Breaking: Kevin McIntyre, Neil Chatterjee are Trump Picks for FERC

Just as MDN was putting today’s list of stories to bed, news broke that President Trump plans to nominate Jones Day attorney Kevin McIntyre as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and nominate Neil Chatterjee, senior energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as a member. There are currently three vacancies. No word on a third nominee and (so far) The White House is mum on the leak about McIntyre and Chatterjee. Here’s the leak, from Bloomberg…
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Gorsline Zoning Case Argued Before PA Supreme Court Justices

Not long after the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Act 13 Marcellus Shale drilling law in 2012, signed into law by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, seven selfish towns sued, claiming they should have the right (via zoning laws) to determine just where an oil and gas well can be located within their borders. The challenge was brought by rabid anti-drillers and appealed all the way to the PA Supreme Court, where unfortunately the antis won (see PA Supreme Court Rules Against State/Drillers in Act 13 Case). What the antis didn’t think about was the fact some towns may decide to exercise their newly-won rights–to allow wells, instead of prohibit them. Whoops. Guess they didn’t see that one coming. A town in Lycoming County decided to allow a shale well on property zoned residential/agricultural (i.e. farming country). Anti-drilling Big Green groups, including PennFuture, THE (arrogant) Delaware Riverkeeper, and the Peters Township gang (none of which are from mid-PA where the town is located) sued to deny the town the right to exercise its Act 13 authority to allow a shale well. A sham county judge granted a victory to the antis. But it was temporary. On appeal, the higher PA Commonwealth Court obliterated the faulty reasoning of the lower court and, significantly, redefined how courts should interpret the results of the Act 13 zoning lawsuit that allows local municipalities the right to restrict, or allow, shale drilling (see Major Victory for PA Landowners/Drillers in Lycoming County Case). The case, Brian Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township (Gorsline is an avowed anti-driller), was appealed to the PA Supreme Court and yesterday in Philadelphia the Supremes heard oral arguments. Can we determine anything from the tone of the questions?…
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Anadarko Settles Criminal Case, Pays $53K for Killing Salamanders

When was the last time you heard of someone indicted on criminal charges and instead of doing time in jail, they just paid money? While some crimes involve fines, they always involve jail, or probation, or some form confinement/punishment other than just paying money. At least that’s what we always thought. But if you’re part of the Gestapo, otherwise known as the Environmental Crimes Unit of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, apparently the rules don’t apply. People in the AG’s office can accuse you of a crime, then shake you down for money, and give that money away to anyone they want. That’s what just happened with Anadarko. As we recently reported (see Anadarko Indicted for Killing 165 Salamanders in Lycoming County), in February 2015 a storage tank at an Anadarko well pad leaked. Approximately 1,000 gallons of produced water leaked out of the tank and into a drainage ditch (i.e. “unnamed tributary”), ending up in a local creek where it killed 169 (or 165, depending on the source) salamanders. It was an accident. However, the Environmental Crimes Unit of the PA Attorney General’s office hauled Anadarko and their contractor into court, charging them with environmental crimes. In order to make it all go away quickly, Anadarko and the contractor settled, paying $53,078. The kicker is this: the bulk of the fine money doesn’t even go to the state of PA. Instead, $40,000 of the fine money goes to a private non-profit organization–the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy. Nothing against the Conservancy and good work they do, but this is wrong…
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Positive Signs that Shale Drilling is Coming Back in Central PA

As MDN has noted over the past several months, the signs have been positive that Marcellus/Utica drilling is picking up once again. But that doesn’t mean it’s picking up in every location. Or does it? One of the hotbeds of drilling activity “back in the day” was in several northeastern/central Pennsylvania counties, including Tioga, Bradford, Lycoming and Sullivan. But then the bottom fell out of the industry (with super low prices) and drilling all but dried up in those counties. The good news is that there are signs of life, once again, in the central counties of PA. Between Nov. 1 and Mar. 6, 30 drilling permits were issued in Tioga County, 12 permits in Lycoming County, and (somewhat surprising), 8 permits issued in Sullivan County. Shale is coming back!…
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PA State Senator Introduces Bill to Regulate Gathering Pipelines

PA Senator Lisa Baker

We’re not quite sure what to think about this one. A Republican PA State Senator, Lisa Baker, on Monday introduced a bill in the PA Senate (SB 488, see a copy below) to regulate low-pressure natural gas gathering pipelines. Currently those lines, over 3,600 miles of them, are not regulated by any state or federal agency. Baker’s bill would put them under the oversight of the PA Public Utility Commission. Hey, we’re not against regulation in general. It’s an important part of the puzzle that makes energy possible. We are, however, against unnecessary and onerous regulation. We are against barriers that would slow, to a crawl, the installation of new gathering lines–what are by all accounts very safe pipelines. When was the last time you heard about a local gathering line that sprung a gas leak, blew up, etc.? Yeah, us too. Never. So the real question here is: Is regulating these lines even necessary? We suspect not, but we’ll keep an open mind while this plays out…
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Gutsy: NFG Asks FERC to Cut NY DEC Out of Pipeline Approval

