After digesting tax reform, US utilities look forward to smoother ride in 2019
U.S. investor-owned electric utilities are expected to have a much smoother 2019, following a year in which financial uncertainty as a result of federal tax reform roiled the sector and prompted wariness on the part of Wall Street and rating agencies.
Local district attorney's probe adds hurdle for Mariner East NGL pipelines
A criminal probe into the Mariner East family of NGL pipelines may be an indication that local public support is fading for the Energy Transfer LP project, which Marcellus Shale drillers are relying on for expanded access to high-priced global markets.
Total found guilty, fined in 20-year-old bribery case
A French court on Dec. 21 found French oil major Total SA guilty in a bribery case dating back 20 years in Iran and fined the company €500,000. The court charged Total with bribing a foreign public official between 1997 and 2004.
DOJ: W.Va. governor's coal company may be unable to pay court-imposed sanctions
A coal company run by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice may lack the financial resources to pay $1.2 million in court-imposed sanctions, according to federal court documents.
"Based on my conversation with [the company's counsel] there was some suggestion that Justice Energy Co. Inc., may not have the financial resources to pay the sanctions imposed by the court," according to a Nov. 28 letter from from U.S. Attorney Michael Stuart to Justice Energy, which is run by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, requesting a financial statement and suggesting that the coal company may lack the financial resources to pay $1.2 million in court-imposed sanctions.
* Nevada regulators approved NV Energy Inc.'s resource plans to add 1,001 MW of contracted solar capacity and 100 MW of storage and retire an aging coal plant unit four years earlier than scheduled.
* California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood are leading a coalition of 29 states and local governments to move the "Fourth National Climate Assessment" into the rulemaking records for the Trump administration’s proposed rollbacks of the Clean Power Plan and Clean Car Standards.
* In an interview with Fox News, outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke denied reports that he was "forced out" of the Trump administration amid a series of investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest. "The president, I think, was sad, but understood I was leaving. I had the president's – I do have the president’s full support. I exercised what the president wanted," Zinke was quoted as saying.
* BP Wind Energy North America Inc. sold a 430-MW wind portfolio in Texas to funds managed by affiliates of Ares Management Corp. The BP plc unit will use the sale proceeds to fund technology upgrades elsewhere within its substantial remaining U.S. wind portfolio.
* Jim Rogers "obviously was not afraid to take risks," Tom Williams, a former Duke Energy Corp. spokesman and colleague of Rogers, recalled in a Dec. 20 interview. "His shareholder return over the 25-year period, dividends included and premiums included, was 12% annually. He was very proud of that."
* The Georgia Public Service Commission staff is seeking an additional $3.6 million from Georgia Power Co. for independent contractor monitoring funds in 2019 for the Vogtle nuclear power project, The Associated Press reported.
* House Democratic leaders selected Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., to chair a special committee on climate change, The Hill in Washington, D.C., reported.
* LS Power Group completed the acquisition of Enerwise Global Technologies Inc. from H.I.G. Capital LLC for undisclosed terms. Enerwise Global Technologies, which uses the trade name CPower, provides demand-side energy management solutions.
* Recent allegations that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. broke gas safety rules and falsified related records could reflect poorly on the utility's corporate governance and, consequently, drag on the utility and its parent company's credit ratings, according to Moody's.
* Lower gas prices prompted Petronas Energy Canada Ltd. to cut gas production by between 50 MMcf/d and 200 MMcf/d from its money-losing wells in northeastern British Columbia, The Canadian Press reported. Petronas Energy Canada is a subsidiary of Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd.
* U.S. commodity exports to China slowed as the trade dispute between the two countries grew, but experts warn of bigger consequences if negotiations do not wind down the escalation of tariffs and tension.
* The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission blamed Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s hydraulic fracturing operations for the three seismic events, which occurred approximately 20 kilometers south of Fort St. John on Nov. 29.
* Cheniere Energy Inc. asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to begin testing on the second train of its Corpus Christi LNG export terminal in Texas, a development that came within weeks of shipping the first cargo from the first train.
* A subsidiary of WaterBridge Resources LLC secured $800 million of debt facilities to help fund the acquisition of water infrastructure and disposal assets from Halcón Resources Corp. and NGL Energy Partners LP.
* State-owned Petróleo Brasileiro SA - Petrobras will suspend any new divestment initiatives in oil exploration or production following a Supreme Court decision, according to a report from Reuters.
* Separately, the Financial Times reports that Petrobras "temporarily suspended the commercialization of oil" with Vitol Holding BV, Trafigura Group Pte. Ltd. and Glencore PLC after Brazilian prosecutors charged 12 people for allegedly receiving bribes from the trading firms in exchange for cheaper oil and oil derivatives.
* Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's administration appealed the state Public Utilities Commission's approval of Enbridge Inc.'s Line 3 replacement project. "Enbridge failed to provide a future demand forecast for its product, which is required by state law. Instead, the company presented its analysis of the future oil supply from Canadian tar sands extractions," Dayton said in a statement.
* Houston, Texas-based Sanchez Energy Corp. received a notice of delisting from the New York Stock Exchange after its shares traded below $1 for more than 30 consecutive trading days. The company has six months to improve its financial performance and regain compliance.
* Westmoreland Coal Co. and its affiliates asked a bankruptcy court to grant a 120-day extension of the exclusive period to file and solicit acceptance of its reorganization plan.
* Cloud Peak Energy Inc. will be removed from the S&P SmallCap 600 prior to the opening of trading Jan. 3, 2019.
In a week that saw a sharp market downturn, utilities outperformed the broad measures. Through midday Friday, the Dow Jones Utility Average had declined 2.4%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were down 4.9%, 5.4% and 6.4%, respectively.
New from RRA
* The Michigan Public Service Commission on ordered Consumers Energy Co. and DTE Electric Co. to refund $162 million to customers to account for overcollections after the federal corporate income tax was reduced to 21% from 35% beginning Jan. 1.
* Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. subsidiary PSEG Nuclear LLC filed an application with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities on Dec. 19 to receive zero-emissions credits for its nuclear plants, under a process recently approved by the board, pursuant to 2018 legislation.
The day ahead
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