O&G Industry Begins to Pick Up Again in Muskingum County, OH

A “boost” from the oil and gas industry, specifically the Utica industry, is beginning to “trickle” through Muskingum County once again, says the director of the Zanesville-Muskingum County Port Authority. No, we’re not talking about drilling Utica wells–not in Muskingum, anyway. What we are talking about are companies that work in the industry. Oilfield services companies like Halliburton and Producers Service Corporation are, once again, expanding their businesses and adding new jobs. Muskingum is located next to four of the best counties in which to drill a Utica well–Guernsey, Belmont, Noble and Monroe. Belmont has the bonus of being the likely location of the next ethane cracker to commit to the region–PTT Global Chemical’s cracker plant. With an uptick in Utica drilling, and activity around the coming cracker plant, Muskingum County is in the catbird seat for economic expansion…
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TransCanada Selling Stake in Iroquois Gas Pipeline – to Itself

Companies in the oil and gas space, in particular midstream (pipeline) companies, have complicated ownership structures on paper. There are usually a number of subsidiary companies. Sometimes these companies have a “mother ship” which is owned by stockholders, and a subsidiary that is a master limited partnership (MLP), which is a different kind of corporate structure. MLPs don’t have shares of stock but instead issue units (about the same thing as shares of stock). MLPs give the unitholders certain tax advantages not offered to stockholders. Yes, its complicated. The important thing to know is that often these large pipeline companies have layers within layers. Which is the setup for this story. TransCanada, which purchased Columbia Pipeline Group last year for $10 billion (see TransCanada and Columbia Pipeline Tie the Knot Today). TransCanada controls another subsidiary called TC PipeLines, an MLP. On Monday, TransCanada issued a notice that it intends to “sell” its ownership stake in the Iroquois Gas Transmission System (an important Marcellus pipeline) along with its remaining ownership in Portland Natural Gas Transmission System (PNGTS), a New England pipeline, to its TC PipeLines subsidiary. Why? To raise money. How can a company selling something to itself raise money?…
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Kinder Morgan Sells 49% Stake in Elba Island LNG to EIG for $555M

Elba Island LNG facility

Kinder Morgan’s Elba Island, Georgia (near Savannah) LNG export facility received a green light from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last June (see KM’s Elba Island LNG Export Plant Approved by FERC). Kinder has since started construction at the site. In December, the U.S. Dept. of Energy granted Elba Island permission to export LNG to non-Free Trade Agreement countries (see Elba Island LNG Update: Non-FTA Exports Approved, Dump Truck City). What does the Georgia’s Elba LNG plant have to do with Marcellus/Utica? The Williams Transco pipeline runs through Georgia. Kinder owns and operates the 200-mile Elba Express pipeline, which connects the LNG facility to the Transco. Currently Elba Island imports LNG, getting it to market via the Transco. However, Williams has been on a mission to send Marcellus gas south–including to Georgia (see Marcellus Gas Heading to Georgia via Transco Pipeline). Marcellus Shale gas will, via the Transco, be at least some of, if not the primary, source for gas exported from the Elba Island facility. Although work continues at the facility, Kinder has decided they can use some money to help finish the project–so they’ve just sold a 49% stake in the project to investment firm EIG Global Energy Partners for $555 million. When the project is complete, Kinder says it will be worth $1.3 billion. So EIG got 49% of a $1.3 billion project (or $637 million worth of value) for $555 million. Sounds like EIG got a good deal, or perhaps Kinder was a tad desperate for the cash?…
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VA Senate Committee Nixes Frack Trade Secret Protection

In January MDN told you about an effort in Virginia to ensure new changes in Virginia’s environmental regulations that require “mandatory disclosure of fracking chemicals, baseline water testing and monitoring, and spill prevention and response planning” would still protect trade secrets–the exact combinations of chemicals used by drillers when fracking (see Proposed VA Law Would Protect Frack Chemical Trade Secrets). As we said at the time, Big Green groups are demagoging the issue, claiming drillers want to keep fracking chemicals secret from first responders and doctors. Not true. But that doesn’t stop the headlines from continuing, like “Citizens have a right to know about fracking chemicals” and “King George supervisors lobby for disclosure of fracking chemicals” (see Debate & Misinformation re Frack Chemical Disclosure Rages in VA). Here’s the thing: fracking chemicals ARE required to be disclosed. The proposed law that modifies the regulations doesn’t change that. The new law only shields the exact combinations of chemicals from being disclosed–and even the exact combination can/will still be exposed for doctors and first responders. However, the damage has been done. Enough lies hit the fan that members of a Virginia Senate committee have rejected it, ending the bill before it could receive a full vote. In other words, Senators believed the lies…
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Trump Signs Exec Order Targeting EPA “Waters of the U.S.” Rule

