PA Supreme Court Axes DEP $4.5M Fine in EQT Tioga Wastewater Leak

EQT had to take their case all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but in the end, the company was victorious over a wildly overinflated $4.53 million fine levied by the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a leaky wastewater impoundment in Tioga County dating back to 2014 (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 was 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, unrelated matter (i.e., sour grapes on the part of the DEP). EQT appealed the fine and the case all the way to the PA Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last November (see PA Supreme Court Hears Arguments in EQT Wastewater Leak Case). Last Wednesday the PA Supremes ruled (5-2) in favor of EQT, saying that the DEP’s levied fine was excessive and that the DEP misinterpreted language in the 1937 Clean Streams Law…
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Marcellus-Fired Panda Hummel Electric Plant Roars to Life in PA

It takes a long time to build a natural gas-fired electric power plant–especially a big one. We began writing about one of the largest coal-to-gas conversion projects in the country, happening in the heart of PA Marcellus country, back in February 2014 (see Panda Power Building 3rd Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant in PA). Panda Power Funds, a private equity firm located in Dallas, TX announced a partnership with Sunbury Generation to build a whopping 1,124-megawatt Marcellus gas-fired electric plant on the site of a retired coal-fired plant near Shamokin Dam in Snyder County, PA. Final testing is now underway at the facility, which was supposed to go online in February but is now scheduled to begin operations in May. Here’s an inside look at the complicated process of bringing a new power plant online…
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One MVP Radical Protester Arrested, Another Goes Up a Pole

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First they went up trees to try and stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) from getting built (see WV Judge Refuses to Eject Tree Sitters Blocking Pipeline Work). Now they’re illegally erecting poles for crazies to sit in. That’s what paid, radical protesters do these days: think up the most freakish, idiotic, outlandish stunt they can pull (or pole), in an effort to get publicity for their misguided cause. Not far from where radicals built tree houses in the Jefferson National Forest, a group of protesters gathered on a gravel access road, erected a 50-foot pole (held in place with ropes to nearby trees), and one of the crazies scampered up to the top to sit there (and is still there) in an attempt to block construction vehicles from passing down the road. The protesters on the road near the pole were ordered to move by the police. Most did, although one of them was arrested. As for the woman up the pole, she’s sitting in a makeshift shelter up there and refuses to reveal her name, nor will she come down…
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PA DEP Releases Draft Final GP-5 & 5A Methane Regulations

Last December the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued “draft final language” for the proposed General Permit 5A (GP-5A) and the revised General Permit 5 (GP-5)–regulations that supposedly will cut down on fugitive methane from escaping from drill pads and pipelines (see PA DEP Signals Onerous New GP-5 & 5A Methane Regs Coming 1Q18). The onerous regulations, which for now only apply to *new* sources (not existing) were originally prompted by bullying from the Obama Environmental Protection Agency. Even though EPA pressure has disappeared under President Trump, PA Gov. Wolf is still pushing these onerous new regs. GP-5 applies to pipelines and compressor stations, while GP-5A applies to well pads and drilling. Following a flood of new comments, the DEP tweaked the onerous regs once again (for maybe the third or fourth time) and last Friday afternoon, when nobody was working or looking or caring, the DEP published yet another revised final final final final final version of the regs (below). Are they any better than previous versions?…
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FERC Won’t Extend Atlantic Coast Pipeline Tree Cutting Deadline

Two weeks ago Dominion Energy asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to extend tree cutting/felling season by an extra 45 days, from March 31 to May 15, in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina (see Atlantic Coast Pipe Asks FERC for More Time to Cut Trees). Due to restrictions for species like the threatened Indiana bat, tree cutting season is limited–from November 16 to March 31. ACP said it couldn’t meet the March 31 deadline due to a late start following state bureaucratic delays. In a presentation Dominion gave to North Carolina environmental officials a few months back, the company said if “we cannot start [pipeline construction] in time to ensure a full and efficient construction season and have to delay service by one year, the impact would be $1 billion.” Dominion maintains that worst case scenario has not yet happened. Following the FERC decision to deny extending the date for tree cutting, Dominion said they’ll shift things around and can still meet their contractual deadline of getting ACP up and running by the end of next year…
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The Critical Role of Subcontractors in WV Shale Industry

Charlie Burd, IOGAWV

A recently published interview with Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Natural Gas Association of West Virginia, yields new insights into the current status of the oil and gas industry in the Mountain State. One of those insights is the importance of subcontractors–what we call the supply chain–to the oil & gas industry in WV (and elsewhere). We often refer to producers or exploration and production companies as “drillers.” To be honest, it’s almost always a hired subcontractor that does the actual drilling. And subcontractors do a host (most of) the other pieces of getting a well up and running–everything from water deliveries for fracking to fencing around well pads to hauling away drill cuttings and brine. Burd talked about the key role subcontractors play in the process. He also said that 99.9% of the small, “mom and pop” independent producers (conventional drillers) that have been around for the past 150 years are now out of business in WV, since the rise of shale drilling. That’s a pretty startling statistic. Oh! And Burd explained the difference between “major” oil and gas companies, like Exxon and Chevron, and “independent” companies like Antero Resources and Cabot Oil & Gas. We always wondered what earned the biggies their name “the majors,” even though there are some “independents” nearly as large (in revenue) as the majors. We now know the difference…
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Other Energy Stories of Interest: Mon, Apr 2, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: FirstEnergy Generation bankruptcy puts OH, PA nuke plants in jeopardy; Atlantic Sunrise Pipe clipped for unauthorized form of drilling; PA DEP Secretary goes on the record with Platts; pig poop to the rescue in NC; DOE Sec. Perry praises Trump energy policies, LNG exports; U.S. heading for a natgas surplus; longer shale well laterals lead to more M&A activity; judge dismisses Exxon lawsuit to block AG climate change hoaxers; first Sabine Pass LNG cargo arrives in India; Europe’s biggest natgas field to close, permanently; German kicks out Russian diplomats while authorizing Russian pipeline; and more!
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