Governors from PA-NY-DE Vote to Ban Fracking in Dela. River Basin

Well they did it. Yesterday at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), representatives for the five voting members voted to begin the process of formalizing a permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was hotly contested–by both sides in the debate. As we’ve previously chronicled, the DRBC is composed of five voting members: the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The governors all sent people to represent them at the meeting, with clear instructions. The three Democrat governors–Tom Wolf (PA), Andrew Cuomo (NY), and John Carney (DE) all voted in favor of a resolution to take the next step in the process of a permanent ban, voting to adopt a draft resolution MDN previously shared (see DRBC Votes Tomorrow on Permanent Frack Ban Resolution). Gov. Chris Christie’s (NJ) rep abstained from the vote, and the Army Corps, which answers to the White House, voted NO. Steven Tambini, DRBC’s executive director, has clearly lost control of the organization. Or perhaps he never had control to begin with. Tambini urged critics to “withhold judgment” until they see the regulations that Big Green groups cook up. Big Green groups like THE Delaware Riverkeeper (aka Maya van Rossum) should be elated–but they still had sourpusses on. They didn’t like language in the resolution that would allow frack wastewater to be hauled/disposed of inside their precious Delaware River Basin playground. Meanwhile, landowners in Wayne and Pike counties in PA are getting the royal shaft–they will never be able to lease their land for drilling. In 2015 PA Gov. Wolf offered to help those landowners, in return for a political quid pro quo–support his severance tax plan (see PA Gov Wolf Offered Deal in ’15 to Open Dela. River Basin Drilling). The landowners did not support Wolf’s loony severance tax plan, so now it’s payback. Wolf is going to strip their property rights away…
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PA House Holds the Line – Passes Budget with No Severance Tax

Three cheers for Pennsylvania House Republicans. Hip hip, hooray! House Republicans did the near impossible–they held the line against a cockamamie plan to raise all sorts of taxes, including slapping a severance tax on the Marcellus gas industry (on top of the existing impact tax). You may recall our story about a group of hardworking Republican House members who, during the recent recess, did a masterful forensic accounting job of locating existing money sitting idle in a variety of programs and departments–money that can used to plug a deficit in the budget this year (see PA House Introduces Balanced Budget with NO Severance Tax). House members pulled a rabbit out of the hat by finding $2.4 billion in money laying around, unused in various accounts, that they plan to reallocate to the state budget. Yesterday the House voted. As always, battle plans never survive first contact with the enemy. The final version of the House budget plan passed yesterday includes a $1 billion loan from money the state is set to get in the future from the long-ago tobacco company settlement, an expansion of casino-style gambling, and “hundreds of millions” from the money House members found laying around, unused. The key is that there are no new taxes in the House budget plan. No severance tax. No gross receipts tax (on telephone, electricity and natural gas). Read my lips: No New Taxes. They did it! And they are to be applauded for it. Now the plan goes to the Senate where its future is less than certain. Gov. Wolf immediately blasted the House plan because it doesn’t include any new taxes…
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Senators Try to Remove Sev. Tax Stain by Chiding Wolf re DRB Vote

Following yesterday’s vote by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to take the first step in a permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin (DRB), reaction from those who support drilling was swift. The American Petroleum Institute issued a statement saying, among other things, that the DRBC’s intention to permanently ban fracking in the DRB is “bad public policy.” More than a few Pennsylvania legislators took issue with PA Gov. Wolf’s vote to endorse a permanent frack ban. Three ranking State Senators–Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Chair Gene Yaw, ripped into Wolf with a joint press release yesterday, saying they “strongly objected” to Wolf’s vote. The three said a permanent ban on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin is “arbitrary, short-sighted and a blow to economic development, job-creation and landowner’s rights.” We appreciate their support. However, those same three Senators recently sold out the gas industry when they voted for a severance tax. They were part of the high-tax cabal that made the job of the House that much harder (thank God the House passed a no-severance-tax budget yesterday, see today’s companion story). While we appreciate the Senators’ support on the DRB frack ban issue, their bloviating against Wolf on the frack ban vote doesn’t remove the stain of their betrayal of the gas industry in voting for the severance tax. All three Senators need to go at the next primary…
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Rover Pipeline Still Battling Ohio EPA, Asks FERC to Lift HDD Ban

