FERC Approves Transco Pipeline Expansion in New Jersey

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Last Friday, before Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioner Rob Powelson left the building for the last time, FERC approved a small but important expansion of the Williams Transco Pipeline in New Jersey, called the Rivervale to South Market project. We first told you about the Rivervale project last year when Williams filed an application for it with FERC (see New Project Seeks to “Uprate” Transco Pipeline in Northern NJ). The Rivervale project will expand the mighty Transco pipeline in northern New Jersey to deliver an extra 190 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of low-carbon, clean-burning Marcellus Shale gas to markets in northern NJ and New York City. The project calls for “uprating” a little over 10 miles of pipeline (same pipeline with more pressure and more gas), and adding a half mile of new looping pipeline–which is more than enough to set off the whackadoodles at the NJ Sierra Club. One of two Democrat FERC commissioners, Richard “Dick” Glick, voted in part against approving the project because he says it will lead to more global warming. Typical lib Dem. Here’s Williams’ good news announcement, and a copy of FERC’s 46-page approval…
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FERC Rejects PennEast Pipe Rehearing Request – Antis Sue

Elvis – song & dance

Last Friday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied a rehearing request by radical enviro groups with respect to the PennEast Pipeline project. That is, FERC said “we’re sticking with our original decision to approve the project.” In January, FERC voted 4-1 to approve the $1 billion, 120-mile natgas pipeline that will stretch from northeast PA to the Trenton area of New Jersey (see FERC Grants Final Approval for PennEast Pipe – Real Battle Begins). FERC Commissioner Richard “Dick” Glick voted against the project claiming it will lead to more man-made global warming. But the other Dem FERC Commissioner, Cheyl LaFleur, voted to approve it–at least in January. In Friday’s “order on rehearing” LaFleur flipped and said she’s had second thoughts about the project. She voted “in part” to rehear the original decision. Glick voted to rehear. Bottom line: both LaFleur and Glick want to kill the PennEast project. That’s the upshot of Friday’s FERC communication. Unfortunately FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson has abandoned us and we will now face a 2-2 deadlock on key decisions like this one for the foreseeable future–because Senate Democrats will block a vote on a new, third, Republican member of the Commission until after the November election. Thanks Rob. The radical anti groups that filed the rehearing request–THE Delaware Riverkeeper (aka Maya van Rossum) and the NJ Sierra Club (aka Jeff Tittel)–immediately filed lawsuits with the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The antis could only take their case to court once FERC had denied a rehearing request. That’s the song and dance routine we must go through on the way to fighting to build every square inch of any new pipeline project in the northeast. Pipeline company files application, FERC approves, radical groups request a rehearing, rehearing denied, lawsuit filed. That’s the formula that plays out over and over again. Below is a copy of FERC’s approval along with details about antis filing their lawsuits…
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Is MVP Still Under Construction Following FERC Stop-Work Order?

We spotted something that seemed a bit odd to us. In a story about pipelines in WV and the challenges they face, EQT said they continue to engage in some construction activities for Mountain Valley Pipeline, even though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently ordered them to stop all construction on the project until further notice (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). At least, that’s what EQT appears to be saying. Background: The radical Sierra Club convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to overturn permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that allows EQT Midstream’s 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross 3.5 miles of Jefferson National Forest in West Virginia and Virginia (see Court Cancels Permits for Mountain Valley Pipe on Fed Land). Even though 3.5 miles is like 1% of the entire MVP project, FERC told MVP to “cease immediately” *all* construction activities along the *entire length* of the pipeline, until the permit issue for Jefferson National Forest is resolved. And yet, an EQT spokesperson told a WV reporter, “Various construction activities have been happening along the route, include construction of compression facilities, tree felling, trenching, welding, stringing of pipe.” Did she mean those things happened *until* FERC told them to stop? Or they’ve continued to happen *after* FERC told them to stop? We report, you decide…
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100+ PA Landowners Sue EQT re Gas Storage Field Payments

