Highest Bid for Norse Energy $2.65M – Was it Sold & Who Bid?

soldOn Friday two major stories developed involving Norse Energy. You may recall Norwegian-based Norse Energy rolled the dice and placed all their bets on shale drilling in New York State, leasing some 180,000 acres, of which 130,000 acres are in the Marcellus and/or Utica Shale region. Never in their wildest dreams did Norse believe it would take six years or more for the state to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Things started to go downhill for Norse when landowners sued to say Norse did not have the right to continue the leases indefinitely (beyond five years) because of New York’s tardiness in approving fracking (see New Rough Patch for Norse Energy: Force Majeure Lawsuit). Eventually the state’s ongoing moratorium on fracking led to Norse’s bankruptcy (see Lights Turned Off, Door Closed – Good Night, Norse Energy). Norse sued the state to force it to release fracking regulations so their remaining asset, the leases, could be sold for at least some value to compensate investors (see Norse Energy Sues Gov. Cuomo to Force Release of Fracking Regs).

Here’s where it gets complicated. On Friday in U.S. bankruptcy court, three bids for the leases and other company assets were unsealed. The highest was for $2.65 million–which is pennies on the dollar compared to the value of the company just a year ago before NY’s action forced it into bankruptcy. The New York Post reported the company behind the winning bid was hedge fund Mason Capital. From what MDN is able to determine, that may not be correct. The highest bid was from Any Acquisition, LLC–which may or may not be backed by Mason Capital. More important, there has been no official word that the judge awarded the sale to anyone on Friday. Below we tackle a complex deal-in-the-making and sort it out with help from our friends at NGI’s Shale Daily, who did some proper, old-fashioned reporting and got the real goods…
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NY Hearing on JLCNY/Norse Lawsuit v Cuomo, Martens, Shah

On Friday a lower court judge heard testimony in the “Article 78” case brought by Norse Energy and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) against Gov. Cuomo, Dept. of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, and State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah–to force the release of new fracking regulations. Sadly, the man who is supposed to work for the residents of New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, decided instead he works for the man-child who can’t make a decision, Andy Cuomo, so he filed a motion to dismiss the Article 78 lawsuit brought by Norse and the JLCNY (see NY AG Schneiderman Files to Dismiss JLCNY Lawsuit Against Cuomo). The judge on Friday held a hearing to consider that motion. Fortunately, the motion to dismiss was not granted. Not yet anyway.

The heart of Friday’s hearing centered on the issue of, “How long is long enough?” for the state to conduct a review and release new drilling regulations. We have quotes from various sources who were there. It was obvious the judge grilled the pro-drilling side harder than the rep from the AG’s office. However, near the end (as you’ll see below), the AG rep shot herself right in the foot and perhaps tilted the chances for the lawsuit to go forward in favor of Norse/JLCNY…
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Peak Oil/Gas Theorist Art Berman Generates “Study” for NY Ladies

A month ago the New York League of [Liberal Democrat Anti-Drilling] Women Voters hired a consultant that has been so wrong about his theories on “peak oil” he would be laughed out of any room he walks into (see Peak Oil Theorist Art Berman Says Shale Gas is Peaking Too), to pen a new report that says just want the lib ladies want it to say: If drilling were to begin in NY today, nobody would drill here because they couldn’t make money by selling gas at $4-$4.50 per thousand cubic feet.

To which we say–fine. Let’s find out! Cabot Oil & Gas is making money hand over fist in Susquehanna County, PA, just across the border, even with gas as low as $1.50 per Mcf. Let’s see if they can work some of that magic on this side of the border. But of course that’s not what this so-called “study” is about. The study ordered up by the very anti-drilling so-called League of Women Voters is a further attempt to dispirit New Yorkers on shale drilling. For Art Berman, the purpose of the study is to repair his damaged reputation. It does the opposite, providing the final nails. Below we have the press release announcing this latest laughingstock of a “study” from the discredited Art Berman, along with a copy of the 44-page “study” itself…
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NY Anti-Driller Gets $150K Prize for Environmental Activism

The Goldman Environmental Prize for “grassroots environmental activists” was started years ago by a husband and wife–the Goldman’s–who both attended University of California at Berkeley. Which should tell you all you need to know about the prize. Created by wackos for wackos. So it’s no surprise the foundation awarded this year’s $150,000 prize to a New York wacko–Helen Slottje, a lawyer whose work in New York to get towns to ban fracking is regularly challenged in court and overturned (see NY Judge Throws Out Binghamton Fracking Moratorium and NY Judge Tosses Out Sidney Moratorium Law for Procedural Issues).

