BLM Blocks Eclipse from Completing Utica Well in Wayne Natl Forest

Melissa Hamsher, Eclipse Resources

Something pretty cool took place yesterday in Washington, D.C. MDN friend Melissa Hamsher, vice president for Health, Safety, Environmental and Regulatory with Eclipse Resources (headquartered in State College, PA), testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Resources Committee. Melissa has been a speaker on several panels MDN editor Jim Willis has moderated over the years at the annual Oil & Gas Awards Industry Summit in Pittsburgh. The uncool thing is what Melissa was in D.C. to testify about, which is that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), after auctioning off parcels in the Wayne National Forest (WNF), is now stopping Eclipse from drilling under those parcels. Eclipse had already bundled some of the BLM parcels they won at auction with neighboring private land, setting up a drill pad on private (not public) land when the BLM stepped in and stopped Eclipse’s first under-construction Utica well in WNF, claiming the BLM needs to conduct a “new environmental analysis” before drilling can continue. At every turn BLM, while pretending to act in good faith by conducting auctions of WNF land, has acted in bad faith to block Eclipse’s progress after winning those auctions. Melissa shined a bright light on the sleazy tactics used by BLM at a Congressional hearing exploring the “unfair weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act”…
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OH Supremes Blow It, Allow Youngstown Frack Ban on May Ballot

Although Youngstown, OH voters have voted down various versions of a proposed frack ban law six previous times, on Tuesday the Ohio Supreme Court voted 5-2 to allow a seventh such ballot measure to appear before Youngstown voters on May 8. The kicker: This seventh ballot measure is even worse–far more radical–than the previous frack ban measures voted down. The new ballot measure makes the illegal, legal (see Youngstown Antis Seek to Legalize Anarchy with 7th CELDF Petition). In addition to the usual no fracking, no pipelines pablum, this latest ballot measure has language that makes it legal to break the law. If the ballot measure passes, and if an anti got it into her head to sit in front of a bulldozer that was about to clear ground for a wellpad, or dig a trench for a pipeline, the police would not be able to arrest and remove the law-breaking anti. It would be within her rights to sit there and block legal, legitimate activity–all in the name of saving the planet. That’s the insanity the Supremes, in their “wisdom,” are allowing to go before voters in two weeks. It would be institutionalized anarchy. Of course the ballot measure doesn’t stand a chance of passing, which is good. But it does cause angst, and it causes the adults who live in Youngstown to once again have to spend time and money to defeat it. We wonder, will we be writing about the 25th ballot measure to come before voters after 24 of them have been voted down–say in five years from now? When will Ohioans say “enough” to the CELDF and their radical agitation and send them packing?…
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XTO Selling 9,400 OH Utica Acres in Monroe & Washington Counties

XTO Energy, the shale drilling arm of Exxon Mobil, wants to sell ~9,400 Ohio Utica Shale acres in Monroe and Washington counties. Have no fear, XTO isn’t going anywhere. According to XTO’s website, the company currently owns 82,000 acres of Utica Shale leases in Belmont and Monroe counties. The tiny 9,400-acre sale appears to us to be selling off acreage in areas that don’t fit with XTO’s future drilling plans. XTO maintains a regional office in Belmont County. According to the sale announcement appearing on Oil & Gas Asset Clearinghouse, there are potentially 40 drilling locations on the 9,400 acres. The acreage has dry gas potential. The sale is not exactly an auction, but it is timed and uses bids. XTO is accepting sealed bids on the property through May 17. Here’s a copy of the listing, along with a flyer…
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PA PUC Asks Sunoco to Drill Holes, Pour Concrete to Firm Up ME1

For more than a year, Marcellus/Utica ethane and propane have been flowing through the converted Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline safely, hauling the two natural gas liquids (NGLs) from southwest PA all the way to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. The primary shipper using ME1 has been Range Resources, although other companies like CNX Resources use it too. However, ME1 was suddenly switched off on March 3 by order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) after a sinkhole opened up under the pipeline in Chester County, exposing some of the bare steel to the open air (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Sunoco Logistics Partners, the owner of ME1, is building a new set of pipelines called Mariner East 2 (ME2) close to the existing ME1. Construction work in the area on ME2 led to the sinkhole that exposed ME1. The PUC shut down ME1 until further notice, requiring Sunoco to conduct a study of the area and provide the PUC with evidence to reassure them that ME1 is OK and will not leak or explode. Sunoco conducted the study, provided its results, and told the PUC it’s time to restart ME1–but the PUC is dragging its feet (see Sunoco Says ME1 Ready to Restart, but PUC is Dragging its Feet). The new news is that the PUC recently told Sunoco that before ME1 can restart, the company must first drill 10 new holes in the area of the sinkholes and pour in concrete (“grout”) in an effort to ensure ME1 doesn’t move around and break open…
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Rex Energy Gets 3rd Extension to Pay Defaulted IOU

