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March 11-15: EQM announces $1B gas deal; Dominion reaches deal on Millstone nuke


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March 11-15: EQM announces $1B gas deal; Dominion reaches deal on Millstone nuke

A look back at successes and setbacks in the energy industry.


EQM MIDSTREAM — EQM Midstream Partners LP on March 14 announced it reached an agreement to buy a 60% stake in Eureka Midstream Holdings LLC and purchase 100% of Hornet Midstream Holdings LLC for $1.03 billion from a fund managed by Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners. Eureka Midstream is a 190-mile natural gas gathering header pipeline system in Ohio and West Virginia, while Hornet Midstream is a 15-mile, high-pressure gathering system in West Virginia with a connection to the Eureka system. "These two points are high-liquidity areas in the [Appalachian Basin] and provide access to major takeaway pipelines out of the basin, including our own Mountain Valley Pipeline," EQM Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Karam said during a March 14 conference call.

DOMINION — Dominion Energy Inc. and two Connecticut utilities entered into a power purchase agreement March 15 that is expected to bolster the economic viability of the 2,101-MW Millstone nuclear plant and delay its retirement. Under the new 10-year deal with Eversource Energy and Avangrid Inc. subsidiary United Illuminating Co., Dominion will supply 9 million MWh of power per year to the utilities from the Millstone plant in New London County, Conn. "The deal the utilities have negotiated secures Millstone's zero-carbon power for ten years, and reduces by nearly 50[%] the incremental ratepayer cost of the contract, as compared to the original bid selected," Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. Dominion Energy executives said a previous "zero carbon" power supply contract awarded to the Millstone nuclear plant did not provide sufficient long-term financial support.


EDISON INTERNATIONAL — A March 13 report from the Ventura County, Calif., Fire Department concluded that power lines owned by Edison International subsidiary Southern California Edison Co., or SoCalEd, sparked the December 2017 Thomas Fire. Fire investigators said high winds caused the lines to come into contact with each other, and a resulting electric arc caused burning or molten particles to drop onto dry grass and brush. While Edison International executives previously said the utility's equipment played a role in the deadly blaze, SoCalEd questioned the findings in the fire department's report. SoCalEd said there were disparities in the start time of the fire and noted that there were two ignition points for the blaze with the disputed ignition point likely responsible for a significant portion of the damages. The report had little impact on Edison International's share price.

FIRSTENERGY SOLUTIONS — FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. submitted an amended plan of reorganization that would allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy as a new legal entity owning retail assets and liabilities. The plan also creates a new holding company as the "ultimate corporate parent" of the reorganized debtors, which will be private companies. FirstEnergy Solutions said the debtors will be fully separated from FirstEnergy Corp. on the effective date of the reorganization plan. However, several federal government agencies have filed objections to the plan for its lack of detail and "broad releases" of third-party claims. Environmental groups and Ohio's consumer advocate filed objections based on "inaccurate, misleading, and incomplete information about the companies' nuclear decommissioning and environmental remediation obligations."


CLOUD PEAK — The clock has started on a potential bankruptcy filing by Wyoming coal company Cloud Peak Energy Inc. The struggling Powder River Basin coal producer did not make a $1.8 million interest payment due March 15, triggering a 30-day grace period for the company to make the payment before defaulting. Cloud Peak said in a March 15 federal filing that it does not have adequate liquidity to repay the principal balance if the debt is accelerated. "Our forecasted cash from operations alone is insufficient to fund cash interest and capital expenditures," Cloud Peak wrote. "This has resulted in our conclusion that there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern. As a result, we will continue to pursue options to alleviate this condition, including but not limited to evaluating our restructuring options, but there can be no guarantees that this will alleviate the substantial doubt that exists."