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Complaints about natural gas and electric public utilities in the state of Washington during 2014were the highest among industries regulated by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), it reported. Consumers filed 535 complaints against gas and electric utilities out of a total of 1,205, which resulted in $160,000 in utility bill credits and refunds as a result. The complaints resulted in about $28,000 of bill credits and refunds. Complaints against telephone utilities were close behind (526) and resulted in the largest refunds and credits ($127,800).

Wyoming has intervened in a pending lawsuit seeking to halt the leasing of all U.S. coal reserves on federal lands, Gov. Matt Mead said. The legal action brought by the Western Organization of Resources Councils to stop coal leasing until the Bureau of Land Management updates a 1979 environmental analysis of regional leasing programs. Mead said BLM has not used the targeted program for decades and the state and federal officials "comprehensively review the environmental impacts of every individual coal lease through a multi-year process." The state's filing argued that BLM should not be obligated to update an analysis of a program that it no longer uses.

Completion of Williams Partners' expanded Geismar Olefins plant in Louisiana has been pushed back again, with the facility now expected to begin manufacturing ethylene for sale some time this month after experiencing an unexpected delay in the final stages of commissioning, the company said Tuesday. The plant was taken down from its final ramp-up procedure after it was determined that a brazed aluminum heat exchanger became plugged, requiring cleaning and maintenance. This additional and unanticipated work is complete, and the plant will be turned back over to operations today to resume start-up. Capacity at the expanded Geismar plant is 1.95 billion pounds of ethylene per year. Williams Partners' share of the total capacity of the expanded plant is about 1.7 billion pounds per year (see Daily GPIDec. 31, 2014).

The Rover Pipeline LLC project has contracted for firm capacity on Vector Pipeline to deliver gas to Michigan and the Union Gas Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada. The arrangement continues to allow Rover to offer seamless transportation service to shippers from the Marcellus and Utica production areas to markets in the Midwest, Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions of the United States, and to the Union Gas Dawn Hub. The Vector capacity eliminates the need for Rover to build through Michigan's Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, Oakland St. Clair and Macomb counties. Rover will eliminate 110 miles of pipeline through Michigan and will eliminate the Canadian portion entirely, the company said. Rover still is planned to transport 3.25 Bcf/d with up to 1.3 Bcf/d being transported into Michigan and/or Canada. Plans are under way to make the necessary modifications to the proposed project route and to file the final alignment with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in mid-February. Pending regulatory approval, Rover is still expected to be in service from the production areas to the Midwest Hub near Defiance, OH, by the end of 2016, and from the Midwest Hub to markets in Michigan and the Union Gas Dawn Hub by mid-2017.

Chevron Corp. has put more than 17,000 gross acres up for sale in three central Pennsylvania counties, according to a post on the online auction service EnergyNet. Chevron has opened 12,059 gross acres of its Juniata Field in Bedford, Blair and Cambria counties to bids. Those properties currently produce 2.2 MMcf/d and 7,650 gross acres are held by production. The company is also marketing its Smithmyer Field in Cambria County, where it has 5,072 gross acres open to bids, of which 1,600 acres are held by production. The area is removed from Marcellus Shale hot spots in the northeast and southwest part of the state. Last month, the company confirmed that it planned to lay off 162 employees in Pennsylvania to prepare for a reduction in activity there (see Shale DailyJan. 23Nov. 13, 2014). EnergyNet said the two land packages in Pennsylvania are part of 12 that Chevron will eventually offer on the site. Bids are due Feb. 18.

The Pennsylvania State Senate has unanimously passed two bills that would give landowners more transparency and protection when making inquiries about their lease agreements. Both SB 147 and SB 148 passed 49-0. The bills require oil and gas companies to pay royalties within 90 days from the start of production. They would also prevent operators from terminating a lease agreement or ceasing development if a landowner questions the accuracy of royalty payments (see Shale DailyJan. 22). Both bills passed the Senate by wide margins last year but stalled in the state House of Representatives. The House Environmental Resource and Energy Committee will now review both pieces of legislation.

