Fayette WV Commissioners Change Ban to Focus on Injection Wells

Fayette County WVThe Democrat commissioners of Fayette County, WV are scrambling to try and keep their jobs after enacting what is turning out to be a disastrous ordinance to ban all fracking, injection wells, drilling, etc. In January, three liberal Democrat county commissioners from Fayette County, WV, with the backing and help of the radical WV Mountain Party, voted to ban injection wells in the county (see WV County Officially Bans Injection Wells; Children Brainwashed). In fact, the ban is intentionally written so broadly it will also ban the operation of more than 500 vertical oil and gas wells in the county. The next day EQT sued to overturn the ban (see EQT Sues WV County that Banned Injection Wells, Seeks Injunction). Not long after, a U.S. District Court judge slapped an injunction on the county preventing them from enforcing the ban at least until a hearing scheduled for later this month (see Judge Stops WV County from Enforcing Injection Well Ban, For Now). One of the chief architects of the ban, from the Mountain Party, admits the ban is intended to stop all oil and gas activity in the county (see Anti Admits Fayette County, WV Ban Aims to Shut Down All O&G Wells). Facing a lawsuit they will lose, the commissioners have backed away from the position of banning everything to do with drilling in the county. They’ve revised the proposed ban regulation as a tactic to avoid losing their court case–but everyone sees through this latest pathetic attempt. Sensing they won’t win their court case to ban drilling as well as injection wells, they’ve opted to toss the drilling part and go for just banning injection wells. We hope the voters and taxpayers in Fayette County vote the three commissioners out at the next election for their anti-drilling malfeasance…
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McClendon’s Biggest Backer Backed Away the Day Before Car Crash

Details continue to drib and drab out related following the death of Aubrey McClendon on March 2nd (see Stunned: Former Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon Dies in Car Crash). We previously told you that one of Aubrey’s biggest backers, Energy & Minerals Group (EMG), was about to hang Aubrey out to dry (see More Info Comes to Light About McClendon’s Last Days/Last Moments). We now have more details about EMG’s abandonment of McClendon the day before his death. We also have a comment from an analyst who says McClendon’s company, American Energy Partners, will likely declare bankruptcy within a year. They just aren’t producing enough cash to pay all of the debts…
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DOL Continues to Harass NE Drilling Industry for “Back Wages”

The Obama Dept. of Labor’s (DOL) harassment of oil and gas-related companies, particularly in the Marcellus/Utica region, goes back years. The DOL’s favorite tactic is to use the full force of the federal government to accuse companies of shorting employees out of wages for overtime (see Feds Slap Appalachian Oilfield Svcs with $129,802 for Back Wages; DOL Action: Several Marcellus Drillers Pay $4.5M in Back Wages; Labor Dept. Unfairly Targets Marcellus Industry in SWPA & WV; and Halliburton Pays $18M in Back Wages, Some Going to PA Workers). The DOL continues their long campaign of harassment. Last week the DOL issued a press release stating they’ve turned up more instances of back wages due in four companies, two of which have major operations in the Marcellus/Utica region: Frank’s International and Stream-Flo USA…
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Southwestern Energy Pays Preferred Stock Dividends w/Common Stock

Northeast drilling companies like Southwestern Energy are using creative strategies to stay afloat until oil and gas prices increase again. One of the tactics has been to lay off thousands of workers (see Southwestern Energy Cuts Workforce 44%, 200 Marcellus Jobs Gone). Another strategy is to cut spending and suspend drilling altogether (see Southwestern Cuts 2016 Spending 80%, Idles Marcellus Rigs (for Now)). Yet another is to borrow new money to pay off previously borrowed money (see Southwestern Energy Borrows $750M to Pay Off Other Borrowed Money). Southwestern continues with the creative financing with a tactic we’ve not seen before among northeast drillers: Pay dividends for one class of stock (preferred) by giving dividend-holders shares in another class of stock (common)…
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Atlas Energy “Penny Stocks” Begin Trading Today on OTCQX

MDN previously told you that the Philadelphia-based Atlas Energy, which sold off the majority of its Marcellus assets in two different tranches for $12 billion, has fallen on hard times–at least its stock price has. The New York Stock Exchange told the company in December that its stock was in danger of being de-listed from the mighty NYSE (see Atlas Energy Luck Run Out? NYSE Threatens Company with De-Listing). On Friday the company seems to have capitulated and given up on trying to boost the stock price to above $1 per share (the minimum required to be listed on the NYSE). Atlas said that regardless of what happens with the NYSE, as of today, March 21, company shares will begin trading on the Over the Counter stock exchange, called OTCQX. That is, Atlas shares have become penny stocks…
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Ultra Petroleum Threatened with NYSE De-listing

