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Alliant Energy's Iowa utility has accepted a proposed decision and order issued by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) for the 600 MW Marshalltown Generating Station (MGS). Assuming regulatory approval, the natural gas-fired plant would be built in central Iowa beginning next year with operations expected to begin in 2017. The IUB approved construction of the plant and included a cost cap of $920 million, and allowed Iowa Power and Light (IPL) to recover in rates the actual cost of the facility. The IUB approved pipeline construction to deliver natural gas to the facility. Construction of the combined-cycle plant is part of IPL's long-term energy resources strategy, which was unveiled in August 2012. Alliant said earlier this month it is conducting a feasibility study of resource options to address future customer energy and capacity needs in Wisconsin; options include conversion of an existing gas-fired facility from simple-cycle to combined cycle or the construction of a new facility. Alliant's Wisconsin Power and Light has said it may replace 270 MW of coal-fired electric generation with natural gas-fired units (see Daily GPI, April 24).

Enterprise Products Partners LP's eighth natural gas liquids (NGL) fractionator at its Mont Belvieu, TX, complex is now operational. The new unit has the capability to fractionate up to 85,000 b/d and increases Enterprise's NGL fractionation capacity at Mont Belvieu to 655,000 b/d. The fractionator will accommodate increasing NGL production from domestic shale plays, including the Eagle Ford in South Texas and other basins in the Rocky Mountain and Midcontinent regions. Rising NGL production from the shale plays continues to provide a low-cost feedstock advantage for the global petrochemical industry, which currently favors natural gas-derived feedstocks over more expensive crude oil-based derivatives. The partnership's seventh Mont Belvieu fractionator entered service about two months ago. Fractionators seven and eight were constructed as part of a joint venture with Western Gas Partners LP, an affiliate of Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

FERC's Office of Enforcement (OE) said Thursday it raked in $304 million in civil penalties and almost $141 million in unjust profits that included the largest penalty ever assessed by the agency in settlements during the current fiscal year. OE's focus during 2013 has been on fraud and market manipulation, which "present a significant risk to the markets overseen by the Commission," said an OE staffer during the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's regular monthly meeting. She said at least half of the investigations opened by enforcement in the past year involved market manipulation. Enforcement's other priorities have included "serious violations of the reliability standards, anticompetitive conduct and conduct that threatens the transparency of regulated markets. Enforcement does not intend to change these priorities in fiscal year 2014," staff said in its "2013 Report on Enforcement."

Ford Motor Co. has begun production of 2014 model F-150 pickup trucks capable of running on compressed natural gas (CNG) with a "gaseous-fuel prep option" on 3.7-liter V-6 engines in the F-150 model. Ford said that by summer it will offer eight models capable of running on natural gas or propane (LPG). It also claims it is on track to sell more than 15,000 of the vehicles this year. Third-party firms that are designated as "Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers" will provide a variety of CNG options for customers to "find the most cost-effective solution to their diverse operating needs," Ford said, adding that nearly 20 states now offer, or soon will offer, tax incentives or rebates for CNG-converted vehicles.

Eight coal units at three plant sites with combined generating capacity of 3,000 MW-plus are being retired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to diversify the generating mix and keep pace with "changing economic and regulatory conditions," TVA's board of directors said last week. The corporate U.S. agency, which serves nine million people in parts of seven southeastern states, has to respond "immediately to challenging trends in lower power demand, a slow economy, uncertainty in commodity pricing, and tougher environmental requirements, particularly on air emissions, CEO Bill Johnson said. "This will support our focus on cleaner energy and bring additional, necessary balance into our portfolio for managing our current and projected load profile," Johnson told the board last Thursday.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s (PG&E) natural gas system received some positive feedback from federal and state regulators Monday, including the approval to boost the operating pressure on a controversial 3.8-mile transmission pipeline lateral on the San Francisco Peninsula south of the city. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) notified the combination utility to verify that PG&E has completed two more of about a dozen recommendations made two years ago by NTSB in its final report (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31, 2011) on the San Bruno, CA, transmission pipeline rupture and explosion in September 2010. NTSB confirmed that PG&E completed recommendations for upgrading its pipeline integrity management program (IMP) and completed a "threat assessment review" of the transmission pipeline system using revised methodology embedded in its new IMP.

California regulators have approved Southern California Gas Co.'s (SoCalGas) plans to enhance the state's largest underground storage facility, with a $200.9 million project that was originally outlined nearly five years ago (see Daily GPI, May 29). It is part of a larger storage expansion by the nation's largest gas distributor. As part of a consent agenda that was not discussed but approved 4-0 with one member abstaining, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a compressor replacement project at the 100 Bcf capacity Aliso Canyon complex in the Santa Susana Mountains, about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The CPUC approval allows SoCalGas to live up to terms of a settlement with residential homeowners in Porter Ranch that addresses safe operation of the underground storage facility in what is designated as a high fire risk area. It enables the Sempra gas-only utility to make "commercially reasonable efforts to replace obsolete compressors as a means of expanding Aliso Canyon's capacity."

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