday, warning that General Electric’s removal of pollution dredging equipment could hurt the river for years to come. The letter — sent by the Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees to the Environmental Protection Agency — was not signed by one of its own members, the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC is part of the trustees, but it did not sign onto the letter calling on the EPA to leave in place a facility used to clean dredge from the river. In previous publications from the trustees, the state’s logo was in a prominent place on the front page, and a DEC official's signature appeared. Neither were to be found on Tuesday’s letter. http://politi.co/1WwFFi6

CITY LEADERS PUSH TO KILL COAL — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: When Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday called on the city's five pension funds to divest from coal, he was not alone. In fact, two Council members beat him to it. Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and Councilman Costa Constantinides sent a letter to the city's five pension boards last week urging them to study the idea of dropping fossil fuels, coal in particular, from the funds. The letter was not made public until Tuesday. The argument they make is financial as much as environmental: The price of oil has dropped more than 50 percent in the last year thanks to the hydrofracking boom generating enormous supply, and coal companies are increasingly struggling due to government regulation and cheaper, cleaner natural gas. http://politi.co/1OEvmHh

THE CONE OF UNCERTAINTY: Tropical Storm Joaquin is heading our way and it’s likely to be a hurricane by the time it heads north later this week. Still, the best weather minds in the business are stumped by how much of an impact it will have on New York and New Jersey, though ‘Sandy’ comparisons are already being made. One climatologist described us at this point as being in the “cone of uncertainty.” The Star-Ledger’s resident weather expert, Steve Stirling reported Tuesday night, “Joaquin now has sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, up from 40 Tuesday morning. The new readings were a surprise to forecasters, and threw off afternoon forecast model guidance as a result, throwing an already complicated forecast into further disarray.” http://bit.ly/1PMpAAL

--The tweet of the day also goes to Mr. Stirling: "Weather geek in me is endlessly fascinated about how #Joaquin mystery will unfold. The professional communicator in me is mortified." http://bit.ly/1PMpGID

A GRIM PORTRAIT OF THE SOUTHERN TIER — The New York Times’ Susanne Craig: “The Southern Tier has proved to be a harder fix. It is predominantly rural and lacks a significant population core that typically attracts the private sector. The region is resource rich, but landowners are angry the government will not let them capitalize on it. Some had pinned their hopes of an economic revival on the prospect of the state’s authorizing hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking; many of them can recite the payment formula gas companies were proposing: $500 a month per acre. But the Cuomo administration, citing health risks, decided last year to ban the practice, leaving some farmers contemplating logging the timber on their land, a move that could destroy swaths of pristine forest.” http://nyti.ms/1iJG4yT

AROUND NEW YORK:

--The plan to transfer a NYSERDA property to SUNY Polytechnic Institute came at the same time the NYSERDA board had a lot of turnover. http://bit.ly/1PM5oiA

--PSEG L.I. is being accused of not paying taxes by Nassau County officials, according to a report in Newsday. http://nwsdy.li/1PMrAce

--SolarCity is ramping up employment from about 500 to 1,500 in the next few months. http://bit.ly/1VlZNGp

--If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, it’s likely because it is breeding season for New York’s woodland creatures. The state Department of Environmental Conservation urges New Yorkers, specifically motorists, to be sensitive to the animal season of love and be on the lookout for moose, deer and other wildlife in flagrante.

--Here’s a mini-documentary on a microgrid being developed in Red Hook as part of the Reforming Energy Vision plan. http://bit.ly/1OEcwjs

--A $2,500 reward is being offered to the person or people who identify the killer of a bald eagle outside Binghamton. http://on.fb.me/1P4bdty

--Supporters of the FitzPatrick nuclear plant are rallying in hopes of preventing it from closing. http://bit.ly/1QJQxFp

--Rensselaer County residents opposed to a natural gas pipeline are holding a rally Thursday night. http://bit.ly/1iIZPqa

--The New York Power Authority is providing the 43North business competition in Buffalo with $6 million. http://bit.ly/1FBjCCR

--The New York Power Authority will provide $3.5 million in funding to increase cell phone service in a part of the Schoharie Valley outside of Albany that was extensively damaged by flooding in the aftermath of tropical storms in 2011. http://politi.co/1O6E6WS

--A garden of earthly delights: The landscape design firm Balmori Associates has installed a floating garden on the river of poison and sewage known as the Gowanus Canal. While city, state and federal agencies struggle to find ways to make the water safe to live near, denizens can admire tasteful bouquets of goldenrod, wild indigo and black-eyed susans, DNA Info reports. http://dnain.fo/1OFa10n

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 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

A LOOPHOLE BIG ENOUGH TO DRIVE A TRAIN THROUGH — Al Jazeera and New England Center for Investigative Reporting: “Around the country, in towns as small as Grafton [Massachusetts] and as large as Philadelphia and Chicago, communities are beginning to ask the same question as the domestic energy boom makes the expansion of railway infrastructure — to host trains carrying crude oil, propane and ethanol — a profitable venture indeed. After more than a dozen serious explosions, fires and spills around the country, those trains have become notorious. But an investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and Al Jazeera America suggests a critical part of the energy-by-rail picture has largely escaped national attention: The rail industry is exploiting historic exemptions from state and local laws to build often massive transfer and processing stations free from virtually any permit requirements and without regard for basic laws protecting the communities in which they are based.” http://bit.ly/1FC8RjN

