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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: Assembly talks climate change; biofuel bickering

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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ASSEMBLY TALKS CLIMATE CHANGE — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: There are a few key steps Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature can take to address climate change within the next year, according to business, labor and environmental groups who participated a state Assembly discussion on Monday. Those steps include enshrining the state energy policy into law and encouraging private investment, participants said. The discussion included lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as businesses and environmental groups often at odds with each other. Responding to climate hazards already is imposing a significant strain on public sector budgets and businesses, said Jared Snyder, assistant commissioner at the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

BIODIESEL BICKERING — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration tacitly endorsed two bills to increase the use of biofuel citywide, but a Monday hearing on them grew heated nonetheless when oil lobby representatives showed up to challenge them. Intro. 642 and Intro. 880 would expand the use of biofuel — a plant-based fuel that can be mixed with petroleum-based products and is responsible for lower greenhouse gas emissions — in home heating oil and city school buses respectively. Sparks flew when Karen Moreau, head of the New York State Petroleum Council, testified the bills would pose a costly alternative to traditional petroleum-based products and would expose consumers to higher fuel prices and more expensive food. "In imposing mandates, particularly in the energy sector, the government is essentially picking the winners and losers in fuel options," she said. "This practice increases the level and volatility of food prices," she said as part of the same testimony, adding later, "It's difficult to justify the higher cost of biofuel when New York already has the highest heating oil costs in the country."

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: Providing more than 61 percent of New York’s carbon-free electricity, nuclear energy plants play a vital role in achieving our clean-energy and carbon-reduction goals. New York’s nuclear energy fleet supports about 18,000 jobs and provides $2.5 billion to the state’s GDP. Learn more at **

THE SOLAR BET — New York Times’ Susanne Craig: “The Solar City project has emerged as a high-profile test of [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo’s economic strategy, one that relies heavily on using state money to lure companies to New York. Since taking office, the governor has offered incentives to numerous corporations to operate in New York. While some of the money has gone to established firms like General Electric, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to attract lesser-known, higher-risk companies. For instance, in recent weeks, the state announced that 1366 Technologies, which manufactures wafers for solar panels, would create at least 600 jobs over the next five years in Alabama, N.Y., a town in the Finger Lakes region. The state offered an “incentive package” valued at up to $53.6 million to seal the deal. ‘If you don’t offer government incentives to a business this big,’ Mr. Cuomo said of 1366 Technologies, ‘basically you are not even in the game.’ But watchdog groups warn that New York often bets on the fortunes of companies with little or no track record. And when the state subsidies end, the companies themselves may pull up stakes. ‘New York has a huge history of putting enormous amounts of money into a small basket,’ said Greg LeRoy, the executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that tracks subsidies.

CITY EMPHASIZES DATA-SHARING TO PSC — POLITICO New York’s Miranda Neubauer: City officials emphasized the possibilities for better data-sharing in a letter submitted to the Public Service Commission. Counsel to the Mayor Maya Wiley and Anne Roest, commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, submitted city recommendations in response to the PSC's Study on the State of Telecommunications in New York State, for which comments were due Friday. In their letter, Wiley and Roest call on the P.S.C. to establish real-time information sharing with municipalities when telecommunications companies plan technology transitions, under new rules from the Federal Communications Commission.


--Gannett has some tips for New Yorkers on how to save money on heating this winter.

--A barge used in General Electric’s dredging of the Hudson River partially sank on Sunday.

--City council is trying to ban microbeads within the the five boroughs and it looks like they may do it.

--Oil train activists gathered in Albany over the weekend.

--Is a sunken oil barge from 1937 now polluting Lake Erie?

--New York produces the ninth highest amount of carbon dioxide pollution in the country.

--GE’s Fort Edward plant will close by January 23, The Saratogian reports.

GOOD TUESDAY 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:

ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN: Vox’s David Roberts makes a case for why the House Science Committee, led by Rep. Lamar Smith, is McCarthyesque: “In June, a scientist named Thomas Karl, along with colleagues, published a peer-reviewed paper in the journal Science called ‘Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus.’ It cast doubt on the global warming ‘pause’ that has become the latest cause célèbre for climate change, er, doubters. That did not sit well with Smith, who is a doubter himself, like many of the Republicans on his committee and more than half of all House Republicans. And it was the subject of much heated attack in the denial-o-sphere.”

GOP CLIMATE TALK IS A MESSAGE TO UN: The National Journal: “Both cham­bers of Con­gress this week are set to join the ava­lanche of at­tacks on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rules lim­it­ing emis­sions from the power sec­tor. The meas­ures to kill the rules un­der a fast-track pro­cess of the Con­gress Re­view Act don’t have much of a fu­ture — even if they reach Pres­id­ent Obama’s desk, they’ll face a sure veto. A flurry of law­suits from states and in­dustry groups is a more likely av­en­ue for a ser­i­ous chal­lenge to the rules, even if the leg­al pro­cess will take years to un­wind.But op­pon­ents are eager just to have the de­bate, since it sows seeds of doubt about the cli­mate plan as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion works to main­tain a strong pos­ture with the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity ahead of United Na­tions cli­mate talks in Par­is at the end of the year. The power-plant rules — which will re­quire a 30 per­cent re­duc­tion in car­bon emis­sions by 2030 — are the largest piece of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cli­mate-change agenda and form the center­piece for the emis­sions-re­duc­tion plan that the U.S. is present­ing to the rest of the world amid United Na­tions cli­mate ne­go­ti­ations.”

