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Energy Update: February 23, 2018


In the States

CO – Following a fatal gas explosion last year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is set to update the state’s pipelines regulations. The new rules come after Governor John Hickenlooper called for a review of oil and gas operations and six months after a task force was created to study the issue. Under the new rules, companies must inform  state regulators about where current pipelines exist and the location of older pipelines at risk for leakages Major pipelines at risk must be reported within 24 hours. A new task force will also explore inspection technology the private sector deploys to detect leaks and locate pipelines. "Our work with operators last spring and summer to identify, quantify and test all flowlines near residential areas was a significant start," COGCC Director Matt Lepore, said in a statement. "These rules - and additional actions ordered by the governor that are still unfolding - continue to keep our focus on this work." In a statement, the Governor said “We believe these new rules are another important step in the aftermath of the Firestone tragedy.” Colorado toughens oil, has rule to try to prevent future Firestone disasterThe Denver Post


ME – Governor Paul LePage issued a moratorium on new offshore wind energy projects. The Governor’s decision immediately sparked several lawsuits by advocacy and environmental groups to overturn the moratorium, which they generally argue is an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers since the legislature has passed laws for offshore permitting. The state’s permitting process to date has allowed the construction of over 370 wind turbines as well as investments reaching more than $1 billion. Some Maine residents have complained, however, about the noise emanating from the turbines. In sum, the Governor’s moratorium  mirrors prior legislation he backed  to expand “from 8 to 40 miles the area around turbines that could be subject to visual impact studies,” thereby making it more difficult to encourage wind energy projects and developments. Environmental group sues LePage, says wind farm ban is unconstitutionalThe Portland Press Herald


NJ – A bill to subsidize nuclear energy plans continues to move through the state legislature. The legislation, which also includes ratepayer-funded incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, has come under scrutiny for potentially seeking to raise rates for utility customers while subsidizing two profitable nuclear plants in Salem County. The Public Service Enterprise Group, which partially own the plants, said they may be unprofitable in 2020 and may eventually close without the subsidies. The legislation is estimated to increase electric bills “by $31 a year while larger and industrial energy users could see costs increase over $1 million a year.” Controversial nuclear energy bill advances, now with subsidiesNorth Jersey News


PA – The Commonwealth’s Department of Environmental Protection announced Sunoco, a petroleum and petrochemical manufacturer headquartered in Texas, “agreed to pay $12.6 million over problems with a massive natural gas pipeline project.” Work on the 250-mile pipeline project, which will transport liquid natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to a terminal in Philadelphia, will continue under a consent agreement. The 20-inch pipeline, known as the Mariner East 2, is expected to be completed by the summer, and will cost approximately $2.5 billion. “Sunoco has demonstrated that it has taken steps to ensure the company will conduct the remaining pipeline activities in accordance with the law and permit conditions, and will be allowed to resume,” Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. “DEP will be monitoring activities closely to ensure that Sunoco is meeting the terms of this agreement and its permits.” Massive gas pipeline project to resumeThe Associated Press


VA – Governor Ralph Northam is working “to restore state regulation of electric utility rates” while encouraging investments in the Commonwealth’s electricity grid and renewable energy projects. The legislation, sponsored by the Governor, would reverse a General Assembly-approved bill in 2015 to freeze rates, which mostly impacted Virginia’s largest utility, Dominion Energy. Under the new plan , rates proposed by Dominion and the Commonwealth’s other utility, Appalachian Power, would once again be reviewed by the State Corporation Commission. The state’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, however disagrees with the Governor’s work on this issue, and believes the legislation would result in a “bad deal for ratepayers.” General Herring believes the measure, in the current draft, could instead allow “utilities to charge ratepayers twice for the same expense.” The bill continues to advance through the General Assembly’s legislative process. Northam, Herring disagree over bill to regulate utilitiesThe Washington Post

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