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Briefs -- Halliburton-Baker Merger, Pennsylvania Regulations, BLM Lease Sale, CPUC, Warren Resources, Quicksilver

The European Union (EU) has extended a deadline for Halliburton Co. to secure a "remedies package" of asset sales to assuage competition concerns about its takeover of Baker Hughes Inc. The EU's regulatory arm, the European Commission, cited "serious" antitrust concerns in more than 30 product and services lines of the two Houston operators (see Daily GPIJan. 13). The EU extended the deadline to review the merger by 20 days to June 23. "Halliburton believes the extension will facilitate the commission's review of a remedies package, which will be formally offered by the company in the near future in order to address the commission’s concerns," a spokeswoman for Halliburton said. It presented an updated package of asset sales to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), but it has not disclosed which properties it plans to divest. The DOJ has an April 30 deadline for its review. Halliburton would have to pay Baker a breakup fee of $3.5 billion if the bid is dropped.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has passed by a vote of 15-4 a package of oil and natural gas drilling regulations. The independent board adopts and reviews environmental regulations written by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which worked on the revisions for more than four years. The package includes, among other things, changes for well sites, protection of water resources and public resources, and they address health, safety, data management and landowner concerns. DEP had sent the rulemaking, which includes separate regulations for the conventional and unconventional industries, to the EQB in January (see Shale DailyJan. 6). The package will now be sent to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and the state House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committees for review. The DEP expects the rules to be enacted later this year.

A severe snowstorm caused the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to cancel a scheduled oil/gas lease sale Tuesday, and the environmental groups' "Keep It in the Ground" campaign canceled its protest rally at the Cheyenne, WY, event. Since last November, BLM has canceled three sales, the most recent coming last month in Montana (see Daily GPI, Jan 19). Increasingly, activists for the anti-leasing campaign show up to protest the auctions, and BLM officials have been scrambling to find larger places in which to hold the sales. After deferring 35 parcels from the sale, BLM said late last year that there would be 82 parcels totaling 82,118 acres offered. The sale will be rescheduled BLM officials said.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a report on Monday that said a third party caused the damage, rupture and resulting fatal fire in Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s(PG&E) 12-inch diameter natural gas transmission pipeline (Line 118B) near Fresno, CA, last April. The CPUC report from its safety and enforcement division mirrors conclusions from PG&E-sponsored reports by separate third-party engineering/metallurgical consulting firms (see Daily GPI,July 10, 2015). The state regulatory staff looked at the April 17, 2015 incident in which a transmission pipeline was ruptured by a front-end loader operated by a Fresno County employee. CPUC staff said the Fresno County Sheriff's Department's failure to follow Underground Service Alert's (USA) One-Call program "was a contributing factor to the incident."

Warren Resources Inc. has decided not to make a $7.5 million semi-annual interest payment that was due Monday on its 9% senior unsecured notes. The company said it has sufficient liquidity to pay the $300 million notes, of which $167.3 million is outstanding and due by 2022, but is restructuring its balance sheet. Failure to pay the interest does not result in default, Warren said, but if the payment is not made within 30 days the company would default. In that event, Warren would also default under its first and second lien credit facilities. The company has hired Jefferies LLC as a financial adviser to help with the balance sheet restructuring.

On Wednesday the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware approved the sale of Quicksilver Resources Inc.'s U.S. oil/gas assets for $245 million to Tulsa-based private equity firm BlueStone Natural Resources II (see Shale Daily, Jan. 25). The sale was consummated in a bankruptcy court-approved auction that Quicksilver held earlier this month. The sale included U.S. oil and natural gas assets located primarily in the Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth Basin of North Texas, as well as assets in the Delaware Basin in West Texas that are concentrated in Pecos County, TX, and to a lesser extent Crockett and Upton counties. Quicksilver's Canadian assets are not part of the bankruptcy and will be sold separately, the company said.

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