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POLITICO New York Energy: The cost of closing FitzPatrick; oil foam abounds

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 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.

CLOSING FITZPATRICK WILL COST AREA $500 MILLION — Syracuse Post-Standard’s Tim Knauss: “With 615 workers, the FitzPatrick nuclear plant is the 5th largest private sector employer in Oswego County. More people work at Walmart. But the average FitzPatrick worker earns about $119,000 a year in salary and benefits. That's a stratospheric pay rate in a county where the median household income is $48,000, 17 percent below the state average. And FitzPatrick's economic impact goes far beyond its $74 million payroll. It is the county's second-largest taxpayer, a major charitable donor and a huge consumer of technical services.”

--Two Central New York congressmen want the state Public Service Commission to save FitzPatrick.

OIL TRAIN FOAM DEPLOYED THROUGHOUT NEW YORK — Politico New York’s Scott Waldman: Nineteen trailers with firefighting foam capable of handling oil train fires will be placed throughout the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.The fire fighting foam can also be used for oil spills and other ignitable materials. The foam will first go to areas with the most limited resources, including Essex County and the Amsterdam, Buffalo, Kingston, Newburgh and Utica fire departments, state officials announced Tuesday. They will also go to areas with heavy oil train traffic including the Albany, Binghamton, Plattsburgh, Rochester, Saratoga, Syracuse and Watertown fire departments.


--U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants Montreal to stop dumping raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River.

--City Councilman Dan Garodnick wants to raise fines on utilities that don’t clean up properly after performing road work.

--’Solar Sal’ is the first solar-powered canal boat to haul goods on the Erie Canal.

--Morrisville State College will receive $13 million for an alternative fuels research program.

--The state will replace transmission lines in the North Country that will update connections between the New York and Vermont electrical grid.

--The Rensselaer County legislature appears poised to approve a measure that stifle a gas pipeline coming through the area.

--Operators of oil storage and transfer facilities that don’t report spills in a timely manner could soon face jail time or penalties.

--Democratic assemblywoman Sandy Galef joined anti-pipeline advocates in Albany to deliver signatures opposing a project that would run near the Indian Point nuclear center.

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 and And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one. Here’s a handy sign-up link:

SUPREME COURT’S ENERGY CASES — EnergyWire’s Robin Bravender: “The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday over a federal rule requiring that electricity providers give financial incentives to customers who slash power use in times of high energy demand. The fight over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's demand-response rule will likely be the year's most important energy case. ‘The stakes are really, really high,’ said David Goldberg, an attorney representing environmental groups that back the rule. ‘It's part and parcel to very important changes that have happened in energy regulation and energy provision, and is very, very important to the future of our nation's energy supply because this is a dynamic, flexible method.’”

SHORTCOMINGS OF AMERICA’S NEWEST NUCLEAR PLANT — Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik: “Shortly after New Year's Day, the Tennessee Valley Authority is expected to bring its newest nuclear power plant online. The TVA says Watts Bar Unit 2 in Spring City, Tenn., about 50 miles north of Chattanooga, will be fully modern and superlatively safe — ‘the nation’s first new nuclear generation of the 21st century,’ the utility says. The truth is rather different. Not only is Watts Bar 2 not new, it could be a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with America's nuclear power industry since it generated its first electricity at Shippingport, Pa., in 1958. ‘Rather than exemplifying a fine technological achievement,’ environmentalists Don Safer and Sara Barczak write on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, ‘the history of Watts Bar Units 1 and 2 is a cautionary tale of the worst pitfalls of nuclear power and the federal regulatory system.’”

ENTERGY TO CLOSE PILGRIM NUCLEAR BY 2019 — The Associated Press: “The beleaguered Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, the only nuclear power plant in Massachusetts, will close by June 2019 because it's becoming too expensive to run, its owner announced Tuesday. The decision by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. [which owns and operates Indian Point in New York] comes about a month after federal inspectors downgraded the plant's safety rating to the lowest level and said they would increase oversight in the wake of a shutdown during a winter storm. The owners maintained that the plant in Plymouth remained safe, although it needed millions of dollars in upgrades. Entergy cited 'poor market conditions, reduced revenues and increased operational costs.' Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, said the decision to close was a ‘decision of last resort’ and 'agonizing.' The 680-megawatt plant, which went online in 1972, was relicensed in 2012 for an additional 20 years. It employs more than 600 people.”

THERE’S ALWAYS CANADA — The Wall Street Journal: “New England’s most populous states are looking to tap Canadian dams and rivers for more of their electricity, a change that officials say would help cut greenhouse-gas emissions and help keep some of the nation’s highest power prices in check. Canada, with plenty of water and just 35 million people, gets 63% of its power supply from hydroelectric dams, and is adding more with an eye on exports. Getting that power to New England is no easy task — one power-line proposal in New Hampshire has drawn criticism from locals — but policy makers in the region have long been tantalized by the prospect of plentiful, cheap Canadian power.”

