Capital Energy: Global award for Ithaca fracking foe

April 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Capital Energy, your daily guide to what’s happening in the New York energy industry and the officials who regulate it, from fracking and crude-oil logistics to nuclear power and investment in renewable energy. Written by Capital New York staff and filled with scoops, analysis and aggregation of the most important news of the day on NY energy and the politics that affect it, Capital Energy is delivered to your inbox before 5:45 each weekday morning. Sign up here.

By Scott Waldman and David Giambusso

NY ANTI-FRACKER GOES GLOBAL: The world’s largest environmental prize has been awarded to an Ithaca-based lawyer helps organize community-level fracking bans. Helen Slottje has won the Goldman Prize, which carries a $150,000 award. Slottje—a despised figure among gas industry executives—has helped enact fracking bans in 172 communities across New York in the last five years. Even if the state’s five-year moratorium on hydraulic hydrofracking were to be lifted tomorrow, Slottje’s work could cause a major issue for energy companies in New York.

SKIDMORE’S BATTLE FOR SOLAR: We explore Skidmore University’s 10-year quest for a solar farm amid the vagaries of bureaucratic inaction and messy politics, in the May issue of Capital magazine. The farm, which is up and running, could be a model for the benefits of more solar use. For now, it’s a lesson in the challenges of meeting the state’s goal of drawing 70 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.


  • On ‘good information’


—As opposed to the Koch brothers: The New York Times editorial board fired a shot at the Koch brothers over reported efforts to scale back government incentives for solar energy. Net-metering, the process by which individuals with solar arrays can sell excess energy back to utility companies, is proving successful. The Koch brothers, with their allies at the American Legislative Exchange Council, are reportedly pushing efforts to roll back government incentives and in some cases charge a surtax on the excess power. “At long last, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have found a new tax they can support,” the Times writes.

THE ESCO DILEMMA: Bill Sanderson, writing for Capital, explores the emerging conflict between start-up energy service companies and the demands of maintaining reliable electricity for the biggest city in the country. The state Public Service Commission ordered the ESCOs to disclose more detailed cost information to provide transparency for consumers. ESCOs are reluctant to share more details about their billing because they say it does not take into account rebates and other savings.

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RATE SHOCK: Utility bills in the lower Hudson Valley will climb another 6 to 15 percent for customers and businesses after a new capacity zone is created this week. Proponents say the zone is necessary to ensure the reliability of the energy grid and that a slow phase-in will prevent “rate shock.”

DOMESTIC CRUDE IS UP W/ UKRAINE STILL UNCERTAIN: With Russia’s viability as an oil exporter in question amid the Ukraine conflict, crude has come out of its market doldrum for the moment, Bloomberg reports. Brent for June settlement gained 20 cents to $109.78 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange and was selling for $109.75 at 9:06 a.m. Sydney time. West Texas crude orders for June gained as much as 29 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $100.89 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

— Europe trying to find ways around Russian gas: As the conflict in Ukraine continues, the New York Times reports European energy companies are quietly trying to get around “the Russian stranglehold” on oil and gas.

** A message from the Indian Point Energy Center: Balanced Energy Markets are Best for Consumers. An overreliance on one fuel source for electricity can easily result in power prices that are volatile and can rise suddenly because of extreme weather or other events. A balanced energy market is price stable and provides a reliable electric supply. Follow @Indian_Point**

BAKKEN BOOM TO DOUBLE: Expect 25 more years of drilling in the Bakken shale, and oil production to double from 1 million barrels a day to 2 million. That means a lot more oil trains through New York. In North Dakota, it means a lot more housing.

“They’re growing houses, like they grow wheat on the plains,” said Rick Leuthold, chairman of a regional development company.

$2,000: That’s the sum total of what the state utility regulator fined utility companies in 2013, the Wall Street Journal’s Sean Gardiner reports. That’s the lowest amount collected since 2001, but the Public Service Commission said it prefers to reach settlements with companies that may have committed violations.

