FERC Acting Chair Cheryl LaFleur Tries to Reassure Pipeline Cos.

As we reported yesterday, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chairman Norman Bay has his knickers in a twist over getting a demotion by President Trump, who has named another sitting FERC Commissioner, Cheryl LaFleur, to become the chairwoman of FERC (see FERC Commissioner Resigns Threatening Major M-U Pipeline Projects). Bay is leaving in a huff this Friday. His resignation means there will only be two (out of five) Commissioners left until Trump names three new ones. Since FERC Commissioners must be approved by the Senate and since Democrats in the Senate are obstructing Trump’s nominations (sore losers), getting new appointments anytime soon is not in the cards. In the meantime, after this Friday there will not be a quorum–not enough people to vote on important projects like the NEXUS Pipeline and Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. The oil and gas industry–and employees at FERC–are “unsettled” to say the least. In an effort to calm the storm, Ms. LaFleur was interviewed on FERC’s own Open Access podcast series (transcript below). What did she say? Even with the quorum, important work at the agency will continue–things like hydropower inspections, safety reviews of natgas facilities, audits and other activities. You don’t need Commissioners for that. LaFleur said the three Commissioners are working flat out this week to get as much done as they can before old Norm goes home, taking his marbles with him (our words, not hers). LaFleur is also working, presumably with FERC’s lawyers, on the “potential expansion” of what staffers can and can’t do–expanding their role during the period when there is not a quorum. Apparently there is precedence for doing so. Here’s what she said on the podcast…
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Industry Survey Predicts: PA Drilling Up 29%, OH Up 19%, WV Up 22%

World Oil calls itself “the premier trade publication for the international upstream industry.” Perhaps it is–who are we to say otherwise? The folks at World Oil have done us all a favor. They surveyed the upstream (i.e. drilling) oil and gas industry to find out what drillers are planning for 2017. Overall, they find drillers plan to drill 18,552 wells in North America this year–a big 26.8% jump from last year. In releasing a summary of the results, Wold Oil outlines region by region in the U.S. what they predict will happen this year, based on survey results. The northeast section caught our eye. World Oil predicts Pennsylvania will see a 29% increase in new well drilling this year (total of 774 new wells drilled). Ohio will see an increase of 19.1% in new well drilling (380 new wells). And West Virginia will see a big 21.9% increase (245 new wells). Here’s the full summary from World Oil
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OH Gov. Kasich Recycles Proposal to Increase Utica Severance Tax

“Johnny could only sing one note / And the note he sang was this…” Ohio Gov. John “severance tax” Kasich is Johnny One Note when it comes to his desire to tax the Utica Shale industry and transfer their hard-earned money away to other people who didn’t earn it. Kasich announced he would obstinately include a nosebleed-high Utica Shale severance tax (6.5%) in his biennium budget–again. Kasich has been pining for an increase in Ohio’s severance tax for years (see our extensive list of Kasich severance tax stories here). OH legislators have already declared the proposal to increase the severance tax “dead on arrival.” Kasich offered up this explanation for his addle-headed insistence on including it again: “Some might be cynical and say why does he keep putting this severance tax in when he knows it’s not going to pass…I don’t believe this legislature is going to enact higher severance taxes, but the day will come when they will.” Poor Johnny One Note singing (with gusto) the only note he knows…
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New WVDEP Secretary Fires Enviro Advocate, Communications Director

It’s the end of an era in West Virginia. Due to term limits, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (Democrat) could not run for reelection this past November. Jim Justice (also a Democrat) won that election. Upon assuming office this month, Justice appointed a new head of the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection–Austin Caperton. It’s only natural for an incoming governor to pick his own team, even if the outgoing governor was from the same party. And, we suppose, it’s only natural that the new head of a department (Caperton) would want his own team too. In a move that appears to have generated some controversy, Caperton has given the boot to the leader of the DEP’s Office of Environmental Advocate, Wendy Radcliff, as well as the DEP’s communications director, Kelley Gillenwater. Radical anti groups like the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Sierra Club and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition were up in arms over the firing of Radcliff. Which must mean it was a good move…
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Epsilon Energy Update: IOUs Paid Early, No New Marcellus Wells

It’s been a while since we’ve updated you on Canadian driller and midstream company Epsilon Energy. As a reminder, Epsilon had a shareholder rebellion in 2013 and threw out the sitting board of directors (see Shareholder Rebellion at Epsilon Energy – New Board as of Today). Epsilon CEO Michael Raleigh announced at the time that the company had embarked on a turnaround strategy of focusing on the Marcellus Shale–less than a year after saying they would scale back in the Marcellus (see Epsilon Energy Makes “About-Face” on Marcellus Drilling). Epsilon was and remains a very small player in the Marcellus, but the Marcellus is the company’s entire focus. From what we can tell, the company has not drilled, and doesn’t plan to drill, a single Marcellus well–since 2014. However, they do own a 35% interest in the Auburn Gas Gathering system in the northeast PA Marcellus (Williams is majority owner with 44%). Epsilon’s capital expenditures for 2Q16 were a grand total of $100,000, all of it spent on the Auburn system (see Epsilon Energy: Still No Marcellus Drilling, Focused on NEPA Pipe). While the company has not yet released 4Q16 and full year 2016 results, they did announce they will pay back some outstanding debts early. We have those details, along with Epsilon’s 3Q16 update below…
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EIA: NatGas-Fired Electric Plants Adding 36.6 GW Next 2 Yrs

