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Trump order does little to change coal retirements; NextEra/Oncor deal hits snag

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Trump order does little to change coal retirements; NextEra/Oncor deal hits snag

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Trump environmental order does little to change coal retirement plans

U.S. coal producers and trade associations cheered President Donald Trump's package of actions aiming to boost the coal industry, but regardless, many of their customers are on track to move away from the fuel. According to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of coal plant retirement data, 44.1 GW of coal capacity is or was scheduled for retirement between 2013 and 2021. About 10.9 GW of these scheduled retirements fall in the period between 2017 and 2021.

Jordan Cove chief courts buyers, landowners as LNG venture tries again

S&P Global Market Intelligence sat down with Jordan Cove Energy Project CEO Elizabeth Spomer to talk about the new application to FERC for the developer's proposed liquefaction and export project in Oregon.

From $500 to $57,000: 'Eye-popping' acre prices tell story of Permian's rebirth

Several years ago, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. "quietly and secretly" started buying up deep holdings in the Permian Basin of West Texas for as little as $500 per acre. The formerly prolific play was considered obsolete since the days of conventional production's dominance, and most producers were focused on shale plays like the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Marcellus. Fast-forward to 2017, and no one can do anything quietly in the Permian.

Coal power coalition: Trump's executive orders 'good first step'

Though coal opponents balked at President Donald Trump's executive actions aimed at boosting the sector, the industry is likely to ask for more from its new friends in Washington. Trump's executive order calls on the U.S. EPA to reverse the Clean Power Plan, lift restrictions on new fossil fuel power plants and ends a moratorium on federal coal leasing. Paul Bailey, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said coal-burning utilities appreciate the "good first step" taken toward rolling back the Clean Power Plan and regulations that essentially required new coal power plants to be installed with carbon capture technology. However, Bailey said, there are other EPA policies still threatening coal plants.

Power

* In voicing concerns over the terms of NextEra Energy Inc.'s proposed acquisition of Oncor Electric Delivery Co. LLC, members of the Public Utility Commission of Texas said the proposed deal is not in the public interest. But even without Oncor, Morgan Stanley Research North America analyst Stephen Byrd said NextEra will continue to offer "one of the best risk-rewards within our coverage."

* The largest U.S. grid operator, PJM Interconnection, found it can maintain reliability with a diverse fuel mix, but reliable performance varied depending on how much natural gas and renewables it added to the system.

* U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Wiles approved Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC's plan to borrow an initial $350 million from an Apollo Global Management LLC affiliate to support the Toshiba Corp. unit's operations while it pursues restructuring efforts, Reuters reports.

* Behind-the-meter energy storage products could enhance the value of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems while increasing the "flexibility of electricity consumers and enhancing grid operations," according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

* Indiana Michigan Power Co. said unit 1 of its Donald C. Cook nuclear power plant in Michigan entered and exited an emergency plan at the lowest level early March 30 following the failure of a computer that runs an alarm system for the control room, according to a news release.

* Consumer group Campaign for Accountability is calling on Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to launch an investigation into residential solar providers in the state for allegedly engaging in "false and misleading acts" in the marketing and sale or lease of solar panels.

* EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt assured states that they are not obligated to comply with the Clean Power Plan. "The days of coercive federalism are over," Pruitt wrote in a letter to addressed to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

Natural gas/midstream

* Columbia Gas Transmission LLC applied to FERC for a 47,500-Dth/d lateral pipeline to serve natural gas utility Mountaineer Gas Co. in Morgan County, W.Va. The proposed Eastern Panhandle expansion project would provide 47,500 Dth/d of firm transportation service to Mountaineer Gas.

* Cheniere Energy Partners LP said it has substantially completed train 3 of the Sabine Pass liquefaction project in Cameron Parish, La. Under a sale and purchase agreement with Korea Gas Corp., the date of first commercial delivery for train 3 is expected to occur in June, according to a news release.

* Energy Transfer Equity LP purchased $300 million of preferred units of Sunoco LP in a private placement. Sunoco will use the proceeds to repay borrowings under its revolving credit facility, according to a news release.

