Happy Memorial Day! MDN Off Friday & Monday

Memorial DayHave a great Memorial Day weekend–and don’t forget to remember and commemorate those who have given their lives for this country, to protect and defend her. MDN will be off on both Friday and Monday (no stories). We’re taking a long weekend to be with family and recharge the batteries. We’ll do so in one of our favorite spots on Mother Earth–in beautiful Lancaster County, PA.

Every Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day MDN editor Jim Willis makes a short trip to the Broome County Veteran’s Memorial Arena in Binghamton, NY. Outside the Arena on one of the corners is a memorial where the names of Broome County residents who have fought and died in every war ever fought–from the Revolutionary War through the current war on terror in Afghanistan–is etched in stone on a series of pedestals. It is a small version of our own Viet Nam Wall, if you will. It is Jim’s way of honoring the war dead–to simply pay a brief visit and remember them. Read some of the names. Reflect on the price they paid–the ultimate price.

Perhaps there is a similar monument where you live. Or a Memorial Day parade. Or something else. Find a way this Memorial Day to remember the war dead and be thankful for the freedom you have–because it was purchased with a very high price: the lives of those people.

Deer Lakes School Signs Lease for $3,100/Acre + 18% Royalties

money bagAttention Martian parents from the Mars School District in Middlesex Township (Butler County), PA: In Allegheny County (bordering Butler County on the south) the Deer Lakes School District has just signed a lease to allow shale drilling under school property. Why are you Martians so afraid of shale drilling? (see Martian Arrogance: Town MUST “Protect Us” from Drilling via Zoning) At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Deer Lakes board members voted to lease 110 acres of school property for drilling under (not on) with Huntley & Huntley, Inc. The lease terms are $3,100 per acre in a signing bonus and 18% royalties–yielding a nice check for $341,000 to the school just for signing. Those terms are not quite as rosy as last year’s deal struck by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald who negotiated what turns out to be close to $4,000 per acre (and an 18% royalty) for leasing 1,180 acres in Deer Lakes Park (see Allegheny Co Exec Bests Range on Deer Lakes Park Lease Deal). The county park is literally a stone’s throw from the school…
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Judge Puts NC Fracking on Hold Pending Outcome of Lawsuit

Last July MDN told you that the first permits to frack shale wells in North Carolina would start to be issued this July (see North Carolina Shames New York: Fracking Begins in 2015). The NC Mining and Energy Commission did its part and completed regulations in March (see Triassic Park: North Carolina Becomes 34th State to Frack Shale). Everything was set to go. And then the lawsuits began. A NC judge has issued a ruling that prohibits the Mining and Energy Commission from issuing any permits until another case currently before the NC Supreme Court–questioning the legality of the appointment of several boards that manage state resources and the environment–plays out. It’s a pretty safe bet that the first permits to frack in NC won’t happen in July…
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PA Snubber Flourishes in Industry Downturn – Lessons Learned

There’s no denying that with the number of drilling rigs reduced in the Marcellus/Utica, the supply chain–those businesses that service the industry–have also seen a reduction in business. You can’t lay down 30% of your rigs and not have some kind of effect on the industry. But not every supply chain business has been negatively affected. Deep Well Services (DWS), a “snubbing” oilfield services company headquartered in Pennsylvania, continues to break new revenue records and grow the payroll with new employees. Last July they had 128 employees. As of May this year, they have 140, and by the end of the year that number will be 190. That’s really saying something in this current downturn in the industry. How did they do it?…
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PA Landowners Beware Antis Wanting to “Help You” w/Pipeline Deal

Landowners in northeast and central Pennsylvania should be wary of (and avoid) a new effort to try and recruit them into a “landowner group” that’s really just an anti-drilling group being formed to fight Williams and their much-needed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project. Two anti-drilling kids (or youths, if you prefer) are spearheading the effort. Alex Lotorto is one of them. Alex has been one of the community agitators against the natural gas fired electric generating plant proposed for Jessup, PA (see Serial Protestor Alex Lotorto Seeks New Venue in Jessup). Alex and another twenty-something anti-driller, Allison Petryk (from New Jersey), recently conducted a meeting for unsuspecting landowners at the Tunkhannock Public Library in Wyoming County…
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Vermont Wackos (Including AARP) Oppose 43-Mile Natgas Pipeline

