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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: Contrasting gas tax storylines; operator says pipeline infrastructure inadequate

By David Giambusso and Scott Waldman

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A TALE OF TWO GAS TAXES — POLITICO’s David Giambusso and Scott Waldman: As New Jersey veers headlong into a debate over raising its gas tax, its neighbor, New York, has no intention of touching its own tax any time soon. The two states are alike in demographics, geography and infrastructure woes. According to Forbes, New York boasts the highest state and local tax burden in the union, with New Jersey running a close second. Albany and Trenton also share dubious expertise on "creative" budgeting. But the two states are at opposite ends of the curve in the gas tax debate. New York has one of the highest gas taxes in the country. New Jersey has one of the lowest. With gas prices at record lows thanks to the hydrofracturing boom, states are re-examining where they stand on the perilous tax. In New Jersey, there's reason to expect the gas tax will be raised within the next year or so. In New York, forget it. “There is a high level of skepticism when you’re asking people to pay more,” said John Corlett, legislative chairman for AAA New York.

GRID OPERATOR: NEW ENGLAND NEEDS MORE PIPELINES—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: The reliability of the New England power market is challenged by an inadequate supply of natural gas, the region’s independent grid operator determined. The region has seen tremendous wholesale market spikes because of a lack of natural gas pipelines in recent years, the region's grid administrator ISO New England Inc. found in its annual reliability report released Thursday. New England’s lack of pipelines has put pressure on surrounding states, including New York, to approve proposed pipelines. The state has increased use of liquefied natural gas and oil generation to enhance winter reliability, but more pipeline capacity is needed, ISO New England found.

** 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 **

MOODY’S: FITZPATRICK CLOSURE CREDIT-POSITIVE FOR COMPANY—POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: Moody’s has determined that Entergy’s plan to shutter the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear facility is a credit-positive for the company. Still, an analyst for the bond ratings agency has determined that political pressure may keep the plant operating because its employees make up 10 percent of the population in Scriba, where the plant in located. The plant also contributes 60 percent of the tax revenue to the local Mexico school district and more than a quarter of its operating revenue, Moody’s analyst Ryan Wobbrock wrote Friday.

FitzPatrick workers plan for layoffs: The Syracuse Post-Standard reports, “more than 600 employees will soon face the uncertainty of unemployment as Entergy Corp. plans to shut down the nuclear power plant in Oswego County. About half of the 615 workers at the plant will be laid off when the plant shuts down in late 2016 or early 2017, said Bill Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, the Entergy subsidiary that owns the plant.”

SCHNEIDERMAN WINS DISCLOSURES FROM PEABODY — The New York Times’ Clifford Krauss: “Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private coal company, has agreed to make more robust disclosures to its investors about the financial risks it faces from future government climate change or other environmental policies and regulations that could reduce demand for its product. The coal giant’s concessions came in response to a two-year investigation by the New York attorney general that found that Peabody had not been forthright with investors and regulators about the threats to its business that the company projected in private. The agreement between Peabody and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is expected to be announced on Monday. Days before, Mr. Schneiderman’s office started a separate investigation into Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the dangers of climate change while its scientists warned about the gathering threat to the environment posed by carbon pollution.”

--Backing up Shcneiderman: More than 30 environmental, progressive and labor groups have issued a statement praising Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for looking into whether Exxon deceived investors and the public about the risks of climate change. The groups include SEIU 32BJ and 1199, the Working Families Party, Environmental Advocates of New York and the Teamsters. “If Exxon Mobil and other fossil fuel companies were aware of the perils of climate change at the same time as they reaped hundreds of billions by making the problem worse and lied to their investors and the public, they committed a crime against the planet and every family that lives on it,” the groups stated. “We urge other state Attorneys General and federal investigators to follow Attorney General Schneiderman’s lead on climate change.”

GETTING TO GATEWAY — POLITICO’s Dana Rubinstein and David Giambusso: “In August, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer called on the region to create a separate "development corporation" to build a new rail tunnel connecting New Jersey commuters to their jobs in midtown Manhattan. Multiple sources have told POLITICO New York the two states, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and federal officials are now hammering out a framework for a new entity dedicated solely to building the project. Negotiations are continuing, but one source said the entity's board would likely be populated by two Port Authority representatives, one representative from Amtrak and another from the federal transportation department. The structure of the board is still in flux, the source said.”


--A company that has long sought to convert salt caverns on the shoreline of Seneca Lake into a storage facility for liquefied petroleum gas is celebrating Tuesday’s election results, arguing they’re a rebuke of environmental activists that have intensely fought the project.

--An Ossining business now has enough solar panels to meet 100 percent of its energy needs.

--Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' son was angling to get payments from a wastewater treatment company seeking a piece of the hydrofracking windfall.

--Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is calling former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg a "billionaire bully" for his political action committee's multimillion-dollar ad campaign against her and three other attorneys general who joined a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's power plant emissions rule.

--Fast trains are coming: The Wall Street Journal reports, “The U.S. government has approved the first federal funds for an ambitious plan to tap Japanese technology for a high-speed train project that could carry passengers between New York and Washington, D.C. at more than 300 miles an hour.”

