Highlights of the Top Five Issues Regarding Pennsylvania's Anticipated New Rules Governing Telemarketing & Door-To-Door Sales of Energy
Click here to view the full alert: April 2013 Utilities and Telecommunications Alert
Pennsylvania ranked No. 1 in offering utility choice
from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
For years after Pennsylvania opened up its electricity market with a deregulation law in 1996, most customers had few choices beyond their local utility. Now the state ranks No. 1 in a study that gauges number of offers from competing residential power suppliers.
The study by management consulting firm Distributed Energy Financial Group LLC also put Pennsylvania at No. 3, behind Texas and Canadian provinces, for numbers of residents choosing alternate suppliers and its variety of offers, and No. 4 for competing commercial and industrial suppliers.
Click here to view the full article: Pennsylvania ranked No. 1 in offering utility choice
Gas drilling presents President Barack Obama with historic choices
from The Patriot-News
Energy companies, environmental groups, and even Hollywood stars are watching to see what decisions President Barack Obama makes about regulating or promoting natural gas drilling.
The stakes are huge. Business leaders don't want government regulations to slow the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of clean, cheap domestic energy over the next few decades. Environmental groups see that same tide as a potential threat, not just to air and water, but to renewable energy. And on a strategic level, diplomats envision a future when natural gas helps make the U.S. less beholden to imports.
Some say the unexpected drilling boom presents historic options — and risks — for the Obama administration.
Click here to view the full article: Gas drilling presents President Barack Obama with historic choices
Pennsylvania expands electric-shopping website to small business customers
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Tuesday upgraded its online electric-shopping tool to add enhancements targeting small-business customers.
The site, www.PAPowerSwitch.com, previously focused primarily on residential customers, but now includes competitive offers for small business customers. For instance, 10 suppliers have posted offers for Peco Energy Co. "general service" customers, the rate classification for small businesses. The offers include discounts up to 17 percent off Peco's default rate.
Click here to view the full article: Pennsylvania expands electric-shopping website to small business customers
How Is the U.S. Doing in the 'Global Bandwidth Race'?
The worldwide competition for bandwidth "is like the space race where the winner will see benefits in terms of innovation and economic growth that will last for years to come," according to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In an interview with Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach, Genachowski says that while the U.S. is leading the world in terms of developing infrastructure for the next generation of mobile broadband, the country faces "some real challenges" in keeping ahead. Among them: the possibility of hitting a wall when the demand for spectrum outstrips supply.
Click here to view the full article: How Is the U.S. Doing in the 'Global Bandwidth Race'?
Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves are larger than expected, reports say
from The Patriot-News
Two independent financial firms say the Marcellus isn't just the biggest natural gas field in the country — it's the cheapest place for energy companies to drill.
One of the reports adds that the Marcellus reserves that lie below parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York are far larger than recent government estimates, while another said the powerful combination of resource, cost and location is altering natural gas prices and market trends across the nation.
The Marcellus could contain "almost half of the current proven natural gas reserves in the U.S," a report from Standard & Poor's issued this week said.
Another recent report from ITG Investment Research, a worldwide financial firm based in New York, found that a detailed analysis of Marcellus well production data suggested that federal government estimates of its reserves "are grossly understated."
Click here to view the full article: Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves are larger than expected, reports say
Drilling Payments Cause a Dispute in Pennsylvania*
from the New York Times
Four Pennsylvania townships are challenging a state regulator’s decision to withhold their share of proceeds from a statewide levy on drilling by the booming natural gas industry there.
The townships, in a heavily drilled area of southwestern Pennsylvania, were excluded from a list of 35 counties and 1,485 municipalities that will receive a total of $108.7 million from a new “impact fee” charged to energy companies to help compensate for the effects of gas drilling on local communities...
The townships — Cecil, Robinson, South Fayette and Mount Pleasant — are scheduled to receive a combined $986,000 that could be used for projects like road repair, sewer construction or inspection of gas facilities.
But the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which administers the impact fee, said it was withholding payment to the townships until it resolved five “requests for review” that were filed by four local landowners and by Range Resources, a Texas drilling company that has been active in Pennsylvania.