According to Washington County, PA landowner Joe Raposky, EQT has been storing natural gas under his property in Finleyville without permission and without compensation since at least 2007. Last year Raposky asked EQT to compensate him and they refused. So Mr. Raposky has organized over 100 of his neighbors along with landowners who sit over top of other similar underground storage fields in the region, and on July 30 they filed a lawsuit against EQT. PA has some 60 gas storage fields spread across 26 counties in the state. The fields are used to temporarily store and then retrieve natural gas. Storage, which is not something we write about very much, is in fact a big deal when it comes to the natural gas market. Not all gas is used as soon as its extracted and sold along a pipeline. There are two main “seasons” in the natural gas industry–injection season, from April 1 through October 31, when a surplus is stored underground, and withdrawal season, from November 1 through March 31, when more gas is used than is produced. Storage fields like the one in Finleyville are an important part of the natgas puzzle. In some cases, landowners are only now becoming aware of the existing fields under their feet and they (rightly) want to be compensated for the use of their property. Is storage the next big bone of contention between landowners and drillers?…
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PA PUC Wants to Expand 811 to Include Stripper Wells

In just about every state in the country, before you start digging a hole in the ground for some reason (water well, septic system, laying an underground electric line, etc.)–the first thing you do is call 811 or some similar phone number. The “one call” or “first call” reaches a state-authorized (not necessarily state-run) office where they have, on file, maps detailing any kind of underground cables, pipelines and other infrastructure. If such underground structures exist, a representative of the owner for the underground line will, if necessary, stop by and mark the areas so when you do begin digging, you don’t hit it. Makes sense. A bill introduced in 2016 in the Pennsylvania legislature “enhances” the existing 811 law in PA. One of the “enhancements” is that it removes an exclusion for low-pressure natural gas gathering pipelines from being required to be part of the 811 system, mainly lines run to conventional gas wells. The bill was opposed by the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (see PIOGA Opposes Bill to Regulate Unregulated PA Gathering Pipelines). The bill was reintroduced in March 2017 (see PA State Senator Introduces Bill to Regulate Gathering Pipelines). Once again PIOGA pushed back. In June 2017, a compromise was reached to exclude pipelines running to “stripper wells”–i.e. low-producing conventional wells. With that compromise in place, both the PA Senate and House voted to adopt the plan and it was signed into law (see Shale + Large Conventional Gathering Pipes Added to PA One Call). The PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) is the state agency charged with oversight of the enhanced 811 system. They have been staffing up and rolling out the changes. We spotted a story that talks about the PUC’s efforts. It mentions (bemoans) the fact that stripper wells are still exempt, and seeks to apply pressure to the owners of those wells to “voluntarily” join the 811 system. We all know what comes next after “voluntarily” joining any government-run program…
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Support Builds for Congress to Reign in States Blocking Pipes

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing this Thursday to consider the Water Quality Certification Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3303). Two weeks ago we told you about S. 3303, a bill that will “fix” the issue of states like New York using Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which allows states to have a say in where interstate pipeline routes can pass through a state, from abusing their authority by blocking pipeline projects (see US Senate Bill Fixes States Blocking Pipelines via Water Permits). New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo (tinhorn dictator) has weaponized Section 401 and now routinely uses it to block any and all new natural gas pipelines in the state. That was not the intent of the Clean Water Act when delegating some (small, minor) authority to the individual states. Section 401 is meant to allow states to steer the pipeline in a new direction to avoid sensitive environmental areas–not block it completely. S. 3303 will fix the issue of state abuse. In advance of Thursday’s session, a coalition of twenty-four national organizations representing workers and businesses in the energy supply chain wrote a letter (copy below) urging the Senate committee to approve the legislation. The letter is evidence that there’s a building head of steam, a consensus, of support on this issue. Finally, someone is addressing the out-of-control abuses of power Cuomo and others are engaged in…
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Which Skills do M-U Employers Most Need in New Employees?

