PA PUC Overrules Lib Judge – Mariner East 1 Returns to Service

As MDN predicted, yesterday the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) voted to overturn a previous action by liberal administrative law judge, Elizabeth Barnes, to shut down the Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline (see Antis Get Lib Judge to Shut Down All Mariner East Pipes, Dems Rejoice). ME1 is back up and running. All five PUC members supported returning ME1 back to service. However, three of the five PUC members agreed with Judge Barnes’ decision to temporarily shut down work on the Mariner East 2 pipeline project in West Whiteland Township (Chester County). Two of the five PUC members wanted all of Barnes’ ruling to be overturned. The reporting on this is somewhat confusing. PUC Chairwoman Gladys Brown put forward a motion to (a) turn ME1 back on, and (b) keep ME2 in West Whiteland stopped, for now, pending more information from Sunoco Logistics. The vote was 3-2 in favor of Brown’s motion. The 2 voting against it did so because it didn’t go far enough (they wanted ME2 construction to resume). So although the vote was 3-2, all 5 of the members wanted ME1 back on. That’s the real nub of the news–the subtlety that’s missed in most media reports. The 3-2 “split decision” that’s being reported is the decision to overrule Barnes on ME1, but keep her ruling intact (for now) on ME2. The PUC has ordered Sunoco to provide more information in the next 20 days: inspection and testing protocols, emergency response plans, and copies of safety training curriculum for employees and contractors. The PUC will then reconsider whether or not to allow ME2 work to resume in West Whiteland. But here’s the thing: Work on the rest of the 300+ mile pipeline continues everywhere else in the state–everywhere but West Whiteland. Overall, yesterday’s PUC action was a crushing defeat for PA State Sen. Andy “Tony Soprano” Dinniman (Democrat) and his Big Green cronies who want to assassinate the entire ME1 & ME2 projects by focusing on one small area…
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Lycoming County Residents Oppose Loyalsock Creek Gathering Pipe

Pennsylvania General Energy drills in several PA counties, including Lycoming County in the north central of the state. According to the just-published Marcellus & Utica Shale Upstream Almanac 2018, PA General Energy is the fourth-largest producing driller in Lycoming County, with 103 producing wells and 42.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas production in 2017. PA General Energy wants to drill more wells. Those wells will need a gathering pipeline connected to them. Current plans for a pipeline have it running along a portion of the Loyalsock Creek, and that has some folks in the area up in arms. Yesterday at a county commissioners’ meeting, residents voiced their opposition to PA General Energy’s pipeline plans. A company rep at the meeting tried to assuage concerns. The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper has offered to be an “unbiased party” to “facilitate discussions between the company and those who reside along the creek.” You know what we think of so-called Riverkeepers who claim to be THE voice of a river…
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Westmoreland Co. Pays Big Bucks for Reservoir Testing 8 Yrs Later

In 2011, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, PA began a new water testing and monitoring program for the Beaver Run Reservoir which supplies water to about 150,000 residents (see Westmoreland County, PA Municipal Authority Initiates New Water Testing for Reservoir Located Near Marcellus Drilling). CONSOL Energy (now CNX Resources) had 100 shallow gas wells on municipal property near the Reservoir, and at the time had started to drill Marcellus Shale wells. The Authority also leased land near the reservoir to Dominion Resources, which ended up drilling more than a dozen shale wells on the property. The water testing program was precautionary, to ensure water is not being affected by nearby drilling activity. The Municipal Authority contracted with Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) to do the monitoring and testing. The early results showed no impact from testing (see Water Tests at PA Reservoir Show No Affects from Gas Drilling). Over the years, the Authority continued to award contracts year after year to IUP–starting at $55,000 and going as high as $100,000 (see Pricetag to Test Water at Reservoir Near CONSOL Drilling Goes Up). The Authority renewed their contract with IUP in 2016 for $85,000 (see Beaver Run Reservoir Tests Since 2011 Show No Harm from Drilling). And they’ve just done it again, paying IUP $99,000 to test water quality, and another for $24,700 to test the air at the reservoir. Our point: Since the first tests began more than eight years ago, there have been a number of shale wells drilled on the property next to the reservoir–and there has been NO negative impacts from shale drilling in all that time…
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Wackos Gather in Harrisburg to Push for 100% Solar/Wind in PA

