Industry measured, greens furious over possible Paris climate pact exit
Reports that President Donald Trump will likely pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change have angered environmental groups and proponents of climate action. But domestic electricity generators and other energy producers appeared unfazed, with the industry already anticipating a rollback in federal climate policies under Trump that could be offset by action at the state and local level.
Exxon shareholders vote for climate change impact assessment
Against the wishes of the board, Exxon Mobil Corp. shareholders approved a proposal for the company to publish a report assessing the long-term impacts of climate change on its business. The resolution, which specifically requests that the report evaluate Exxon's portfolio based on a scenario where global temperature increases are held below 2 degrees Celsius in accordance with the Paris global climate agreement, received 62.3% of votes at the company's May 31 annual meeting.
Federal court finds Fola Coal violated state and federal water quality rules
A federal court has found that mines in West Virginia violated state and federal water quality protections. According to documents filed May 26, the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia decided in favor of environmental groups who had sued Fola Coal Co. LLC. The lawsuit was filed May 24 by Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
* President Donald Trump has tweeted that he will announce his decision on the Paris climate agreement at 3 p.m. today.
* Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk also tweeted that he will leave President Trump's business council if the U.S. exits the Paris climate deal. Musk said he has done all he can to convince the Trump administration to keep the country a party to the agreement.
* Separately, China has vowed to "continue to implement promises" made in the Paris climate deal to "move towards the 2030 goal step by step steadfastly," amid reports that the U.S. may potentially leave the pact, the Agence France-Presse reports.
* Fortis Inc. launched an offer to exchange US$2.0 billion of its new senior unsecured notes for a like amount of its outstanding unregistered senior unsecured notes. The old notes include US$500 million of 2.1% notes due 2021 and US$1.5 billion of 3.055% notes due 2026 issued by Fortis in October 2016. The offer will expire at 5 p.m. ET on June 28, unless extended by the company, according to a filing.
* Williams Capital Group initiated coverage on NRG Yield Inc. and NextEra Energy Partners with "buy" ratings and 12-month price targets of $20 and $45, respectively.
* Independent energy consultant Alison Silverstein has been selected for a prominent role with respect to a controversial electric grid reliability study being conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Silverstein will be writing the final report on the study being led by economist Travis Fisher, a DOE official confirmed May 31.
* Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin, along with his Mayors for 100% Clean Energy co-chairs, introduced a resolution to the U.S. Conference of Mayors to formally establish support from the nation's mayors for the goal of 100% renewable energy in cities nationwide, according to a press release from the Sierra Club.
* European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker noted that a U.S. exit from the Paris climate deal-related obligations will take several years, Reuters reports. "The Americans can't just leave the climate protection agreement. Mr. Trump believes that because he doesn't know the details," Juncker was quoted saying.
* The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Energy Northwest's request to increase the generating capacity of its Columbia Generating Station in Benton County, Wash., by 1.7% to 1,210 MW from 1,190 MW, according to a news release.
* Nevada utility regulators approved a power purchase agreement between Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Techren Solar LLC for a 200-MW solar complex to supply the utility and support a renewable energy agreement with Apple Inc.
* Elizabeth Hackenson is leaving AES Corp. as senior vice president and chief information officer, effective June 30, according to a company filing. Hackenson was responsible for technology and services to include information technology, cybersecurity, insurance programs and internal audit.
* NRG Energy Inc., GenOn Energy Inc. and certain holders of GenOn and GenOn Americas Generation LLC's outstanding senior debt agreed to extend the term of a consent agreement on debt restructuring to 11:59 p.m. ET on June 2. The parties continue negotiating, documenting and finalizing a restructuring support agreement, according to a Form 8-K filing.
* The Oregon Senate passed on the third reading of a bill that prohibits the inclusion of provisions banning installation and use of solar panels for obtaining solar access in declaration or bylaws of planned community. The state House approved the bill in April.
* General Electric Co. signed agreements, valued at more than $2 billion, to support the development of Vietnam's energy sectors. These agreements include a memorandum of understanding to co-develop 1,500 MW of new gas-fired power plants and a joint development contract on an 800-MW wind farm.
* Wärtsilä Corp. won a contract to supply two power plants totaling 188 MW to an unnamed investor-owned utility in the U.S. in 2018, according to a news release. The contract is contingent upon receipt of regulatory approvals. The power plants are scheduled to enter operation in 2019.
* Construction of the 6-MW Kentuck solar project in Pittsylvania County, Va., will begin in August, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced in a release. The facility is expected to go online by the end of 2017 and will be part of the generation mix for Danville Municipal Utility.
