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Aug. 7-11: SC governor tries to save nuke; investors flee Plains All American

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


FERC — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regained the ability to vote on major items of business, including issuing certificates for natural gas pipelines and other energy projects, following the swearing-in of two new commissioners. President Donald Trump tapped new Commissioner Neil Chatterjee as chairman of FERC on Aug. 10, the same day that Robert Powelson was sworn in as the third commissioner. The agency, without a quorum since early February, said it will resume monthly open meetings beginning Sept. 20.

ROVER — Energy Transfer Partners LP executives on Aug. 9 said they expect the partnership's Rover Pipeline LLC natural gas pipeline to be fully operational in early 2018. Management said they expect the first phase to be in service by the end of this year, with the entire project ready for full commercial service in January 2018. Meanwhile, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection found that Rover Pipeline corrected violations to a state water permit. The agency lifted its July cease-and-desist order after an Aug. 9 inspection, allowing Rover to resume construction activities on its gas transportation project in the state.


V.C. SUMMER — South Carolina's governor is floating the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper as he seeks to revive the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear project. Meanwhile, South Carolina lawmakers are working to protect ratepayers from rate hikes tied to the scrapped reactors. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Aug. 9 identified Duke Energy Corp., Southern Co. and Dominion Energy Inc. as potential suitors for Santee Cooper, known legally as South Carolina Public Service Authority, or its stake in the abandoned V.C. Summer plant expansion. SCANA Corp. utility South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. and Santee Cooper on July 31 halted construction of the two new 1,117-MW reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C. SCANA Chairman and CEO Kevin Marsh has reportedly cast doubt on its revival.


PLAINS ALL AMERICANPlains All American Pipeline LP on Aug. 7 again lowered its full-year guidance for 2017 with executives indicating they are considering a dividend cut. "The brutal reality is that the market in which our supply and logistics segment operates has changed and will likely continue to evolve," Chairman and CEO Greg Armstrong said during an earnings call held after market close on Aug. 7. The news created a sell-off on Aug. 8 as shares closed the day down by more than 19% at $20.32. Fitch Ratings on Aug. 10 downgraded Plains All American's credit to one level above junk status and warned that it might go further after the dismal second-quarter results from the supply and logistics segment. Moody's on Aug. 9 said it was weighing downgrading the partnership's debt to junk.

ARMSTRONG ENERGY — Coal producer Armstrong Energy Inc. on Aug. 11 told investors that it is likely to default on additional debt and faces a real threat of bankruptcy. "Our continuing operating losses, negative cash flow projections, indenture default and other liquidity risks raise substantial doubt about whether we will meet our obligations as they become due over the next year," Armstrong Energy said in an Aug. 11 news release announcing its second-quarter 2017 earnings. Executives expressed similar sentiments in the previous two quarters. The company's financial position worsened June 15 when it defaulted on the terms of the indenture governing its 11.75% senior secured notes due 2019 after failing to make the $11.75 million interest payment due on the notes.