The developer of the embattled Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada, is selling off all its hydroelectric power plants in a bid to become one of the largest natural gas distributors in North America, while saying the move doesn't mean it has given up on the highly politicized oil pipeline.
"Make no mistake, TransCanada and its shippers remain fully committed to Keystone XL," spokesman Mark Cooper told the Washington Examiner.
TransCanada is seeking $15 billion in compensation under the North American Free Trade Agreement against the Obama administration for denying the Keystone XL pipeline project nearly a year ago after seven years of analysis and review.
The White House has called the pipeline one of the most heavily "politicized" energy projects in recent history. The project would carry oil from Alberta's tar sands nearly 1,200 miles south to refiners on the Gulf Coast.
In the meantime, TransCanada is about to become a major player in distributing the fuel for U.S. power plants, which have transitioned away from coal to rely on cleaner-burning natural gas to supply the bulk of the U.S.'s electricity.
The Canadian company announced Tuesday that it is selling off all of its electric power assets in New England, where it is the largest hydropower generator, to help pay down a loan it used to buy Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group in March. The deal will make it a big player in moving natural gas produced from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from the shale fields of Pennsylvania and Ohio to centers on the East Coast and elsewhere.
"There is no doubt that gaining a foothold in the Marcellus and Utica [shale] basins added a significant piece to the natural gas assets TransCanada has been operating for the past 65 years," Cooper said. TransCanada also has bought natural gas power plants in the United States.
"The Columbia acquisition creates one of North America's largest regulated natural gas transmission companies with approximately 56,100 miles of natural gas pipelines connecting the continent's most prolific supply basins to premium markets," he added.
The $10 billion purchase of the Columbia Gas Group was coupled with a $915 million bid on Tuesday to buy Columbia Gas Partners, a subsidiary of the much larger parent company.
Most of the company's hydroelectric assets in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire were purchased by Boston-based capital equity firm ArcLight Capital Partners, a leading renewable energy investor in United States. Other companies also are buying up its wind power assets in the region. The company is slated to make well over $3 billion from the sales.
ArcLight's Great River Hydro, which controls most of its hydropower assets, would "retain all existing operational personnel," while continuing to seek relicensing at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the nation's grid watchdog, for several of the acquired hydro facilities.