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FERC Commissioner Moeller Convenes Public Meeting Focusing on Resolving Natural Gas Supply Challenges for Electric Generators

Commissioner Philip Moeller of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held a public meeting on September 18, 2014 to discuss ideas to facilitate and improve the way in which natural gas is traded and to explore the concept of establishing a centralized natural gas trading platform.  Although not an official FERC conference, the ideas at issue were an extension of FERC’s recent focus on gas-electric coordination.  During the well-attended meeting, Commissioner Moeller presided over a large roundtable discussion of stakeholders, including electric generation owners, natural gas producers, pipelines and marketers, who engaged in a spirited discussion of whether natural gas supplies are meeting the needs of electric generators and improvement in supply practices.  The central focus of the meeting was the creation of a natural gas information and trading platform containing bids and offers for the purchase and sale of commodity and capacity for receipt...

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The DOE Approves a Second LNG Export Project: A Sign of the Future?

by Daryl Kuo As the world’s largest producer of natural gas, the United States has the potential to also become the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).  The Department of Energy (DOE), however, continues to proceed extremely cautiously with respect to authorizing LNG exports, particularly to countries that have not signed free trade agreements (FTA) with the United States. To approve a project, the DOE must determine that it is not contrary to the public. While exports are presumed to be in the public interest, this presumption can be rebutted in comments filed by opponents to the proposed exports. The public interest test balances various factors, including (i) the impact of the liquefaction project on domestic natural gas demand, supplies, prices and resource base, (ii) the benefits of international trade, and (iii) the benefits to the domestic economy, national energy security and the global environment. The...

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Natural Gas Companies Settle Antitrust Suit Stemming from Joint Bidding

by Jon B. Dubrow and Cerissa Cafasso On Monday, April 22, 2013, after rejecting the initial settlement agreement, Judge Richard Matsch (D. Colo.) approved a revised settlement of a suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against two energy companies for conspiring not to compete for mineral rights leases.  Gunnison Energy Corp. (GEC) and SG Interests I Ltd. and SG Interests VII Ltd. (collectively "SGI”) will each pay a fine of $275,000 to the DOJ to settle allegations of agreeing not to bid against each other in violation of antitrust law for natural gas leases on government land in western Colorado.  These fines are in addition to those related to alleged False Claims Act violations, for which SGI and GEC paid government fines of $206,250 and $245,000 respectively.  The new settlement is twice the amount of the fines in the original settlement. McDermott Will & Emery wrote an article in February 2012 analyzing the...

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Illinois to Act on Fracing – Or Not

by Thomas L. Hefty The Illinois General Assembly could be on the verge of enacting legislation, the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (H.B 2615), that some environmental groups are touting as an environmental best practices for regulating the shale oil and gas recovery method known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracing). H.B. 2615, the result of months of negotiations between environmental groups and the oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) industry, was set to be voted on in the Illinois General Assembly in late March, but a last second amendment (favoring in-state licensed drilling companies) has stalled the bill’s progress.  While HB 2615 is laudable for setting robust regulations on horizontal fracing operations, what should make it the betting favorite is that it is also a revenue bill – the second half of H.B. 2615 contains the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Tax Act. Under H.B. 2615, Illinois...

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New DOE Study Fuels Debate Over LNG Exports

by Bethany K. Hatef The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) engaged the controversy over exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) with its December 5 publication of Macroeconomic Impacts of LNG Exports from the United States. Prepared for DOE by NERA Economic Consulting, the report concludes the domestic economy will benefit from LNG exports and thereby paves the way for approval of LNG export applications pending DOE approval. But, given the lead times for building export terminals and that only four of the 15 pending applications are expected to be approved in 2013, significant exports are unlikely in the near term. To be considered, initial public comments on the report must be submitted to the Department by January 24, 2013, reply comments by February 25, 2013. The report evaluated economic impacts “under a wide range of different assumptions about levels of exports, global market conditions, and the cost of producing natural gas in the...

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New Research Finds Shale Natural Gas Production Emits Less Fugitive Methane that Previously Reported

by James A. Pardo and Brandon H. Barnes Shale natural gas production emits significantly less fugitive methane than previously thought, concluded researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a November 26, 2012, study published in Environmental Research Letters.  According to the researchers, "it is incorrect to suggest that shale gas-related hydraulic fracturing has substantially altered the overall [greenhouse gas] intensity of natural gas production."   Methane has been singled out as one of the most powerful greenhouse gases (GHG) because of its "global warming potential" - or the relative heat trapped in the atmosphere by a gas - which is 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.  Fugitive methane emissions are losses of methane gas that may occur during flowback (the return of fluids), during drill-out following fracturing, and during well-venting to alleviate well-head...

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LNG Exports Continue to Await DOE Approval

by Daryl Kuo The discovery and accessibility of vast domestic shale gas reserves in the United States has motivated states and industry alike to lobby heavily for the approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.  LNG exports to non-Free Trade Agreement (FTA) countries, including China and Japan, are of particular interest because estimates for exports to those countries are as high as 16 billion cubic feet per day, more than ten times greater than all U.S. LNG exports in 2011.  So far, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved only one LNG export project to non-FTA countries, and that approval is being challenged. Meanwhile, more than a dozen applications sit in DOE’s queue pending the release of a critical study by the end of the year. The debate over exports to non-FTA countries is likely to become more intense in the coming months once that study is released and subjected to a public comment period prior to any...

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The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets of Great Britain Consults Further on its Electricity and Gas Retail Market Review

by Caroline Lindsey On October 26, 2012, the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) published updated proposals for changes to the regulation of the non-domestic electricity and gas retail markets in Great Britain.  The Retail Market Review Proposals (RMR Proposals) are part of Ofgem’s RMR program, which also includes proposals for the domestic markets. The RMR Proposals follow Ofgem’s initial consultation on proposals for the non-domestic market in November 2011, and its Energy Supply Markets Probe in 2008.  Since the initial consultation, Ofgem has been conducting further research, gathering relevant information from suppliers and considering the responses to the initial consultation. The principal RMR Proposals are: Increased protection for small business consumers – condition 7A of the standard conditions of electricity and gas supply licences (SLC) currently provides protection for micro business consumers when...

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D.C. District Court Rejects CFTC’s Position Limits Rule

by Ari Peskoe and William Friedman The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has met resistance in its attempt to implement parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform less than two weeks before they were scheduled to go into effect.  On September 28, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins issued an opinion vacating the CFTC’s position limits rule and remanding it to the Commission. Judge Wilkins’ problem with the rule was not its substance but rather that the CFTC did not make necessary factual findings mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act.    The position limits rule was finalized in November and set spot-month position limits for both physical delivery and cash-settled contracts tied to 28 physical commodities, including natural gas and crude oil. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated and remanded the rule because the CFTC made no findings about whether position limits were “necessary and...

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ACER Publishes Second Edition of Guidance on REMIT

 by Prajakt Samant, Thomas Morgan and Simone Goligorsky On September 28, 2012, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) issued the second of two pieces of non-binding guidance on the Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency (REMIT).  REMIT imposes requirements aimed at preventing and detecting market abuse, and more specifically, market manipulation and insider trading in the wholesale energy market. The guidance considers, inter alia,: The scope of REMIT; The application of the definitions of wholesale energy products, wholesale energy market and market participants; inside information;and market manipulation; and The application of the obligation to publish inside information; the prohibitions of market abuse and on possible signals of suspected insider dealing and market manipulation; and the implementation of prohibitions of market abuse. Considering the scope of REMIT, it should be noted that...

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