Shell Announces “Open Season” for Potential PA Ethane Cracker

time to get seriousTime for Shell to get serious about whether or not they plan to build a $2 billion ethane cracker plant in Monaca, PA. Shell announced yesterday they will have something akin to a pipeline open season, a period of time when drillers can bid on capacity to send the plant (should it be built) their locally-produced ethane supplies. The bidding period will run from August 27 through October 4 and will give Shell a good idea of just how much ethane will be available for them to “crack” at the plant.

Shell reports they already have commitments from CONSOL Energy, Noble Energy, Seneca Resources and Hilcorp Energy should they decide to build the cracker. Shell is still about a year away from a final final final final decision (see our June 2012 story – Shell: Final Decision on Cracker Plant Still 18-24 Mo. Away). The next few months are likely to be crucial to that decision…
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Is Cuomo Buying Off Health Commissioner to Delay Fracking Report?

It’s now apparent to everyone that NY Gov. Andrew “Ditherer” Cuomo is using State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah as his excuse to delay making a decision about whether or not to allow fracking in the state. What’s Shah been up to? Going on junkets–trips where he supposedly confers with people knowledgeable about fracking in other states (and countries). For what? He can’t pick up the phone and call? Doesn’t he have email (or a physical mailing address) so people can send him information? Does he need to be face-to-face so he can look in their eyes to be double-dog sure they’re telling him the truth?

Sure sounds to us like Shah is being bought off with all-expenses paid vacations (averaging about one a month) from Prince Andrew in return for being the whipping boy. Here’s the timeline of Shah’s junkets…
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Norse Can’t Dump NY Leases at Auction, Creditors Get Ready to Sue

Norse Energy, the little energy that ultimately couldn’t (drill, because of Andrew Cuomo), bet big on New York State. It was the wrong bet. Norse holds 130,000 acres of leases in New York and literally bet the company’s future on New York’s willingness to allow fracking. The company lost the bet when they went into bankruptcy last year and finally had to put the only assets they had left on the auction block–130K leased acres–earlier this year (see Bankrupt Norse Energy to Sell NY Leases – Who Will Want Them?). As we stated at the time, who would be willing to purchase the Norse leases with a) Cuomo still not decided on whether drilling can happen in NY, and b) the courts still not decided about whether towns can ban drilling. Our answer: no one will be willing.

Norse has confirmed our logical deduction. The company issued a short statement yesterday stating they received a few low-ball bids for the leases, but the bid amounts are not near enough to satisfy creditors left holding the bag. Those creditors are now looking at filing lawsuits against Norse and its management…
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CONSOL Energy Reveals Drilling Plan for Pittsburgh Airport

CONSOL Energy and Pittsburgh Airport officials held a joint press conference yesterday to share more of the details for CONSOL’s plan to drill on airport-owned property. You may recall the airport authority signed a deal with CONSOL in February of this year, netting the airport a nifty check for $50 million as the signing bonus (see $50M Check in the Mail: Pittsburgh Airport Lease a Done Deal). However, the signing bonus is just an hors d’oeuvre. All done and told–after receiving royalties for years to come–the airport expects the project to bring in a staggering $1 billion or more.

The proposed drilling plan (see the map below) calls for 6 well pads, 47 Marcellus Shale wells on those pads (with the possibility of drilling Upper Devonian wells later on), three fresh water ponds (“impoundments”) and 17 miles of gathering pipelines. CONSOL said that seismic testing in and around the airport property will begin in late October of this year, however, the first test wells will not be drilled until third quarter of 2014…
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Anti-Drillers Smear PA DEP Over Delayed Global Warming Report

A Pennsylvania state report on the impacts of the mythical concept of human-induced global warming on residents of the state is a year and a half late. Boo hoo.  Big deal. Aren’t there enough of these kinds of “reports” circulating already? Why is another one needed? Apparently anti-drillers in PA and at the NPR reporters at StateImpact Pennsylvania want to see it published. They also want it to contain a reference to the totally debunked and discredited “study” by Cornell professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea. You know, the study that laughably says burning coal is better for the environment than natural gas. MIT later put that whopper to rest (see New MIT Study on Fugitive Methane Discredits Cornell Study).

But let’s not let real science get in the way here! Anti-drilling groups like PennFuture want Howarth’s discredited “research” to be included in the final report. When someone from the PA DEP dared to say it ought to be removed, well, the antis had a cow. PennFuture went on a fishing expedition and obtained internal emails and drafts of the report and leaked it to sympathetic StateImpact reporters. It’s now time to crucify the DEP official who wanted the holy words of Bobby & Tony removed…
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Shale Justice Coalition Plans to Gate-Crash John Hanger Appearance

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone…but the Shale Justice Coalition plans to show up en masse at a talk being given by former PA Dept. of Environmental Protection Sec. John Hanger on September 3rd at Bloomsburg University. Hanger is running for the Democrat nomination for governor in PA and the folks at Shale Justice don’t like his views on drilling. Shale Justice doesn’t want anyone other than the anti-drilling faithful to know about their plans to gate-crash Hanger’s talk, so they’ve asked that their secret announcement not be shared on social media or publicly announced. Whoops. Guess we kind of blew that!

Here’s the Shale Justice Coalition email announcement, as passed along to us by an MDN reader…
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Cabot to Teach Hazelton, PA 9th Graders How to Frack

Ninth-grade students at a new magnet school opening this fall in the Hazelton, PA area will be taught a series of lessons on the technology, economics and environmental issues related to fracking and shale gas drilling. The plan calls for the school’s teachers to lead four lessons in the series, an “environmentalist” (i.e. anti-driller) will teach one lesson, and someone from Cabot Oil & Gas, the northeast PA driller funding the program, will teach two of the lessons. There’s sure to be stiff opposition to Cabot’s involvement from the anti-drillers. “Fair” to them would be Cabot pays for the whole thing but anti-drillers are the only voices heard in the classroom. Not this time!

MDN finds it amusing the program will feature a mock town hall meeting complete with squabbling neighbors and people falsely claiming their water wells have been contaminated. We need to learn ’em young, ya know…
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New Marcellus Surface Regulations Coming for PA Drillers

In February 2012, Pennsylvania passed and Gov. Tom Corbett signed the Act 13 legislation into law–the first new legislation to address shale drilling in the state (see Gov. Corbett Signs New Marcellus Drilling Law). Among the provisions in the new law was an instruction (and permission) for the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the rulemaking body of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, to craft new regulations for drilling. The EQB wasted no time in crafting new rules for the subsurface portion of drilling (see Rewrite of 1984 PA Oil and Gas Act Underway).

The second part of the EQB’s charge is now underway. Yesterday the EQB approved and released (for public comment) new regulations aimed at surface activities associated with natural gas drilling (a summary of the new rules is embedded below, along with the full text of the proposed regulations). This new round of regulations deals with protecting public resources like parks and forests, deals with orphaned and abandoned well identification, institutes new containment rules (for fresh water and wastewater), and firms up protection of water resources…
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