Monday, January 26, 2015

FERC Issues Final EIS on Algonquin Pipeline Improvements

FERC Staff Issues the Final Environmental Impact Statement on Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC’s Algonquin Incremental Market Project (Docket No. CP14-96-000)
Issued January 23, 2015

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) has prepared a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Algonquin Incremental Market Project (Project), proposed by Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (Algonquin).

The proposed Project facilities include the construction and operation of about 37.4 miles of pipeline in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, composed of the following facilities:
  • replacement of 26.3 miles of existing pipeline with a 16- or 42-inch-diameter pipeline;
  • extension of an existing loop1 pipeline with about 3.3 miles of additional 12- and 36-inch-diameter pipeline within Algonquin's existing right-of-way; and
  • installation of about 7.8 miles of new 16-, 24-, and 42-inch-diameter pipeline.

The Project's proposed aboveground facilities consist of modifications to six existing compressor stations, to add a total 81,620 horsepower, in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island and abandonment of four existing compressor units for a total of 10,800 horsepower at one compressor station in New York. Algonquin would also modify 24 existing meter and regulating stations, construct 3 new meter and regulation stations, and remove 1 meter station in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The Project would provide firm transportation service of 342,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas to local distribution companies and municipal utilities in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

The EIS was prepared in compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 1500–1508), and FERC regulations implementing NEPA (18 CFR 380). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration cooperated in the preparation of the final EIS.

FERC's environmental staff concludes that construction and operation of the Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts. However, most of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Algonquin's proposed mitigation measures and plans and the additional measures recommended by the FERC staff in the draft EIS. Although many factors were considered in this determination, the principal reasons are:

  • About 35 miles (93 percent) of the 37.4 miles of Project pipeline facilities would be within or adjacent to existing rights-of-way.
  • The majority of the pipeline facilities (70 percent) would replace existing Algonquin pipelines within existing rights-of-way.
  • Algonquin would minimize impacts on natural and cultural resources during construction and operation of the Project by implementing its Erosion and Sediment Control Plan; Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan; Unexpected Contamination Encounter Procedures; Invasive Plant Species Control Plan; Best Drilling Practices Plan; Compensatory Mitigation Plan; Traffic Management Plans for New York and the West Roxbury Lateral; Procedures Guiding the Discovery of Unanticipated Cultural Resources and Human Remains; and Fugitive Dust Control Plan.
  • Algonquin would utilize the horizontal directional drill method to cross the Hudson and Still Rivers, which would avoid any direct impacts on these resources.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of issuing a letter of concurrent for the AIM Project, which would complete consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
  • FERC staff would complete the process with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 prior to allowing any construction to begin.
  • FERC staff would ensure compliance with all mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations and other approvals during our oversight of an environmental inspection and mitigation monitoring program.

The FERC Commissioners will take into consideration staff's recommendations when the Commission makes a decision on the Project.  (FERC)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Center New York Supports Liberty Port Ambrose LNG Project at Hearings

Full Written Statement

Center New York Director testified before the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration in support of the Liberty Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Project.  The project will import natural gas into the United States and will provide diversity in energy delivery.  This gas is needed in lower New York and Long Island.

One hearing was held at the Hilton New York JFK Airport Hotel in Jamaica, New York. Approximately 150 union members attended the hearing and expressed their support for the project.

Dan Durett at the January 7, 2015 Hearing

Center New York Director Dan Durett also made a statement at the hearing.  Dan provided the Center's local perspective on the project.

Norris McDonald at January 8, 2015 Hearing

Norris McDonald at January 8, 2015 Hearing

The other hearing was held at the Sheraton Eaton Hotel in Eatontown, New Jersey.  Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy President Norris McDonald testified before the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Maritime Administration.  Approximately 100 union members attended the hearing and expressed their support for the project.