The answer to the question posed in our headline for which skills are most valued (and missing) in new employees looking to work at companies involved in the Marcellus/Utica industry may surprise you. Would the answer be, detailed industry knowledge, like knowing what mud logging, wire lines and Christmas tree (wellheads) are? Nope. Employers can teach those things on the job. How about subject-specific skills, like knowing how to weld (if you work in the field), or the difference between debits and credits (if you work in the accounting department)? Obviously if you apply for a welding job, or an accounting job, you’ll need to know something about those specific areas. But no, we’re talking about what kinds of skills ALL new employees should have, regardless of which area they work (in the field or in the office)–skills that so often are missing in new hires. Would you believe those skills are: writing, speaking and time management? Yep, according to a study done by RAND Corporation looking at how employers and colleges in the Marcellus/Utica region are preparing workers for the shale workforce, they found a skills gap in workers who don’t know how to properly write, speak and manage their time effectively…
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Energy Stories of Interest: Tue, Aug 14, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: Time to contain the sand blowing around Stowe; what DRBC should be doing instead of playing fracking games; bust doesn’t always follow oil and gas boom; US refineries running at near-record levels; new video – Putin’s useful American eco-idiots; top 5 industry shifts fueling the future of drilling; frackers burn cash to keep the oil boom going; China cuts off nose to spite its won face re LNG tariffs; and more!
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FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

As MDN predicted last week (see Federal Court Stops Works on Some (All?) of Atlantic Coast Pipe), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, following a ruling by a federal court that vacated (withdrew) permits for work being done on Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), has told Dominion to quit working on all of the pipeline everywhere. At least until this current legal mess, created by the Sierra Club, can be sorted out. It was an easy prediction to make. FERC did the same thing with Mountain Valley Pipeline when the same court pulled permits for a piddly 3.5 miles of pipeline as it crosses the Jefferson National Forest (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA) . In ACP’s case, the court pulled permits for work on 100 miles of pipeline (out of 600 miles). Dominion said in a statement that they’re already working with the two agencies that had issued various permissions overturned by the court, and Dominion expects the matter will be resolved quickly so that the final in-service date is not moved. As a reminder, the Sierra Club convinced the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn permits granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) granted to ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, the rolled-back permits affect some 100 miles of work. The court, in rolling back ACP’s permits, told FERC they should shut down work on the entire project until this matter is resolved. On Friday FERC did just that…
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Chesapeake Settles NEPA Royalty Lawsuit for Pennies on the Dollar

Chesapeake Energy has, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “reached a $7.75 million settlement agreement with about two-thirds of its Pennsylvania natural gas royalty owners.” At the end of last year Chesapeake Energy offered a $30 million deal to Pennsylvania landowners to settle claims the company had screwed them out of royalty money by artificially inflating post-production costs in an elaborate scheme to pocket more money at landowners’ expense (see Chesapeake Agrees to $30M Royalty Settlement for PA Landowners). Chesapeake’s proposed deal last year would have given the average PA leaseholder (some 14,000 of them) a one-time $2,140 payment–adjusted up or down for the size of their acreage. This new deal, for 10,000 of the same leaseholders, offers $7.75 million–an average of $775 per landowner. Which is piddly. It’s nothing. An insult. Last year Chesapeake’s deal with leaseholders required the state Attorney General’s office, which has an ongoing, separate lawsuit filed against Chesapeake over the same issue, to settle as well. The AG’s office refused (see PA AG Not Backing Down re Chesapeake Energy Royalty Lawsuit). In fact, the AG’s office is still refusing to settle, with this new deal. Yet now Chesapeake is willing to move forward without the AG as part of the settlement. Heck yeah! Convince these desperate folks to take, literally, pennies on the dollar. What company wouldn’t go for that deal? Any way you slice this, northeast PA landowners are getting screwed if they agree to Chesapeake’s deal. They get a maximum of 8% back of the inflated “costs” Chesapeake originally deducted from royalty checks. We suppose some will say 8% now is better than maybe nothing or very little years from now. We don’t see it. We see these good landowners getting shafted in this deal…
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Granite Bridge Shows How to Build a New Pipeline in New England

