2017 PA Enviro Rights Amendment Case Spawns New Drilling Lawsuits

A panel discussion at last week’s Shale Insight event focused on a pair of Pennsylvania lawsuits that has the potential (indeed already is) changing the drilling landscape in PA. The first lawsuit discussed was the decision from June 2017–“Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” PEDF is an anti-fossil fuel group. They convinced the PA Supreme Court to issue a decision that tosses out a decades-old “balancing test” in decisions about drilling and instead said land-use and permitting decisions must now meet standards established by the state’s so-called Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA). The PEDF decision is creating big question marks for drillers and has spawned a flurry of lawsuits to define which standards to use. The second case discussed at Shale Insight was the “Briggs” case that tossed out the rule of capture in PA for shale drilling. Both cases have the potential to greatly limit Marcellus drilling in PA.
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Phila. Gas Works Public Advocate Endorses LNG Export Plan

In September, MDN told you that Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), the country’s largest municipal-owned utility company, floated a plan to partner with a private company to build a new LNG export facility at its Passyunk Plant located in south Philly (see Phila. Gas Works Floats New Plan for LNG Export Facility). One of the first steps in making such a plan a reality is to run it by the PGW “consumer advocate”–an group appointed to be the voice of consumers as a check on decisions made by PGW management. The consumer advocate has just spoken–and likes the LNG plan!
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WV Farmers Set Up Small Campsites to House M-U Workers

When shale drilling activity ramps up, the people who are needed to do all those jobs show up. In droves. Some come from out-of-state. Some are local, and some from in-state but not local. Regardless, they all need a place to sleep. A home away from home (if they aren’t local). Increasingly those places are campgrounds. Problem is, there aren’t enough campgrounds for workers to park their RVs. So enterprising farmers in West Virginia are turning some of their acreage into campgrounds, to profit by hosting shale workers. Some establish small campgrounds, with just a handful of (2-4) sites. But beware–there’s a pile of permits required to operate a campground of any size. Some farmers are skipping the permit process, which is NOT recommended.
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U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Hear MVP Eminent Domain Case

A group of 13 landowners in Virginia whose property was force taken by Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) using eminent domain is appealing a case they already lost in federal court to the U.S. Supreme Court. The landowners claim MVP has taken private land–their land–to use for private/corporate gain and not (as the law requires) taken for a “public” benefit. Eminent domain allows the taking of private land for public benefit, but not taking private land for private benefit. The issue really revolves around the question of, What is a public benefit? Can a private company use government powers because what they provide benefits the public? The big question is, will the Supreme Court, which gets some 8,000 such appeals each year, make this appeal one of the 80 or so they consider?
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Range Resources Helps Save Pretty Butterflies in SWPA

Can fracking save butterflies? According to California University of Pennsylvania’s Supervisor of the Fish & Wildlife, you betcha. You heard how important “pollinators” are, right? We immediately think bees when we hear the word pollinator. But monarch butterflies, a species whose population has dropped 90% since 1990, is also a important pollinator. In places across southwestern PA habitats for the monarch have disappeared, long before shale drilling showed up. Range Resources is helping replant vegetation that monarchs love. And it’s having a big impact. Range’s efforts are not just “throw a few seeds here and there” for publicity. Range is working hard and “willing to do it right.”
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Columbia Gas Moves Date Back to Dec. on Fixes re Boston Tragedy

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (NiSource) continues to try and recover (physically and reputationally) from a series of explosions in its local delivery pipelines north of Boston in mid-September (see Local NatGas Pipes Explode Near Boston Killing 1, Injuring 25). The explosions and resulting fires tragically killed one teenager and injured 25 others. It left some 8,600 households and businesses without natural gas–for months. In early October, Columbia said it would replace all ~48 miles of natural gas mains, and all 6,100 affected service lines, by Nov. 19 (see Columbia’s Master Plan to Restore Gas Service in Mass. by Nov 19). While the main lines will be done early, by tomorrow in fact, Columbia, in something of a public relations disaster, is pushing back the date of finishing the service lines by about a month, into December. Meanwhile, the family of the teenager who was killed is preparing a wrongful death lawsuit.
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Pipelines are Dumping MLP Structure but Royalty Firms Aren’t

For some time we’ve covered the story of MLPs–master limited partnerships–and how they are being phased out. An MLP is an alternative form of organizing a company (or subsidiary company), different from a corporation. The primary purpose of an MLP is for investors, who buy “units” in the MLP instead of shares of stock, so the investor can pay less in taxes. Trump’s tax cut, while benefiting the little guy (yeah!), disadvantages MLPs (boo!). Which has caused many pipeline companies organized as an MLP to give up that form of structure. Meanwhile, new companies are being formed to buy royalty rights–using the MLP structure! So while pipeline companies are dumping the MLP structure, royalty companies are embracing it.
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Energy Stories of Interest: Tue, Oct 30, 2018

The “best of the rest”–stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: Ameren Illinois to undertake two-year natural gas pipeline upgrade beginning in 2019; PUC approves Minnesota Power’s planned natural-gas plant; Natural gas edges lower as the winter season approaches; Bright skies ahead for natural gas price; Natural gas price prediction – prices slip on warm weather forecast; The drilling boom on federal lands is driven more by price than policy; What next as Big Oil moves in on U.S. tight oil?; Pieridae’s Goldboro LNG eligible for German loan; Panama Canal transits four liquefied natural gas vessels in one direction; Fracking in Lancashire: 1.1 magnitude tremor halts work; Sorry China, shipping costs make Europe a LNG hot spot right now; Is $100 oil inevitable?
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