PA Gov Wolf’s New Budget Calls for 6.5% Severance Tax (Again)

Yesterday Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf released his 2017 budget proposal. Twice before, Wolf has attempted to levy a severance tax Marcellus drilling in the state–in addition to the existing impact tax. A severance tax would cause drilling in the state to stop, by giving PA one of the highest severance tax rates in the nation. (Yes, drillers do have other options and will go to other shale plays!) However, in this new budget, Wolf is once again attempting to impose a severance tax–this time 6.5% (same as last year)–as a payback to the teachers’ unions that helped elect him. Wolf’s plan this year is to transfer away nearly $300 million from drillers and landowners, via a high severance tax, and give it to “education.” As soon as Wolf was done with his divisive budget address yesterday, top Republicans declared the severance tax plan dead–about as dead as Wolf’s fledgling reelection effort…
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Artex Energy Selling 14,885 Utica Acres in Eastern Ohio

Artex Energy Group, a subsidiary (on paper) of Marietta, OH-based Artex Oil Company, is selling 14,885 Utica Shale acres located in Noble, Guernsey, Washington and Tuscarawas Counties (southeastern OH). On its website, Artex claims it is “one of the largest oil and gas producers in Ohio” pumping out “millions of dollars per year in royalties to landowners.” The company says it has drilled and operates “more than 600 operated wells in Ohio.” Some of those wells are Utica Shale wells. However, many of their wells are conventional (vertical only) non-shale wells. The auction notice says 87% of the leases being offered are held by production. Over 2,000 acres is part of a joint venture Artex has with Antero Resources on land in Noble and Washington Counties. Artex is accepting bids now and will accept bids through March 2nd, with a target closing date of March 31st. Here are the particulars of what is being offered for sale…
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Time’s Up – Rover Pipe Uses Eminent Domain on Holdout OH Landowners

The clock just ran out for Ohio landowners who either thought Energy Transfer’s Rover Pipeline would not get authorized, or hoped to hold out and get higher rates of payment to agree to allow the pipeline to cross their land. As pipeline companies often say, the use of eminent domain to gain access to property is a “last resort.” The time of last resort has come. As soon as Rover received its final authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday (see ET Rover Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC), it filed eminent domain lawsuits against landowners who have refused for over a year to negotiate. Now those landowners must allow Rover access–their bargaining position is gone. Rover intends to fell trees by March 31 to comply with batty laws to protect federally-protected bats. The chainsaws are revved and ready to go. The courts will decide how much compensation holdout landowners will receive–far less than if they had struck a deal before now…
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Battle Begins to Get NY DEC to Approve Northern Access Project

Déjà vu all over again? Last Friday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a long-delayed project–National Fuel Gas Company’s Northern Access 2016 pipeline project (see NFG’s Northern Access Pipe in NY/PA Gets FERC Approval). The $455 million project includes building 97 miles of new pipeline along a power line corridor from northwestern Pennsylvania up to Erie County, NY. The project also calls for 3 miles of new pipeline further up, in Niagara County, along with a new compressor station in the Town of Pendleton. Although FERC has now given permission to build it, the State of New York, specifically the state’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC), must issue stream crossing permits. Sound familiar? The DEC faced a similar task with the FERC-approved Constitution Pipeline and ultimately, under political pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, made the decision to refuse granting Williams the permits it needs to build the Constitution. Williams sued and sometime this spring NY will almost certainly lose the case (see Bloomberg Predicts Court Will Strip NY’s Right to Stop Constitution). We hope the DEC doesn’t repeat their tragic “Constitution” mistake with the Northern Access project. Last night, and again tonight and tomorrow night, the DEC is holding public hearings on the project in western NY. Interestingly, last night the crowd that turned up was about evenly split between those against the project, and those for it…
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Anti-Pipeliners Meet with PA DEP Sec. McDonnell, Get No Satisfaction

Acting Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell held a “hastily arranged” meeting on Monday with several antis who are opposed to Sunoco Logistics Partners’ Mariner East 2 pipeline project. You may recall these same antis predicted the DEP would grant the final permits needed for Mariner East 2 last Friday (see Mariner East 2 Permits May Come Today – Antis Foment Civil Unrest). But as they so often are, they were wrong yet again. The permits did not appear on the appointed day. However, the permits are expected soon, and no doubt McDonnell held the meeting to help prepare them for that eventuality. (Snowflake antis have delicate sensibilities, dontcha know.) The meeting went on for some 70 minutes. The antis tried to get the DEP to further delay the project with another useless public comment period. The DEP has already received over 29,000 public comments–what’s left to be said? At the end of the meeting, the antis got (our words, their sentiment)–“no satisfaction”…
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Antis Plan a Weekend Campout to Protest Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline

