Most Evacuees Return Home After XTO Well Explosion in Ohio

As we reported yesterday, last Thursday XTO Energy was drilling a fourth Utica Shale well on the Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek (York Township, Belmont County, OH) when XTO “lost control” of the well and it exploded and caught fire (see XTO Energy Utica Well Explosion in Belmont County – 100 Evacuated). We have an update. Most of the evacuees have now returned to their homes (a few still have not). Also, the well is still not capped, meaning “unknown quantities” of methane are leaking into the air. Which, judging by most press accounts, is a greenhouse gas environmental catastrophe. Actually, it’s nothing of the sort. The amount of gas a single well vents into the atmosphere until it’s capped doesn’t even move the needle on the faux global warming scale. Frankly, it’s laughable. No, we’re not laughing at this accident/disaster. Far from it. We thank God nobody was hurt. It should not have happened. And yes, the well needs to be capped–quickly–which XTO and the company hired to do it (Cudd Energy Services) are working hard to do. We’re just providing balance to the “methane leaking from this uncapped well is the end of the world” narrative so prevalent–even in local news outlets. Here’s the latest update on what’s happening at the Schnegg well pad…
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Ohio EPA Continues to Target Rover Pipe in New FERC Letter

When will Captain Craig “Ahab” Butler, executive director of the Ohio EPA, realize he’s never going to harpoon his great white whale–Rover Pipeline? Captain Butler is at it again. The Ohio EPA filed a letter with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week claiming that testing done by OEPA found the presence of very low levels of the toxic chemical tetrachloroethene at Rover’s underground drilling site at the Tuscarawas River in southern Stark County. OEPA admits they can’t prove the very low levels of the compound actually came from Rover’s drilling activity–but hey, what’s proof got to do with it? Un-coincidentally, two Democrat members of Congress, one from New Jersey, the other from Washington State (one 560 miles away from Ohio, the other 2,400 miles away from Ohio) are asking FERC for a “briefing” on the Rover Pipeline project. Apparently OEPA couldn’t get any Ohio members of Congress to step up and pressure FERC, so OEPA went shopping for sympathetic Dems in other states who would. And oh, by the way, the Dems want (i.e. demand) their “briefing” no later than Feb. 28th…
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PA Town Loses Appeal to Block ME2 Pipe with Local Zoning Ordinance

Yesterday MDN brought you news that Uwchlan Township (Chester County, PA) has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline (ME2) through portions of the town, claiming the pipeline violates a town ordinance for “setbacks”–how far the pipeline is located from buildings and other structures (see PA Town Sues Sunoco for ME2 Pipe Construction “Too Close” to Homes). As we said yesterday, while residents in Uwchlan may have legitimate concerns, they are trying to handle those concerns illegitimately–by claiming local ordinances have power over state regulations. It’s the other way around. State regulations trump local ordinances in cases like ME2. Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court agrees. Uwchlan isn’t the only town to try this approach. Two towns away in Chester County is West Goshen. We won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say West Goshen has tried a number of regulatory and legal actions to block ME2 in the town. One of those actions was a lawsuit brought by the anti-drilling, anti-pipeline THE Delaware Riverkeeper (Maya van Rossum). Riverkeeper, on behalf of a couple of town residents, took Sunoco to court to block ME2 on the basis that it violates a local zoning ordinance. Yesterday Commonwealth Court rejected that claim and reaffirmed what everyone (who knows and obeys the rule of law) knows: State regulations trump local ordinances. The misguided officials in Uwchlan have said they “will evaluate [their] enforcement action in coming days, in light of the Commonwealth Court ruling.” Indeed. If Uwchlan pushes forward with their case, it will be to certain defeat–a total waste of taxpayer money…
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Brooke County WV Power Plant Wins State Approval

