4th Circuit Rejects Sierra Club Request to Block Atlantic Coast Pipe

In something of a twist, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals elected NOT to officially shut down all construction of the 600+ mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project. You may recall the Sierra Club and several other anti-American Big Green groups convinced the Fourth Circuit to overturn permits granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) granted to ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway (see Federal Court Stops Works on Some (All?) of Atlantic Coast Pipe). The rolled-back permits affect some 100 miles of work. Shortly after the Fourth Circuit decision, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told Atlantic Coast to shut down all construction everywhere (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Atlantic Coast Pipeline). FERC’s shut-down is expected to be temporary. Meanwhile, back at the litigation ranch, the Big Green groups asked the Fourth Circuit to shut down all construction on ACP until the lawsuit plays out–over a period of years. It was to that request the court said no…
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Questerre Energy to Challenge Quebec’s Utica Frack Ban in Court

The Utica Shale, which underlies much of the Marcellus Shale, also underlies part of Canada’s Quebec province. From time to time we highlight news concerning the Utica in Canada. There hasn’t been much news to highlight over the years since Quebec has had a moratorium on fracking since 2012. But as we reported in December 2016, something of a minor miracle happened–the Quebec National Assembly voted to pass Bill 106, ostensibly to support Quebec’s “clean power plan” (see Fracking in Canadian Utica Shale Takes Big Step Closer to Reality). The bill includes a section that “lays out a framework for oil and gas development” in Quebec. Then in September 2017, Quebec did the unthinkable (for radical environmentalists)–they published draft Utica drilling regulations (see Quebec Government Publishes Draft Utica Fracking Regulations). Canadian driller Questerre believes Utica drilling can begin this year (see Questerre Plans 8 Initial Well Pads in Canadian Utica 2018-2019). News of new Utica regs caused antis in Canada to go berserk. The pressure got to be too much and the politicians decided in June of this year that they will commit fracking suicide instead (see Quebec to Ban Utica Shale Drilling, Most Other Drilling Too). Questerre isn’t taking it lying down. They have considerable acreage in the Quebec’s Utica. Questerre issued a press release this morning to celebrate Bill 106 (passed in 2016) finally going into effect–and to say as for the frack ban, Questerre will sue the government as soon as it’s implemented, to try and get it overturned…
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FERC Lets MVP Restart Work on 25% of Pipe; MVP Lays off ‘Thousands’

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has had a change of heart–sort of–with respect to their stop-work order issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). We previously told you that on August 3, FERC told MVP to stop all construction prompted by an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacating permits issued for the project as it crosses 3.5 miles of Jefferson National Forest in West Virginia and Virginia (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). In a letter to FERC this past Tuesday, MVP asked FERC to reconsider and allow them to restart construction for at least part of the pipeline. FERC agreed and partially lifted the stop-work order a day later, on Wednesday. The new order allows MVP to work on the project for 77 of its 303 miles–about 25%. However, in a sad announcement, MVP said because so much of the project remains (for now) idled, it is laying off 50% of the workers who had been working on it. It’s estimated that around 6,000 people are employed directly or indirectly on the project, which means “thousands” (perhaps as many as 3,000 people) are now out of work–thanks to the Sierra Club and their lawsuit. Hey, how many jobs has the Sierra Club created? What’s that? NONE?! And how many jobs has the Sierra Club destroyed? We’d estimate it to be in the tens of thousands. MVP also announced that due to the ongoing work stoppage and delays, the project completion and in-service date has now slipped to the end of next year–an additional nine months. It’s a sad day indeed…
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Caithness Energy Sues PSEG for Blocking Long Island Gas-Fired Plant

Caithness Energy, a privately held company that specializes in buying or building (and operating) renewable energy and natural gas-fired power plants, owns a 350 megawatt natgas-fired power plant in Yaphank, NY–on Long Island. For more than four years Caithness has had a plan to build a second natgas-fired plant next to their first plant. The original plan was for a 750 MW plant, later scaled back to 600 MW. Local leaders in Brookhaven Town in which the existing and proposed power plant projects sit have been against the plan for a new power plant, passing restrictions in 2015 that tied the hands of Caithness, making the project impossible to build. But in July, the board reversed course and voted to repeal the 2015 restriction that limits the type of equipment Caithness can use in building the plant, clearing the way for the project (see Long Island Town Votes to Allow New Gas-Fired Elec Plant). However, the path is still not cleared. Newark, NJ-based PSEG (Public Service Enterprise Group), which provides electricity to Long Island, told the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) that the Caithness plant is not needed. It’s a case of one competitor unfairly trying to block another–according to Caithness, which has just filed a lawsuit against PSEG saying it has suffered “hundreds of millions of dollars of harm” because of PSEG’s actions to block the project. Looks like this one is going to get NY nasty…
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Fed Judge Revives Obama Waters of US Tragedy in 26 States

