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PG&E to settle ex parte contact case; deprioritized safety risks worry PHMSA

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PG&E to settle ex parte contact case; deprioritized safety risks worry PHMSA

PG&E agrees to $86.5M settlement for illicit contact with state regulator

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. agreed to an $86.5 million settlement to atone for unsanctioned communications with its state regulator related to several utility proceedings.

Under the March 28 settlement, PG&E agreed to forgo $63.5 million of gas transmission and storage revenue from 2018 through 2019, accept a $10 million revenue requirement adjustment in the utility's next general rate case, pay the cities of San Bruno and San Carlos each $6 million and put $1 million in the state general fund.

The agreement still needs approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.

PHMSA concerned about de-emphasized safety risks to gas transmission pipes

The federal pipeline safety regulator chastised gas transmission pipeline operators for not properly categorizing risks on their systems, finding that some have inappropriately deprioritized safety threats.

Operators categorize pipeline risks or threats to determine how much monitoring a particular issue requires. But, PHMSA noted in an advisory bulletin, some pipeline companies "have opted to eliminate threats from consideration based on a lack of data, including missing, incomplete, or unsubstantiated data. Using insufficient data to eliminate a threat is not technically justified."

PHMSA emphasized that once a threat is discovered, it cannot be entirely eliminated from a company's records and risk assessments. Threats can be categorized only as "active" or "inactive." The agency underscored that operators must consider a pipeline threat active, meaning it requires ongoing integrity assessment, if the company is missing information about the issue. Inactive threats do not, under federal code, require operators to continually assess them.

Trump order undercuts Obama-era methane policies for oil, gas sector

President Donald Trump targeted the Obama administration's methane emissions reduction goals and policies as part of his recent sweeping executive order aimed at the energy sector, delighting industry and dismaying environmental advocates.

The order directed the U.S. EPA to reconsider a 2016 rule limiting methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas sources, with an eye to suspending, revising or rescinding any guidelines that stemmed from the regulation or publishing proposed rules that would pull back the methane rule.

Maine PUC staff report urges rejection of LNG storage plans

Maine Public Utilities Commission staff recommended the panel reject several proposals for LNG storage projects that aim to offer a solution to the state's high peak-demand utility prices.

Out of 11 proposals, commission staff said, not one satisfies requirements in the state's LNG Storage Act, which says storage contracts must be commercially reasonable and in the public interest, as well as materially enhance LNG storage, have a significant effect on peak pricing and be reasonably likely to economically benefit gas and power utility ratepayers.

MARAD approves Delfin LNG for offshore portion of export project

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration approved with conditions the Delfin LNG LLC application to build and operate the offshore portion of its deepwater LNG export project.

Delfin LNG must now accept conditions set out in the decision, which include obtaining FERC authorization for the onshore facilities and mitigating impacts to the surrounding land and water.

W.Va. agency issues water permit to Mountain Valley Pipeline

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection granted Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC a water quality certificate required for construction of its natural gas pipeline.

The WVDEP announced the state water quality certification, required by Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, on March 28. The certification is required if a project will fill or otherwise affect state waters. The WVDEP received comments, presented project details and discussed concerns with the public at hearings on the water certification and other environmental permits.

New Jersey Natural Gas asks regulator to recover costs from system improvements

New Jersey Resources Corp. subsidiary New Jersey Natural Gas Co. filed with the state's Board of Public Utilities to recover costs with its NJ Reinvestment in System Enhancement and Safety Acceleration and Facility Enhancement programs.

New Jersey Natural Gas looks to adjust its rates, effective Oct. 1, to recover about $31.4 million of costs on the programs through June 30, resulting in a base rate increase of $4.3 million.