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  • How Private Equity Squeezes Cash from the Dying U.S. Coal Industry

    Private equity firms are spending billions of dollars buying coal-fired plants on the cheap - and getting paid even when they are not providing power. So-called capacity payments are given out in most U.S. power markets, and regulators tend to favor coal-fired generators that store heaps of coal on site when other power sources might be disrupted. "The capacity power market is a certain source of revenue for coal plants that might otherwise be uneconomical," said Sylvia Bialek, an economist at New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity.

  • Groups Seek Rigorous Grid Reviews, Undercutting Biden’s Climate Goals

    Some environmental groups are vowing to seek rigorous National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental reviews of planned transmission lines, even when they are built to facilitate low- or zero-carbon power, a strategy that may frustrate the Biden administration’s effort to accelerate reviews for such projects. “Unlike the Trump administration, which sought to prioritize environmentally undesirable projects and run roughshod on NEPA requirements in the process, the Biden administration is seeking to prioritize environmentally desirable projects but respect NEPA safeguards,” argues Ricky Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University.

  • Can Biden Transmission Order Avoid State Backlash?

    "The question is, do the folks in charge at the Energy Department and does FERC really want to push this and risk the backlash?" said Alexandra Klass, a law professor at the University of Minnesota. "Maybe the answer is yes." A December paper from the New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity and Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy concluded that needed long-distance transmission can be developed by applying existing federal legal authorities.

  • Canada Plans Hydropower Push as Biden Looks to Clean Up U.S. Grid

    When more renewable energy comes online, power storage facilities that Canada’s reservoirs provide to the U.S. grid should become even more valuable. “There’s this version of Canadian hydro not only being firm (capacity) but being something like a battery. That’s the big picture informing the vision of some policymakers,” said Justin Gundlach, senior attorney at the New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

  • Study: No Silver Bullet for Fossil-Climate Legal Tension

    Customers were at the center of a panel discussion last week, hosted by the Institute for Policy Integrity and the Environmental Defense Fund, that highlighted what can happen when new state climate laws conflict with those currently governing fossil fuels. The discussion stemmed from research by Justin Gundlach and Elizabeth Stein, which casts light on policies under New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) that are inconsistent with other state polices that support residential customer access to natural gas.

  • Transmission Trouble: Pipeline Woes Presage Challenges for Clean Energy Buildout

    The recent history of developing long-haul pipelines in the U.S. demonstrates what can happen when certain bottlenecks go unaddressed, according to Justin Gundlach, a senior attorney with New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity. "You would absolutely see people who don't like transmission lines use NEPA to say that the agency responsible for siting this transmission line has failed to take the requisite hard look at the impacts, etc., etc. — no question," he said. Gundlach co-authored a recent study that outlined steps FERC could take to facilitate more long-distance, high-voltage direct-current electric transmission lines without waiting on additional legislation.

  • ‘Energy’ Is Its Name. But What Can the DOE Actually Do on Climate?

    A recent report from Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity looked at how the Energy Department and other regulators might use certain tools to help expand the nation’s transmission grid, a move that is central to reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector. The lead author, Avi Zevin, was recently hired by the Department of Energy as deputy general counsel for energy policy.

  • Climate Inaction Could Put Utilities in Legal Peril

    Utilities that address climate risks will see benefits in their bottom lines, said Justin Gundlach, a senior attorney at the New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity. "The fundamental point here is that it would be cheaper if they just looked at this hard and made prudent investments," he said.

  • Columbia Report Details How Federal Government Can Help Get Transmission Infrastructure Needed for Grid Decarbonization Built

    The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs has issued a paper, in partnership with the New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity, detailing how the federal government can enable the construction of the transmission infrastructure necessary to decarbonize the country’s power generation.

  • Granholm Faces Monumental DOE Clean Energy Challenge

    Transmission is an area where DOE watchers say they are hoping Granholm takes the lead. "In the absence of legislation, critical long-distance transmission can be developed by applying existing federal legal authorities," researchers said in a report this month out of NYU Law School's Institute for Policy Integrity and Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy. It pointed at a 2005 act establishing DOE's authority to advance "national interest" transmission projects as the critical lever.