U.S. District Judge David Norton

Just when you thought we were making progress in reversing some of the cancerous regulations imposed by Lord Obama, up pops a swamp-dwelling judge (appointed by George H.W. Bush, George the 1st) to reinstate the idiotic “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulation in 26 states. In May 2015, Obama’s radical Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the Obama U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a finalized rule clarifying what WOTUS means vis a vis what can be regulated under the federal Clean Water Act (see EPA Power Grab: Redefines Waters of the U.S. to Include Everything). Essentially the rule change redefined everything down to mud puddles (and no, we’re not exaggerating) as being subject to the federal Clean Water Act. It was yet another attempt to bring oil and gas regulation under the purview of the federal government, a violation of the U.S. Constitution. We won’t recount the history of lawsuits and counter lawsuits that ensued. We’ll only tell you that in January the U.S. Supreme Court entered the fray by determining which courts can hear lawsuits regarding WOTUS (see U.S. Supreme Court Changes Jurisdiction for WOTUS Challenges). In February, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (we’re sorry he’s now gone) suspended the existing WOTUS until two years from now when a new WOTUS will be ready (see EPA Director Scott Pruitt Suspends Obama WOTUS Rule). The swamp-dwelling, Bushie U.S. District Judge David Norton threw that out and reinstated WOTUS. It’s OK for Obama and his droids to take the law into their own hands, but when another administration comes in and wants to wash away the stain of overregulation, that’s not OK. We call that protecting the swamp…
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NY Judge Overrules DEC, Allows Gas-Fired Plant to Start Up

A new hope has emerged for Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) Valley Energy Center, a $900 million, 680-megawatt natural gas-fired electric generating plant in Orange County, NY. Last week MDN told you that at the last minute, four days before the plant was set to start up, the Andrew Cuomo-corrupted Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) pulled the ultimate dirty trick and refused to renew an air permit for the plant they previously issued five years earlier (see Cuomo Strikes Again: Blocks Completed Gas-Fired Plant from Starting). The DEC now says the plant will need a different (federal) air permit before it can start up, effectively blocking it. As we told you in a followup article, the DEC’s dirty trick left CPV with three options (see 3 Options for Blocked NY Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant). Option #2 in our list was to ask a judge to overturn the DEC’s decision (our preferred option). CPV exercised that option and yesterday the judge agreed and shut down DEC’s ability to stop the plant from starting up, which will now happen this week or early next week. Great news! However, the judge’s order is temporary, while a larger lawsuit works its way through the court system. In the meantime, CPV will start the plant, a victory for the good guys. The best part? PA Marcellus fracked gas will feed it…
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WV Supreme Court Crisis – House Votes to Impeach Sitting Judges

What in the world is going on in West Virginia? Last Friday in our “best of the rest” list of energy stories, we ran a brief piece about a WV House panel voting to impeach the remaining four (of five) sitting WV Supreme Court justices, claiming the justices had abused taxpayer funds (see Energy Stories of Interest: Fri, Aug 10, 2018). We didn’t think much of it at the time, partially because it was a CNN story–a known source of fake news. Yet the news, in this case, was not fake. On Monday the full WV House voted to impeach all of the sitting justices. One them (a Democrat) promptly resigned her position so that Gov. Jim Justice could not replace her with his own pick. Instead, her office will go on the ballot this November. The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday outlining in more detail what the alleged charges are (bordering on embezzlement), and speculating on what happens now. We’re interested in this story because earlier this year it was this group of justices that reversed itself in a highly unusual practice to allow EQT to deduct post-production expenses from flat rate leases (see WV Supreme Court Reverses Itself, Post-Production Deductions OK). That sparked a rebellion in the WV legislature which led to a new law reversing the Supreme Court’s ruling (see WV Gov Justice Signs Bill to Guarantee 12.5% Minimum Royalty). There are other oil and gas cases that may be impacted by a wholesale change in the court as well. Here’s the latest on this developing situation in WV…
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Antis Still Can’t Come to Terms They Lost NY AIM Pipe Case

Big Green antis thought they could stop the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project–an expansion of the existing Algonquin pipeline system designed to carry 342 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to New England states that badly need the gas. On March 3, 2015 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a final approval for the project. Construction began in 2015 and, following extreme opposition from New York State over a small portion of the project near the Indian Point nuclear plant (which will shut down in a few years anyway), AIM finally went online in late 2016. In what has become a typical pattern, Big Green groups asked FERC to rehear their decision to approve AIM, FERC refused, and Big Green then filed a lawsuit in federal court. But two weeks ago the federal court told the antis “no,” crushing their efforts to roll back the expanded pipeline (see DC Circuit Court Denies Anti Request to Rehear AIM Pipe Approval). That should be the end of the matter. There’s no place left to go, court-wise, except maybe (one in a million odds) to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet the antis, still disbelieving they’ve lost, are threatening to pursue it legally. Some unstable people just can’t let go…
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100+ PA Landowners Sue EQT re Gas Storage Field Payments

