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PUCT declines to make major rule changes; coal optimism undercut by jobs decline

Top News

Texas regulators decline to make major power market rule changes ahead of summer

A summer with potential power shortages and high prices looms over Texas' wholesale power market, but state regulators declined to make major changes to rules governing power price formation before watching how the market responds.

'Hit the ground running': EQT reports fast benefits from Rice Energy acquisition

Now the largest natural gas producer in the U.S., EQT Corp. easily beat earnings and production estimates as its new assets from Rice Energy Inc. were added in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Coal optimism undercut by production, jobs decline to end 2017

The average number of U.S. coal mine employees and coal production fell in the fourth quarter of 2017 despite positive market indicators and support from the White House. Coal production fell 1.6% and average mining employment fell 2.3% in the fourth quarter compared to the prior period.

Power

* The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 15 voted to approve a long-awaited draft final rule aimed at removing barriers that keep energy storage resources, such as batteries and flywheels, from more fully participating in markets run by the nation's regional transmission organizations and independent system operators.

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's civil penalties against polluters dropped 49% under the Trump administration, compared to the average results during the first year of the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations, according to a report from the Environmental Integrity Project.

* South Carolina lawmakers have thrown another monkey wrench into Dominion Energy Inc.'s plans to expedite proceedings in its planned acquisition of SCANA Corp.

* Portland General Electric Co. filed a general rate case with Oregon regulators, seeking an annual revenue increase of $86 million based on a return on equity of 9.5%, effective January 2019. If approved, typical residential customers using a monthly average of 800 kWh of power would see their bill increase by about $6.50 per month.

* SunPower Corp. has sold its stake in the 100-MW Boulder Solar 1 in Nevada to a third-party buyer for an undisclosed sum. The project was subject a right of first offer agreement between 8point3 Operating Co. LLC and SunPower.

* Hydro One Inc. subsidiary Hydro One Networks Inc. has asked the Ontario Energy Board to allow it to build the new East-West Tie transmission line, dubbed the Lake Superior Link, according to a news release.

Natural gas/Oil

* Enbridge Inc. is looking to more than double its planned sale of noncore assets to about C$8 billion in 2018 from the initial C$3 billion target to help reduce its long-term debt, Reuters reported, citing "people familiar with the situation."

* Williams Cos. Inc. expects a boost to investment-grade credit once the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project produces a steady cash flow, executives said.

* Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., the ranking member on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre, requesting an update on environmental safety concerns related to construction of the Rover Pipeline.

* Sen. Douglas John Black of Alberta introduced a bill that would declare the proposed C$7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project as an advantageous project for Canada. The bill signals the federal government's resolve to shut down British Columbia's opposition to the controversial project, according to the Financial Post.

* Separately, Canada's National Energy Board has given Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. the green light to start clearing and grading work at the entrance to a tunnel on its Westridge Marine Terminal site that would house its pipeline under Burnaby Mountain, according to a news release.

* Fieldwood Energy LLC and its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 plan of reorganization that calls for reducing its debt by about $1.6 billion, raising capital of about $525 million through an equity rights offering and acquiring all deepwater oil and gas assets of Noble Energy Inc. located in the Gulf of Mexico.

* A Kinder Morgan Inc. and Southern Co. joint venture received federal authorization for a $240 million expansion project that will provide additional firm natural gas transportation capacity in Georgia from a new interconnection with the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC system.

Coal

* Foresight Energy LP filed a shelf registration to sell up to $1 billion in total aggregate offering price of its securities. The registration allows selling unit holders to offer and sell up to 43,846,217 common units.

* Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and Alpha Natural Resources Holdings Inc.'s plan to streamline their capital structure was approved by stockholders at the companies' joint annual meeting.

* The U.S. Department of Energy announced $6.5 million in funding split between nine coal technology research and development projects seeking to improve efficiency and lower environmental impacts.

Commodities

* After fighting off buyers and settling the Feb. 15 trading session a scant 0.7 cent down at $2.580/MMBtu, March natural gas futures extended the retreat overnight ahead of the Friday, Feb. 16, trade, amid a lack of fundamental support. At 7:35 a.m. ET (1235 GMT), the March contract was trading 3.0 cents lower at $2.550/MMBtu.

* Day-ahead power markets around the U.S. could tip lower in many cases Friday, Feb. 16, amid softer demand forecasts after the holiday weekend and weaker natural gas prices. Markets are closed Feb. 19 in observance of Presidents' Day.

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New from RRA

* It appears that the odyssey to find a suitable new owner for Texas' largest electric utility, Oncor Electric Delivery Co. LLC, is finally coming to an end.

* American Electric Power Co. Inc. subsidiary Indiana Michigan Power Co.'s pending Indiana jurisdictional rate case, Cause No. 44967, took a step closer to completion on Feb. 14 with the filing of a comprehensive settlement.

Quoted

"Once I arrived, I quickly realized that the perception of FERC's processes outside the building is not always reflective of the reality within it," FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee said as the commission approved a draft final rule that will help energy storage resources participate more fully in organized markets. "That certainly was the case with this rulemaking. As I began digging deeper into the intricacies of the issue, I came to came to understand that ... more time was needed to effectively develop the final rulemaking."

The day ahead

* The following companies will hold their fourth-quarter 2017 earnings calls today: DTE Energy Co. at 9 a.m. ET; Ameren Corp. at 10 a.m. ET; Portland General Electric Co. and Capital Power Corp. at 11 a.m. ET.

* 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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