Full Written Statement

Norris McDonald at January 7, 2015 Hearing

Port Ambrose is a deepwater port consisting of a submerged buoy system for natural gas deliveries that will be located in federal waters approximately 19 miles from the New York shore.  Each delivery is expected to provide an average of 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day – enough to meet the energy needs of 1.5 million homes. The majority of these deliveries will occur during the peak demand periods of winter and summer.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Support The Liberty Port Ambrose LNG Project

The Center - New York supports the Liberty Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Project

Port Ambrose is a deepwater port consisting of a submerged buoy system for natural gas deliveries that will be located in federal waters approximately 19 miles from the New York shore.  Each delivery is expected to provide an average of 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day – enough to meet the energy needs of 1.5 million homes. The majority of these deliveries will occur during the peak demand periods of winter and summer.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) supplies will arrive at Port Ambrose via specially designed Shuttle & Regasification Vessels (SRVs). Once the SRV is connected to the submerged buoy system, the LNG will be re-gasified on board and natural gas will be transferred into a new twenty-two mile subsea pipeline that will connect offshore into the existing Transco Lower New York Bay Lateral pipeline serving Long Island and New York City

The Liberty Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Project will import LNG that will be delivered from purpose-built LNG regasification vessels (LNGRVs) or Shuttle & Regasification Vessels (SRVs), vaporized on site and delivered through subsea manifolds and lateral pipelines to a buried main line connecting to the existing Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (Transco) Lower New York Bay Lateral in New York State waters.  

On September 28, 2012, Liberty Natural Gas, LLC (Liberty), submitted an application to the
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) seeking a federal license to construct, own, and operate a deepwater port for the import and regasification of liquefied natural gas in federal waters off the coasts of New York and New Jersey

As stated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:

The purpose for licensing LNG deepwater ports is to provide a reliable and timely supply of natural gas and increase energy diversity, while considering impacts on the environment, safety, and security.

The Center agrees with the purpose of the project.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

FERC Required To File Quarter Reports Re Capacity Zones

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), approved a Hudson Valley “Electric Capacity Zone” that went into effect May 1, despite opposition from elected officials, local municipalities and the state’s own utilities regulator,and  the Public Service Commission. Electricity providers in the region said the zone translates to a 6 percent increase on residential bills and a 10 percent increase on industrial bills.
FERC will now have to give quarterly reports on the capacity zone that will include analyses of the effect on ratepayers. The new requirement was baked into the “cromnibus” $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that controversially passed through both houses of Congress last week.
Senator Charles Schumer, announced the new provisions in a news release stating he believes FERC cannot make unilateral decisions that result in unwarranted rate hikes for ratepayers.
The pushback against the zone has been led in the House by Rep. Chris Gibson, a Columbia County Republican, and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Putnam County Democrat, both of whom have sought to have the zone repealed altogether.
Three state utilities are looking to eliminate the zone and reimburse customers for higher rates, but a federal appeals court has yet to make a decision.
The capacity zone was first proposed in 2011 by the New York Independent System Operator, which suggested designating a zone that makes energy produced in the lower part of the state more valuable as part of an effort to spur construction of new facilities in southeastern New York, which consumes a majority of the state’s energy.
Dutchess-based Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. and Iberdrola USA subsidiaries New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. said in court filings that the zone cost an additional $80 million in its first five months, most of which was paid by consumers and not the electric companies.
The System Operator, though, said the zone has been successful early on in encouraging investment into infrastructure. It had previously predicted that the state’s electric system would not be able to meet demands by 2019, but it noted this month an improvement in the reliability of the grid.
Newburgh’s Danskammer station was scheduled to close, but after the new zone went into effect the new owner of the facility, Danskammer Energy LLC, announced it would refurbish the building and return it to service. Several other companies are planning to return generating stations to service in the region.
The Hudson Valley capacity zone is one of four in the state. It affects some, but not all, customers of Central Hudson, Consolidated Edison, NYSEG and the Orange and Rockland power company. (Westchester County Business Journal, 12/18/2014)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Governor Cuomo To Ban Fracking

Governor Andrew Cuomo's environmental commissioner, Joe Martens, and acting Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker have recommended a ban on fracking across the state  of New York, citing excessive environmental and health concerns.  Governor Cuomo is deferring to their recommendations in making a final decision.  A ban would end the state's current six-month moratorium on fracking.

The process of fracking involves shooting a mix of pressurized water, sand and chemicals to split rock formations to release natural gas and so-called tight oil.  The widely used, deep-drilling process, combined with horizontal drilling, has resulted in a surge in domestic-energy production.
State and local governments are pushing for bans over the health and environmental concerns, including the potential for earthquakes and the contamination of natural water supplies.

