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Chesapeake Energy Plagued by Plunging Shares

By MICHAEL J. de la MERCEDFEB. 8, 2016



A Chesapeake Energy drill site in Dimmit, Tex.


Tamir Kalifa for The Texas Tribune

The pain for Chesapeake Energy began early on Monday, as its stock began to tumble. And kept falling.

Shares of the beleaguered oil producer fell to as low as $1.51, with the tumble causing several trading halts, after the trade publication Debtwire reported that the company had hired restructuring lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis.

The worry among investors was that Chesapeake was considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as the low price of oil continues to weigh on the energy industry.

The company’s shares have fallen 56 percent so far this year.

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Chief of Pemex, Mexican Energy Giant, Steps Aside


MEXICO CITY — The chief executive of Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex, Emilio Lozoya Austin, stepped down on Monday, a casualty of the energy giant’s struggle with collapsing oil prices and declining production.

In his place, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, appointed José Antonio González Anaya, a Harvard-educated economist with a long career in Mexico’s finance ministry. Mr. González Anaya has spent the last three years as the head of Mexico’s sprawling social security institute, the country’s main public health system.

Concern over Pemex’s finances has risen over the past week. Last week, the president of the central bank, Agustín Carstens, issued a sharp warning that planned spending cuts at Pemex could not be postponed.

Mr. Lozoya, who was appointed to lead Pemex at the start of President Peña Nieto’s term three years ago, was seen as a capable turnaround specialist from the private sector who could wring efficiencies from the company.

    His chief task was preparing Pemex for stiffer competition as the government began to open Mexico’s closed oil sector to the private sector in an effort to reverse the decline in output. Pemex crude production has fallen by more than a million barrels a day since its peak in 2004.

    But special interests at the company, like its unions and its private contractors, hampered those efforts.

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    Half-Built Nuclear Fuel Plant in South Carolina Faces Test on Its Future

    By JAMES RISENFEB. 8, 2016


    The Department of Energy wants to abandon the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility near Aiken, S.C.

    Credit High Flyer/SRS Watch

    WASHINGTON — Time may finally be running out on the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, a multibillion-dollar, over-budget federal project that has been hard to kill.

    The Energy Department has already spent about $4.5 billion on the half-built plant near Aiken, S.C., designed to make commercial reactor fuel out of plutonium from nuclear bombs. New estimates place the ultimate cost of the facility at between $9.4 billion and $21 billion, and the outlay for the overall program, including related costs, could go as high as $30 billion.

    Officials warn that the delays in the so-called MOX program are so bad that the plant may not be ready to turn the first warhead into fuel until 2040.

    So in the budget that the Obama administration will present on Tuesday, the Energy Department proposes abandoning it. Energy officials want to spend only the money necessary to wind down the MOX program while the government shifts to a different method of disposing of the plutonium.

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    Porter Ranch: Residents will get more time to move home after leak is stopped

    KPCC Staff February 08, 11:00 AM

    Porter Ranch residents were only set to get 48 hours to move home from temporary accommodations after the gas leak is stopped under a proposal from the Southern California Gas Company, but now they're set to get more time under a deal between SoCal Gas and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, according to a press release.

    “After finding their lives upended for months, Porter Ranch residents deserve a reasonable amount of time to move back into their homes — following independent assurance the leak truly has been stopped," Feuer said in the release.

    L.A. City Councilmember Mitchell Englander is asking the Department of Oil and Geothermal Resources to work with the L.A. County Department of Health to make sure that the homes of those affected are safe before they return, according to the release.

    The key points of the new agreement, according to the release:

    • After SoCal Gas seals the leak, it notifies the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.
    • The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources works with independent experts to determine if the leak has actually been stopped.
    • After written confirmation from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is issued, Porter Ranch residents in hotels will get up to eight days and seven nights to move out and back home.
    • Those who have moved somewhere with a lease will have their rent and other costs (examples include utilities, rental, furniture and gardening service) paid for through the term of the lease by SoCal Gas.
    • Those who relocated to apartments or single-family homes will have up to $500 of moving expenses reimbursed.
    • Residents with special circumstances, such as disabilities, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
    • SoCal Gas will confer with the L.A. City Attorney's Office about other extraordinary circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
    • SoCal Gas will reimburse "reasonable" mileage expenses through the rest of the school year for those who enrolled their children in schools outside of the Porter Ranch area

    "The previous 48-hour timeframe proposed by SoCal Gas was unreasonable and inhumane," Englander said in the release. "This is not just about returning home, it is about a safe return home."

