Lawmakers zero in on science, transparency as EPA chief takes center stage
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's first appearance before Congress since his confirmation in February started off with a groan-inducing joke from Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., who quipped that he would have thought a proud Oklahoman would have been there "sooner."
Court denies New York's attempt to block construction of Valley Lateral gas line
A federal appeals court rejected a New York agency's latest attempt to stop development of Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC's Valley Lateral natural gas transportation project, which would feed CPV Valley's 720-MW CPV Valley Energy Center in Orange County, N.Y.
Greens file legal challenge defending Oakland's coal transport ban
Community and environmental groups filed a friend of the court brief defending a local move to ban storage and handling of coal at the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal.
* Republican energy attorney Kevin McIntyre was sworn in as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 7, giving the agency a full complement of five sitting commissioners for the first time since October 2015.
* After becoming FERC chairman, McIntyre requested to extend the deadline for the commission to take action on the proposed "Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule" by another 30 days. "The proposed extension is critical to afford adequate time for the new Commissioners to consider the voluminous record and engage fully in deliberations," McIntyre told Energy Secretary Rick Perry in a letter.
* Mexico's Ministry of Energy plans to launch a tender for a 1,500-MW transmission line connecting the electric system of Baja California with the National Interconnected System, according to a press release. The call for the start of the first bid will be published in January 2018 with the objective of issuing the bid decision in September 2018. This will be the first tender for private participation in the country's power transmission lines.
* The U.S. Senate confirmed Susan Bodine to serve as assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Bodine served as chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works from 2015 to 2017.
* The Michigan Public Service Commission ordered DTE Electric Co. to coordinate with its staff and the Detroit Public Lighting Department on a plan to remove unused power lines. The order follows the conclusion of an investigation on the accidental electrocution of a 12-year-old girl in September 2016. The PLD estimates there is at least 600 miles to 900 miles of out-of-service arc wires in its service area.
* Opposition from major electric utility groups, Exxon Mobil Corp., Pfizer Inc., UPS Inc., Chevron Corp. and Honeywell International Inc. ultimately defeated a motion before the American Legislative Exchange Council calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review its "flawed" finding that carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare.
* The Baker-Polito administration awarded $20 million in grants to 26 projects that will develop Massachusetts' energy storage market and deliver benefits to the state's ratepayers and the electrical grid. The awarded projects will draw in $32 million in matching funds to help grow the state's energy storage economy.
* The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is seeking public input on proposed amendments to regulation for retail electricity service. The proposed changes are intended to provide customers with accurate, timely pricing information when shopping for electric generation suppliers.
* The Midcontinent ISO's board of directors on Dec. 7 approved the grid operator's latest transmission expansion plan but delayed until February 2018 approval of a project to be awarded through a competitive process.
* Preventable Surprises, an independent research and advocacy group, released a report on how the top institutional investors voted their proxies on 2-degree-C scenario resolutions at utility annual general meetings. BlackRock Inc. and Vanguard Group Inc., which supported climate change-related same resolution at Exxon Mobil Corp., voted against similar resolutions at all nine U.S. utilities.
* The Bay Area Rapid Transit signed a 20-year contract for 45 MW of solar power from Recurrent Energy LLC's Gaskell West 2 Project in Kern County, Calif. The facility is expected to reach commercial operation in 2020.
* Canada's National Energy Board ruled that Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC does not need to comply with two sections of the city of Burnaby's bylaws to begin construction of the Trans Mountain expansion project. The bylaw sections require the company to obtain preliminary plan approvals and tree cutting permits for project-related work at Trans Mountain's Burnaby Terminal, Westridge Marine Terminal, and at a nearby temporary infrastructure site.
* Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass LNG terminal will use "well above" 90% of its export capacity in the coming winter amid strong demand and high spot LNG prices in Asia and Europe, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
* The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Joe Balash as the Department of the Interior's assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Balash most recently served as chief of staff to Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. He also is the former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
* FERC rejected challenges to its decision to approve Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's 1.7-Bcf/d Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project, saying it had carefully evaluated the need for the project and environmental issues.
* Valorem Energy LLC completed the acquisition of LINN Energy Inc.'s Williston Basin interests for $285 million. The assets consist of approximately 20,000 net acres in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana with estimated third-quarter net production of 8,750 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
* Kimmeridge Energy Management Co. LLC has raised total capital commitments of $650 million to invest in upstream oil and gas opportunities following the final close of the Kimmeridge Energy Fund IV at its $400 million hard cap.
* Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Inc. agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty, which it cannot recover from ratepayers, for alleged safety violation at work sites in Allegheny and Lawrence counties. The settlement was approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Dec. 7.
* Tellurian Inc. priced an upsized offering of 10 million common shares at $10 apiece, or $100 million in total. Proceeds from the offering will be used for detailed engineering of an LNG terminal facility and an associated pipeline in Southwest Louisiana, general corporate purposes and working capital.
* Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week that ended Dec. 2 inched up 1% year over year to 90,747 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads.
* Rising gas prices driven by cold winter weather and an increased demand for the fuel has prompted the Chinese government to ease coal use restrictions, the Financial Times reported Dec. 7.
* A complete phase-out of coal-fired power plants by 2030 in the European Union could slash utility losses by €22 billion, according to report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative. "The changing economics of renewables, as well as air pollution policy and rising carbon prices, has put EU coal power in a death spiral," the report said.
* Secondary market prices for carbon dioxide allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative stumbled in value to kick off the new month.
* Next-day power markets around the country could see choppy moves Friday, Dec. 8, amid generally softer load outlooks for the start of the new week. Participants will also keep attuned to natural gas markets.
* Following a finish 15.9 cents lower on the session Dec. 7 at $2.763/MMBtu, NYMEX January 2018 natural gas was trading higher ahead of the Friday, Dec. 8, open, as traders took advantage and bought at the lows.
* The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a net 2-Bcf injection into natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 during the week ended Dec. 1 that defied market expectations and historical averages.
New from RRA
* Based on new data available from formula rate updates filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2017, year-over-year growth in transmission rate base among 15 companies in non-regional transmission organization/independent system operator regions was moderate from 2017 to 2018, rising to $19.662 billion from $18.388 billion, an increase of 6.9%.
"It's going to be hard I think to see big chunks of money for infrastructure come forward. But there is a need for it so who knows what'll happen and what'll be in the President's state of the union address or in his budget," U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said on the prospects for major infrastructure spending under the Trump administration in 2018.
The day ahead
* 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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