School Near Pittsburgh Considers EQT Deal: $2,500/Ac, 15% Royalty

Last week MDN told you about the ongoing vendetta by a few anti parents in the Mars School District (half hour from Pittsburgh, in Butler County) and their Big Green accomplices. They suffered a major court defeat (see Dela. Riverkeeper Suffers Major Defeat in Martian Well Case). Rex Energy has drilled two wells about 3/4 of a mile from one of the Mars schools, and wants to drill another four. The Martians bleat and blat that faraway drilling activity will somehow hurt “the children.” Compare that attitude with the parents (and school district officials) in the Kiski Area School District in Westmoreland County (about 40 minutes from Pittsburgh). The Kiski Area School will vote tonight on a lease deal with EQT to allow shale drilling UNDER SCHOOL PROPERTY! The district will get $2,500 per acre in a signing bonus, and 15% royalties on any gas produced. If signed, the school’s bonus check could be as high as $310,300–for “the children.” The difference in attitude (and aptitude) between the parents in Mars and the parents in Kiski could not be more striking…
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Average Workers at Top Marcellus Drillers Make $100K+ Salary

The average worker who works for producers (i.e. drillers) in the Pennsylvania Marcellus makes among the highest average salaries of any industry in the state. Looking at six of the state’s top Marcellus drillers, the average worker made $113,610 last year! That’s an average taken from workers at CNX Resources, Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy, EQT and Cabot Oil & Gas. We hasten to add not “all workers” but “average” or “median” workers–meaning there are people who make below that number and people who make well above that number. It also means the majority of Marcellus workers in those companies made at least $100,000 per year. Those working for oilfield services (OFS) companies like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and others didn’t fare quite as well, making an average of $52,000-$80,000 per year. Still, hey, it ain’t bad money! Here’s a look at the average wage for top Marcellus drillers and the OFS companies that serve them…
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EQT Continues to Fight PA DEP Fine re Wastewater Impoundment

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (an appeals court) heard oral arguments over how to prove whether contaminants in the soil have moved into groundwater. The case dates back to 2014 when the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) slapped EQT with a $4.53 million fine for a leaky wastewater impoundment in Tioga County (see PA DEP Levies Biggest Fine Ever, $4.5M Against EQT). EQT did not say there wasn’t a problem with leaks at the site, but they did say the way the DEP calculated the fine was unreasonable and arbitrary. EQT appealed the fine and the case all the way to the PA Supreme Court, and in early April the Supremes ruled 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 (see PA Supreme Court Axes DEP $4.5M Fine in EQT Tioga Wastewater Leak). We thought (mistakenly) that was the end of the case. But it’s not. The Supremes ruled on “water to water” contamination in the case, but not on ground to water contamination. PA law allows for companies to be on the hook for each day a contaminant enters the water table. What lawyers argued this week was whether or not, and how, the DEP can prove contaminants in the ground, there because of EQT’s leak, can be proven to have leached into the water on any given day. DEP is calculating a revised $1.1 million fine based on assumptions about how many days the contaminants leaked out of the ground. EQT is forcing DEP to use more than just spitball estimates in calculating the fine…
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EQT Pay Dispute – Comparing CEO Salaries for Top M-U Firms

In mid-March, the country’s #1 producer of natural gas, EQT, suddenly and without previous warning lost it’s President & CEO, Steven Schlotterbeck (see EQT CEO Steve Schlotterbeck Suddenly Quits, Leaves Company). Steve is the man who guided the company through its acquisition of Rice Energy last year (see EQT Buys Rice Energy in $8.2B Deal, Becomes #1 Gas Producer in US). It was a tough battle against multiple corporate raiders who didn’t want to see the deal happen, but Steve held it together and made it happen. The notice from EQT was short and sweet and said Steve had resigned immediately, due to “personal reasons.” MDN was the first to disclose what those “personal reasons” were: a pay dispute. According to Steve, the board wasn’t paying him what similar CEOs at competitors are making. So he quit. Makes you wonder how much Steve was making, and what CEOs at other large Marcellus/Utica drillers make. We spotted an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times that reveals what Steve made last year. We did some digging to find what comparable CEOs make. The numbers we discovered may surprise you…
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EQT Pays PA DCNR $874,200 to Lease Under Ten Mile Creek