Click here to view the full article: Drilling Payments Cause a Dispute in Pennsylvania
*NOTE: Eckert Seamans Member Jeffrey J. Norton has written and lectured extensively on these and other related Act 13 issues. If you have any questions, please contact Jeff at (717) 237.7192 or any other attorney with whom you have been working at Eckert Seamans.
Pennsylvania details who gets impact-fee money from gas drillers
from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The state Public Utility Commission on Monday detailed how much each town, county and state agency will get from the fees in the next two weeks...
The announcement pleased community leaders who said the money will help them deal with years of stress from the drilling boom. New roads and equipment topped their list for improvements and some are talking about libraries, too...
Lawmakers passed the fee to address local road and sewage wear and tear, housing shortages, and stress on environmental and social programs from the influx of drilling, trucks and people. Drillers must pay a $50,000 fee on horizontal shale wells and $10,000 for vertical wells. About 60 percent of the money goes to local governments, which couldn’t apply property taxes to drilling.
Every county in the state receives at least $25,000. More than 1,450 municipalities get money, the smallest a total of $2.99 going to Haysville.
Click here to view the full article: Pennsylvania details who gets impact-fee money...
Pa. regulators outline future of default service
from SNL Online
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Sept. 27 took another step in its ongoing retail markets investigation, or RMI, releasing for comment a summary document of what the "end state" of the investigation should look like.
The commission voted 4-1 to make the "RMI end state proposal" available for comment and further discussions between staff from the commission's Office of Competitive Market Oversight and RMI stakeholders. Staff will develop a tentative order for consideration by the commission at its Nov. 8 meeting.
Click here to view the full article: Pa. regulators outline future of default service
New Limits Considered in Airwaves
from The New York Times
After years of limiting companies to no more than one-third of the available airwaves in a given territory, the F.C.C. on Friday will begin the rule-making process on whether new technologies require limits to be redrawn, recalibrated or perhaps removed.
The F.C.C.’s decision, which probably will not be final for about a year, will have broad effects on consumers and companies.
Click here to view the full article: New Limits Considered in Airwaves
Federal Judge Dismisses Suits Over Hydrofracking
from the New York Law Journal
A federal judge yesterday dismissed three lawsuits brought against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Delaware River Basin Commission and other federal entities over regulations the commission has yet to issue on extracting natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. Eastern District Judge Nicholas Garaufis (See Profile) found it is premature for the plaintiffs to bring the legal challenges to an action that has yet to occur, if it is going to happen at all. The commission has not moved in two years on hydrofracking regulations it said it was considering in 2010.
The three suits all called on the commission to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it formulates hydrofracking rules in the region around the Delaware River Basin. Garaufis dismissed all three without prejudice. "Plaintiffs appear to believe that, if Defendants are not forced to comply with NEPA now, their interests will be placed at risk immediately. But that is not the case," he wrote. "The courts will be available if and when" the commission "adopts final regulations permitting natural gas development, and are more than capable of preliminarily enjoining any development so that no wastewater is created before the courts have evaluated whether" the defendants "are obligated to follow NEPA in this instance."
Click here to view the full article: Federal Judge Dismisses Suits Over Hydrofracking
Pennsylvania PUC asked to review towns' drilling regulations
from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
New state filings with the state Public Utility Commission show a challenge against Cecil's gas drilling rules, and a second document -- from energy company Range Resources -- questioning the validity of South Fayette's ordinance.
The filings bring the total requests for official ordinance reviews to four. All involve municipalities that are part of a court challenge over the new state drilling law known as Act 13.
The commission has 120 days from the date each request was received to issue an opinion on whether the local rules conflict with state law. If a town's ordinance is deemed unacceptable, it becomes ineligible for receiving a portion of the new impact fee dollars.
Click here to view the full article: Pennsylvania PUC asked to review towns' drilling regulations
Natural-gas firms have paid nearly $200 million under Act 13
from The Philadelphia Inquirer
Natural-gas companies have paid nearly $200 million to Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission to meet the requirements of the impact fee imposed by Act 13.
The PUC released the numbers Monday, 10 days after the deadline for companies to send checks.