This past Tuesday, hundreds of Pennsylvanians gathered in Harrisburg to “rally for a new vision for the Commonwealth powered by 100 percent renewable energy.” Among those attending including representatives from businesses, various religious leaders, local mayors, and nurses and doctors to advocate for “bipartisan” legislation to force PA to dump fossil fuels and adopt 100% renewable energy. There is no polite way to say this, but say it we must: This so-called “bipartisan” gathering to push House and Senate bills demanding the state dump the use of fossil fuels (like natural gas) and instead stick solar panels on every rooftop and windmills on every hilltop to power the Keystone state’s electricity (and other) power needs is stark….raving….mad. It’s lunatic. Forcing the state to adopt 100% renewables is not “nice” or a “gentle, blessed future that will arrive someday.” Adopting 100% renewables is a deluded fantasy. To pretend otherwise is unkind. We must call this nuttery out for what it is: irrational hatred of fossil fuels. We have nothing against any form of energy. They all have their pluses and minuses. You like a solar panel on your house–good for you! An ugly windmill with it’s whump whump whump sound nearby? Whatever floats your boat. But ending the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity any time within the next 75-100 years is the end of human life as we know it. What was presented at the rally as some benign gathering of average citizens was nothing of the sort. Big Green (radical) groups, including PennFuture, were behind this flummery…
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Wolf Caves on Severance Tax – Admits He Won’t Get It Passed

Yesterday Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf spoke at a Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon, where Wolf tried to fleece business owners and managers into thinking he’s on their side. (Nice try, but no cigar.) Wolf said he thinks the state will have an on-time budget this year, because he doesn’t plan to drag it out for months and months as he has in the past. Wolf did not mention the severance tax during his talk before the Chamber, but in discussions following his talk, Wolf “acknowledged…that he is unlikely to secure it [a severance tax] in his first term amid resistance by House Republican leaders.” This is huge! Wolf is admitting defeat, throwing in the towel–that he won’t get the tax, at least not this year. However, before we jump up and down to rejoice, know this: Wolf believes he’s going to win reelection, and then he intends to go after the severance tax again–with a vengeance. Which is why it’s so important that he not win a second term. But if he does win (perish the thought!), a Republican-controlled House remains our only firewall against a Marcellus-killing severance tax intended to raise billions for Philadelphia teachers’ unions…
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Penn State Study: Water Quality IMPROVES in Heavily Drilled Areas

Good news for the Marcellus industry, which is bad news for Big Green (Sierra Club, Earthworks, Food & Water Watch, NRDC, EDF, THE Delaware Riverkeeper, et al): A new independent study by Penn State University has just been published that shows groundwater is getting cleaner (!) in the most heavily drilled areas of the Marcellus. You read that right. “The most interesting thing we discovered was the groundwater chemistry in one of the areas most heavily developed for shale gas – an area with 1400 new gas wells – does not appear to be getting worse with time, and may even be getting better,” said one of the authors of “Big Groundwater Data Sets Reveal Possible Rare Contamination Amid Otherwise Improved Water Quality for Some Analytes in a Region of Marcellus Shale Development,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology. Talk about nuking the lies of Big Green when it comes to “water contamination”–one of the biggest and most-repeated lies they spin. A team of geoscientists and computer scientists used new data-mining techniques to study a huge dataset of 11,000 groundwater samples located near ~1,400 shale wells taken after drilling in Bradford County, PA. You may recall that the University of Cincinnati recently released a similar study focused on the Ohio Utica (see Univ of Cincinnati Utica Groundwater Study Finally Published!). These are real scientific studies, not the fake stuff put out by Big Green groups. Here’s more on the latest evidence that fracking is good for water, and good for the environment…
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Nicetown Claims “Environmental Racism” re Gas-Fired Plant