This is a story that continues to bug us. The state of Pennsylvania, specifically the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), is grabbing money that we think belongs to private landowners. The DCNR has been, for years, claimed that under a centuries-old law that the state of PA “owns” the property under “navigable” waterways–including rivers and streams (see PA DCNR Publishes Lease Agreements for Deals Under Rivers/Creeks). We understand the state claiming the Delaware River, and maybe the Susquehanna River, is a “navigable” body of water. The DCNR uses the “navigable waterway” excuse to sign leases with drillers under much smaller waterways than the Delaware and Susquehanna–siphoning money that would have gone to landowners. A landowner might own the land on both sides of, say, Ten Mile Creek, as we’re sure happens. However, the land under Ten Mile Creek does not technically belong to them. In fact, certain long portions of the land under Ten Mile Creek are now leased to EQT, and EQT paid handsomely for it. The company leased 218.55 acres under Ten Mile Creek in Greene and Washington counties (southwestern PA) for $874,200, which works out to be exactly $4,000 per acre! Not to mention a whopping 20% royalty! That’s money that (in our opinion) should go to the landowners who own the land along the creek, not to the state. Until landowners sue or the legislature acts, the state will continue to pick the pockets of landowners who own land along PA’s waterways…
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EQT 1Q18: Interim CEO Porges Focused on Splitting Company in Two

EQT, now the largest natural gas-producing company operating in the United States (since its acquisition of Rice Energy in 2017) issued its first quarter 2018 update yesterday. Among the flood of news coming from the update: EQT lost $1.6 billion in 1Q18, versus making a $164 million profit in 1Q17. But the big loss was not money out of pocket–it was a paper loss, mostly due to “writing down” the value of assets in the Permian (Texas) and Huron (Kentucky) shale plays. EQT is ending its flirtation with the Texas Permian, selling its Permian assets for a minuscule $64 million. The company refused to talk about whether or not they plan to sell or keep the Huron assets. Most of EQT’s drilling remains Marcellus Shale-focused. In 1Q18 EQT drilled 24 Marcellus wells, 2 Upper Devonian wells, and 6 Ohio Utica wells. Kind of funny (for us) was the way acting CEO David Porges described the current situation he finds himself in. Porges was CEO of EQT until early 2017 when Steve Schlotterbeck took over as CEO (groomed by Porges for the job). Porges has been Executive Chairman of the board since that time. But Schlotterbeck suddenly resigned in March when the board refused to pay him what other top energy CEOs make (see EQT CEO Steve Schlotterbeck Suddenly Quits, Leaves Company). Apparently his abrupt departure didn’t sit well with Porges. On yesterday’s analyst phone call, Porges said this: “Approximately one year ago, I retired as CEO and transitioned to the role of Executive Chairman. As you know, my replacement resigned in mid-March and I assumed the role of CEO to give the board a chance to decide upon a replacement. That search has begun and we expect to have a new CEO in place by the time of separation, which is still scheduled for the third quarter.” Porges wouldn’t even mention Schlotterbeck by name! Called him “my replacement.” Talk about frosty. We don’t think Schlotterbeck will be getting a Christmas card from Porges this year. 🙂 At any rate, as Porges said in his statement, the company expects to name a new CEO no later than third quarter of this year–when the existing EQT splits in two and becomes a drilling company AND a separate midstream (pipeline) company…
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EQT Midstream Consolidates, Buys Gulfport JV Share for $175M

As EQT gets ready to split the company into two companies later this year, the midstream (pipeline & processing plants) portion of the company yesterday announced a complicated “drop down” deal to streamline the midstream operation. The short version is this: EQT has midstream assets spread throughout three companies on paper–EQT Midstream Partners, EQT GP Holdings, and Rice Midstream Partners. Yesterday the company announced all three are being merged under one umbrella–EQT Midstream Partners. As you’ll read in the EQT announcement, the entire deal is complex–with various entities buying assets from the others. One of the more interesting aspects of the deal is that EQT Midstream is buying EQT’s (the driller’s) Olympus Gathering System and EQT’s 75% interest in the Strike Force Gathering System. EQT Midstream is also buying out Gulfport Energy’s 25% interest in Strike Force, meaning EQT Midstream will now own 100% of Strike Force–a gathering pipeline system in the dry gas Utica covering 98,000 acres in Belmont and Monroe counties, in Ohio. Here’s the news that EQT is getting its midstream ducks in a row…
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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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EQT Sues WV for Passing Minimum Royalty Law re Flat Rate Leases

Earlier this year the West Virginia legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 360, which Gov. Jim Justice subsequently signed into law (see WV Gov Justice Signs Bill to Guarantee 12.5% Minimum Royalty). SB 360 overturns a ruling by the WV Supreme Court in Leggett v. EQT Production, a case in which the Supremes (in a very unusual move) reversed their own previous decision and allowed EQT to deduct post-production expenses in an old flat rate lease. In essence, SB 360 guarantees rights owners/landowners a 12.5% minimum royalty, regardless of post-production deductions–but only in flat rate leases. A flat rate lease is a lease in which a company pays a regular (in EQT’s case, annual) payment, regardless of how much oil/gas is produced. Traditionally drillers don’t deduct post-production expenses because the payments they make aren’t all that much anyway. But then EQT began to claim deductions, prompting a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The legislature aimed to “fix” what they considered an error in the court’s ruling. EQT claims the new law is unconstitutional and last week filed a lawsuit (copy below) asking a judge to block implementation of the law, set to take effect on May 31…
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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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W Pike Run Antis Want 1000′ Setback to Zone Out EQT Drilling