Rover project map – click for larger version

Rover Pipeline–$3.7 billion, 711-mile natural gas pipeline that will run from PA, WV and eastern OH through OH into Michigan and eventually into Canada–starting flowing natural gas through a portion of the pipeline on Sept. 1st (see Big Portion of Rover Pipeline Now Up & Running – Thru Most of Ohio). Since then, Phase 1A of the pipeline has steadily increased its throughput and now flows over 700 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of yummy Utica/Marcellus Shale gas to Defiance, OH. However, it could flow more, if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would lift its considerable boot off Rover’s neck and let them finish Phase 1B–pipeline work in eastern Ohio to feed more gas to the main part of the pipeline. The problem is that Rover had early missteps, the most serious of which spilled 2 million gallons of non-toxic drilling mud in a swamp near the Tuscarawas River back in April (see Rover Pipeline Accident Spills ~2M Gal. Drilling Mud in OH Swamp). An investigation by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) found the presence of diesel fuel in the drilling mud, which means the mud wasn’t so non-toxic after all (see OH EPA Says Diesel Fuel Found in Rover 2M Gal Drilling Mud Spill). Rover believes sabotage may have been the cause (see ET Says Accident or Anti Sabotage Caused Diesel in Rover Mud Leaks). Since April, FERC has blocked all new underground HDD work for the Rover project. Rover has asked (begged, pleaded) FERC, several times, for permission to restart the HDD work–at least in a few select locations. In August, FERC issued eight conditions before they would agree to lifting the HDD ban (see FERC Issues Rover 8 Commandments to Restart Horizontal Drilling). Rover says they have met all of those conditions. However, the OEPA says they have not, and is asking FERC to continue blocking HDD activity until they (OEPA) are satisfied. Rover fired off a letter to FERC that says OEPA’s public statements are opposite of their private statements with Rover. In other words, OEPA is lying. Who will FERC listen to?…
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Monroeville, PA Passes Restrictive Seismic Testing Ordinance

Monroeville, PA (Allegheny County, suburb of Pittsburgh) voted last night to restrict seismic testing within municipal boundaries–a move meant to restrict future shale well drilling in the area by Huntley & Huntley. In a July story, MDN brought you the news that Cougar Land Services, a subcontractor working with Huntley & Huntley, is planning to conduct seismic testing in two rural areas of the municipality, including “small portions” of Monroeville’s northernmost and southernmost tips (see H&H: Seismic Testing Coming to Monroeville, Not to Oakmont). Monroeville Council voted in early August to publish a draft of its new seismic testing ordinance for 30 days of public comment, prelude to a final vote (see Monroeville, PA Close to Passing Restrictive Seismic Testing Ord.). The restrictions are meant to hassle anyone wanting to conduct seismic testing, i.e. Huntley & Huntley. Which is kind of sad, as H&H is headquartered in Monroeville. Kind of like spitting in the company’s face. Last night Monroeville hawked up a huge wad of phlegm and let a big one fly in the face of H&H. Not to worry. If the ordinance “is outside the state parameters,” H&H intends to sue. Just to add insult to injury and let the Marcellus industry know how unwelcome they truly are, the council also voted to put a new ordinance on the agenda that pretty much blocks all Marcellus Shale drilling throughout the municipality…
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Mountaineer NGL Storage Project Delayed Until 2018

Mountaineer NGL Storage wants to build a new underground NGL storage facility in Monroe County, Ohio, near Clarington, along the Ohio River (see New Company Announces Open Season for NGL Storage in Ohio Utica). As we reported in April, the company need customers to sign up to use the facility–a minimum of 1 million barrels of storage would get it going (see More Clarity on Status of Mountaineer NGL Storage Facility in OH). Mountaineer still needs to build a 3.25 million barrel brine pond, used to pump out the stored NGLs. Mountaineer is waiting for a clearance from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources to build the pond, which (in June) we said would likely to take “a few more months.” Strike that. The CEO of the project recently said he now does not expect to get those permits until “first or second quarter of next year.” He hastens to add that’s no problem, because his two biggest potential customers–the Shell ethane cracker in Beaver County, PA and the closer-by PTT Global Chemical cracker in Belmont County, OH, won’t be ready to start using ethane until 2020 at the earliest…
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Westmoreland Water Authority Expects $3M in Gas Royalties This Yr