In May 2015, Obama’s rogue Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Obama U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), released a finalized rule clarifying what “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) means vis-à-vis what can be regulated under the federal Clean Water Act (see EPA Power Grab: Redefines Waters of the U.S. to Include Everything). Essentially the rule change redefines everything down to mud puddles (no, we’re not exaggerating) as subject to the federal Clean Water Act. In October 2015 a federal judge stopped WOTUS from going into effect, while it’s litigated (see Sixth Circuit Court Stops EPA from Implementing WOTUS Anywhere). It took a year, but in November 31 states along with other entities filed briefs with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the rule (see 31 States Ask Court to Dump Obama WOTUS Rule as Unconstitutional). It now looks like we won’t have to litigate it out after all. Yesterday, fulfilling a campaign promise, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the EPA to reconsider WOTUS. Among the many at the signing ceremony was the new Administrator of the EPA, the marvelous Scott Pruitt–who has pledged to move forward immediately with rolling back WOTUS…
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Time to Swing the Ax at the EPA – Let the Firings Begin!

Less than two weeks ago Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was confirmed to be the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (see Scott Pruitt Confirmed to Lead EPA – Swamp Draining Begins). As we observed at the time, “A labor union representing more than 9,000 EPA employees actively opposed Pruitt’s confirmation. We personally think those 9,000 employees should be fired.” Perhaps our wish is coming true! Well, at least in part. President Trump is proposing to ax 24% off from the EPA’s annual, way overinflated budget. The speculation is that the new budget will result in firing 20% of the EPA’s 15,000 employees. Hooray! It’s about time. Let’s see how the insular bureaucrats who love to tell us all what to do like getting an unemployment check…
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Federal Judge Lets Rover Enter Most OH Properties for Tree Clearing

On Friday, Feb. 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave a final approval for Energy Transfer’s Rover Pipeline project–a $3.7 billion, 711-mile Marcellus/Utica natural gas pipeline that will run from PA, WV and eastern OH through OH into Michigan and eventually into Canada (see ET Rover Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC). Rover immediately began cutting down trees along the path in Ohio, on property where landowners have signed easements and voluntarily granted access. However, some landowners, either signed or unsigned, have not yet granted access. So Rover went to court, seeking eminent domain declarations (see Time’s Up – Rover Pipe Uses Eminent Domain on Holdout OH Landowners). Yesterday a federal judge granted Rover a preliminary injunction that allows the company to enter most properties–at least for those who have already signed or are actively negotiating with Rover. There are a few holdouts (21 owners of 15 parcels) where certain legal hoops still need to be jumped through–but they will also soon have to allow Rover access. What are last minute offers by Rover to landowners for easements? Rover isn’t saying, but some landowners are mentioning $70 to $80 per linear foot as a good number…
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Millennium Asks FERC for OK to Cut Trees in NY w/o DEC Permits

New York State is a hopeless, corrupt mess. MDN previously reported on a $900 million natural gas-fired electric generating plant coming to Orange County, NY (see Orange County, NY Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant OK’d by Judge). The CPV (Competitive Power Ventures) Valley Energy Center project is being opposed by local anti-drilling ninny nannies, including Hollywood star James Cromwell. No matter. It’s already under construction. The problem now is getting a 7.8 mile pipeline, an off-shoot pipeline from the mighty Millennium Pipeline, built to the plant to supply the natural gas it will need to run. In November the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the short pipeline (see FERC Approves Pipeline to Orange County, NY NatGas Power Plant). However, as with the Constitution Pipeline, the Cuomo Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is intentionally blocking this pipeline using delays. Millennium is not, like Williams did with the Constitution, sitting on its hands waiting for the DEC. The Millennium is aggressively pushing the DEC to grant the necessary water crossing permits and sued the DEC in January to make it happen (see Millennium Pipeline Sues Cuomo’s Corrupt DEC Over Expansion Delay). As with other such projects, Millennium is playing beat the clock with respect to cutting down trees before March 31. After that date federal law prohibits large-scale tree removal in order to protect roosting bats (don’t ask). Millennium, we are happy to report, continues to push aggressively. They’ve asked FERC for permission to cut down trees not on or near swamps, er a, wetlands, without having state permission in hand to do so. In other words, Millennium is asking FERC to put its boot on the neck of the DEC and push. Love it!…
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PDC Changes Course, Delays More Utica Drilling in 2017

