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Democrats threaten to block nominees; Federal funding critical to energy tech


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Democrats threaten to block nominees; Federal funding critical to energy tech

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Frustrated by lack of response from EPA, Democrats threaten to block nominees

Senate Democrats are threatening to pump the brakes on the White House's nominees for various government posts as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt continues to ignore requests for information. Pruitt's inaction is in line with a May 1 memo from the Department of Justice, which reminded cabinet officials that they are under no obligation to respond to requests for information from individual members of Congress, including ranking minority members.

Federal pipe safety regulator working through Trump's 2-for-1 deregulation order

With multiple planned rulemakings and pending congressional directives in the works, the federal pipeline safety regulator is sorting through how Trump administration limits on new regulations will affect the agency's policymaking. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Transportation, which houses the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, plans to publish guidance in the Federal Register on how the department is handling executive orders related to energy independence and regulatory burden, Alan Mayberry, PHMSA's associate administrator for pipeline safety.

Federal funding critical to energy tech like carbon capture, industry execs say

Federal funding is critical to the development of new, competitive energy technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, according to industry executives speaking at a U.S. Senate hearing. David Greeson, the project lead of Petra Nova LLC and the vice president of development at NRG Energy Inc., spoke as a witness at the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on studying cost reductions in emerging energy technologies.


* When President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change June 1, he asserted that relaxing federal constraints on U.S. carbon emissions will help break down, "draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country."

* BPC Action, a federal political advocate for bipartisan solutions, is asking congressional leaders of the appropriations committees for enough allocations for energy research and development. "Continued support for investments in energy research programs across DOE can accelerate innovation and secure America's competitive advantage at this critical moment of our energy and economic future" the BPC Action letter said. The letter's signatories include Exelon Corp. President and CEO Christopher Crane, PG&E Corp. Executive Board Chair Anthony Earley Jr. and Southern Co. Chairman, President and CEO Tom Fanning.

* Canada-based utility Fortis Inc. is not looking to rush into another acquisition after buying three U.S. companies since 2011 for a total of $17.5 billion, Fortis President and CEO Barry Perry told S&P Global Market Intelligence in a June 6 interview held in Washington, D.C.

* U.S. Reps. Scott Peters and Carlos Curbelo introduced a bipartisan bill, called the Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction Act, that would create a federal task force to coordinate and optimize existing efforts at various levels of government to reduce super pollutant emissions, including black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons and methane.

* Former leaders of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, along with energy industry executives, are urging Congress to reject a request from the president to slash the bureau's funding by 69% from fiscal-year 2017 enacted levels.

* Alliant Energy Corp. closed an "at-the-market" offering of approximately 3.1 million common shares for gross proceeds of $125 million. The company plans to use its shareowner direct plan to issue the remaining stock to reach the targeted equity issuance amount of approximately $150 million, according to a news release.

* South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. selected Clean Energy Collective LLC to implement a 16-MWac community solar program. The SCANA Corp. subsidiary expects to interconnect the first two of three CEC-developed solar facilities by the end of 2017, according to a news release.

Natural gas/midstream

* Natural gas utilities face increasing business risk as the world makes an effort to release less carbon into the atmosphere, including potential hits to gas demand and difficulties putting new transportation infrastructure in place, an energy economist said.

* Encana Corp. subsidiary Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. agreed to sell its Piceance natural gas assets located in northwestern Colorado to Denver-based Caerus Oil and Gas LLC for $735 million in cash, according to a news release. The assets produced an average 240 MMcf/d of natural gas and 2,178 barrels per day of liquids through the first quarter of 2017.

* An escalating diplomatic rift between Persian Gulf states is already changing destinations for U.S. LNG cargoes. The Maran Gas Amphipolis LNG tanker on June 6 changed course to head for the Jebel Ali port in Dubai, according to data on ship-tracking website

* R. Craig Owen is leaving Southwestern Energy Co. as senior vice president and CFO to accept a new position with an energy company that does not compete with the company. Owen will remain in his position through late June to assist with a smooth transition. The company named Jennifer Stewart, senior vice president of tax and treasury as interim CFO, according to a company filing.


