New Rough Patch for Norse Energy: Force Majeure Lawsuit

lights out?Is this lights out for Norse Energy in New York State? The company owns leases for some 130,000 acres of land in New York State. All of it is in either the Marcellus or Utica Shale play window with 33,000 acres in the liquids-rich area, according to Norse. Just one problem: New York has not allowed drilling going on five years. That delay caused Norse to file for bankruptcy last December (see Norse Energy Hurt by NY Fracking Delay Files for Bankruptcy).

Norse has tried valiantly to hold on, even through bankruptcy. But now they have a different problem: A group of 89 landowners with a collective 6,314 acres in Broome, Chenango and Madison counties who signed with Norse are suing the company because Norse sent a notice of force majeure. Force majeure means the leases, which otherwise would now be expired (after five years), can be kept in place until New York opens up to allow drilling. The landowners and their lawyer say the moratorium on fracking is not an unforeseen “Act of God” circumstance which would trigger force majeure–Norse says it is. Who’s right?
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USGS: Best Places in NY Southern Tier to Get Water for Fracking

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has identified three large-scale groundwater supply sources along the Susquehanna River in Broome and Chenango counties (New York State) in an announcement about a newly completed study (full copy of the study is embedded below). The USGS says these three potential groundwater supply locations are in areas where there may be future shale gas drilling activities.

Essentially, the USGS has provided the drilling industry and regulators at the DEC and SRBC with a helpful “best places to get water for fracking” guide…

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Exclusive: First NY Marcellus Wells to be Drilled are Identified

breaking news

NOTE: Please see the correction to this story on this page:
MDN Editor Jim Willis Corrects “First NY Marcellus Wells” Story.

An astute MDN subscriber sent us a tip that the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) updated their “Notices of Intent to Issue Well Permits” web page last night at 7:00 pm (Feb 14, 2013). In the list of well permits they “intend” to issue are 43 Marcellus Shale wells and 1 Utica Shale well.

Does this mean DEC Commissioner Joe Martens is getting ready to accept the SGEIS and issue permits? We believe it’s still too early for optimism on that front. However, if New York does decide to move forward and issue drilling permits “within 10 days” after accepting the SGEIS drilling rules, it stands to reason the wells in this list will be the very first wells to receive permission to drill.

We’ve harvested the information for all of the “Intent to Issue” wells, looking up each latitude and longitude and translating it into a street address. We’ve also rearranged the information in an easier to scan and understand format. You won’t find this information anywhere else but on MDN…

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WV Group Largest Landowner Coalition in Marcellus/Utica

A group of landowners in Wirt County, WV have just taken the crown as the largest landowner coalition MDN is aware of in the entire Marcellus and Utica Shale. The Wirt County Oil and Gas Group closed the door on new signups as of Monday, and the total acreage represented by the group is an astonishing 227,000 acres—almost 1/4 million acres! The really attractive part for potential drillers? The land is located in the wet gas area of the Marcellus.

The next largest group MDN is aware of is in Upstate New York—the CNY (Central New York) Landowners Coalition—with 194,500 acres. Both the Wirt County and CNY coalitions have representatives in Houston this week for the NAPE Winter Expo, shopping the acreage looking for a lease.

More details on the Wirt County group:

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New Marcellus Constitution Pipeline Announces “Final” Route

After more than a year of work, Williams has finalized the route for the new Marcellus Shale Constitution Pipeline that will run from the heavily-producing Marcellus Shale gas fields of Susquehanna County, PA all the way up to Schoharie County, NY, where the pipeline will connect with two large interstate pipelines: the Iroquois and the Tennessee. A copy of the map showing the “final” route is embedded below.

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Anti-Fracking Group Mails Propaganda Brochure to 190K NYers

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy is mailing an anti-fracking brochure (killing precious trees from the Catskills to provide the paper, no doubt) to 190,000 residents throughout the Southern Tier area of New York—a region that desperately wants and needs drilling, and the area that will see drilling when/if the current moratorium is lifted. The brochure is pure propaganda and full of outright lies, but hey, this is still Ameritopia where the First Amendment is alive and well, for people on the left anyway.

An electronic copy of the brochure is embedded below so MDN’s fellow NYers know what they can use to line the bird cage with when it arrives.

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Oxford, NY Moves Closer to a Moratorium (and Lawsuit) on Drilling

It seems the Village of Oxford (Chenango County), NY is still flirting around with Park Foundation funded “pro bono” attorney David Slottje—who’s trying his hardest to get Oxford (in a prime Marcellus/Utica drilling location) to introduce language into their zoning ordinances that would result in a de facto moratorium on fracking and natural gas drilling. Slottje and the Village Planning Board were at it again last weekend in a Saturday meeting.