The fossil fuel hating nutjobs are out in force in Vermont. Anti-drillers who hate fracking because they hate natural gas because natural gas is an evil, nasty “fossil fuel” are trying to stall progress on a 43-mile natural gas pipeline Vermont Gas Systems is laying between Chittenden and Addison counties to deliver clean burning natural gas to Vermonters. Those opposing the pipeline include the wackos from a group called Rising Tide Vermont. But unfortunately, the pipeline is also being opposed by the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association (companies that deliver fuel oil) and opposed by even the socialist Vermont AARP. Who knows why the old farts association is opposing the pipeline–probably because no one paid them off (as others have done in the past). It’s a sad state of affairs, but Vermont Gas Systems is going on the offensive with a PR campaign…
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Moody’s Says O&G Company Default Rate in 2015 Going Higher

On Tuesday Moody’s Investors Service released a new report titled “Oil and Gas: The Bad, Ugly and Good.” The 12-page, which will set you back $550 (or free if you’re company subscribes to Moody’s) says, in essence, because the price of oil is recovering slowly, instead of quickly, “weaker oil & gas issuers are at a much greater risk of default.” That is, some drillers in 2015 will either go under or get bought out. How many? A high level summary of the report (below) doesn’t say how many. What it does say is that of all the companies rated by Moody’s with a credit rating of B3 or lower (too much debt, not enough revenue), 15% of all the companies in that list are oil & gas companies. That’s up from 8% of all companies in the list a year ago. In other words, it’s getting worse for drillers (or exploration & production companies, as it’s more properly called)…
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New Bill “Encourages” FERC to Make Speedier Pipeline Approvals

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, from West Virginia, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recently introduced a bill that speed up the approval time for new pipeline projects. The “Oil and Gas Production and Distribution Reform Act” strengthens the role of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to better coordinate government agencies involved in the pipeline permitting process. That is, it gooses FERC and tells them to hurry it up (especially with Marcellus and Utica pipeline projects)–and reportedly gives them new tools and new deadlines to do so…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Thu, May 21, 2015

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading:
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Drexel U Study Finds Little Air Pollution Near Marcellus Sites

Real ScienceFinally some real, honest, independent research into the effects of shale drilling on air quality has just been published in the peer reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology. Researchers from Drexel University published the results of air quality research titled “Atmosphere Emission Characterization of Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Development Sites” (full copy below). Rather than focus solely on the release of methane as a global warming concern, the Drexel researchers looked at volatile organic compounds and other pollutants that are a true health concern for people living close to drilling sites and compressor stations. The researchers took measurements using a more accurate instrumentation/methodology than other studies have used and they collected 17 samples at 13 sites including wells, drilling rigs, compressor stations and processing areas. This kind of research is long overdue. What did they find?…
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Blue Racer Midstream CFO Promoted over President to Become CEO

Some changes at the top of Blue Racer Midstream–the pipeline and processing plant company formed in 2012 as a joint venture between Caiman Energy II and Dominion and focused totally on the Marcellus and Utica Shale region. Jack Lafield, founder and CEO of Caiman Energy (sold to Williams for $2.5 billion) and current CEO of Caiman Energy II and Blue Racer, has stepped down as CEO of both companies. Lafield will continue to serve as chairman of the board for Caiman Energy II and remains a member of the board for Blue Racer. In his place Stephen Arata, CFO for both companies, has been named CEO for both Caiman Energy II and Blue Racer Midstream. Although the announcement that Lafield is “retiring” from his post as CEO of both Caiman and Blue Racer as of today (see below), the official biography for Arata on the Blue Racer website says the transition became effective on April 1st–not sure why there is a discrepancy. What’s equally intriguing (to MDN) is that Caiman/Blue Racer’s current president and COO, Rick Moncrief, was not promoted to the top spot and instead Arata, the CFO, was–which is not the typical succession path…
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Penn State Defends Controversial Water Contamination Study

