PA Anti-Drilling Auditor General Bashes Impact Fee Spending

Since he assumed office in 2013, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has had a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the Marcellus Shale (see Newly Elected PA Auditor General Targets DEP First Day on Job). He put together a sham report on the DEP, calling attention to “problems” fixed years earlier, before he assumed office (see DEP to DePasquale: Problems Fixed Years Ago, Where Have You Been?). He couldn’t discredit the Marcellus industry via the DEP, so he started on a new track–the millions of dollars raised in a severance tax-like fee called the impact fee (see PA Auditor General to Investigate “Lost” $30M Marcellus Impact Fee). In March 2016 DePasquale announced he will conduct a thorough anal exam, er, a, audit of all Act 13 impact fee money distributed to towns and municipalities (see PA Auditor General Commits to Half-an-Audit of Shale Impact Fee $). At the time we pointed out that 60% of the impact fee revenue raised goes to local towns and municipalities where drilling occurs, but the other 40% goes into the black hole of politicians’ sticky fingers in Harrisburg. If DePasquale doesn’t audit the other 40%, he’s only done half-an-audit. DePasquale has released his biased audit and yep, he didn’t bother to look at the 40% being spent by his cronies in Harrisburg–he only concentrated on the money going to local governments. And even then he didn’t find much, but he’s conflated it into a big press release and his sycophants in the media are regurgitating it with damning headlines…
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PA DEP Asks Supreme Court to Overturn Stay on New Regs

Justices of the PA Supreme Court – click for larger version

On Oct. 8, after five years in the making, Pennsylvania adopted new shale drilling regulations (see PA’s New Chapter 78a Drilling Regs Go into Effect Oct 8). Although the regs were ready at the end of the Gov. Tom Corbett Administration, Corbett fumbled the ball and the regs didn’t get adopted, which left them vulnerable to the incoming left-leaning Tom Wolf. Wolf’s people mangled the regulations under the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) Dictator/Secretary John Quigley, who got fired over unethical collusion with Big Green groups. Some of the good stuff remained, but onerous new elements were introduced. The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), which represents PA’s biggest shale drillers, filed an appeal in Commonwealth Court to block the most onerous aspects of the new regulations (see Marc. Shale Coalition Files Lawsuit to Block PA Chapter 78a Regs). The judge agreed to temporarily block some of the items in the MSC list (see PA Judge Temporarily Blocks Some DEP Chapter 78a Drilling Regs). Yesterday the DEP escalated the case by asking the PA Supreme Court to undo the block on those regulations by the lower Commonwealth Court…
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PA’s Allegheny, Washington, Greene Counties in “Core of the Core”

We spotted an article on the topic of forced pooling in Pennsylvania. Forced pooling is always an interesting topic for MDN. However, it was not pooling, but the article’s details on three southwestern counties in PA that really caught our attention. According to the author (in quoting two geology experts), Allegheny County (i.e. Pittsburgh), along with nearby Washington and Greene counties are located in the “core of the core” or the very best of the very best parts of the Marcellus Shale play. The article also references research by Range Resources which says Allegheny and Washington counties have the “highest in-place gas reserves not only in the Appalachian Basin but ‘perhaps the world’.” Yikes! That’s pretty enthusiastic language about the gas supplies trapped under Pittsburgh and surrounding areas–and great news for landowners in those counties…
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Vendors & Workers: Sign Up to Help Build Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Calling all vendors (i.e. supply chain companies) and workers who want a piece of the action in building the Dominion’s $5 billion, 594-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline–a natural gas pipeline that will stretch from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina. Dominion is currently holding in-person “construction expos,” as well as hosting an online form for those where those with an interest in selling to or working for the project can register that interest. Yesterday Dominion held a construction expo in Bridgeport, WV. Today they’re holding one in Elkins, WV. And over the next week or so they will hold more construction expos–across Virginia and even in North Carolina. Dominion is looking for suppliers for things like gravel and concrete, vehicles, construction supplies, welding and more. Here’s the low-down on how you can sign up to help build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline…
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JobsOhio Picks Up the $17M Cost for Prepping OH Cracker Site

