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Briefs -- Xcel, CA Energy Commission, AGA, CFTC, BLM, Alaska

Xcel Energy said in a filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that residential and small business customers could see lower natural gas utility bills beginning July 1 from a combination of lower wholesale commodity prices and less usage. Xcel is proposing prices of 34.2 cents/th for residential customers and 33.8 cents/th for small businesses, resulting in monthly bill decreases of $4.48 and $21.50 respectively. The Minnesota-based combination utility's Public Service Company of Colorado said the rates year/year should reduce a typical residential bill by 18%, with small business gas bills cut by about 22%.

Predictions of gasoline and diesel pump price spikes have not materialized as an offshoot of including transportation fuel suppliers in California's cap-and-trade program, according to an analysis by theCalifornia Energy Commission (CEC), which found the impact has added about 10 cents/gallon. The program generated slightly less than $1 billion in revenues at the end of 2014 and is expected to eventually provide more than $2 billion a year, with proceeds earmarked on cutting carbon emissions. University of California-based energy researchers are tracking two things: how much the program has driven down greenhouse gas emissions, which have gone down since 2013 when the program started; and technology advances being made because of the state's program.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has approved new building standards for the state, moving toward the zero net energy (ZNE) program targeted to start in 2020 in which new homes will produce more energy than they consume (see Daily GPIJune 10). The CEC's updated, more stringent standards are supposed to reduce single-family home energy use about 28% starting in 2017, compared to homes built to 2013 standards.

The American Gas Association (AGA) alleged that the U.S. Department of Energy(DOE) used a flawed economic model to establish its proposed rulemaking on energy conservation standards for residential furnaces. DOE's model began with 10,000 sample homes and used a random method to determine which households would be affected by the new rule and which would not. That removed "the rational, economic decision-making process" that takes place for both homeowners and builders, AGA contends. AGA maintains that random selections, which can be effective in other types of models, do not make sense in the application, and the savings DOE is touting from the proposed new rule "were based on a false premise," according to AGA's Kathryn Clay, vice president for policy analysis.

North Dakota's most recent statistics show that oil and gas production declined in April, but a full analysis from the state's Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) will not be available until June 19. On a preliminary basis, April oil production was 35 million bbl (1.16 million b/d), compared to 36.9 million bbl (1.19 million b/d) in March. Natural gas production dropped to 46.2 Bcf (1.54 Bcf/d) in April, compared to 47.1 Bcf (1.51 Bcf/d). The DMR director's report will provide more details on the March-April production comparison.

A division of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has extended for one year, time-limited no-action relief for swap dealers and major swap participants for complying with reporting obligations -- specifically, valuation data for cleared swaps as required by Section 45.4(b)(2)(ii) of the CFTC's regulations. On Monday, the Division of Market Oversight issued a no-action letter, extending relief until a new expiration date of June 30, 2016. A previous no-action letter, 14-90, had extended the deadline to June 30, 2015.

Public comments are being sought by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on its management plans for 680,000 acres in central and eastern Colorado, including portions of the Arkansas River corridor, to help the agency determine which areas it should open to oil, natural gas and mining exploration activity. BLM has indicated that the review is likely to take up to two years. BLM has already identified 78,000 acres with "wilderness characteristics" that could prevent energy development, and the environmental group Wild Connections has countered that it can identify 246,000 acres, or about one-third of the total being examined, that should be off limits. The group said it was concerned about the Table Mountain plateau north of the Arkansas River, which BLM did not initially call out as being potentially exempted from development.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) has agreed to buy Pentex Alaska Natural Gas Co. LLC and its assets, including Fairbanks Natural Gas (FNG), under AIDEA's Development Finance Program. AIDEA is authorized to invest up to $54 million in the project, which includes the $52.5 million purchase price, plus working capital. "We expect the Pentex acquisition to be a short-term strategic investment that can play a significant role in helping achieve long-term success for the Interior Energy Project," said AIDEA Executive Director John Springsteen. "This acquisition will promote an integrated gas distribution system that can be built and operated in a more efficient manner for the benefit of Interior Alaska residents and businesses." FNG will be in a position to work with local entities in the Fairbanks North Star Borough to integrate the construction and operation of a gas distribution system, AIDEA said. "The ultimate goal of this transition will be a single, locally controlled utility serving the Interior," Springsteen said. Because of AIDEA's lower cost of capital, AIDEA expects to be able to reduce the price of gas to existing FNG customers by 13.3%. This will provide energy relief to Interior residents by the upcoming winter, AIDEA said.

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