Two weeks ago MDN covered the news that researchers from Penn State had published a study that reportedly showed a Marcellus Shale wastewater impoundment had leaked and some of the wastewater had found its way to a crack underground and traveled up to a mile and a half away to contaminate 3 water wells. This happened in 2010–five years ago (see Penn State Finds Chemical Migration in 3 PA Water Wells from 2010). It seemed at first blush that this was important research not because it proves “fracking contaminates water wells, told you so told you so” as anti-drillers claim–but because of the research tools innovated by the team to detect small amounts of chemicals that may in fact come from shale drilling. However, a few days later the news broke that one of the so-called researchers on the team had actually been a consultant and worked for the three families with the contaminated water wells, helping them in their lawsuit against the driller. When that little overlooked and omitted fact became known, embarrased mainstream news organizations did something we rarely see–they printed retractions/corrections noting the huge conflict of interest (see Reversal: Media Discredits Penn State Water Contamination Study). It gave Penn State a major black eye and damaged their credibility. So Penn State fired off their own mea culpa to defend the research study and the “facts” of how this kerfuffle came to be…
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NY Antis Use Same Strategy for Pipelines: “We Need Health Study”

The anti-drilling nutters in New York are somewhat drunk on their own success. The strategy of “we need to wait until a health study is done” worked so well to delay fracking in NY, the nutters are (predictably) back and now trying to use the same strategy with regard to building new pipelines. It’s no secret that infrastructure–i.e. pipelines–are desperately needed to get Marcellus Shale gas out of Pennsylvania and into markets like New York, New England and beyond. Anti-drillers (actually fossil fuel haters) believe they can now pressure NY officials to delay permits for pipelines in the same fashion they delayed fracking long enough to kill it. The new tactic is to claim pipeline compressor, metering and regulation stations are toxic for those who live near them. In other words, more lying, scare tactics to cover up the fact it is fossil fuel hatred that motivates them and not concern for your health…
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PA Gov Wolf Takes Aim at Bakken Oil Trains Traveling Thru PA

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is now taking aim at railroads transporting Bakken crude oil that pass through PA on their way to refineries along the East Coast. While railroads are typically regulated by the federal government, Wolf is a) hoping to pressure railroads apart from the feds, and b) may try to sneak in his own regulations on top of federal regulations. He’s hired an “expert,” Dr. Allan Zarembski, to look into the matter for the next three months–to provide Wolf with “policy recommendations” (which means new rules and regulations are on the way). Wolf sent a letter (copy below) to CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway telling them to shape up…
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NY Riverkeeper Sues Federal DOT Over New Oil Train Regs

The fossil fuel hating New York Riverkeeper–not to be confused with fossil fuel hating THE Delaware Riverkeeper–has just sued the U.S. Dept. of Transportation over rules the DOT recently issued with regard to railroads transporting crude oil (usually Bakken crude) through New York State. Riverkeeper is being joined in their frivolous lawsuit by several other odious anti-drilling, anti-capitalist Big Green organizations: Earthjustice, Waterkeeper Alliance, ForestEthics and the Sierra Clubbers. Riverkeeper says the DOT’s new rules for oil trains won’t protect rivers like the Hudson…
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Columbia Pipeline Floats IOUs to Pay Down Debt, Fund Dividend

NOTE: NiSource/Columbia called MDN to clarify that the IPO earlier this year was for Columbia Pipeline Partners, NOT Columbia Pipeline Group as we had incorrectly stated in the original version of this story. Thank you NiSource! We’ve slightly modified the opening paragraph below to make it accurate.

The mad dash to raise cash continues in both the upstream and midstream sectors. Today it’s a company in the midstream (pipelines and process plants). In February of this year, NiSource spun off Columbia Pipeline Partners into it’s own company with a $1.1 billion initial public offering of “units” (think shares of stock, see Columbia Pipeline IPO Blows By Rosiest Expectations, Nets $1.1B). Columbia Pipeline Group (of which Columbia Pipeline Partners owns 15.7%) will become its own company and trade under its own stock ticker (CPGX) starting July 1. Yesterday Columbia Pipeline Group announced they are floating a series of IOUs, or “senior notes” looking to raise an eye-popping $2.75 billion. What will they use it for? A little over $1 billion will be used to pay off “intercompany debt” ahead of the separation. Another $1.45 billion will be used for a “special dividend to NiSource in connection with its planned separation from NiSource.” The balance of ~$300 million will be used for “general corporate purposes”–paperclips and such…
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