NY Judge Tosses Out Sidney Moratorium Law for Procedural Issues

sort-of-smile faceIt was a good day for New York landowners and pro-drillers yesterday. MDN told you on Monday that we had confirmed a decision had been made in the lawsuit brought by landowners in Delaware County against the Town of Sidney, NY for passing a moratorium on fracking (see Breaking: NY Court Decisions in Binghamton & Sidney Cases). We knew there had been a decision by Supreme Court Judge John F. Lambert–we just didn’t know what the decision was.

MDN received a copy of the decision yesterday (full copy embedded below) and it’s good news for landowners. The moratorium law was ruled “invalid”–but not because it was a moratorium. The law was tossed out because of the way it was enacted–for procedural issues. In fact, Judge Lambert was careful in his decision to point out that, “…the court has not addressed the moratorium issue.” So although this was a good decision and a reason to be happy, it wasn’t a jump-up-and-down-let’s-celebrate decision that seals of the fate of fracking moratoriums in NY. It occupies the middle ground on the happy face scale for us…
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Binghamton’s New Mayor Fesses Up to Withdrawing Moratorium Appeal

Yesterday MDN told you the great news that the City of Binghamton had withdrawn its appeal of a court decision overturning the moratorium passed by an all-Democrat City Council and mayor at the eleventh hour in 2011 (see Breaking: NY Court Decisions in Binghamton & Sidney Cases). As we said yesterday, the interesting aspect of the Binghamton development is the timing–coming so close to a new mayor taking office. We said it sure looks like new Republican Mayor Rich David played an important role in the decision to withdraw the appeal. We were right.

MDN contacted the mayor’s office and we were told he’s traveling at the moment and would respond upon his return. However, a few hours later his office issued the following statement in which Mayor David lays out the timeline and his role in ending the long, drawn-out process. David came down on the side of landowners and pro-drillers–so three cheers for Mayor David! Here’s the statement issued by his office midday yesterday:
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Frack Tank Explosion in Tyler County Shuts Down Jay-Bee Pad

Try as we might, sometimes an important news story slips by our otherwise keen eye on the Marcellus and Utica. Case in point: On Jan. 2 there was a rare accident at a shale drilling site in Tyler County, WV, a drill site operated by WV-based Jay-Bee Oil & Gas. A flow-back tank on the drill pad exploded, injuring a worker at the site and causing the spill of a “black sludge” onto a neighboring field. The West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) shut down the Lisby drill pad operation, which is located along Big Run Road, roughly 6 miles southeast of Middlebourne, WV, and issued Jay-Bee a citation over the incident.

Jay-Bee was supposed to have provided a report to the DEP by yesterday outlining what happened and why. The DEP is also requiring Jay-Bee to provide a best management practices plan for flow-back tank systems at all of its operations in WV. In other words, Jay-Bee is now on the hot seat and needs to prove to the DEP that they can operate safely. Here’s what we can so far find about the accident, including the WVDEP’s statement about it…
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Bobby Vagt Leaves Heinz, Will Become Chairman of Rice Energy

Looks like Bobby Vagt, current and soon to be former president of the Heinz Endowments, will get the last laugh. Vagt, you may recall, announced his “retirement” as president of the Heinz Endowments in October of last year. It has never been confirmed, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest mommie dearest Teresa Heinz Kerry bounced him out for his participation in helping to form the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (see Bobby Vagt Out as Pres of Heinz Endowments – Fracking Connection?). Momma Teresa never gave Bobby permission to get that cozy with the drilling industry, and that, dear friends, was a no-no for Bobby.

So Bobby is taking off. And where is he going? To become chairman of the board at Rice Energy, once they complete their IPO (see Rice Energy Launches IPO, Hopes to Raise $840M). Bobby is already a wealthy man, but helping to steer the direction of Rice Energy will no doubt make him a lot wealthier. Which is amusing to MDN. You see, Bobby is making his money the old-fashioned way–he’s earning it. Momma Teresa made her money the liberal way–she married it. Here’s the story about Bobby saying bye-bye to Teresa and heading off to (much) greener pastures…
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Crosstex Energy Gets a Name Change, Merger with Devon Proceeds

In October, Devon Energy (a major shale driller in several plays with midstream assets) and Crosstex Energy (a sizable midstream company) announced they will merge their midstream operations into a new company (see Devon Energy & Crosstex Energy Form New Midstream Company in JV). Both companies have major operations in the Marcellus/Utica. At the time of the announcement the new company was unnamed. No longer. Yesterday Devon and Crosstex announced that Crosstex would change its name to the name of the newly combined venture (which is majority owned by Devon). The new name is EnLink Midstream. Barry Davis, CEO of Crosstex will become (or remain) CEO of EnLink.

May we net-net this? Essentially Devon has purchased Crosstex and turned it into a semi-autonomous subsidiary, keeping the Crosstex management team in place. Here’s the statement issued yesterday with details of the legal structure for the new company, which on paper will be two companies for investment purposes–an LLC and an LP (master limited partnership)…
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Mt. Pleasant Zoning Bd Says Range Water Impoundments in Violation

Starting last August, Range Resources has been in a battle with the board of supervisors for Mt. Pleasant Township in Washington County, PA. The issue, the bone of contention, has been four water impoundments–three of which are for fresh water, essentially ponds (see Range Resources Argues with Mt Pleasant over Water Impoundment). The impoundments were originally used to drill nearby Marcellus Shale wells, several years ago. Since then, Range has continued using them, but now uses them to drill wells that are not nearby, in Mt. Pleasant Township. And the supervisors object.

In December it appeared there was a sliver of good news when the township said Range could proceed with converting one of the impoundments to an above ground enclosed tank impoundment for recycled waste water, subject to certain terms and conditions (see Range Strikes Deal with Mt Pleasant for 1 of 4 Water Impoundments). It now seems that was a bit too optimistic. On Monday the Mt. Pleasant Zoning Hearing Board (different group of people from the board of supervisors) voted unanimously to uphold notices of violation issued by the township’s zoning officer against the four Range impoundments, so here we go again…
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Reminder: Ben Franklin Shale Gas Contest Deadline is Feb 1

MDN previously told you about the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center’s $100,000 contest (see 2014 Ben Franklin Shale Gas Contest – $100K in Cash Prizes!). A gentle reminder that the Institute’s deadline to apply to receive one of four $25K prizes for an up-and-coming innovator is quickly approaching–February 1st. Here’s more details from the Institute:
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