* U.S. mine safety officials are targeting miners with little experience or who are new to coal mines in an aim to curb mine fatalities. So far this year, seven coal miners have died on the job. With nearly six months remaining in the year, the fatality count is on track to exceed the eight mining deaths charged to the industry in 2016.

* WildEarth Guardians and the Montana Environmental Information Center filed a lawsuit targeting the Department of the Interior's decision to approve an expansion of Cloud Peak Energy Inc.'s Spring Creek mine expansion in southeastern Montana. "Despite being the largest coal mine in Montana and the largest strip mine in the nation outside of Wyoming, the mine has never been subject to a comprehensive environmental review under state or federal law," the two groups said in a statement.

* Alpha Natural Resources Inc. subsidiary Marfork Coal Co. Inc. expects to start extracting metallurgical coal from its Panther Eagle mine in West Virginia as early as July, The Associated Press reports.

* Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. has decided to cease coal mining at its New Horizon Mine in Nucla, Colo., due to several factors including the amount of coal currently available at Nucla Station and the cost of producing additional coal at the mine compared to other lower-cost options for supply in the region, according to a news release.

* One of California's largest retirement funds voted to continue moving its assets away from the coal industry with the divestment of non-U.S. thermal investments. The California State Teachers' Retirement System, or CalSTRS, voted June 7 to exit stakes in PT Adaro Energy Tbk., Exxaro Resources Ltd. and Whitehaven Coal Ltd., worth about $8.3 million.


* The price of power for day-ahead delivery could end the workweek elevated Friday, June 9, amid the anticipation of higher demand in much of the country coming off the weekend. Traders will also take note of natural gas trading activity. Edging up less than 1 cent on the session June 8 amid support from updated weather outlooks, NYMEX July natural gas futures were aimed slightly higher early Friday ahead of the opening bell.

* After ending the prior session up 0.8 cent at $3.028/MMBtu, NYMEX July natural gas futures extended gains overnight ahead of the Friday, June 9, open, amid lingering weather support, as forecasts continue to reflect a warming trend across much of the country that should bolster demand for cooling and limit storage injections in the weeks ahead. At 6:31 a.m. ET (1031 GMT), the contract was 3.2 cents higher at $3.060/MMBtu.

* U.S. CFTC Acting Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo told House appropriators on June 8 that his agency needs a $31.5 million increase in funding, exceeding the White House request, to bolster clearinghouse oversight, improve economic analysis and update financial technology.

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New from RRA

* A settlement adopted on June 8 by the Kansas Corporation Commission, or KCC, permits Westar Energy Inc. and its subsidiary Kansas Gas and Electric Co., or KG&E, to implement an aggregate $16.4 million (0.8%) electric base rate increase in their joint "abbreviated" rate case, Docket No. 17-WSEE-147-RTS.

* An analysis conducted by Regulatory Research Associates, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence, indicates that, similar to the electric and natural gas sector, ROE authorizations for the water utilities covered by RRA have largely trended downward from 2006 through 2016.

* The North Carolina House of Representatives passed on June 7, House Bill 589, legislation that, if enacted, would impact several areas of the state's energy policy, including renewable energy development. H.B. 589, which was passed by a 108-11 vote, would require utilities to offer standard contracts to small power production facilities for up to 10-year terms for facilities that have a capacity up to 1 MW.


"If we had a Democratic administration and Republicans were trying to get information and do oversight over this Democratic administration, and got the kind of responses that we've been getting — non-responses—you guys would shut the place down," Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. at a hearing for nominees to the Federal Energy Management Agency and Office of Management and Budget, on the failure of the EPA to respond to congressional requests for information.

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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