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POLITICO New York Energy: Solar developers sound alarm -- March windstorm settlement -- New Jersey disillusionment

By Danielle Muoio and Marie J. French | 05/22/2018 10:00 AM EDT

SOLAR DEVELOPERS SOUND ALARM — POLITICO's Marie J. French: Solar energy developers say they're holding back investments in New York because of uncertainty around the state's effort to change how solar and other distributed energy resources earn money. "We have a pipeline of additional potential megawatts that we could move forward with ... but we've paused all of that because of the issues we see with" the new value of solar, said Melissa Kemp, the Northeast policy director for solar developer, Cypress Creek. "We think its an undervaluation of the resource." The public alarm from developers highlights the challenges facing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's now four-year-old Reforming the Energy Vision initiative aimed at developing more renewable energy and decentralizing energy production from the traditional power plant model. Changing the way distributed energy resources — small projects that generate electricity closer to where it is used — are paid is seen as a key part of sending better market signals as to where those projects should be built to maximize the benefits to the electric grid and minimize costs to those who aren't putting solar on their rooftops or a wind turbine in their backyard. But state policymakers are moving too fast — and fundamentally undershooting the value solar can provide to the point where investments aren't attractive, according to some developers and advocates who are pushing state legislators to slow the transition. Read more here.

MARCH WINDSTORM SETTLEMENT REACHED — Democrat and Chronicle's Steve Orr: "RG&E and NYSEG must dip into corporate profits to pay $3.9 million to resolve a state investigation that found the companies mishandled their response to the ferocious March 2017 windstorm. The funds will be used to improve the companies' readiness for future storms. The sister utilities were accused of failing to implement their own emergency plans properly after winds knocked out power to more than 170,000 customers on March 8 last year. An investigation by the state Public Service Commission found they did not assess damage or prioritize restoration efforts properly, failed to protect the public from downed live wires, didn't communicate enough with customers on life-support systems, and proved incapable of providing accurate restoration times to customers without power." Read more here.

NEW JERSEY GREENS DISMAYED WITH MURPHY BUDGET — POLITICO's Danielle Muoio: New Jersey environmentalists, once hopeful Gov. Phil Murphy would reverse some of the policies of former Gov. Chris Christie, are now crying foul, arguing that some of the Democrat's budget proposals are nearly identical to those of his Republican predecessor, despite campaigning on a much friendlier environmental agenda. Murphy, like Christie before him, wants to raid the Clean Energy Fund to bolster other parts of the budget, slash funding for the Department of Environmental Protection and use environmental settlement money for the general fund, in this case $69 million the state received from Volkswagen over the company's emissions-test cheating. But the last straw came last Tuesday, when Acting DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe told lawmakers the agency would only get $50 million from the state's settlement with ExxonMobil. Environmental advocates have long argued the entire $225 million settlement should go toward restoring natural resources damaged by Exxon's legacy of pollution — and thought Murphy had their backs. "Time after time, the environment that every governor says they support falls victim to other demands. It's never the other way around," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "We get better rhetoric, but we get the defense of the same bad policies and grabbing of all the funds." Read more here.

GOOD TUESDAY MORNING: Let us know if you have tips, story ideas or life advice. We're always here at dmuoio@politico.com and mfrench@politico.com.

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AROUND NEW YORK:

— An attempt to store propane in Seneca County salt mines, stalled amid local opposition, has encountered another setback as Crestwood acknowledged the cavern may have leaks.

— The idea of building a beach on Onondaga Lake moved forward in the Onondaga County Legislature, but some legislators are questioning whether it's a sound idea.

— Are Long Island's East End beaches ready for summer? Newsday dives in.

— Saratoga & North Creek Railway has moved out of all but one station on the Warren County-owned rail line and plans to be out of the last station this week.

— Bill McKibben writes for Rolling Stone why he supports divestment and doesn't believe Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's divestment approach will succeed.

— Cuomo's energy czar Richard Kauffman, who earlier this month called natural gas a bridge, says that storage and demand response will be cheaper than building new gas infrastructure.

— Cornell experts are considering options to bring geothermal heating to the university's Ithaca campus.

— OPINION: Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce says offshore wind won't fill the gap left by Indian Point's closure.

