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 Sean Patrick Maloney, a Putnam County Democrat, both of whom have sought to have the zone repealed altogether.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)