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    US Power Costs Falling With Low-Carbon Energy: ‘We’ve Entered a New Era’


    New data shows wholesale and retail rates are falling as dirty energy declines.

    by Katherine Tweed

    February 08, 2016

    The impressive numbers for renewable energy in 2015 keep coming.

    Just as there has been a tipping point globally in clean energy, the same is true in the U.S., according to new figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE).

    The fourth annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook highlights the record year for utility-scale and distributed solar, huge gains for wind energy, and a shift away from coal toward natural gas (which has a smaller carbon footprint although it is hardly clean). The result is an energy industry that is decarbonizing across the board.

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    DistribuTECH News: Building the Microgrid Landscape From the End-User Up


    Blue Pillar and NRG Energy put buildings in utility hands, and Siemens makes utility-grade microgrids for campuses and C&I customers

    by Jeff St. John

    February 09, 2016

    DistribuTECH, the giant utility and smart grid trade show, is becoming an equally important venue for smart building and microgrid technologies. That makes sense, given that the line between utilities and their energy-equipped customers is becoming blurrier every day.

    Consider these two announcements coming out of this year’s DistribuTECH conference in Orlando, each approaching the utility-customer microgrid nexus from different directions.

    On one side, you’ve got Blue Pillar, which has built a business testing, networking and automating all manner of backup generators and other energy resources at hospitals, military bases and commercial and industrial clients. On Tuesday, the Indianapolis-based startup announced it’s turning that technology platform, dubbed Aurora, over to energy service providers and utility grid operators.

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    The Future of the Power Sector: What Exactly Is the ‘Next-Generation’ Utility?


    Over the coming year, GTM will explore the future of utilities alongside PA Consulting.

    by Stephen Lacey

    February 08, 2016


    The future isn’t what it used to be.

    That’s the title of a speech given by Steve Jobs in 1983, when he laid out his vision for a world dominated by personal computers, wireless connectivity and applications to help consumers navigate the digital world.

    "The kids growing up now are definitely products of the computer generation, and in their lifetimes the computer will become the dominant medium,” proclaimed Jobs. The Macintosh hadn’t even hit the market at the time of the speech.

    Jobs accurately identified how technology change would transform our lives -- and thus transform the business of computing -- before almost anyone.

    Today, experts across the energy industry are predicting a similar shift toward a decentralized, digital and dynamic grid system. The electricity business is much different from the consumer tech business. But similar forces of change are at work: the dropping cost of sensors, power electronics and technologies like solar; the ubiquity of software and surge in new data; and a growing consumer desire for personalized products.

    Executives of electric utilities and the regulators that oversee them are currently sitting in a similar place as Steve Jobs in 1983. Will they embrace the coming transformation in power delivery and help build their companies and the industry into “next-generation” utilities? Will they seize the trillion-dollar opportunity before them?

    The future isn’t what it used to be for the electricity business.

    "Utilities do need to chart the right strategies right now in order to position themselves for growth in the future," said David Groarke, a next-generation utility expert. "Utilities could open up an engaging conversation right now around their expectations and what they want to see in the future."

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    Why cheap oil won’t stop clean energy

    CLEANER ENERGY Low oil prices are supposed to deter the growth of renewable energy. New data suggest that's not the case.

    By David J. Unger, Staff writer FEBRUARY 4, 2016 Save for later

    Conventional wisdom says cheap oil slows a transition to cleaner fuels. Why switch to solar panels and electric cars when a gallon of gasoline sells for $1.77? Then again, the energy industry of late has been anything but conventional.

    By just about every metric imaginable, investors, utilities, and consumers have largely resisted the lure of inexpensive petroleum. Instead, they have poured money, resources, and demand into renewable energy and natural gas.

    The result is a US energy system that is decarbonizing at a rate faster than what most experts and analysts expected. It’s good news for the climate, and it’s good news for consumers, too. The one-two punch of energy efficiency and zero-cost renewable “fuels” are keeping utility bills in check, or even bringing them down, according to a report released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE).

    Renewables still have a long way to go to match the dominance of fossil fuels, which made modern civilization possible. But, so far, clean energy is passing the litmus test of cheap oil with flying colors. This decade may well be remembered as one in which the clean energy transition reached critical mass.

