Earthworks Accuses PA DEP of Ignoring Complaints Due to COVID-19

The radical organization Earthworks has been exposed for making a false accusation against the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP), claiming the DEP ignored complaints of potential environmental violations in the shale patch due to distractions over the coronavirus pandemic. Earthworks claimed a frack wastewater treatment plant in Potter County is leaking onto the ground. DEP said it did investigate and no, there is no leak.
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Conventional Drillers Face Tough Decisions re Stripper Wells

click for larger version

Although some Marcellus/Utica drillers also own conventional (vertical-only) oil and gas wells as part of their portfolio, most conventional drillers are smaller “mom and pop” types of companies. Conventional oil well owners in the M-U, as well as across the country, face some of the same problems as shale drillers with a crash in oil prices: What to do with older wells? Thousands of older conventional oil wells produce as little as 10 barrels of oil per day. These low-producing wells are called stripper wells. With oil selling at $20/barrel, some stripper wells can still break even, but many cannot. It costs an average of $20,000-$40,000 to plug an old stripper well. Sometimes it’s more economic to simply keep a stripper pumping (and losing money) rather than pony up big bucks to close the well. It’s a conundrum.
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DRBC Oversteps Authority, Says It Must Approve PennEast

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has been co-opted by Big Green groups to do their bidding. The latest example is a letter sent by DRBC to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), arrogantly telling FERC that the DRBC has the power to review the PennEast Pipeline project–to pass judgment on whether or not (and how) it gets built. That authority lies SOLELY with FERC.
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Riverkeeper/CAC/PennFuture Make the Case for PennEast & Adelphia

After we picked ourselves up off the floor from laughing so hard, it dawned on us the far-left radicals at THE Delaware Riverkeeper, Clean Air Council and PennFuture have done both the PennEast Pipeline and Adelphia Gateway pipeline projects a HUGE beneficial service. Those three nutty groups commissioned and have just released a new “study” (copy below) that uses data to show PennEast and Adelphia together, WHEN (not if) they get built, will mean that PA drillers have to drill and connect another 1,913 to 3,061 new shale wells to feed them. Well duuuh! Of course it means that!! And that’s a GREAT thing for all of PA. More economic stimulus. More jobs. More tax revenues flowing to local municipalities. (Do these groups know they’ve just handed us a new argument in favor of these pipelines?)
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PA Gov Wolf Vetoes Jobs-Creating Petchem Bill – Blames COVID-19

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was less than honest when he vetoed House Bill (HB) 1100–a bill that would generate thousands of new jobs and cause money to pour into the PA economy by granting tax breaks (for a limited time) to companies willing to build *brand new* petrochemical plants ($450 million minimum investment) that use natural gas as the feedstock. In vetoing the bill on Friday, Wolf more or less blamed the coronavirus–even though he had promised to veto this bill in February, a month before the pandemic began in U.S. (see Gov Wolf to Veto Bill Attracting Cracker-Type Investment to NEPA)!
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Will Shell Cracker Construction Delay Affect Ohio Cracker Timing?

Nearly two weeks ago Shell, at the prompting of local officials, shut down construction of the mighty ethane cracker plant the company is building in Beaver County, PA (see Shell Shuts Down SWPA Cracker Plant Construction re COVID-19). How long will construction be stopped? According to a Shell spokesman, “I have no timeline for a return at this time.” What if the work stoppage drags on for months? It could, potentially, have a domino effect on another nearby cracker project–across the river in Belmont County, Ohio.
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Shell Ethane Pipe Construction in SWPA Allowed to Restart

Here’s a rum’un (Brit speak meaning “strange” or “odd”) if ever we’ve heard of one. Shell shut down construction activity a week ago at its mighty ethane cracker plant site in Beaver County, PA, sending nearly 8,000 people home (see Shell Shuts Down SWPA Cracker Plant Construction re COVID-19). There are still several hundred people on location to secure things and ensure no mischief is made while the other workers are away. However, work on Shell’s Falcon pipeline project, the pipeline that will feed ethane to the (now quarantined) plant, is allowed to continue as “life-sustaining” work under PA Gov. Tom Wolf’s order closing some businesses but keeping others open.
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PA DEP Caves to Radicals, Revokes PGE Injection Well Permit

This is truly disappointing. A few weeks ago we told you that Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled a long-running lawsuit involving Grant Township (Indiana County, PA) will continue on through the court system (see Grant Lawsuit Using ERA Threatens PA Injection Wells & Fracking). Grant, a town that passed an ordinance cooked up by the extreme radical Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to try and block a state-approved injection well, is attempting to use the state’s so-called Environmental Rights Act to justify its illegal ordinance. The court gave its blessing to that effort. And because the court is sending the signal it’s OK to invoke the ERA to justify just about anything, the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now going along by revoking a permit issued to Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) to build an injection well in Grant.
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New Study Says Petchem Tax Credit Bill Would “Transform” PA

