Disastrous PA Severance Tax Bill Debated in House, Makes Progress

Warning: Pennsylvania House Republicans are about to kill Marcellus drilling in PA by adopting a severance tax on top of the existing impact tax–creating the highest taxation of the oil and gas industry in the United States. Is PA ready to trade away an entire industry propping up its sorry finances–just to give money to Philly teacher’s unions? This is a TRAGEDY in the making. RINOsaur Gene DiGirolamo (“Republican” from the Philadelphia area) introduced a Frankenstein bill earlier this year called House Bill (HB) 1401 (see PA Frankenstein House Bill Merges Severance Tax & Minimum Royalty). The bill would tack a 3.2% severance tax on top of the existing ~5% impact tax (called a “fee”) already levied on Marcellus drillers. As soon as the bill made its way out of committee to the full House for consideration, over one hundred amendments were attached to it. Most of those amendments have been ruled “out of order” and removed from the bill, reviving the bill which is now under active consideration. A number of important amendments still remain and some of those were voted on yesterday. What you need to know front and center is that this bill is about a massive transference of wealth from those who produce wealth by working hard (drilling companies and landowners) to those who don’t (teacher’s unions). One of the amendments to HB 1401 passed yesterday reserves the first $150 million of the new severance tax solely for Big Education. The entire amount of revenue raised from a new severance tax, according to RINOsaur DiGirolamo, is expected to be $150 million. That is, ALL of the severance tax will go to Big Education, as payback. And you thought MDN was just spouting off, using hyperbole, ignorant or just plain mistaken all these years we’ve been screaming at the top of our lungs that the severance tax is nothing more than payback to Philly teachers for voting Tom Wolf into office. We (don’t) hate to say it: we were right. And now traitorous Republicans are making it possible for this to happen–for Wolf to get his way and corruptly funnel money back to the unions that elected him. Is any one else outraged at this? Are House Republicans asleep at the wheel???…
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FERC Approves WB Xpress Pipeline Across WV, VA

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday granted final approval for Columbia’s WB Xpress pipeline project. In Jan. 2016, Columbia Pipeline Group (now owned by TransCanada) filed a full, official application with FERC for the $850 million WB XPress Project (see Columbia Pipeline Files to Build $850M WB XPress Project in WV/VA). WB XPress consists of two new compressor stations, 26 miles of pipeline replacement located along existing corridors (11.6 miles of it in Monongahela National Forest), and 2.9 miles of new pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia. The WB XPress Project will expand capacity of the Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline system in the region by 1.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), linking Marcellus gas supplies to new markets. FERC issued a favorable environmental assessment for the project in March of this year (see FERC Gives Columbia WB XPress Enviro Thumbs Up). In September, the U.S. Forest Service gave their blessing (see WB XPress Pipeline Gets Important USDA Approval for Natl Forest). And now the fat lady has sung: FERC has issued a final approval for the project, meaning the next step is for construction to begin…
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NFG and NY DEC Go At It in Federal Court Over Pipeline Rejection

Last week lawyers for National Fuel Gas Company and the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) were in federal court doing battle over the DEC’s arbitrary and capricious rejection of an important Marcellus pipeline project. Three years ago NFG proposed and filed to build the Northern Access Pipeline project–a $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. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted final approval for the project in February of this year (see NFG’s Northern Access Pipe in NY/PA Gets FERC Approval). However, in April of this year, the DEC ruled against granting the project stream crossing permits, effectively killing it, at least for now (see Cuomo’s Corrupt NY DEC Blocks NFG Northern Access Pipeline Permit). In April, NFG sued the DEC in the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn the denial (see NFG Sues NY DEC in Fed Court re Northern Access Pipe Rejection). That case was argued last week before a panel of three judges from the Second Circuit…
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Sunoco Continues to Rack Up ME2 Drilling Mud Spill Violations

