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POLITICO New York Energy: Port Ambrose decision time; DEC commissioner's challenges

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.

PORT AMBROSE BATTLE ENTERS CRUCIAL PHASE — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: After more than a year of stops and starts, the Port Ambrose offshore gas project is entering its final review phase before Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie must decide its fate. The U.S. Coast Guard is expected to post an Environmental Impact Statement on the offshore liquefied natural gas plant within two weeks. Barges would carry natural gas that has been cooled and condensed into liquid form. The proposed plant, which would sit roughly 20 miles south of Long Island and 30 miles east of New Jersey, would "regasify" the product and ship it by underwater pipeline to New York and New Jersey. Once the final impact statement is posted, federal agencies will announce hearings, which will likely be held in early November. Cuomo and Christie will have 45 days after the close of public comments to decide on the project. If either governor vetoes it, the project is dead. A decision is likely by the end of the year. http://politi.co/1L5m8hm

KEY DECISIONS AWAITING NEW DEC COMMISSIONER — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Basil Seggos will take over the state Department of Environmental Conservation during a time of transition. Former Commissioner Joe Martens spent much of his four years grappling with the controversy over fracking. And while he ultimately banned the practice, there are plenty of other high-profile decisions awaiting Seggos when he assumes office later this year. He will lead a department through major decisions on natural gas pipelines, nuclear facility permitting and other controversial issues with a drastically reduced staff and diminished enforcement capability. Still, the announcement of Seggos' appointment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo several days ago was greeted enthusiastically by business and environmental groups, many of whom have been meeting with him for years. http://politi.co/1RsZHqR

FERC FAVORS CAITHNESS IN L.I. RULING — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: A recently issued decision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission marks a victory for a power plant company trying to build a new plant on Long Island, but the area's utility still maintains that the facility is unnecessary. The FERC decision comes amid a dispute between Caithness Energy — which runs the plant Caithness I — and PSEG Long Island, the utility contracted by the Long Island Power Authority to deliver electricity to the island. PSEG has said that Long Island has enough energy capacity for the next decade or so, but Caithness wants to build a new power plant, Caithness II, near its current plant in Yaphank. The project had received an initial go-ahead by LIPA, but PSEG put the project on hold in 2014. http://politi.co/1L5loc3

PROPANE FRACKING TECHNOLOGY ON HOLD — Gannett’s Tom Wilber: “The propane fracking technology seen as the key to unlock the Marcellus Shale in Tioga County has been shelved by its developer. Despite this latest setback, the wildcatters who are pursuing a plan to develop wells in the Town of Barton say they still have access to the waterless fracking technology through other, unnamed parties. ‘The equipment and technology is available. We have options,’ said Phillip Mezey, a Texas driller and principal member of Tioga Energy Partners, a limited liability company pursuing a quest to become the first producer of shale gas in the state. That may good news or bad, depending on how one stands on New York state’s ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, and the group’s plan to use a largely unproven method to get at the gas under the Southern Tier of New York.” http://press.sn/1NkIPEe

AROUND NEW YORK:

--New York is the most energy efficient state in the nation, according to WalletHub. http://bit.ly/1KY4dvh

--Power lines are delaying a giant beer hall from being built in Buffalo. http://bit.ly/1MXJKHA

--The DEC has a new head of communications. http://politi.co/1PhbgCt

--A plan to store oil trains in the Adirondacks appears to be scuttled. http://bit.ly/1WLKILL

--The state Department of Environmental Conservation has rejected Cheektowaga’s plan to reduce sewer overflows. http://bit.ly/1NkYaoi

--The city of Buffalo is pushing back on an Investigative Post report that shows low minority contractor rates at the SolarCity factory. http://bit.ly/1KYPdNK

--Video: PSEG’s skycrane moves transmission towers in New Jersey. http://bit.ly/1FW1seM

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

EXPORT BILL FAR FROM A DONE DEAL — POLITICO’S Elana Schor: House Republicans plan to end this week by embracing the familiar unifying cause of promoting the U.S. oil industry, but their rally around crude exports will do little to open the door for international sales in the near future. Friday's vote may bring together House Republicans otherwise riven by tumultuous leadership elections, but expected passage of legislation to end the export ban will train an already fierce lobbying campaign on the Senate, where some industry supporters hope it could be included in a year-end deal to keep the government funded and raise the debt limit. One GOP lawmaker also suggested making an end to the export ban a prerequisite for Republicans to approve President Barack Obama's recently completed trade agreement with Pacific-Rim nations. Any such deal remains a longshot as the export push faces resistance from the left and right, and some analysts warn that quick action to lift the ban could backfire politically or economically. Senate Democrats have outlined a lengthy wish list of priorities they would be willing to trade for oil exports, and the Obama administration's buy-in for domestic oil exports is far from assured, as Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reiterated his view that exports are unnecessary.

