PA DEP Makes Another Run at Onerous New GP-5 & 5A Methane Regs

In December 2016, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) unveiled new regulations to clamp down on methane emissions and other other air pollution that allegedly comes from shale drilling sites (see PA DEP Releases New Regs re Methane & Air Pollution at Drill Sites). The onerous new regulations, not in effect yet, were originally prompted by bullying from the Obama Environmental Protection Agency. Even though EPA pressure has disappeared under President Trump, PA Gov. Wolf still intends to push forward with these onerous (frankly, disastrous) regulations. According to the DEP, the proposed General Permit 5A (GP-5A) and the revised General Permit 5 (GP-5), will “establish updated Best Available Technology (BAT) requirements for the industry regarding air emission limits, source testing, leak detection and repair, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements for the applicable air pollution sources.” After some final tweaks, the DEP released draft versions of the new permits (i.e. regulations) in February (see PA DEP Seeks Public Comment on Regs for Methane, Compressor Stns). The Marcellus Shale Coalition, among others, strongly pushed back on these unnecessary and costly regulations (see MSC Tells PA DEP What it Thinks of Onerous New Methane Regs). Following the pushback, there was a lull in activity. The lull is now over. Out of the blue, the DEP announced it would conduct a webinar tomorrow, Thursday. The announcement (below) indicates the DEP will provide “details of the updated GP-5 and new GP-5A general permits.” Is this yet another set of revisions to try and make these onerous regs more palatable? Or just an elaborate snow job to resell the same old onerous regs they already tried to foist on the industry?…
Continue reading

NJ Radical Organization Sues FERC in Bid to Stop PennEast Pipeline

PennEast Pipeline is a $1 billion, 120-mile primarily 36-inch natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Dallas (Luzerne County), PA to Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington (Mercer County), NJ. The pipeline is an important conduit to move gas from the prolific gas fields of northeastern PA to markets in southeast PA and New Jersey. From the beginning of the project there have been a collection of so-called environmental organizations opposing it–including THE Delaware Riverkeeper, NJ Sierra Club, and the NJ Conservation Foundation. All radical groups, far far out of the mainstream. They also share something else besides an irrational hatred of fossil fuels–they’re part of a conspiracy to defeat PennEast funded by the William Penn Foundation. William Penn funds the aforementioned groups, as well as buying their own “media” in news outlets by funding StateImpact Pennsylvania and a news site called NJ Spotlight. William Penn sits in the background, pretending to be apart and aloof (to protect their IRS non-profit status) while pulling the strings and directing the opposition. Why the IRS turns a blind eye, we can’t say. At any rate, William Penn pulled another string this week–prompting their serfs at the NJ Conservation Foundation to file a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The cockamamie claim is that IF FERC approves PennEast, the pipeline will then be able to invoke eminent domain to allow it to enter properties and complete route mapping for the pipeline. Right now some hardened antis who live along the route refuse to allow PennEast to step one foot on their property. So NJ Conservation Foundation has filed a lawsuit (copy below) to prevent FERC from issuing a final certificate for PennEast because PennEast will then gain the right of eminent domain. The lawsuit claims PennEast using eminent domain to build the pipeline would be an improper “taking” of private property under the Constitution. The only problem (for the William Penn-backed NJ Conservation Foundation) is that no “taking” has actually happened until FERC approves the project. That is, the lawsuit anticipates a harm that hasn’t happened. We expect that little fact will not escape the judge’s notice and that the lawsuit will be tossed in short order…
Continue reading

Federal Court Clarifies Ohio Law for Calculating Gas Royalties

A month ago MDN brought you the news that the U.S. District Court in Akron, OH had made a major ruling that affects all Utica landowners and drillers (see Federal Court Says Chesapeake Royalty Deductions Allowed in Ohio). The case, known as Lutz v. Chesapeake Appalachia, is about whether or not drillers (Chesapeake in this case) are allowed to deduct certain post-production costs from landowner royalty checks. The Ohio Supremes were asked to decide whether Ohio follows the “at the well” rule, which permits the deduction of post-production costs, or if the state follows the “marketable product” rule, which limits the deduction of post-production costs under certain circumstances. The Supremes refused to tackle the ultimate issue, which is: What does “at the well” really mean? How is it defined? Instead, the Supremes bounced the issue back to the U.S. District Court in Akron for further clarification. The federal court defined what is meant by “at the well.” The court’s decision means that Chesapeake Energy (and by extension other drillers) CAN deduct post-production expenses from landowner royalty checks–at least in certain instances. We spotted an explanation of the case and the decision by the Akron court from our friends at powerhouse energy law firm BakerHostetler. They do a great job putting the ruling in language we laypeople can understand…
Continue reading

Rover Ignores Shrill Ohio EPA, Asks FERC to Continue HDD Drilling

On Monday MDN brought you the news that Captain Ahab, er, a, Ohio EPA director Craig Butler, had demanded Rover Pipeline stop all horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work now under way in the state because another (tiny, 200 gallon) drilling mud spill happened on November 16th (see Ohio EPA Continues Vendetta Against Rover Pipe, Demands HDD Stop). Butler sent a letter to Rover and has also sent it to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in yet another attempt to get FERC to halt work on the Rover project. Yesterday Rover thumbed its nose at Butler and instead asked FERC for permission to not only continue all current HDD work, but to begin new HDD work at several more locations in Ohio. Moby-Dick strikes back. Take that, Captain Ahab!…
Continue reading