PDC Energy, a driller in the Wattenberg Field in Colorado and the Utica in Ohio, paused their Utica drilling program in 2015 (see PDC Energy Pushes Pause Button on OH Utica Drilling for 2015). In December 2015, the company announced they would restart Utica drilling in 2016 with plans to drill five wells (see PDC Energy to Restart OH Drilling in 2016, Drilling 5 Utica Wells). Indeed they did reactivate their program, in a much-scaled-back fashion, in 2016. One of the Utica wells PDC drilled, the “Neff” well, came online earlier than expected and began producing in 2Q16 (see PDC Energy 2Q16: Utica Program Active Again, Neff Well Online). However, another shale play has turned the head of PDC–the Permian Basin in Texas. PDC released their plans for 2017 in December and said they plan to drill two more Utica wells in the second half of 2017 and spend just $18 million to do it, spending the bulk of their money in the Permian and Wattenberg (see PDC Releases 2017 Plans – Drilling Just 2 Utica Wells in 2H17). The plan to drill two Utica wells this year is now mothballed. PDC released their full 2016 update yesterday and as part of that update, says they have now delayed any Utica drilling in 2017, preferring instead to chase oil in Texas and Colorado…
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Allegheny Institute Exposes Wolf’s Severance Tax as a Disaster

The Allegheny Institute exists to conduct research, education and advocacy work in a mission to defend taxpayers and businesses against burdensome taxation, inefficiency and intrusiveness of an ever expanding government. That’s a pretty tall order because government–at all levels–is always expanding, like a voracious monster. Think of the Allegheny Institute as a mini version of the Heritage Foundation–focused on Pennsylvania. Last week the Institute published a new policy brief dealing with the latest severance tax proposal by PA Gov. Tom Wolf. This is a think piece–but not overly heavy. It is quite readable (within a few minutes) and delivers food for thought. As the author points out, you can change to a severance tax from an impact fee (i.e. tax), but will you really reap all of the revenue claimed? Politicians like Wolf often gloss over the economics. Currently, the impact fee is levied on drillers. A severance tax, if enacted, would (in many/most cases) be deducted as an expense from royalty checks, placing the burden for the tax on landowners–and lowering their income, which means less in the way of state income tax revenues. The severance tax proposed by Wolf, when considered honestly, is nothing short of a disaster…
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Fake “Report” Claims 9K Health Complaints in PA from Fracking

A fake report recently issued by the anti-drilling, radically left and biased Public Herald (populated with activists masquerading as “journalists”) claims that some 9,400 residents in Pennsylvania have filed complaints that fracking has caused them ill-health in one way or the other. It is, according to anti-drillers, a public health “crisis.” How do we know this so-called report is TOTAL BS? Look at who wrote it, and look at who funded it: community organizers wrote it, the Heinz Foundation funded it. This is another sterling example of Joseph Goebbels-like propaganda. The Harrisburg Patriot-News allowed one such community organizer/anti-fossil fueler to run an article on the opinion-editorial page touting the report as legitimate. You can fool some of the people some of the time…
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Binghamton Radio Show Highlights NY Support for Constitution Pipe

You may recall that in April 2016, New York’s anti-drilling governor, Andrew Cuomo, decided he would cave to pressure from radical environmentalists once again and block the building of the federally-approved Constitution Pipeline (see NY Gov. Cuomo Refuses to Grant Permits for Constitution Pipeline). The Constitution is a 124-mile pipeline will move 650 million cubic feet (MMcf) of natural gas per day from Susquehanna County, PA to the middle part of New York State, where it will connect with two other pipelines. Cuomo’s toadies at the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied the Constitution the permits it needs to cross creeks and swamps. After it had been approved nearly two years ago by FERC, the DEC’s action was finally enough for Williams and the other partners in the project, who promptly sued NY in federal, NOT state, court (see Williams Sues NY Over Constitution Pipe – DEC May Lose Authority). The court venue is important, because in NY our court system at the highest level is corrupt–the governor appoints judges and those judges like their big-salary jobs and want to get reappointed, so they “decide” cases the way Andy wants them decided (see Shale Drilling in NY is Over – High Court Upholds Town Bans). We’ve predicted, repeatedly, that the NY DEC runs the very real risk of being removed from the decision process when it comes to federally-approved pipeline projects. If they lose the Constitution case, they will no longer have a role to play. The case went to court last November (see Constitution Pipeline Case Goes to Court in 2 Weeks, Briefs Filed). A decision in the case is due sometime this spring. It could come at any time. In the run-up to a decision, the 70,000+ member Joint Landowners Coalition of New York hosted a radio program a few weeks ago to discuss the Constitution project and the enormous support it has in Upstate NY…
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NY State Legislator Tries to Derail Dominion New Market Project

NY Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton – anti-drilling zealot

