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News Wrap: TZB Gets Boost; $750M Energy Plan Pushed; Skyline Steel Sold; Mixed Wind Power Outlook

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New York

Less Troubled Waters: Gov. Cuomo has applied for federal funding to build a new bridge that would replace the 56-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge.
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The Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project moved closer to start-up last month as Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally initiated New York's application for funding under the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) for the $5-billion-plus project. The governor, joined by other state and local officials, signed an Aug. 20th letter of intent notifying U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that the state is seeking TIFIA funding.

The move came after New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) members voted unanimously to approve resolutions that allow for the planned project to progress to the next stage.

The vote, however, was hurriedly announced, and Riverkeeper, Ossining, N.Y., has criticized NYMTC for giving such short notice of a crucial meeting. The group also says the only submitted financial plan for the project is slightly longer than one page and only describes the cost of the bridge, not the revenue to pay for it.

"In the business world, no reputable company would hold a vote on, let alone approve, a $5-billion investment on the basis of a sketchy, one-page financial plan, especially from a business that's already having problems with its bond rating, like the [New York State] Thruway Authority," Paul Gallay, president of Hudson Riverkeeper, said in a statement following the vote.

Lisa Daglian, NYMTC spokeswoman, says the vote was originally scheduled for July but some members had requested a postponement then. "All of the documents have been posted on our website for review since June," she says.

(For more information on this and other news in this section, visit enr.com/newyork and click on the News tab.)

New York City

Developer Pushes for $750M Energy Plant

An old Queens-based powerplant may get recharged with new and more efficient generating equipment if the state creates a request for proposals process, a move that could come as early as next year, according to developer NRG Energy, Princeton, N.J.

The project is currently under review by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's newly created New York Energy Highway Task Force. The task force issued a request for information last April, seeking proposals in support of clean energy projects, job creation and economic growth.

"What we need is an off-take contract to purchase the power," says David Gaier, a spokesman for NRG, which would fund the upgrade.

The $750-million Astoria Repowering Project, first announced in 2007, would add new technology and about 400 megawatts to the existing 40-plus-year-old powerplant in Astoria.

Phase 1 of the two-phase project involves replacing seven oil-fired units totaling 100 MW with two new gas-fired, combined-cycle units totaling 520 MW. If the planned project moves forward, this phase would be set for completion by the summer of 2016, Gaier says.

Phase 2, which would begin immediately after Phase 1, consists of the removal and replacement of 500 MW of dual-fuel turbines with natural gas-fired, combined-cycle units totaling 520 MW.

New Jersey

Nucor Acquires Skyline Steel

Nucor, Charlotte, N.C., has completed the acquisition of steel foundation distributor Skyline Steel LLC, Parsippany, N.J., for $605 million. Skyline, which has been a Nucor distributor for the last 20 years, is now a wholly owned subsidiary, Nucor says.

Skyline, which serves the North American and Caribbean markets, will maintain its headquarters in Parsippany, Nucor says. It will also retain exclusive rights to distribute ArcelorMittal's piling and foundation products in North America and the Caribbean.

Separately, Nucor says it has completed the sale of assets of its Nucor Wire Products Pennsylvania facility in New Salem, Pa., to an affiliate of Wire Mesh Corp.

Tristate

Wind Power Capacity Rises, But Support Falls

This has been a strong year for wind-power capacity increases, but some experts are worried about the industry's future. They point to increased industry layoffs and plant shutdowns as well as the impending expiration of the renewable energy production tax credit as evidence that as early as next year the market may weaken.

Even so, the U.S. ranked as one of the world's largest and fastest-growing wind markets last year, with wind power representing 32% of all new electric capacity additions nationwide and accounting for $14 billion in new investment, according to a U.S. Dept. of Energy report released on Aug. 14.

In the tristate region, many projects have been proposed and scrapped in recent years. But one that appears close to moving ahead is the Allegany, N.Y., wind farm. Owner-builder EverPower Wind Holdings Inc., New York, plans to build the 72.5-MW, 29-turbine farm. While the $118-million project was proposed years ago and still faces strong community opposition, officials say it may start construction as early as next year.

Meanwhile, domestic wind industry jobs continue to be slashed amid industry consolidation. Recent activity includes Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp.'s (UTC) sale of its Clipper Windpower unit to Los Angeles-based private equity firm Platinum Equity. UTC says it sold this and other units earlier this year to help finance its purchase of Goodrich Corp. But Gregory Hayes, CFO of UTC, told investors in March that there has been no increased push in recent years for renewable energy in the U.S.

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