Activist Investor Pressures Range to Change Board, Mgmt Structure

What constitutes an “activist investor” and what constitutes a “corporate raider?” Depends on whom you ask. We address the semantics issue below in more detail. The reason we raise it is because of some big, breaking news: Activist investor SailingStone Capital Partners is forcing Range Resources to do some things Range may not prefer to do. Nearly two years ago, in August 2016, MDN told you that investment firm SailingStone Capital had purchased 11% of Range Resources stock (see SailingStone Capital Buys 11% of Range Stock, Gets Board Seat). They got a board seat out of their investment, and the right to nudge Range in a certain direction, to some degree. Although we were suspicious, at the time it appeared SailingStone was more of a partner assisting Range rather than what we call a corporate raider. SailingStone now owns 17% of Range’s outstanding shares, and they are throwing their weight around. In an announcement made yesterday, we learn that SailingStone has pressured Range into granting them two more seats on the board–for a total of three (out of ten). Is it fair that SailingStone controls 30% of the board but only owns 17% of the company? SailingStone has also forced Range CEO Jeff Ventura to relinquish his title (and power) as Chairman of the Board, appointing a new “independent” Chairman. SailingStone is also forcing Range to hire a new outsider as executive VP, to “supplement and strengthen the management team.” Is SailingStone “helping” Range make changes that Range truly needs to make to benefit shareholders? Or is there something more nefarious going on?…
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Millennium Lateral Pipe to NY Gas-Fired Elec Plant Begins Service

This is a red-letter day indeed! We have waited so long for this day to arrive. Andrew Cuomo (ignominious governor of NY) has lost his battle to stop a short, 7.8 mile pipeline, a lateral/offshoot of the main Millennial Pipeline, to flow Marcellus gas to a newly completed gas-fired electric generating plant in Wawayanda (Orange County), NY. Yesterday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted permission for Millennium’s Valley Lateral pipeline to begin operation. As we previously reported, once the gas is flowing to the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) Valley Energy Center, the plant itself will begin operation (see Orange County, NY Electric Plant to Start Up in June). We’re a little delayed. It’s not June, as originally forecast, but hey, early July is A.O.K. As you read this, gas is flowing through the Valley Lateral to the CPV plant. Following yesterday’s announcement, CPV said it will begin final testing of the plant this week, and the plant will go operational in August. Woo hoo!…
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Southwestern Appeals “Briggs” Trespass Case to PA Supreme Court

Southwestern Energy has taken the next step of appealing the “Briggs” trespass case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court–a case of tremendous importance. In April, MDN brought you the news that Pennsylvania Superior Court had handed down a decision (known as the “Briggs” case) that has the power to greatly restrict, perhaps even stop, Marcellus drilling in PA (see PA Superior Court Overturns “Rule of Capture” for Marcellus Well and PA “Rule of Capture” Case has Power to Limit Marcellus Drilling). The issue, in brief, is that the Superior Court decision disallows using an age-old principle called the “rule of capture” when it comes to shale drilling and fracking. It opens the door to a myriad of frivolous lawsuits claiming that a fracture, a crack created during fracking, is draining gas from a neighbor’s property without justly compensating the neighbor for the gas. Southwestern successfully argued in a lower court that the odd crack here and there that may slip under a neighbor’s property is permissible. The landowner appealed to Superior Court and three judges heard the case. Two of the three overturned the lower court and sided with the landowner. Southwestern, following the decision, petitioned the Superior Court to have all of the sitting justices (called en banc) hear the case. Sadly, in June the Superiors proved they aren’t so superior after all, declining to rehear the case (see PA Superior Court Rejects Southwestern “Briggs” Trespass Appeal). Southwestern promised to appeal this critically important case to the PA Supreme Court, and yesterday they did just that. We have a comment from Southwestern below, along with a copy of the brief they filed, and our own thoughts on where this may go after the Supreme Court…
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CELDF Finds New Group of Suckers in Columbus for Utica Frack Ban