When the legislation was being debated, lawmakers came up with an initial estimate of $180 million in revenue. The current tally, however, shows $205.9 million owed and $197.6 million paid.
Click here to view the full article: Natural-gas firms have paid nearly $200 million under Act 13
PUC extends mandates on utilities to save energy
from The Pittsburgh Business Times
After months of “will they or won’t they” for Pennsylvania energy nerds, the state’s Public Utility Commission decided to continue mandating utilities to reduce their energy consumption.
The PUC is extending Act 129 into a second phase — from July 1, 2013, to May 31, 2016.
Four years ago, Act 129 established targets for reducing both overall energy consumption and peak-time demand before May 2013. It also directed the PUC to consider every five years after that whether an extension of the program makes sense.
An evaluation of the program thus far concluded it was both beneficial and cost effective, so the commission decided to order another round ahead of schedule.
Click here to view the full article: PUC extends mandates on utilities to save energy
Carbon dioxide emissions in US drop to 20-year low; officials credit natural gas
from The Patriot News
In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.
Many of the world's leading climate scientists didn't see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.
Click here to view the full article: Carbon dioxide emissions in US drop to 20-year low; officials credit natural gas
Pennsylvania officials to appeal ruling on shale drilling law
from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The fight over who should control zoning rules for Marcellus Shale drilling moved to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday, when state officials announced they were appealing a court decision that thwarted attempts to create statewide zoning.
The anticipated announcement came one day after a panel of Commonwealth Court judges ruled that Pennsylvania can't require municipalities to allow drilling in areas where their local zoning rules would prohibit it.
Click here to view the full article: Pennsylvania officials to appeal ruling on shale drilling law
Natural-gas prices force down number of Marcellus drilling rigs
Drilling in the Marcellus Shale region has slowed substantially this year because of the drop in natural-gas prices, and it is unlikely to resume at the same pace anytime soon.
The number of drill rigs operating in the state is down 29 percent from its peak a year ago, according to Baker Hughes Inc., which tracks the industry nationwide. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the number of Marcellus Shale gas wells drilled in the first quarter declined 18 percent from the same period last year.
The decline in activity comes as no real surprise. Exploration companies have been signaling for more than a year that they planned to shift drilling equipment to areas where more profitable oil and natural-gas liquids are targeted. The warm winter, which reduced demand for natural gas and further depressed prices, only accelerated the exodus.
Click here to view the full article: Natural-gas prices force down number of Marcellus drilling rigs
The Fracking of America
Just a few years ago, the operating assumption of both government and the industry was that the U.S. was running out of recoverable natural gas and would soon be importing large amounts to meet our needs. Shipping terminals to receive liquefied natural gas from abroad needed to be built — and fast.
Now, the industry is talking about a 100-year supply and is building export terminals to ship our liquid natural gas to other countries.
What's changed? In a word, fracking. Though the technology of rock fracturing to access natural gas (and crude oil) from shale formations had been around for decades, it has come a long way in a short time, thanks to public- and private-sector innovation.
Click here to view the full article: The Fracking of America
Senate Move to Reverse Mercury Rule Fails
from The New York Times
A Senate resolution seeking to reverse federal regulations limiting emissions of mercury and other toxic substances from coal-burning power plants failed to win passage on Wednesday. The resolution, introduced by Senator James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, won support from 46 senators; 53 voted against it.
Environmental Protection Agency rules, issued late last year, have been criticized by some utilities, coal producers, Congressional Republicans and other foes as overly broad and potentially harmful to the economy. The Obama administration has defended the new regulations as critical to protecting public health.
Click here to view the full article: Senate Move to Reverse Mercury Rule Fails
America’s New Energy Reality
from The New York Times
AMERICA needs a new political discourse on energy. This would recognize the emerging reality that the United States has turned around as an energy producer and is on a major upswing. And the impact will be measured not just in energy security and the balance of payments. Energy development also turns out to be an engine for job creation and economic growth — something that would hardly have been considered the last time we were electing a president.
Click here to view the full article: America’s New Energy Reality
With Natural Gas Plentiful and Cheap, Carbon Capture Projects Stumble
from The New York Times
A federal proposal to ban the construction of coal-fired power plants that release all of their carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would seem to smooth the way for carbon capture, a budding technology that traps the greenhouse gas for storage or other uses.