RENEWABLE COST DROPPING — The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney: “A new analysis suggests that we continue to move into a world in which it makes more economic sense to draw electricity from the sun or the winds, rather than from fossil fuels. The report, from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, examined the ‘levelized cost of electricity’ around the world in the second half of 2015 — a metric that seeks to take a comprehensive look at costs including capital expenditures, interest rates and operating costs. It’s an approach that is able to ‘put technologies on a level playing field and enable that comparison, which is valuable,’ says Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East, and Africa analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.” http://wapo.st/1LgFnE3

DC MAYOR BEHIND UTILITY MERGER — The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney: “District Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s ultimate decision on the ­controversial $6.4 billion Pepco merger will be an important test of how far she wants to go in governing as a populist who stands up to wealthy, powerful interests even if doing so ­disrupts business as usual in the city. It also will help determine whether the District puts itself in the vanguard of cities and states pushing the nation’s ­largest electric utilities to embrace solar power and other emerging ‘green’ technologies. Bowser’s administration is close to striking a deal with ­Chicago-based Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear energy producer, to try to salvage its takeover of Pepco. Bowser is negotiating now because regulators at the District’s Public Service Commission stunned local business leaders and drew national attention by voting 3 to 0 in August to reject the merger.” http://wapo.st/1FNZ6ik

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: Check out these images of the fracking industry in North Dakota. http://politi.co/1FMWLnt

VW TO FACE HOUSE GRILLING — Bloomberg: “Volkswagen AG waited two months after acknowledging a software abnormality in its cars to tell regulators the algorithm was designed to cheat emissions tests, according to a staff memo prepared for lawmakers investigating the automaker. The Energy and Commerce Committee, which will hold a hearing on Thursday in Washington, also wants further details on how and why the German-based automaker cheated on U.S. and California emissions tests, according to the memo. Committee staff met Monday with representatives of VW and regulators in preparation for the hearing.” http://bloom.bg/1L5mepf

DOE: AMERICANS WILL HAVE CHEAPER HEATING BILLS — The New York Times’ Clifford Krauss: “After a summer of lower gasoline prices, American consumers will again spend considerably less on energy this winter because of lower oil and natural gas prices and expected warmer weather, the Energy Department projected on Tuesday. The nearly half of American households that are heated with natural gas can expect a decline of 10 percent in their gas spending, the agency said. The department’s Energy Information Administration, in its Winter Fuels Outlook report, forecast a 6 percent decline in residential natural gas consumption this winter because of higher temperatures, while prices will be 4 percent lower than they were last winter.” http://nyti.ms/1L5mqoy

COURT ORDERS EPA TO REWRITE WATER RULES FOR SHIPS: The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency had to rewrite rules governing how ships dispose of ballast water, or on board sewage. Reuters reports the court ruled that the EPA acted acted “‘arbitrarily and capriciously’ when it decided in 2013 to follow an international standard governing the discharge of harmful organisms, though technology was available to adopt a higher standard.” http://reut.rs/1Q6kuQa

FRACKING HOPES DIM FOR CA’S MONTEREY SHALE — The Associated Press: “A U.S. Geological Survey report out Tuesday downgrades the fracking potential of California’s vast Monterey Shale oil deposits. The study is the latest to lower a 2011 federal energy estimate that billed the Monterey Shale as a game-changer for U.S. oil, with what was then estimated at 13.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil overall. Instead, the U.S. Geological Survey’s new study said, the most oil-rich portion of the giant shale formation holds just 21 million barrels of oil that can be recovered by intensive methods, such as hydraulic fracturing, better-known as fracking.” http://wapo.st/1FW2O9v

FLARING FLARE-UP — InsideClimate News: “The royalty-free flaring of natural gas from wells on public and tribal lands amounts to a hidden federal subsidy worth tens of millions of dollars, according to a new study by the environmental group Friends of the Earth that focused on the industry in North Dakota. But one of the biggest producers of oil in the state, Continental Resources, Inc., challenged the findings, suggesting that the research overstated the volumes of hydrocarbons being burned at wells. The study didn't account for a high percentage of inert materials in the flared gases, the company said. The dispute underscores how difficult it is to determine how much natural gas is flared by oil and gas companies, and not just in North Dakota.” http://bit.ly/1FW3kV1

X-FILES THEME TO REMAIN: Vulture.com reports the theme song to the new X-Files will be exactly the same as when it first aired in 1993. What does this have to do with energy? Everything. The truth is out there. http://bit.ly/1FW3NXh

FUTURES:

--Oil rises on production cuts: The Wall Street Journal reports that cuts in domestic oil production have boosted the price of oil.

“The U.S. benchmark oil price rose $2.27, or 4.9%, to $48.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the biggest one-day gain since Sept. 16 ... Brent crude, the global benchmark, jumped $2.67, or 5.4%, to $51.92 a barrel, the biggest daily gain since Aug. 31.” http://on.wsj.com/1Mcqgkb

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