A debate is playing out in West Pike Run Township in Washington County, PA (near Pittsburgh) that we find interesting. A quick PA history lesson: Back in 2012 PA passed the Act 13 law to update oil and gas regulations to account for shale drilling. One of the updates was a uniform set of zoning requirements to protect residents and the environment. Unfortunately, seven selfish townships sued and eventually won (at the PA Supreme Court) challenging those regulations. So PA towns won the right to impose restrictions on drilling activities. In West Pike Run, the debate is over “setbacks”–how far does a well have to be from nearby structures, like homes and barns and businesses. State law imposes a minimum of 500 feet from the wellhead to an “occupied” structure–and 300 feet from the well to a body of water. In West Pike Run, antis want to up that number to 1,000 feet, which would effectively prevent any more drilling by EQT, the primary driller in the township. The town recently held a hearing on the proposed 1,000 foot setback, a hearing which has been continued to a future meeting on April 16…
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EQT Pulls a Chesapeake, New Deductions from PA Leases

Last Friday MDN editor Jim Willis had the pleasure of speaking at the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) Pennsylvania Chapter annual convention in State College, PA. Jim was humbled to present alongside a cast of terrific speakers, including Scott Perry, Deputy Secretary of the Office of Oil and Gas Management at the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection, Tom Murphy, Director of Penn State’s Marcellus Center of Outreach and Research (MCOR), and Scott Kurkoski, a top lawyer and head of the energy practice for Levene, Gouldin & Thompson (thanks for the ride home Scott!). One of the first attendees at the event to stop by the MDN table for a chat asked if we had heard about a letter recently sent by EQT to PA landowners. We had not. He gave us a copy (below). In the letter, EQT claims they have been “subsidizing a portion of the cost to gather the gas” produced by their PA wells, and they intend to begin claiming new deductions from royalty checks beginning this year. The way they position it in the letter is that landowners will begin “sharing” in these post-production costs. Who doesn’t like to share, right? We can tell you, not a single attendee at the event was impressed with EQT’s “sharing” letter. It smacks of the road Chesapeake Energy has gone down in robbing landowners of their royalties…
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EQT Spends $1.6M to Lease More Land Under Monongahela River

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has just amended an existing lease with EQT that allows EQT to extract natural gas (and other hydrocarbons) from underneath the Monongahela River in Allegheny, Greene, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties. EQT is paying $4,000 per acre for 392 acres ($1.568 million total) in a signing bonus, along with a big 20% royalty on anything produced. However, the announcement raises an important question we’ve asked for more than four years: Is the land under rivers and streams actually owned by the state? PA says yes. We suspect landowners who own land along those rivers and streams would say otherwise. The state grabbing money for land under bodies of water has been going on for years (see PA DCNR Program Leases Under Rivers/Creeks for Marcellus Drilling and PA DCNR Publishes Lease Agreements for Deals Under Rivers/Creeks). Below is the latest lease deal by DCNR to lease more land under the Monongahela River…
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EQT CEO Steve Schlotterbeck Suddenly Quits, Leaves Company

Steve Schlotterbeck

We certainly didn’t see this one coming. The country’s #1 producer of natural gas, EQT, has just lost it’s President & CEO, Steven Schlotterbeck. Steve is the man who guided the company through its acquisition of Rice Energy last year (see EQT Buys Rice Energy in $8.2B Deal, Becomes #1 Gas Producer in US). It was a tough battle against multiple corporate raiders who didn’t want to see the deal happen, but Steve held it together and made it happen. The notice from EQT (below) is short and sweet and says Steve has resigned immediately, due to “personal reasons.” Stepping back in to pilot the ship while the company searches for a new leader is former CEO David Porges (CEO from 2011-2017 until Steve took over). The news of Schlotterbeck’s surprise resignation came as a shock around Pittsburgh (and nationwide). Why did he step down? MDN has the scoop…
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Top 3 Most Productive Drillers in the Marcellus Shale

We spotted an intriguing story that summarizes some of the information found in a newly-released report from private equity firm Baird Equity Research. Baird’s report purports to show, using data, “the most productive operators in the Marcellus shale.” What is the criteria used? They use productivity per average well along with how much money the average well is generating for the operator (i.e. driller). We wish we had a copy of the full report. Sadly, we do not. However, we do have the article summarizing it, which shares the top three operators. The top operator stands head and shoulders above the rest. Would it surprise you to learn the top operator in the Marcellus, according to Baird, is Cabot Oil & Gas? No, it didn’t surprise us. What about the other two in the top three? And what about the top Utica operator? Read on…
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