Capital Energy: The new ‘safe’ car; A biomass question; Fracking farms

May 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

By Scott Waldman and David Giambusso

Welcome to Capital Energy, your daily guide to news on the manufacture, consumption and regulation of energy in New York. Sign up here.

SAFER THAN WHAT?: At least one of the train cars that exploded after derailing in Lynchburg, Virginia earlier this month was the new type of car deemed safer by the industry and federal regulators, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed Friday. That is the same type of car that New York’s biggest oil transportation company recently announced it would now use to increase rail safety. http://goo.gl/QFCWq0

THE BIOMASS CATCH: The state’s new plan to increase biomass as an energy source will use wood scraps once considered waste, but it will also lead to higher levels of air pollution. Biomass is organic waste derived from plant and animal waste. It’s basically leftover material from wood mills, smaller trees considered worthless after logging or animal manure. When burned, it produces a high level of soot, more than natural gas and oil, critics say. http://goo.gl/5lrdgl

MORE ON CAPITAL

  • Capital Energy: Making Bakken safer, Cahill for fracking, elegy for an energy bill
  • FERC approves more pipeline capacity for city
  • Capital Energy: New clean energy fund; Curbing carbon; The ethanol question

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EARTHQUAKE EVALUATION: The Indian Point power plant is one of 10 sites considered most in need for a re-evaluation of earthquake vulnerability, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on Friday, Matthew Wald reports for the New York Times. http://goo.gl/5Tzb3E

WELL REPORT: As the U.S. reaps economic and political rewards from the nation’s fracking boom, the Dept. of the Interior has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells that could potentially be polluting local waterways, the GAO said in a report obtained ahead of its release by The Associated Press. … The report, “ highlights substantial gaps in oversight by the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands. Investigators said weak control by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data,” write’s AP’s Hope Yen. http://goo.gl/6xYCpl

– Pipelines aren’t well-monitored, either. The federal agency responsible for making sure states effectively oversee the safety of natural gas and other pipelines is failing to do its job, the Associated Press’ Joan Lowy reported. The federal effort is so riddled with weaknesses that it’s not possible to ensure states are enforcing pipeline safety, the report by the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General said. The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, isn’t ensuring key state inspectors are properly trained, inspections are being conducted frequently enough and inspections target the most risky pipelines, a watchdog report said. http://goo.gl/7k7Ebo

– Here’s the federal report.

– A proposed bill in New York takes a new angle of attack on the fracking industry by requiring utilities to continuously monitor the levels of radon in natural-gas pipelines. Effectively, the measure makes it more expensive to pipe fracked gas into New York. Democratic assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan, a bill sponsor, held an Assembly hearing stacked with fracking opponents that dealt with the risks of exposure to radon, which can cause cancer. http://goo.gl/ZoHZVP

– Bureaucratic dithering in England has left fracking paralyzed. Only one test well has been drilled and though there is a growing demand for domestic natural gas, a slew of agencies are in charge of approving test wells, which can take a year just to get clearance to drill. http://goo.gl/3KNin4

– Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency took a first step Friday toward demanding disclosure of the contents of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in oil and gas production, The Wall Street Journal’s Alicia Mundy reports. http://goo.gl/0stLSP

** A message from the Indian Point Energy Center: Electric Bill Sticker Shock. New York ratepayers are still absorbing the bad news they received with their electric bills recently. Due to rising natural gas prices, utility costs have surged 22 percent this winter and spring. And there may be worse to come. Follow @Indian_Point **

OBAMA’S SOLAR PUSH: President Obama travelled to a California Wal-Mart to announce 300 commitments from retailers, school districts, and food services to expand the use of solar power and energy efficiency tools to combat climate change, The Hill reports. http://goo.gl/wqHkmq

– Marco Rubio skeptical of scientific evidence that mankind is responsible for rapidly rising temperatures. http://goo.gl/GpzNkv

– 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan tossed Jimmy Carter’s solar panels off the White House roof. Obama just put them back, The Hill reports. http://goo.gl/F0mgfW

BETTER NUMBERS: The U.S. Energy Information System is considering expanding its monthly natural gas and crude oil production survey to Pennsylvania and Colorado. http://goo.gl/F6cNjr

Want to follow the ebb and flow of all the legislation moving through New York? That’s why we have the DAILY BILL TRACKER: http://goo.gl/ZnIUwj

FRACKING FARMS: The number of farms in Bradford County, Pennsylvania has actually grown in recent years, and it’s because of fracking, Tom Shepstone argues over at the Natural Gas Now industry blog. http://goo.gl/unpKXL

– Meanwhile in the Empire State, if a moratorium is lifted on fracking it may not prove as profitable for New York as it is in PA, writes Jerry Zremski in The Buffalo News. We don’t have as much gas and prices are dropping. http://goo.gl/8iwIF4

Talk to us. If you have a story in the world of New York energy, we want to hear it. Email tips, scoops, ideas and complaints to dgiambusso@capitalnewyork.com and swaldman@capitalnewyork.com.

HAPPENING THIS WEEK:

– Agrion hosts a discussion on green banks as New York’s gets $1 billion. Tue, May 13, 9:30am – 11:30a.m. Rockefeller Plaza, 16th Floor, New York City, NY 10020

– The Age of Intelligent Storage: Distributed Systems, Smart Software and Control Systems at 6:30 p.m. Weds., May 14 at WNYC’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, 44 Charlton St. NYC.

– Gas prices skyrocket: The New York Times reports that as the Ukrainian conflict descends into further chaos, Gazprom – the Kremlin-controlled fuel giant – says Ukraine owes $22 billion for gas delivery, up from $2 billion in March. http://goo.gl/kGqEnm

– Brent crude advances with tensions in Ukraine. The European benchmark was up as much as 47 cents to $108.36 a barrel for June delivery on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, Bloomberg reports. West Texas held steady with an 11 cent gain at $100.10 a barrel in electronic trading on NYMEX. http://goo.gl/

New FERC leader: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to consider Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during a May 20 hearing. Here’s EE’s Hannah Northey on what we can expect. http://goo.gl/jRZZU2

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 lenglander@capitalnewyork.com.

SHORT LINKS:

– A natural gas pipeline running from Vermont to New York through Lake Champlain is meeting steep opposition. http://goo.gl/Xt8KGY

– Renewable energy adds 800K jobs, in 2013. The sector saw a spike from 5.7 million in 2012 to around 6.5 million people last year. http://goo.gl/wEGmy8

** A message from the Indian Point Energy Center: The era of inexpensive natural gas may be ending. Although we’re living in a golden age of natural gas due to advances in drilling technologies and rising U.S. production, natural gas prices are still rising. Electricity prices are also on the rise. In New York, wholesale power prices averaged $165.24 a megawatt-hour during the 2014 winter months, up 91 percent from the 2013 winter. It would be a mistake to look at these price rises as all weather related. With coal and nuclear plants closing across the country, power supply is becoming tighter and our nation’s electric grid is becoming increasingly dependent on natural gas-fired plants. Our increased dependence on one fuel source could drive natural gas prices even higher in the future, and prices for electricity would naturally follow. Learn more about our position on a balanced energy marketplace, and follow @Indian_Point**

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