But even as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to open hearings on the proposed rule, unveiled in March, industry experts say the persistently low price of natural gas is threatening the viability of the nation’s carbon capture projects.
Natural gas is so cheap and plentiful that utilities have little incentive to build coal-fired plants with the capture technology. And the proposed rule exempts existing coal- and gas-fired plants.
Click here to view the full article: With Natural Gas Plentiful and Cheap, Carbon Capture Projects Stumble
Public Utility Commission adopts shale fee handling guidelines
from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
State regulators charged with collecting and distributing impact fees from natural gas drilling approved guidelines Thursday for managing those dollars.
The Public Utility Commission finalized 19 pages of guidelines for implementing most of its duties under the new Marcellus Shale drilling law, although the rules regarding zoning provisions that are being challenged in the state court system were put on hold.
"We are ramping up accordingly and taking a little bit of a pause because of the pending litigation," PUC chairman Robert Powelson said following a presentation he made this week to township officials in Hershey.
Approval of those rules allows the commission to collect information from local governments so that it can prepare to distribute drilling fee dollars this fall.
Click here to view the full article: Public Utility Commission adopts shale fee handling guidelines
Nation’s aging electrical grid needs billions of dollars in investment, report says
from The Washington Post
A staggering investment is needed in infrastructure that is reaching the end of its life span if the United States is to remain competitive and serve its growing population.
The experts have been saying that for years, and the latest report on an aspect of their concern was released Thursday, when the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) described the nation’s electrical grid as a patchwork system that ultimately will break down unless $673 billion is invested in it by 2020.
If investment isn’t increased by at least $11 billion a year, the report said, the electrical service interruptions between now and 2020 will cost $197 billion.
Click here to view the full article: Nation’s aging electrical grid needs billions of dollars in investment, report says
Questions raised about Pa. drilling law injunction
from Bloomberg BusinessWeek
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission wants answers from a court before it moves forward with its role in carrying out Pennsylvania's new law regulating the rapid growth of natural gas exploration.
The utility commission said Thursday that it's seeking an explanation about the scope of a Commonwealth Court judge's injunction in a lawsuit challenging a portion of the law.
Click here to view the full article: Questions raised about Pa. drilling law injunction
Landline rules frustrate telecoms
from The Washington Post
More than 130 years after the first residential phone line was installed, telecom companies are pressing to be freed from the obligation of providing low-cost fixed-line telephone service to homes, a move critics say will leave Americans with less reliable or more expensive options.
Four states have passed laws that release the telephone companies from this requirement, as consumers flock to mobile phone and Internet devices. Several other state governments, facing vigorous lobbying by phone companies, are considering similar measures.
Click here to view the full article: Landline rules frustrate telecoms
Judge halts zoning limits in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale drilling law
from The Patriot-News
A state judge is ordering a temporary halt to portions of Pennsylvania's new Marcellus Shale law that limit the power of municipalities to regulate the booming natural gas exploration industry.
Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Keith Quigley issued a 120-day injunction Wednesday after hearing arguments earlier in the day.
The eight-week-old law's local-zoning provisions were scheduled to take effect Saturday.
Click here to view the full article: Judge halts zoning limits in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale drilling law
New Limit Pending on Emissions
from The New York TImes
After months of delay, the Obama administration is about to unveil the first federal standards to explicitly limit greenhouse-gas emissions from new electric power plants — one of the chief sources of carbon dioxide emissions linked to climate change.
According to people briefed by the Environmental Protection Agency, all existing plants — including the 300 or so coal-fired power plants that now release the highest level of these emissions and yet-to-be-built plants that have already received E.P.A. permits — will be grandfathered in at current levels, meaning they are exempt from the new proposed rule.
Under the new rule, expected to be announced this week, new power plants will have to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy produced. That standard permits the level of emissions achieved by natural gas-fired plants of the type generally built in the last few years, but would be too strict for almost all coal-fired power plants if they were not exempted. A new natural gas plant produces a little less than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. A coal plant produces about 1,800 pounds.
