The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will soon have its second opportunity to weigh in on the attempt by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to spread the costs of high-voltage transmission facilities across the regional market administered by PJM Interconnection LLC (PJM). The court’s ruling will have implications for the manner in which the costs of transmission facilities are allocated in the future, not only in PJM, but throughout the country.

As the second Obama administration takes root, the shale gas and oil boom in the United States continues to drive economic resurgence. And, the outlook for energy independence grows brighter. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) now estimates increased production of shale gas will lead the United States to become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020.

In the energy and mining sphere, the companies fueled by the shale boom, include producers, service companies, pipeline companies, and suppliers of materials like steel, mud, cement, sand and guar. All remain watchful of the federal, state and local policies and regulations that are likely to impact demand as well as the manner in which their goods and services are delivered.

When Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Aramco suffered a massive cyberattack at the end of 2012, it should have sounded an alarm like a blaring global wakeup call to everyone in the energy sector.

The Qatari natural gas giant RasGas and Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs also were attacked in similar ways. These attacks cost these companies billions of dollars, but that isn’t the point.

Aside from the obvious financial disaster for the attacked company, the real threat of such cyberattacks is their possible use for the purpose of crippling major world economies. If Aramco’s production had been crippled by the cyberattack, the world would have been short on oil immediately and the ripple effects would have been huge. The United States would have been especially hard hit – we import 2.5 million barrels from Aramco.

Last year’s $1 billion settlement between the federal government and more than 40 Native American tribes marked a turning point in how oil and shale gas drilling sites are handled. In addition to bringing an end to years of litigation over alleged mishandling of trust funds and resources by the government, it opens the door to vast improvements in environmental protection and drilling technology.

Many mom-and-pop drilling sites operate the same way they did 80 years ago. On many sites, truck drivers working on the oil rigs would simply jot down the number of barrels on a hand-written receipt and leave it in a mailbox or mason jar. This lack of monitoring can not only be potentially expensive on the accounting books, but also could result in an even more expensive environmental disaster when it comes to fracking and the production systems used.

New methods of natural gas and oil production have unlocked new supplies from shale formations around the United States over the past two decades, and these new supply sources have brought about rapid changes in the transportation infrastructure needed to bring these supplies to market. Pipeline developers – whether moving oil, natural gas or natural gas liquids (NGL) – have sought to keep up with the increasing volume and changing production locations by building new infrastructure and repurposing existing pipelines. The origin points for new and repurposed pipelines are often in areas historically lacking large-scale pipeline infrastructure. In some cases, new production locations were previously destinations or through-points for oil, gas and NGL pipelines before the shale production boom.

In his recent State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama pledged his support for domestic oil and natural gas production. However, the President made it clear that his administration may seek stricter regulation over areas impacting the growth of shale gas operations. In addition, while the President backed oil and gas permitting on federal lands, he drew a direct link between increased mining of domestic resources to his primary theme of clean energy initiatives and conservation. These themes may be inherently contradictory and the oil and gas industry awaits the possible effects of enhanced federal regulation.

Selling a business is typically not an easy decision and the process can be daunting. An awful lot of important decisions must be made well in advance of an attempted sale. How will the company be marketed? In an auction or a targeted sale process? What type of buyer will maximize the value? Is timing important? These and other issues must be confronted up front to achieve an effective sale process.

It is possible that the best buyer for your business will be a public company. Today, public companies are well-heeled, with lots of cash on their balance sheets and a need to show revenue growth to their shareholders. They also have been very active in the energy markets — at least 576 public and private deals were reported in 2012 alone. If a public company is among the universe of potential buyers of your company, you need to get your ducks in a row to maximize that opportunity. Here are some things to consider:

Companies operating in the mining sector – not just the miners, but the service and support businesses, as well – bring a great many benefits to the countries in which they develop resources. Because at present, however, it is often countries that are still finding their feet economically and socially that are blessed with abundant and available natural resources, few international businesses today are also fraught with more potential risks than the mining industry.

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