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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: Coal plant considers public subsidy; PSC sides with generators

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.

STRUGGLING COAL PLANT LOOKING AT PUBLIC SUBSIDY — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: A struggling coal-burning power plant outside Buffalo is looking into how much it would cost for ratepayers to subsidize it for another few years of operation. NRG Energy Inc. recently filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to establish a cost for a four-year bailout of the Huntley power plant in Tonawanda. Under the request submitted to federal regulators, ratepayers would subsidize the plant for about $260 million in that period. Any deal to save the plant must be approved by state regulators.

PSC SHUTS DOWN BRENNAN AGAIN — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: The Public Service Commission denied Assemblyman James Brennan's latest bid to glean more information from the state's privately owned power generators, saying the disclosures would put industry at a competitive disadvantage. For more than a year, Brennan, who represents parts of Brooklyn, has been seeking to get access to redacted information provided by state power generators, saying the public has a right to know what goes into New York's electricity prices which are among the highest in the nation.

FOAM WARS — POLITICO New York’s David Giambusso: Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration took the first step Tuesday to appeal a recent court decision overturning a city ban on polystyrene, or foam, food and beverage containers. The mayor and sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia announced the ban in January, after determining there was no economically viable way to recycle the foam containers. Dart Container Corporation and several restaurant owners objected, saying the city had ignored a plan by Dart to purchase the discarded materials and recycle them for five years. A city law passed in 2013 allowed for the ban if there was no viable way to recycle the containers. The pro-container lobby, represented by former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, sued the city and in September, state Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan ruled the city ban was incongruent with the City Council law. On Tuesday, the city filed a motion seeking permission to appeal.

** 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 **


--State and federal investigators examining oil trains found critical defects requiring immediate repair, including damaged tracks and missing bolts.

--The New York chapter of the American Petroleum Institute has let the deadline pass for filing a legal challenge to the state's fracking ban.

--Strong winds upstate: Wind speeds could reach 70 mph in the greater Buffalo area today and local wind turbine operators are a little worried about what happens to the machinery, the Syracuse Post-Standard reports.

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:

GRID STILL VULNERABLE TO HURRICANES — InsideClimate News: “Three years after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, key electrical infrastructure remains vulnerable to flooding in major storms. A study released Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says millions of Americans living along the East and Gulf coasts would likely lose power in a Category 3 hurricane. Sandy left more than 8 million people across 21 states without power and caused billions of dollars in damage when power plants and major electrical substations were inundated by its storm surge. Hospitals were forced to evacuate patients, gas stations were unusable and sewage treatment plants spewed untreated wastewater into surrounding waterways. The potential for more severe and more widespread damage will increase in coming decades due to rising sea levels and more intense, more frequent storms, according to a detailed analysis by UCS.”

FRACKING DRIVING UP FIREWOOD PRICES — The Associate Press’ Rik Stevens: “Northeasterners who are digging deeper into their pockets to pay for firewood this season can add a new scapegoat to the roster of usual market forces: fracking. Yep, a timber industry representative in New Hampshire said those hydraulic fracturing well sites in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale formation to suck natural gas out of the ground are using construction ‘’mats’ made of hardwood logs — think of the corduroy roads seen in sepia-toned photographs from the 1800s — to get heavy equipment over mucky ground, wetlands or soft soils. That increased demand has crept down the chimney into fireplaces. Prices in parts of New England are averaging $325 a cord and can even push past $400 for a seasoned, delivered load. That's anywhere from $50 to $75 more a cord than last year — or an increase of 18 to 23 percent.”

INDOOR ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION — The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney: “In a development likely to sharpen debate about indoor environment conditions in office buildings, a study published Monday reports that workers showed significantly lowered cognitive functioning after spending a day in a simulated office environment featuring high concentrations of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds. By contrast, in conditions set to simulate a green building — or better yet, a green building with enhanced ventilation — cognitive performance was higher. The study was led by Harvard’s environmental health researcher Joseph Allen in collaboration with colleagues from Harvard, SUNY Upstate Medical School, and Syracuse University, and was published in Environmental Health Perspectives. And it notes that the research was designed to mimic ‘conditions that are commonly encountered every day in many indoor environments.’ Carbon dioxide is exhaled by humans, and volatile organic compounds are emitted by numerous indoor materials and products.”