Click here to view the full article: New Limit Pending on Emissions
Marcellus Shale development puts state on map internationally
from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's safe to say the natural gas rush in Pennsylvania is crossing the oceans.
Foreign firms and governments have expressed interest -- or offered investment -- nearly since the first Marcellus Shale rigs went up in 2006, but a stronger worldwide economy and new extraction technology has accelerated the trend in recent years. Major multinational firms like Chevron and Shell Oil have added Pennsylvania acreage to portfolios that include countries on nearly every continent.
The effect can be seen on a more local level as well. Land across Pennsylvania often has multiple owners, including major firms from Norway and India. Foreign firms already home to Pennsylvania are strategizing on how to get in on the game.
Click here to read the full article: Marcellus Shale development puts state on map internationally
Record fine for alleged manipulation of electricity market
from The Morning Call
A major participant in the mid-Atlantic region's electricity market has agreed to pay a record fine to settle allegations of market manipulation.
Baltimore's Constellation Energy Group will pay $245 million, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission disclosed this week. Some of the settlement money will end up benefiting Pennsylvania consumers because the alleged wrongdoing indirectly affected PJM Interconnection, the organization that manages the region's electricity market.
The regulatory commission began investigating the company in early 2008 after receiving two anonymous tips on its whistle-blower hotline.
Click here to view the full article: Record fine for alleged manipulation of electricity market
Judge’s Ruling Complicates Hydrofracking Issue in New York
from The New York Times
A state judge’s decision this week supporting the rights of individual towns to determine whether to allow hydraulic fracturing has added a new wrinkle to the fight over the natural gas drilling process in New York.
Parties on all sides are trying to figure out what the ruling will mean, but a consensus emerged on Wednesday that there will be further court challenges and delays over when, how and where the process, known as hydrofracking, will be allowed in the state, and by whom.
Click here to view the full article: Judge’s Ruling Complicates Hydrofracking Issue in New York
Corbett signs shale impact fee bill
from the Central Penn Business Journal
Gov. Tom Corbett has signed the Marcellus Shale impact fee into law, which gives municipalities in the shale gas region the ability to impose fees on drillers and increases environmental standards on the industry.
If all eligible counties enact impact fees, gas exploration companies would pay $180 million this year, with more than 60 percent of the revenue going to local governments, according to the Corbett administration. It said it expects fee revenue to reach $211 million in 2013 and $264 million in 2014.
Click here to view the full article: Corbett signs shale impact fee bill
Shale bill heads to governor
from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A sweeping overhaul of the state's gas-drilling regulations, including restrictions on local zoning rules and a new fee on those companies, now awaits Gov. Tom Corbett's signature.
The 174-page bill, which cleared the General Assembly on Wednesday, is the result of years of debate over how much money Marcellus Shale drillers should be required to pay in exchange for extracting the lucrative Pennsylvania resource.
It's not the severance tax sought by Democrats and opposed by the Republican governor. Nor will the impact fee strictly benefit the counties where drilling occurs, as some Republicans preferred.
Instead the final plan is a hybrid of several approaches, under which counties decide whether to impose the fee, a state agency collects the dollars, and a bevy of agencies and programs benefits from the revenue.
Click here to view the full article: Shale bill heads to governor
2012 Could Be a 'Lost Year' for Solar Energy
from U.S. News & World Report
Over the past several years, the cost of solar has plummeted in the United States, and the industry has grown by about 65 percent annually over the past five years. That could stop in 2012... If a preliminary tariff [on Chinese imports] is levied, something that could happen in a matter of weeks, U.S. companies who bought solar panels from China would have to put money into escrow until a final decision is made later this year. That means some companies will stop taking on new customers.
[Kevin Lapidus, senior vice president of legal and government affairs at Sun Edison, a major U.S. solar provider, is pessimistic]. "Even the threat of the tariff kills solar energy for 2012," he says. "2012 is a lost year."
Click here to view the full article: 2012 Could Be a 'Lost Year' for Solar Energy
Energy Tax Breaks Proposed, Despite Waning Support for Subsidies
from The New York Times
Assisted by technological innovation and years of subsidies, the cost of wind and solar power has fallen sharply — so much so that the two industries say that they can sometimes deliver cleaner electricity at prices competitive with power made from fossil fuels.