NEW FRACKING STUDY COULD EASE WATER WORRIES — NPR’s Dan Charles: A new study of drinking water in areas where fracking is used to extract natural gas found that contamination is not common and it probably did not come from deep underground.

TRI-STATE FRACKING DEAL — The Associated Press: “Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania on Tuesday agreed to cooperate in attracting shale gas development and jobs to their region over the next three years rather than compete with each other. The states signed an agreement during the Tri-State Shale Summit in Morgantown, West Virginia. They said they’ve agreed to coordinate marketing efforts, workforce development, investment strategies and academic research as they capitalize on Utica and Marcellus shale development ‘in an environmentally sound manner.’”

FRACKING’S TRANSFORMATION OF NORTH DAKOTA — Vox’s David Roberts: “Fracking has, at least temporarily, transformed North Dakota. This raises the familiar specter of the resource curse, though that term is curiously absent in most media coverage. Here's how the resource curse works: Fossil fuels (or other nonrenewable resources) are discovered or unlocked by new technology, often in poor rural areas; new people and investment flood into the region, bringing a burst of new wealth; fossil fuel companies capture local policymakers and regulators, allowing them to flout safety standards and pollute local air and water; locals, collectively and willfully, forget that the boom is temporary and take on debt investing in new civic infrastructure; the boom ends, the people and investment go elsewhere, and locals are left with no lasting benefit, only pollution and debt.”

COAL CEO CALLS PLAYED DURING TRIAL — The Associated Press: “Prosecutors are continuing to replay phone calls ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship secretly recorded in his office. In recordings played in federal court Tuesday, Blankenship said he sometimes thought without federal mine regulators, 'we’d blow ourselves up.' Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break mine safety laws and lying to financial regulators about safety practices at Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, which exploded in 2010, killing 29 miners. In the recordings, he also said he wanted to mention safety efforts in a news release because it was 'a chance to do some propaganda there.'”

INDUSTRY BALKS AT HIGH GAS PRICES IN CALIFORNIA — The Los Angeles Times: “An advisory committee to the California Energy Commission wanted to discuss the causes of the high gasoline prices in the state this summer during a workshop Tuesday — only the oil refiners and their association refused to show. Severin Borenstein, chairman of the Petroleum Market Advisory Committee, drafted a series of questions as part of scheduled meeting on California’s gasoline prices this year, which in the Los Angeles region reached as much as $1.50 more than the national average. A major contributing factor to the high gasoline prices has been the low production at the ExxonMobil Torrance refinery, which was damaged in a February explosion. The plant, which normally accounts for 10% of the state’s capacity and 20% in Southern California, has operated at less than 20% of normal production since the explosion.”

NO PUNISHMENT FOR FAILING UN CLIMATE PLEDGE — POLITICO’s Kalina Oroschakoff: “There is no plan to punish countries that fail to follow through on their greenhouse gas reduction pledges in any deal that comes out of the Paris climate summit, the EU's chief climate negotiator said [Tuesday]. 'This is not a punitive mechanism,' Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU's energy and climate commissioner, said at a conference of climate officials in Morocco, part of preparation for the COP21 summit in Paris. The lack of an enforcement mechanism comes despite the recognition that national greenhouse gas cuts promised ahead of Paris are not enough to stop the world warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius. Instead, EU research shows global temperatures are set rise by about 3 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. As of today, 150 countries representing around 90 percent of global emissions have pledged reductions and to move towards low-carbon economies, marking a major break with the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which covered a mere 35 countries representing some 14 percent of emissions, said Arias Cañete. [PRO]

RALPH KRAMDEN IS TALKING TO THE ALIENS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, points out that our early television shows have been traveling at the speed of light into the galaxies for the last 80 years or so. That means the first glimpse potential intelligent aline life will have of humanity will be shows like The Honeymooners. In an interview on CBS News, NDT speaks to the fear that if aliens discover us they will most likely want to colonize and enslave us. He points out our frame of reference for this fear is not any knowledge of alien tendencies, but rather knowledge our own. “Maybe we could or should be giving aliens more credit than that — more credit than we ever would give ourselves.”


--Oil sinks on supply: The Wall Street Journal reports that continued concerns about oversupply.

“Light, sweet crude for November delivery settled down 44 cents, or 0.9%, to $46.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 62 cents, or 1.2%, to $49.24 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Natural gas falls on weak demand, the Journal reports.

“Prices for the front-month November contract settled down 3.7 cents, or 1.5%, at $2.498 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The losses snapped a string of six winning sessions out of seven, but those gains were small and Tuesday’s trade brought gas back within 7 cents of the three-year low it hit Oct. 1.”

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