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Protect Colorado, an industry-backed citizens campaign against two proposed statewide oil/natural gas drilling local control ballot measures (Initiatives 88 and 89), has launched a website urging voters to reject the measures. The measures, backed by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), follow an abandoned move for a legislative compromise on the issue (see Shale DailyJuly 17). The website is aimed at fighting "arbitrary and unnecessary" ballot measures that jeopardize private property rights and could hurt the state's economy. Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) oppose the initiatives.

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) is taking comments until Aug. 25 on proposed changes to Form T-4 that operators of natural gas, crude oil, carbon dioxide and other pipelines must submit to the commission indicating whether a pipeline is to be operated as a gas utility, common carrier, or as a private pipeline. Texas law generally grants condemnation power to operators of gas utility and common carrier pipelines but not to operators of private pipelines. Recent condemnation cases in Texas, including Texas Rice Land Partners Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas LLC, determined that RRC approval of a Form T-4 does not conclusively determine a pipeline's classification, according to an analysis by law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP (V&E). Amendments recommended by RRC staff to Section 3.70 of Title 16 of the Texas Administrative Code would create a procedure to more thoroughly analyze Form T-4 applications for new pipelines and for changes in classifying existing pipelines. "Pipeline operators as well as producers should take notice of the proposed rule amendments and closely monitor the potential effects a final rule may have on pipeline infrastructure development, including the pace in which such development may take place in the future and the effects the commission's more structured analysis may have on the condemnation process in Texas," V&E said.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) is recommending a $7.8 million (4.8%) increase in retail natural gas rates for Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities, less than the combination utility had requested. The company's original request was for an increase of $12.1 million, or 8.1%. UTC staff is recommending a retail utility electric rate decrease of $8.2 million, or 1.7%, compared with Avista's request for $18.2 million, or 3.8%. Public hearings are scheduled for Aug. 26 and 27, with a UTC decision late this year with the new rates effective Jan. 1.

Piedmont Natural Gas will solicit bids for asset management services and gas supply to begin Nov. 1 for its North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee operations. The Charlotte, NC-based utility has a total system throughput of more than 250 Bcf/year, with firm transportation contracts on Columbia Gas TransmissionColumbia Gulf TransmissionDominion TransmissionEast Tennessee Natural Gas Pipeline,Midwestern Gas TransmissionTexas Eastern TransmissionTennessee Gas Pipeline and Transcontinental Gas Pipeline. The company will be seeking asset management services, seasonal and year round supply for contract terms yet to be determined. To receive a copy of the request for proposals when posted, contact Keith Maust, (704) 731-4901, or Sarah Stabley, (704) 731-4907.

When the National Conference of Weights & Measures (NCWM) met earlier this month, it failed to recommend the continued use of gallon-equivalent measurements to use liquefied natural gas (LNG), as a transport fuel, prompting concern by the American Gas Association (AGA), congressional members and other stakeholders. AGA said Tuesday NCWM continues to require that compressed natural gas be sold as a transportation fuel in gasoline gallon-equivalent (GGE) units, but there is no standard in effect for LNG. Last Wednesday, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) at its summer meetings passed a resolution supporting state regulatory efforts to expand the use of natural gas vehicles (NGV) by supporting the GGE standards as the official measurement (see Daily GPIJuly 21). According to AGA statistics, LNG transportation fueling has grown 153% since 2009 because the fuel for heavy-duty transportation is more affordable and "cleaner" than diesel, a spokeswoman said. "On an energy-equivalent basis, LNG is 26% cheaper than diesel and produces 20% fewer tailpipe emissions."

A group backed by Chinese investors is considering developing a large methanol production and export facility at Shoal Point in Texas City, TX, in Galveston County. Fund Connell USA Energy and Chemical Investment Corp. has begun engineering pre-design and feasibility studies for the project and said it expects to make a final investment decision during the second quarter of 2015. "The abundant sources of natural gas in the Gulf Coast region and the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016 make this location attractive for the production and exporting of methanol in large quantities as feedstock for the growing petrochemical production capacity in China," said Zhang Jun, chairman of Sinolife Insurance Co., one of the backers of the project along with the Connell Group. If constructed, the plant at full capacity could produce up to 7.2 million tons of methanol annually for export to China in what backers said would be a new fleet of Post Panamax class tankers. Investment in the facility could be as much as $4.5 billion.

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