At the same time, wind and solar companies are telling Congress that they cannot be truly competitive and keep creating jobs without a few more years of government support.
Their efforts received a boost on Thursday from President Obama, who called for a package of tax credits for renewable power as part of a broader energy plan that he outlined while on a campaign swing through Nevada and Colorado.
But the lobbying by the wind and solar industries comes at a time when there is little enthusiasm for alternative-energy subsidies in Washington.
Click here to view the full article: Energy Tax Breaks Proposed, Despite Waning Support for Subsidies
Electricity Declines 50% as Shale Spurs Natural Gas Glut: Energy
A shale-driven glut of natural gas has cut electricity prices for the U.S. power industry by 50 percent and reduced investment in costlier sources of energy.
With abundant new supplies of gas making it the cheapest option for new power generation, the largest U.S. wind-energy producer, NextEra Energy Inc., has shelved plans for new U.S. wind projects next year and Exelon Corp. called off plans to expand two nuclear plants. Michigan utility CMS Energy Corp. canceled a $2 billion coal plant after deciding it wasn’t financially viable in a time of “low natural-gas prices linked to expanded shale-gas supplies,” according to a company statement.
Mirroring the gas market, wholesale electricity prices have dropped more than 50 percent on average since 2008, and about 10 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a Jan. 11 research report by Aneesh Prabhu, a New York-based credit analyst with Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC. Prices in the west hub of PJM Interconnection LLC, the largest wholesale market in the U.S., declined to about $39 per megawatt hour by December 2011 from $87 in the first quarter of 2008.
Click here to view the full article: Electricity Declines 50% as Shale Spurs Natural Gas Glut
Energy plays key role in Obama's State of the Union
from CNN Money
For the third year in a row energy played a central role in President Obama's State of the Union address, with the president leaning hard this year on the twin themes of increased domestic oil and gas production and the need to invest more in renewable sources...
Obama has indeed presided over a boom in domestic energy production since taking office...
On the renewable energy front, the president called for greater investment in technologies like wind and solar.
Click here to view the full article: Energy plays key role in Obama's State of the Union
Delmarva Power to Receive 38 Megawatts of Pa. Wind Power
from WBOC 16
Pepco Holdings, Inc. on Monday announced that its Delmarva Power subsidiary will receive 38 megawatts of wind energy from the recently finished Chestnut Flats wind farm in south-central Pennsylvania.
Pepco said it has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with the owner of the wind farm as part of its renewable energy portfolio for meeting Delaware's clean energy goals, which require Delmarva Power to supply 25 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2025.
Click here to view the full article: Delmarva Power to Receive 38 Megawatts of Pa. Wind Power
A Judge Rules Vermont Can’t Shut Nuclear Plant
from The New York Times
A federal judge on Thursday blocked Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor to shut down when its license expires in March, saying that the state is trying to regulate nuclear safety, which only the federal government can do.
The judge, J. Garvan Murtha of United States District Court in Brattleboro, Vt., also held that the state cannot force the plant’s owner, Entergy, to sell electricity from the reactor to in-state utilities at reduced rates as a condition of continued operation, as Entergy asserts it is now doing.
The nuclear operator filed a lawsuit last year challenging the constitutionality of a state law giving the Vermont Legislature veto power over operation of the reactor when its original 40-year license expires.
Click here to view the full article: A Judge Rules Vermont Can’t Shut Nuclear Plant
KKR’s TXU Buyout Facing 91% Odds of Default: Corporate Finance
The bond market has never been more pessimistic on the chances of KKR & Co. and TPG Capital being able to salvage the biggest leveraged buyout in history -- the $43.2 billion purchase in 2007 of the electricity provider known then as TXU Corp.
Since the private equity firms bought the Dallas-based company, now known as Energy Future Holdings Corp., with $45 billion in debt financing, natural gas prices have tumbled 50 percent as a process for extracting the fuel from shale called fracking rises in popularity. That has cut electricity prices in half as well.
Less than a year after extending the maturities on more than $17.8 billion of debt, credit-default swaps traders are pricing in a 91 percent chance that the company will fail to meet its obligations in the next three years. Its debt securities yield about 21 percent on average, up from 15 percent when the refinancing was announced in April.