POWER PRODUCERS READYING FOR WINTER FREEZE — Bloomberg’s Harry Weber: “During the worst of the winter of 2013-2014, the mid-Atlantic saw widespread power plant outages, Texas was forced to import electricity from Mexico, one generator fired up units closed for years and Southern California ran short of natural gas. Lesson learned. As winter approaches, utilities and power-grid managers say they are better prepared for conditions like the January 2014 arctic air blast known as the polar vortex. Record-high inventories of natural gas are making everyone’s job easier. GDF Suez Energy North America is ready to sell liquefied natural gas to New England utilities if needed. PJM Interconnection LLC, the biggest U.S. grid, has enhanced coordination between gas and power markets. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. has improved wind-generation forecasts to better account for icing and cold weather.”

SHELL TAKES $2B HIT TO QUIT OIL SANDS — Bloomberg: “Royal Dutch Shell Plc made its second major strategic change in as many months, announcing it will take a $2 billion charge as it shelves an oil-sands project in Alberta after walking away from an Arctic drilling program. Shell is halting work on the 80,000 barrel-a-day Carmon Creek drilling development after deciding the project couldn’t compete in its portfolio, the company said in a statement Tuesday. The charge will be recorded in third-quarter earnings results, which are due to be released Thursday Energy producers are canceling or delaying projects as a crude price slump forces them to prioritize spending. The company last month abandoned drilling offshore Alaska indefinitely after it failed to find enough oil or gas in the Chukchi Sea. Earlier this year, Shell withdrew an application to develop the Pierre River oil-sands mine in northern Alberta.”

WORLD SERIES ENERGY TWEET OF THE DAY: “Fox Sports forgot to pay the utility bill,” tweets Anthony DeRosa. Fox lost the game at the bottom of the fourth inning briefly, which announcers attributed to a loss of power in “the truck.” Apparently Fox only brought one truck to the World Series and it didn’t have a backup generator.

DUKE PICKS UP PIEDMONT FOR $4.9B — Bloomberg: “Duke Energy Corp. agreed to acquire Piedmont Natural Gas Co. for $4.9 billion in cash, adding a distributor of cheap shale gas as growth in power demand slows. Duke follows electric utility owners Southern Co., Emera Inc. and Black Hills Corp. which have acquired gas distributors in the past 12 months. The deal increases Duke's stake in the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline to 50 percent. When completed, the line will link gas fields in West Virginia to Duke's service area in North Carolina.”

CLIMATE AD TO AIR DURING GOP DEBATE — The New York Times: “Viewers of Wednesday’s Republican debate [in Boulder, Colorado] will be treated to a decidedly liberal perspective — at least for 30 seconds. NextGen Climate, the outside group founded by the billionaire environmentalist and philanthropist Tom Steyer, is airing an ad on CNBC — the business network hosting the debate — during the prime-time face-off Wednesday that will cast climate change as an economic issue. The 30-second spot, 'Who We Are,' will run as part of a six-figure buy that also includes several days of digital ads, the group said.”

INSURERS NOT READY FOR GLOBAL WARMING — Bloomberg: “Insurers are unprepared for the costs of climate change, the top United Nations climate diplomat said as world leaders make final preparations for a deal on global warming. The agreement, which the UN expects to seal in Paris in December, won’t solve climate change because of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said Tuesday in a speech at the Association of British Insurers in London.

That means businesses, including insurers, should expect the planet to continue to heat up, which will affect commerce around the world.”

--Nor are the lizards: In a new study in the journal PLOS, scientists study the effect of a two degree temperature rise on lizard populations. Many common lizards could disappear.


--Natural gas rallies: The Wall Street Journal reports natural gas rallied Tuesday on news of increased demand.

“Futures for November delivery settled up 3 cents, or 1.5%, at $2.092/mmBtu on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after falling to as low as $1.948/mmBtu in overnight trading. The November contract expires at settlement Wednesday. The more-actively traded December contract recently rose 0.8 cent, or 0.3%, to $2.361/mmBtu.”

** 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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