Sunoco Logistics Partners (part of and owned by Energy Transfer Partners) has had its fair share of “inadvertent returns” (i.e. leaks of drilling mud) while drilling underground for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project that stretches across the width of Pennsylvania. Some would say Sunoco has had more than its fair share of mud spills. Bear in mind that drilling mud is otherwise known as bentonite–the nontoxic clay mixture used to cool the drill bit as it chews away underground. Bentonite is the same chemical compound used to make kitty litter, toothpaste and all sorts of cosmetics. It’s totally safe for the environment–unless you spill a lot of it and smother little critters like salamanders and fishies. When installing a pipeline, you don’t just dig a trench across a roadway or dam up a creek or river. Instead, you use horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to dig under it. ME2 is some 350 miles long, so there are a number of places where HDD must be used. There are always small drilling mud spills, or inadvertent returns, associated with HDD work. However, Sunoco has had, at last count, 96 such instances (see the list below). Antis seek to make the most of each and everyone spill episode. The most recent such spill is associated with a sink hole believe caused by HDD drilling in Delaware County last week (see ME2 Drilling in Delaware Co. Creates Small Sinkhole, Antis Swarm). The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent a notice of violation for last week’s mud spill (see it below). DEP officials admit they are somewhat overwhelmed with trying to keep an eye on the project and are considering “additional enforcement” actions against Sunoco LP for ME2…
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Paid Agitators Shut Down Traffic at Energy Co Offices Near Pittsburgh

One of the crazies protesting in front of Southpointe

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving break, woo hoo! Time for brainwashed college kids to break the law and claim they’re doing their civic duty by shutting down traffic in front of “evil” companies that are part of the Marcellus industry. A lawless mob of perhaps two dozen maleducated young people along with some old hippies (most of whom were from out-of-state, i.e. paid agitators) set up roadblocks and other elaborate structures in front of the Southpointe business park in Washington County, PA, near Pittsburgh. A variety of Marcellus-related companies have offices in Southpointe, including Range Resources, CONSOL Energy, Halliburton, and Chesapeake Energy. The malcontents’ complaint? They have a psychological disorder in which they irrationally hate fossil fuels, and by extension, those who extract and sell them. Even though the clothes on their bodies and the sneakers on their feet come from fossil fuels. And even though they woke up in homes and apartments heated by fossil fuels. And even though they arrived at the protest in vehicles powered by fossil fuels. And even though the signs they made and carried were made from fossil fuels. Yeah, totally nutso. The lawlessness went on for about four hours before local police finally ejected the last of the nutters. They had a chance to make their statement and disrupt legitimate, salary-paying and valued businesses for a while, all in the name of anarchy and mob rule–driven by abject hatred. We often wonder if this is how it felt during the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1920s…
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Sierra Club Withdraws Federal Lawsuit to Stop NEXUS Pipeline

The uber-litigious Sierra Club and it’s vaunted stable of attorneys have been caught with their pants down–legally speaking. One of the (many) pipelines the Clubbers oppose is NEXUS, a $2 billion, 255-mile interstate pipeline that will run from Ohio through Michigan and eventually to the Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada. NEXUS got final approval for the project from FERC in August (see New FERC Quorum Votes Final Approval for NEXUS Pipeline). The Ohio EPA granted a water permit for the project in September (see Ohio EPA Grants Water Permit to NEXUS Pipe, “Learned” from Rover). Seeing the NEXUS freight train moving on down the tracks, the Clubbers filed a request for “rehearing” with FERC in September (see CORNballs, Sierra Club Continue to Fight NEXUS Pipeline in Court). Before anyone can sue to stop a federal pipeline project, the first step is to request a rehearing. If FERC delays or rejects a rehearing request, the “aggrieved” party can then launch a lawsuit in federal Appeals Court. And that’s what the Sierra Club did last week. They filed a lawsuit against NEXUS in the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, asking the court to force FERC to conduct a new review of the project, and in the meantime, shut it all down (see Sierra Club Files Federal Lawsuit to Stop NEXUS Pipeline). There’s just one teeny tiny problem: The landowner the Clubbers was using as their excuse to file the lawsuit recently sold his property to NEXUS. Oops. Now the Clubbers don’t have a reason to sue, so with tail between legs, they withdrew the lawsuit yesterday…
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NY Idiots Demand Cuomo Stop Burning All Fossil Fuels by 2030