FRACKING BRINE SPILLS DESTROY LANDSCAPE — The Associated Press: “Carl Johnson and his son, Justin, who have complained for years about spills of oilfield wastewater where they raise cattle in the high plains of New Mexico, stroll across a 1 1/2-acre patch of sandy soil — lifeless, save for a scattering of stunted weeds. Five years ago, a broken pipe soaked the land with as much as 420,000 gallons of wastewater, a salty drilling byproduct that killed the shrubs and grass. It was among dozens of spills that have damaged the Johnsons’ grazing lands and made them worry about their groundwater. ‘If we lose our water,’ Justin Johnson said, ‘that ruins our ranch.’ Their plight illustrates a side effect of oil and gas production that has worsened with the past decade’s drilling boom: spills of wastewater that foul the land, kill wildlife and threaten freshwater supplies. An Associated Press analysis of data from leading oil- and gas-producing states found more than 180 million gallons of wastewater spilled from 2009 to 2014 in incidents involving ruptured pipes, overflowing storage tanks and even deliberate dumping. There were at least 21,651 individual spills. The numbers are incomplete because many releases go unreported.”

NRG LOOKING TO FINANCE SO. CAL PLANT — Bloomberg: “NRG Energy Inc., the biggest U.S. independent power producer, is seeking to borrow money for a natural gas-fired power plant in southern California, according to two people familiar with the deal. The company has reached out to lenders and may borrow as much as $600 million, according to one of the people, who asked not be identified because he’s not authorized to discuss the deal. David Knox, a spokesman for Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG, confirmed that the company is evaluating financing options for the 500-megawatt project.”

CHINESE REAL-ESTATE DEVELOPER SCOOPING UP OIL ASSETS — The Wall Street Journal’s Brian Spegele: “A little-known Chinese real-estate developer says it is scooping up oil assets in West Texas as part of a billion-dollar deal that underscores China’s keen interest in the U.S. energy patch. Shanghai-listed Yantai Xinchao Industry Co. said in a securities filing Saturday that it was acquiring oil properties in West Texas as part of a deal to buy an investment company called Ningbo Dingliang Huitong Equity Investment Center. Yantai Xinchao valued the overall deal at 8.3 billion yuan ($1.3 billion). The weekend filing said the oil properties were being acquired from two U.S. companies, Tall City Exploration LLC and Plymouth Petroleum LLC. The companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday. Plymouth Petroleum is owned by Boston-based ArcLight Capital Partners LLC, a private-equity firm. Tall City is backed by another, Denham Capital Management LP.”

AIR CONDITIONING CRUNCH COMING — The Guardian’s Jon Henley: “The world faces a looming and potentially calamitous ‘cold crunch,’ with demand for air conditioning and refrigeration growing so fast that it threatens to smash pledges and targets for global warming. Worldwide power consumption for air conditioning alone is forecast to surge 33-fold by 2100 as developing world incomes rise and urbanisation advances. Already, the US uses as much electricity to keep buildings cool as the whole of Africa uses on everything; China and India are fast catching up. By mid-century people will use more energy for cooling than heating.”

LOW OIL PRICES MEAN OPEC COUNTRIES COULD RUN OUT OF CASH WITHIN 5 YEARS — CNN Money: “Not even the mighty Middle East can survive cheap oil forever. If oil stays around $50 a barrel, most countries in the region will run out of cash in five years or less, warned a dire report from the International Monetary Fund this week. That includes OPEC leader Saudi Arabia as well as Oman and Bahrain. Low oil prices will wipe out an estimated $360 billion from the region this year alone, the IMF said. Huge budget surpluses are quickly swinging to massive deficits as oil prices have crashed to around $45 currently from over $100 last year. Many of these countries are being forced to tap into rainy day funds to weather the storm.”

MIDDLE EAST HEAT COULD BE UNLIVABLE — The New York TImes: “By the end of this century, areas of the Persian Gulf could be hit by waves of heat and humidity so severe that simply being outside for several hours could threaten human life, according to a new study published Monday. Because of humanity’s contribution to climate change, the authors wrote, some population centers in the Middle East 'are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.' The dangerously muggy summer conditions predicted for places near the warm waters of the Gulf could overwhelm the ability of the human body to reduce its temperature through sweating and ventilation. That threatens anyone without air-conditioning — including the poor, but also those who work outdoors in professions like agriculture and construction.”


--Natural gas tumbles down: The Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Friedman reports, “The benchmark U.S. natural-gas price tumbled to its biggest one-day decline since February 2014 on expectations of a deepening supply glut. Forecasts for warm fall weather across swaths of the U.S. spurred the nearly 10% plunge on Monday.”

“November natural gas slid 22.4 cents, or 9.8%, to $2.062 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest close since April 2012.”

--Oil also took a dive: Continued excess of supply and weak demand sent futures down, the Journal reports.

“Light, sweet crude for December delivery settled down 62 cents, or 1.4%, to $43.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since Aug. 27. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 45 cents, or 0.9%, to $47.54 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, the lowest level since Sept. 28.”

** A Message from Nuclear Matters: Some of America’s existing nuclear energy plants face early closure due to current economic and policy conditions. Providing more than 62% of America’s carbon-free electricity, existing, state-of-the-art nuclear energy plants play a vital role in achieving our clean-energy and carbon-reduction goals.

In New York, nuclear energy plants provide 31 percent of the state’s electricity and 61 percent of our carbon-free electricity. The existing nuclear energy plants in New York also support about 18,000 jobs and provide $2.5 billion to the state’s GDP.

If we want to keep New York working, we need policies that will keep New York’s state-of-the-art nuclear energy plants working for all of us. Join us **

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