New York sits atop the Marcellus shale formation, which stretches 600 miles along the Appalachian Basin and is rich in natural gas deposits.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final impact study early next year that will suggest a ban on fracking.  Martens will follow the report with an order prohibiting the process.  (Fox News, 12/18/2014)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Appellate Court Rules Indian Point Exempt from State Coastal Review Program

The State Supreme Court Appellate Division Thursday ruled that Indian Point units 2 and 3 are exempt from coastal consistency review under the state’s Coastal Management Program.

The decision by the five-judge panel reversed an earlier decision by a lower court that had reached the opposite conclusion.

Thursday’s ruling affirms Entergy’s position that it is not required to seek a new Coastal Consistency Certification from the State Department of State in order to obtain license renewal for the two Indian points from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Because Indian Point began operating in the mid-1970s and an environmental impact statement for each unit was prepared prior to the effective date of New York State’s waterfront regulations, coastal consistency certification for units 2 and 3 is automatically grandfathered for the plants’ entire lifetime under state law, the court ruled.

This latest ruling is subject to review by New York’s highest court if discretionary leave to appeal is granted.

Entergy is required to demonstrate that it has satisfactorily resolved Coastal Zone Management Act issues before the NRC may issue a renewed license for Indian Point.  (Mid Hudson News Network, 12-11-2014)

Ginna Nuclear Plant Enters Reliability Support Services Agreement

The New York State Public Service Commission voted unanimously Thursday to give the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant to put Ginna in the position to enter a Reliability Support Services Agreement (RSSA) with RG&E. 

That agreement will require RG&E to purchase energy from the Ginna plant, at a time when natural gas is a far cheaper energy source compared to nuclear. Without such a deal, Exelon Energy, the owner of the plant, had acknowledged in the past that it may have to shut Ginna down. 

The Center agrees with this decision.

Ginna first went on-line in 1969, making it one of the country's oldest nuclear plants. (WHAM-ABC-13, 12,6,2014)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Proposal To Enlarge Gas Pipeline Across Indian Point

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC) has put out for public comment a draft environmental impact statement concerning a proposed pipeline expansion project in the Northeast. The expansion includes property belonging to the Indian Point Nuclear power plant.

The draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, is for the Algonquin Incremental Market Project, or AIM Project. Algonquin Gas Transmission wants to expand its existing pipeline system from an interconnection at Ramapo, in Rockland County, to deliver additional natural gas transportation service to the Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts markets. The draft EIS addresses the potential environmental impacts of the construction and operation of nearly 38 miles of pipeline.

Houston-based Spectra Energy, which operates the 1,127 mile pipeline that goes from Lambertville, New Jersey to Boston. The expansion is for a portion of this pipeline and Hanley says the pipeline will be built in existing rights of way.

Spectra will use the same trench lifting the 26-inch pipeline and replacing that 26-inch pipeline with a 42-inch-diamer pipeline. Spectra is seeking to expand its existing infrastructure to meet the region’s needs.  Construction would begin in spring of 2015 if all regulatory permits are in place. Part of the expansion includes a portion of the property of the Buchanan-based Indian Point nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) primary interest has to do with whether this could impact the safe operation of the plant.  The NRC will provide comments to FERC. Entergy is taking no position on the project, but has analyzed any potential impact to safety.  Entery is required by regulation to analyze potential external impacts to safety of the plant.   Entergy's engineers have analyzed the pipeline. They worked with Spectra to understand different aspects of how it was going to be constructed, where it was going to be sited, the depth of the pipeline and determined that there’s no risk to the plant from the pipeline being sited where it’s proposed.

The pipeline replacement is for an area of Indian Point that is considered owner-controlled property, not near the reactors or vital plant structures.
“Indian Point sits on about 240 acres of land and what’s called the owner-controlled area is the outermost ring of the plant.

The public comment period ends September 29. There will be four public comment meetings September 8-11 – one in Massachusetts; two in Connecticut, in Norwich and Danbury; and one in New York, in Cortlandt Manor in Westchester County. The New York public meeting is September 11. (WNPRNews, 8/29/2014)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NYISO Rolls Back Proposal for Electric Capacity Zone Rates

The New York Independent System Operation (NYISO) will revise its proposal for an electric capacity zone in the Hudson Valley to reduce the proposed rate increase.  The announcement came after US Senator Charles Schumer pushed to have the zone plan dropped.

