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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: Schneiderman v. Exxon; Barrett says back off transmission lines

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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ASSEMBLYWOMAN ASKS STATE TO BACK OFF TRANSMISSION LINES — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Democratic Assemblywoman Didi Barrett is asking the state Public Service Commission to back off a proposed series of transmission lines for the Hudson Valley. In September, the Department of Public Service released a long-awaited report that found additional alternating current transmission lines were needed in the Hudson Valley to eliminate congestion on the electrical grid. The report paves the way to the possible construction of new lines, which the state argues will reduce costs, improve market competition, enhance reliability, aid an increase in renewable resources and increase the diversity of fuel used in power generation. On Thursday, Barrett sent a letter to the PSC claiming such findings were based on the energy system of the past, not the state plan to remake the energy grid to accommodate more renewables and become more efficient.

CUOMO AND SCHUMER VOW TO KEEP SMELTER OPEN — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a joint statement late Thursday that they are working to keep open a North Country smelting facility that employs almost 500 people, though neither offered a specific plan to keep the plant operating. On Monday, Alcoa announced it would shutter one aluminum smelter in Massena, and idle another at the same location. Last year, the company received reduced-rate electricity from the New York Power Authority to keep the two sites open and preserve 750 jobs, though Monday’s announcement appears to go against that deal. “This plant is a vital part of the local community and we are doing everything possible to identify an alternative scenario that both allows the facility to remain open and protects the taxpayer investments that have already been made,” Cuomo said the statement.

SCHNEIDERMAN V. EXXON — InsideClimate News’ Bob Simison: “New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office demanded that ExxonMobil Corporation give investigators documents spanning four decades of research findings and communications about climate change, according to a person familiar with the year-long probe. An 18-page subpoena issued to the oil giant late Wednesday seeks documents from Exxon related to its research into the causes and effects of climate change, to the integration of climate change findings into business decisions, to communications with the board of directors and to marketing and advertising materials on climate change, the person said. Investigators have been looking closely into the company’s disclosures to shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the subpoena also sought documents related to those communications. The probe is based on New York’s powerful shareholder-protection statute, the Martin Act, as well as the state’s consumer protection and general business laws. While investigators have been looking into what Exxon knew about climate change and what it said about it to the public and shareholders for some time, recent investigative news reports by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times made the issue 'more ripe,' the person said. Lawmakers, presidential candidates, environmentalists and climate scientists have recently begun calling for investigations of Exxon under federal racketeering and securities laws.”

** 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 **


--Today, environmentalists will deliver a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office asking him to veto the Port Ambrose liquefied natural gas project. The clock starts officially on the 45-day window in which Cuomo can veto the plan.

--Mild mannered Godzilla: DNA Info reports the Godzilla El Niño affecting weather patterns this year will mean a mild winter for New York … they think.

--The Syracuse Post-Standard is collecting reader questions on the shutdown of the FitzPatrick nuclear facility in Oswego County.

--Here’s a photo of the first solar photovoltaic array in New York City, in 1883.

--The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is expanding a program to increase solar access for up to 4,500 low- to moderate-income homeowners.

--A Buffalo high school is looking to team up with SolarCity to train students to become workers at the new factory being built down the road.

--Republican Rep. Tom Reed became the latest lawmaker to sign a resolution backed by Rep. Chris Gibson that acknowledges climate change as a problem that needs to be addressed.

--The state Canal Corp. has scuttled its 3-year-old plan to dredge toxic PCBs from the crippled canal on the Hudson River and is crafting a new plan for review by the federal government.

--Report: NJ’s PennEast overstated jobs: NJ Spotlight’s Tom Johnson reports, “PennEast Pipeline significantly overstated the jobs its proposed 118-mile natural-gas conduit would create, according to a new analysis disputing the economic benefits of the project.”

HAPPY FRIDAY: Let us know if you have tips, 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:

CUTTING EMISSIONS MORE COSTLY, WITH FEWER NUCLEAR PLANTS — The Conversation’s Daniel Raimi: “The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, but the country’s fleet of nearly 100 reactors is showing its age. On November 2, the owner of a nuclear power station in New York said it will shut the plant down, which follows announcements of plant closures in Massachusetts, California, Florida and Wisconsin. This raises important questions for the US energy sector. The retirements reflect a set of economic challenges for nuclear power plants across the United States, and have important implications for climate change, energy costs and the reliability of the power grid. Nuclear provides nearly 20% of the electricity in the United States, but the average plant is about 34 years old, and prospects for the future of many of these plants are murky, at best. While five new reactors are currently under construction in the US, the World Nuclear Association estimates that more than 10 older ones are currently at risk of closure.”

STUDY: LARGE SOLAR ARRAYS CONTRIBUTE TO CLIMATE CHANGE — The Washington Post’s Chelsea Harvey: “Large solar arrays could have some surprising side effects, according to a new study, including causing changes in the local climate. On a global scale, these changes will be minor compared to what would happen if humans continue to burn fossil fuel for energy instead, but are still worth watching, scientists say. Figuring out how renewable energy sources will affect their local landscapes is an increasingly relevant challenge for scientists, as more and more nations are vowing to slash their carbon outputs and switch to alternatives, such as solar and wind energy. Previous studies have shown that both solar arrays and wind farms have the potential to cause regional changes in temperature and precipitation by altering the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the Earth or disrupting local airflow patterns.”

