The natural gas vehicle (NGV) sector is taking a couple of steps to boost its Internet presence. NGVAmerica has launched a new website with what its officials are promoting as a better look with more extensive information about NGVs ( Separately, the Natural Gas Vehicle Institute (NGVi) is adding two new e-learning options to its Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fueling Training program. The online courses are geared to complement NGVi's classroom equivalents on CNG fueling station design and CNG station operation/maintenance. Both classes are available for business groups wanting computer-based training.

Staff at the Washington state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) reached an all-party settlement in Avista Utilities natural gas and electric general rate cases that would raise the Spokane, WA-based utility's rates $15.5 million next year: an $8.5 million, or 5.6%, hike for retail gas utility customers, and $7 million, or 1.4%, increase for retail electric customers. The settlement increases, which still need to be approved by the three-member UTC, would be effective Jan. 1. Public hearings will be held Aug. 25-29 to obtain comment on the deal. In February Avista had requested a $12.1 million, or 7.8%, gas rate increase and an $18.2 million, or 3.8%, increase in electric charges.

Exelon Corp. and Pepco Holdings Inc. have filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission for approval of their proposed merger, which would combine Exelon's three electric and gas utilities with Pepco's three electric and gas utilities (see Daily GPIApril 30). The companies have made transaction-related filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the Delaware Public Service Commission, the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The deal is also subject to federal antitrust clearance. Filing documents and more information on the merger are available from the Exelon website.

Select Energy Services LLC launched a new spinoff company, Affirm Oilfield Services, which will provide field services for exploration and production companies. Affirm will perform services previously available under the Select brand, including well site and pipeline construction, as well as heavy haul, aggregate, logistics and crane services. Select recently reorganized to be 100% focused on water. Jeremy Townley has been named president of Affirm.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) said it has received 57 complaints since 2011 from individuals who expressed concerns about the impact of oil and natural gas drilling on their health. Complaints fall into three categories, the department said: well water quality/contamination, air quality/contamination, and physical symptoms. Following the establishment by Secretary of Health Michael Wolf of an internal working group to determine how processes and communication within the agency could be improved, DOH recently made several changes, including instituting a written letter response policy for all environmental health concerns "to better track and document correspondence that takes place between the department and those who express concerns," DOH said.