The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has scheduled a one-day hearing Sept. 23 to address issues related to Bakken Shale crude oil rail transportation. DMR cited 10 areas in which the commission seeks input, including operating conditions, equipment/processes, costs, transportation safety and marketability. The DMR oil/gas division is accepting written comments in the advance of the hearing, which may be submitted by 5 p.m. CDT Sept. 22 to

Dana Murphy and Patrice Douglas, commissioners on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), have called for a public meeting to address the state's response to a spate of recent earthquakes, including those thought to be linked to oil and gas industry waste injection wells (see Shale DailyJuly 15). "This would be an opportunity for all stakeholders to hear first-hand the latest on what's happening in terms of the ongoing research and response," Murphy said. "It's very important for all to understand what's known, what's not known, and what the OCC and others have been and are doing...More money and equipment are being brought into the effort, with the Oklahoma Geological Survey working closely with this agency and others in the response." Douglas, a Republican running for U.S. Congress, cited apparent criticism of the OCC quake response by Democratic state Sen. Jerry Ellis, who said the OCC should have a "game plan" for quakes. "Our game plan has involved other agencies, researchers, the governor, the secretary of energy, and more," Douglas said. "We are recognized by our peers as being in the forefront in our response to this issue.

Amelia Resources LLC is marketing 50,000 net acres in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) play. The company's client has secured a large acreage block in a "very active and competitive part of the play," said President Kirk Barrell. "Now that areas of the play are considered derisked, this acreage block presents itself as a very attractive acquisition for an operator wanting to control their destiny in the play," he said. "Unit applications and well permits are increasing dramatically." The package of leases is on the eastern side of the TMS, which is present in Louisiana and Mississippi. Several TMS operators have reported well results recently that show that understanding of the play has grow with a few setbacks (see Shale DailyAug. 8Aug. 1July 25July 7).

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.

FERC is seeking input from the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense on an application [CP14-513] by Colombia Pipeline LLC for a presidential permit to construct border-crossing pipeline facilities that would enable shipment of U.S. natural gas from the Eagle Ford Shale to Mexico. Colombia filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the project on July 1 (see Shale DailyJuly 3). The company's project would allow about 1 Bcf/d of Eagle Ford Shale natural gas to supply power generation and other demand in Mexico. "The border crossing facilities will include one 36-inch diameter, 4,000-foot pipeline and one 12-inch diameter pipeline that will run parallel to the 36-inch diameter pipeline for its full 2,500-foot length," the Commission told the federal agencies.