PA Supreme Court Hears Arguments in EQT Wastewater Leak Case

Buckle up while we explain the background for this story. In October 2014, the DEP fined EQT a whopping $4.53 million for a leaky wastewater impoundment in Tioga County, PA (see PA DEP Levies Biggest Fine Ever, $4.5M Against EQT). While EQT did not say there wasn’t a problem with leaks at the site, they did say the way the DEP calculated the fine is unreasonable and arbitrary. In fact, EQT says the DEP levied the fine and took EQT to court because a few weeks prior EQT had sued the DEP over a different matter–that is, sour grapes. EQT appealed the fine and the case all the way to the PA Supreme Court. In December 2015, the high court handed EQT a “procedural victory” by saying EQT has a point about the manner in which the DEP is calculating the fine (see PA Supreme Court Gives EQT “Procedural Victory” in $4.5M Fine Case). The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court, PA Commonwealth Court, for follow up work, and in January 2017, a three-judge panel ruled that the method the DEP currently uses to assess fines–by how many days pollution lingers, instead of by how many days the initial release of pollution lasted–is not legal nor common sense (see EQT Wins Court Case Against PA DEP re $4.5M Wastewater Leak Fine). The judges said such a method in fining, “would result in potentially limitless continuing violations.” Under the old way of calculating fines, the DEP was considering upping the fine on EQT to an insane $157 million. Calculating it under the new way will mean a fine of around $120,000. Not long after that ruling, the Environmental Hearing Board, a special “court” set up to hear appeals of DEP decisions, decided to reduce the original $4.5 million fine down to $1.1 million (see PA Hearing Board Reduces EQT Fine from $4.5M to $1.1M). We thought that would be the end of it. But no! Both the DEP and EQT appealed the matter back up to the PA Supreme Court and yesterday the Supremes heard the case once again…
Continue reading

How Low Will They Go? RINOs/Dems Decrease PA Sev Tax Bill to 1.5%

We’re not sure when this happened, but the dreadful severance tax bill in the Pennsylvania House, House Bill (HB) 1401 went from being a 3.2% tax to now a 1.5% tax on Marcellus production. Even with the lower rate, as we pointed out in a post yesterday, liberal Democrats are already voicing disgust and laying blame in anticipation that the bill will not pass (see Ray of Hope in PA Severance Tax Debate: Lib Dems Attack M-U). We have yet more evidence along those lines. An editorial by John Baer, a lib Dem “columnist” for the Philadelphia Daily News says he smells something “fishy” about the current debate over HB 1401. Baer thinks the bill is going nowhere fast and is nothing more than a fundraiser, to get both sides of the debate charged up and flooding Harrisburg with big bucks to fund political campaigns…
Continue reading

Survey Indicates O&G Investing in WV More Attractive than PA or OH

Each year (for the 11th year running) the Canadian-based Fraser Institute surveys petroleum industry executives and managers (333 of them for 2017) asking them their opinions on the barriers to investing in exploration and production in various geographies across the globe. That is, what makes them more likely or less likely to spend money drilling in a particular location? The Global Petroleum Survey (full copy below), tallies the survey responses and ranks each geography from most desirable place to invest, to least desirable. The rankings for this year are interesting and illustrative that politicians’ words and regulatory environment have a direct bearing on where, and how much, drilling companies are willing to spend. No money spent, no drilling. The barriers to spending in a given geography include: high tax rates, costly regulatory schemes, uncertainty over environmental regulations and the interpretation and administration of regulations governing the petroleum industry, and security threats. Only one state in the Marcellus/Utica ranked in the Top 10 “most attractive” jurisdictions for oil and gas investment–West Virginia…
Continue reading

TransCanada Says FERC Approval for Mountaineer XPress May Slip

In July 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a favorable final environmental impact statement (EIS) for both the Mountaineer XPress and Gulf XPress projects (see FERC Issues Favorable Final EIS for Mountaineer/Gulf XPress Pipes). Both projects are part of Columbia Pipeline Group (now owned by TransCanada), expansions of the Columbia Pipeline system. A favorable EIS means it’s a foregone conclusion that FERC will issue a certificate for the project to proceed–at some point. Mountaineer XPress includes 165 miles of new pipeline with approximately 2.7 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day of transportation capacity from existing and future points of receipt along or near the Columbia pipeline system–most of it located in West Virginia. Gulf XPress consists of constructing seven new midpoint compressor stations along the existing Columbia pipeline system in Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, with the aim of moving an additional 875 million cubic feet (MMcf) of Marcellus/Utica gas per day southward, to the Gulf Coast region. So far FERC has not given these two important Marcellus/Utica projects the final go-ahead. During TransCanada’s annual investor day webcast yesterday, Stan Chapman, president of TransCanada’s US natural gas pipelines business told investors (and the public) that although they had hoped for FERC approval by the end of this year, it’s now likely the approval will “slip into January”…
Continue reading

ME2 Construction Plan Near Philly Changed, Antis Still Not Happy

Why are we not surprised that antis are NEVER happy. EVER. Sunoco Logistics Partners has, after experiencing problems using underground horizontal direction drilling (HDD) at a couple of locations near Philadelphia while building the Mariner East 2 NGL pipeline, decided to abandon HDD and instead switch to another method to get the pipeline installed. Even with the change in methodology, antis are still fussing and moaning. The only outcome that will make them “happy” is for Sunoco to abandon building the pipeline, which isn’t going to happen. Even if Sunoco did quit building ME2, we doubt the antis would really be happy. Have you ever noticed they’re perpetual sourpusses?…
Continue reading

Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Tue, Nov 29, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: MSC president says Marcellus/Utica activity heading downstream; OH Utica industry lends a hand with Toys for Tots; the Bakken is getting gassy; shale drillers hold the keys to success for an OPEC production cut; million-barrel hedging signals shale boom here to stay; o&g growth will propel U.S. economy through 2040; Mark Papa says shale hitting “sweet spot” exhaustion; overpricing renewable power is dangerous; Russia’s Gazprom gets big loans from Japan & U.S.; UK government supports shale industry; and more!
Continue reading