— Skaneateles Lake residents plan to patrol the shoreline looking for toxic algae after a bloom threatened drinking water supplies last fall.

— The New York Times writes about Lanternflies, the invasive species from Asia, and how they have been discovered in New York, Delaware and Virginia.

— A wandering bear cub in the City of Corning is headed to wildlife "rehab" after its capture in a municipal salt barn.

— National Grid has started installing a natural gas line in Warren County.

— Washington County is working on installing a county-wide trail system that would connect to the county's outer boundaries and could be used by both pedestrians and bicyclists.

ACROSS THE RIVER:

— The Murphy administration is calling on an appeals court to review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval of the 118-mile PennEast pipeline.

— The Senate is pushing a bill that would keep state beaches open for a week if the state government were to shut down, legislation that comes a year after reporters took a now-infamous photo of former Gov. Chris Christie sunbathing on a private beach during the 2017 shutdown.

— OPINION: It's time for the state to ban single-use plastic bags.

— A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill that would allow New Jersey's commercial property owners to use PACE financing for clean energy projects.

— JEFF TITTEL: The New Jersey Sierra Club will fight the Murphy administration's attempt to use the Exxon settlement to fill budget holes.

— Lawmakers are considering bills that would expedite the installation of charging stations in New Jersey and provide rebates to consumers who switch to zero-emission vehicles.

— Columbus Park in Garfield will remain a park after a push to turn the land into condos.

GRID SECURITY THREAT — UtilityDive's Robert Walton: "Two evolutions are taking place around the power sector today, which could make it more difficult to defend from a growing cyber threat." Read more here.

NEXTERA BUYS FLORIDA UTILITY — The Wall Street Journal's Russell Gold: "NextEra Energy Inc. is buying a utility and other Florida assets from Southern Co. for $5.1 billion in cash, in a deal that paves the way for America's most valuable power company to grow further." Read more here.

TESLA MODEL 3 PROBLEMS — The Washington Post's Holley: "For much of the past year, Tesla's Model 3 has been the darling of auto reviewers everywhere, with some comparing the mass market sedan to the iPhone and labeling it one of the greatest tech products ever created. This week, Tesla's string of good reviews came to a halt when Consumer Reports — a publication devoted to authoritative product testing — handed the Model 3 a crushing review." Read more here.

NEVADA ENERGY FIGHT HEATS UP — Nevada Independent's Riley Snyder: "The expensive political fight over a major energy-related ballot question is getting another eight-figure jolt of advertising dollars." Read more here.

BIG OIL'S NEW LOBBYING PUSH — Axios Amy Harder: "Some of America's biggest energy companies are lobbying Washington to change — critics say weaken — oversight of a federal tax credit going to facilities capturing carbon emissions." Read more here.

ANOTHER NUKE BOONDOGGLE — Post and Courier's Andrew Brown: "It's a familiar story in South Carolina: Nuclear contractors fail to produce a reliable schedule, start construction with just a fraction of design finished, and let pipes and other material corrode in storage under the watch of government agencies. The abandonment of two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station generated headlines and riled state lawmakers since last summer, but 90 miles south, a similar scenario played out at the Savannah River Site near Aiken." Read more here.

BP SEES CLIMATE LAWSUIT RISK — Bloomberg's Kelly Gilblom: "After paying more than $65 billion in legal costs for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, BP Plc is wary of the risk of lawsuits related to climate change. Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley raised the topic of class-action lawsuits twice during the company's annual general meeting in Manchester, England on Monday, saying he wouldn't disclose certain climate targets, or even answer some questions from activist investors, because the risk of legal action in the U.S. was too high." Read more here.

PRESSURE MOUNTS ON SHELL — The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Kent: "Investors are upping the ante on big oil companies over climate change, demanding they take more concrete action to help curb global warming. The issue is set to come into focus at Royal Dutch Shell's annual meeting Tuesday where investors with nearly $8 trillion under management will call on the company to go beyond already ambitious plans to curb emissions, according to a copy of the statement seen by The Wall Street Journal." Read more here.

GAS-PLUS-STORAGE DOWN UNDER — Greentech Media's Jason Deign: "A hybrid storage project is showing batteries and gas plants can coexist, even as peakers elsewhere fight for survival in the face of battery competition." Read more here.

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