    “2015 clearly marked a turning point for American energy,” Lisa Jacobson, president of BCSE, told reporters in a briefing Thursday. “We have entered a new era here in the United States.”

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    As New Hampshire Votes, Obama Will Ask Congress To Double The Investment In Clean Tech

    FEB 7, 2016 @ 08:37 AM 927 VIEWS

    Ken Silverstein, CONTRIBUTOR

    I write about the global energy business.

    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    While New Hampshire’s voters are going to the polls on Tuesday, President Obama will be submitting his 2017 budget, which calls for a 15 percent annual increase in the funding over five years that would go toward clean energy investments. It’s all part of the commitment that the president gave to the global community during the COP21 climate conference.

    Altogether, the budget would initially increase from about $6.4 billion to $7.7 billion before making its way to $12.8 billion in 2020. But its unlikely to pass, given the composition of both the U.S. Senate and the House — members who not only object to what they say is the favoritism that the administration gives green energy but also because of their skepticism of the science behind global warming.

    Politics also plays a big part, as members don’t want to give their nemeses any perceived bragging points during the 2016 national elections. The Obama administration, nonetheless, is unshackled as its takes its final lap around the Washington — a posture that it is giving it the freedom to postulate positions that it sees are in the national interest, irrespective of the immediate outcome.

    “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future,” said President Obama, during a radio address.

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    Dumping coal stock was easy, oil not so much

    FEBRUARY 6, 2016 4:01 PM

    Teacher pension fund’s divestment is nice but symbolic

    California won’t get rid of coal-generated electricity for years

    Brown is urging switch that might require more coal imports


    Hundreds of people supporting the coal industry turned out for a hearing on regulation in Salt Lake City last month. Rick Bowmer The Associated Press


    The decision by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System board last week to unload its remaining coal holdings was significant, but mostly for its symbolism.

    As required by legislation carried by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León last year, CalSTRS is selling a $1.5 million stake in four coal companies. The decision was easy. The $1.5 million, dust in CalSTRS’ $186 billion portfolio, was all that remained of $40 million in coal holdings from last spring, The Bee’s Dale Kasler reported last week. Coal stock prices have tanked as companies confront falling natural gas prices.

    The California Public Employees’ Retirement System had $83 million in coal stock as of October, a fraction of its $293 billion portfolio. It doesn’t plan to divest until 2017.

    Divestment aside, California won’t fully extricate itself from coal for years. Several Southern California utilities import power from coal-fired plants in Utah and Arizona. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for one, gets 40 percent of its electricity from coal. That won’t change until well into the next decade.

    At Gov. Jerry Brown’s behest, meanwhile, California is contemplating entering into an arrangement to operate the electricity grid in concert with Western states, including Wyoming, Utah and Montana.

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    Largely invisible network of pipelines, gas storage presents regional methane risk

    FEBRUARY 6, 2016 4:01 PM

    Underground gas storage sites, pipelines cover Sacramento area

    Much of infrastructure leaks methane as part of normal operations

    Ongoing Aliso Canyon leak in Southern California points to risks


    In this Jan. 7, 2016, file photo, a sign declares the boundary line of the Southern California Gas Co. gas fields where a gas well was leaking methane daily near the community of Porter Ranch in Los Angeles. Michael Owen Baker AP


    The thousands of miles of pipelines and seven underground natural gas fields in the Sacramento region offer little surface-level evidence of the billions of cubic feet of natural gas under storage.

    Some of the infrastructure sits close to schools and houses. A few of the underground storage fields are abandoned oil or gas repositories refitted to hold natural gas. The largest field, PG&E Corp.’s McDonald Island facility near Stockton, can hold 82 billion cubic feet of natural gas in a sandy formation reservoir more than 5,000 feet deep.

    That sprawling and aging energy network is now receiving tighter scrutiny by environmental and watchdog groups as a major gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Southern California spews tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Experts say the state’s natural gas infrastructure is largely safe, but the Aliso Canyon accident demonstrates the ever-present risk.

    “The public needs to know the possibility of engineering failures and how important maintenance is,” said Rosa Dominguez-Faus, a researcher with the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. “So the culture needs to change, and if it doesn’t change from within, then external pressure is necessary in the form of regulation and enforcement.”

