PA DEP Slaps Range with Record $8.9M Fine for Methane Migration

slap across the faceLast September Range Resources was assessed a then-new record high fine of $4.15 million for a series of leaking frack wastewater impoundments in southwestern Pennsylvania (see PA DEP Fines Range Resources $4.15M for Wastewater Impoundments). A short time later, in October 2014, EQT replaced Range as the “highest ever” fine when the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) assessed EQT a $4.53 million fine for a leaky wastewater impoundment in northeastern PA, in Tioga County (see PA DEP Levies Biggest Fine Ever, $4.5M Against EQT). There’s a new mafia don, er a, “sheriff” in town–PennFuture DEP Secretary John Quigley–and he’s just slapped Range Resources with a new highest-ever fine nearly double EQT’s fine: $8.9 million. The offense? Methane migration from a well in Lycoming County, PA. The DEP says the Range well, drilled in 2011, has been leaking methane since at least 2013 (improperly cemented well casing) and the methane has “contaminated the groundwater-fed wells of private water supplies, and a nearby stream.” The DEP doesn’t say how many water wells have been affected nor which stream is affected…
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OH Utica Severance Tax Increase Dead for This Year’s Budget

Once again Ohio Gov. John “foreigner hunter” Kasich will not get a huge hike in the Utica Shale severance tax. Originally Kasich had sought an increase to 2.75%. Then he got greedy and wanted it hiked to 6.5%. When he got resistance from that, he threatened that unnamed groups may push for a ballot initiative that would seek a 10% severance tax (see OH Gov Kasich the Bully: Accept My 6.5% Tax or Risk a 10%+ Tax). Kasich is determined to get a hike in the tax, but then reality set in. Utica drillers are idling rigs and slowing down in the Buckeye State. A big severance tax increase would accelerate that trend and Republicans know it. Yesterday leaders in both the Ohio Senate and House announced there will be no severance tax increase in this year’s budget–so it’s dead for another year. However, all parties continue to “sit at the table” and talk about a possible increase in the future…
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Virginia RINOs in League with Dems to Stop Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Here’s the tag line from Navigators Global, a Washington, DC lobbying firm: “From the trenches of political campaigns to the height of corporate crises, we’ve navigated the toughest terrain. Whatever your challenge is, we can guide you to victory.” Looks like they’ll need to consult to themselves since the company is facing its own corporate crisis. The founder and president of Navigators Global is Phil Anderson. Phil is one of the rich, gentry class anti-pipeliners behind a group called “All Pain No Gain” that’s trying to stop the Dominion $5 billion, 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline project from going through Virginia (and through his land). We highlighted a McClatchy article yesterday that talks about the efforts of the All Pain No Gain group in raising big money to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project (see VA Gentry Class Raising $1M to Oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline). We’ve since learned that when Phil’s involvement with that anti-drilling group became known, his firm immediately lost a $20,000 contract with NextEra Energy, another pipeline company with a project running through Virginia (see EQT & NextEra Tie the Knot on WV-VA Pipeline Joint Venture). Beginning of a trend? Anderson is a Republican In Name Only, and he’s joined by other RINOs in his opposition to pipelines–rich, white landowners (the gentry class) who don’t want pipelines in their back yards. Another Virginia RINO pouring money into the anti-pipeline effort is Tom Harvey, chairman of the non-profit Global Environment & Technology Foundation…
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Shell Buys Beaver County, PA Property for Future Cracker Plant

Another positive sign that Shell may move forward with building a $2-$3 billion ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, PA. Yesterday it was reported that Shell closed on the former Horsehead zinc smelter property in Potter that would be the primary location of the cracker plant. Previously Shell extended their option to buy the property–three different times. They’ve finally bought the property–for $13.5 million according to the deed transfer, although it’s quite possible Shell paid way more than that for the property. One real estate expert in the area said the property is worth $75-$100 million. In addition to buying the old Horsehead site, Shell, over time, has also purchased 12 other parcels in the area…
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Expert Says Best to Extract from Marcellus/UD Layers at Same Time

In May, MDN told you about the Marcellus Shale’s “little brother” shale play in Pennsylvania and beyond–what is interchangeably called the Upper Devonian, or Burket or Geneseo shale play (see Upper Devonian Shale: Utica/Marcellus’ “Little Brother”). We also told you that so far approximately 85 wells have been drilled in the Upper Devonian. Gregory Wrightstone, owner of Wrightstone Energy Consulting, adds to our knowledge of the UD/Burket/Geneseo. Wrightstone will speak next week at Hart Energy’s Developing Unconventionals DUG East conference in Pittsburgh about the UD. Ahead of that, Wrightstone sat down with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and said some interesting things about the UD, including a comment that by drilling the Marcellus layer first (about 400 feet below the UD), drillers may be robbing pressure needed to efficiently extract gas from the UD later on–when and if they come back for that layer. It’s potentially better to go after both layers at the same time…
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Unimin Energy Opens 11th Marcellus/Utica Frac Sand Terminal

A Texas-based company, Unimin Energy Solutions, has just opened its eleventh frac sand terminal–this one in Jerry Run, WV. The new terminal can store 20,000 tons of frac sand and load up to 25 trucks per hour. Uminim’s operations pretty much blanket the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions (see the map below), from northeast PA to southwest PA, various points in WV and even in eastern OH. There’s even a Uminim frac sand operation in Binghamton, NY, near MDN HQ! Here’s the low down on the newest Unimim facility in Jerry Run, along with a list of their other locations…
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PHFA Looking to Build Low Income Housing in Marcellus Region

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) plans to use some of the $5 million they’re getting from the Marcellus Shale impact fee to fix up or build new low income housing projects in areas where there is Marcellus Shale drilling activity. The premise is that because of drilling, either people from outside of the area–or Pennsylvanians themselves–have snapped up apartments and houses in active drilling areas, driving up housing prices to the point that poor folks just can’t afford it anymore. The PHFA answer is to build or renovate housing projects and make them available to low income families/individuals…
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More on that RMU Poll that Shows PA Residents Love Fracking

Yesterday MDN highlighted a Robert Morris University poll on fracking (see Poll: 56% of Americans & 74% of Pennsylvanians Support Fracking). We mentioned at the time that only a few media outlets were reporting the results for this poll which had been conducted in early May. RMU themselves hadn’t reported it on their own website, even though other polls taken since (in June!) were listed. Apparently our chiding worked, because after our story RMU did posted an update on the poll on their website with this headline: “Fracking Enjoys Strong Support from Pennsylvanians”…
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