Pssst. Don’t tell anyone, but somebody has figured out how to get a pipeline built in New England. Keep it quiet–just between us, K? Time after time we’ve seen worthy, sensible natural gas pipeline projects proposed for New England. And time after time they’ve been shot down by radical Big Green groups and sleazy politicians (like MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren and MA AG Maura Healey) who are in the pockets of Big Green. Instead of building a pipeline from the Marcellus to New England–a few hundred miles–those same sleazy politicians would rather have Russian LNG imported to avert annual energy crises (see Confirmed: LNG Coming to Boston on Jan 22 is Illegal Russian Gas). Kinder Morgan is one of the casualties, pulling the plug on its Northeast Energy Direct project (see NED is Dead – Kinder Morgan Suspends $3.3B New England Pipeline). Spectra Energy’s Access Northeast is another casualty, although as we reported in May, Access Northeast may once again have a weak pulse (see NH Supreme Court Decision Puts New England Pipe Back in Play). MDN recently told you that a New Hampshire utility company, Liberty Utilities, had floated a new plan to build a teeny tiny new pipeline, called Granite Bridge, that will run underground along Route 101 from Stratham to Manchester (see Liberty Utilities Floats Plan for 27-Mile Pipeline in Southern NH). In addition, Liberty proposes building a natgas storage facility in an empty quarry in Epping. We’re not exactly sure where the extra gas will come from that will get stored and then pumped along this new pipeline (Liberty says it’s coming from the “Seacoast”). At the time of that post we asked whether/if ANY pipeline can built in New England ever again? It appears the answer to our question is yes, a pipeline CAN get built! Granite Bridge has quietly, behind the scenes, built up a full head of support for their project. Some 22 of 24 NH state senators support the project, along with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. What lessons we can learn from Granite Bridge for how to get a pipeline project built in New England?…
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Extra 2.8 Bcf/d of M-U Gas Heading to Gulf Coast This Year

Last week our favorite government agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, posted an article on their Today in Energy website chronicling an astonishing fact: By the end of this year, nearly 19 billion cubic feet of natural gas pipeline capacity will be moving natgas *into* the South Central region–in other words, gas moving into the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. That is truly astonishing, because a few short years ago the Gulf Coast (largely from offshore supplies) shipped gas *out of* the region. But now, gas will flow into that region, even amidst record natgas production happening in the Permian Basin. What caught our eye about the article is that 2.8 Bcf/d of gas that will flow into the region will come from the Marcellus/Utica, from three pipelines: Rayne XPress, Gulf XPress, and Atlantic Sunrise. Rayne XPress went online late last year (see FERC Clears 1 Bcf/d Rayne Xpress Pipe to Begin Service). Gulf XPress, which is seven new compressor stations being built along the Columbia Pipeline system, is due to go online in November of this year (see Leach XPress Goes Online; FERC Approves Mountaineer & Gulf XPress). Atlantic Sunrise is supposed to go online this month (see Genscape Confirms Atlantic Sunrise Pipe Ready to Flow in August). Other M-U gas already (and more soon will) goes to the Gulf Coast as well. Here’s the great news that more of our gas is heading to the Gulf…
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WV DEP Proposes Changes in Pipeline Stream Crossing Permit