Last September none other than West Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce, Woody Thrasher, admitted publicly that his beloved state is decidedly unfriendly to new natgas-fired electric plant projects (see WV Sec Commerce Says State Unfriendly to Gas-Fired Power Plants). In a speech before state legislators, Thrasher said while Ohio has built 19 new gas-fired power plants, and Pennsylvania has built 22 new gas-fired power plants, WV has built NONE. Zero. Nada. And that has to change. Pressure from the coal industry and regulatory red tape are preventing new projects from happening. A few years ago it seemed as though a project in Marshall County was ready to begin construction (see Progress for 3 WV NatGas Electric Plants; 1 Breaks Ground in 2016). However, that project is stalled–perhaps even dead (according to rumors we’ve heard). Last week there was a sliver of light when Harrison County commissioners voted to pass a resolution supporting a long-delayed gas power plant project there (see Harrison County, WV Commissioners Vote to Help Delayed Elec Plant). And now, finally, some sunshine breaks through! A power plant project in Brooke County, WV (same developers, Energy Solutions Consortium or ESC) received a siting certificate approval from the WV Public Service Commission. This is a good sign. Finally, a power plant project in WV that is moving forward…
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Pittsylvania County VA Board Approves Mountain Valley Pipe Rezoning

Uncommon common sense can be found among county leaders in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, who approved a rezoning request last night for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)–a $3.5 billion, 301-mile pipeline that will run from Wetzel County, WV to the Transco Pipeline in Pittsylvania County. Although the entire path for MVP is important, there are two places where the pipeline’s path is critical and cannot be moved. One of those points is where it starts–and the other where it ends and connects to the mighty Transco. Pittsylvania County is where MVP ends–and where it can’t be moved. There many (many!) people who spoke out against MVP in various county hearings. Here’s where the uncommon common sense was exhibited. In speaking about those who railed against the pipeline, Pittsylvania Supervisor for the Westover District, Ron Scearce, said this: “One thing that’s surprising to me with all of this [opposition] is that there has not been one county resident who was affected by the project who spoke [against it].” Scearce gets it. A very vocal minority of environmental zealots, dedicated to defeating any fossil fuel project, are the ones who show up and speak out. The people across whose land the pipeline will run? They’re fine with it. Scearce and the other supervisors voting last night were not fooled by the tactics of the enviro-left. The property was rezoned to allow MVP by a UNANIMOUS vote…
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WV Royalty Owners Push Bill to Fix Post-Production Deductions

West Virginia royalty owners (which sometimes means landowners, sometimes not) are pushing Senate Bill (SB) 360 to fix the issue of post-production deductions drillers take from royalty checks. A brief history: In December 2016, MDN reported on the huge WV Supreme Court decision against EQT that disallows EQT from deducting post-production expenses from royalty checks, even with signed contracts in place (see WV Supreme Court Rules EQT Can’t Deduct P-P Costs from Royalties). In February 2017, with a brand new justice on the bench, the WV Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case after an appeal filed by EQT–a rare and unusual step (see EQT Catches Big Break in WV Supreme Court re Royalty Deductions). In May 2017, the WV Supreme Court ruled on the reheard case, overturning its previous decision. The court ruled to allow EQT to deduct “reasonable” post-production expenses (see WV Supreme Court Reverses Itself, Post-Production Deductions OK). Those who won the original case (and lost the reheard case) say newly elected Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Walker had conflicts of interest and should not have been allowed to vote to rehear the case in the first place (which she did). On that basis, they tried to avoid the rehearing altogether, but that failed. Newly elected Justice Walker, with (according to the losing side) conflicts of interest, voted in favor of EQT. On the basis that Walker should not have been part of the process at all, the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the Supremes refused to hear the appeal, making post-production deductions the law in WV (see U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of WV EQT Royalty Case). The only path left to royalty/landowners is to pass a new law. That new law is SB 360…
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Energy Transfer Wants to Build New Compressor Station in SWPA

