PennFuture Tries to Bully Pittsburgh Airport re Gas Royalties

As is so often the case, radical Big Green groups, like PennFuture, attempt to intimidate (i.e. bully) by using threats of legal action, those who dare to use and (gasp) enjoy the monetary benefits of shale drilling. In early 2013 the Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County, PA signed a deal with CONSOL Energy (now CNX Resources) to lease 9,000 acres surrounding the airport for natural gas drilling (see $50M Check in the Mail: Pittsburgh Airport Lease a Done Deal). The airport received a $50 million signing bonus and the promise of 18% royalties on anything produced and sold. The first wells began to flow natural gas for the first time exactly two years ago, in July 2016 (see CONSOL’s First Pittsburgh Airport Wells Begin to Flow NatGas). So far, for 2016 and 2017, the airport has received a grand total of just over $16 million in royalty payments and another $857,000 from other fees. Yikes! The airport uses the revenue “to reduce airline rates and charges and for capital expenditures…at the Airport.” So along comes the Big Green bullies from PennFuture, threatening to sue the airport if it doesn’t use the money for what PennFuture wants it used for. Yeah, the money does not belong to PennFuture, but that doesn’t stop this rogue “nonprofit” from throwing its weight around and making demands. PennFuture is telling the airport the money MUST be used to “further the interests of citizens under the environmental rights amendment.” Whatever that means. PennFuture told the airport, in a nasty letter, that the airport is in violation of Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Our advice to the airport: Tell PennFuture to take a hike in the vast PA outdoors…
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PA DEP Notifies Shell of “Technical Deficiencies” with Ethane Pipe

Shell delivered some good news at last week’s Northeast U.S. Petrochemical conference in Pittsburgh: The Falcon ethane pipeline will get built next year (see Shell Says Falcon Ethane Pipeline to Get Built in 2019). The pipeline won’t actually flow ethane to the Shell cracker in Monaca until 2020 at the earliest, because the cracker plant itself won’t go online until 2020 at the earliest. The 97-mile consists of “two legs,” with about half of the pipeline located in PA, the other half in OH. The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted three public hearings on the project earlier this year, in preparation for issuing permits. Antis came out in force and behaved badly, as they typically do (see More of the Same at Final DEP Hearing for Shell Ethane Pipeline). No matter. The pipeline will get built. But not without jumping some hurdles first. On June 1, the DEP issued three letters identifying what it calls “serious technical deficiencies” in Shell’s pipeline plan, for townships in three different counties along the pipeline’s PA route. Shell maintains this type of notification is “common” in the permitting process, and is committed to working with the DEP to address any issues of concern…
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Presbyterians Vote to Divest from Fossil Fuels – Yet Keep Using Them

Liberal Presbyterians in Pittsburgh, along with their comrades from New York, have succeeded in pressuring a once-great denomination, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), into adopting a proposal that forces the denomination to divest from all investments in fossil fuel companies, and instead invest in so-called renewable energy companies. The measure says divestment is “the beginning of a faithful response to the devastating and urgent reality of climate change.” The leaders of the divestment movement within the denomination say investing in fossil fuels is the moral equivalent of investing in tobacco, alcohol and gambling. And yet the very same people and the very same denomination refuse to lead by example. They don’t force their churches to quit using “devastating fossil fuels” to heat and cool their buildings. They don’t demand parishioners quit driving fossil-fuel powered automobiles to church. And they certainly don’t refuse tithes and offerings from those who work at evil fossil fuel companies (nor do they prohibit contributions from fossil fuel companies). Just a tad hypocritical?…
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Anatomy of an M-U Shale Startup: Tier 1 Rental and Distribution

One of the bits of news we love to cover is when a new business starts up for the express purpose of servicing the Marcellus/Utica industry. Having started our own company–Marcellus Drilling News–we know a little bit about the challenges one faces in launching a new business. But nothing on the scale of launching a business that ends up employing dozens, even hundreds, of people. When we see that happening, we have deep respect and admiration. In 2014, Frank Catroppa, a serial entrepreneur, rolled the dice and launched Tier 1 Rental and Distribution LLC, based in Robinson (Allegheny County), PA. Tier 1 provides trucking and related gas drilling services to the shale industry. Not long after the business began, the shale recession hit with many drillers pulling back from new activity. How did Mr. Catroppa weather the downturn, having just started a new company? And how is the company doing now? The story (below) certainly doesn’t chronicle everything that goes into starting and maintaining a company aimed at selling goods and services to the Marcellus/Utica industry, but it does provide some great insights into timing, confidence, and the sheer guts it takes to believe in your ideas. Tier 1 is an inspiration for others considering whether or not to launch a product/service aimed at our industry…
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Anti Group Stirs Up Pittsburghers Against Fracking, (Ab)Uses Kids