Bet you didn’t know that the environment has become racist. That’s the outrageous claim being made about Nicetown, PA (near Philadelphia). Big Green supporters in Nicetown are opposed to SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) plans to build a Marcellus gas-powered electric plant that would provide electricity to SEPTA’s northern Regional Rail lines and a bus garage (see Antis Plan to Shut Down Philly Transit Meeting re NatGas Powergen). The stated reason for their opposition is because the plant will burn an evil, nasty, vile “fossil fuel.” Yep, fossil fuel hatred syndrome. When the antis weren’t looking, Philadelphia Air Management Services (AMS) went ahead and issued the permit that allows SEPTA to move forward with the proposed natgas power plant, which will get built in Nicetown (see Antis “Shocked” Philly Approved Marcellus Power Plant for SEPTA). Nice. The AMS vote “came as a surprise” to the antis. It was their “last hope” to stop the plant. But they haven’t given up hope. Not yet. Antis are not only litigating to stop the plant, now they’re making wild accusations of “environmental racism.” Because the majority of residents are black, the accusation is that SEPTA is sticking the plant there, where it doesn’t matter if black people get polluted. Which is all nonsense. The reason SEPTA wants the plant in Nicetown is because that’s where they own a large bus garage/facility–the same facility they want to power with electricity from the plant! But “environmental racism” has such a great ring, and looks so good in a headline, it’s just irresistible for sycophantic media…
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PA Superior Court Rejects Southwestern “Briggs” Trespass Appeal

An unwelcome and troubling development in the Southwestern Energy “Briggs” court case. MDN brought you important news in April that the 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 (see Southwestern Appeals “Trespass” Case to Entire PA Superior Court). Sadly, on Friday, the Superiors declined to rehear the case. The next step? Southwestern has appealed the case directly to the PA Supreme Court…
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ME2 Work in Lebanon, PA Halted for Spilling a Single Cup of Mud

A single cup of drilling mud, bentonite, is nothing. It is beyond nothing. Bentonite is the clay-based compound used to make toothpaste, lipstick and kitty litter. It is completely non-toxic–it goes on and in the human body! And yet when underground drilling work restarted at Snitz Creek in Lebanon County, PA for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project, a single cup of drilling mud (bentonite) came out where it wasn’t supposed to (in the creek), so once again the whole shebang was shut down. Which we find crazy. What’s next–shutting down drilling when a tablespoon of drilling mud comes out? A teaspoon? Look, we get it. There have been other spills at Snitz Creek (see ME2 Construction in Lebanon County Stopped for 50 Gal Mud Spill). If a cup comes out, maybe it will be followed by a gallon coming out. And if a gallon comes out, maybe 10 gallons or even 50 gallons will follow. Immediately halting all underground horizontal directional drilling used to install the pipeline under Snitz Creek is an “abundance of caution” thing. But come on! So what if 10 or even 50 gallons comes out? It’s bentonite and its non-toxic! Spilling 50 gallons of the stuff in the creek is like spilling 10 bags of kitty litter in the creek. A few fish and salamanders might die. So what? That’s the price of progress. Here’s the crazy news that a single cup of drilling mud has once again stopped ME2 work in Lebanon County at Snitz Creek…
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Construction Begins for 14-Mile Pipe to Feed Berks Gas-Fired Plant

Birdsboro pipeline route – click for larger version

Ladies and gentlemen–start your bulldozers! It’s time to begin building a 14-mile natural gas pipeline from the Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) mainline in Rockland Township, to a natural gas-fired power plant under construction in Birdsboro (Berks County, near Philadelphia). EmberClear Corp. is a Canadian-based company that builds and operates natural gas-fired electric generation plants in North America. In 2015, EmberClear filed an application to build a new 488-megawatt natural gas-fired electric plant in Birdsboro, in Berks County, near Philadelphia (see New NatGas-Fired Electric Plant Coming Near Philadelphia). In April 2017, two different Japanese companies, Sojitz Corporation and Tokyo Gas, each purchased a one-third share ownership of the Birdsboro Power project (see Japanese Now Own 2/3 of Marcellus-Powered Electric Plant in SEPA). We call the Birdsboro Power a “Japanese-owned” project, which it is, but in reality EmberClear is still the company building and operating it. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued permits for the Birdsboro project in March of this year, and the project is now under construction (see PA DEP Issues Permits for Japanese Gas-Fired Elec Plant in SEPA). In order to operate, the plant will need gas. It will get its gas from the Tetco pipeline 14 miles away, via a dedicated pipeline. Construction has begun on the pipeline. Or rather, preliminary construction–clearing trees, etc. It will only take a few months to complete the pipeline project…
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Antis Rally Near Philly to Permanently Shut Down ME1/ME2 Pipes

