Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) for a rate hike, its first such request in 12 years, the utility said. The company is proposing an increase of $59.9 million annually (a 10.3% increase in annual revenues). Residential customers using 7.2 Mcf/month would pay $113.94, an increase of $10.99, or less than 11%, the company said. Commercial customers using 43.5 Mcf/month would pay $557.89, up $23.13. Industrial customers using 500 Mcf/month would pay $6,029.45, up $241.11. The proposed effective date for the increase is March 28. However, this will likely be suspended while the PUC reviews the request. The review is expected to last about nine months. The company said it has pledged to expand its weatherization and customer assistance efforts. It also noted that it recently announced plans to invest $1.4 billion to replace aging pipes and other facilities. The goal is to replace about 600,000 feet of aging underground pipes and distribution facilities each year.

Direct Energy Marketing Ltd. announced that it has completed its acquisition of Alberta producer Rockyview Energy Inc., with 22.3 million common shares of Rockyview — representing approximately 91.7% of the issued and outstanding common shares of the company — having been validly deposited pursuant to its offer. In the deal that was first announced last November (see NGI, Nov. 19, 2007), Direct Energy paid C$3.16/share — a 29% premium over the 20-day weighted average closing price — for what amounted to a C$113.3 million transaction. Rockyview Energy has conventional oil and gas and coalbed methane operations in central and western Alberta and the Peace River Arch in northwestern Alberta. In addition to a production base of 2,700 boe/d — 97% of it natural gas — Rockyview has a 100,000-acre undeveloped land portfolio with numerous identified drilling locations. Since Direct Energy has acquired more than 90% of the outstanding Rockyview common shares, Direct Energy intends to acquire all the remaining Rockyview common shares not deposited under the offer by means of a compulsory acquisition under the Business Corporations Act (Alberta). Once it has acquired all of the outstanding Rockyview common shares, Direct Energy said it will apply to have the shares delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange and will apply for Rockyview to cease being a reporting issuer in any jurisdiction in Canada.

GMX Resources Inc., has reached a definitive agreement with PVR East Texas Gas Processing LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Penn Virginia Resource Partners, to process all of its natural gas produced from wells jointly developed with Penn Virginia Oil & Gas LP located in Harrison and Panola counties in east Texas. GMX estimated that processing revenues on the associated natural gas production will increase the current average sales price by approximately $1.20/MMBtu and said it expects a potential $4.5 million revenue increase for FY2008 at current commodity prices. Processing is expected to commence no later than March 1. GMX will gain access for its residue gas to additional pipelines serving the Perryville hub. GMX said it is negotiating a similar processing agreement to cover the balance of its production in its core area. GMX also said it has finalized a definitive agreement for a proposed acquisition of approximately 3,200 gross (3,000 net) acres of undeveloped leases in Harrison County, TX, increasing its overall net acreage by 18% and operated acreage to 65%.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is seeking public comments through March 14 on Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities‘ 20-year natural gas plan for the 70,000 customers it serves in northern Idaho. Last month Avista submitted its biennial natural gas resources plan to all three of regulatory commissions in the Northwest states in which it operates. The integrated resource plan for natural gas supply/demand concluded that the utility’s gas supplies are “sufficient” until 2011-12 in Oregon, and until 2014-15 in Washington and Idaho. Avista projected that its customer base in Washington and Idaho would grow by 2.4% annually and demand on the company’s natural gas supply would grow 2% annually. The PUC noted that this is a lower growth rate than was projected two years earlier. Without taking steps to add new supplies, Avista faces a natural gas shortfall for peak-demand times in 2014 or 2015, the PUC said. To prevent the shortages, the utility has told the PUC in its latest gas plan that it plans to “acquire new natural gas supply and reduce utility exposure to short-term price volatility in the wholesale natural gas market by using a number of tools, including financial hedging and storage.” Avista also said it plans to reduce long-term demand through residential space and water heating efficiency programs. In Washington and Idaho alone, demand-side measures are expected to reduce demand by more than 1.425 million therms in the first year of the program, the utility said.

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