NextEra Energy’s proposed $18.7 acquisition of Oncor Holdings took a big step forward Monday with a bankruptcy court’s approval of the sale, NextEra officials said Monday.
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved Energy Future Holding Corp. entering into an agreement with NextEra to acquire 100 percent of the equity of reorganized EFH, reorganized Energy Future Intermediate Holding Corp, Oncor Electric Delivery Holdings Co. LLC and other subsidiaries including Oncor Holdings’ approximately 80 percent ownership in Oncor Electric Delivery Co.
NextEra, headquartered in Juno Beach, is the parent company of Florida’s largest electric utility, Florida Power & Light Co.
NextEra CEO and chairman Jim Robo said Monday the bankruptcy court ruling is an important next step in the process to acquire Oncor.
NextEra expects to file a joint application with Oncor soon seeking the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ approval of the proposed transaction, Robo said.
The transaction was valued at $18.4 billion but in a merger agreement signed with EFH Monday, NextEra increased its offer by $300 million in cash.
Energy Future Holdings Corp. formerly known as TXU Corp., is a privately-held diversified energy holding company with a portfolio of competitive and regulated energy businesses in Texas.
Oncor is the largest regulated transmission and distribution utility in Texas.
NextEra expects the transaction, which must also be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.
EFH’s bankruptcy filing in 2014 was the largest-ever U.S. power industry bankruptcy.
Gulf Restoration Network, Flint Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club filed a petition Wednesday seeking to block construction of a $3.2 billion pipeline slated to bring natural gas to Florida Power & Light’s South Florida plants next year.
The action was filed in federal court in Atlanta against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its issuance of five Clean Water Act permits that would allow construction of the 515-mile Florida Southeast Market Pipelines Project, including the Sabal Trail pipeline.
The petition seeks an expedited review of the Corps’ decision.
Pipeline officials had no immediate comment.
This project would transport fracked gas across 699 waterbodies, lakes, rivers, and streams and harm 1,958 wetland systems in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
In addition, the project would include five compressor stations contributing significant amounts of air pollution. Despite widespread local opposition to the project, state and federal agencies are continuing to proceed.
Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave its final approval for construction to begin on to the southernmost portion of the pipeline, consisting of 126 miles from Central Florida to Martin County. FERC has not yet given the northern portion, known as Sabal Trail, the final go-ahead.
If built, the fracked gas pipeline would extend throughout Florida and southern Georgia over an area that provides drinking water to approximately 10 million people. Pipeline construction alone poses a threat to local water resources as the process threatens to release hazardous materials and drilling mud into the aquifer, polluting the drinking water, and resulting in rapid transmission of drilling mud over great distances, the groups said.
The lawsuit alleges the Corps failed to provide proper notice and public participation. The lawsuit further charges that the planned pipeline fails to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse environmental impacts.
“Communities in Florida and Georgia have clearly stated that they do not want this dangerous fracked-gas pipeline polluting their water or their neighborhoods. We have collected 25,000 signatures in opposition to the pipeline, but the Army Corps is just not listening,” said Johanna DeGraffenreid with Gulf Restoration Network. “The public has continually been left out of the decision making process for this project and that is unacceptable. Our water and communities are too important to risk for an unnecessary pipeline.”
Steve Caley, Legal Director at GreenLaw, said “the Floridan Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world which supplies drinking water to millions of people in the southeastern United States, has a close connection to the water bodies and wetlands that will be negatively impacted or destroyed by the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. Given the threats this Project poses to this critical water supply, the Corps’ failure to follow clearly established law by transparently evaluating and disclosing for public review and comment how those negative effects will be mitigated is particularly egregious.”
Eric Huber, managing attorney for the Sierra Club, said, “Essentially what happened is the Corps stated FERC addressed mitigation while FERC stated the Corps would do it. As a result, neither agency analyzed the issue and the public had no chance to review and comment on it. To make matters worse, the Corps was aware of several less damaging routes but did not choose them, causing unnecessary destruction to wetlands through the heart of southern Georgia and Florida.”
A $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline slated to supply Florida Power & Light’s South Florida plants would have some adverse environmental impacts, but those impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with proposed mitigation measures, federal regulators said Friday.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s staff released the final environmental impact statement for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. If approved, the 685-mile pipeline will originate in Alabama and include the separate but connected Hillabee Expansion, Sabal Trail and Florida Southeast Connection projects. It will include six new compressor stations as well.
The project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities on the route. They have raised concerns that the pipeline will harm the Floridan Aquifer which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and poses a safety hazard to residents.
“The Sunshine State should not be relying on dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure. No mitigation plan can truly account for the damage to a community if a hazardous incident occurs. As of 2014 there were over 700 pipeline incidents that had been reported, and many more that have gone undocumented. When will our agencies learn that our water, wetlands, and communities are not for sale to the highest bidder?” said Johanna de Graffenreid, Coastal Campaign Organizer at Gulf Restoration Network, New Orleans.
Steven Caley, an Atlanta-based GreenLaw attorney representing Sierra Club and several River Keepers groups, said of FERC, “They’ve never seen a pipeline they didn’t like.”
Caley questioned how the FERC staff can say the pipeline will be environmentally sound when it has not even seen the mitigation plans.
“They’ve had thousands of comments and have had several experts weigh in from the parties who have gone to the time and expense of giving them analysis on the effect the pipeline could have. They basically have ignored everything. They have not given any credence to anything anyone has said,” Caley said.
“But instead they have relied completely on everything Sabal Trail has given them. FERC has shown it is nothing but a lapdog. They get all their funding from the natural gas industry, so what do you expect?” Caley said.
Juno Beach-based FPL and parent company NextEra Energy officials have said they expect the pipeline to be in service by mid-2017. It will bring gas from a Central Florida hub to FPL’s Martin County plant, then to its plants in Rivera Beach and at Port Everglades.
A 480-mile portion of the pipeline, the SabalTrail Transmission Project, is a joint venture of a subsidiary of Juno Beach-based FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., and Houston-based Spectra Energy.
The southern 126-mile leg is proposed by Florida Southeast Connection, another NextEra subsidiary.
The conclusions and recommendations in the EIS are those of FERC staff, with input from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps will also present its own recommendations and conclusions.
FERC said the main reasons for its conclusions are:
each Applicant would minimize impacts on the natural and human environments during construction and operation of its facilities by implementing the numerous measures described in their respective construction and restoration plans;
the majority of the proposed facilities would be collocated within or adjacent to existing rights-of-way;
all of the proposed facilities would be constructed and operated in compliance with federal standards, requirements, and thresholds including U.S. Department of Transportation materials requirements and Environmental Protection Agency air emissions standards;
a high level of public participation was achieved during the pre-filing and post application review processes and helped inform our analysis;
environmental justice populations would not be disproportionately affected by the SMP Project;
the horizontal directional drilling crossing method would be utilized for most major and sensitive waterbodies, the majority of other waterbodies would be crossed using dry crossing methods, and the Applicants would be required to obtain applicable permits and provide mitigation for unavoidable impacts on waterbodies and wetlands through coordination with the USACE and state regulatory agencies;
we would complete Endangered Species Act consultations with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service prior to allowing any construction to begin;
we would complete the process of complying with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 prior to allowing any construction to begin; and
environmental inspection and monitoring programs would ensure compliance with all construction and mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations.
The FERC Commissioners will take into consideration staff’s recommendations when they make a decision on the Projects.