BLM Blocks Eclipse from Completing Utica Well in Wayne Natl Forest

Melissa Hamsher, Eclipse Resources

Something pretty cool took place yesterday in Washington, D.C. MDN friend Melissa Hamsher, vice president for Health, Safety, Environmental and Regulatory with Eclipse Resources (headquartered in State College, PA), testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Resources Committee. Melissa has been a speaker on several panels MDN editor Jim Willis has moderated over the years at the annual Oil & Gas Awards Industry Summit in Pittsburgh. The uncool thing is what Melissa was in D.C. to testify about, which is that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), after auctioning off parcels in the Wayne National Forest (WNF), is now stopping Eclipse from drilling under those parcels. Eclipse had already bundled some of the BLM parcels they won at auction with neighboring private land, setting up a drill pad on private (not public) land when the BLM stepped in and stopped Eclipse’s first under-construction Utica well in WNF, claiming the BLM needs to conduct a “new environmental analysis” before drilling can continue. At every turn BLM, while pretending to act in good faith by conducting auctions of WNF land, has acted in bad faith to block Eclipse’s progress after winning those auctions. Melissa shined a bright light on the sleazy tactics used by BLM at a Congressional hearing exploring the “unfair weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act”…
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OH Supremes Blow It, Allow Youngstown Frack Ban on May Ballot

Although Youngstown, OH voters have voted down various versions of a proposed frack ban law six previous times, on Tuesday the Ohio Supreme Court voted 5-2 to allow a seventh such ballot measure to appear before Youngstown voters on May 8. The kicker: This seventh ballot measure is even worse–far more radical–than the previous frack ban measures voted down. The new ballot measure makes the illegal, legal (see Youngstown Antis Seek to Legalize Anarchy with 7th CELDF Petition). In addition to the usual no fracking, no pipelines pablum, this latest ballot measure has language that makes it legal to break the law. If the ballot measure passes, and if an anti got it into her head to sit in front of a bulldozer that was about to clear ground for a wellpad, or dig a trench for a pipeline, the police would not be able to arrest and remove the law-breaking anti. It would be within her rights to sit there and block legal, legitimate activity–all in the name of saving the planet. That’s the insanity the Supremes, in their “wisdom,” are allowing to go before voters in two weeks. It would be institutionalized anarchy. Of course the ballot measure doesn’t stand a chance of passing, which is good. But it does cause angst, and it causes the adults who live in Youngstown to once again have to spend time and money to defeat it. We wonder, will we be writing about the 25th ballot measure to come before voters after 24 of them have been voted down–say in five years from now? When will Ohioans say “enough” to the CELDF and their radical agitation and send them packing?…
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XTO Selling 9,400 OH Utica Acres in Monroe & Washington Counties

XTO Energy, the shale drilling arm of Exxon Mobil, wants to sell ~9,400 Ohio Utica Shale acres in Monroe and Washington counties. Have no fear, XTO isn’t going anywhere. According to XTO’s website, the company currently owns 82,000 acres of Utica Shale leases in Belmont and Monroe counties. The tiny 9,400-acre sale appears to us to be selling off acreage in areas that don’t fit with XTO’s future drilling plans. XTO maintains a regional office in Belmont County. According to the sale announcement appearing on Oil & Gas Asset Clearinghouse, there are potentially 40 drilling locations on the 9,400 acres. The acreage has dry gas potential. The sale is not exactly an auction, but it is timed and uses bids. XTO is accepting sealed bids on the property through May 17. Here’s a copy of the listing, along with a flyer…
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PA PUC Asks Sunoco to Drill Holes, Pour Concrete to Firm Up ME1

For more than a year, Marcellus/Utica ethane and propane have been flowing through the converted Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline safely, hauling the two natural gas liquids (NGLs) from southwest PA all the way to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. The primary shipper using ME1 has been Range Resources, although other companies like CNX Resources use it too. However, ME1 was suddenly switched off on March 3 by order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) after a sinkhole opened up under the pipeline in Chester County, exposing some of the bare steel to the open air (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Sunoco Logistics Partners, the owner of ME1, is building a new set of pipelines called Mariner East 2 (ME2) close to the existing ME1. Construction work in the area on ME2 led to the sinkhole that exposed ME1. The PUC shut down ME1 until further notice, requiring Sunoco to conduct a study of the area and provide the PUC with evidence to reassure them that ME1 is OK and will not leak or explode. Sunoco conducted the study, provided its results, and told the PUC it’s time to restart ME1–but the PUC is dragging its feet (see Sunoco Says ME1 Ready to Restart, but PUC is Dragging its Feet). The new news is that the PUC recently told Sunoco that before ME1 can restart, the company must first drill 10 new holes in the area of the sinkholes and pour in concrete (“grout”) in an effort to ensure ME1 doesn’t move around and break open…
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Rex Energy Gets 3rd Extension to Pay Defaulted IOU