Three weeks ago Rex Energy filed a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission to alert shareholders that the company has defaulted on an interest payment due on senior notes (see Rex Energy Defaults on IOUs, Can’t File Annual Report on Time). Rex said in the filing that the noteholders to whom payment is due (Angelo, Gordon & Co.) signed a temporary “forbearance” agreement that gives Rex a little breathing room–until April 16 to pay up. Angelo, Gordon & Co. promised not to take any action until that date. April 16 arrived without a deal, so Rex and Angelo signed a second forebearance agreement giving Rex another extension–until April 23–to either pay or agree to a new deal (see Rex Energy Gets 1 Extra Wk to Pay Defaulted IOU, Files Annual Report). April 23 came and went with no deal, and once again Rex and Angelo signed an agreement, the third such forbearance agreement, giving Rex one more week. Rex is not only having trouble paying its debt obligations, a few weeks back Rex’s stock was relegated to the penny stock Pink Sheets (see Rex Energy Stock De-Listed by Nasdaq as of April 12th). We have no inside knowledge of what’s happening behind the scenes, but we’re sure of this: There is a lot of heated discussion taking place. Rex previously floated the possibility of declaring bankruptcy. One thing’s for sure–something will have to happen soon…
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Still No Deal on Property Next to PTT OH Ethane Cracker Site

Homeowners who live near the location of a possible ethane cracker plant in Belmont County, OH are running out of time to negotiate a deal to sell their properties. Living next door to a cracker plant is not anyone’s idea of paradise. There will be noise, and smells and (yes) some air pollution coming from the plant. Best to sell now before the plant begins construction. However, representatives for PTT Global Chemical which will build the plant (IF it gets built), say they already have all the land they need for the facility (see PTT Global Buys Land for Belmont, OH Ethane Cracker Plant). Not needing the land puts PTT in a good negotiating position. There are 10 homes in the general vicinity of the proposed cracker plant whose owners want to sell. PTT says they’ve offered the homeowners 125% of fair market value for their homes. The lawyer representing the homeowners says the valuations are not accurate. However, it’s far from being a stand-off. There is no malice or vitriol. It sounds to us like both sides think a deal will get done. It just boils down to finalizing numbers. Here’s the latest on real estate for the proposed Belmont cracker plant…
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Some PA Drillers Threaten to Spoil it for All via Royalty Shenanigans

We’ve written a number of posts over the years about the ongoing, sometimes quiet sometimes not, civil war between Pennsylvania landowners and some (not all) drillers who use inflated post-production deductions to pad their own bottom lines, leaving landowners with peanuts–sometimes with no royalties at all (see Deep Dive: PA Royalties Civil War Between Landowners & Drillers). If we can oversimplify and summarize this complex issue, landowners maintain that a 1979 PA law guarantees landowners a 12.5% royalty regardless of expenses involved in extracting the gas, and drillers say no, landowners must abide by the contracts they’ve signed and if those contracts allow post-production costs to be deducted before calculating a royalty, the rate may go lower than 12.5%–sometimes to zero and below. PA landowners have, for the past six plus years, lobbied for legislation to clarify and protect a 12.5% minimum royalty. Today we have a guest post from the landowner point-of-view. Thad Stevens is a Gaines, PA resident and real estate developer. Thad has negotiated more than 50 oil and gas leases. He sits on the Dept. of Environmental Protection Citizen Advisory Council and is a director with the National Association of Royalty Owners PA chapter. We consider Thad a friend. He’s smart and he’s passionate about the the ongoing issue that some companies take inflated post-production deductions leaving PA landowners with little or nothing. Thad writes that some of PA’s gas drillers are displaying real arrogance in their attitudes toward the very people they need the most–landowners…
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Other Energy Stories of Interest: Thu, Apr 26, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: PA Game Commission slaps moratorium on wind turbines; work begins on New Sewickley compressor station; truck driver shortage in the Permian means drivers making $125K/year; yes, solar and wind really do increase electricity prices; markets ignore Trump OPEC comments at their own peril; Kuwait Energy begins producing natgas from field in southern Iraq; strong Asian LNG demand may be able to absorb U.S. supplies; and more!
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