Hilcorp Forced Pooling Hearing Postponed, More Landowners Added

postponedMDN previously told you about Hilcorp’s lawsuit to force some hold-out landowners in Lawrence County, PA to allow drilling under their land–a concept called forced pooling. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the PA courts treated it like a hot potato. The courts finally told the DEP that they (the DEP) would need to decide the matter. So the DEP had set aside two days this week to conduct public hearings in New Castle (see Forced Pooling Circus (ie Hearing) Coming to Lawrence County, PA).

However, the circus/hearing scheduled for this week has been postponed. No new date has been announced. The DEP and Hilcorp both wanted the delay offering the explanation that they need more time, “to provide more complete notice to potentially affected people.” Apparently some landowners haven’t yet been served notice that they will be affected–forced–to be part of a Hilcorp drilling unit, and both Hilcorp and the DEP want them to know it before the public hearing commences. Seems like the forced pooling in Lawrence issue keeps getting better and better (not)…
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OH Earthquakes May Delay Opening of New Niles Injection Well

Although Niles (Trumbull County), Ohio is about 18 miles from Poland (Mahoning County), Ohio by car, it’s only about 8-9 miles “as the crow flies.” And that proximity may be a problem for a new Class II frack wastewater injection well set to open in just a few weeks in Niles. Why? Because nearby Poland is where there was a recent series of earthquakes (see # of Youngstown Earthquakes go from 2 to 11 – Fracking to Blame?).

American Water Management Services Inc. say they are about two weeks away from opening their new injection well in Niles–or could open if they get the necessary permits. The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) says it’s too early to say whether or not the new injection well will be allowed to open in the next few weeks because of the ongoing earthquake investigation…
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Companies Flock to Blair County, PA to Serve Marcellus Industry

Blair County, PA (home of Altoona) doesn’t have active Marcellus or Utica Shale drilling. But that doesn’t mean the industry hasn’t been an economic boom for the county. Because it is located at the doorstep of wet gas drilling in southwestern PA, and not all that far from dry gas drilling in northeastern PA, Blair is quickly becoming supply chain central for the drilling industry. In May 2012 MDN told you about a new pump plant setting up in Blair to service the industry (see Altoona Scores a New Pump Plant for the Marcellus). According to the plant manager, 2013 was a banner year and they “exceeded all of our targets and projections.”

HalenHardy LLC, a company that created and manufactures an innovative mobile air unit to suck silica dust off workers’ clothes, opened in Blair in January 2013. HalenHardy won an award last September for their technology (see HalenHardy Wins Ben Franklin EHS Award for Silica Air Shower). They won a second award for their technology last week–at the Oil & Gas Awards (more on that this week, check back). A second Oil & Gas Awards winner has also set up shop in Blair County–Drill Baby Drill Staffing. Read on to learn about other companies that have located and are now flourishing in Blair County–companies aimed at providing products and services for the Marcellus Shale industry…
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PPG Blesses Deer Lakes Park Drilling in Allegheny County, PA

Stop Press! The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board has blessed the proposed deal to drill under (not on) Deer Lakes Park in Allegheny County, PA. Last Thursday MDN told you how County Executive Rich Fitzgerald got even more money out of Range Resources than originally proposed (see Allegheny Co Exec Bests Range on Deer Lakes Park Lease Deal). Anti-drillers are squawking (what’s new?). However, the increasingly anti-drilling Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsing the deal? Now that IS news!

Here’s what they wrote in today’s editorial…
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Kentucky House Votes to End Eminent Domain for Bluegrass Pipeline

The Bluegrass natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline is a $1.5 billion project that will stretch from the Utica/Marcellus all the way to Gulf Coast. It’s being built by Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners and as of last October the joint venture partners held an open season and said everything is on track for a 2015 launch (see Bluegrass Pipeline Launches Open Season, on Track for 2015 Launch). But a lot has happened in the past six months, including Boardwalk’s stock tanking (see Serious Concerns about Boardwalk Pipeline Partners Continue). Not only that, but there’s been a lot of anti-pipeline sentiment in Kentucky–one of the states the new pipeline must cross on its way to the Gulf Coast. So much anti-pipeline sentiment that Boardwalk and Williams have threatened using eminent domain in order to get the property they need for a crossing (see Bluegrass NGL Pipeline’s Eminent Domain Challenged in KY Court).