Blue Racer Midstream LLC has suspended plans to build a $70 million natural gas processing plant in Northeast Ohio. Blue Racer COO Scott Williams told a crowd gathered for a recent industry conference in Pittsburgh that although the plant is not entirely out of the question, falling commodity prices and lackluster results in the Utica Shale's northern tier prompted the decision. Numerous operators, including BP America and Halcon Resources Corp. have stopped drilling in the Utica's northern tier (see Shale DailyJune 27, 2014). Blue Racer's plans for the plant had been tentative since it announced the idea in 2012. Only one other processing facility, Pennant Midstream LLC's Hickory Bend Processing Plant, serves the area's remaining operators at a location outside Youngstown, OH, near where Blue Racer had proposed their facility (see Shale DailyJan. 6, 2014) .

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office for Montana and the Dakotas completed an oil and natural gas lease auction for properties on federal lands in North Dakota, netting nearly $4.3 million. BLM said that seven leases were sold totaling 1,742 acres. That was a sharp drop off from a similar BLM auction a year earlier that garnered $17.5 million from the sale of 40 parcels totaling 2,261 acres. Billings, MT-based Herco LLC submitted the highest per-acre bid, offering $13,750 for a 233-acre parcel in Dunn County, ND. A year earlier, the high bid was $34,000/acre. The BLM oil/gas leases are awarded for 10 years and remain in effect as long as oil or gas production continues. The next lease sale is scheduled for May 6 in Billings, MT.

Stranded Oil Resources Corp. (SORC), a subsidiary of Alleghany Capital Corp., has acquired 9,000 acres of the historic Teapot Dome Oilfield in central Wyoming, known officially as Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 3 (NPR-3) from the U.S. Department of Energy for $45.2 million. The oilfield, consisting of 9,481 acres north of Casper, WY, was set aside as a naval oil reserve in 1915, and is best known for its connection to a scandal that rocked the Harding administration, and eventually shut Teapot down, in the 1920s. Apart from some exploratory and offset wells drilled in the 1950s and 1960s, the oilfield was essentially closed until full development resumed in 1976; in 1993 it became the home of DOE's Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center. The sale is the culmination of a competitive bidding process that closed in October. The remaining surface acreage of NPR-3 is scheduled to be transferred in May. SORC said adding NPR-3 to its portfolio is part of its core strategy of acquiring and redeveloping mature oil fields.

In its final two meetings before gathering late in February to make final recommendations, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's 21-member statewide task force examining local control issues surrounding oil and natural gas development will meet twice this week in Denver. The meetings come in the wake of the City of Erie last week rejecting a proposal to reimpose a moratorium on drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, and instead pursuing renegotiated agreements with the two major operators within the city jurisdiction -- Encana Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.(see Shale DailyJan. 27). The two-day task force agenda calls for reviewing draft proposals and to begin drafting proposed recommendations. Speculation among stakeholders is that the task force will be hard-pressed to come up with consensus or clear-majority recommendations (see Shale DailyJan. 23).

Russia's OAO Gazprom Monday prevailed in a Texas court case brought by Moncrief Oil International, which had alleged that Gazprom backed out of a deal to develop a gas field in Siberia and stole Moncrief company secrets. Moncrief dropped its US$1.37 billion lawsuit against Gazprom with prejudice, according to Baker Botts LLP, which represented Gazprom. The law firm said it proved that Moncrief had presented fabricated evidence against Gazprom. "The dismissal of this case during trial puts an end to years of litigation by Moncrief Oil International over alleged trade secrets and supposed interference with its business, none of which had merit," said Michael Calhoon, a trial partner with Baker Botts. The trial in Fort Worth was the third attempt by Moncrief to win damages after earlier attempts in 2007 before a Texas federal court and in 2010 in Germany were both dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. 

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