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Supreme Court mulls venue for WOTUS case; Sunoco to sell stores in $3.3B deal

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Supreme Court mulls venue for WOTUS case; Sunoco to sell stores in $3.3B deal

Top News

Supreme Court refuses feds' request to hold WOTUS case in abeyance

The U.S. Supreme Court will continue to consider if a challenge to the U.S. EPA's Clean Water Rule was brought in the appropriate venue, even while the agency looks for ways to dismantle that rule at the behest of President Donald Trump. In refusing to hold the case in abeyance April 3, the Supreme Court essentially agreed to decide whether the legal battle over the Clean Water Rule — commonly referred to as the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule — should be fought in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit or in a federal district court, regardless of the ultimate viability of that rule.

Sempra poised to reap 'mountain of cash' from Cameron LNG, exec says

Sempra Energy and its shareholders are getting close to unlocking "a mountain of cash" not yet accounted for in the company's equity valuation as the Cameron LNG export project nears fruition, a company executive said. The company laid down a fraction of the liquefaction and export project's cost after contributing facilities from an earlier regasification project, Joe Householder, corporate group president of infrastructure businesses, said during the company's April 5 analyst day.

Armstrong coal executives hopeful of agreement to prevent bankruptcy

Armstrong Energy Inc. declined follow-up questions on its earnings call April 5 in light of restructuring efforts it previously said could lead to a bankruptcy if plans fall through. "We're hopeful that we can reach a restructuring agreement with our creditors that benefits both sides in the very near term," Armstrong President and CEO Martin Wilson said, noting that the company has secured financial and legal advisers to assist in capital restructuring and has also taken steps to preserve its liquidity, such as controlling capital expenditures.

Power

* First Solar Inc. and SunPower Corp. are separately exploring strategic alternatives that could include the sale of their interests in 8point3 Energy Partners LP, just two years after the solar developers brought the yieldco public. 8point3 Energy reported revenue of $9.9 million, a net loss of $5.3 million, adjusted EBITDA of $13.1 million and cash available for distribution of $22.1 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2017. "Despite the sponsors' review of alternatives with respect to their interests in the partnership, I want to assure our investors that we do not expect this process to have an impact on our financial results for the year. Given our cash flow profile, we are well positioned to achieve our guidance for the year as well as reach our 12 percent distribution growth rate for 2017," said 8point3 Energy CEO Chuck Boynton.

* Moody's upgraded its issuer rating on Entergy Corp. to Baa2 from Baa3 as its continued actions to eliminate merchant generation exposure. "A waning merchant fleet, cash flow to debt in the mid-teens percent range, and holding company debt under 25% of consolidated debt now position Entergy in-line with other Baa2 peer utility holding companies," said Moody's.

* The Virginia House of Representatives on April 5 failed to override Gov. Terry McAuliffe's veto of legislation that would reinstate tax credits that incentivize in-state coal employment and production. The state Senate, meanwhile, adopted the governor's recommendations to halt permitting for coal ash pond closures.

* The Indiana House of Representatives in a 56-43 vote approved a bill that would phase out net metering in the state. The bill has been returned to the Senate to approve the amendments.

* Although President Donald Trump has declared an end to the "war on coal," a Reuters survey among 32 utilities revealed that most don't see changing their investment plans, mainly due to economic reasons. "I'm not going to build new coal plants in today's environment," Xcel Energy Inc. CEO Ben Fowke told Reuters. "And if I'm not going to build new ones, eventually there won't be any."

Natural gas/midstream

* Sunoco LP has reached an agreement to sell a majority of its convenience stores in the U.S. to 7-Eleven Inc. As part of the deal, Sunoco will also enter into a 15-year take-or-pay contract with a 7-Eleven subsidiary to supply about 2.2 billion gallons of fuel annually, according to a news release.

* Global LNG trade hit another record in 2016 as the U.S. began exporting from Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, according to an annual report from the International Gas Union.

* BNP Paribas SA cut its financial exposure to the Dakota Access pipeline by selling its $120 million share in the $2.5 billion pipeline loan. "The sale of our stake signals the importance of full and detailed consultation on projects that impact large numbers of stakeholders," the bank said in a statement.

* A potential merger between New Jersey Resources Corp. and South Jersey Industries Inc. could decrease the utility companies' operational costs and increase access to capital, but the overall value add might not go beyond obvious synergies, a pair of industry observers said after The Wall Street Journal reported talks about such a deal.

* The Minnesota Department of Commerce moved the release of its draft environmental review of Enbridge Energy Partners LP's proposed Line 3 project to May 15 from April 3. "Additional time allows the department to prepare a thorough draft environmental impact statement that provides effective, meaningful public review and comment," Commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement.

* U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Maria Cantwell are seeking more information on how the Army Corps of Engineers reached its decision on the Dakota Access pipeline, The Associated Press reports.

* The Nebraska Public Service Commission will hold public hearings on the Keystone XL pipeline application from Aug. 7-11, according to a news release.

* Poland has an "understanding" with the U.S. over the latter's potential export of LNG to its new Baltic Sea terminal, Poland Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Reuters. Poland is looking at alternative natural gas sources to cut its imports from Russia.

Coal

* Witnesses and lawmakers expressed support for a new bill that would inject money into the reclamation of abandoned mine lands, but some questioned the scope and impact of the legislation at a U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources hearing April 5.

* Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., teamed up for a bipartisan effort aimed at accelerating carbon capture technology development.

* The Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College-owned Kentucky Coal Mining Museum is converting to the use of solar energy to save costs, WYMT reports.

Commodities

* Coming in above most analyst expectations, the clearing price for New York City in the 2017 New York ISO installed capacity auction was up 72 cents on the year, "as it appears uprates were largely excluded from the auction," according to an April 5 research note from UBS Securities LLC equities analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith.

* Day-ahead power values could chop around Thursday, April 6, as mixed demand outlooks for the close of the workweek combine with volatility in natural gas futures trading. Ending 2.7 cents down April 5, NYMEX May natural gas futures were extending slightly lower at 6:35 a.m. ET early Thursday, moving near $3.262/MMBtu, easing 0.4 cent, as participants prepare for the mid-morning release of weekly gas storage data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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New from RRA

* Following a promising start to the year amid broad pledges to strengthen corporate balance sheets, merchant generator stocks generally underperformed the broader indexes in the first quarter, as the sector remains pressured on several fronts.

Quoted

"This agency's work will center on our core legal requirements, federal-only and national efforts, providing support to states in implementing laws, and easing regulatory burdens," said EPA acting CFO David Bloom, in a March 21 memo to agency leaders that was leaked to the press.

The day ahead

* The EIA natural gas report is due out today.

* 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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