* Archrock Partners LP secured a new five-year, $1.1 billion, asset-based revolving credit facility. The partnership used proceeds from the facility to repay in full borrowings under its existing $825 million revolving credit facility and $150 million term loan, which would have matured in May 2018.

* Preliminary findings of research conducted by the University of California Irvine revealed that power-to-gas technology can increase use of renewable energy. "With power-to-gas technology, you don't need to stop renewable power generation when demand is low. Instead, the excess electricity can be used to make hydrogen that can be integrated into existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure and stored for later use," said Jack Brouwer, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and civil and environmental engineering at UCI. The research is funded by Sempra Energy subsidiary Southern California Gas Co.

* Community members affected by the deadly 2016 Silver Spring, Md., gas explosion sued Washington Gas Light Co. and the apartment management company that owned the property where the explosion took place.

Coal

* President Donald Trump could decide by late May whether the U.S. will honor, cancel or alter its commitments under the Paris climate deal. The Trump administration is reviewing the global agreement and expects "to have a decision by the time of the G7 Summit [in] late May-ish, if not sooner," press secretary Sean Spicer said during the daily White House press briefing March 30.

* Coal proponents are cheering the end of the moratorium on federal coal leasing while environmentalists decry the order, but an academic calls the rhetoric "a lot of noise." "It's not economics, it's politics," Robert Godby, the director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

* Peabody Energy Corp. named Holly Krutka vice president of coal generation and emissions technologies, effective April 3, according to a news release. Krutka is a member of the U.S. National Coal Council and most recently served as executive editor for Cornerstone, the official journal of the world coal industry.

* Total U.S. coal rail traffic for the week that ended March 25 soared 19.8% year over year to 79,422 carloads, according to data from the Association of American Railroads. Year-to-date coal rail traffic represented a 16.1% increase through the week, while overall rail traffic shot up 12% year over year to 526,471 carloads and intermodal units.

Commodities

* The CFTC appointed James McDonald director of the agency's enforcement division, according to a news release. McDonald, who was most recently a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, will assume his duties at the CFTC on April 10.

* Following recent weakness at the secondary market, prices for California carbon allowances edged higher to conclude March. Over-the-counter broker data showed that the March 2017 vintage 2017 California carbon allowance contract ended its run between $13.58/tonne and $13.62/tonne, up about 2 cents from the week before. As of March 29, the April 2017 vintage 2017 contract was quoted in a bid-and-ask spread of $13.58/tonne to $13.66/tonne.

* After ending its first day in the lead March 30 down 4.0 cents at $3.191/MMBtu, NYMEX May natural gas futures were higher overnight ahead of the Friday, March 31, open in preweekend short-covering with little in the way of fundamental support. Exchanged from $3.195/MMBtu to $3.228/MMBtu, the contract was 2.7 cents higher on the day at $3.218/MMBtu at 6:51 a.m. ET.

* Next-day power values could end the workweek jumbled Friday, March 31, as expectations for generally diminished demand coming off the weekend collide with a recent volatility at the natural gas futures complex. Losing 4.0 cents in its first day in the lead position, NYMEX May natural gas futures were gaining ground early Friday ahead of the opening bell.

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New from RRA

* A mediator has been engaged by parties involved in a proceeding to reopen the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station settlement.

* On March 28, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the cities of San Bruno and San Carlos, Calif., the California Public Utilities Commission Office of Ratepayer Advocates, the PUC's Safety and Enforcement Division and The Utility Reform Network filed a settlement agreement in the PUC's investigation into PG&E's compliance with ex parte communication rules.

* On March 24, Potomac Electric Power Co. filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission for a $68.6 million (10.1%) electric distribution rate increase. The requested increase is premised upon a 10.1% return on equity (50.15% of capital) and a 7.79% return on an average rate base valued at $1.708 billion for a test year ending April 30, 2017.

Quoted

"We have customer relations issues. We want to minimize the amount of general rate filings we make," NorthWestern Corp. Corporate Counsel John Alke said on why the utility has not filed a rate case in nearly eight years.

The day ahead

* Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower 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.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 7:30 a.m. ET. Some links may require registration or a subscription.