Click here to view the full article: KKR’s TXU Buyout Facing 91% Odds of Default: Corporate Finance
Natural gas surplus and weather drive prices down to 2-year low
from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A natural gas surplus and warmer-than-normal weather have pushed the price of the heating fuel to the lowest level in more than two years.
Natural gas plunged 13 percent last week on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the biggest decline since August 2009, after forecasts showed above-average temperatures through January. Stockpiles in the week ended Jan. 6 stood at 3.377 trillion cubic feet, 17 percent above the five-year average, the U.S. Energy Department reported on Wednesday.
Click here to view the full article: Natural gas surplus and weather drive prices down to 2-year low
PPL Corp. may build 7-mile power line despite environmental concerns, court rules
from The Express Times
A state court has ruled that PPL Corp. may proceed with plans to build a 7-mile power line through wooded lands in portions of Lehigh and Bucks counties.
Springfield Township has been fighting the project since 2008, arguing the high-voltage lines will pass through sensitive forests and wildlife habitats as well as run over protected wetlands and streams.
But a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel on Friday rejected the township's arguments, claiming the power company has committed to substantial steps to mitigate any adverse effects.
Click here to view the full article: PPL Corp. may build 7-mile power line despite environmental concerns, court rules
New law paves way for more pipeline inspectors
from The Times Tribune
A still undetermined number of safety inspectors will work out of Scranton as a state agency expands its regulatory oversight to include the thousands of miles of gathering gas pipeline in the Marcellus Shale region of Northeast and Western Pennsylvania.
The Public Utility Commission is moving on several fronts to exercise the authority granted it under a state law signed two weeks ago by Gov. Tom Corbett. Two Northeast region lawmakers, Rep. Matt Baker, R-68, Wellsboro, and Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., authored the law, which transfers inspection duties from the federal government to the PUC.
In addition to safety inspections, the PUC will respond to complaints, assess fees on pipeline owners to help pay for the oversight program and levy fines for violations as part of its enforcement of federal pipeline siting and construction standards.
Click here to view the full article: New law paves way for more pipeline inspectors
Click here to view the Eckert Seamans' Energy Alert regarding the New Pipeline Safety Law
Conn. abandons hands-off stance on utility deal
from The Boston Globe
Connecticut regulators, yielding to the state's top consumer advocate, announced Wednesday they have abandoned their hands-off stance to Northeast Utilities' proposed $4.72 billion purchase of a Massachusetts power company.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said the Office of Consumer Counsel raised new issues last month, expressing concerns that executive leadership changes following the merger with the Boston-based NStar will make the revamped Northeast Utilities less able to solve local problems.
Regulators will consider whether their June 1 decision to not review the deal should be reversed or altered.
Click here to view the full article: Conn. abandons hands-off stance on utility deal
Ohio Quake Spurs Action on 5 Wells, Won’t Stop Oil and Gas Work
A New Year’s Eve earthquake in Youngstown, Ohio, that prompted the state to stop or delay operations at five wells for disposing of wastewater from oil and natural-gas extraction won’t affect production.
State Representative Robert F. Hagan, a Democrat who represents Youngstown, is calling for a moratorium on all hydraulic fracturing and injection-well activity “until we can conclude it’s safe.” The wastewater is a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, used to unlock fossil fuel deposits.
Governor John Kasich and the Ohio (STOOH1) Department of Natural Resources consider the earthquake and others like it to be isolated occurrences and will continue using the state’s other 177 disposal wells without interrupting shale-gas development that may produce thousands of jobs, said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich.
“We are not going to stand by and let someone drive a stake through the heart of what could be an economic revival in Eastern Ohio,” Nichols said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Click here to view the full article: Ohio Quake Spurs Action on 5 Wells, Won’t Stop Oil and Gas Work
The Eckert Seamans Utilities Law Blog is intended to keep readers current on matters affecting utilities law and is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any questions about this blog or any other issues relating to utilities law, please contact department chairs Dan Clearfield at 717.237.7173, Charlie Zdebski at 202.659.6605 or blog editor Ed Lanza at 717.237.7162.
© Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.
Back to Top