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FERC clears Calpine buyout; analysts see groundwork for US oil, gas M&A

Top News

NRC commissioner urges US Senate to approve nominees to maintain credibility

A member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is warning that a political impasse over Senate confirmations of two new Republican nominees and reconfirmation of a Democratic commissioner is threatening to damage the NRC's public image by leaving the agency without a quorum, in which case the chair can make decisions all on her own.

FERC signs off on private investor buyout of Calpine

A plan by a group of investors to buy Calpine Corp. for $5.6 billion in cash gained a key approval Feb. 21 when federal regulators signed off on the proposal. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission determined that the proposed transaction met all of its merger approval requirements, including that the deal does not raise any significant market power concerns.

Against talk of fiscal discipline, analysts see groundwork for US oil, gas M&A

In the two years since the end of the price collapse that started in late 2014, oil and gas industry observers have been waiting for a sustained pickup in merger and acquisition activity. It has yet to happen, but that did not deter EY and Deloitte teams from projecting a rebound.

Nation's largest coal miner will likely avoid major greenfield projects in US

Peabody Energy Corp. is touting a global pure-play coal investment strategy, but the pitch includes an expectation for no new significant greenfield development in the U.S. as the company meets customer demands with existing mines and reserves.

Power

* As communities, businesses and local governments continue their recovery efforts from 2017's onslaught of storms, wildfires, mudslides and other calamities, electric utilities are working to improve their responses to natural disasters in the future.

* The joint New Jersey Assembly and Senate committee advanced a proposed legislation to rescue Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.'s two nuclear power plants with additional incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, NorthJersey.com reported.

* The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted a PJM Interconnection proposal to reduce the number of bidding points at which market participants can submit virtual transactions, effective Jan. 16.

* Donald van der Vaart, former secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, confirmed that he has been in talks with the Trump administration for "several positions," including the head of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, or CEQ, The New York Times reported. Mary Neumayr, the chief of staff of CEQ, also is reportedly in the race to lead the council.

* Being more comfortable on the sustainability of Edison International's dividend, Guggenheim Securities LLC on Feb. 23 upgraded Edison International to "buy" from "neutral."

* The Washington state Senate Committee on Ways and Means advanced a bill that would impose a tax of $12 per metric ton of carbon emissions from fossil fuels, The Associated Press reported.

* Portland General Electric Co. is seeking a new permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to allow increased pollution at its Carty Generating Station in Morrow County, according to the East Oregonian.

* The Maine Public Utilities Commission found that customers receiving electricity from competitive electricity providers from 2014 to 2016 paid $77.7 million more than what they would have paid for standard offer service.

* President Donald Trump has called for a meeting early next week on possible changes to the biofuels policy, Reuters reported, "four sources familiar with the matter."

* Citing strong bookings, First Solar Inc. decided to restart two lines of series 4 module production in Ohio, company executives said Feb. 22 on a call. Production was shut down in late 2017.

Natural gas/Oil

* Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff found no significant environmental issues with Blue Mountain Midstream LLC's proposed pipeline that would provide 225 MMcf/d of natural gas transportation capacity to markets in Oklahoma.

* Plains All American Pipeline LP subsidiary secured full capacity commitment for its Cactus II pipeline with long-term, third-party shipper contracts totaling 525,000 barrels per day, according to a news release.

* Apache Corp. beat fourth-quarter 2017 profit estimates but still saw its stock hit a 52-week low amid concerns about the slowly emerging Alpine High shale play the company pioneered.

* Decisions and settlements relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are driving the recent increase in civil environmental lawsuits, The Hill in Washington, D.C., reported, citing the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

* U.S. District Judge Brian Morris has ordered federal officials to review documents related to the Keystone XL pipeline and provide any "relevant documents" by March 21 or explain why those documents should be withheld, The Associated Press reported.

* Williams Partners LP registered $1 billion worth of common units representing limited partnership interests for potential sale from time to time. The partnership plans to use proceeds for general partnership purposes, including debt repayment and funding working capital, capital expenditures or acquisitions.

* The Iowa Senate passed a bill that would make it a felony to "sabotage" critical infrastructures like crude oil pipeline and electric and gas utility equipment, Radio Iowa reported.

* Exxon Mobil Corp. and BHP Billiton have decided not to proceed with the sale of some of their oldest Gippsland Basin assets in Australia, Bloomberg News reported.

Coal

* Regulations, tax reform and international trade options were among the major areas of focus for coal industry lobbyists under the first year of a new administration that has made helping the sector a priority.

* The West Virginia Senate approved a bill to remove a provision on the state law concerning water pollution by surface coal mining, The Associated Press reported.

* U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is asking David Zatezalo, assistant secretary of labor of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, whether he plans to carry out Bob Murray's request to roll back the coal dust and pattern of violation of rules.

* A West Virginia coal miner died Feb. 21 while performing electrical work on a highwall miner at the Pocahontas Coal Co.'s Devils Fork 2 mine in Raleigh County, according to the state's Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.

Commodities

* The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that a net 124 Bcf was pulled from natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 during the week ended Feb. 16, which was mixed against historical averages.

* After ending the prior session down 2.5 cents at $2.634/MMBtu, NYMEX March natural gas futures continued to unwind amid bearish fundamentals overnight ahead of the Friday, Feb. 23, open and options expiration at the close of business.

* Power dailies could end the truncated workweek mixed Friday, Feb. 23, on the back of varied demand expectations coming off the weekend. Participants will also keep their eyes on natural gas markets for power pricing direction.

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New from RRA

* Southern Co. subsidiary Chattanooga Gas Co. has filed with the Tennessee Public Utility Commission for a $7 million base rate increase premised on an 11.25% return on equity (49.23% of capital) and a 7.83% return on an average rate base valued at $159.9 million for a test year ending June 30, 2019.

Quoted

The company will "likely avoid significant greenfield development," said Peabody Energy executives, in a Feb. 22 presentation to investors, acknowledging that the company's days of developing new coal mines in the U.S. could be over as it meets customer demands with existing mines and reserves.

The day ahead

* The following companies will hold their earnings conference calls: Alliant Energy Corp., Entergy Corp., Northland Power Inc., Pembina Pipeline Corp. and Summit Midstream Partners LP at 10 a.m. ET; and Northwest Natural Gas Co., Pinnacle West Capital Corp., Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., South Jersey Industries Inc. and TC PipeLines LP at 11 a.m. ET.

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher 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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