As MDN has covered (shouted) for several years now: natural gas-fired electric plants are a really big deal. The conversion from using coal (and some other forms) to natgas to generate electricity is happening at an increasing rate. And those electric generating plants use A LOT of natgas–meaning new markets for drillers. Just yesterday we gave you a list of 409 such projects across the Fruited Plain (see List of Gas Plants, Pipelines Targeted by Sierra Club). Many of those projects are in the Marcellus/Utica region–or adjacent to our region, using M-U gas to power them. Here’s one more bit of evidence that natgas-fired plants are a big deal. According to our favorite government agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the electricity industry is planning to increase natgas-fired generating capacity by 11.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 and 25.4 GW in 2018 (for a total of 36.6 GW) based on information reported to EIA. That’s enough to power something like 26 million homes! If all these plants come online as planned, annual net additions in natural gas capacity would be at their highest levels since 2005. On a combined basis, these 2017–18 additions would increase natural gas capacity by 8% from the capacity existing at the end of 2016…
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300 Turn Out to Oppose Pilgrim Oil Pipe in Kingston, NY

In November 2015, MDN told you about Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, developing an East Coast pipeline to carry refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, heating oil, and jet and aviation fuel northbound from Linden, New Jersey to Albany, New York (178 miles). In addition, a second Pilgrim pipeline will carry crude oil from Albany south to NJ and other locations. Two pipelines, side by side, liquids flowing through them in different directions (see Will Pilgrim Pipeline be Allowed to Settle in the NY World?). The oil that would flow south from Albany comes from trains delivering crude from the Bakken Shale play–a double evil in the sight of radical anti-fossil fuelers. So they turned up the pressure on the spineless Andrew Cuomo (see NY Antis Hope Gov. Cuomo Will Halt Pilgrim Pipeline’s Progress). The pressure worked (he’s so predictable). In September the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the state’s Thruway Authority, working together, informed Pilgrim they will need to submit to a detailed anal exam, called a full environmental review, before obtaining approval. Anti-fossil nutters rejoiced that the project has been slowed (gives them a chance to kill it). Even with a delay, fossil fuel haters are still worked up about the possibility that those rascally Pilgrims will slip across the continent, laying a pipeline in their wake. So, just like other oil pipeline projects, antis began invoking the sacred name of the great Dakota Access Pipeline killing gods to rain down death and destruction on the innocent Pilgrims (see Indians No Friends of the Pilgrims (as in Pipeline)). The antis continue to agitate and invoke the name of Dakota Access Pipeline, doing so at a packed session in Kingston, NY where antis spread lies about the pipeline…
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28 NJ & PA Groups Get 7th Round of PennEast Pipeline Grants

PennEast Pipeline has just released a list of 28 non-profit organizations receiving grants of “up to” $5,000 from the pipeline company. It’s not the first time (see our PennEast grant stories here). In fact, this is the seventh round of community grants given by PennEast, amounting to more than a half million dollars. These very worthy organizations, including fire departments, parks and historical societies (among others) are located in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Below is the latest list of grant recipients, along with instructions for how to apply for a grant for your non-profit organization…
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Why President Trump’s OK of Keystone & DAPL is Good for M-U

Last week President Trump issued a pair of executive orders meant to speed up approval for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline projects (see Trump Signs Executives Orders to Restart DAPL, Keystone XL Pipes). We reported that one union in New York State thought such a move may actually help get the Constitution Pipeline project unstuck in the Empire State (see Union Thinks Trump Will be Good for Constitution Pipeline). We kind of chalked up the union’s statements to wishful thinking. But what’s this? A stock market analyst writing on The Street says Trump’s Executive Orders and statements about infrastructure may help a number of Marcellus/Utica projects including the Rover pipeline (Energy Transfer), Northern Access Pipeline (National Fuel Gas), Atlantic Sunrise (Williams), and yes, even the stalled Constitution Pipeline (Williams)…
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PA Sen. Casey Encourages Civil Unrest Against Trump, Country

PA Sen. Bob Casey

It’s time to call for an impeachment of the bumbling Bob Casey, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. The man is not only an idiot (ever hear him talk on the radio or TV?), he’s also dangerous–whipping up global warming nuts into a frenzy and encouraging them to engage in acts of civil unrest. And he’s proud of it! Casey addressed a group of 400 mind-numbed climate hoax robots in Philadelphia, asking them to continue to protest and risk their own safety. But when Casey was asked to join the hoaxers in a march on fellow Sen. Pat Toomey’s office, the coward declined…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Tue, Jan 31, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: New REX Zone 3 capacity for northeast gas markets; Indian Point nuke closing, how will NY replace 25% of Manhattan’s electricity; Sunoco hiring at Marcus Hook refinery; Trump’s election “complicates” gas politics in PA; rig counts stable in PA; natural gas prices running out of time for a rally; oil prices slip; and more!
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