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Regulators defend decision in SCANA case; US interior secretary to step down

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US utility commissioners: Who they are and how they impact regulation

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Climate Credit Analytics: Linking climate scenarios to financial impacts

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Regulators defend decision in SCANA case; US interior secretary to step down

Top News

SC regulators defend decision to OK Dominion purchase of SCANA

While several South Carolina regulators admitted they were conflicted about the decision, they all agreed that approving Dominion Energy Inc.'s offer to acquire SCANA Corp. was necessary to provide "certainty" for the embattled utility, its ratepayers and the state.

$1B PennEast gas pipeline picks up court victories for rights of way

PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC is ready to move forward with its 1.1-Bcf/d natural gas pipeline after federal courts found that the project, approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission early in 2018, is in the public interest and should have access to properties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Countries agree on Paris accord rulebook at COP24 but punt some issues to 2019

Following about two weeks of climate talks in Poland, more than 195 nations including the U.S. and China on Dec. 15 adopted rules for implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change but punted some key issues to the next annual meeting.

Energy transition advocates push financial tools for smooth exit from coal

While U.S. mining companies push for policies to support the coal-fired power generation units that make up much of their customer base, power generators and the bodies that regulate them are increasingly being directed to tools that will allow them exit from coal in the most painless ways possible.

US interior secretary to step down at year-end

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will step down at the end of 2018, President Donald Trump tweeted Dec. 15, amid a series of investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest.

Quoted

"[T]he measures contained in the settlement agreement are likely to result in an unreasonable increase in rates to Arkansas ratepayers," Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said, criticizing a settlement between Entergy Arkansas LLC and environmental groups that would lead to the eventual closure of the company's two remaining coal-fired power plants, among other resources.

Power

* More than half of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s just-filed, $1 billion-plus rate increase application for 2020 would go to prevent wildfires, reduce risks and improve safety.

* TransCanada Corp. agreed to sell the 575-MW Coolidge natural gas-fired power facility in Arizona to a subsidiary of Southwest Generation Operating Co. LLC for approximately $465 million.

* Dominion Energy Inc. is seeking approval from Virginia regulators to increase rates by more than $300 million to recover costs of upgrading three coal-fired plants to meet federal and state standards for disposal of coal ash, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

* GenOn Energy Inc. emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after completing a reorganization of substantially all of its businesses. David Freysinger will serve as CEO of the newly formed company, GenOn Holdings Inc.

* Three developers will spearhead the next wave of the United States' young offshore wind sector after the companies bid a collective $405.1 million to establish wind facilities off the coast of Massachusetts.

* The U.S. Energy Department recently restarted a transient test reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls after more than two decades of shutdown to aid the "fading nuclear power industry" with safer fuel designs, The Associated Press reported.

* Osaka Gas USA Corporation said it acquired a 25% stake from a unit of Competitive Power Ventures and a 24.5% interest from GE Energy Financial Services unit Aircraft Services Corp. in the 751-MW, combined-cycle Towantic Energy Center plant in Oxford, Conn.

Natural gas

* Enbridge Inc. has completed the acquisition of all of the outstanding public common units of Spectra Energy Partners LP, with the partnership becoming a subsidiary of the company. Effective Dec. 17, Spectra Energy Partners common units will be suspended from trading on, and delisted from, the New York Stock Exchange.

* Pacific Gas and Electric Co. falsified tens of thousands of gas safety records in a five-year period shortly after the deadly San Bruno explosion, according to a California regulator that has opened an investigation and penalty case against the utility company.

* The demand for uncontracted LNG is projected to surge as seven Asian buyers, namely CNOOC Ltd., PetroChina Co. Ltd., Sinopec Oilfield Equipment Corp., Tokyo Gas Co. Ltd., JERA Co. Inc. and CPC Corp. Taiwan, are expected to enter contracts for an additional 80 million metric tons of LNG by 2030, the Houston Chronicle reported, citing Wood Mackenzie.

* The Virginia State Water Control Board might cancel a state-issued Clean Water Act Section-401 water quality certification for the 2-Bcf/d Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC natural gas transportation project after the state sued the developer for water-related environmental violations.

* State-owned Qatar Petroleum is planning to invest approximately $20 billion in U.S. "gas and oil, conventional and non-conventional" assets in the next few years, company President and CEO Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi told Reuters.

* Exelon Corp.'s Annova LNG export project cleared a draft environmental review by the FERC staff, a significant step toward authorization for the proposed Brownsville, Texas, terminal that would add 6 million tonnes per annum to U.S. gas liquefaction capacity.

* Wood Mackenzie analyst Angus Rodger expects global investments in new oil and gas projects to reach around $425 billion in 2019, up from a total spending of $400 billion in 2016 and 2017, Reuters reported.

* JPMorgan Chase Bank reduced Sanchez Energy Corp.'s borrowing base by more than 17% to $315 million as the company's stock continues to trade below $1 per share, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Oil

* Former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt is expected to become acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior following Zinke's resignation, Bloomberg News reported. Bernhardt is currently deputy secretary of interior.

* Phillips 66 announced a $2.89 billion capital spending program for 2019, consisting of $1.88 billion of growth capital and $1.01 billion of sustaining capital.

* A group of shareholders is urging Exxon Mobil Corp. to include emissions-reduction targets in its annual reports from 2020, the Financial Times reported. The shareholders, led by New York state and the Church of England, also have the support of HSBC Global Asset Management and Calpers.

* Alberta-based Suncor Energy Inc. announced that it plans 2019 capital expenditures of between C$4.90 billion and C$5.60 billion, in line with the prior-year budget despite government-mandated production cuts.

* Qatar Petroleum signed an agreement with Eni SpA to acquire a 35% stake in Amoca, Mizton and Tecoalli offshore oil fields in Mexico, which are expected to produce about 90,000 barrels of oil per day by 2021.

* International Petroleum Corp. closed the previously announced acquisition of fellow Canada-based producer BlackPearl Resources Inc. in an all-stock deal.

Coal

* While the U.S. government continues to seek out ways to support the coal industry, Canada finalized a plan on Dec. 12 to phase out traditional coal-fired electricity, transition to cleaner energy and cut carbon pollution in a little more than a decade.

* Roughly 4 million coal workers have lost their jobs across the globe over the last half-century as the industry developed mechanizations in the mines, faced environmental challenges and suffered economically from competition with other energy sources, the World Bank said in a report calling on nations to prepare for further decline.

New from RRA

* Utility performance this week was mixed relative to the broad market measures. Through midday Friday, the Dow Jones Utility Average had increased 0.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both fell by 0.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.5%.

The day ahead

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. equity markets. To view more SNL equity market indexes, click here. To view more SNL Energy commodities prices, click here.

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