Ascent Resources’ Marcellus Unit Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Please see comments from Ascent Resources below in the 2/7/18 update…

We have to confess, we did not see this one coming. Ascent Resources Marcellus, a company founded by Aubrey McClendon after he left Chesapeake Energy, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Note that Ascent, which was spun off from the McClendon company American Energy Partners, has a split corporate structure. On paper there are a number of “Ascent Resources” companies: Ascent Resources, LLC; Ascent Resources Utica Holdings, LLC; Ascent Resources – Utica, LLC; Ascent Resources Management Services, LLC; and, Ascent Resources Marcellus Holdings, LLC. Same management team for all and frankly, as a practical matter, they are all one company. But it is the last one in the list, Ascent Marcellus, that is seeking bankruptcy protection. According to the company website, Ascent Marcellus focuses its drilling activity on 43,000 leased acres in West Virginia. Ascent Marcellus has a couple of loans it can’t repay, so it’s taking the bankruptcy route which will transfer ownership of that portion of the company from existing shareholder to debtholders. We’ve seen this movie before. Nobody gets screwed except existing shareholders–at least, that’s the theory. According to an announcement by Ascent, the “restructuring” as it’s called, will not affect landowners or vendors. This is “an operational restructuring and is not intended to restructure or compromise any vendor, service provider, contractor, lessor, working interest owner or royalty owner obligations.” Of course “intent” and reality are sometimes two different things. We’ll keep a close eye out as this develops…

2/7/18 Update: Ascent Resources sent clarifications to our statements and assumptions above. Below are Ascent’s comments as provided, verbatim. We thank Ascent for taking the time to comment.

Regarding the comment that they are basically the same company:

It isn’t all the same company. This is a very important distinction. There are several different companies with similar names that are managed by another separate company that also has a similar name. The Marcellus company always had separate assets in West Virginia, a separate capital structure and separate debt that was collateralized solely by the West Virginia assets. It’s not all the same company.

Regarding the comment that “Nobody gets screwed except existing shareholders–at least, that’s the theory.”

You should know that Marcellus private equity owners hold more than 75% of the stock and control the board, so they were integrally involved in determining the most appropriate outcome for shareholders as part of the Chapter 11 discussions. So “in theory” does not apply to the detailed plan of reorganization that has been worked out between the company’s owners and the creditors. Continue reading

PA Gov. Wolf Broken Record: Proposes Budget with Severance Tax

Here we go again. Supposedly striking a more “cooperative tone,” Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf’s sympathetic media buddies are trying to spin, as best they can, Wolf’s state budget proposal delivered yesterday. Wolf is a hyper-partisan who, in this latest budget, continues to demand a $250 million/year Marcellus-killing severance tax–on top of the existing impact tax. It is the only new tax in the budget, a budget that increases the already wildly overspent state budget by an additional $1 billion! Spending in Harrisburg is completely out of control–a disaster. The last governor (frankly the only governor in a generation) who tried to correct Harrisburg’s voracious appetite to spend more, Tom Corbett, got voted out of office after one term. Wolf is hoping to score a second term by continuing his Santa Claus routine–by pulling money from the pockets of those who earn it (landowners and drillers) to give away to those who don’t (teacher’s unions in Philadelphia). We are not exaggerating–this is fact. In his proposed $32.9 million budget, Wolf claims a “modest” severance tax will generate $248.7 million this year, and ALL OF IT will go to “education”–meaning teachers and their unions in the Philadelphia region. It’s political payback for their ongoing support and for their efforts to get Wolf elected in the first place. Why is this FACT not discussed openly in the media? It is repugnant to use the gun barrel of the state to steal the wealth of one group and transfer it to another as political patronage. Yet that is Wolf’s mission. Republican legislators reacted negatively to Wolf’s wildly overspent budget (and severance tax), as did the Marcellus industry…
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FERC Gives Rover Pipe OK to Restart Drilling Under Tuscarawas River

Looks like asking “Pretty please, with a cherry on top” (along with providing requested information) works! MDN previously told you that on Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asked Rover Pipeline for more information before FERC would allow the project to restart drilling under the Tuscarawas River (see Rover Again Asks FERC for OK to Restart Tuscarawas Drilling). FERC asked for a review of three different options, including drill in a different place under the river and forget about drilling for a second pipe at all. Rover didn’t like either of those options and lobbied, hard, to get FERC to allow them to restart drilling in the same place where they’ve now lost 200,000 gallons of drilling mud down hole. Rover responded (on Sunday) to FERC’s Friday request, providing the information FERC requested. Rover specifically asked FERC for permission to restart drilling by 3 pm Monday–at the original location. The Monday deadline came and went. However, something in Rover’s appeal must have convinced FERC, because the OK to restart drilling came a day later–on Tuesday. Work has now resumed at the site, much to the consternation of Ohio EPA’s Craig Butler, who continues to oppose the project…
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Antis of Green, OH Finally Face Reality – Will Allow NEXUS Pipe