Wednesday night the village board voted to move forward with another public hearing (later this month) before adopting new zoning language which would, in clear violation of current New York State law, slap tight restrictions and prohibitions on natural gas drilling and related activities:

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CNY Landowners Establish Legal Fund to Sue Towns with Bans

Landowners in the central New York area are tired of having their property rights trampled by a few of their discontented (and misguided) neighbors. When two of three town board members vote to institute a ban or moratorium, it strips away the rights of all landowners in the town and devalues their property, making it all but impossible for them to sign leases for potential future natural gas drilling.

The CNY Landowner’s Coalition (Central New York) has established a fund to help with attorneys fees to defend their property rights against what they consider to be an illegal seizure of their property rights by some towns. First up is to defend their rights against a misguided moratorium in Oxford (Chenango County, NY). Note to Oxford town board members and residents: prepare to spend big bucks to defend a permanent moratorium if you pass one. It’s not a threat—it’s a promise.

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New Marcellus/Utica Pipeline Planned for NY Southern Tier

Someone beside Norse Energy is holding out hope that New York will soon allow fracking of the Marcellus and Utica Shale—and they’re willing to spend money on that gamble. EmKey Gathering has just purchased a 75-mile right-of-way from Norse Energy that stretches from Madison County through Chenango County and into Broome County—all of those counties in New York State’s Southern Tier region.

EmKey hopes to hook up local shale gas wells, once they’re drilled, to the Millennium Pipeline, an interstate pipeline that runs through Broome County.

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NY Company Plans to Tap Constitution Pipeline, Sell Locally

unreportedAn important, and apart from MDN friend Andy Leahy, unreported development on the Constitution Pipeline, a new Marcellus Shale gas pipeline proposed by Williams and Cabot Oil & Gas that will run from Susquehanna County, PA to upstate New York (Schoharie County) where it will connect with two large interstate natural gas pipelines.

The important “new news” is that the Constitution will be an “open gas pipeline” and already one company—the Leatherstocking Gas Company of New York—plans to build an interconnect along the Constitution to buy and resell locally produced natural gas locally. Hey, there’s a concept! Leatherstocking plans to set up a low-cost natural gas distribution network in Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Madison counties in New York’s Southern Tier area.

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NY Fracking Fight Heads to Townships – Rest of the Story

An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal focuses on an issue MDN has covered for some time: how the fight over hydraulic fracturing in New York State has “gone local,” meaning it’s largely going to be decided town by town throughout the state.

The article notes a few statistics—about 100 or so towns have voted for either a short-term moratorium on fracking, or an outright ban. And about 60 or so towns have voted to “support” drilling. (Shameless self-promotion: MDN’s Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook Vol. 2 has the complete list of which towns have voted which way on the issue.)

But the pure numbers of “100 against, 60 for” does not come anywhere close to telling the whole story…

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Oxford, NY Decides to Stay Neutral in Drilling Debate

It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it’s also not a vote to ban fracking. The town board for Oxford (Chenango County, NY), decided at a meeting Wednesday night to not vote one way or the other on drilling, but instead to wait for the Dept. of Environmental Conservation to issue its new drilling guidelines. Oxford sits squarely in both the Utica and Marcellus Shale zones of New York State.

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NY Town with Permits wants Food Grade Fluids in Fracking

The Town of German, NY, located in Chenango County—one of the “Lucky Five” counties that may see limited fracking if Gov. Cuomo signs off on it—took a vote and sent a letter to both Gov. Cuomo and Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens asking them to require drillers to use “food grade fluids” when and if fracking begins. Why is that letter important for this tiny town with a population of 370?  Because three permits to drill in the Utica Shale are pending for the Town of German, and the town board’s letter to the DEC may be interpreted as a “don’t drill here” indication.

Both Com. Martens and Gov. Cuomo have stated when and if drilling permits are issued, they’ll go only to “supportive” communities. Sure sounds like German is not being all that supportive with their letter.

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2 More NY Southern Tier Towns Vote to Endorse Drilling

Two more townships in Chenango County, NY have passed resolutions supporting whatever plan the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposes with respect to horizontal hydraulic fracturing for the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Anti-drillers would say they’ve voted to support drilling, although the resolutions simply state they will leave it up to individuals to decide.

The towns of Coventry and Greene voted to adopt a resolution in favor of drilling. Of the townships located in the Lucky Five Counties (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga) that have voted on the topic of drilling, the vast majority have voted in favor, or more accurately with a neutral resolution saying they won’t ban it.

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Sen. Libous Responds to Chenango County, NY Rumor

MDN recently told you about the CNY Landowner’s Coalition sounding the alarm that Chenango County, NY may not be included in the initial hydraulic fracturing “test run” that is rumored to be coming from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (see this MDN story). Coalition members number in the thousands and represent over 240,000 acres of land—the largest single coalition MDN is aware of. So when they mobilized their members to write and call Gov. Cuomo and State Sen. Tom Libous (their representative in Albany), that’s just what happened. And the politicians noticed.

At a recent pro-drilling event, Sen. Libous responded to the rumor that Chenango County would be dropped from the rumored plan to allow fracking in “The Lucky Five” counties:

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