Under the new proposal submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the rate increase would be cut from 10 percent to four percent this year, with no rate increases in the two following years.

A decision by FERC on the new proposal is expected on Thursday. Schumer is urging FERC to reject the zone altogether. (Mid Hudson News, 4/30/2014)

Friday, January 31, 2014

FERC "Capacity Zone" Plan

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is telling state officials that expected annual growth in electricity demand and the loss of power sources are driving the need to establish a new “capacity zone” between New York City and Albany.

Capacity is the amount of electricity a utility is required to have available under peak conditions — the maximum amount expected — plus an additional 18 percent. A capacity zone quite simply reflects where you have more need than where transmission can give you generation.

Under rules for a new capacity zone, utilities like Central Hudson will be required to purchase at least 88 percent of its “capacity,” or amount above actual demand, from electricity producers within the zone. Officials said that is required as a way to provide incentives for new producers to build plants that meet the growing demand for electricity.

Central Hudson has opposed the capacity zone, which is scheduled to begin in March, arguing that it will increase the costs charged to customers by 8 to 15 percent.
While demand for electricity in the region is increasing at a rate of 200 megawatts per year, the amount of electricity generated has declined by 1,700 megawatts.  It is because the 1,700 megawatts was retired in part because generators weren’t making enough new capacity the month before to justify the upgrades to their systems.

There is a growing requirement in this area that the current system can’t fix and if an answer is not found, there will be blackouts.  The reduction in electricity generated is a result of regulators rejecting requests for upgrades based on profit margins that have been reduced due to environmental regulations. If you’re a plant owner, you have to make money enough to run that plant ... and (coal-based plants) have not been able to survive because of the environmental requirements on (them). Because of the cost of natural gas as compared to the cost of coal they just simply can’t compete, so coal has been retired across the state and you’ve had some of that in this area retire.

The New York Independent System Operator is a nonprofit organization that reports to the state Public Service Commission on the demand for electricity and forecasts where shortages can be expected. Limits on electricity are also based on how much power can be carried through existing transmission lines from other parts of the state, which is why additional lines are being considered for the region.

The majority of the congestion is from Leeds (in Greene County) to Pleasant Valley (in Dutchess County. On peak days, you just simply can’t move any more power through those lines.

There are currently capacity zones for New York City and Long Island, where additional electricity comes from outdated generators that are brought online when demand is high. There has been an impact from people trying to cut back on electric use, but the use of air conditioners and increased heating needs have offset those savings.  Energy efficiency has made us efficient in our daily lives, but the state has also set peak demand records in summer and winter in the last seven months.  (Daily Freeman News, 1/30/2014)

Monday, January 6, 2014

New York Green Bank

On December 19 the state Public Service Commission approved $165.5 million in seed money for Governor Andrew Cuomo's $1 billion Green Bank.  It will be operated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to provide Wall Street-style financing sources for renewable energy projects in the state.

Cuomo proposed the Green Bank as a way to bring more private sector capital into New York's renewable energy economy, which relies heavily on subsidies from NYSERDA for everything from wind farms and solar electric installations to home energy audits. Using some public funds, the Green Bank also will tap money from banks and other private sources to create traditional financing products such as bonds and loans that developers can tap into instead of seeking one-time state subsidies.

NYSERDA collects roughly $700 million from electric and gas utility customers annually to fund its renewable energy subsidies, although large industrial users pay much of the expense.

The PSC approved taking $165.5 million in uncommitted funds from various NYSERDA programs to start the Green Bank. About $17 million will be used for administrative costs and program evaluation. Another $45 million is coming from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade emissions program for power plants that New York is a part of.