But hey–it’s Helen’s “good intentions” that count. And her good intentions are to deny 70,000+ landowners in New York their sovereign property rights to allow shale drilling. Give her an award! (As an aside: MDN heard Helen Slottje in person several years ago when charlatan and then-Mayor of Dish, TX, Calvin Tillman, spoke in Binghamton–see DISH, Texas Mayor Calvin Tillman Visits Binghamton – Marcellus Drilling News was There). Slottje was part of Tillman’s traveling circus act. Let’s just say we were less than impressed with Slottje’s presentation.) Helen is in wacko mecca–San Francisco–today, to pick up her check for $150K. That ought to help her to keep making mischief in NY for a few more years. Although we can always hope she likes it in wacko paradise and decides to stay there…
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Retired J-School Prof Says Lackawanna College a Shale Prostitute

A old hippie retread that fancies himself as a journalist (he’s a retired professor of mass communications) has the unmitigated gall to call Lackawanna College a “prostitute” for accepting a $2.5 million endowment from Cabot Oil & Gas (see Cabot Oil & Gas Does it Again – $2.5 Million Gift to Lackawanna College). This same retired prof–Walter M. Brasch–calls the woman who is the voice in this video a “peaceful grandmother” that Cabot tried to hush up. In other words, he’s clueless. Is it any wonder the so-called reporters we have these days are inept, when taught by people like Brasch?

Back to the good prof and his bloviating: We wonder, Prof. Brasch, the $4.4 million Cabot helped raise for a rural hospital–a project on the books for decades and going nowhere until Cabot stepped in (see Cabot Effort Raises $4.4 Million for PA Physicians Clinic)–does Cabot’s money make the hospital a prostitute too? Would it have been better to not build the new hospital? What if the Heinz Endowments, an anti-drilling non-profit backed by lib idol Teresa Heinz Kerry had given money to Lackawanna College or the hospital? Would they still be prostitutes by accepting her money? And what about NY anti-drilling crusader Helen Slottje–in wacko San Fransciso today (see our story) to receive a $150,000 award from the Goldman Foundation. She’s getting it for trying to ban fracking in NY. Does that award make her a prostitute? Why not? If the shoe fits…
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Chicken/Egg Problem of Getting Cheap Marcellus Gas to NE Markets

One of the big stories over the winter months was the spike in price for natural gas around places like Boston and New York City (see The Wild Ride for NatGas Prices in the Northeast). At one point the price of natural gas sold near Boston briefly rocketed to over $120 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf). The price for the Algonquin Citygate (Boston) normally runs from $4-$11 or so. No problem. We live in a (somewhat) free, capitalistic economy, right? If there’s demand like that in the northeast, and there’s all this supply from the Marcellus right on the doorstep of these markets, it’s Marcellus to the rescue, right? Wrong.

Drillers certainly would love to supply more natural gas to the northeast, but lack of pipelines stands in the way. Complicating matters–a lot of the demand in the northeast comes from electric generating plants, and their demand fluctuates throughout the year based on electric loads. Because of strict regulations, electric plants won’t lock themselves into long-term contracts that may result in a higher prices because they would not be able to pass on the higher prices to consumers. It’s a quick way to go bankrupt. Pipeline companies will not build the new pipelines needed to get the gas from the Marcellus to northeast markets without long-term commitments. Electric generating plants won’t commit long-term. Chicken and egg…
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Safety Products Reseller’s Unique Way of Selling to Gas Industry

An interesting look at how one drilling industry supply chain company is smart about selling to the industry. Shannon Safety Products of Bridgeville, PA (near Pittsburgh) doesn’t manufacture anything. They are a reseller–a vendor. Historically and today Shannon sells to diverse industries, not just the shale drilling industry. However, shale drilling has become an important part of the business. How does Shannon stand out from hundreds of other vendors who want to sell to those involved in the shale industry?

Shannon stands out by hosting an annual Safety Expo. At the expo they run a number of safety seminars throughout the day, and Shannon’s suppliers–the ones who do manufacture all of that safety gear, show up and put their products on display. There were some 50 tables set up near the seminar room so attendees could see and talk to manufacturers about potential solutions for their safety issues–solutions they will then buy from Shannon. Smart marketing on Shannon’s part…
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Cuomo’s Opponent in NY Governor Race Backed by Gas Industry

MDN has long hoped that Donald Trump would jump in the race to oppose the man-child Andrew Cuomo in this year’s governor’s race. Trump has teased, several times, that he would run if he could do so unopposed. He also flirted with running for president last time around. But it seems The Donald always leaves us at the alter. He never shows up in the end. And so it seems that a very worthy and good man–with almost no name recognition–is left to run against Cuomo this fall. His name is Rob Astorino, currently Westchester County Executive.

Rob is conservative and would make an excellent governor. If he can get some name recognition and traction. Fortunately, according to the New York Post, he’s about to get a cash infusion of several million dollars to help–some of it from the gas industry…
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