Bad News: EQT Sues 70 Landowners Using New PA Forced Pooling Law

bad newsThe recently signed Pennsylvania Royalty Bill SB259 provides extra transparency for landowners in how royalties are calculated, but it also introduces forced pooling for some landowners with old, pre-Marcellus leases (see PA Gov Corbett Signs Back-Door Forced Pooling Bill into Law). As MDN and landowner groups like the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) feared, this legislation is now being used against landowners. Earlier this week, EQT Corp. used the new law to sue 70 landowners to force them to allow EQT to get on their land to conduct survey work for future drilling on or under the land. Bye bye negotiations. Bye bye fairness. Hello steamroller.

This lawsuit is bad news for PA landowners and bad news for pro-drilling Gov. Tom Corbett who mouthed platitudes that this type of thing would not happen when he signed it into law…
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MarkWest Served Violation Notice for Chartiers Processing Plant

Two weeks ago a MarkWest Energy natural gas processing plant in Chartiers Township (Washington County), PA started belching out black smoke. According to MarkWest, “several events” happened as workers were attempting to bring online some new equipment (see Smoke at MarkWest Chartiers, PA Gas Processing Plant). On Monday, the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) slapped MarkWest with a notice of violation.

The DEP continues to investigate whether or not the Chartiers plant is still malfunctioning…
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Last Document Released in Hallowich v Range $750K Settlement

It’s been a long struggle for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter, but they finally won–if you can call it a win. Last year, both newspapers sued to have a sealed court case opened. The case involves an off-the-record settlement between the Hallowich family in Washington County, PA and Range Resources, MarkWest Energy and Williams (see Pittsburgh Newspapers Sue to Unseal Drilling Court Case). The Hallowiches claimed nearby drilling and pipeline activity threatened the health of their family–in particular their two children. Range and the other plaintiffs elected to settle, but the case and all of the documents were closed as part of the settlement. So the newspapers sued to have the record opened.

In March of this year, a different judge reviewed the case and ordered the court documents be opened (see Judge Orders Range/Landowner Settlement in PA Made Public). Anti-drillers were disappointed to learn that there were no smoking guns–no admissions or evidence of any kind that drilling activity had polluted water, air, etc. In fact, among the documents was an affidavit signed by the Hallowiches stating that drilling had not caused any adverse health impacts for their family (see Affidavit in Range PA Settlement Shows No Drilling Health Impacts). However, there was one final document not made public by the court and the newspapers kept hounding. Success at last! The final document was released this week (copy embedded below). What does it say?…
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Witch Hunt: NRDC Goes Looking for Enviro Apostates at EPA

Predictable. MDN told you about a sham story that recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times. The reporter claims to have a PowerPoint slide (which the Times calls a “report”) from the EPA that some people inside the EPA really do think fracking caused water problems in Dimock, PA after all, and the LA Times’ conclusion is that Godfather “big oil & gas” has “gotten” to the EPA and hushed them up (see LA Times Attempts New Hatchet Job on Fracking in Dimock).

Now that the mainstream media has done their job of lighting the fire with a new lie about Dimock, along comes fossil fuel-haters to pile on and accuse the Obama EPA–one of their own!–of being complicit in a nefarious plot to cover up “the truth” about fracking in Dimock–and while they’re at it, not just Dimock, but cover-ups in Wyoming, Texas…even the moon (if the moon had fracking). Prime example A is this missive from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
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Not So Fast: Blue Rock State Forest Fracking on Hold

A few days ago MDN told you that the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had plans to auction off shale drilling rights for Blue Rock State Forest in eastern Ohio (see Surprise! Blue Rock State Forest in Eastern OH to be Fracked). As we pointed out, most federal land auctioned for drilling is located in the western U.S.–this is the first such instance of BLM land being auctioned in the Marcellus/Utica region that we are aware of. The federal government owns the mineral rights in Blue Rock, and the state of Ohio owns the surface rights.

Ohio state officials complained they were not consulted by the BLM about the mineral rights auction or the possibility that the forest will be fracked. So the BLM has (for now) halted their planned auction for later this year…
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Chesapeake 2Q13: Dramatic Turnaround from One Year Ago

It appears that the great ship of Chesapeake Energy is, ever so gradually, turning around. We won’t recount how Chesapeake’s founder Aubrey McClendon was unceremoniously dumped by corporate raider Carl Icahn, nor how some of his closest long-time “friends” betrayed him. All water under the bridge now. The news is that Chesapeake released their second quarter update today and the numbers are mostly good–very good. The company’s EBITDA (net income) increased 77% from the same time last year, and operating cash flow was up 53%.

With respect to the Marcellus, Chesapeake says they connected an astonishing 131 wells during 2Q13, more than double the 52 they connected in 2Q12. Dry gas production in the northern part of the Marcellus averaged 780 million cubic feet per day, and wet gas production in the southern Marcellus averaged 208 mmcf/d, for a total of 988 mmcf/d–almost 1 bcf/d! (Cabot and EQT are the first two companies to average more than a billion cubic per day.) Chesapeake reports they have 11 active drilling rigs in the Utica Shale and 5 in the Marcellus.
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Williams 2Q13: Marcellus Profit $12M, Gathered Volumes Up 76%

Williams Partners, a subsidiary of midstream behemoth Williams company, reported their second quarter financials and operational update yesterday. They report revenue for 2Q13 was up 5.3% from last year this time. The northeast (Marcellus) portion of Williams’ operations reports a profit of $12 million for 2Q13. In 2Q12 they had a $20 million loss–so this year shows a dramatic $32 million turnaround–no doubt due to the fact that Williams’ gathered volumes in the Marcellus shot up 76% from last year this time.

Select portions of yesterday’s update dealing with the Marcellus:
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