Three weeks ago Rex Energy filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission to alert shareholders that the company has defaulted on an interest payment due on senior notes (see Rex Energy Defaults on IOUs, Can’t File Annual Report on Time). Rex said in the filing that the noteholders to whom payment is due (Angelo, Gordon & Co.) signed a temporary “forbearance” agreement that gives Rex a little breathing room–until April 16 to pay up. Angelo, Gordon & Co. promised not to take any action until that date. April 16 arrived without a deal, so Rex and Angelo signed a second forebearance agreement giving Rex another extension–until April 23–to either pay or agree to a new deal (see Rex Energy Gets 1 Extra Wk to Pay Defaulted IOU, Files Annual Report). April 23 came and went with no deal, and once again Rex and Angelo signed an agreement, the third such forbearance agreement, giving Rex one more week. Rex is not only having trouble paying its debt obligations, a few weeks back Rex’s stock was relegated to the penny stock Pink Sheets (see Rex Energy Stock De-Listed by Nasdaq as of April 12th). We have no inside knowledge of what’s happening behind the scenes, but we’re sure of this: There is a lot of heated discussion taking place. Rex previously floated the possibility of declaring bankruptcy. One thing’s for sure–something will have to happen soon…
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Still No Deal on Property Next to PTT OH Ethane Cracker Site

Homeowners who live near the location of a possible ethane cracker plant in Belmont County, OH are running out of time to negotiate a deal to sell their properties. Living next door to a cracker plant is not anyone’s idea of paradise. There will be noise, and smells and (yes) some air pollution coming from the plant. Best to sell now before the plant begins construction. However, representatives for PTT Global Chemical which will build the plant (IF it gets built), say they already have all the land they need for the facility (see PTT Global Buys Land for Belmont, OH Ethane Cracker Plant). Not needing the land puts PTT in a good negotiating position. There are 10 homes in the general vicinity of the proposed cracker plant whose owners want to sell. PTT says they’ve offered the homeowners 125% of fair market value for their homes. The lawyer representing the homeowners says the valuations are not accurate. However, it’s far from being a stand-off. There is no malice or vitriol. It sounds to us like both sides think a deal will get done. It just boils down to finalizing numbers. Here’s the latest on real estate for the proposed Belmont cracker plant…
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Some PA Drillers Threaten to Spoil it for All via Royalty Shenanigans

We’ve written a number of posts over the years about the ongoing, sometimes quiet sometimes not, civil war between Pennsylvania landowners and some (not all) drillers who use inflated post-production deductions to pad their own bottom lines, leaving landowners with peanuts–sometimes with no royalties at all (see Deep Dive: PA Royalties Civil War Between Landowners & Drillers). If we can oversimplify and summarize this complex issue, landowners maintain that a 1979 PA law guarantees landowners a 12.5% royalty regardless of expenses involved in extracting the gas, and drillers say no, landowners must abide by the contracts they’ve signed and if those contracts allow post-production costs to be deducted before calculating a royalty, the rate may go lower than 12.5%–sometimes to zero and below. PA landowners have, for the past six plus years, lobbied for legislation to clarify and protect a 12.5% minimum royalty. Today we have a guest post from the landowner point-of-view. Thad Stevens is a Gaines, PA resident and real estate developer. Thad has negotiated more than 50 oil and gas leases. He sits on the Dept. of Environmental Protection Citizen Advisory Council and is a director with the National Association of Royalty Owners PA chapter. We consider Thad a friend. He’s smart and he’s passionate about the the ongoing issue that some companies take inflated post-production deductions leaving PA landowners with little or nothing. Thad writes that some of PA’s gas drillers are displaying real arrogance in their attitudes toward the very people they need the most–landowners…
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Other Energy Stories of Interest: Thu, Apr 26, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: PA Game Commission slaps moratorium on wind turbines; work begins on New Sewickley compressor station; truck driver shortage in the Permian means drivers making $125K/year; yes, solar and wind really do increase electricity prices; markets ignore Trump OPEC comments at their own peril; Kuwait Energy begins producing natgas from field in southern Iraq; strong Asian LNG demand may be able to absorb U.S. supplies; and more!
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ME2 Pipe Work in Chester County Shut Down (Again) Following Leaks

