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March 12-16: EQT chief suddenly resigns; Ariz. regulators reject resource plans

A look back at successes and setbacks in the energy industry.


PIPELINE APPROVALS — Several pipelines received approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to proceed with construction or commence service. On March 16, commission staff granted Enbridge Inc. subsidiary Sabal Trail Transmission LLC permission to commence service for a small part of its $3.2-billion Sabal Trail pipeline system. The authorization covers a 21.5-mile lateral line and meter station that will serve Duke Energy Florida LLC's gas-fired power plant in Citrus County, Fla. The authorization came two days after FERC renewed approvals for the 1.1-Bcf/d Southeast Market Pipelines project, which along with the Sabal Trail pipeline includes Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's Hillabee expansion and NextEra Energy Inc.'s Florida Southeast Connection LLC lateral project. FERC staff also gave its approval in an environmental assessment of Williams Partners LP's expansion project for its Transcontinental system in New Jersey.

CNX MIDSTREAM — CNX Midstream Partners LP's ambitious growth plan and potential to acquire more assets from sponsor CNX Resources Corp. impressed Wall Street analysts and company investors. During a March 13 analyst day, the MLP's executives outlined a plan for 15% distribution growth through at least 2022 with no need to tap capital markets over the next five years. The executives previewed a long list of drop-down inventory that CNX Midstream could add to its portfolio building off of CNX Resources' sale of the Shirley-Pennsboro gathering system to the partnership.


SCANA/SANTEE COOPER — A South Carolina senator contends lawmakers should not interfere with regulators' review of Dominion Energy Inc.'s planned acquisition of SCANA Corp. and should "protect ratepayers" when evaluating pitches for state-owned Santee Cooper. "I have preached to my colleagues on the Senate floor, our No. 1 goal should be to do no harm," South Carolina Sen. Larry Grooms said in a recent phone interview. Dominion Energy has offered to buy SCANA and provide a lifeline to its shareholders and ratepayers, including $1.3 billion in customer refunds. Meanwhile, NextEra Energy is reportedly interested in acquiring Santee Cooper, known legally as South Carolina Public Service Authority, with unofficial terms that include eliminating $8 billion in debt and providing $200 million in customer refunds. "If the idea is to protect ratepayers, it makes no sense to me to sell to a public utility that would raise rates," Grooms said.


ARIZONA — The Arizona Corporation Commission has refused to accept the proposed integrated resource plans of the state's investor-owned electric utilities. The commission on March 13 ordered Pinnacle West Capital Corp. subsidiary Arizona Public Service Co. and Fortis Inc. subsidiary Tucson Electric Power Co. to provide more accurate load forecasts after finding that the utilities relied too heavily on generation resources to meet future electricity demand. Regulators criticized the load forecasts of Arizona Public Service as being "too aggressive." The commission also said both utilities did not adequately account for the flattening impact to load growth caused by energy efficiency, electricity storage, smart grid improvements and new technology.

EQT — Former EQT Corp. CEO Steven Schlotterbeck's abrupt resignation on March 15 sent shares in America's largest natural gas producer tumbling and came as the company is trying to execute a complicated plan to separate its midstream and upstream assets. In a March 16 post on his LinkedIn page, Schlotterbeck said the resignation was caused by a "plain vanilla disagreement" with the board over the size of his paycheck. The former CEO pushed EQT's $6.7 billion purchase of fellow shale driller Rice Energy Inc.