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Briefs -- Railroad Commission of Texas | MPLX LP | Oroville Dam | Elba Island LNG | PA Permits | PA Royalty Bill | NiSource Inc. | North Dakota Petroleum Council | Dakota Access

The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) is adding quarterly oil and gas enforcement data to its website. Beginning with the first quarter fiscal 2017 report, new enforcement information will include the numbers of oil and gas facility inspections with no violation; statewide oil and gas rule violations; major statewide oil and gas rule violations; and district-initiated severance/seal orders. RRC also is updating its definition of “major” oil and gas violations. A major violation now is defined as “a safety or pollution-related violation that causes a significant impact to public safety or the environment, is accompanied by conditions that indicate a significant impact to public safety or the environment is imminent, or is the result of deliberate disregard of commission rules and regulations related to public safety or environmental protection.” Also, major violations are now being reported at the time of discovery in the field rather than at the time of referral for penalty action, as recommended by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Enforcement data can be found on the commission website.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. midstream master limited partnership MPLX LP has closed its previously announced transaction to acquire a partial indirect equity interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project and other Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) crude oil pipeline projects that are part of the Bakken Pipeline System. MPLX is doing the transaction through a joint venture (JV) with Enbridge Energy Partners LP. MPLX contributed $500 million of the $2 billion the JV paid for a 36.75% indirect equity interest in the Bakken Pipeline System from ETP and its partner Sunoco Logistics Partners LP.

Even though the state's largest hydroelectric power plant has been offline because of the Oroville Dam crisis this month, California's power grid and overall energy reliability have been unaffected, state officials said last week. As emergency crews worked to repair a damaged spillway, the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) said operators at the 819 MW hydro plant at Lake Oroville hope to have the option of using it within a week or so. Since the emergency arose earlier this month, DWR has lowered the level of the reservoir in back of the dam by 35 feet as of Thursday. "We're still taking more water out than we're taking in right now," a spokesperson said. Separately, a spokesperson for the California Independent System Operator confirmed that the Oroville Edward Hyatt power plant was offline, but he said there are no estimates of what, if any, effect that has had on gas-fired generation in the state.

Elba Liquefaction Co. LLC and Southern LNG Co. LLC, both units of Kinder Morgan Inc., have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to begin installing by March 10 "Movable Modular Liquefaction System" (MMLS) units at their liquefied natural gas (LNG) liquefaction and export project at the existing Elba Island LNG terminal near Savannah, GA. The Commission approved the project last June. Last December the project received non-free trade agreement (FTA) country export approval. The project is supported by a 20-year contract with Royal Dutch Shell plc. The terminal ultimately will have the capability to both export and import LNG. FTA exports have also been previously authorized by the U.S. Department of Energy. "MMLS combines Shell's tradition of innovation and technology advances with design flexibility that enables construction within the existing site at Elba Island plant," the companies said on the project’s webpage.

Pennsylvania Republican Senate leaders have sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) questioning its plans for a new general permit for unconventional well sites and general permit revisions for natural gas compressor facilities. Senate President Joe Scarnati, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Sen. Gene Yaw,  chairman of the energy committee, wrote the agency to say they fear the proposed revisions could jeopardize the industry's competitiveness. They sent a series of questions asking what justifies the permits and what cost-benefit analysis has been conducted, among other things. The letter follows another from Republican state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe earlier this month accusing the agency of skirting the state's Regulatory Review Act in opening the permits for public comment. The permits are part of Gov. Tom Wolf's plans to reduce oil and gas industry emissions. The proposals would also affect remote pigging stations, transmission stations and processing plants. DEP has said it is still early in the process and that it will continue to work with the industry on the changes.

Pennsylvania Republican state Rep. Garth Everett has for a third time introduced a bill to better protect oil and gas royalty owners in the state. HB 557 would clarify the state's Guaranteed Minimum Royalty Act of 1979, which sets forth the minimum payment to landowners but doesn't address marketing costs and how they should be factored into royalties. Landowners across the state have voiced their concerns about post-production costs being deducted from royalty payments. The clock ran out on Everett's bill at the end of last year's legislative session as it has in the past. Other bills have been introduced in the state legislature to help resolve problems with royalty payments in the state.

Indiana-based NiSource Inc. expects to invest $1.6-1.7 billion in its Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO) and Columbia Gas utilities across seven states, following an investment of $1.5 billion in 2016, CEO Joe Hamrock said during a conference call. Last year was the first full calendar year for NiSource to operate exclusively as a combination utility, and the company's long-term investment strategy includes major investments in pipelines and electric transmission lines, he told analysts. Net income from continuing operations was $88.8 million (28 cents/share) in 4Q2016, compared with $64.4 million (20 cents) in 4Q2015. Full year 2016 income was $328.1 million ($1.02/share), versus 2015 profits of $198.6 million (63 cents).

The Bakken Shale’s oil and gas sector is looking for job applicants, according to the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC), particularly in the oilfield services sector. Fortis Energy Services had scheduled networking this week in Williston, Dickinson and Minot (Friday). E&M Services said it was looking for new employees through its multiple offices in Watford City, Williston, Sidney, and Arnega. Purity Oilfield Services is looking for drivers, well testers mechanics, while MBI Energy Services is looking for truck drivers, rig hands and wireline operators.

The main protest campsite, Oceti Sakowin, along the route for the final link to be constructed in Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project in south-central North Dakota was cleared on Wednesday and Thursday following an emergency executive order from North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum setting Wednesday afternoon as the deadline. It was mostly peaceful, although a few protesters were arrested. The head of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Tom Goldtooth, criticized the move as an "unnecessary infringement on the constitutional right of water protectors," but leaders of the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had been urging protesters to disperse for weeks. Opponents said three other campsites for protesters remain in the larger area: Sacred Stone, Cheyenne River and Four Bands.

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