On Monday MDN reported that the future site for an ethane cracker in Belmont County, OH is now cleared and ready for construction to begin (see OH Cracker Final Decision Coming Soon, Site Now Cleared & Ready). Clearing the site, which once hosted the R.E. Burger coal-fired power plant, was no small task. The power plant site, owned and (until 2011) operated by FirstEnergy cost $14 million for demolition, remediation and general cleaning up. An adjacent site (not owned by FirstEnergy) cost another $3 million to tidy up. All told it took $17 million to clean up the site and get it ready to begin construction. FirstEnergy is reported to have said they were “excited” by the opportunity to spend $14 million to clean it up. Wait, what? They wanted to spend the money? Well actually, no, they didn’t. FirstEnergy spent the money to clean up the site because they have been/are being reimbursed for the cost by JobsOhio. So FirstEnergy (and PTT Global, the company that will build the cracker) doesn’t have to spend a dime to get the site ready to go. What is JobsOhio and where does it get all this money? Glad you asked! JobsOhio is a private, non-profit with a board appointed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, which gets most of its operating revenue from taxes on liquor sales in Ohio. So raise a glass to the cracker, Ohioans. Your imbibing is helping to build it…
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New England Gets Small Increase in NatGas Pipeline Capacity

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For the first time in six years, New England’s natural gas supply coming from pipelines is increasing. Slightly. On November 1, Spectra Energy placed part of the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project into service, following a late-October approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The remainder of the project is expected to be completed in December. Spectra placed another pipeline project, the Salem Lateral, into service on November 1 as well, but it is not expected to be used until June 2017. The AIM project, when it is fully online later this month, will flow an extra 342 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of Marcellus/Utica natural gas to New England. Cool! However, as we pointed out just yesterday, New England continues to balance on a razor’s edge. According to the regional electrical grid operator, ISO New England, given the supplies they now have (and expect to have via AIM), the region “should” (maybe, might, possibly, theoretically) have enough natgas to skate by this winter (see Lack of NatGas Pipelines Casts Doubt on NE Winter Electric Rates). But, if it turns really cold and snowy and stays cold and snowy in New England, all bets are off. Here’s the good news about the added capacity now (or soon will be) flowing to New England…
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Chesapeake Energy Gets New Logo – Dumps Blue NatGas Flame

Chesapeake’s new logo

In a symbolic move that speaks volumes about the once-great Chesapeake Energy, the company has a new butt-ugly logo that dumps the blue natural gas flame that has been an iconic part of the logo since its beginning. The logo change is symbolic in that Chesapeake seems to be moving away from its laser focus on natural gas and wandering into the “me too” territory of oil drilling. The thing that’s always made Chessy distinctive, and successful, has been its focus on natural gas. That uniqueness is disappearing under CEO Doug “the ax” Lawler–and now the logo reflects it…
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Will Venezuelan NatGas End Up in New England?

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This is one of those purely speculative types of posts–based on nothing but our own curiosity and reaction of “Huh, that’s odd,” in learning that Venezuela has signed an agreement with the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago to supply the country with natural gas via a 400-mile pipeline (already in existence). The “that’s odd” reaction comes from knowledge that Trinidad and Tobago is, itself, a natural gas producer and exporter. Why would they need to import gas? One of Trinidad’s main customers is, yes, GDF Suez which imports LNG at a facility near Boston–for sale to New England. GDF Suez has been fighting against new pipelines from the Marcellus, based on their own selfish interests, arguing that it’s far better to import LNG than build new pipelines (see Guess Why GDF Suez Doesn’t Want Marcellus Pipeline to New England). But perhaps this development is not surprising. As we’ve pointed out before, Trinidad’s gas supplies are dwindling and export volumes dropping (see Is New England Heading for Huge NatGas Price Spike this Winter?). It appears Trinidad has a new supplier to keep the LNG exports going. Our question: Will Trinidad simply repackage and resell Venezuelan gas to New England? Our further question: Is it a good plan to depend on natural gas supplies from an antagonistic (i.e. enemy) country like Venezuela? Wouldn’t it make more sense to rely on domestically produced gas from a few hundred miles away?…
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