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The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) Information Technology Modernization Program is further streamlining the process for drilling permits. Expedited permit processing was reduced from a peak of 30 days experienced with a surge in industry activity last spring to a one-day processing rate in November. RRC said it has made upgrades to hardware, software and refinements to internal processes for analyzing drilling permit applications. Software improvements also allow for quicker identification and processing of vertical drilling permits, the agency said. The enhancements also provide drilling permit managers with reports that pinpoint how long processing times are for various vertical, horizontal and directional drilling permit applications. In November, more than 50% of drilling permits were processed within one to three days, compared to about 9% of the permits processed within one to three days last spring. Further enhancements are forthcoming to the drilling permit application systems, including allowing operators to look up online special field rules for horizontal wells and to view a proposed well location immediately in the commission's Public GIS Viewer by collecting coordinates on the wells in the drilling permit application.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) lowered part of Southwest Gas Corp.'s rates dealing with energy efficiency, resulting in a $11.5 million refund to the Las Vegas, NV-based natural gas utility's Arizona customers. The average return to Southwest's residential customers will total about $6.64 annually. The ACC approved lowering the per-therm rate of the gas utility's energy efficiency enabling provision. The de-coupling mechanism that buffers the utility's revenues from various energy-saving programs has worked as planned, allowing utilities to keep their revenues and retail prices for customers stable, according to ACC Chairman Bob Stump.

Cheniere Energy Inc. has engaged 18 financial institutions to act as joint arrangers to assist in the structuring of up to $11.5 billion of debt facilities with proceeds to be used to pay for the Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project in Texas and for general business purposes.  As previously disclosed, estimated capital costs for the proposed liquefaction project of $11.5 billion to $12.0 billion, before financing and pipeline facilities, are expected to be funded from a combination of debt and equity. The arrangers are Bank of America, BNP Paribas Securities, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, ING Capital, Intesa Sanpaolo, JPMorgan Chase, Lloyds Bank, Mizuho Bank, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, The Bank of Nova Scotia, Société Générale, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Standard Chartered Bank, and The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. "We have now received the equity and debt commitments needed to support the financing of the Corpus Christi Liquefaction Project," said Cheniere CEO Charif Souki.  "We are continuing to make progress on our Corpus Christi liquefaction project and expect to commence construction in early 2015 [see Daily GPIOct. 8]."

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