It’s been a while since we’ve written anything about Ultra Petroleum. Ultra is an independent exploration and production (E&P) company focused on drilling in the Green River Basin of Wyoming–in the Pinedale and Jonah Fields. In addition, Ultra is currently drilling for oil in the Uinta Basin/Three Rivers area in Utah. However, our interest in Ultra is because they maintain a position in the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale with leases on 184,000 gross (91,000 net) acres. They aren’t currently drilling on their acreage, but if prices change, they likely will. The news we bring you about Ultra is news we’ve brought you about other companies, like Atlas Energy (see today’s story on Atlas). And that news is that the New York Stock Exchange has threatened Ultra with de-listing its stock if the price is not boosted to over $1 per share…
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Warren Resources 2015: Lost $620M, Most of it a Paper Loss

As MDN pointed out in February, Warren Resources is on the cusp of bankruptcy (see Warren Resources: Potential Bankruptcy, No Drilling in 2016). They are a small driller–at least in the Marcellus–having drilled two Marcellus wells last year. Earlier this month we brought you the news that the NASDAQ Stock Exchange is threatening to stop trading the company’s stock (see Pretty in Pink? Warren Resources Put on Notice for Stock Delisting). Last week Warren issued its fourth quarter and full year 2015 update. It’s fairly short and to the point: last year Warren lost $620 million. Most of that loss was a paper loss–$578M for impairments. Unlike other drillers, Warren doesn’t include a copy of their financial spreadsheets with their announcement. They make you go fishing on the Securities and Exchange Commission website to find their financial information. It appears they’re making it intentionally difficult to easily obtain the information…
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New Board Member for Rice Midstream + Bobby Vagt Flashback

Rice Midstream, the pipeline subsidiary of drilling company Rice Energy, has just added a new board member–Stephanie C. Hildebrandt. Ms. Hildebrandt is a lawyer with international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP. Normally such an announcement is not something we highlight here on MDN–except we noticed a comment by Rice Midstream’s (and Rice Energy’s) chairman about the appointment. And seeing the name of Rice Midstream’s chairman–Bobby Vagt–reminded us once again of how Bobby is getting the last laugh over Teresa Heinz Kerry…
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Canadian Company Fights Back Against Green Bully Greenpeace

One of the favorite ways Big Green groups bully companies and municipalities is by using lawsuits against them. We see it all the time in the oil and gas industry. Example: THE Delaware Riverkeeper and Clean Air Council–both based in the Philadelphia area–filed a lawsuit against the Town of Middlesex in Butler County, PA (see ACLU Bullies Threaten Butler County Landowners over Martian Lawsuit). Butler County is on the opposite side of the state from where Riverkeeper and the Clean Air Council are supposed to be operating. Such is how they work. Another favorite tactic is to launch smear campaigns against the industry. One of the most radical Big Green groups is Greenpeace. They’re famous for smear campaigns–full of lies. They tried to run such a campaign against a Canadian forestry company–and the company fought back, in court. And now the court will make Greenpeace open up their records for close scrutiny. Cockroaches like Greenpeace can’t stand the light of day shining into their activities. They’re worried. And that got us to thinking. Why northeast drillers and midstream companies use the example of this forestry company as their model to fire back at THE Delaware Riverkeeper, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Food & Water Watch, and a plethora of other odious groups? Let’s force them to open up their books and expose them for the colluding frauds they are…
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More on Chesapeake’s Possible (Rare) 1.5 Lien Debt Exchange

Last week MDN told you about a creative way Chesapeake Energy may try to refinance some of its massive debts–by using a 1.5 lien debt exchange (see Chesapeake Considers Unusual 1.5 Lien Debt Exchange). Thanks to MDN’s right arm–Chris Acker–we spotted more details about this infrequently used method to refinance outstanding debt. What we learn from a Reuters story is that only six other companies have tried this route over the past few years. About 40 companies tried and failed to execute a 1.5 lien debt exchange last year. One-third of those 40 are expected to file for bankruptcy this year. Which is kind of an ominous indicator when it comes to Chesapeake. In fact, successfully executing a 1.5 lien is, for some credit rating agencies, considered a form of default in and of itself. We hasten to add that Chesapeake has not yet made any kind of announcement that they intend to execute a 1.5 lien debt exchange. The news is being reported by reputable sources they’re considering it–but no decisions have (yet) been made…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Mon, Mar 21, 2016

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: US Steel lays off workers in Ohio, related to O&G; fractivists bamboozle the public; rig declines continue, but pace slows; utilities pumping billions into natgas infrastructure; Chesapeake’s fake rally; Saudis won’t let oil price rise about $40/barrel; Iraq exports natgas for first time in history; and more!
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