According to Washington County, PA landowner Joe Raposky, EQT has been storing natural gas under his property in Finleyville without permission and without compensation since at least 2007. Last year Raposky asked EQT to compensate him and they refused. So Mr. Raposky has organized over 100 of his neighbors along with landowners who sit over top of other similar underground storage fields in the region, and on July 30 they filed a lawsuit against EQT. PA has some 60 gas storage fields spread across 26 counties in the state. The fields are used to temporarily store and then retrieve natural gas. Storage, which is not something we write about very much, is in fact a big deal when it comes to the natural gas market. Not all gas is used as soon as its extracted and sold along a pipeline. There are two main “seasons” in the natural gas industry–injection season, from April 1 through October 31, when a surplus is stored underground, and withdrawal season, from November 1 through March 31, when more gas is used than is produced. Storage fields like the one in Finleyville are an important part of the natgas puzzle. In some cases, landowners are only now becoming aware of the existing fields under their feet and they (rightly) want to be compensated for the use of their property. Is storage the next big bone of contention between landowners and drillers?…
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Chesapeake Settles NEPA Royalty Lawsuit for Pennies on the Dollar

Chesapeake Energy has, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “reached a $7.75 million settlement agreement with about two-thirds of its Pennsylvania natural gas royalty owners.” At the end of last year Chesapeake Energy offered a $30 million deal to Pennsylvania landowners to settle claims the company had screwed them out of royalty money by artificially inflating post-production costs in an elaborate scheme to pocket more money at landowners’ expense (see Chesapeake Agrees to $30M Royalty Settlement for PA Landowners). Chesapeake’s proposed deal last year would have given the average PA leaseholder (some 14,000 of them) a one-time $2,140 payment–adjusted up or down for the size of their acreage. This new deal, for 10,000 of the same leaseholders, offers $7.75 million–an average of $775 per landowner. Which is piddly. It’s nothing. An insult. Last year Chesapeake’s deal with leaseholders required the state Attorney General’s office, which has an ongoing, separate lawsuit filed against Chesapeake over the same issue, to settle as well. The AG’s office refused (see PA AG Not Backing Down re Chesapeake Energy Royalty Lawsuit). In fact, the AG’s office is still refusing to settle, with this new deal. Yet now Chesapeake is willing to move forward without the AG as part of the settlement. Heck yeah! Convince these desperate folks to take, literally, pennies on the dollar. What company wouldn’t go for that deal? Any way you slice this, northeast PA landowners are getting screwed if they agree to Chesapeake’s deal. They get a maximum of 8% back of the inflated “costs” Chesapeake originally deducted from royalty checks. We suppose some will say 8% now is better than maybe nothing or very little years from now. We don’t see it. We see these good landowners getting shafted in this deal…
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Franklin County, VA Landowners Lose Round #1 to Stop MV Pipe

A federal judge turned down a request by six Franklin County, VA landowners to shut down construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in their area. The six claim that work being done by MVP is leading to soil erosion–that storm water runoff has resulted in mountains of mud ending up on their property. The legal argument is “trespass” for failing to do the work correctly, thereby leading to an intrusion on their property. The judge denied the request. However, the judge did not toss out the entire lawsuit–only a request for a preliminary injunction. The lawsuit itself will continue. Not that it makes much of a difference. All work on MVP is currently stopped anyway (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). There’s no need for a preliminary injunction if there’s no work happening. Here’s the story of six ticked-off landowners not happy with how MVP is doing work in their area…
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Federal Court Stops Works on Some (All?) of Atlantic Coast Pipe

In a pattern that has become obvious, and disturbing, the radicalized Sierra Club has once again prevailed in shutting down work on a second mammoth pipeline project–Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)–by concentrating their legal arguments at one small, specific point of the project. This happened with Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). As we reported yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told MVP to stop work on the entire project, at least for now (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). The Sierra Club convinced the without-experience-in-the-oil-and-gas-industry judges of the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn permits granted by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to build MVP across 3.5 miles of Jefferson National Forest, on the border of WV and VA. This time, with ACP, the Sierra Club convinced the Fourth Circuit to overturn permits granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) granted to ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, the rolled-back permits affect more of ACP than MVP–about 100 miles of work out of 600+ miles. The court, in rolling back ACP’s permits all but told FERC they need to shut down work on the entire project until this matter is resolved. The court can’t order FERC to do so, but they strongly cautioned FERC that they should do so. Since FERC stopped work on MVP, it stands to reason they will do it with ACP too. So lightening has now struck twice, and it’s not good. Dominion maintains they will continue to build ACP except for those areas where the Fourth Circuit has rolled back permits. In other words, they’ll keep building it in North Carolina and some locations in WV. All eyes are now on FERC. We hate to say this, but our guess is that FERC will shut down the entire ACP project, for now. It’s virtually the same scenario as MVP which FERC elected to shut down. Why would this project be any different?…
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PA Supremes Order Rehearing for Rex Permits Near Martian School