A small group of people whose bubble isn’t in the center of the level staged a “protest” on Saturday in Long Beach, NY (Nassau County), nominally against the Williams Rockaway Delivery Lateral pipeline project. The Rockaway project adds 3.2 miles of new Transco pipeline and related facilities in New York, from the Marine Parkway Bridge in Far Rockaway to offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. The protesters’ stated reason for opposing the project? Not because it may disturb underwater ecosystems. Not because it would temporarily disrupt the lives of those living nearby during construction. Not because of fears over water contamination. No. The stated reason is, “for the end to burning fossil fuels” and because they want NY state “to convert to renewable energy by 2030.” It is, literally, an impossibility to end the use of fossil fuels within the next 100 years. But these idiots refuse to use logic and reason. So now they’re targeting a minuscule 3 mile pipeline in an effort to vent their irrational rage. Meanwhile, up the Hudson in Westchester County, a different small group of nutters also gathered on Saturday to vent their rage for the same reason (anti-fossil fuel extremism), except the focus of their rage is Spectra Energy’s Atlantic Bridge Pipeline project…
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Massive Electricity Shortage Coming in New York City, Long Island

We spotted a rather long and (to us) convoluted article about an experiment a New York City-area utility is conducting. National Grid (electric and gas utility) and their software partner AutoGrid are going to “use the latest demand response technology from the electricity world for natural gas.” That is, they are going to use software hooked to hardware to control how much natural gas is used by (so far) 16 customers signed up for the service. Supposedly it will work out bottlenecks in delivering natgas to customers–somehow reducing the amount of gas used overall. And that’s where our understanding falls down. How can you use software to use less gas–unless you are forcing someone’s thermostat to be turned down? We don’t get it. But supposedly this is the latest and greatest in technology. What did catch our attention in the article was a short passage about the coming electricity shortage NY faces because we lack natural gas pipeline infrastructure to fire gas generating plants. Specifically, New York and Long Island will soon face massive electricity shortages–unless utilities figure out how to force customers to lower their thermostats so they can use the gas to generate electricity…
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How U.S. Shale Changed the World Geopolitcally

American shale has fundamentally transformed the world geopolitically. How? Just think about. #1 – Saudi Arabia and Iran are on the brink of all-out war. For decades Saudia Arabia has been the world’s leading oil producing country. Iran has been in the top five oil producing counties. #2 – Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, is rumored to have defaulted on its foreign debt. Either situation, #1 or #2, hint at the potential for the flow of oil to be disrupted. Both happening at the same time is an oil cataclysm. A decade ago such news would have resulted in oil hitting $100, perhaps even $150 per barrel. The price of gas at the pump would have soared, overnight, to more than $5/gallon. Yet what has happened to the price of oil with this recent geopolitical news? Nothing. If anything, the price has gone down! The only reason oil prices are not through the roof is because of the abundance of American shale oil. An occasional guest blogger here on MDN is Daniel Markind, a partner with law firm Weir & Partners. Dan recently sent along what we consider masterful insight into how shale energy has literally changed the world. As a bonus, Dan asks a probing and relevant question of those who want to stop the use of all fossil fuels…
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Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Tue, Nov 21, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Keystone XL pipeline gets Nebraska’s approval, what’s next; Commerce Dept. finds 6 countries “dumping” cheap pipe in U.S.; EIA reports first gas withdrawal of the season; EIA, IEA overstate oil supplies from shale?; structural changes to the energy business; a new US-China relationship on the horizon; Ineos first to deliver US shale to China; and more!
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