FERC Issues Favorable Final EIS for PennEast Pipeline Project

On Friday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finally, after delaying a decision three times adding an extra eight months, issued a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the PennEast Pipeline project. We should add, it was a favorable EIS. While FERC found (as they always do) that there would be “some adverse environmental impacts” from the project, those impacts “would be reduced to less than significant levels” with PennEast’s proposed construction plans. This is a major milestone and all but assures the project will now go forward and will be built and go into service sometime in 2018. What potential roadblocks remain? For one, PennEast will need water crossing permits from New Jersey, which they filed for last week (see PennEast Files for Water Crossing Permits in NJ – Antis All Atwitter). Although there are a number of kook antis in NJ opposed to the project, Gov. Chris Christie is still in charge and the state Department of Environmental Protection is an executive branch agency. That is, they’ll approve the project. The only remaining wildcard is the recalcitrant Delaware River Basin Commission. The DRBC has proven itself to be politically motivated (leaning far left) and no friend of the oil and gas industry. Could the DRBC stop PennEast? Doubt it, but they might be able to slow it down. Below we have the good news about FERC’s approval, a copy of that approval (485 pages!), and some of the predictable anti-drilling claptrap responding to the approval…
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Cuomo’s Corrupt NY DEC Blocks NFG Northern Access Pipeline Permit

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. We’ve seen this movie before. The corrupt DEC fiddle faddles around in an effort to stall and delay. NFG is in no mood to screw around with the Cuomo DEC, so they filed a motion asking FERC for a “reconsideration and clarification” on the role of the DEC in reviewing the project (see Gutsy: NFG Asks FERC to Cut NY DEC Out of Pipeline Approval). Specifically, NFG wants FERC to rule that the DEC has NO role in reviewing the Northern Access 2016 project. The corrupt DEC doesn’t like being challenged and in March filed its own motion with FERC claiming NFG is out of line (see NY Fights Back Against NFG’s Request to Bypass DEC Pipe Approval). Now we know why they care so much. On Friday, just like they did with the Constitution Pipeline, the CORRUPT CUOMO DEC denied stream crossing permits for the Northern Access Pipeline project…
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Baker Hughes March Rig Counts: Rocket Ride Continues, U.S. Up 45

The Baker Hughes rig count in the U.S. continued to rocket skyward in March. In January the average number of U.S. rigs was 683. In February, the count zoomed to 744, up 61 rigs in just a month. And in March, the U.S. rig count zoomed to 789, up another 45 rigs in a month. Each active rig translates into hundreds of jobs, both directly working at the rig and indirectly in services delivered to the rig and its workers. It also means more landowners will soon have royalty payments heading in their direction. When rigs are active, life is good. What about rig counts in the Marcellus/Utica? Disappointingly our region’s rig count lost a rig in March. PA lost two rigs, OH gained a rig, and WV stayed even. What does it all mean? It means that this zooming up in rig counts is happening in other locations–primarily in the Permian Basin in Texas. That is, oil rigs rushing to take advantage of an increase crude prices to a sustained $50+/barrel. While we’re happy the rig count is up, we’re not happy more it is not happening in the northeast. But honestly, without pipelines to take away an increase in production, can you blame our drillers? Once there is more takeaway capacity, you’ll see rig counts begin to climb again in our neck of the woods…
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UTOPIA East Pipe Re-Routes Around OH Antis, Drops Eminent Domain

In January 2016, Kinder Morgan committed to building the UTOPIA (Utica To Ontario Pipeline Access) pipeline, a 12-inch ethane pipeline that will run ~240 miles across the state of Ohio where it will connect with another pipeline and (eventually) flow ethane all the way to a cracker plant in Canada (see Kinder Morgan Ready to Move Forward with UTOPIA East Pipeline). However, all was not utopia in UTOPIA–some Ohio landowners got a bumble bee in their bonnet and refused to deal, so KM took them to court (see UTOPIA Pipeline Sues Holdout OH Landowners Using Eminent Domain and UTOPIA Pipeline Still Battling OH Landowners with Eminent Domain). UTOPIA hit a brick wall in Wood County when a judge blocked the use of eminent domain in that county, saying the project does not benefit the public good (see Wood County OH Judge Blocks Eminent Domain for UTOPIA Pipeline). No worries. UTOPIA has been hard at work and has signed lease agreements with more reasonable landowners and is altering the route to avoid the ones who don’t want it. Hey, some people don’t want a truckload of money, who are we to argue? As we previously reported, tree clearing began in February (see Utopia has Arrived! Construction in OH Begins on Ethane Pipeline). KM says construction on the actual pipeline will begin later this month. Here’s the latest, about UTOPIA changing the route in Wood County to avoid those who don’t want it…
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WV Severance Tax Higher than Projected – But Maybe Not for Long