VW MAY AVOID US CHARGE — The Wall Street Journal: “A Justice Department investigation into whether Volkswagen AG should face criminal charges for cheating on emissions tests highlights what some lawmakers say is a long-standing gap in U.S. environmental law. Despite the scale of Volkswagen’s behavior — it has admitted using test-evading software in as many as 11 million cars worldwide — the German auto maker may not face an environmental crime charge here, legal experts say. If the Justice Department does pursue a criminal case, it would be the first-ever against an auto maker for skirting emissions standards.” http://on.wsj.com/1Vm450t

UTILITIES GET INTO SMALL-SCALE SOLAR — The Associated Press’ Ray Henry and Susan Montoya: “Traditional power companies are getting into small-scale solar energy and competing for space on your rooftop. The emerging competition comes as utilities and smaller solar installers fight over the future of the U.S. energy system. While the market for residential solar power remains a financial drop in the bucket for a big utility, the installation of solar panels overall grew by more than 50 percent in 2014 and is on track for another record-breaking year at time when the traditional utility business is pretty flat. ‘The whole theory is you need to serve your customer or someone will serve them for you,’ said Raiford Smith, a vice president at CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas, where 3,000 customers are interested in getting utility-owned rooftop panels. ‘I think the entire market is in a race for rooftop.’” http://bit.ly/1FFHV29

BUSH ENERGY PLAN — POLITICO’s Darren Goode: “Jeb Bush released an energy plan Tuesday that was filled with Republican standards: drill more oil, cut regulations and build the Keystone XL pipeline. But it's more notable for what it dodges: Bush is one of the greenest candidates in the Republican presidential field. He's also battling accusations that he's soft on the issues that are firing up the Republican base right now, and his big energy rollout didn't mention the term ‘climate change.’ And while he promises to stop President Barack Obama's climate regulations ‘in their tracks,’ he didn't repeat his previous concerns that the climate is changing "and humans are contributing to it," or that Republicans who deny global warming risk being viewed as ‘anti-science.’"

NEED ENERGY? LOOK TO THE SUN — Opinion from Bloomberg View: “When world leaders assemble in Paris next month for the United Nations Climate Conference, they will have to consider a difficult issue: Where humans will get enough energy to meet their needs without destroying the planet. From a purely scientific perspective, solar is the only solution. Humanity's most ambitious goals -- such as pulling another 2 billion people out of extreme poverty, or getting a grip on global warming -- require an abundant source of clean, renewable energy. The question is how to choose among options such as solar, wind and biomass. To that end, a group of scientists from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry decided to figure out which energy source has the most potential to satisfy humans' long-term needs.” http://bv.ms/1ReKd9T

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Here is what it feels like to have 2400 volts of electricity run through your body, as told by a survivor. http://bit.ly/1QK8nrO

KEYSTONE CO. DROPPING LAWSUITS — The Associated Press: “The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline is shifting course in Nebraska and will withdraw lawsuits seeking to gain access to the property of landowners who oppose the project, the company announced Tuesday. TransCanada said it will abandon its current efforts to invoke eminent domain through the courts, and will re-apply for state approval despite having received the go-ahead from former Republican Gov. Dave Heineman in 2013. Heineman approved the project under a now-contested pipeline-siting law that granted him the final say over the project’s route through Nebraska. TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said the company will instead seek a review from the Nebraska Public Service Commission — a small, elected group that regulates most pipeline projects — as many opponents have wanted.” http://bit.ly/1Vm3XOF

REP. WHITFIELD: I DID IT MY WAY — POLITICO’s Darius Dixon: “Rep. Ed Whitfield, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says the 114th Congress will be his last, but he insisted Tuesday that his decision to not seek another term had nothing to do with an ethics investigation. ‘No part of this is from that,’ the Kentucky Republican said in the Capitol when asked if hisretirement had to do with the House Ethics Committee investigation into whether he improperly aided his wife's lobbying work for the Humane Society Legislative Fund. If he had to do it all over again, Whitfield said, ‘I would do it exactly the same way ... I don't have any apologies about it.’"

GRID-SCALE BATTERY STORAGE — GreenTech Media’s Jeff St. John: “Batteries for grid-scale energy storage are getting cheaper all the time, and could be economically competitive without subsidies for certain key applications by decade’s end. That’s good news for utility customers and the power grid, but bad news for merchant power generators and utilities, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report released last week. ‘The reason I decided to write this paper is the likelihood that batteries may also go the way of solar panels, in terms of dramatic price reductions,’ lead author Swami Venkataraman said.” http://bit.ly/1ReMCS4

FUTURES:

--Oil gains on production cuts, the Journal reports.

“The benchmark U.S. oil contract rose 80 cents, or 1.8%, Tuesday to close at $45.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The global Brent contract gained 89 cents, or 1.9%, to settle at $48.23 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange. Both contracts have slumped about 50% from year-ago levels.” http://on.wsj.com/1OFaujd

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