* After failing to secure enough votes May 30, a California bill demanding answers about the Aliso Canyon underground gas storage field leak will be revisited, possibly within days. State Sen. Henry Stern's legislation would prevent Southern California Gas Co. from reopening the field until after a state-sanctioned investigation into the root causes of the multimonth leak, which spanned October 2015 to February 2016.
* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a 90-day stay of the fugitive emissions, pneumatic pumps and professional engineer certification requirements from the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and natural gas industry.
* Tallgrass Energy Partners LP subsidiary Tallgrass Pony Express Pipeline LLC launched a binding open season to solicit additional shipper commitments for light crude petroleum transportation service on a potential extension of the Pony Express system. The open season is expected to end on July 17, according to a news release.
* Michael Hennigan is leaving Energy Transfer Partners LP as president of crude, liquids and refined products on June 16 for another business opportunity. Hennigan was president and CEO of Sunoco Logistics Partners LP prior to its merger with ETP, according to a news release.
* LINN Energy Inc. has fully repaid and retired its LIBOR +750 term loan due 2021 and amended its revolving credit agreement, effective May 31, after closing the sale of its assets in the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline in Wyoming. In addition, the company's board authorized a share repurchase program of up to $75 million.
* Unconventional oil and gas production in the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville and Haynesville shale formations is not a significant source of methane or benzene to drinking water wells, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. But USGS hydrologist and study lead Peter McMahon noted it may take decades or longer to fully assess the effects of unconventional oil and gas production on the quality of groundwater used for drinking water in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
* With Ensco plc's announced acquisition of Atwood Oceanics Inc., the offshore oil drilling industry may be entering a phase of consolidation after a few brutal years amid a commodity price downturn. Whether this move is a good first step, however, is a matter of debate among industry watchers.
* U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order for the review and development of a revised integrated activity plan for the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska and for the update of resource assessments for areas of the North Slope, according to a news release.
* Louisiana state Rep. Steve Carter has decided not to pursue his proposal to raise the state's gasoline tax after failing to secure enough votes for the bill's passage, The Associated Press reports.
* Occidental Petroleum Corp. named Cedric Burgher as its new CFO, according to a news release. Burgher, who will replace Chris Stavros, most recently served as senior vice president at EOG Resources Inc.
* In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sided with Trempealeau County, Wis., and upheld the rejection of a permit for AllEnergy Corp. and AllEnergy Silica's new hydraulic fracturing sand mine, The Associated Press reports.
* An appeals judge is forcing the U.S. EPA to make a decision on whether to force the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to uphold Clean Water Act standards.
* The public comment period for the draft environmental assessment and unsigned finding of no significant impact for Farrell-Cooper Mining Co. Inc.'s proposed Bull Hill No. 2 mining plan ended at 5 p.m. May 31.
* The weekly natural gas inventory report to be released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration at 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday is expected to show a build below both the year-ago injection and the five-year average.
* After extending 7.4 cents lower in the prior session to settle at $3.071/MMBtu, NYMEX July natural gas futures advanced overnight ahead of the Thursday, June 1, open amid buying supported by expectations for a slower-than-normal pace of storage-building when the next weekly inventory data is released at midmorning. At 6:55 a.m. ET (1055 GMT), the contract was 3.7 cents higher at $3.108/MMBtu.
* Day-ahead power prices could vary Thursday, June 1, as predominantly weaker demand expectations for the close of the workweek combine with renewed gains at the natural gas futures complex. Sliding 7.4 cents on the day May 31, NYMEX July natural gas futures were rebounding early Thursday ahead of the midmorning release of the latest round of weekly gas storage data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. At about 6:40 a.m. ET, the contract was up 3.1 cents to trade near $3.102/MMBtu.
New from RRA
* Utility holding company Entergy Corp., serving utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, provided power at the lowest average retail price in 2016 of 7.18 cents/kWh to ultimate ratepayers. Entergy's large industrial customer base accounted for 41% of electricity sales in 2016, almost double the industry average. Industrial customers supplied 29% of Entergy's 2016 revenue, again almost double the average of RRA-covered utilities. At 5.10 cents/kWh, Energy's average retail price for industrial customers in the Gulf Coast region was also the lowest among RRA-covered utilities.
"We are sending a clear message to the rest of the world that no president, no matter how desperately they try to ignore reality, can halt our progress," said California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, after legislators passed a package of bills that would set the state’s renewable energy target at 100%, among other measures.
The day ahead
* The EIA natural gas storage report is due out today.
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