PA State Sen. Andy Dinniman

In May, anti-fossil fuel pipeline opponents finally found a single, liberal administrative judge to shut down the Mariner East 1 (ME1) NGL pipeline–a pipeline that’s been operating without any problems for more than a year (see Antis Get Lib Judge to Shut Down All Mariner East Pipes, Dems Rejoice). Sunoco Logistics Partners, the owner of ME1, and the builder of the Mariner East 2 (ME2) Pipeline project, appealed the judge’s decision to the full Public Utility Commission (PUC). A decision about the shutdown (whether to lift is) is due any time. In an attempt to pressure the PUC and Gov. Tom Wolf to *permanently* shut down ME1 and ME2, a group of 150 or so rallied near Philadelphia on Saturday. Something you should know: A total shutdown of ME1 and ME2 is not going to happen. But that doesn’t stop self-deluding nutters from trying. Inevitably the protesters are disappointed. They talk themselves into the fictional fantasy that a pipeline that has been fully permissioned and 98% done (ME2) will simply stop and not be allowed to finish construction and begin operations. They tell themselves they can get a pipeline with a perfect safety record (running for more than a year) permanently shut down. Ain’t gonna happen. But they tell themselves these things, over and over, convincing themselves. People like PA State Sen. Andy “Tony Soprano” Dinniman, recklessly feeds his kook nutbase these fantasies. Totally irresponsible. So they gather, as they did this past weekend, to protest and “demand” that the PUC shut down these projects. What will happen when the full PUC overturns the liberal judge’s biased decision? How will the protesters handle the defeat?…
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Lebanon County Judge Rules ME1 is Public Utility, Pump Stn OK

This story stretches back four years. In November 2014, MDN told you about anti-drillers in Lebanon County, PA who had succumbed to shiny object syndrome and transferred their irrational hatred of fossil fuels from the Williams Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project to the already-in-the-ground but getting repurposed Sunoco Logistics Mariner East 1 pipeline (see New Target for Lebanon, PA Antis: Mariner East Pipeline). As part of converting ME1 from an oil pipeline to flow natural gas liquids, including propane and ethane, from western PA to the Philadelphia area, some 31 pump and valve stations needed to be built–one of them in West Cornwall in Lebanon County. Three local residents and an anti-drilling group called Concerned Citizens of Lebanon County filed an appeal with the zoning board to force the town to rescind permits they granted to allow the pump station. In May 2015, the West Cornwall Township Zoning Hearing Board declared the appeal “moot”–meaning denied (see Antis’ Zoning Appeal re Mariner East Pump Stn in Lebanon “Moot”). The antis decided to throw good money after bad and appealed the matter to Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas (i.e. county court). Finally, after years, the judge in the case backed ME1 over the antis, delivering his decision earlier this week. The judge ruled that ME1 is exempt from certain local zoning restrictions because it is (yes), a “public utility.” Which should not surprise anyone. Just last week the U.S. Supreme Court said the same thing when it refused to hear an eminent domain case for ME2, a different but closely related pipeline (see U.S. Supreme Court Lets Stand Eminent Domain for ME2 Pipeline). Like ME2, ME1 is a public utility. So say all the courts…
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PA Democrats Float Free College – Paid for by Marcellus Tax