HAPPY MONDAY: 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:

ENERGY MARKETS HAVE ALREADY MOVED BEYOND KEYSTONE—The New York Times’ Clifford Krauss: “When the Obama administration began considering the Keystone XL pipeline seven years ago, oil production in the United States was falling and most analysts thought it would never recover. At the same time, Mexican oil production was also in decline, meaning that domestic refineries would soon need another source of crude. Canada, and its expanding oil sands industry, seemed like the perfect solution. But so much has changed in the oil patch since then that many energy experts say the Keystone pipeline, which the Obama administration rejected on Friday, matters far less than it once did. Domestic production has nearly doubled and has flooded the market with so much crude oil that prices have plummeted. Refineries along the Gulf Coast still need the heavy crude Canada produces, but they are finding new ways to obtain it, and storage facilities are filled to the brim.”

CANADIAN POLICE MONITORING SHALE PROTESTERS TRAVEL TO PA—StateImpact’s Marie Cusick: “Canadian police visited their American counterparts in Williamsport last year to learn more about how to deal with public resistance to shale gas development. After a protest against exploratory seismic testing in Rexton, New Brunswick turned violent, six members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took a three-day trip to Williamsport in June 2014, according to documents recently obtained by the Halifax Media Co-op. In a travel itinerary, the RCMP said they were concerned about ‘considerable protests and criminality with a great deal of rhetoric and misinformation from many sources.’”

TWO OIL TRAINS DERAIL IN WISCONSIN — The Associated Press: “A Canadian Pacific Railway train carrying crude oil derailed in Wisconsin, the second day in a row that a freight train went off the tracks in the state. The eastbound CP train derailed Sunday afternoon in Watertown in the southeastern part of the state. The railroad said at least 10 cars were off the tracks, and some were leaking. No fires or injuries were reported. CP was sending teams to the site. “CP takes this incident extremely seriously,” the railroad said in a news release. Trains are used to transport nearly 100,000 barrels of crude oil a day in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. On Saturday morning, a BNSF Railway freight train derailed near Alma in western Wisconsin, spilling thousands of gallons of ethanol. Some of the 25 derailed cars were empty auto racks and tanker cars.”

WHITHER NUCLEAR?—EnergyWire’s Jean Chemnick and Hannah Northey: “The nuclear industry hopes today's White House summit is the start of a more proactive effort by the Obama administration to put reactors into the U.S. push to meet its international climate change targets. The summit comes as the days tick down to the Nov. 30 start of the U.N. climate conference in Paris aimed at producing a post-2020 emissions agreement. President Obama has staked out a large role in helping to broker a Paris deal. But while administration officials profess that nuclear has a place in the United States' low-carbon future, industry boosters say they have seen little action to boost the source of about two-thirds of the nation's zero-carbon power.”

COAL HEADED FOR BIGGEST EVER DECLINE — Bloomberg’s Ewa Krukowska: “Coal consumption is poised for its biggest decline in history, driven by China’s battle against pollution, economic reforms and its efforts to promote renewable energy. Global use of the most polluting fuel fell 2.3 percent to 4.6 percent in the first nine months of 2015 from the same period last year, according to a report released Monday by the environmental group Greenpeace. That’s a decline of as much as 180 million tons of standard coal, 40 million tons more than Japan used in the same period. The report confirms that worldwide efforts to fight global warming are having a significant impact on the coal industry, the biggest source of carbon emissions. It comes a day before the International Energy Agency is scheduled to release its annual forecast detailing the ways the planet generates and uses electricity.”

WASHINGTON FIGHT INTENSIFIES OVER CLIMATE CHANGE STUDY—The Washington Post’s Lisa Rein: “A nasty fight between a senior House Republican and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over a recent climate change study is getting nastier. The country’s chief society of meteorologists weighed in this week with a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), warning the prominent congressional skeptic on climate change that his demands for internal communications and documents from NOAA “can be viewed as a form of intimidation” that could thwart federally funded research.”

EPA EXPANDS DIESEL TESTS AFTER VW — The New York Times: “Concerned that cheating on vehicle emissions could be prevalent across the automobile industry, regulators in the United States and Canada are significantly expanding their on-the-road emissions tests to cover all makes and models of diesel cars. The tests, which come in the wake of Volkswagen’s admission that it installed software on more than 11 million cars to evade emissions standards, are being conducted randomly and in real-world conditions, rather than in traditional laboratory settings, to increase the odds of catching cheaters.”

FREE WIND POWER IN TEXAS—The New York Times’ Clifford Krauss and Diane Cardwell: “In Texas, wind farms are generating so much energy that some utilities are giving power away.Briana Lamb, an elementary schoolteacher, waits until her watch strikes 9 p.m. to run her washing machine and dishwasher. It costs her nothing until 6 a.m. Kayleen Willard, a cosmetologist, unplugs appliances when she goes to work in the morning. By 9 p.m., she has them plugged back in. And Sherri Burks, business manager of a local law firm, keeps a yellow sticker on her townhouse’s thermostat, a note to guests that says: “After 9 p.m. I don’t care what you do. You can party after 9.” The women are just three of the thousands of TXU Energy customers who are at the vanguard of a bold attempt by the utility to change how people consume energy. TXU’s free overnight plan, which is coupled with slightly higher daytime rates, is one of dozens offered by more than 50 retail electricity companies in Texas with a simple goal: for customers to turn down the dials when wholesale prices are highest and turn them back up when prices are lowest.”


--Oil falls on jobs data: The falling unemployment rate in the U.S. helped strengthen the dollar which drove down futures prices Friday.

“December crude oil settled down 91 cents, or 2%, to $44.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, lost 56 cents, or 1.2%, to $47.42 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.”

--Natural gas boosted by cooler temps: The Journal reports.

“Prices for the front-month December contract settled up 0.7 cents, or 0.3%, at $2.371 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It finished the week up 5 cents, or 2.2%.”

** 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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