The spirit of P.T. Barnum is alive and well in Columbus, OH where enough suckers have been tricked by the odious anti-fracking group Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to sign a petition to get a misnamed “Community Bill of Rights” onto the ballot this November. It’s more of the same from the PA-based CELDF. The Bill of Rights is a document in direct contravention to the Ohio Constitution, which reserves the right to regulate oil and gas drilling to the state itself–not to local municipalities. Each time the CELDF has tried this nonsense in other locations it has failed. The CELDF ballot initiative in Youngstown has now been voted down by voters seven times (see Ohio Antis Suffer Big Election Defeats in Youngstown, Statewide). In those locations where CELDF-backed initiatives have passed, like Highland Township (Elk County, PA) and Grant Twp (Indiana County, PA), the measures were overturned by the courts (see Attorney for Anti Group CELDF Fined $52K for “Bad Faith”). But none of that matters to the SUCKERS in Columbus who have signed the latest CELDF petition…
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OVJA Exposed as Front for Murray Energy Blocking Gas-Fired Plants

Enough is enough. It’s time to name names and put an end to blocking new gas-fired electric plants planned in West Virginia. WV has a long, proud history as a coal producer. According to West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney, some 95% of the electricity produced and used in the Mountain State comes from coal-fired plants. However, natural gas burns cleaner than coal, and frankly, natgas is now cheaper than coal. Yet WV still has not permitted or allowed a single new gas-fired plant to be constructed. Last year then-WV Sec. of Commerce Woody Thrasher observed that Ohio has built 19 new gas-fired power plants, and Pennsylvania has built 22 new gas-fired power plants, while WV has built NONE. Why not? Because of Robert Murray, CEO and founder of Murray Energy, one of the largest independent coal mine operators in the U.S. Bob Murray is using a front organization called Ohio Valley Jobs Alliance (OVJA) to file a blizzard of frivolous lawsuits that have kept all new gas-fired plant projects from being built in WV. Drew Dorn, Director of ESC Harrison County Power and President of Energy Solutions Consortium (the company that has filed to build several new gas-fired plants in WV), points out Murray’s hypocrisy on the shale issue, by saying: “Murray Energy is trying to kill thousands of jobs on these projects. Murray Energy has made huge amounts of money off of natural gas in rights-of-way and other means, but when it comes to West Virginia natural gas making electricity, the company is trying to achieve through the courts what it could not through the marketplace.” The gloves are now off and it’s time to fight back–to get gas-fired plants built in WV. It’s time to “out” Bob Murray for the obstructionist he has become, and to expose him for the economic damage he’s causing…
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PA DEP Appoints New Director of So-Called “Environmental Justice”

Allison Acevedo

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a department within its department called Environmental Justice. In March 2017, then-Acting (now full) Secretary of the DEP Patrick McDonnell went on an environmental justice “listening tour” (see PA DEP Conducting “Listening Tour” for “Environmental Justice”). So what is so-called environmental justice? As near as we can tell, “environmental justice” means asking poor people or minorities (African Americans and Hispanics) if they feel like they’ve been abused by the oil and gas industry in any way–and if they have a beef, the DEP will “do” something about it. The reason we bring all this up is because the DEP has just appointed a new Director of Environmental Justice–Allison Acevedo. She’s a former tax and labor attorney from Philadelphia. We hope her appointment is largely ceremonial–a do-nothing job. We fear the opposite…
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Pipeline Companies Launch “Charm Offensive” to Woo Support

We spotted an article last week about how pipeline companies are changing the way they do business, in order to stay in business. The article refers to a “charm offensive” pipeline companies are now engaged in, in an attempt to get pipeline projects approved. Several of the examples used come from the Marcellus/Utica region, including Kinder Morgan’s UTOPIA pipeline in Ohio. What is the “charm offensive?” We’d sum it up this way: better communication earlier in the process with landowners, and spreading more cash around in the communities where the pipeline will travel. The companies are also getting better at organizing supporters, by building contact databases and encouraging letter writing and email campaigns, and calls to regulators. It’s been slow in coming, but finally our side is taking a few cues from the other side…
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Energy Stories of Interest: Tue, Jul 10, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: Five Utica permits in OH last week; ME2 drills under Raystown Lake; shale impact tax money funds opioid prevention program for Little Leaguers; Texas drillers cut down on light pollution to help observatory; 100 more rigs coming this year; why natgas hasn’t (and won’t) dethrone gasoline; acting EPA chief plans to stick with Trump’s priorities; fracking key to wealth creation in Quebec; can the UK government solve the shale challenge?; and more!
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