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Iranian hackers breach FERC emails; oil, gas trade groups want more exemptions

Top News

Iranian hackers broke into FERC email accounts

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission confirmed employee email accounts were breached as part of a massive state-sponsored hacking campaign based in Iran.

Oil and gas groups press for more steel tariff exemptions

Some countries have secured temporary exemptions from President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, but oil and gas trade groups want more exemptions and the current exemptions made permanent to prevent the materials for fuel transportation projects from becoming expensive and difficult to obtain.

Judges challenge Interior's refusal to consider how coal leases affect climate

During a March 23 hearing for a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, federal judges challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior's failure to consider how the federal coal leasing program could cumulatively affect climate.


* The idea that climate change alone could leave companies with stranded assets is a "gimmick" aimed at making businesses and investors think about the issue from a financial perspective but ignores the likelihood that market dynamics and other factors played a bigger role, said a sustainability official at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

* A bipartisan group of U.S. senators wrote a letter to Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, opposing a proposal in the fiscal year 2019 budget to sell transmission assets of the Department of Energy's power marketing administrations and to abandon cost-based rates.

* SCANA Corp. paid investors a sum of $529 million it received from South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. customers in the wake of the abandonment of the V.C. Summer nuclear power expansion project, The Associated Press reported, citing documents released by South Carolina regulators. Moreover, the company's dividend payments reportedly increased more than 50% since the start of the project in 2009.

* With industries from diamonds to grocers actively implementing blockchain networks, utilities and power suppliers are taking a more measured approach to assess opportunities for distributed ledger technology on the grid.

* Central Maine Power Co.'s proposal to build a 145-mile transmission line through western Maine has met opposition from a trio of energy companies on grounds that subsidized energy from Canadian hydro power "could upend" the electric market, the Portland (Maine) Press Herald reported. The three companies are Calpine Corp., Dynegy Inc. and Bucksport Generation LLC.

* Major indicators of coal power capacity growth fell by double digits in 2017 for the second year in a row, according to a new report by environmental advocates — and if those trends continue, yearly retirements will exceed new capacity by 2022.

* Enel SpA CEO Francesco Starace views the idea of breaking up energy companies as "too risky" and called it the "wrong call," The Financial Times reported. "We'd rather not bet and [instead] continue to optimise across the value chain because ... ?the market has not yet made up its mind."

* Appalachian Power Co. will pay a $3,500 fine for releasing industrial waste from its Clinch River project into the Clinch River, as part of an agreement with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, The Roanoke (Va.) Times.

Natural gas/Oil

* For almost two months before a Feb. 23 house explosion killed a 12-year-old girl, Atmos Energy Corp. had been getting gas odor calls for the neighborhood where the rupture happened, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

* Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bill that will beef up safety measures around the transportation of oil in the state and extends the state's oil barrel tax to pipelines, the AP reported.

* The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has opened a 45-day public comment period on the Riley Ridge to Natrona Pipeline Project along a 243-mile linear right-of-way through Fremont, Sublette, Sweetwater and Natrona counties, Wyo.

* Although Canadian oil and gas companies are able to generate more profits and announcing dividend increases and share buybacks, the sector is yet to win investors' confidence, as the companies' stock prices continue to reflect a downward trajectory, The Canadian Press reported.

* British Columbia's government is offering tax breaks and other incentives as one of the province's last proposed LNG projects nears a final investment decision.


* Westmoreland Coal Co. received notice from the Nasdaq Stock Market that its share price and market value have fallen below the minimum threshold for listing on the exchange.

* Attorneys general of Maryland, California, Washington and Massachusetts have expressed their support for a judge's order that requires the Tennessee Valley Authority to excavate the coal ash waste impounded at Gallatin and move it to an "appropriate lined site," the AP reported.

* President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the U.S. government open past March 23, after tweeting earlier that he might veto the bipartisan legislation.


* Pricing for next-day power could open the new workweek softer Monday, March 26, as mostly weaker demand outlooks for Tuesday combine with ongoing losses in natural gas futures trading.

* After shedding 2.6 cents to settle at $2.591/MMBtu ahead of the weekend, NYMEX April natural gas futures continued to unwind overnight leading up to the Monday, March 26, open, as the market shrugged off lingering cold in the midrange outlook in favor of milder spring weather likely to keep demand subdued.

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New from RRA

* According to Regulatory Research Associates, an offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence, the regulatory climate in Massachusetts has in recent months become more constructive from an investor viewpoint, while the regulatory climate in Mississippi has become somewhat more restrictive.

* A Minnesota Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge recommended on March 23 that the commission approve a settlement that would authorize CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp. a $3.9 million, or 0.5%, permanent gas rate increase.

* The absence of a quorum at FERC from February to August 2017, the addition of four new commissioners and a new chairman, and two federal court rulings with potentially widespread implications have all contributed to a growing portfolio of prominent cases at FERC involving electric transmission ROEs.


"Today, in one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice, we have unmasked criminals who normally hide behind the ones and zeros of computer code." said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, announcing that nine Iranians have been charged with a massive state-sponsored hacking campaign into universities, businesses and government agencies, including FERC and the Department of Labor.

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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