PA Class Action Royalty Lawsuit Against XTO Settles for $11M

A journey which began for Pennsylvania landowners in Butler County, PA in July 2015 is nearing an end. Two Butler County, PA landowners with a combined 245.7 acres of land leased to XTO Energy sued XTO in 2015 claiming that XTO is breaking the lease agreement by paying royalties below 1/8 of what XTO receives in revenue for the gas (see PA Landowners Sue XTO Energy for Shorting Them on Royalties). The case, known as Marburger et al V. XTO Energy Inc., asserted the lease signed with landowners did not include language that would allow XTO to deduct post-production charges (that they had been deducting). The two landowning families that launched the lawsuit, the Marburgers and the Thieles, sought to turn the lawsuit into a class action, involving potentially hundreds or thousands of others. It didn’t take long for XTO to oppose the lawsuit and its certification as a class action (see XTO Files Motion to Dismiss Royalty Lawsuit in Butler County, PA). Since that time we’ve not heard much of anything about the lawsuit. And then out the blue comes word that via arbitration, XTO has agreed to settle the lawsuit. The settlement includes turning it into a class action, and paying out a total of $11,010,000. As part of the settlement, XTO admits to nothing. That is, they do not concede the plantiffs have a valid case against them. It’s simply cheaper to settle it and move on rather than to keep fighting. Below we have the relevant court documents with the details of the settlement…
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Smith Twp Votes Down Plan to Expand MAX Bulger Marcellus Landfill

In a disappointing development, the supervisors of Smith Township (Washington County), PA have voted to turn down MAX Environmental’s request to expand the Bulger landfill they operate in the town (see Marcellus Landfill in Washington Co. Seeks to Expand, Add TENORM). One of the primary customers for the landfill over the past 10 years has been the Marcellus industry–dumping drill cuttings (leftover dirt and rock from drilling) at the landfill. MAX intends to ask the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection for a permit to expand the Bulger facility by 21 acres. They also want to begin accepting technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials, or TENORM, from shale drillers. The first stop is, however, is to get local approval. The DEP wants to see local approval before they consider a state approval. Until now, the word coming from the supervisors is that they were duty-bound to approve the request, as long as “reasonable conditions” were made in the request. The town held several public hearings about the project. Apparently some local loudmouths got to the supervisors and spooked them. At a meeting last Thursday night the supervisors voted 3-0 against approving the request. MAX said they will wait to get the official document, expected today, before deciding on whether or not to litigate (an almost certainty)…
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USFS Approves Atlantic Coast Pipeline Thru 2 National Forests

In January 2016 the Obama U.S. Forest Service (USFS) turned down a request from Dominion’s $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina, to pass through two different national forests (see US Forest Service Blocks Atlantic Coast Pipeline in National Forests). USFS refused to grant Dominion a special permit to cross teeny tiny sections of the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) and George Washington National Forest (GWNF) in West Virginia and Virginia respectively. Why? Because of concerns about cow knob salamanders, northern flying squirrels and red spruce trees. Dominion and ACP bent over backwards, forwards and sideways to avoid running through cow nob salamander territory (see Dominion Files Pipeline Route Change to Avoid Salamanders, Swamp). But in the end, the Obamadroids at USFS didn’t like Dominion or their plan. However, there’s a new administration in office now. And with the new administration, USFS has reconsidered and last week granted ACP approval to traverse those teeny tiny sections of MNF and GWNF…
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Rice Energy CEO Dan Rice Gets $2.6M Golden Parachute from EQT

The golden parachute has popped open for Rice Energy’s former CEO, Dan Rice IV. And it’s worth $2.6 million. EQT filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week to say that Dan Rice IV has been terminated (as an employee) as of the day the two companies merged. In a deal worked out prior to the merger, Dan is getting a check for $2.6 million–$1.91 million as a severance payment and $704,000 in lieu of his annual bonus. Which frankly doesn’t sound like a whole lot, given Dan was one of the shareholding owners of Rice Energy. His salary in 2016 was $3.35 million. But don’t shed any tears for Dan. We suspect his stock in the newly-merged EQT is worth a fortune. And Dan gets a seat on the EQT board of directors, a gig that will pay him. What’s next for Dan and the other Rice boys? We don’t have the particulars for all of the Rice boys, but we do know (from the SEC filing) that Dan signed a 3-year non-compete agreement, so we won’t see Rice Energy II in the northeast for at least three years. Other than that, we suspect the boys already have something up their proverbial sleeve. The Rice boys don’t strike us as the lounge-around-the-pool types…
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FERC Allows Rover to Use HDD in 4 More Locations, Incl Ohio River

