South Carolina utility sale could extend planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline

PIPELINES: Dominion Energy’s planned purchase of South Carolina’s SCANA energy company could lead to an expansion of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is currently slated to run through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. (Associated Press)

ALSO: Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine at a campaign stop Sunday said he is asking FERC for a rehearing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline now that it has all its commissioners. (News Virginian)

• SCANA won’t give severance packages potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to former executives following the failure of the Summer nuclear project. (Associated Press)
• South Carolina utility customers would receive a one-time payment but still be on the hook for paying $2.2 billion for the failed Summer nuclear project under Dominion Energy’s plan to buy SCANA. (Post and Courier)
• A look at Dominion Energy following its announcement last week that it intends to buy SCANA in the wake of the Summer nuclear plant project failure in South Carolina.

Trump offshore drilling plan ignites debate among coastal states

OIL & GAS: The Trump administration plans to expand offshore oil and natural gas exploration with the largest auction of offshore leases in U.S. history, including federal waters off Southeast states. (Virginian-Pilot)

• The offshore exploration plan puts the Trump administration at odds with environmental groups as well as with some coastal states such Florida. (New York Times)
• Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Florida don’t like the plan to open up waters long closed to offshore drilling there. (Miami Herald)
• Louisiana lawmakers praised the proposal’s potential to boost the economy and energy security, while lawmakers from South Carolina and other states oppose the move for environmental reasons. (The Advocate, Post and Courier)
• Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the plan to increase the country’s offshore drilling will make the United States “the strongest energy superpower.”

Florida senator aims to block repeal of offshore drilling safety rules

OIL & NATURAL GAS: Six small oil and natural gas drilling projects, including sites in Appalachia and Louisiana and Mississippi, will receive about $30 million in federal research and development funds as part of the Trump administration’s effort to boost fossil fuels. (Reuters)

• Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday he will use the Congressional Review Act to block President Trump from overturning safety rules put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Gulf water. (The Hill)
• The first of two applications for a $1.9 billion U.S. Department of Energy loan is approved for an underground natural gas liquids storage hub in Appalachia. (Times Free Press)

UTILITIES: The CEO of Virginia-based Dominion Energy said its purchase of South Carolina’s troubled utility SCANA is “unprecedented in the benefits it provides customers.” (Statehouse Report)

• West Virginia landowners who are being sued by Mountain Valley Pipeline developers argue the project should not have immediate access to their properties. (Metro News)
• Developers have yet to break ground on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is already behind schedule.

Dominion Energy to buy South Carolina’s SCANA after nuclear project failure

NUCLEAR: South Carolina’s SCANA tentatively agreed to a $14.6 billion sale to Virginia-based Dominion Energy on Wednesday in the aftermath of the failed Summer nuclear project. The sale hinges on keeping customer payments for the unfinished reactors. (Post and Courier)

ALSO: Hedge-fund investors will turn a $171 million profit from South Carolina’s nuclear settlement, but they might also be on the hook for unpaid bills to the project’s contractors. (Post and Courier)

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: North Carolina electric cooperatives are trying to lure plug-in electric vehicle drivers to rural, scenic areas with new charging stations aimed at tourists. (Southeast Energy News)

• Several South Carolina state lawmakers are calling on utility commissioners to resign after they collectively failed to disclose almost $140,000 in flights and other perks paid by utility associations and other groups. (Post and Courier)
• Following the GOP tax overhaul, the Kentucky Public Service Commission ordered for-profit utilities to track their savings under lower corporate tax rates to ensure they are passed on to customers in the form of lower rates.

White House considers weakening offshore oil drilling regulations

REGULATIONS: President Trump is considering whether to relax safety rules for offshore oil drilling that were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (NPR)

SHALE: U.S. crude oil production is nearing record highs, thanks to drilling in major shale oil fields around the country, including in West Virginia. (Washington Post)

• A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Kentucky Utilities over coal ash pollution in one of the state’s lakes, saying it should be addressed by state regulators and not the court. (WFPL)
• Tennessee regulators say it should not cost ratepayers more money or take as long as the TVA utility has estimated to conduct a court-ordered coal ash cleanup. (Associated Press)

• Research economists predict fallout from South Carolina’s failed Summer nuclear plant project will enter a new stage as power companies, regulators and lawmakers continue to pick up the pieces.