Pennsylvania House Bill (HB) 1100, aimed at attracting new petrochemical investment to the state, was passed by the PA House and Senate earlier this year. The bill provides a tax incentive for companies to build NEW plants in the state that use Marcellus methane gas. HB 1100 was finally delivered to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf last week (see PA Petchem Bill Delivered to Gov. Wolf – Will He Sign It?). Wolf previously stated (for whatever strange reason) he would veto the bill. Republicans, Democrats, businesses, and labor unions have all pressured Wolf to reconsider and sign the measure into law. Now comes a bit more pressure.
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‘First of Its Kind’ Methane/Ethane PA Power Plant Now Online

CPV Fairview Energy Center (click for larger version)

Competitive Power Ventures’ (CPV) Fairview Energy Center, a 1,050-megawatt natural gas AND ethane-fueled combined-cycle electric generating plant in Cambria County, PA, went online ahead of schedule back in December (see CPV Marcellus-Fired Electric Plant in Cambria Goes Online Early). The plant went online using Marcellus gas (methane). However, the plant is designed to mix ethane in with methane and burn the mix. CPV announced yesterday tests for blending in ethane are now complete and the plant is operating at a 75/25 ratio of methane to ethane. According to CPV, Fairview Energy Center is “the first and only facility of its scale in the world to possess high content ethane blending with natural gas capabilities.”
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Some Mariner East 2 Construction Resumes During Lockdown

The confusion over whether or not the Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline project has (a) shut down all construction, except certain tidying up aspects at certain locations, or (b) has permission by the state to keep on building, is still not 100% settled. On Monday we told you that ME2 construction was in the process of ceasing under orders issued by Gov. Wolf (see Mariner East 2 Pipeline Construction Shuts Down re COVID-19). However, the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development granted a waiver to ME2 for certain activities.

3/27/20 UPDATE: As we suspected and have now confirmed with an unnamed (but highly reliable) source, the ME2 sites issued waivers to continue construction on Wednesday, March 25th were areas deemed necessary to continue work in order to protect the environment or the public. While there are numerous “sites” where activity has resumed, it represents less than 20% of total project sites. For example, places where there were open cut ditches or partially complete HDDs (underground horizontal directional drilling), the company requested and was approved waivers to restart construction–after an extensive review by the Wolf Administration.
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PA’s Conventional Oil Industry Goes from Bad to Worse

The double shock of less demand for oil because the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has shut pretty much everything down (worldwide) AND the Saudis and Russians pumping oil to the outer limits, continues to cause the price of oil to remain at historically low prices. The Russians are trying to bankrupt American shale oil drillers by driving prices into the basement. The Saudis are trying to bankrupt Russia for leaving the OPEC+ fold (and the Saudis certainly don’t mind if American shale oil drillers are put out of business in the process). The low price resulting from the double shock is affecting not only big American shale oil drillers but also mom and pop conventional oil drillers too. Particularly small conventional drillers in western Pennsylvania.
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Mariner East 2 Pipeline Construction Shuts Down re COVID-19

As we told you last Friday, there was some confusion over whether or not construction of the Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline, which is nearing completion, is included under Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s “stop work” order to prevent PA residents and workers from further spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus (see Is ME2 Pipe Construction Stopped Following Wolf COVID-19 Order?). Pipeline infrastructure and utilities are on the “life-sustaining” list, both in PA and as a directive from the federal government. However, “Utility Subsection Construction” was on the non-life-sustaining list–due to be temporarily shut down. ME2 construction continued after Wolf’s Thursday order. The confusion has now cleared, and yes, ME2 construction is in the process of ceasing.
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Marcellus/Utica Keeps Drilling with COVID-19 Modifications

Many states in the northeast and in Appalachia are now in lock-down mode with most businesses shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. However, certain activities and businesses continue to operate. They are called “life-sustaining” or “critical” or “essential.” On the list of essential businesses in both Pennsylvania and Ohio are shale drillers. Although drillers continue to work, at least one Marcellus/Utica driller, CNX Resources (we suspect others) is making changes to keep its employees and contractors protected against the virus.
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ME2 Pipeline Worker Charged with Falsifying Welding Records

A worker hired to x-ray welds on sections of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in southwestern Pennsylvania has been charged falsifying records, indicating that he performed the work when he didn’t. That’s a felony. According to one news account the worker, from Westmoreland County, PA, is expected to plead guilty and faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. The good news is that Energy Transfer, the builder, discovered the deception and immediately reported it. ET reinspected all of the welds supposedly inspected by this worker.
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PA Sen. Dinniman Tries to Use COVID-19 to Block ME2 Work

PA Sen. Andy Dinniman

Rahm Emanuel (Democrat), former Mayor of Chicago and former Chief of Staff in the Bill Clinton White House, once famously quipped, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” That’s a pretty sleazy thing to say and a pretty sleazy way to behave. But there you go. Another Democrat, PA State Sen. Andy “Tony Soprano” Dinniman is adopting Emanuel’s sleazy strategy. Dinniman has been trying for over two years to shut down construction of Energy Transfer’s Mariner East 2 pipeline project (see Philly Dem Senator Tries to Shut Down ME2 Pipe Construction). He’s been completely unsuccessful. Now he’s trying to use the COVID-19 coronavirus scare to get the project stopped.
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