The Martians and their allies have attacked once again. Run for the hills! This is a long-running story that’s just taken another (unfortunate) twist. A handful of anti-drilling parents from the Mars School District (“Martians”) in Butler County, PA, backed by money and legal help from Philadelphia Big Green groups THE Delaware Riverkeeper and the Clean Air Council, have filed frivolous lawsuit after frivolous lawsuit (see Martians Use Riverkeeper to Continue Court Battle Against Rex). The effort is aimed at denying landowners in Middlesex Township revenue from legally permitted drilling. The actions by these radicalized parents have cost the taxpayers of Middlesex Township over $100,000 in legal fees (we hope the taxpayers enjoying paying for this folly). Eventually most of the lawsuits were won by the good guys and at least two wells got drilled. However, in 2016 the Martians appealed a town ordinance that allows the wells to be drilled about 3/4 of a mile from the school. A panel of three western PA judges in Commonwealth Court heard arguments in the case, and in June 2017 the judges ruled against Riverkeeper and the Martians (see Dela. Riverkeeper Loses Martian Case to Stop Rex Energy Drilling). Riverkeeper, using funding from the William Penn Foundation and Heinz Endowments (among other Big Green funders) pressed on, all the way to the PA Supreme Court. Last Friday the Supremes proved they aren’t so supreme after all. In a ruling, the Supremes told Commonwealth Court to do it over again, this time considering PA’s so-called Environmental Rights Amendment as part of their thinking. In other words, do it over, and rule another way this time–that’s what the Supremes are telling the lower court to do…
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Riverkeeper Too Late to Challenge Penn East Pipe Water Certificate

In Feb. 2017, THE Delaware Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit challenging water permits issued by PA for the PennEast Pipeline (see PennEast Pipeline Gets 401 Water Quality Certificate from PA DEP). Riverkeeper filed their challenge late, arguing it was confused over where to file the challenge–in federal or state court. Commonwealth Court told Riverkeeper nice try, but no cigar. Last Wednesday Commonwealth Court told Riverkeeper, “you’re too late.” The court said Riverkeeper’s “confusion” over where they should file is not justification for filing WAY past the deadline to challenge the permit. We doubt Riverkeeper even thought this particular lawsuit (one of dozens they’ve launched against PennEast) would bear fruit. This is just one more instance of Riverkeeper’s “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” legal strategy. This particular handful fell to the ground…
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Court Tosses Sierra Club Challenge to MV Pipe Work in VA

The Sierra Club has struck out in its attempt to stop construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline (an EQT Midstream project) in Virginia. Yesterday the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the VA State Water Control Board did not err in finding MVP would not unreasonably harm streams and wetlands with its construction activities. This is a MAJOR court victory for MVP and begins to clear away some of the doubt cast by other recent court decisions (see Court Cancels Permits for Mountain Valley Pipe on Fed Land). In a strange twist, the same court (the Fourth Circuit) ruled differently concerning the same pipeline project (MVP). The feds ruled “no” to permits issued on federal land in Virginia, but “yes” to permits issued everywhere else Virginia. The pulled permits for MVP on federal land only affect 3.5 miles of pipeline. Everywhere else (at least in Virginia) MVP is good to go…
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WV Close to Starting Construction on First Natgas-Fired Plant

For years Energy Solutions Consortium (ESC) has been trying to build several natural gas-fired electric plants in West Virginia, but have been prevented from doing so by Big Coal lawsuits. We recently wrote about this issue, naming names (see OVJA Exposed as Front for Murray Energy Blocking Gas-Fired Plants). It’s understandable that coal doesn’t want to give up its virtual monopoly on electric generation in the Mountain State. Some 95% of all electricity produced in the state comes from coal-fired plants. 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. The best chance ESC has in building its first gas-fired plant is in Harrison County. Only one roadblock remains–an OVJA challenge to the project’s air permit previously granted by the West Virginia Air Quality Board. Kind of ironic that Big Coal is challenging an air permit for far-cleaner-burning natural gas. Coal pollutes the air way more than natural gas. The WV Supreme Court hears challenges to these kinds of permits. The paperwork has been filed with the high court. Once the court accepts and hears the case, which ESC thinks will be early fall, and the air permit is upheld, the first shovel of dirt will fly to build the $880 million Harrison County Power Station. An ESC rep recently updated Harrison County officials and labor union members about the status of the project…
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