Congress moves to aid Georgia’s nuclear plant, project’s fate decided today

NOTE TO READERS: Southeast Energy News is taking a break for the holidays and the daily digest will return on Tuesday, January 2. Also, donations through Dec. 31 will be doubled via the NewsMatch program, click here to contribute. Thanks for reading! NUCLEAR: U.S. lawmakers lay the groundwork to guarantee $800 million in federal tax credits to Georgia’s long-delayed and over-budget Vogtle nuclear project, while state regulators meet today to determine if the project will continue.

EPA cites North Carolina as ‘useful example’ to limit emissions

REGULATIONS: In a document proposing rulemaking to replace the Clean Power Plan, the EPA cites North Carolina’s draft rule to comply with the Obama-era climate rules as possibly a “useful example” to limit emissions. (E&E News)

• A U.S. Senator from Georgia says he is “personally confident” Congress will quickly approve money for the troubled Vogtle nuclear project after a provision was left out of the new federal tax plan. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
• Meanwhile, the chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission writes in an email obtained by E&E News that House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress will take up a key nuclear tax credit needed to help the Vogtle nuclear project. (E&E News)
• One of five Public Service Commission members is speaking publically about the upcoming decision to continue construction of Georgia’s long-delayed, significantly over-budget Vogtle nuclear project. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
• After an 11-hour blackout delayed thousands of flights Sunday at the Atlanta airport, Georgia Power’s CEO stressed that this and its troubled nuclear plant are “separate issues” as regulators prepare to decide the project’s fate.

Oil plumes found at site of 13-year-old leak off Louisiana’s coast

OIL & GAS: Federal regulators find new evidence of an ongoing oil release stretching for miles at the site of a 13-year-old leak off Louisiana’s coast. The owner of nearby wells denies oil is seeping from unplugged wells on the seafloor. (Associated Press)

• President Trump is expected to decide by next month whether to implement solar import tariffs, which would put at risk as much as $5.6 billion in solar investments and nearly 15,000 jobs in four Southeast states, an analysis finds. (Southeast Energy News)
• Duke Energy wants to keep South Carolina solar contracts closed to the public, which is in contrast to S.C. Electric & Gas utility company’s stance. (Charlotte Business Journal, subscription)
• A look at solar panel installation at schools in Georgia.

Fate of only U.S. nuclear plant under construction to be decided Thursday

NUCLEAR: Georgia’s Public Service Commission is expected to decide Thursday whether to cancel the Vogtle nuclear project amid the growing calls to do so. The decision carries high stakes for the local economy and fate of new nuclear around the county. (Washington Examiner, Savannah Morning News, Augusta Chronicle)

• Critics of the Vogtle project say the power isn’t even needed, citing less-than-anticipated growth in demand in recent years. (WABE)
•Federal agents are looking into whether South Carolina utility officials concealed information from investors about the now-failed Summer nuclear project and whether their actions constitute fraud or securities violations. (The State)
• The head of South Carolina’s utility watchdog agency is retiring in the wake of the failed Summer project, for which he has faced criticism.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline gets Army Corps permit in Louisiana

PIPELINES: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grants the controversial Bayou Bridge Pipeline a permit to cross southern Louisiana, including wetland areas across the Atchafalaya River Basin. (Times-Picayune)

• Meanwhile, a Louisiana environmental group files a lawsuit against the governor’s office and a sheriff’s office for meeting notes and other communication related to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. (Associated Press)
• The National Park Service awarded another key approval to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, authorizing its construction and operation under the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

GENERATION: A report from North American Electric Reliability says generation from natural gas and renewables will provide enough electricity to offset the closures of U.S. coal and nuclear plants in the next decade. (Power)

• Toshiba promised to cover debt from its now-bankrupt subsidiary, Westinghouse, and has now paid nearly $3.7 billion dollars to Georgia utilities.