In the end, it came to down to cold, hard cash. Last May, MDN told you about antis running the City of Green, Ohio who were/are hellbent on stopping the NEXUS Pipeline (see Green, OH Paying Lawyers $100K to Fund Stop NEXUS Crusade). Green City Council voted to use $100,000 of taxpayer money to hire a Cleveland law firm to file a lawsuit “aimed at stopping the pipeline from being built or stopping the project altogether.” NEXUS, a $2 billion, 255-mile interstate pipeline that will run from Ohio through Michigan and eventually to the Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada, was the first major pipeline project to get approved after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) once again had a quorum of three members (see New FERC Quorum Votes Final Approval for NEXUS Pipeline). Green’s high-priced lawyers filed their lawsuit in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting an emergency stay blocking construction, which they got in November (see Fed Court Grants Green, OH Request to Stop NEXUS Pipe Construction). Everyone has their price. For the antis in Green, the price is $7.5 million and 20 acres of land that sit next to an existing city park. While the Green antis hate the idea of the pipeline getting built at all (especially Green’s anti-pipeline mayor), the writing is on the wall. They will lose and they know it–so to save face, the mayor negotiated a deal with NEXUS that City Council will vote on tonight to accept…

2/8/18 Update: Green Council voted 4-3 to accept the NEXUS deal. More below.
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Warning to Ohio Residents: Beware Fake Landowner Coalitions

“Keep It In the Ground” (KIITG) activists have launched a new, deceptive campaign in their holy mission to end the use of fossil fuels. The same people behind Food & Water Watch, Food and Water Action, the Sierra Club and other Big Green groups have/are launching fake landowner coalitions in Ohio. These fake coalitions (one of them being the Tri-County Landowners Coalition) have one aim and one aim only–to convince unsuspecting landowners to hate fossil fuels and anything (i.e. drilling, pipelines) to do with fossil fuels. It is a sleazy and disgusting tactic by the ultra-left, preying on honest, hardworking folks who join coalitions hoping to receive guidance on the best way to protect their land while at the same time profiting from it. Don’t fall for these fake coalitions! Our friends at Energy in Depth are sounding the alarm on this latest move by anti-fossil fuel radicals…
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PA Senate Passes Meaningless Resolution to “Study” Slow DEP Permits

This is what passes for “action” in the swamp of Harrisburg. Over the past couple of years the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has gotten slower and slower in issuing permits for shale drilling–for simple things, like erosion permits a driller needs to push dirt around to create a well pad. The DEP has a policy of issuing erosion and sedimentation permits 14 days from the date of application. As of last summer it was taking the DEP over 250 days to issue those permits (see More Pushback on PA Senate Plan to Fix Slow DEP Permit Reviews). The drilling industry has been loudly pushing for a change. The DEP says it has fewer people on staff and that’s the reason for the slowdown. The thing is, the number of requests for permits has gone down too–so that particular argument doesn’t hold a lot of water. PA House Republicans have introduced a number of bills to “fix” the DEP, not least of which is a bill introduced that allows certified third parties to assist the DEP in reviewing permit applications (see Bill Introduced to Fix PA DEP’s Extreme Delays Issuing Permits). The PA Senate wants in on the “fix DEP” action too. A Senate Democrat, John Yudichak from Wilkes-Barre, proposed a resolution to study the problem (see PA Senate Ctte Sends “Study Slow DEP” Resolution for Full Vote). A resolution to study something is swamp code for “don’t do a darned thing about it.” Yudichak’s meaningless resolution passed the full Senate yesterday. PA Senators can now all pat themselves on the back, pretending they’ve actually done something to address this critical problem when in fact, they’ve done nothing at all…
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M-U Gathering Pipelines Blamed for Killing “Ancient” Salamanders

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches. It’s also the official amphibian of Pennsylvania. Photo: Dave Herasimtschuk / Freshwaters Illustrated