BIG FRACKER TO DISCLOSE CHEMICALS: Baker Hughes, the third-largest oilfield services provider in the country, will disclose the chemicals it uses in its hydraulic fracturing process, Bloomberg reports. Companies have been resistant to disclose the chemicals citing proprietary information.

LACE DRUMS: Recycled oil drums make surprisingly attractive lawn furniture.

1860: That’s the unofficial start of our current fracking revolution. A brief history from Alberta Oil magazine.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS’ ANTI-FRACKING REPORT: A report by Labyrinth Consulting Services, commissioned by the League of Women Voters of New York, says fracking in the state’s Marcellus shale may not be profitable:

GORE GOES ON: Al Gore’s climate battle has produced few results, but that won’t stop him from soldiering on, Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports. Gore, who is worth more than $200 million and owns a solar-powered houseboat, is more convinced than ever that we’ll soon reach a “tipping point” on climate change and that politicians of all stripes will increasingly get on board.

GRIMM JOINS IN: It may have been a watershed moment for beleaguered congressman Michael Grimm. On Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously”—a documentary series on climate change—the Republican congressman from Staten Island conceded to an insistent Chris Hayes that man-made climate change is probably a thing.

EX-E.P.A., PRO-NUKE: Nuclear Plants are an important part of our energy grid, and provide emissions-free power, a former Environmental Protection Agency official argues in a Times Union op ed.

NATURAL GAS OUTPACING OTHER ENERGY SOURCES: The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its monthly report on energy consumption in the U.S. Friday. Since 2010, natural gas has been outpacing crude oil on the production side but in January it overtook petroleum in consumption as well. Americans consumed 3.294 quadrillion BTUs of natural gas in January compared to 2.97 quadrillion BTUs of petroleum. Americans are still using more coal than renewable energy sources with coal at 1.75 quadrillion BTUs and renewable at 0.81 quadrillion. Nuclear was the least consumed fuel source in January with 0.766 quadrillion Btu’s. Read the report here. (The nifty topsheet charts start on page 2.)

FAGIN ON THE WORLD’S CHEMICAL WASTE: Fresh from his Pulitzer win, New York-based environmental science writer Dan Fagin writes an essay for the New York Times on industrial chemicals in rivers.

VIEWING: Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute, will be on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today at 7 a.m.

WANT MORE ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT COVERAGE THROUGHOUT THE DAY? To learn more about how to get bite-size “whiteboard” alerts that focus specifically on energy and environment issues sent directly to your inbox, please contact Lauren Englander at

NYC WIZ KID WAITING ON SOLAR PATENT: The Daily News reports on Faizullah Mashriqi, 18, who invented a cheaper way to build solar panels by using aluminum instead of silicon. The straight-A graduate of Francis Lewis High School in Queens, and two other researchers, are awaiting approval of their patent for the system.

BP’S NEW FIGHT: BP has launched an aggressive ad campaign and court battle over its Gulf oil spill fund. It claims the fund is being hijacked by greedy lawyers and unscrupulous businesses, but the energy company helped set up the fund as part of its settlement terms for the 87-day long spill in 2010 that fouled 500 miles of coastline.

LONDON CALLING: The Climate Group, a world coalition of energy leaders devoted to fostering low- or no-carbon energy alternatives, will host its 10th Anniversary summit today in London. The conference starts at 10:30 a.m. EDT and can be viewed here:

** A message from the Indian Point Energy Center: What makes a balanced energy market? New York’s electricity market draws on power generated by Natural Gas, Coal, Oil and Renewables (such as Wind and Solar), as well as Hydro and Nuclear Power. The key to a balanced electricity market that works is diversity — no single energy source comes to dominate the market or dictate pricing. Diversity also ensures reliable around-the-clock, baseload power by balancing out the variability of renewables. There are many times, for example, when virtually no generation from wind or solar is occurring. Baseload plants fueled by natural gas, coal or nuclear might be all we have to power our region on cold, calm nights when renewables aren’t producing. Learn more about the true value of Indian Point’s power to our area, follow @Indian_Point**

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