Yucca Mountain, DOE loans to get close look at Perry confirmation hearing
U.S. Senate lawmakers could probe Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry on a wide range of issues during his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing, including a possible revival of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage project and the future of the U.S. Department of Energy's loan guarantee program.
Judge denies Dakota Access bid to block Army Corps environmental review
A federal judge denied a request by Energy Transfer Partners LP to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from launching an environmental review of the almost complete Dakota Access pipeline, which would further delay completion of the $3.7 billion conduit between oil production areas in North Dakota and a crude oil terminal in Illinois.
States sue Obama administration over Stream Protection Rule
Thirteen states are suing the Obama administration over its Stream Protection Rule. The challenge to the rule is being led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. According to a news release from Morrisey, many of the states also asked Congress to revoke the rule.
* Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said during his Jan. 18 confirmation hearing that the U.S. EPA's finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases constitute a threat to human health and welfare and therefore need to be regulated is the law of the land and "must be respected."
* The U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved the 500-turbine phase 1 of the planned 3,000-MW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind energy project in southern Wyoming. The approval came after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded its analysis of the project's potential impacts to eagles and issued its record of decision that it would issue an eagle take permit for the Power Company of Wyoming-owned project when final mitigation plans are provided, according to a BLM release.
* BHE Renewables LLC closed its acquisition of the 110-MW Alamo 6 solar project in Pecos County, Texas, from OCI Solar Power LLC for an undisclosed sum. The project, which is slated to go online in the current quarter, will sell power to CPS Energy under a 25-year power purchase agreement. The acquisition increases the Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary's solar portfolio to 1,484 MW, according to a company release.
* Community groups and solar advocates fear New York's nascent community solar market is in jeopardy if regulators lower net metering production credits. The concerned community groups oppose current provisions in the draft plan to devalue municipality-owned and community solar, which is the only way renters, low-income customers, businesses and others that are unable to install solar panels on their property can benefit from a single renewable generation source.
* Environmentalists are criticizing President-elect Donald Trump's EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt, for his pro-coal stance and support of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.'s controversial $500 million environmental upgrade project at the Sooner coal-fired facility, Bloomberg News reports. "It's almost a parody. If you just sort of put 'not' in front of everything in the EPA job description you'd get Scott Pruitt," David Goldston, government affairs director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, was quoted as saying.
* Williams Cos. Inc.'s move to increase its ownership in Williams Partners LP may have been partly driven by the thought that planned asset sales may not bring enough value to allow for a bigger restructuring, Barclays analysts reasoned. "The announcement took us by surprise ... as we thought management would sort out the ultimate structure in tandem with anticipated asset sales sometime in late 1Q/early 2Q," Richard Gross and his colleagues said in a Jan. 17 note.
* A subsidiary of Valero Energy Partners LP acquired a 40% undivided stake in the Hewitt segment of Plains All American Pipeline LP's Red River pipeline for about $70 million. The Hewitt segment is a newly constructed, 138-mile crude oil pipeline with 150,000 barrels per day of capacity. Concurrently, Valero Energy entered a 10-year throughput agreement with a subsidiary of Valero Energy Corp., according to a news release.
* The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation is facing a lawsuit for rejecting a petition to require drilling firms disclose the details on chemicals used in fracking, according to The Associated Press. The regulator had denied the request in September 2016. The lawsuit was filed by Montana landowners, health advocates and conservationists in a state court.
* Peabody Energy Corp. and its subsidiaries reached a settlement agreement with a committee of the unsecured creditors, resolving its potential objections to the plan of reorganization and related agreements, according to a company filing. The settlement has the support of requisite members of the noteholder steering committee.
* Foresight Energy LP hopes to end a lawsuit over the termination of employees at its troubled Deer Run mine with a $550,000 settlement fund for employees and their attorneys. The settlement applies to employees who were not relocated to another mine and offers certain back wages, back health benefits and back retirement benefits based on pay and cost of benefits for each employee.
* While natural gas is set to surpass coal as the leading source of electricity generation in the U.S. by 2020, the country's coal producers are expected to see slower annual declines in coal production than those seen between 2005 and 2015 due to gains in overall energy consumption and power generation, Freedonia Focus Reports said in a report. The country's coal production is forecast to total 892 million tons in 2020.
* Dropping revenue from the coal industry continues to take a bite out of railroad earnings, according to a fourth-quarter financial report from CSX Transportation Inc. "In an environment where the company lost almost $470 million of coal revenue and experienced weakness across most of its markets, CSX delivered nearly $430 million of productivity savings in 2016, while improving customer service," said Michael Ward, chairman and CEO of CSX, in the company's quarterly earnings report.
* New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration published Jan. 17 implies that shale production of natural gas and crude oil likely turned the corner, as natural gas output increased for a second month and crude oil rebounded sharply.
* Analysts and traders surveyed ahead of the release of the upcoming U.S. Energy Information Administration storage report anticipate a 216-Bcf to 251-Bcf storage withdrawal, with the consensus expectation being a withdrawal of 236 Bcf, well above the previous week's withdrawal of 151 Bcf, the five-year average drawdown of 170 Bcf and sharply above the 175-Bcf injection reported for the same week in 2016.
* After ending the prior session down 11.0 cents at $3.302/MMBtu, February gas advanced overnight ahead of the Thursday, Jan. 19, open and the midmorning release of the storage data that is poised to show a further acceleration in the rate of stock decline. Climbing to a $3.344/MMBtu overnight high, the contract was last seen 1.7 cents higher on the session at $3.319/MMBtu.
* Next-day power prices could be mixed with a downside bias Thursday, Jan. 19, as predominantly weaker demand forecasts for the close of the workweek combine with recent volatility in natural gas futures. After losing 11 cents in the prior session, February natural gas futures were trekking higher early Thursday ahead of the midmorning release of the latest round of weekly gas storage data.
New from RRA
* In a Topical Special Report issued Jan. 17, RRA provides an overview of major energy-related legislation enacted in 2016, gubernatorial and legislative information for 2017, and a brief preview of legislation expected to be introduced in the coming months.
* Though 2017 is expected to be a transition year, with incrementally improved midstream volumes and moderate commodity prices, the industry has prepared for an extended runway to recovery.
"I do not believe that climate change is a hoax," Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said during a hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the EPA.
The day ahead
* The EIA natural gas storage report is due out today.
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