(Sigh.) Here we go again. An in-depth news story appearing on the PBS website Allegheny Front theorizes that the presence of natural gas gathering pipelines–run to individual shale wells–are causing a decrease in the population of hellbenders. The theory is that as more and more pipelines are installed under creeks and streams throughout the region (in western PA and easter OH), the construction process muddies the streams and kills aquatic life, including the hellbender. The hellbender is a giant salamander–growing to an average of 15 inches long. Ugly suckers–so ugly they’re cute! OK, so a pipeline gets installed and the water is muddy for a day or two and maybe it kills a hellbender or two, what’s the big deal? Are they an endangered species? No, they are not. They are, however, considered to be “near-threatened”–meaning any decade now they *may* get added to the “threatened” list (but still not endangered). The idea is, of course, to avoid killing enough of a species like the hellbender so that it ends up on a threatened or endangered list. So are pipelines having a negative impact on hellbender populations? The article wants you think so, but actually, there’s zero evidence of any kind of impact by pipelines on hellbender populations. Instead of scientific steak to show a connection between pipelines and hellbender populations, the article serves up anecdotal Cheetos of scary pictures of pipelines being installed. There is no connection between pipeline construction and hellbender populations–that’s the bottom line when you read the following story…
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PA DEP’s Short-Term Solution to Get More Help – Hire 92 Interns

Everybody has a “fix” for the chronically slow Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP has a policy of issuing erosion and sedimentation permits for shale drilling 14 days from the date of application. At last check, it was taking the agency over 250 days to issue those permits. The Marcellus industry has been pressuring the PA legislature for a fix. As we noted in a companion story today, the PA Senate’s “fix” is to study it (see PA Senate Passes Meaningless Resolution to “Study” DEP Slow Permits). The PA House is more proactive, with a series of 5 bills that would, among other things, enlist the help of independent third parties to take up the slack (see PA House Advances “Fix DEP & Other Agencies” Plan with 5 Bills). Even PA Gov. Tom Wolf got in the act, offering his own solution, which involves hiking fees and hiring more people (see PA Gov Wolf Floats Plan to Fix DEP Slow Drilling Permits: Hike Fees). Perhaps the DEP has found a way to fix itself. The DEP recently posted 92 openings for paid internships. Many of the openings are for “Engineering and Scientific Technical Interns” for which the intern will earn $13.23/hour. While some of the openings are in the coal program, or the water resources program, many of positions (we’d say most, judging by a random check) are in the oil and gas program. But wait, the DEP is on a tight budget, right? They don’t have an extra two nickels to rub together. That’s what we always hear. That’s why fees need to go up, right? Somehow the DEP has been able to find money for an intern program. If 92 interns work for a 3-month period earning $13.23 per hour (40 hour weeks), that’s more than $580,000. Maybe the DEP will pull the money from one of the slush funds Republicans wanted to empty as part of balancing the budget? At any rate, here’s the deets on becoming an intern for the PA DEP…
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NY Reconsiders Building Tiny NatGas-Fired Elec Plant in Albany

It doesn’t happen often, but we’re speechless. We’ve lived under the apparent illusion that as stupid and insane as liberal leftist environmentalism is, that deep down underneath there’s still at least a small sliver of pragmatic truth that lives. Example: Even though NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned fracking, and blocks natural gas pipelines from getting built (bowing to pressure from the enviro left), at least Cuomo is on board with building a tiny natgas-fired electric generating plant in the heart of Albany, to power the bloated government complex that exists (see NY Gov Cuomo Building New Fracked Gas Elec Plant to Power Albany!). Sure, Cuomo’s fringe/nut/kook base doesn’t want the tiny electric plant built in Albany (see Antis Push Back on Albany, NY Tiny NatGas-Fired Electric Plant). But not even Cuomo would cave to that kind of insanity, right? Wrong. Because of pressure from the enviro left, the New York Power Authority (i.e. Cuomo) announced yesterday it will hold (don’t laugh), “listening sessions” to hear any and all crackpot alternatives that can be proposed using so-called renewable energy, instead of building the natgas-fired electric plant. Which means the entire project, IF IT EVER GETS BUILT, will now be delayed…
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Other Energy Stories of Interest: Wed, Feb 7, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye over the break that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Gas well drilling shifts to southwest PA, number of wells grows; midstream outlook in northeast brighter than ever; MarkWest offers $5.5B in new debt to investors; WV severance tax collections go up; Exxon wraps up construction on Gulf Coast cracker; Connecticut pays highest electric rates in lower 48 states; Groundhog Day in natgas; Halliburton takes Schlumberger to court over patents; the Polar Vortex & natgas; shale drilling in British Columbia; and more!
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