Anti-fossil fuel protesters (some of them paid) will go on a camp-out in Amish country (Lancaster County, PA) beginning this Friday to protest the imminent start of construction for the Williams Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project. The same group built themselves a magic tree house along the planned route of the pipeline (see PA Antis Build 2nd Magic Tree House to Stop Atlantic Sunrise Pipe). Then the bottom dropped out of their world. Last Friday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a final authorization to begin construction (see Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Gets Final Approval by FERC). Williams still needs permits from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, permits from PA & the Army Corps is perfunctory. The only thing antis can do now is attempt to gin up hundreds (or thousands) of people to attempt an illegal blockade to prevent construction of the pipeline. You know, a “peaceful” act of civil disobedience, like that in North Dakota (see Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters Turn Violent; Coming Here Next?). So beginning Friday the antis will grab their sleeping bags and head to the magic tree house…
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PA DEP Seeks Public Comment on Regs for Methane, Compressor Stns

In December the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) unveiled new regulations to clamp down on methane emissions and other other air pollution that allegedly comes from shale drilling sites (see PA DEP Releases New Regs re Methane & Air Pollution at Drill Sites). The onerous new regulations, not in effect yet (to be published “soon”) were originally prompted by bullying from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Even though EPA pressure is likely to disappear under President Trump, PA Gov. Wolf still intends to push forward with these regulations. According to the DEP, the proposed General Permit 5A (GP-5A) and the revised General Permit 5 (GP-5), “establish updated Best Available Technology (BAT) requirements for the industry regarding air emission limits, source testing, leak detection and repair, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements for the applicable air pollution sources.” After some final tweaks, the DEP has just released draft versions of the new permits (i.e. regulations), opening them up for public comment over the next 45 days. At the end of that time, we expect it will take a month or so and then the DEP will publish the revised permits and they will become (in essence) the law. Below we have the DEP’s announcement in releasing the draft permits, along with copies of the draft permits and associated documentation…
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Baker Hughes Rig Count for January Heads Higher Again

The Baker Hughes rig count continued its rocket ride in January. The international rig count (worldwide) was 933, up 4 from the 929 counted in December. However, in the U.S., the January rig count was 683, up a huge 49 rigs from the 634 in December. The Marcellus/Utica displayed equally good news. The combined rig counts for PA-OH-WV was 61, up by 3 rigs from December’s 58. Both PA and OH gained 2 rigs while WV lost 1 rig in January. Here’s the full set of numbers (and a pretty chart)…
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Pittsburgh-based MAX Environmental Purchased by Investment Firm

In 2014 MDN reported that MAX Environmental, operator of the Bulger hazardous waste landfill in Smith Township (Washington County), PA since 1958, planned to expand the landfill by 21 acres in order to handle an increase of drill cuttings and even liquid waste (which they will turn to solid waste) coming from Marcellus Shale drilling (see New Landfill Expansion in SWPA Aimed at Marcellus Drillers). That did happen and the landfill accepts Marcellus/Utica waste. The new news is that MAX has sold itself to Altus Capital Partners–a private equity investment firm–for an undisclosed amount. As soon as the deal closes, MAX will get a new CEO and MAX’s current CEO/owner, William Spencer, will ride off into the sunset…
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Petrochemical (i.e. Cracker) Event Returns to Pittsburgh in June

If you have an interest in the Shell (and PTT, and Braskem and other) ethane cracker plants–listen up. There is a conference coming in Pittsburgh in June you may want to consider attending. Northeast US Petrochemical Construction Conference 2017, organized by Petrochemical Update, returns to Pittsburgh on June 19-20 for a second time. Full disclosure: this event has paid MDN to send an email to our high-quality audience. Further full disclosure: MDN would not promote this event unless we support it. Although we received the announcement below about the upcoming event, we were not paid to run it. We do so because we support this event. With over 50 speakers and 400+ attendees, this is THE downstream event to attend in the Marcellus/Utica. Here’s the details…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Wed, Feb 8, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Group files lawsuit against Virginia compressor station; Univ of Cincinnati groundwater fracking study still not published, a year later; pipeline brings jobs to Tyler County, WV; New England will need more gas for power; US Army gives Dakota Access Pipeline green light; Seattle, WA cuts ties with Wells Fargo Bank over pipeline funding; EPA employees protest Trump’s pick to run the agency; and more!
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