NYSERDA will hire new staff to run the Green Bank. In November, Cuomo announced the hiring of Alfred Griffin of Citigroup Global Markets as president.  (Times Union, 1/2/2014)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Boundless Energy Wants Lines Under Hudson River

Boundless Energy's proposed project would run primarily
 along the west shore of the Hudson, from Greene County
to the Roseton plant, shown here, in the Town of Newburgh.
From Roseton, an underground line would extend
to an East Fishkill substation.Times Herald-Record file photo
Connecticut-based Boundless Energy  is proposing to fix the energy bottleneck preventing power from coming to the Hudson Valley by upgrading existing transmission lines and burying a new one as deep as 40 feet under the Hudson River from the Town of Newburgh to Dutchess County. According to Boundless Energy, the entire project would cost less than $300 million.
The project is one of four vying to be part of New York state's Energy Highway Initiative. The other three projects seek to fix the same bottleneck, but would have more limited effects on the region because they would connect from areas farther upstate to a substation in Pleasant Valley.  The state Public Service Commission will likely select only one project of the four.
Community groups have opposed some of those projects because they include the installation of new transmission poles and lines. The Dutchess County Legislature last month passed a resolution opposing the construction of new, above-ground transmission lines.
Boundless' project sticks primarily to the western shore of the Hudson River, running from Greene County down through Ulster and the very northern tip of Orange to the Roseton power plant in the Town of Newburgh. The engineers behind Boundless tout that their project does not involve the installation of any additional lines or poles. Instead, it would replace older utility cables with new, higher-capacity ones and upgrade technology in substations.  From Roseton, the line would travel under the Hudson River to an East Fishkill substation.
The PSC is accepting public comment on the projects until March, and then will begin another round of more specific applications and public comments. That phase will take an additional 18 to 30 months, meaning work on any of the projects may not start until 2016.  The PSC believes the transmission projects will make the designation of a new power zone in the Hudson Valley, which will increase electricity rates by as much as 10 percent, unnecessary. The zone is meant to attract new generation projects. (Times Herald Record, 1/2/2014)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Matthew Cordaro Reappointed To LIPA Board

Matthew Cordaro
Matthew Cordaro has been reappointed to the board by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), Silver's office confirmed Monday. Cordaro, a board member since February, has questioned whether a LIPA downsized by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo can handle its responsibilities.

Silver used his other pick for the nine-member board to select former Long Island Assemblyman Marc Alessi, who represented parts of Suffolk County from 2005 to 2010. Silver's selections complete the newly fashioned governing board for the utility.

The Cuomo administration earlier named five new appointees: Thomas McAtee Jr., Mark Fischl, Sheldon Cohen, Elkan Abramowitz and outgoing Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi.

Last week, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he will reappoint Jeffrey H. Greenfield (first appointed in 2012) and Suzette Smookler (board member since 2006) as his representatives.

Under a reorganization plan advocated by the governor last year, Cuomo has five board selections, Silver two and Skelos two.

The old 15-member board will be abolished as of Wednesday.

Under the plan that takes effect Wednesday, PSEG, a New Jersey-based utility company, will take over not only the day-to-day operations but also management duties including budgeting and power-plant planning. LIPA is being scaled back to essentially a financial holding company while maintaining ownership of the transmission and distribution system.  (Long Island Newsday, 12/30/2013)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

LNG Stations Proposed for New York

If you want to add your thoughts to New York's proposal to add liquefied natural gas stations throughout the state, you have until 5 p.m. Wednesday, December 4.

The state's Department of Environmental Conservation is in the midst of establishing rules for the fueling stations, which could serve large haulers bringing goods into and across New York.

Proponents of liquefied natural gas say the natural gas engines burn cleaner than diesel ones. New York is the only state that bans new construction of these fueling stations.
Critics say the entire process of producing the super-cooled gas is as problematic as using other fossil fuels. And critics worry the state's interest in building liquefied natural gas stations could be a sign toward allowing hydrofracking into the state.

To comment on the proposed rules, email here or write to:

Russ Brauksieck
Division of Environmental Remediation
625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7020

(Syracuse Post Standard, 12/2/2013)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Court Ends Nuclear Plant Fees For Waste

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that nuclear power plants no longer have to pay $750 million a year in fees to the federal government to cover the long-term cost of storing their nuclear fuel.

That's good news for nuclear power plants, including a couple in Upstate New York that are struggling financially.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled that it was unfair for the Department of Energy to collect money for waste disposal when the department had no idea how much that might cost.
"Until the Department (of Energy) comes to some conclusion as to how nuclear wastes are to be deposited permanently, it seems quite unfair to force petitioners to pay fees for a hypothetical option,'' the court ruled."
The existing fee is one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour. At that rate, it appears that the court ruling would save the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County about $6 million a year, based on the plant's output for 2012.