West Virginia has just published a draft revision for terms and conditions under which the state will issue a “Section 401” water permit for federally approved pipeline projects. Under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), the federal government delegates some of the responsibility in approving a pipeline project to the individual states. It’s a small but important part of the regulatory pie. Under Section 401 of the CWA, states get one year to review a pipeline project–to evaluate where that project will cross streams and rivers. If the state doesn’t like something about the plan, they tell the pipeline company and the plan gets revised. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Instead, some states (like New York) are abusing Section 401 and simply refusing to issue the permit, effectively killing entire pipeline projects. That’s not the intent of the regulation, something Congress is now looking to fix. We can’t have tinhorn dictators like Andrew Cuomo telling other states (like Pennsylvania) that you can no longer build pipelines into or through a neighboring state. That’s why approval of interstate pipeline projects resides at the federal level and not the state level–to prevent one state holding another hostage. WV has had some issues of their own with respect to Section 401 approvals (see WVDEP Reverses, Waives Water Permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline). Perhaps because of previous problems, like the issue with MVP, the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection has just floated proposed changes to the criteria they use in awarding a Section 401 permit…
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Williams Finally, After Years, Buys Out Williams Partners Subsidiary

Williams, after years of saying it would so, finally bought out and merged in its Williams Partners MLP subsidiary. The on-paper $10.5 billion merger happened last Friday. Williams originally planned to do this in May 2015 in a deal worth $13.8 billion (see Williams is Buying Out Williams Partners Subsidiary for $13.8B). Shortly after Williams’ announcement, Kelsy Warren and his Energy Transfer Equity company pursued Williams, wanting to merge Williams into its own operation. The ETE distraction caused Williams to put a merger with Williams Partners on hold. Williams initially fought ETE, but in the end cut a deal (see Williams Accepts ETE’s “Indecent Proposal” – Price Went Down $10B). Without recounting the all the sordid details, ETE got cold feet and left Williams at the alter, and Williams sued (see Merger Turns Sour: Williams Sues ETE/CEO Kelcy Warren). The merger never happened, and near as we can tell, the lawsuits over the aborted attempt to merge still are not fully resolved. In the end, Williams remained a standalone company. Williams CEO Alan Armstrong not only survived the botched ETE attempt to take it over, he also survived an attempted board of directors coup against him not long after the merger went bust (see Half of Williams Board, Including 2 Corporate Raiders, Quit). Armstrong is a survivor and Williams is now doing great. Last Friday’s merger of the MLP Williams Partners into the Williams C Corporation is proof of that. In the end, the deal cost Williams (C Corp) stockholders $10. 5 billion (see FERC Tax Decision Forces Williams to Restructure – No More MLP). Here’s the news that Williams is now, finally, all under one umbrella…
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Cuomo Plan to Divest Pension Fund from Fossil Fuels Cost NY $1T

Andrew Cuomo – tinhorn dictator of NY

Sorry to harp yet again on the tinhorn dictator Andrew Cuomo, so-called governor of New York, but his actions are so egregious, so outside the mainstream, we can’t keep silent. Cuomo is bragging that he’s not only shut down fracking in the state, he’s also blocking natural gas pipelines and blocking new gas-fired electric generating plants. He’s clinically off his rocker. And now Cuomo is pushing NY’s public employee pension fund to completely divest any stock holdings in fossil fuel companies. University of Chicago Law School Prof. Daniel Fischel and Compass Lexecon economists Christopher Fiore and Todd Kendall have analyzed the risks associated with fossil fuel divestment by both New York and Colorado’s retirement funds. They found that over the next 50 years, divesting NY’s retirement fund will cost NY pensioners $1 TRILLION of value they otherwise would have had in their pockets. Will anyone have the guts to stop the Cuomo train wreck before it’s too late?…
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Energy Stories of Interest: Mon, Aug 13, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: Eight permits awarded in OH Utica last week; another surcharge on your PA gas bill?; WV gas industry pushing for electric plants; fracking industry in Pittsburgh offers a different sort of high-tech job; WVU shale lab digs into M-U permeability testing; water company ordered to pay back wages; Cheniere inks 25-year deal with Taiwan; Toshiba looks to unload US LNG contracts; Bank of the West turns hostile to fossil fuel industry; Solaris Oilfield hires former Range Resources COO for board; and more!
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