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    $58 pizza, $20 coffee set tone of “crazy” FirstEnergy, AEP Ohio rate hikes (video)

    By John Funk, The Plain Dealer

    on February 05, 2016 at 1:00 PM, updated February 05, 2016 at 6:19 PM




    Making FirstEnergy customers pay more to keep Davis-Besse competitive with cheaper gas-fired power plants would be like charging a customer $58 for a pizza because the delivery man's car broke down, claims an advertising campaign launched today by the the Alliance for Energy Choice.

    FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company via AP file

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Consumers facing a $20 tab for a cup of coffee or a $58 charge for a pizza react with "That's crazy!" in two television and radio spots created by a group opposing the rate increases sought by FirstEnergy and AEP Ohio because their power plants are no longer cost effective.

    The Alliance for Energy Choice, a group of independent power companies competing for Ohio customers, has launched an advertising campaign to alert consumers to the cases, which the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio could approve as early as March.

    FirstEnergy and AEP Ohio have asked for increases in rates to subsidize the operations -- with  healthy profit margins -- of their aging coal-fired power plants and the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. They argue the old plants cannot compete with power already available on the regional high-voltage grid, power produced by more efficient coal burners and new natural gas generators.

    FirstEnergy, which came up with the idea first, has argued that natural gas will eventually become more expensive and keeping the old plants operating would add to the stability of the grid. The company has hinted broadly that without the special rate deal, which the opponents have labeled a "bailout," it might have to close Davis-Besse and its very large W.H. Sammis coal plant on the Ohio River.

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    Built Up by Oil Boom, North Dakota Now Has an Emptier Feeling

    As the price of oil has skidded to $30 a barrel, new drilling
    has dried up, and the flood of wealth and workers is ebbing.

    By JACK HEALYFEB. 7, 2016

    WILLISTON, N.D. — The “man camps” sprang up from the prairie, rows of trailers and modular steel boxes that housed thousands of workers chasing their fortunes in North Dakota’s oil fields. But these days, the man camps are missing something: men.

    Roughly eight years ago, at the peak of the last recession, oil drilling began to transform these remote corners of the plains into an economic beacon, attracting billions of dollars in new investments and thousands of workers in search of good-paying jobs and an escape from America’s economic pain. But now, as oil prices have skidded to $30 a barrel, new drilling has dried up here, and the flood of wealth and workers is ebbing.

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    Solar energy grows 30 percent in Texas, keeping pace with country

    Posted on February 5, 2016 | By James Osborne

    Solar power continues to grow at a fast clip around the country, even in Texas, which has long lagged behind, according to the federal government.

    A report released Friday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the capacity of solar installations grew by more than 32 percent nationwide last year. Between rooftop systems and sprawling solar farms, that works out to almost 2 percent of the entire electrical capacity in this country.

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    Regulatory Gaps Leave Unsafe Lead Levels in Water Nationwide




    Bottled water at a distribution site in Sebring, Ohio, where tests last year found unsafe amounts of lead in the drinking water.


    Ty Wright for The New York Times


    In Sebring, Ohio, routine laboratory tests last August found unsafe levels of lead in the town’s drinking water after workers stopped adding a chemical to keep lead water pipes from corroding. Five months passed before the city told pregnant women and children not to drink the water, and shut down taps and fountains in schools.

    In 2001, after Washington, D.C., changed how it disinfected drinking water, lead in tap water at thousands of homes spiked as much as 20 times the federally approved level. Residents did not find out for three years. When they did, officials ripped out lead water pipes feeding 17,600 homes — and discovered three years later that many of the repairs had only prolonged the contamination.

    The crisis in Flint, Mich., where as many as 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead after a budget-cutting decision to switch drinking-water sources, may be the most serious contamination threat facing the country’s water supplies. But it is hardly the only one.

    Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city in Durham and Greenville, N.C., in 2006; in Columbia, S.C., in 2005; and last July in Jackson, Miss., where officials waited six months to disclose the contamination — as well as in scores of other places in recent years.

    Federal officials and many scientists agree that most of the nation’s 53,000 community water systems provide safe drinking water. But such episodes are unsettling reminders of what experts say are holes in the safety net of rules and procedures intended to keep water not just lead-free, but free of all poisons.

    The Environmental Protection Agency says streams tapped by water utilities serving a third of the population are not yet covered by clean-water laws that limit levels of toxic pollutants. Even purified water often travels to homes through pipes that are in stunning disrepair, potentially open to disease and pollutants.

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