Hypersensitive: excessively or abnormally sensitive. That’s the word we would use to describe what’s happening in Chester County, PA–a suburb of Philadelphia–with regard to underground horizontal directional drilling work (HDD) being performed by Sunoco Logisitics Partners on the Mariner East 2 pipeline project. The company keeps having “inadvertent returns”–which we call leaks. Drilling mud (bentonite) used to cool the drill bit goes down the hole, and sometimes it pops back up on the surface in a different place from where it went down. Since the drilling mud is non-toxic clay and water (same stuff used to make kitty litter, toothpaste and lipstick), it’s no big deal. Unless there’s thousands of gallons of it turning up in a creek where it can smother fish and aquatic life. There’s cracks in the ground near the surface and sometimes the mud leaks out of those cracks. Sunoco must track leaks of down to less than one gallon. Antis look at the numbers and make wild claims that the pipeline has leaked “over 100 times” since drilling began. While technically true, many of those leaks are nothingburgers–not worth tracking or talking about (a few gallons at most). However, some of the leaks are big and yes, those do need talking about. Over the past week or so another four leaks have occurred in Chester County, totaling 8,000 gallons. Fortunately none of it ended up in a creek. Because of the leaks, the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has, once again, shut down any further HDD work in Chester County…
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MarkWest Energy Settles EPA Air Pollution Case for $5.6 Million

NOTE: A previous version of this post reported a total price of $3.2 million, now changed to account for the addition of an extra $2.4M for required SEPs. See below.

Two MarkWest Energy subsidiaries, MarkWest Liberty Midstream Resources and Ohio Gathering Co., have been forced into signing a settlement of claims brought by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection over charges of releasing too much air pollution from facilities they operate throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania in the Utica and Marcellus shale. The agreement signed yesterday by MarkWest calls for the company to spend $2.6 million to install and operate new technologies to minimize VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions at their facilities–19 major, standalone facilities and 273 smaller facilities. The company will also implement three supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) for an additional $2.4 million. In addition, MarkWest will pay the government a $610,000 fine (i.e. shakedown). Total cost to get the government of out their hair: over $5.6 million. The government claimed MarkWest had not applied for nor complied with necessary permits. But the real disaster, the thing that sent government bureaucrats into fits, is that MarkWest failed to file proper paperwork required under the Clean Air Act. However, the settlement didn’t all go the government’s way. In agreeing to the settlement, MarkWest “expressly denies and does not admit any liability to the United States or PADEP arising out of the conduct, transactions or occurrences alleged in the complaint,” which means antis can’t file frivolous lawsuits against MarkWest over air pollution…
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Outrage: Police Send Pizza & Sandwiches Up Tree to Protesters

This is almost beyond words. Earlier this week MDN reported that arrest warrants had been issued for a 61 year-old woman and her daughter sitting 30 feet up in the top of a tree that needs to come down to make way for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (see Arrest Warrant Issued for MVP Tree Sitting “Grandma Red”). Theresa “Red” Terry and her daughter, Theresa Minor Terry (“Jr.”) are illegally trespassing on property (the tree) that now belongs to MVP, via eminent domain. Sometime in the past week or so police began to deny Red’s supporters from passing food and water up the tree. They also have been turning bright lights on the two Theresas during the night, in an effort to deny them sleep and force them down. As the police said: They are meeting the “non-violent protest action” with “non-violent police action.” So what happens when Red and Jr. tell the police they’re hungry and out of food? The police scramble a cop car to the nearest pizza joint and double-time a pizza, and bologna sandwiches, up the tree to the two alleged criminals sitting at the top. To the same two people for which arrest warrants have been issued. We’re confused. Why would the police accommodate two people BREAKING THE LAW BY TRESPASSING? If the police won’t enforce the laws, our country is done. Toast. It will be every man and woman for him/herself–and it won’t be pretty. Selectively enforcing (or not enforcing) the law is not an option. The Roanoke County police guarding the tree should either do their job, or be fired…
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Penn State to Help Create New Biz Opportunities from Shell Cracker

