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Trump plan could ease new energy projects; EQT-led gas pipe faces opposition

Top News

Trump infrastructure plan could ease wave of new energy projects

President Donald Trump's new infrastructure plan seeks federal support for new hydroelectric generation and rural power projects while proposing broad permitting reforms that could affect other energy resources, including natural gas pipelines.

Environmentalists ask court to stop Mountain Valley pipeline work

Environmental groups asked a federal appeals court to temporarily keep the EQT Corp.-led developers of the Mountain Valley pipeline project from doing work that could disturb West Virginia streams during construction of the 2-Bcf/d natural gas transportation project.

Utilities using drones to speed hurricane disaster recovery

Electric utilities are starting to use drones to speed system restoration in the aftermath of major storms but are also looking for the Trump administration to make it easier to use the technology.

Carbon capture proponents shift focus to infrastructure incentives

Fresh off a legislative victory to extend federal tax credits that would benefit carbon capture and storage, stakeholders are honing their focus on amplifying the technology's value through incentives for infrastructure build-outs.

Power

* 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.

* The North Carolina Utilities Commission has imposed a $30 million management penalty against Duke Energy Progress LLC over its handling of coal ash. The commission also trimmed the Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary's revised $419.5 million revenue request by more than half.

* Eversource Energy has told investors that the utility will make its forecast a growth rate of 5% to 7% "with or without Northern Pass" after New Hampshire regulators denied the above- and below-ground transmission project a necessary siting permit.

* The California Energy Commission has adopted an integrated energy policy report and approved the state energy demand forecast for 2018 to 2030. The commission said both reports track the state's path to a clean energy future.

* If the Bonneville Power Administration carries out the Trump administration's budget proposal to charge electric rates like for-profit utilities, prices will jump 20% to 40% in 2019, a regional power planning council warned.

* The Maine Renewable Energy Association is suing state Gov. Paul LePage in Kennebec County Superior Court for imposing a moratorium on new wind power permits, the Portland (Maine) Press Herald reported.

* The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is providing up to $10 million in funding for combined heat and power technology research to provide support for the electric grid.

* The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that Nebraska Public Power District must disclose the cost of generating electricity from its power plants to its competitor Aksamit Resource Management, which sought the information in a lawsuit, the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald reported.

* The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed to revoke the license for Boyce Hydro Power LLC's 4.8-MW Edenville hydroelectric project in Gladwin and Midland counties, Mich., for failing to comply with significant license and safety requirements.

* An affiliate of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. has dropped a plan to acquire a controlling stake in Brazil's Renova Energia SA and instead proposed to buy a large wind power complex and other power generation assets, Bloomberg News reported.

* S&P Global Ratings lowered its issuer credit ratings on PG&E Corp. and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to BBB+ from A-, citing the "considerable risk" the companies face due to last year's wildfires. This also prompted S&P to place Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables LLC's 550-MW Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., on CreditWatch negative. The facility receives all its revenues from Pacific Gas & Electric.

Natural gas/Oil

* After the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission put off a decision on rehearing requests involving its approval of the 1.1-Bcf/d PennEast natural gas pipeline, an environmental group is counting on other agencies to block the project.

* Shale producers have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject an application by White Cliff oil pipeline to use market-based rates in charging shipments from Platteville, Colo., to the Cushing, Okla., storage hub, Reuters reported.

* Two MPLX LP subsidiaries have completed a joint binding open season on the combined Ozark and Woodpat pipelines from Cushing, Okla., to Patoka, Illinois. The partnership said it will continue with plans to increase the capacity of the pipeline by providing operational modifications, including tankage, in Wood River, Ill.

* After a tanker likely filled with Russian liquefied natural gas landed in Boston to help with winter heating and power generation needs, a group of energy and maritime experts said it is time to repeal or amend a nearly century-old law that has prevented LNG produced in Louisiana from landing in New England.

* Valero Energy Corp. subsidiary Valero Logistics UK Ltd. agreed to purchase SemGroup Corp.'s Milford Haven fuel storage facility off the west coast of Wales, U.K.

Coal

* West Virginia Judge Jeffrey Cramer dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray against HBO and television host John Oliver over comments criticizing the coal industry and coal executives, The Hill in Washington, D.C., reported. Murray plans to appeal the decision to the state's Supreme Court.

* The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is providing $300.7 million to states and tribes to reclaim abandoned coal mines.

* Warrior Met Coal Inc. intends to launch a private offering of $125 million of its 8% senior secured notes due 2024 to help pay one or more dividends of up to $350 million in the aggregate to all of its stockholders on a pro rata basis. Separately, the coal producer launched a consent solicitation relating to $350 million of its 8% notes.

* Wyoming lawmakers are proposing to withhold funding for an environmental review board that denied a coal mining permit in Sheridan County.

Commodities

* After settling 0.9 cent lower at $2.625/MMBtu ahead of the weekend, NYMEX March natural gas futures rose in short covering overnight leading to the Monday, Feb. 26, open and the contract's roll off the board at the close of business. At 6:50 a.m. ET (1150 GMT) the contract was 4.7 cents higher at $2.672/MMBtu.

* Price activity for day-ahead power could be choppy in the week's opening session Monday, Feb. 26, as varied demand outlooks for Tuesday combine with recent volatility in natural gas.

* Connecticut renewable energy credit prices declined several dollars, while solar and nonsolar REC markets in neighboring New Jersey were varied.

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New from RRA

* In deliberations held Feb. 21, the Maine Public Utilities Commission voted to authorize Northern Utilities a 9.5% ROE for the company's gas operations. However, details on the rate change and other parameters were not specified; a final order is expected to be issued in the near future.

Quoted

"This is a statewide crisis that needs a statewide solution," Edison International CEO Pedro Pizarro told analysts on a Feb. 22 conference call about discussions with Gov. Jerry Brown's office, state lawmakers and others on potential solutions to prevent wildfires and fairly allocate costs in their aftermath.

The day ahead

* Vistra Energy Corp. will hold its earnings conference call 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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