FitzPatrick, which is owned by Entergy Corp., is one of a handful of nuclear plants that industry experts say is struggling to make money at a time when cheap natural gas is depressing wholesale electricity prices.

Norris McDonald at James Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant
Dry Cask Spent Fuel Storage at James Fitzpatrick

Entergy officials released a short prepared statement today in response to the court ruling: "We are pleased with the court's decision and agree that, until the Department of Energy restarts its waste disposal program, the Nuclear Waste Fund fee our customers pay should be suspended."

The Ginna plant in Wayne County, another nuke thought to be at financial risk, could potentially save about $4.6 million based on its 2012 output.

Ginna Nuclear Power Plant

Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Oswego County, which is stronger financially because it has two reactors, could save an estimated $13.2 million based on its 2012 output. Ginna and Nine Mile Point are owned by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, a division of Exelon Corp.

The Department of Energy said it is reviewing the court's opinion.  (Syracuse Post Standard, 11/20/2103)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Champlain Hudson Power Express

Hydro-Quebec is a Canadian state-owned utility that has received approval to sell power through the Champlain Hudson Power Express, a 330-mile long cable that will run through Lake Champlain, then follow railroad beds and down the Hudson. It recently requested access to state money to help fund the $2 billion project. The state's pot of money to support renewable energy projects currently comes from a utility bill surcharge on New York residents and cannot be distributed to companies from out of state.

The company that would build the line, Transmission Developers Inc.(TDI), is based in Albany. The project received state approval earlier this year, but still needs the go-ahead from federal regulators and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

TDI has not sought any state funds, company president Donald Jessome said, but he understands why Hydro-Quebec has sought financial incentives for the project.

Hydro-Quebec produces power from 60 hydroelectric, a nuclear and 27 thermal generating stations. New York uses the utility surcharge to support the development of alternative energy, but it is intended for projects by state companies.

Environmentalists and labor unions have hailed the project because it will decrease reliance on fossil fuels while creating hundreds of construction jobs over the four years it will take to construct. It will bring 1,000 megawatts of cheap renewable-energy power to New York, enough to power a million homes.

But the prospect of using state money to finance a foreign company's work on the project has drawn opposition from a local industry group.  (Capital New York, 11/18/2013)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NRC Waste Confidence Hearing - Tarrytown

More than 250 people filled a hotel ballroom tonight to discuss the federal government’s draft study on the long-term storage of used nuclear fuel.  The local meeting is one of 13 being held around the country.

The public comment period on the Waste Confidence Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement and proposed rule has been extended to Friday, December 20, 2013. All public meetings that were postponed due to the shutdown have been rescheduled. 

Historically, Waste Confidence has been the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) generic determination regarding the environmental impacts of storing spent nuclear fuel beyond the licensed life for operation of a nuclear power plant. This generic analysis has been incorporated into the Commission's NEPA reviews for new reactor licenses, license renewals, and Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) licenses through the Waste Confidence Rule. The Waste Confidence GEIS and rule satisfy the NRC's obligations under NEPA with respect to post-licensed-life storage of spent nuclear fuel.

On June 8, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit found that some aspects of the 2010 rulemaking did not satisfy the NRC's NEPA obligations and vacated the rulemaking. [New York v. NRC, 681 F.3d 471 (D.C. Cir. 2012)]. The court indicated that in making either a Finding Of No Significant Impact based on an Environmental Assessment or in an Environmental Impact Statement supporting the rulemaking, the Commission needed to add additional discussions concerning the impacts of failing to secure permanent disposal for spent nuclear fuel, and concerning the impacts of certain aspects of potential spent fuel pool leaks and spent fuel pool fires.

In response to the Court's decision, the Commission decided to stop all licensing activities that rely on the Waste Confidence rule (see CLI-12-016). The NRC created a Waste Confidence Directorate within the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards to oversee the development of a Waste Confidence Generic Environmental Impact Statement and revised Rule. The Commission has instructed the Directorate to issue the final Generic Environmental Impact Statement and Rule by no later than September 2014.  (NRC, Lohud)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

'City & State' Energy Forum

On September 17, City & State hosted its annual “On Energy” forum discussing the aftermath of Super storm Sandy, the development of the energy superhighway, and the future of renewable energy. Here are some excerpts from the event.