There’s some good news and, depending on your perspective, bad news when it comes to severance tax collections from natural gas (and coal) in West Virginia. According to West Virginia Department of Revenue in a report released last week, severance tax collections on oil, gas and coal in the Mountain State exceeded revenue projections by $13 million for the first nine months of the current 2017 fiscal year. The surplus reverses the trend from the previous year when WV lost severance tax money due to the drop in the price of oil and gas. Severance tax revenue, as we’ve pointed out before, floats up and down with the commodity price of oil and gas, unlike impact fee revenues which are much less tied to commodity prices (and one reason why PA drilling flourishes). So WV is seeing higher severance tax revenue–that’s the good news. The “bad” news is that Gov. Jim Justice and the WV Senate plan to cut the severance tax–putting the state back in the position of doing more with less…
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Delco School “Extraordinarily Satisfied” with ME2 Pipeline Safety

School officials at a school district in Delaware County, PA (Philadelphia suburb) were, understandably, concerned about plans that would bring the Mariner East 2 pipeline “near” the school. What happens if, in the extremely unlikely event, the pipeline leaks? Or explodes? What kind of measure are in place to protect the kiddies? Sunoco Logistics personnel (builder of the ME2 project) along with emergency first responders met with Middletown school officials on March 31 in a private meeting–because emergency plans are confidential. Coming out of that meeting, the school district superintendent said he was “extraordinarily satisfied” with the plans and that they kids are safe with ME2 being located nearby. You don’t hear that often, because the media doesn’t typically report it…
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Delco Antis Threaten Lawsuits to Stop ME2 Pipeline

Even though a companion story today reveals that a local school district in Middletown Township, PA (near Philadelphia) is completely satisfied that the Mariner East 2 pipeline is safe (see Delco School “Extraordinarily Satisfied” with ME2 Pipeline Safety), there are still a few hardened anti-fossil fuelers in Middletown who refuse to consider reason. They are keeping up a losing battle against ME2. Their latest approach is to pressure (i.e. bully) town officials to unilaterally reject the pipeline through their jurisdiction based on town zoning codes about setbacks–the distance from the pipeline to surrounding structures. Like two other towns with similar codes (Thornbury and West Goshen), the antis in Middletown are threatening to (surpise!) sue if the town doesn’t do what they (the antis) selfishly demand by rejecting the pipeline…
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Expensive Nuke Plants in OH, PA Launch Attack on Cheaper NatGas

Nuclear power plants, which are heavily regulated, can no longer compete in the free and open market–so they’ve decided to seek new laws to protect their revenue stream. That is, they hope to use laws to do what they can’t do in the free marketplace–force electric ratepayers to fund their more expensive source of electricity, and erect barriers for natural gas-fired electric plants (i.e. “re-regulation” of the electric industry). It’s sleazy and disgusting, but it’s happening. The nuke lobby has been successful in places where there’s corruption–like New York and Illinois. Now the nuke lobby is trying it in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Will they fall next?…
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Dominion Widens Its Economic Competitive Advantage, i.e. “Moat”

Last July we were introduced to the concept of a “wide economic moat” (see Marcellus Shale Gives Dominion Unstoppable Competitive Advantage). What is it? According to Investopedia, a wide economic moat is, “A type of sustainable competitive advantage that a business possesses that makes it difficult for rivals to wear down its market share and profit. The term is derived from the water filled moats that surrounded medieval castles.” Makes sense. We call it being so far ahead of the pack no one else can catch up. Last July, a Morningstar analyst wrote about Dominion’s wide economic moat. The reason for that moat? “[N]otably the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Cove Point LNG facility.” That is, because of the Marcellus Shale. The Morninstar analyst is back, writing more about Dominion’s wide moat getting wider. Why? Certainly the Marcellus/Utica remains front and center. But the analyst also says Dominion’s purchase of Questar, with a pipeline network in the West, is helping too…
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Interior Sec. Zinke Fumbles the Bumble – Endangered Listing for Bee

As MDN has previously chronicled, on September 22, 2016 the rogue U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule to list the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rusty patched bumble bee is found in the Midwest and eastern parts of the U.S. If it gets listed, it will have SIGNIFICANT impacts on drillers and midstreamers (see “Endangered” Bumble Bee May Slow/Stop O&G Projects in Northeast). With just a few days left in Obama’s reign of terror, the Obama-influenced USFWS pulled the trigger and listed it (see USFWS Pulls the Trigger and Lists Bumble Bee as Endangered). But then a white knight rode in to town to (temporarily) save the day. The Trump Administration signed an order delaying the listing until March 21 (see Trump Administration Delays Listing Bumble Bee as Endangered). With the clock ticking, the oil and gas industry, along with farmers and others negatively affected by the listing, asked newly-minted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to delay the listing until next year, to give everyone time to figure how they’re going to comply with this newest inanity from USFWS. There is no clear-cut guidance on avoiding the bee’s nesting areas and habitat–a huge loophole through which drilling’s enemies will drive a Mack truck (powered by cooking oil, of course). But then Zinke fumbled and dropped the ball. The listing has gone forward and is now in force. Was this because Zinke was new on the job and still surrounded by Obamadroids? Was it because Zinke has one foot in the Washington Establishment? Who knows?! One thing is for sure, the lowly bumblebee may accomplish what bats and lawsuits could not–slowing down and stopping drilling and pipeline work in the northeast…
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