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POLITICO New York Energy, presented by Nuclear Matters: Solar cap fight; environmental company in Skelos trial struggling

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 newyork@politicopro.com 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.

UTILITIES CRITICIZE STATE PLAN TO LIFT SOLAR CAP — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: New York's utilities say the Public Service Commission’s recent decision to lift caps on the number of solar customers could have dire financial implications. In October, the PSC approved a plan to require utilities to keep enrolling solar customers even if the total number exceeds current state caps. Previously, the program had been capped to limit the number of enrollments, which mitigated the effect of solar on the grid and on utilities' bottom line. On Monday, the utilities asked for a rehearing on the issue, saying the PSC's lifting of the cap was improper. http://politi.co/1MlaZvK

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPANY AT CENTER OF SKELOS TRIAL POSTS LOSS — POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman: An environmental technology company at the center of former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ corruption trial has posted a significant increase in operating expenses due to legal fees, as well as a rising operating loss. AbTech Industries paid $1.04 million in legal fees in the second and third quarter of this year as a result of the Skelos investigation, according to a financial filing the company posted Monday. The company’s operating loss for 2015 rose to $4.4 million. Company officials did not host a third quarter earnings call, citing the ongoing investigation. http://politi.co/1MQT69G

** 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 NuclearMatters.com. **

ENERGY SERVICE COMPANIES CAUSE BILL SPIKES — Bill Sanderson for the New York Post: “Companies that promise to lower New Yorkers’ electric bills are a rip-off, new government data shows. Electric bills spiked an average 14.7 percent for more than 1 million New York state residents who signed up for the supposed low-cost electric plans often sold door-to-door, over the phone or by sidewalk hustlers, according to US Energy Information Administration numbers. Utility customers who use 300 kilowatt hours of electricity per month — enough for a typical New York City apartment — pay an average monthly bill of $58.56 under the default plans offered by Con Edison and other big utilities in the state, the federal numbers show. If those customers switch to energy service companies, monthly bills jump to an average $67.14.” http://bit.ly/1MQQNDn

HUD STARTS SCOPING THE BIG U — POLITICO’s David Giambusso: The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has begun a key regulatory process for construction of a giant flood barrier along Manhattan's East Side. The city's Office of Management and Budget will act as lead agency in preparing a draft environmental impact statement for a large swath of flood walls and coastal protections under the so-called "Big U" project — the city's vision to protect Lower Manhattan from the impacts of future Sandy-like storms. Awarded $335 million as part of HUD's Rebuild by Design competition, the project area runs from Montgomery Street north to East 23rd Street and as far west as First Avenue. Designers for the city have presented conceptual projects that include levees, berms (or hills), permanent flood walls and deployable flood walls that can be moved and replaced at the onset of storms. http://politi.co/1YfOIVs

AROUND NEW YORK:

--New York leads the nation in installed operational microgrids. http://bit.ly/1HTqcW7

--Bill Nowak, executive director of the New York Geothermal Energy Organization argues in the Times Union that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s climate legacy will depend on geothermal energy. “What many don't recognize is that [Cuomo’s] actions primarily target only 18 percent of New York's greenhouse gases — those that result from generating electricity in-state. According to the state Energy Plan, almost 35 percent of New York's greenhouse gases are generated in heating our homes and buildings with fossil fuels. We will not reach New York's greenhouse gas goals without revolutionizing the way we keep ourselves warm. The governor has an opportunity to sign key bills that would give geothermal heat pumps the same tax advantages as solar panels.” http://bit.ly/1PNnnqG

--There was a meeting on a natural gas compressor station in Rensselaer that will be part of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. http://bit.ly/1WXSMN5

--Anti-fracking protesters want Cuomo to stop the construction of a new gas-fired power plant in the Hudson Valley. http://bit.ly/1MAdzfm

--The Department of Environmental Conservation handed out environmental awards to a number of groups on Tuesday, including the National Hockey League. http://on.ny.gov/1SWMbg7

--SUNY Poly’s clean tech hub may already be looking for a new developers. http://bit.ly/1MTMKlA

GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING: This newsletter is for you so let us know if you have tips, story ideas or life advice. We're always here at dgiambusso@politico.com and swaldman@politico.com. And if you like this letter, please tell a friend and/or loved one. Here’s a handy sign-up link: politi.co/1UqoEoB

SENATE VOTES TO BLOCK POWER PLAN — POLITICO’s Andrew Restuccia and Darren Goode: “The Senate approved a resolution on Tuesday aimed at killing the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's climate agenda, part of a Republican-led effort to undercut the White House goal of striking a new global warming deal in Paris next month. The Senate voted to green-light two disapproval resolutions under the Congressional Review Act, a seldom-invoked law that allows lawmakers to reject a recently finalized regulation with a simply majority vote. One resolution targeted EPA's climate rule for existing power plants, and a second focused on EPA's climate rule for new and modified power plants. Both passed 52-46, largely along party lines. But the resolutions will not succeed in overturning the EPA regulations. Obama will smack the measures down with vetoes, and lawmakers do not have enough support to override him.”