On Feb. 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a long-delayed project–National Fuel Gas Company’s (NFG) 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). With the approval arriving, the DEC decided maybe it was time to begin conducting circus public hearings about the project (see Battle Begins to Get NY DEC to Approve Northern Access Project). But NFG is in no mood to screw around with the Cuomo DEC, so they’ve asked FERC for a “reconsideration and clarification” on the role of the DEC in reviewing the project. Specifically, NFG wants FERC to rule that the DEC has NO role in reviewing the Northern Access 2016 project. Wouldn’t that be sweet?…
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Marcellus Gas-Fired Power Plant Coming to Greene County, PA

Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station

In 2013, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. decided to close down a coal-fired electric generating plant in Greene County, PA, called Hatfield’s Ferry. The plant, which was losing money according to FirstEnergy, produced 1,710 megawatts of electricity. Since that time the plant has set idle. However, that may soon change. APV Renaissance Partners (subsidiary of American Power Ventures) will submit a permit to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “within the next month” for a combined-cycle power plant at the old Hatfield’s Ferry site–to be powered with Marcellus Shale gas…
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Lawrence County Campaigns to Lure Cracker-Related Businesses

Lawrence County, PA

The leaders of Lawrence County, PA are clever. After five years of crunching numbers, in June 2016 Shell finally committed to building a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant complex in Beaver County, PA (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go!). Since that time it’s pretty much been full speed ahead. The site is now cleared, extra roads and bridges have been built to handle truck traffic, and by July, two new cement plants will be in place to produce the enormous amounts of concrete needed to build the facility (see Shell Cracker Construction Starting Soon; Concrete Plants Ramp-up). From the start, this has always been a “regional” story because the cracker, while it’s getting built and after it’s built, will stoke economic activity in the way of jobs and business throughout southwestern PA, eastern OH and into WV’s northern panhandle. But knowing there’s a great opportunity and wishing/hoping some it will come your way is not enough. That’s what the smart leaders of Lawrence County (shares its southern border with Beaver County) know. Earlier this week Lawrence County launched a major effort to attract businesses to the county–businesses that are interested in supplying good and services too, or receiving raw plastics from, the Shell ethane cracker…
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Exterran Lost $228M in 2016 – No Mention of OH “Clawback”

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Exterran Corporation (with 5,400 employees) specializes in natural gas compression production equipment and processing facilities. They design, build and operate compressor stations and natural gas processing plants. In 2012 MDN reported on a contract Exterran won to build three natural gas processing plants in West Virginia (see Exterran Wins Contract to Build 3 WV NatGas Processing Plants). The company is also active in other Marcellus/Utica states, including Ohio. In 2013 the company opened a plant to build compressor stations in an industrial park near Youngstown, OH. The state gave the company a $300,000 grant in return for promises to create 103 jobs over a seven year period. Exterran came close for the first couple of years, but then the crash in prices hit and along with it, work dried up. The plant closed in March 2016, and as we previously reported, Ohio now wants “all or part of” the $300,000 grant back (see Ohio Wants to “Clawback” $300K Grant to TX-based Exterran Energy). Good luck with that. Exterran released their fourth quarter and full year 2016 update yesterday, and it shows the company lost $228 million last year…
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Senate Democrats Send Letter to Trump Requesting New FERC Members

Something is going on, and we still haven’t figured out what it is. We reported a real head-scratcher two weeks ago when a group of far-left House of Representatives Democrats sent a letter to President Trump imploring him to appoint new members to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (see Anti-Drilling Democrats Ask Pres. Trump to Fill Up FERC). FERC is the agency that, among other things, reviews and approves interstate oil and gas pipeline projects. The agency has been without a quorum since Feb. 3, when Norman Bay quit in a huff (see FERC Commissioner Resigns Threatening Major M-U Pipeline Projects). There are currently only two Commissioners, both Democrats, out of five. At least three are needed to vote and make major decisions. So far there’s not been a peep from Team Trump about nominating three Republicans to the board. So why would a bunch of lefty Dems even want Trump to appoint new members? As it is, projects are slowed or stalled without a quorum. Let’s add to the mystery. Yesterday another group of lawmakers, this time Senate Democrats, sent Trump yet another letter about populating FERC quickly. Among the Senate Dems making the request are some of the worst in the Senate: Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (from Massachusetts) and her sidekick Ed Markey (also from Mass.). Al Franken, former pornographer and Saturday Night Live alumnus (from Minnesota). And more. The Dems, who are opposed to everything Trump does, are obviously coordinating this effort and view it as an opportunity of some sort. So we once again as the question, why do the Lib Dems want new members appointed to FERC–members who will favor fossil fuels and the pipelines that deliver them?…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Thu, Mar 9, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: 4 permits issued in Ohio Utica last week; Wolf loses all credibility on severance tax; Carroll Twp residents raise concerns about nearby drilling; SC anti group appeals FERC approval of pipeline; Indians lose final court case to stop Dakota Access Pipeline; oil & natgas production fell in 2016, higher levels expected in 2017/2018; Souki says LNG “extremely volatile”; Trump fuels petchem boom; and more!
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