BIG AG LOOKS AT MERGERS — The Wall Street Journal: “Some of the world’s largest agricultural companies are looking to combine with one another as three years of shriveling crop prices have pressured profits, in what would be the industry’s first big shake-up in at least a decade. Syngenta AG is discussing with DuPont Co. a potential combination with DuPont’s agriculture division, according to people familiar with the matter. DuPont is also separately discussing a potential alternative agriculture deal with Dow Chemical Co., which is exploring a sale of its seed and pesticide unit, another person familiar with the matter said. The discussions are at an early stage and may result in no deal, the people said.”

POLL FINDS GLOBAL CONSENSUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE — The New York Times’ Sewell Chan: “As world leaders prepare to gather in Paris next month to address global warming, their populations generally agree on the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but the countries that emit the most carbon dioxide per person are also the ones least worried about climate change, according to a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. The survey, which sampled people in 40 countries, found that in every nation surveyed, except Pakistan, a majority of respondents supported placing limits on the emissions of gases that are warming the planet. In the United States, 69 percent did; in China, 71 percent; in Nigeria, 77 percent; in Brazil, 88 percent. Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved in the survey, said the findings were more encouraging than he had expected.”

CONSERVATION CLASH — POLITICO’s Elana Schor: “The political clash over reviving the Land and Water Conservation Fund escalated even further on Thursday, as the House Republican chairman pushing hardest for changes to the program released a reform proposal that greens and liberals slammed as a giveaway to the oil industry. GOP infighting over the fund already has stalled the Senate's bipartisan chemical safety bill, and the proposal released Thursday could intensify that ongoing conflict. House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop on Thursday unveiled his plan to reshape the LWCF, which he laments has become a ‘slush fund’ for federal land acquisition and tramples on states' rights. But the Utah Republican wants to fundamentally reshape the program, going well beyond a narrower set of changes senators on both sides of the aisle have agreed to for the half-century-old program, which diverts a portion of oil and gas royalties to environmental stewardship projects.”

WE DID IT — The National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration: “Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use, influenced specific extreme weather and climate events in 2014, including tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America, according to a new report released [Thursday]. The report, ‘Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective’ published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, addresses the natural and human causes of individual extreme events from around the world in 2014, including Antarctica. NOAA scientists served as three of the five lead editors on the report.”

SOLAR AND WIND WITHOUT GOVERNMENT SUPPORT — Bloomberg’s Mark Chediak and Chris Martin: “In 2016 the U.S. will learn if renewable energy can survive without government support. The most significant tax credit for solar power will expire at the end of 2016, and the biggest one for wind already has. These federal subsidies have provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion from 2008 to 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s led to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping lower costs at least 10 percent each year. Combined, wind and solar still generate less than 5 percent of electricity in the U.S. The subsidy cuts come as both industries face stiffer competition from ultracheap coal and natural gas. An NYSE Bloomberg global index of solar stocks, including those of big developers SunEdison and First Solar, has fallen about 35 percent since June. A comparable wind index is down 20 percent.”

ANARCHY IN THE UK — Bloomberg’s Kelly Gilblom and Rachel Morison: “Will the lights go off in Britain this winter? After a combination of low wind generation and unplanned plant outages pushed the U.K.’s electricity grid operator to take action to manage a supply squeeze on Wednesday, the threat resurfaced of the first power cuts since 2007. Yet traders have signaled consumers needn’t be scared yet. While the temporary loss of coal-fired units and low wind output on Wednesday shrunk extra power supply, known as reserve margins, National Grid Plc says it has tools at its disposal to manage a crunch this winter. On Wednesday it used one new measure to manage lower-than-expected supply when it asked businesses and factories on pre-agreed contracts to reduce consumption.”

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR DIRECTED STATE ENERGY REGULATORS TO RESEARCH HIS RANCH — The Associated Press: “Gov. Jerry Brown last year directed state oil and gas regulators to research, map and report back on any mining and oil drilling potential and history at the Brown family's private land in Northern California. After a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from his aides, senior staffers in the state's oil and gas regulatory agency over at least two days produced a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, plus a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas drilling map for the area around Brown's family ranchland near the town of Williams. Ultimately, the regulators told the governor, prospects were "very low" for any commercial drilling or mining at the 2,700-acre property, which has been in Brown's family for more than a century.”


--Oil slid hard: Greater than expected stockpiles sent oil futures prices ever southward Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“December crude oil settled down $1.12, or 2.4%, to $45.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, lost 60 cents, or 1.2%, to $47.98 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Natural gas got brisk: Colder temps on the horizon augured well for natural gas, the Journal reports.

“Prices for the front-month December contract settled up 10.2 cents, or 4.5%, at $2.364 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the biggest one-day percentage gain since June 15.”

** 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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