In an incredible story of how Marcellus Shale drilling benefits local communities, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (i.e. the water authority) reports that it expects royalties received from 52 shale wells drilled on authority-owned land will jump another $1 million this year, to a total of over $3 million. The authority is still pushing forward with a three-year rate hike plan that began in 2016–so customers will get a 7% rate hike this year. Even though the authority has all of that extra cash. Why not suspend the rate hike because of the extra royalty money? Because, says an authority official, “The rate hikes were designed to help pay for a $140 million loan finalized last year for capital improvements to the water system that serves more than 120,000 customers in five counties as well as nearly 25,000 sewer customers.” What will the authority do with the extra $1 million they hadn’t planned on receiving? It’s “more money to be reinvested into the system.” Here’s the lowdown on Westmoreland’s windfall from gas royalties, and why royalties are jumping this year…
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PA AG Criminal Lawsuit Against XTO Energy Dismissed After 4 Yrs

Four years after then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane decided to turn an accident into a criminal prosecution against XTO Energy, the final chapter has been written. Anti-drilling Kane attempted to criminalize the accidental spill of a small amount of recycled wastewater by XTO that happened years before she took office (see PA AG Abuses Her Authority, Files Criminal Charges Against XTO). There was an accidental spill of ~50,000 gallons of frack wastewater at an XTO drill site in 2010 in Lycoming County, PA. XTO remediated the site, digging up affected soil, and paid out a $100,000 settlement in 2013. By the time Kane took office, the matter had been over and done for over two years. But Kane wanted/needed a quick way to make a splash with her hardcore left fringe supporters (payback time for money and volunteers), so she re-opened the case and fantastically filed criminal charges saying XTO showed a pattern of brazen disregard for safety, blah blah blah. In 2013, XTO filed to dismiss the Kane lawsuit (see XTO Energy Files to Have AG Kane’s Lawsuit Dismissed). The federal EPA also got into the act and last year XTO settled a violation of the Clean Streams Law and Solid Waste Management Act. Pricetag? Another $300,000. Now that the company has paid out the nose ($400,000 total), U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew Brann yesterday approved a motion filed by the U.S. attorney’s office to end the case. Finally. After four years…
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200+ Binghamton-Area Residents Sign Petition Supporting Virtual Pipe

Who knew there was ANYBODY who supported a virtual pipeline project in Broome County, NY?! As MDN recently reported, a Broome County judge ruled that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The judge’s ruling delays the project for months at least. NG must now resubmit the project for approval by the Fenton Planning Board. Before doing that, NG must first conduct a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. Even with environmental studies, don’t expect the locals, who appear to have very closed minds, to accept the outcome. Travel around the community where the project is slated to be built and almost every home within a mile has a “NO COMPRESSOR STATION” sign. Read local news coverage of the issue and you come to the conclusion there isn’t a single soul in the county (apart from MDN editor Jim Willis) who supports the project. NG is out to counter that media narrative. NG has just launched a petition to support the project. And guess what? Already over 200 local residents have signed it. Yeah, there’s likely at least that many against it, but the point is this is not a one-sided issue. People in the community are starting to speak up in support of the project. If you live in the general vicinity, here’s how you can sign the petition…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Thu, Sep 14, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Mountain Valley Pipe sidetracked, but still needed; ODNR issues 16 permits in OH Utica; Delco RINOs push severance tax; Okla. earthquakes blamed on fracking in new lawsuit; Gulf Coast energy hub “too important to fail”; Big Tech enters energy markets; natgas storage on track to be full by end of Nov.; climate kook Michael Mann shrieks at “inhuman cretins” who don’t believe has he does; Europeans approve new natgas security rules; and more!
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