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Briefs -- Port Arthur LNG, Bureau of Economic Geology, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Avista Gas Rates, Cheniere Energy, Shell Cracker, Coal Water

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff plans to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Port Arthur Liquefaction Project and Port Arthur Pipeline Project involving construction and operation of facilities by Port Arthur LNG LLC (PALNG) and Port Arthur Pipeline LLC (PAPL), respectively, in Jefferson and Orange counties, TX and Cameron Parish, LA. The terminal is a project of Sempra affiliates (see Daily GPIMarch 23). Comments should focus on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives and measures to avoid or reduce environmental impacts. Comments are due by July 24 in dockets PF15-18-000 and PF15-19-000.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation authorizing funding of $4.47 million for the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program, an initiative led by the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin. TexNet will enhance the ability to gather information about subsurface seismic activity by placing seismometers throughout the state and analyzing data. The mission of TexNet is to provide transparent access to data and information regarding the understanding of earthquake activity in Texas, both natural and potentially induced by human activity, such as from drilling waste injection wells. TexNet will acquire and install at least 22 permanent seismometers in key locations, augmenting the 16 existing seismometers currently in place in Texas. Another 36 portable seismometers will be staged in Bureau of Economic Geology facilities across the state. Of particular interest to the project are those earthquakes larger than magnitude 3.0 in or near urban areas, or in locations where ongoing human activities might be influencing earthquake activity.

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.

FERC 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.

After more than a year of review, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC a key air permit for its proposed multi-billion dollar ethane cracker. Shell filed its 715-page air permit application in May 2014 (see Daily GPIAug. 5, 2014). DEP said in March that it had reached its "intent-to-issue" phase and announced Monday that the permit has been approved and issued (see Shale DailyMarch 30). Last week, Shell completed the purchase of land in western Pennsylvania where it tentatively plans to build the facility pending a final investment decision (see Shale DailyJune 18). The air permit was considered key to that process given the facility's likely size and its classification as a major new source of emissions. The company also received other state permits Monday, including stormwater discharge, water obstruction and encroachment permits.

A bill that would limit the liabilities for any oil and natural gas producer that uses treated coal mine water to drill and stimulate their wells has passed the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. SB 875, introduced by Republican state Sen. Camera Bartolotta now heads to the full Senate for a vote (see Shale DailyJune 5). In recent years, the state has been pushing the use of acid coal mine drainage for horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Bills similar to Bartolotta's have failed in the past, however. SB 875 addresses the use of treated coal mine water in impoundment ponds. It would limit a driller's liability to only the water it takes from those ponds.

As part of a multi-year clean energy effort launched several years ago (see Daily GPI, April 22, 2013), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) on Monday signed an agreement to sell its 21% share in Arizona-based coal-fired Navajo Generation Station to Navajo's controlling owner, Phoenix-based Salt River Project (SRP). The result of three years of negotiations, the deal includes an agreement to buy geothermal power as a substitute source of power and provisions for SRP to shut down one of the coal plant's three operating units in 2019. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the deal is evidence the city is making good on its commitment to eliminate all coal-fired generation from its portfolio by 2025.

Valinor Management LP and Halcyon Energy Investors LP have joined funds managed by York Capital Management Global Advisors LLC and its affiliates in providing NextDecade LLC with an additional US$85 million in order to take the Rio Grande LNG (RGLNG) and Rio Bravo Pipeline project to final investment decision (FID) (see Daily GPIMarch 23March 9). The parties will also fund continued development of Pelican Island LNG in Galveston, TX. Terms of the transaction include options for NextDecade's three investors to invest the requisite FID equity sufficient to begin construction of the RGLNG project near Brownsville, TX. Together, York, Valinor and Halcyon manage assets exceeding $40 billion. Jefferies LLC served as placement agent for NextDecade. NextDecade said it is in talks with buyers for long-term LNG offtake agreements.

As part of a five-year program, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) has joined the Gas Technology Institute's (GTI) emerging technology program, a collaboration aimed at accelerating the commercialization and adoption of end-use and energy efficiency technologies. The $18.3 million regional market transformation program is expected to save more than 280 million therms annually involving water heating, combined space-water heating and hearth products, along with savings in heating/cooling systems and gas clothes drying. Natural gas utilities in the Pacific Northwest have teamed with NEEA in the effort. NEEA also is funding an emerging technology demonstration project with GTI to pilot three gas-fired heat pump water heaters in the region.

Downeast LNG Inc.has signed a letter of agreement with CB&I for the Downeast liquefied natural gas (LNG) project at Mill Cove in Robbinston, ME, on Passamaquoddy Bay. The initial phase of the project is review of the engineering design, which will serve as the basis for the execution of a front-end engineering design by CB&I. Downeast plans to construct a 3 million tonne per annum LNG export facility consisting of one storage tank, a liquefaction train, a small regasification plant, marine facilities, and a natural gas pipeline that will connect the facility to the existing Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline (see Daily GPIMarch 10). Downeast would be able to access unconventional U.S. gas reserves and conventional western Canada gas reserves. Downeast entered Federal Energy Regulatory Commission pre-filing for its proposed export project last July and received its free trade agreement export authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy in early 2015.

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