The Interior Department announced a five-year plan that would allow oil and natural gas drilling in almost all U.S. coastal waters, going far beyond President Donald Trump’s executive order from April that directed the agency to consider auctioning oil and gas leases in protected areas of the Arctic, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. A bipartisan group of governors along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts spoke out against the Interior Department’s proposal, citing threats to tourism and other coastal economies. Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), who has said he wants offshore drilling, was the lone dissenter.
The Bureau of Land Management revised an Obama-era policy on prioritizing oil and natural gas leasing and drilling projects with regard to greater sage grouse habitats by stating that BLM could consider “leasing and development” within the grouse habitat management areas without leasing and developing outside of those areas.
The winter storm that moved up the U.S. East Coast tested energy infrastructure by threatening power outages, refinery shutdowns and spikes in heating prices. Five refineries along the East Coast are dealing with challenges such as frozen pipes, while Phillips 66 reportedly shut a crude and coking unit at its refinery in Wood River, Ill., as a result of the weather.
Natural gas that’s used to heat homes and generate power surged to 60 times the going rate as a blizzard stoked fuel demand in Northeastern states. The spot price for natural gas reached a record $175 per million British thermal units.
Brookfield Business Partners LP, an affiliate of Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc., plans to acquire Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, the bankrupt U.S. nuclear unit of Toshiba Corp., in a $4.6 billion deal that’s expected to close in the third quarter of 2018, pending approval from regulators and U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Westinghouse declared bankruptcy protection early last year and is aiming to exit bankruptcy as soon as March.
Dominion Energy offered to buy the troubled utility SCANA Corp. for $14.6 billion, including partial refunds and rate cuts to the customers of SCANA subsidiary S.C. Electric & Gas for its failed V.C. Summer nuclear plant project. SCANA tentatively agreed to the sale, which hinges on keeping customer payments for two unfinished nuclear reactors that cost $9 billion.
Brazilian state-run oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA said it would pay $2.95 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by U.S. investors seeking to recoup corruption-related losses. Pending U.S. federal court approval, the Petrobras payout to investors of U.S.-listed shares or bonds between January 2010 and July 2015 could rank as the fifth-largest settlement on record for securities class-action suits.
House and Senate will both be in session this week.
The Interior Department’s 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing draft program is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on Monday, which will open up a 60-day comment period for the proposal. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said he asked for an immediate meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to discuss his opposition to the plan.
The American Petroleum Institute will hold its annual State of Energy Address on Tuesday to preview the top U.S. oil and natural gas industry priorities for 2018.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide by Jan. 10 whether to finalize the Energy Department’s proposed electric grid plan, which aims to reward facilities like coal-fired and nuclear power plants that are capable of keeping 90-day fuel supplies onsite. Coal and nuclear industries highlighted the recent cold snap as a reason for backing the grid proposal.