In June 2014, MDN told you about the Dominion New Market Project–a project that will build two new compressor plants and upgrade one other compressor station in upstate New York–to help flow more abundant, cheap and clean-burning Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania (and beyond) into the northeast (see Dominion Asks FERC for New Compressors in Upstate NY, WV). The project is projected to cost $159 million and provide 112,000 dekatherms per day (Dth/d) of extra natural gas capacity along ~200 miles of existing Dominion pipeline across upstate New York. The existing Dominion pipeline runs through the Horseheads, Ithaca, Syracuse and Albany areas. In March 2015 MDN friend Andy Leahy wrote about the pitched battle antis waged against the project (see NY Antis Flood FERC in Fight Against Dominion’s New Market Project). The antis were unsuccessful. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Dominion’s New Market Project in October 2015 (see FERC Approves Expansion of Dominion Pipeline in Upstate NY). And then a real miracle happened. The New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) approved the New Market compressor stations on Dec. 23, 2016 (see Miracle! NY DEC Approves Dominion’s New Compressor Stations). Barbara Lifton, an eco-left Democrat from Ithaca who serves in the New York Assembly, is now trying a last minute, very desperate attempt to stop the project from proceeding. Two weeks ago Lifton sent letters to both FERC and the DEC, hoping she can (ab)use her position to pressure one or the other (or both) to delay the project, which is the antis’ first step in killing a project…
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Anti Doesn’t Like Cabot O&G Donating Milk to Poor People in PA

Cabot Oil & Gas is one of the premier drillers in the Marcellus Shale. They drill in a single Pennsylvania county–Susquehanna County. They consistently have 15 of the top 20 producing shale wells in PA. By our back-of-the-envelope estimation, Cabot, all by itself, drilling in one county, delivers something like 3% of all the natural gas produced in the entire country! It is an amazing story. What’s even more amazing is the big heart the company has. Woven into the Cabot DNA is giving back to the communities where they drill. It would take several posts to recount all of Cabot’s largess. We’ll mention just two cases. In 2012 Cabot donated $2 million and helped raise another $2.2 million (for a total of $4.2 million) to help build a new physicians clinic/hospital in Montrose, PA (see Cabot Effort Raises $4.4 Million for PA Physicians Clinic). In 2014, Cabot donated $2.5 million to a local college, to help build its School of Petroleum & Natural Gas (see Cabot Oil & Gas Does it Again – $2.5 Million Gift to Lackawanna College). Believe us, there are MANY more instances of Cabot donations in cash and volunteerism from its employees. Great company. Here’s one of the latest: At the end of last year, Cabot funded a new program in Susquehanna County called “Fill a Glass with Hope.” The program is a partnership formed among Feeding Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, American Dairy Association North East, the Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program, agriculture partners, and business leaders to provide fresh milk to Pennsylvania families in need through Feeding Pennsylvania’s network of food banks. Cabot’s funding assists the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank with the purchase and delivery of enough fresh milk to support dozens of families in Susquehanna County. It is a heartwarming story. So imagine our surprise in reading a letter to the editor of the Scranton Times-Tribune from someone who doesn’t like Cabot donating milk to poor families…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Wed, Mar 1, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Lawyer who helped Vorys start Pittsburgh office joins Steptoe & Johnson; propane tanks for schools questioned with natural gas nearby; Chesapeake Energy: Follow the yellow brick road; Chesapeake Energy: It’s going to be daunting; The oil and gas situation as of February 2017; and U.S. oil exports hit record levels.
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WPX Pays $1.2M Fine to Settle 2012 Case of Leaky PA Impoundment

In July 2014, MDN told you the water wells for two of three families living near a WPX recycled frack wastewater impoundment (i.e. “pond”), near Ligonier (Westmoreland County), PA, were determined to have been contaminated by that impoundment. That is, the Kalp impoundment leaked into the ground, according to the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), and that caused a long-term problem with those wells (see WPX Wastewater Impoundment Source of Water Contamination in W PA?, and our follow-up story, Important Update on WPX Energy Leaking Impoundment in SWPA). A month later the DEP later made a final determination that the third family’s well, the elderly Ken and Mildred Geary, was also affected and that WPX will need to find a permanent water replacement solution for them too (see DEP Says WPX Needs to Replace 3rd Water Supply in SW PA). From the beginning, WPX owned up to the problem and worked hard to make it right by installing water treatment systems–for five (total) affected water wells. The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) continues to monitor the water for the affected wells. However, the DEP is now ready to close the door on this now three year-old case, by assessing WPX with a $1.2 million fine and a requirement that they complete a remediation of soil in the area that may still be affected…
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