(City & State, 9/18/2013)

Friday, August 30, 2013

NY Court of Appeals Hears Cases on Town Fracking Bans

The New York Court of Appeals on Thursday said it would hear challenges by energy companies and landowners to two upstate towns' bans on fracking, the controversial hydraulic fracturing process of extracting natural gas from underground shale.

The Court of Appeals will hear appeals by Norse Energy Corp. USA against the Town of Dryden and Cooperstown Holstein Corp. against the Town of Middlefield.

Dryden, a town of 14,435 in Tompkins County, according to a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, amended its zoning laws in 2011 to ban fracking. And Middlefield, a town of 2,114 in Otsego County, passed a similar zoning law in 2011.

Both towns' laws were upheld unanimously in May by panels of appellate court judges. The courts rejected the argument by energy companies and landowners that the towns' zoning laws were trumped by the state's Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law, which empowers the state Department of Environmental Conservation to regulate oil and gas drilling.

New York Court of Appeals in Albany, NY

Fracking compnies believe local municipalities lack the expertise to properly regulate oil and gas drilling.  They believe that the New York state regulatory scheme has always anticipated that the DEC have preemptive rights to regulate fracking decisions.

Fracking involves the use of high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to crack open deep underground rock that houses rich supplies of natural gas.

The legal challenges haven't dissuaded New York communities from passing fracking bans.  More than 170 New York communities have passed bans or moratoria, according to FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit that monitors gas drilling.

The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, a group of 77,000 landowners, that support gas drilling believes that New York cannot have a 'not in my backyard approach' to energy development. (WSJ, 8/30/2013)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Indian Point’s Timely Renewal

On Sept. 29, 2013, Indian Point 2 will enter what’s called the period of “timely renewal,” while the NRC continues its consideration of Entergy’s application to renew the unit’s operating license.
Indian Point
The NRC’s timely renewal regulation implements a provision of the Administrative Procedure Act passed by Congress. Under that regulation, if a licensee requests a renewed license at least five years before expiration of its current license, the request is considered “timely” and the facility is allowed to continue to operate under its existing license until the NRC completes its review and reaches a decision on the license renewal request.

During the period of timely renewal, Entergy will have to continue to meet all of the regulations and license conditions that currently apply. In addition, in a May 1 letter to the NRC, Entergy voluntarily committed to update its Final Safety Analysis Report to include the aging management programs, and to implement the commitments it has made, for a renewed license. Indian Point 2 will continue to operate under its current license with these modifications, to assure continued safe operation during the timely renewal period, until the NRC reaches a decision on whether to approve the license renewal application.

Entergy submitted a license renewal application for Indian Point 2 and 3 in April 2007. The current operating license for Indian Point 2 expires at midnight September 28th; Unit 3’s license expires two years later, in December 2015.
Typically, the NRC staff takes about 18 to 24 months to review a reactor license renewal application. If there’s a hearing on the application, the process may take about 30 months to complete. In the Indian Point case, the hearing has taken longer than projected, in part due to the large number of contentions the parties have raised in the proceeding.

In addition, a decision on the Indian Point license renewal application has been deferred pending further Commission action involving the Waste Confidence Decision. In its Waste Confidence Decision and Temporary Storage Rule, updated in 2010, the Commission made a generic determination that spent nuclear fuel can be stored safely and without significant environmental impacts for a certain period of time after a nuclear plant permanently shuts down. In June of last year, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that some aspects of the 2010 Waste Confidence rule update did not satisfy the NRC’s obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and vacated that rule. In response, the Commission decided to defer all final licensing decisions that rely on the Waste Confidence Decision while it takes steps to address the court’s decision. This applies to various license applications, including the Indian Point 2 license renewal application.

The NRC will continue to provide oversight of activities at both Indian Point 2 and 3 during the period of timely renewal. Last year, NRC conducted 11,000 hours of inspection at the two units. NRC will devote a similar number of inspection hours this year. Some of that includes inspection of the licensee’s commitments and aging management programs related to license renewal.

In short, even though a final decision hasn’t been reached on the renewal of the Indian Point 2 license, NRC will continue to assure that it operates safely during the period of timely renewal.  (NRC)