Capitol Comments

Yesterday's Christian Science Monitor ran a story that several major cybersecurity attacks on our nation's natural gas pipeline system are underway, based on alerts from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the story, at least three private alerts were sent by DHS to pipeline companies since March 29, that a wave of attacks have been occurred for months and could impact Canadian pipeline companies as well.

On Friday, the Vermont House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a ban, by a vote of 103-36, to become the first state to enact an outright prohibition on the use of hydraulic fracturing. Last year, New Jersey's legislature passed a similar fracking ban that was initially vetoed by Governor Chris Christie and a temporary, one-year prohibition was passed in its place. Vermont's Governor, Peter Shumlin, is widely expected to sign the legislation, which was heralded by environmentalists and opposed by industry groups that viewed it as reactionary and unnecessary since there are no active permits to use the fracking process in the state.

The New Hampshire State Senate voted 18-6 to amend the state's cap and trade program, witch is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), to allow utility companies more control over the use of auction proceeds for energy efficiency. The bill also changes a consumer rebate formula that would slightly decrease monthly rates for consumers. The bill now goes to the House, where leaders are unsure of its prospects as their body passed legislation requiring a repeal of the entire cap and trade program rather than just changing administrative functions.

Delta Airlines announced yesterday that it reached agreement with ConocoPhillips to purchase its troubled Trainer refinery for $150 million, preventing the removal of 185,000 barrels per day of refining capacity from leaving fuel markets in the Northeast. The facility had been idled since last year because of difficult financial head winds facing East Coast refiners because of declining domestic fuel demand and they are more heavily reliant on expensive foreign crude oil than its competitors in the South and Midwest. Delta will become the first US airline to own a refinery, which it believes will help them hedge against rising jet fuel prices.

Last week, the Illinois State Senate voted 54-0 to pass new legislation regulating hydraulic fracturing by requiring chemical disclosure of the fluids used to break open the underground formations and new testing requirements for the cement and steel used during the "casing" process. Proponents of the bill lauded its passage as a way to beef up the state's oversight of expected drilling activity that may occur near the New Albany Shale formation and coal fields of southern Illinois.