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Briefs -- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Avista Gas Rates, Cheniere Energy

Colorado and two counties in the state were among the nation's leaders in job growth last year, and much of it was tied to the oil/natural gas sector, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Colorado job growth (3.9%) was third in the nation in 2014, trailing only North Dakota (4.5%) and Nevada (4.2%). Weld County, CO, tied Midland County, TX, for the highest growth among counties at 8%, while it was experiencing a 19.6% gain in natural resources/mining employment, and Adams County, CO, was ranked third nationally with a 6.4% job growth. The BLS statistics were released at the same time the Denver Business Journal reported a growing number of local governments in the state abandoning anti-oil/gas rhetoric and supporting the industry for its role in providing new, high-paying jobs to local areas.

Continuing low wholesale natural gas costs may allow Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities to offset a proposed gas utility rate increase for its Idaho customers where the state regulatory commission is considering a request to increase gas utility revenues 4.5% and 2.2% in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Before those increases are effective, Avista estimates its annual purchased gas cost adjustment (PGA) will result in a 10% rate reduction, effective Nov. 1. An Idaho regulatory commission spokesperson cautioned that the PGA is a separate process than the rate case, and it lasts one year, while base rate changes are permanent. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) won't know for sure what the PGA will be until the company files its application in September. In the meantime, the PUC last Friday began the six-month process on Avista's general rate request, which includes a proposed near-doubling of its monthly customer charge from $4.25 to $8 for basic gas utility service in Idaho.

FERChas denied a request for rehearing by the Sierra Club of the Commission's order authorizing Sabine Pass Liquefaction Expansion LLC, Sabine Pass Liquefaction LLC and Sabine Pass LNG LP to construct additional facilities at their Cameron Parish, LA, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal [CP13-553] (see Daily GPIApril 7). The denial clears the way for the Cheniere Energy Inc. units to proceed with the project and affirms an April 6 order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Sierra Club had challenged the order, saying FERC failed, among other things, to consider the upstream impacts of natural gas production induced by the LNG demand created by the export project. Sierra Club has challenged other LNG projects on the same grounds and has failed to prevail.

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