New Sewickley Township (Beaver County), PA

In June 2015, MDN reported on an important new project in the Marcellus/Utica being built by Energy Transfer Partners (see ETP Announces $1.5B Revolution Pipeline/Plant Project in SWPA). The project, dubbed the Revolution Project, includes a 100-mile gathering pipeline system in Butler County, PA (lots of wet gas to move), along with a new cryogenic gas processing plant to be constructed “in western Pennsylvania”–which we later discovered is in Washington County, PA. The original plan was to have the cryogenic processing plant (in Washington County) up and running by 2Q17. That didn’t happen. We spotted a story from September last year which said it was due to go online “later this year”–meaning by the end of 2017. Is it online now? We don’t know/couldn’t find out. Possibly. What we do know is that the cryogenic plant will separate the wet gas into methane and NGLs, and that the NGLs will hitch a ride on the Mariner East 2 Pipeline all the way to Marcus Hook. That’s the plan. The pipeline itself that gathers and sends wet gas to the cryogenic processing plant has one compressor station to compress the gas and send it on its way. However, Energy Transfer wants to build a second compressor station to assist. And they want to build it now, as in right now, before summer, in New Sewickley Township (Beaver County)…
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PA’s Uneven Tax Treatment of Marcellus Industry vs. Amazon HQ2

What if a private company wanted to locate in a state, bringing with it 243,000 direct and spin-off jobs with an average salary of $93,000? And what if that company invested billions of dollars in the state economy? No doubt the state (and local municipalities) would offer up plenty of incentives to ensure they get the business. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (and the State of Pennsylvania) are doing just that–offering up all sorts of incentives to attract Amazon to build its HQ2 project in the Keystone State–a project that promises a huge investment and thousands of employees. However, Amazon’s HQ2 will not employ 243,000 people and inject billions–not anywhere close. But there is an industry that is ALREADY doing exactly what we’ve outlined in the opening sentence. The Marcellus Shale industry has created 243,000 direct and indirect jobs (with an average salary of $93K per year) and has already pumped billions of dollars into the economy. And yet the State of PA and places like Pittsburgh and Philly are, in many ways, fighting against the industry! They don’t offer tax breaks, instead they offer new tax increases! What’s going on here? Why does PA treat Jeff Bezos and Amazon one way, and the Marcellus industry another? Why does PA pick “winners” and “losers” economically? That’s the important topic of a column we recently spotted by Lowman Henry, chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute…
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Obtuse NY Assemblywoman from Ithaca Proposes “No-Tenancy” Bill

Barbara Lifton

Ithaca, NY is unfortunately saddled with an Assemblywoman who is, charitably, not too bright. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton is a virulent anti-fossil fueler, even though she herself uses fossil fuels each and every day of her life. She was dead set against converting a coal burning plant near Ithaca into burning natural gas (see Cayuga Power Plant Stays Open (Burning Coal) – Thx to Fractivists). Thanks (in large part) to Lifton, the residents of Ithaca continue to breathe dirty air. She also tried to stop a federally permitted natgas pipeline from expanding in the region (see NY State Legislator Tries to Derail Dominion New Market Project). And now she’s at it again. Even though there is no shale drilling in New York, apparently Lifton wants to drive the final nail in the coffin of the conventional drilling industry too, driving out all oil and gas activity in the state. Lifton has introduced a bill that we call “no-tenancy.” You’ve been reading about West Virginia’s co-tenancy bill here on MDN, a bill that would allow rights owners in property to sign a lease if 75% or more of the owners agree to lease terms. It corrects a situation where dozens, sometimes hundreds of people who own a fractional share in property can’t be found, or refuse to sign, screwing all of the other owners of the property. Lifton’s bill, A2499, would require 100% of all rights owners to sign leases “for oil, gas or mineral rights, and any modification, extension or renewal thereof.” It is plainly meant to end any future drilling of any kind in the state. That’s the aim. The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGANY) is pushing back…
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Other Energy Stories of Interest: Wed, Feb 21, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: How’s the Rice Energy into EQT merger going?; Antero appoints new member to Board; Crawford/Venango counties get new natgas buses; East Coast natgas prices hit all-time highs during cold snap; law prof says California climate change lawsuits are a for-sure loser; EIA says ethane consumption, exports will increase this year; frac sand shortage threatens shale boom; Cheniere talks with Panama Canal about more LNG shipments; and more!
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