TRAIN SPEED RULES WOULD NOT HAVE PREVENTED CRASH — McClatchy’s Curtis Tate: “The train that derailed earlier this month in Wisconsin and spilled 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River didn’t have a sufficient number of cars carrying flammable liquids to meet lower federal speed requirements. The government set the new requirements this year in response to safety concerns about transporting crude oil by rail. According to railroad shipping documents, the train had 15 tank cars loaded with ethanol, five fewer than would trigger speed restrictions set by federal regulators. Because it didn’t meet that threshold, the train was permitted to operate at 55 mph.” http://bit.ly/1OPouaO

EPA SETS NEW DOWNWIND LIMITS — The Associated Press’ Matthew Daly: “The Environmental Protection Agency wants to set tougher new limits on smokestack emissions from nearly two dozen states that burden downwind areas with air pollution from power plants they can't control. At the same time, the EPA moved Tuesday to remove two states — South Carolina and Florida — from the ‘good neighbor’ rules, saying they don't contribute significant amounts of smog to other states. The EPA's proposal follows a federal appeals court ruling this summer that upheld the agency's right to impose the clean-air standards, which block states from adding to air pollution in other localities. Some states and industry groups argue that the rule is overly burdensome.” http://bit.ly/1Qt9lfp

GREENS STILL MOSTLY WHITE — ThinkProgress: “Yeampierre is determined to build a safer, healthier and more resilient community. It’s a goal shared by the larger environmental movement, but as she notes, little of the energy and resources of the biggest green groups trickle down to neighborhoods like hers. It’s because activists in these communities remain on the margins of the national environmental movement, which is dominated by white men and women from largely middle-class upbringings. Yeampierre believes that by sidelining local advocates in communities of color, these organizations dedicated to positive change are alienating potential supporters they will need to win larger fights on health and climate.

The numbers are clear. By 2042, racial and ethnic minorities will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. Yeampierre says this shift poses a challenge for the environmental movement, which must expand its reach if it is to remain politically relevant in the years ahead.” http://bit.ly/1MQpgSz

NAACP SLAMS UTILITY FEES — The NAACP: “Utilities are pushing for mandatory fee increases in 22 states, with new proposals expected in six additional states within the next 12 months. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s part of a concerted effort to push back against a healthier, greener economy that can provide good jobs for our communities. The NAACP stands with like-missioned organizations opposing attempts by utilities around the country to increase their mandatory monthly ‘fixed’ fees. In fact, the NAACP has been instrumental in the fight against these predatory fees in several of these states including Indiana and Kansas.” http://bit.ly/1MkZYuv

MASSACHUSETTS PASSES NET METERING BILL — The Boston Globe’s: Shira Schoenberg: “The Massachusetts House on Tuesday, over the objections of the solar industry, passed a bill that would increase a cap on the financial incentives given to solar energy projects but would change the amount of the payments. ‘Change is always difficult, but we need to really look out for the ratepayer and to make sure we can still move the economy in the right direction, as well as the green economy,’ said State Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. ‘This is a big balancing act here.’” http://bit.ly/1H7HtL0

YORKE: COME AND GET ME: Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, rock icon Patti Smith and other climate activists vowed to carry on their concert, “Pathway to Paris” for the December climate talks despite government declarations that all demonstrations would be canceled. Smaller demonstrations may still be canceled, Rolling Stone reports. http://rol.st/1HXdUGV

PHILIPPINES CLIMATE SUMMIT — The Associated Press: “When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines two years ago, flattening entire villages and killing thousands, the country became a poster child for the havoc wrought by global warming and increasingly extreme weather. French President Francoise Holland traveled early this year to the devastated town of Guiuan, ground zero of the strongest cyclone ever to make landfall, to show the world the damage and appeal for an ambitious deal at global climate change talks in Paris at the end of this month. Leaders of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum gathered this week in the Philippine capital Manila could help set the stage for greater progress in mitigating climate change ahead of the Nov. 30 Paris conference. It was at the summit of APEC leaders in Beijing last November that the world's top polluters, the United States and China, agreed to more ambitious goals to cap the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.” http://nyti.ms/1Nag0Li

FEWER WILDFIRES ON SUNDAYS: For the first time, scientists have published research tracking which days wildfires occur and found that the fewest start on Sunday. As nature does not follow a seven-day calendar, this means that mankind taking it easy on Sundays leads to fewer fires. Chris Mooney of the Washington Post reports, “‘There were a total of 104 million Sunday fires globally over 2001–2013, this being 9 million (8%) fewer than the Tuesday total,’ the researchers noted. This pattern was particularly pronounced in some parts of the world, including the United States, and less so in others.” http://wapo.st/1Nah1ms

FUTURES:

--Oil falls near $40: The Wall Street Journal reports that oil settled near $40 Tuesday with three-month lows and could go further.

“Light, sweet crude for December delivery settled down $1.07, or 2.6%, to $40.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 99 cents, or 2.2%, to $43.57 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Both benchmarks fell to their lowest settlement since Aug. 26.” http://on.wsj.com/1YfIaGs

--Natural gas falls, because we have more than we thought, the Journal reports.

“Natural gas futures for December delivery settled down 1.4 cents, or 0.6%, at 2.371 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange.” http://on.wsj.com/1YfIhli\

** 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 at NuclearMatters.com. **

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