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Sempra wins key support in Oncor bid; US coal producers pin hopes on exports

Top News

Sempra wins key stakeholder support in Oncor bid

Sempra Energy has reached an agreement with several key Texas stakeholders in support of its bid to acquire Energy Future Holdings Corp.'s indirect majority interest in Oncor Electric Delivery Co. LLC.

Unprompted by industry, Pruitt touts LNG during Morocco trip

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt became the latest Trump official to tout American LNG during a recent trip to Morocco, surprising industry officials who have not typically gotten a boost from the agency.

Relief from global market far from certain for US coal

With the domestic coal market saturated and analysts forecasting a continued secular decline for thermal coal, producers have been pinning their hopes on overseas buyers.

Power

* As the Trump administration pursues policies to benefit the fossil fuel industry, the trend toward decarbonization among electric utilities in the United States is picking up steam.

* Santee Cooper Board Chairman Leighton Lord is suing to keep his post in response to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's call for him to resign or be fired, The State in Columbia, S.C., reported. "I want to clear the record. I want to establish that Santee Cooper and my board fully cooperated with the General Assembly and the governor's office, and we did nothing wrong," Lord told publication.

* California electric utilities will have to increase tree and shrub cutting, step up equipment repairs and take other steps to prevent wildfires across thousands of square miles of high-hazard zones, the state Public Utilities Commission decided.

* Sierra Club is considering an appeal of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission's decision to approve a "multi-million dollar bailout" for Northern Indiana Public Service Co.'s R.M. Schahfer and Michigan City coal-fired power plants.

* Alterra Power Corp. shareholders voted to approve the company's C$1.1 billion acquisition by Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. Alterra will apply for a final order of the Supreme Court of British Columbia approving deal on or about Dec. 18.

* The U.S. Senate confirmed Matt Leopold to serve as general counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Leopold previously served as general counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from March 2013 to February 2015.

* U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, introduced a bill to encourage energy independence, foster innovation and leverage federal resources to support a more resilient electricity grid through the use of distributed energy resources.

* The California Air Resources Board approved the state's climate change scoping plan to meet its 2030 carbon reduction goals, the Los Angeles Times reported.

* GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy laid off an undisclosed number of workers at its Wilmington, N.C., facility, which produces nuclear reactors and other technologies, the Wilmington Star-News reported, citing a company spokesman.

* BP Plc is acquiring a 43% equity share in solar development company, Lightsource Renewable Energy Holdings Ltd., for a total consideration of $200 million. Lightsource will be renamed Lightsource BP and BP will have two seats on the board of directors. Lightsource's 6-GW growth pipeline is largely focused in the U.S., India, Europe and the Middle East.

Natural gas/Oil

* Marathon Petroleum Corp. agreed to exchange its general partner economic interests in MPLX LP for 275 million newly issued MPLX common units valued at approximately $10.1 billion based on the volume-weighted average price of MPLX over the past 10 days. The interests include incentive distribution rights.

* CNX Resources Corp. struck a deal to acquire Noble Energy Inc.'s 50% membership interest in CONE Gathering LLC for $305 million in cash and the mutual release of all outstanding claims. At closing, CNX will own 100% of CONE Gathering, which holds all of the interests in CONE Midstream GP LLC, which in turn holds the general partnership interest in CONE Midstream Partners LP.

* The American Petroleum Institute and 26 major oil and gas companies have kicked off a voluntary program to reduce their industry's emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds, but environmental groups are clearly unimpressed.

* FourPoint Energy LLC completed the acquisition of upstream and midstream assets in Wheeler and Hemphill counties, Texas, from an undisclosed seller for $188 million. The company also secured $489 million in new equity financing from Quantum Energy Partners and an additional $36 million from existing equity holders.

* The developer of the Dominion Energy Inc.-led Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stand by its authorization of the 1.5-Bcf/d project.

* Cenovus Energy Inc. is planning an additional 15% workforce reduction, as part of its efforts to reduce costs and deleverage its balance sheet in 2018, according to a news release.

* Hedge fund FrontFour Capital Group LLC wants Canadian oil and gas producer Obsidian Energy Ltd. to consider a sale of the company, Bloomberg News reported, citing "a person familiar with the matter."

* The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against Louisiana Sheriff Greg Champagne to release public records related to Dakota Access pipeline opposition. The suit also seeks communications and records with companies involved in the proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline in the state.

* Lebanon cleared a bid from a consortium of Total SA, Eni SpA and PAO Novatek to explore two offshore blocks, Reuters reported, citing a government official.

Coal

* Washington's Cowlitz Countyfiled an appeal to the decision by its own hearing examiner to deny shoreline permits needed for a planned coal export terminal.

* CSX Corp. said its CEO and President E. Hunter Harrison is on medical leave due to complications from a recent illness. COO James Foote will serve as acting CEO in Harrison's absence.

* Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week that ended Dec. 9 inched up 2% year over year to 89,808 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads.

* A train derailment at FirstEnergy Corp.'s Harrison plant site in West Virginia resulted in coal spilling into the Robinson Run stream, the state Department of Environmental Protection said in a tweet.

Commodities

* The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a net 69 Bcf was pulled from natural gas storage in the Lower 48 during the week ended Dec. 8.

* After slumping 3.1 cents in the prior session, January 2018 natural gas futures reclaimed some ground overnight ahead of the Friday, Dec. 15, session, as colder weather ahead is expected to boost heating demand and cut into inventories.

* Day-ahead power prices could step lower Friday, Dec. 15, as traders look to mostly weaker demand forecasts for the start of the new week. Eyes will also remain on natural gas prices.

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New from RRA

* At its Dec. 14 open meeting, the Public Utility Commission of Texas approved a settlement in El Paso Electric Co.'s rate case. A written order is expected to be issued in the near future.

Quoted

"The solar industry is a resilient bunch, but this quarter shows us what happens when policy uncertainty becomes a disruptive factor: prices rise, supplies shift and the market reacts accordingly," Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper, said in a Dec. 14 news release announcing that solar installations in the U.S. fell by more than one half in the third quarter from the same period a year ago.

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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