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last Thursday granted Rover Pipeline permission to resume horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at four more locations where it had been stopped. One of those locations is drilling under the Ohio River in the Majorsville area. Rover is a $3.7 billion, 711-mile natural gas pipeline that (will eventually) run from PA, WV and eastern OH through OH into Michigan and on to Canada. A large portion of the pipeline began flowing natural gas 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 1.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of Utica/Marcellus Shale gas to Defiance, OH (see Rover Pipe Nearly Doubles Flow with Addition of Carroll, OH Compressor). However, it could flow more, if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would allow Rover to finish Phase 1B pipeline work in OH/WV 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 (i.e. “wetland”) near the Tuscarawas River back in April (see Rover Pipeline Accident Spills ~2M Gal. Drilling Mud in OH Swamp). Following that and several other mishaps, FERC shut down all Rover HDD work–for months. Gradually FERC has allowed Rover to resume HDD work, and with this latest round of four more HDD locations, it appears to us that only two HDD locations remain on the “do not drill yet” list, one of them being the Tuscarawas River location…
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Atlantic Sunrise Pipe Begins Work in Northumberland County, PA

Good news for Northumberland County: Atlantic Sunrise is rising in your neighborhood. Work on the $3 billion, 198-mile natural gas pipeline project that will run through 10 Pennsylvania counties to connect Marcellus Shale natural gas from northeastern PA with the Williams’ Transco pipeline in southern Lancaster County has begun in Northumberland County. Last week a Williams subcontractor working on that portion of the project gave a tour to a local newspaper. Atlantic Sunrise will pass through approximately 10 miles of Northumberland County, entering from Columbia County and exiting to Schuylkill County. So far, “Everything seems to be going really well” according to the contractor in charge of that portion of the project. They expect to begin welding pipes together by the end of this month…
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5 More Protesters Arrested in Lancaster Co. Blocking Pipeline Work

Five more members of the nutty Lancaster Against Pipelines group have been arrested, including a minor. It’s bad enough putting your own life at risk. We consider it child abuse to put your child’s life in danger by sitting the kid down in front of heavy equipment–in a deluded attempt to stop construction. Just last week we told you about three old ladies who did the same thing (see 3 Old Ladies Cause 3 Hr Delay in Atlantic Sunrise Construction). The latest five were arrested in the same general vicinity as the three old ladies–Martic Township. The five were arrested for sitting down in front of a working backhoe. No doubt they were imagining old Captain Planet episodes in their minds as they did so. You know, the Saturday morning cartoon from decades ago where defenseless kids go up against evil big corporations whose only goal is to destroy Mom Earth? All’s lost until the kids combine their “powers” and magically transform into Captain Planet (Planet…Planet…Planet). Did you hear that echo? At any rate, this latest small group didn’t hold up the works as long as the old ladies did, which is good. The grand total of protesters arrested now stands at 45–quite a few less than the “over a thousand” who supposedly had signed up to sacrifice themselves in front of pipeline construction equipment, according to the leaders of Lancaster Against Pipelines…
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PJM Defends Plan to Favor Coal & Nukes, Driving Elec Rates Higher

Last week we told you about the hypocrisy of PJM Interconnection–the regional transmission organization (RTO) that operates the electric grid in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia, including PA, OH and WV (see PJM Double Talk: Grid Operator Floats Plan to Favor Nukes & Coal). For nearly a year PJM has been saying the electric grid in our region is just fine using natural gas-fired electric plants. PJM said coal plants are shutting down, and nuclear plants are too expensive–don’t worry about it because gas has got our backs. And then last week they did a 180 degree about face and floated a plan that will “protect” coal and nuclear, which will result in electric customers paying 2-5% more for their electricity. MDN wasn’t the only outlet to notice the hypocrisy. Stung by criticism, PJM offered a defense of their so-called plan to protect (we’d call it favor) coal and nukes…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Mon, Nov 20, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: The Battle for Dawn, Part 2; interview with Tim Dugan, COO of CONSOL; Earthworks hires a new agitator for PA/OH; Statler College unveils natgas lab; ISO New England says Invenergy natgas plant needed; why have 2 new FERC commissioners not yet been seated?; rig count jumps–but only for gas rigs; natgas prices have finally started to rise; initiative under way to increase US LNG exports; China’s LNG imports soar; and more!
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