PA State Sen. Vincent Hughes

Another mind-blowingly dumb Socialist/Communist plan is being floated by Democrats in PA (what’s new?). PA Dem state legislators yesterday announced new bills that would give families living in PA the right to send their kids to one of PA’s 14 state-run colleges for free–lock, stock and barrel. Free tuition. Free room and board. Free condoms. Free everything. IF the family makes less than $48,000 per year. Families making between $48,000-$110,000 per year get free tuition and fees only (they have to pay for Junior and Missy’s room and board). The “free” plan, according to Philadelphia area State Sen. Vincent Hughes, would cost around $800 million–and he thinks the Marcellus Shale industry should pay for it. That’s Hughes’ answer for everything–just tax the Marcellus industry. But Hughes has a little problem–he’s already promised Marcellus severance tax revenue to Philadelphia teachers’ unions–unions from which he has received $635,000 in campaign contributions (see PA Dem Senator from Philly Intros Bill to Steal Marcellus Money). In the unlikely event a severance tax is enacted in PA, it certainly won’t be enough to fund both K-12 education and pay for “free” college. How about this Sen. Hughes: We think the money for free college should come from taxes on government-paid workers instead. People like YOU. Why don’t we use YOUR money to pay for this “wonderful” plan?…
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PA DEP Releasing Onerous New GP-5 & 5A Methane Regs June 8

Last December the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued “draft final language” for the proposed General Permit 5A (GP-5A) and the revised General Permit 5 (GP-5)–regulations that supposedly will cut down on fugitive methane from escaping from drill pads and pipelines (see PA DEP Signals Onerous New GP-5 & 5A Methane Regs Coming 1Q18). The onerous regulations, which for now only apply to *new* sources (not existing) were originally prompted by bullying from the Obama Environmental Protection Agency. Even though EPA pressure disappeared under President Trump, PA Gov. Wolf is still pushing these onerous new regs. GP-5 applies to pipelines and compressor stations, while GP-5A applies to well pads and drilling. Following a flood of comments, the DEP tweaked the onerous regs yet again (for the third or fourth time), and in late March published yet another revised final final final final final version of the regs (see PA DEP Releases Draft Final GP-5 & 5A Methane Regulations). The DEP just announced they will issue the final final final final version of the revised regs on June 8, and two months later, on August 8, the new rules will officially go into effect–unless they delay it again…
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PIOGA Consultant Remarks (Mis)Used to Promote 250% Shale Fee Hike

We spotted a rather strange story (for us) on a major energy news service (Platts) that says, in so many words, that “the industry” says hiking the permit fee to drill a new Marcellus well in Pennsylvania by 250%–to $12,500–is no big deal. Which made our eyebrows go up. According to a long-time regulatory consultant for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA) quoted by Platts, “I don’t think it’s [the 250% fee hike] going to make or break people’s decisions” as to whether or not to drill. Hmmm. That’s not the feedback we’ve heard others, like the Marcellus Shale Coalition, say on the record. The same article quotes PIOGA President Dan Weaver saying, “We haven’t developed an official statement, but we definitely don’t agree with it [the fee hike]. We feel that we pay enough fees as it is.” So what’s going on here? Does the industry, as represented by PIOGA, think this fee hike is nuts (as we do)? Or does PIOGA think the fee hike is okey dokey? We contacted Dan to ask about the consultant’s comments and got an interesting response…
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Penn Twp Frack Ban Decision Now in Hands of Local Judge

Last November we updated you on a lawsuit filed by a group of anti-fossil fuelers in Penn Township (Westmoreland County), PA (see Penn Twp Ninny Nannies File Lawsuit to Block Apex, H&H Wells). A group calling themselves Protect PT, backed with money and legal help from Big Green group PennFuture, filed a lawsuit to try and stop Apex Energy and Huntley & Huntley (H&H) from drilling wells in the township. A Westmoreland County judge heard some testimony in the case in April (see Penn Twp Antis Try to Use PA ERA to Block Shale Drilling). The peril with Protect PT’s lawsuit is that it uses Pennsylvania’s so-called Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA), which liberal PA judges have, in recent years, breathed new life into. The argument is that fracking denies those who live near this temporary activity their “right” to enjoy Mom Nature, therefore it should be banished forever. Protect PT is attempting to pull off a total frack ban in the Penn Township. Although the judge heard testimony in April, more was given this week. All testimony is now done and the case rests with the judge. We expect whoever loses will appeal. Below is a recap of the case and the testimony given this week…
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