The eminent domain issue is coming to a head in Kentucky with respect to the Bluegrass Pipeline. Last Friday the KY House voted to approve House Bill (HB) 31 which will strip NGL pipelines of their right to use eminent domain in the state. The measure now heads to the Senate. What are its chances? No one is saying, although Boardwalk and Williams have hired no less than nine lobbyists to make their case with KY lawmakers…
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Report: Coming Economic Miracle in WV from Ethane Cracker Plant

In February MDN told you about a newly released research report from Tom Witt, economist and former director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and professor emeritus at WVU. Witt, now a private consultant, took a close look at realistic numbers for how many jobs and how much money the proposed Odebrecht ethane cracker and associated petrochemical plants will generate for WV and the region (see Economist Releases Report on WV Cracker Plant’s Economic Impact). The numbers are truly astonishing.

In February we could not get our hands a copy of the study, which is titled “Building Value from Shale Gas: The Promise of Expanding Petrochemicals in West Virginia.” We now have a full copy and have embedded it below. We also have an editorial written by Witt and published a few days ago describing the study and his take on the coming economic miracle in WV from Odebrecht’s ethane cracker plant…
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Crosstex Investors Cash in on Merger, Selling 18M Units for $550M

Crosstex Energy recently got hitched with the midstream operation of Devon Energy and the new couple gave birth, or rather transformed itself, into EnLink Midstream (see Time to Congratulate Devon & Crosstex on the Birth of EnLink).The new EnLink has a growing presence in both the Utica and Marcellus Shale. They are a “player” in our space, so we keep a close eye on them.

Last Friday the newly combined and renamed EnLink announced owners of 18 million shares of stock in EnLink (called units) have put their shares up for sale with an eye to raising $550 million. However, that money will not flow to the coffers of EnLink. It will go to the owners of the units–presumably top management and/or investors in the old Crosstex. The action does make us wonder: Is this a prelude to some of top management leaving EnLink, or just big money investors cashing in to realize a big ROI? We don’t know. Here’s the announcement from Friday:
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The Complicated Mineral Rights Issue (Mess?) in WV

Mineral rights in West Virginia are complex, to say the least. One might even call it “a mess.” It’s good for lawyers, not so good for the rest of us. MDN has pointed out many times before that depending on where you are in WV, there’s a pretty good chance the surface rights and the below-ground mineral rights were separated long ago. Statewide there are 352,247 owners of mineral rights that have been separated from surface rights. In the southern part of the state coal companies have owned the mineral rights going back years. Further up the state, like the northern panhandle area where there’s a lot of Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling, it’s a mixed bag. Surface rights owners justifiably feel put out because they often, by law, have to give up some of their surface land for a drill pad or roadway–with very little (if any) compensation.

It gets more complicated. Mineral rights can be split among family members or multiple companies going on for generations. A person (or company) may end up owning 1/100th of a share in the rights. Every mineral rights owner is liable to the tax man in WV, and if you don’t pay taxes on it–you can lose the rights at a tax sale. Some may lose rights they never knew they had! Add to that a relatively new wrinkle: nowadays mineral rights can apply to a particular layer of minerals (like the Marcellus). Oy vey! It’s enough to induce a migraine…
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WV Roads in Need of Repair – Fracking to Blame?

There are a number of roadways in Marshall County and other WV counties with active Marcellus and Utica drilling in need of repair. There is no doubt frequent truck traffic related to the drilling industry is partially at fault. However, truck traffic coupled with a brutally cold winter, seems to have made it worse. Not that roads in many WV communities were pristine to begin with! Just ask any driller operating in WV–the roads in WV suck. There’s just no nice way of saying it. They were not good before drilling, so drilling is not totally to blame.

Still, drilling truck traffic has made it worse. So the industry should pay for repairs, right? Well…they already do. It’s called a 5% severance tax paid by drillers on everything they produce. The drillers are certainly paying it. If the state is not sharing that money with local counties for much-needed road repairs–that’s not the drillers’ fault…
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