The Penn State campus in Erie County (called Penn State Behrend) has been tapped by the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to be the “lead partner” for developing business and market opportunities for the state related to the mighty $6 billion Shell ethane cracker–currently under construction in Beaver County. Erie County where Behrend is located is certainly not next door to the cracker, not nearly as close as some other Penn State campuses. So why was Behrend selected? In a word, plastics. “The strength of Erie’s plastics industry and the success of Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering, which offers one of only six accredited U.S. plastics undergraduate programs, makes Erie of particular interest to DCED.” According to DCED’s Denise Brinley, senior energy adviser, “Penn State Behrend can provide critical connections to research support, materials testing and a talent pipeline that will add value to this large-scale petrochemical investment and associated growth in the plastics sector.” Penn State is kicking in a $250,000 grant to their Energy University Partnership for oil and gas strategies, to help prime the pump…
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NJ Town Ready to Approve Meadowlands Marcellus-Fired Power Plant

MDN reported two weeks ago that a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi wants to build a huge, new $1.5 billion natural gas-fired electric generating plant in the Meadowlands (New Jersey), just outside of New York City (see Marcellus Electric Plant Proposed for Meadowlands to Power NYC). The North Bergen Liberty Generating Project, at 1,200 megawatts, will help replace some of the electricity lost when the Indian Point Nuclear plant located in New York along the Hudson River closes down in 2021. We suspect that since the mighty Transco pipeline, which flows mostly Marcellus molecules in the northeast, will feed the Meadowlands project, this plant will become an important new market for PA Marcellus production. Of course the plant is being opposed by radicals in the nutty Sierra Club and other Big Green groups who despise all fossil fuels and demand that you and I end our use of fossil fuels to make them feel better about themselves. Fortunately the town where the plant will be located, North Bergen, has rational adults leading it. North Bergen officials are jazzed about the plant and by all indications will soon vote to approve it…
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Central Illinois Gas-Fired Power Plant One Step Closer to Reality

EmberClear Pawnee proposed plant site – click for larger version

Last June MDN reported that EmberClear, based in Houston, TX, wants to build a $1 billion, 1,100 megawatt combined-cycle natural gas-fired plant about 15 miles from Springfield, Illinois, in Pawnee (see NatGas and Coal Go to War in Central Illinois). The City of Springfield’s City Water, Light and Power (CWLP) owns and operates a 550-MW coal-fired generating system. According to the state’s coal industry, a new gas-fired plant would rob CWLP’s plant of business, costing jobs and money. However, it appears the city and CWLP doesn’t view the proposed gas-fired plant as a threat. City alderman have just approved a deal for the new Pawnee plant to purchase “at least” 80,000 gallons of water per day from CWLP for a cool $29,000 per month. The water is a critical component in operating the plant. No water, no plant. This is just the latest indicator that Springfield is on board with the plant. Last May the city approved stretching the boundaries of the Springfield-Sangamon Enterprise Zone, to give the Pawnee project millions in tax savings. Here’s the latest news–that the Pawnee project has just taken another big step closer to the start of construction by striking a deal with CWLP…
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The Miseducation of Our Youth: Global Warming Brain Disorder

As supporters of the fossil fuel industry, we must deal with the issue of catastrophic, man-made global warming head-on. Our kids now grow up believing this lie, and they turn into activists demanding action–sometimes to the point of violence–in support of this lie. We recently read an opinion column by a young woman who appears to be bright, earnest, talented, dedicated–and she believes the lies taught to her about fossil fuels and their role in society. She recently protested in Albany, willing to risk arrest, all in the name of demanding Gov. Cuomo end the use of all fossil fuels in New York State. She’s deathly afraid (we’d call it a phobia) of a common occurrence: the construction and operation of a natural gas-fired power plant in Orange County, NY. What this young woman apparently doesn’t understand is that New York would be plunged back into the Dark Ages if we were to forgo all fossil fuel use–as she is demanding via her protests. Wall Street would move to another state with no electricity to operate its computer networks. Disease and death would be rampant throughout the state. Reliable electricity (used to charge the phone she uses to snap selfies of her protest marches and arrests) would be a thing of the past. It’s really quite sad that this young woman has been completely and incontrovertibly miseducated. Lied to. Education malpractice. The real shame is that she parades her abject ignorance for the world to see. The miseducation of our youth–the intentional lies told to them about man-made global warming, must stop…
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Other Energy Stories of Interest: Wed, Apr 25, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: More pipelines equals less gas price volatility; CenterPoint’s pricey Vectren deal shows allure of natgas; gas plant costs down significantly from 2014; oil frackers say $70 oil is the reward for patience; Halliburton says fracking intensity causing equipment to wear out faster; Trump’s revenge – U.S. oil flooding Europe, dinging OPEC & Russia; China’s natgas crises; and more!
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