Fed Court Overturns $4.2M Dimock Judgement Against Cabot O&G

Big news broke Friday afternoon. Short history lesson for those who are new to MDN: There were 14 families along the Carter Road area of Dimock Township, PA (Susquehanna County) that reportedly experienced turbidity in their water from methane migrating, supposedly from Cabot’s drilling operations nearby. The state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) investigated in 2010 and declared Cabot guilty and imposed stiff fines and requirements, including a requirement to install permanent water treatment systems at each home and even an offer to each of the families to pay twice what their property was worth at the time (see PA DEP Takes Aggressive Action Against Cabot Oil & Gas over Dimock Township Methane Contamination). We won’t recount all of the twists and turns we documented over the years, including research that showed Cabot wasn’t responsible for the methane migration. All of the 14 properties either sold to Cabot or got their water systems repaired–except for two holdout families who were riding the horse of hope that they could sue Cabot for big money and retire millionaires. For a time, it appeared their plan worked. Last year, in March 2016, a trial took place in Scranton. It was a sham trial, with the lawyer for the two families engaging in borderline unethical practices in the courtroom in her attempt to influence the jury. One of the two families admitted, under oath on the witness stand, that their water had too much methane in it BEFORE Cabot Oil & Gas began to drill nearby. The same family, the Elys, later built a 22-room, $1 million mansion on the same property AFTER they admit there was trouble with the water. And yet the jury found Cabot at fault and awarded the Elys $2.75 million. The other family suing Cabot got $1.49 million. As we said at the time: “That’s called brain-dead. A total miscarriage of justice–stupidity on the same level as the OJ Simpson jury” (see Dimock Jury Levies $4.24M Judgement Against Cabot in Dimock Case). Indeed it was brain-dead, as we now see from a federal court which heard Cabot’s appeal. On Friday a federal judge tossed out the $4.24 million verdict against Cabot, calling the evidence against Cabot “spare, sometimes contradictory, frequently rebutted by other scientific expert testimony, and relied in some measure upon tenuous inferences” (full copy of the ruling below). Unfortunately the judge did not find for Cabot and dismiss the case, but instead ordered a new/second trial. However, the new trial will not happen in state court amateur hour–instead it will happen in federal court–IF it happens…
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Atlantic Sunrise Uses Eminent Domain in Northeast & Central PA

As sometimes happens, Williams has had to file 27 eminent domain lawsuits against landowners in northeastern and central Pennsylvania–landowners who have refused to negotiate with the company to allow the now FERC-approved Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline to cross their property. We understand the reluctance of some landowners who would rather not have the pipeline cross their property. But we also understand the necessity of the project–and the need to be reasonable. Some landowners are not reasonable. And so eminent domain is a rare, option-of-last-resort necessity in those cases. But don’t shed too many tears for landowners now being sued. One PA landowner in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre area) was originally offered $260,000 for an easement on 7.6 acres of land ($34,211/acre!). He refused. The price has now dropped to $225,000. Guess he should have signed before eminent domain was on the table…
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FERC Favorable EA for Millennium Pipeline Eastern System Upgrade

The Millennium Pipeline stretches ~244 miles from Independence in Steuben County, NY to Buena Vista in Rockland County, NY. The Millennium, which is supplied by local production and storage fields and interconnecting upstream pipelines, serves customers along its route in New York’s Southern Tier region and helps meet the energy needs of northeast markets. In August 2016, the Millennium filed an application for what it calls its Eastern System Upgrade (see Millennium Pipe Asks FERC to Approve Eastern System Upgrade in NY). The ESU would add 7.8 miles of extra looped pipeline in Orange County, upgrade a compressor station in Delaware County, build a new compressor in Sullivan County and make some minor tweaks to metering stations in Rockland County. The ESU will pump another $275 million into the New York economy with the end result of increasing the flow of natural gas for New York and beyond by fall 2018. Despite the best efforts by THE Delaware Riverkeeper to stop this (and all other) pipeline projects, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a favorable environmental assessment (EA) on Friday for the project (full copy below). A favorable EA indicates the project is on track for a final approval this year. The projected in-service date is fall 2018…
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New Bill Would Goose PA DEP to Approve Drilling Permits Faster

Pennsylvania State Rep. Jason Ortitay, Republican who represents of Washington and Allegheny counties in southwestern PA, last week introduced PA House Bill (HB) 1003 which would require the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to compile, organize and list all permits related to oil and gas drilling in two places: in one location in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, and on the DEP website. At first blush this seemed a bit odd to us. In the past MDN published a research report called the Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook. In producing that work, MDN editor Jim Willis would regularly (3x per year) access DEP permit data–which is available from the DEP website. Granted, the information is not the easiest to find, and when you locate it, you must download it and suck it into a database to get any meaningful value out of it. However, on a basic level, permit data IS available to the public from the DEP website–right now. We read a copy of the proposed bill (see it below). MDN’s takeaway after reading the bill: This bill has more to do with “encouraging” the DEP to speed up permit approvals than it does with making information publicly available…
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Big New Housing Complex Planned Near Shell Ethane Cracker

Positive economic signs continue to pop up with respect to Shell’s multi-billion dollar ethane cracker project in Beaver County, PA. Here’s the latest major economic impact from the project. A local developer has filed for a state grant to build a massive new housing project 2.5 miles from the cracker site. The new project calls for 450 housing units, retail space, a golf course, swimming pool and parking garage. What’s that? What happens after the cracker is built and the “temporary” workers, who would be living in this new complex for the next 5-10 years, leave? Great question! Answer: Turn it into a retirement community…
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Marcus Hook Propane Exports Heat Up

Marcus Hook

Over the past five years the U.S. has flipped from being a net importer of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, or propane and butane), to being a net exporter. Why? Yep–shale drilling. Most of the LPG getting exported goes from the Gulf Coast. However, Sunoco Logistics’ Marcus Hook terminal near Philadelphia is now online and has, over the past 12 months, begun to make a big impact on the LPG export market. RBN Energy, with some of the best analysts in the business, recently turned their analytic eye on LPG in the northeast and provided a very interesting update on what’s happening at Marcus Hook. How much LPG is being exported–and where is it going?…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Mon, Apr 3, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Ethane cracker coming to TX won’t stop PTT cracker in OH; Ohio court rules royalty interests may be abandoned under DMA; pipelines are the safer way to transport; Shale Summit touts positive impacts; Cheniere’s Sabine Pass Train 3 ready; pipeline opposition is ideological, not rational; pretend conservatives for not-so-clean energy; and more!
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