We always find it deeply disturbing when a group of anti-fossil fueulers, like the innocent-sounding (but very radical) Moms Clean Air Force, pushes little kids in front of the cameras, getting them to hold protest signs in a sleazy attempt to play on people’s sympathy. That’s what happened yesterday in the Pittsburgh suburb of Indiana Township (Allegheny County). Hey, knock yourself out if you want to show up and protest and make some noise. But don’t bring the kids along. Don’t put your guilt trip on the kids, making them protest something they frankly don’t even understand. Don’t implant them with your irrational fears. We find it disgusting…
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9 More Seismic Testing Devices Stolen in SWPA, 6 Were Returned

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Somebody in southwestern Pennsylvania has sticky fingers. In March MDN reported that someone(s) in SWPA had stolen nine seismic testing nodes in Westmoreland County (see Whoops! Stolen Seismic Testing Nodes in SWPA have Tracking Devices). The seismic testing devices were legally placed in various locations by Geokinetics, hired by Huntley & Huntley to map what’s below the surface in preparation for drilling shale wells. Geokinetics let it be known that if the devices were not returned by March 26, the perps would be hunted down and prosecuted. Oh! And did we tell you that each device has a GPS tracker in it, so Geokinetics can locate the devices whenever they want? We now have a second case of sticky fingers. Stupid is as stupid does. Geokinetics reports another nine units were lifted, this time in Monroeville (Allegheny County). Once again the word has gone out: Return them now, by April 16th, or you will be found and prosecuted. Six of nine have already been returned…
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More of the Same at Final DEP Hearing for Shell Ethane Pipeline

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For three nights in a row this week the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted hearings for Shell’s proposed Falcon ethane pipeline–a 97-mile pipeline system with two “legs” that will feed Shell’s mighty ethane cracker plant now under construction in Monaca, PA. We brought you a report from the first session, an eyewitness account from MDN friend Charlie Schliebs (see Shell Ethane Pipeline Hearing Draws Few Supporters, Many Antis). That session was predominantly populated with antis attempting to paint nightmare scenarios if the pipeline (and cracker) gets built. Last night was the third and final session–in Sewickley. Once again we have an eyewitness account, this time from MDN friend Katie Klaber, former president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and currently managing partner at The Klaber Group and a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Pittsburgh branch). Katie is a consummate environmental professional–someone with a lifelong career in environment compliance and someone who served on the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee of the DEP for more than a decade. She knows a thing or two about projects like the Falcon because she’s seen a thing or two (to borrow from the Farmers Insurance commercials). When the audience realized that Katie was supporting the project (the only one of the first 18 speakers to do so), the hissing started. She and the next few speakers who supported the project were hissed by bad-behaving antis in the crowd, with some Mother F…ers thrown in by an especially outspoken attendee. Nice people, those antis…
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Monroeville Continues to Block Seismic Testing to Prevent Drilling

Monroeville, PA (Allegheny County, suburb of Pittsburgh) is hostile toward the shale industry. In September, Monroeville Council voted to enact a super-restrictive seismic testing ordinance (see Monroeville, PA Passes Restrictive Seismic Testing Ordinance). The ordinance is meant to hassle Huntley & Huntley (H&H), which wants to conduct seismic testing in two rural areas of the municipality (for potential drilling in a neighboring municipality). In October, the contractor hired to do the seismic work for H&H, Geokinetics, took Monroeville Council to court over their punitive seismic ordinance (see Monroeville Seismic Testing Ordinance Challenged in Court). Both sides compromised and in November settled the case, which Monroeville Council voted to accept in December (see Monroeville Council Approves Seismic Testing Court Settlement). That should be the end of the story, right? Wrong. Monroeville has continued their harassment by asking a court to immediately suspend the testing because (they claim) Geokinetics did not give proper notification to residents that the testing was happening. This is nothing more than a transparent attempt to prevent future drilling by slowing, or stopping, H&H’s ability to get an accurate picture of the best places are to drill a Marcellus well. Fortunately Geokinetics just finished the testing, so Monroeville’s pathetic attempt to stop it is now moot…
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Monroeville Back from Edge of Insanity, Allows Some Fracking

Common sense has broken out in Monroeville. Either that, or fear of litigation. Either way, Monroeville (Allegheny County, PA) has rolled back an overly-restrictive zoning ordinance meant to hassle Huntley & Huntley’s plans to drill wells in the township–the very same township where H&H has its headquarters. Last October, Monroeville Council passed a temporary ban on oil and gas well drilling everywhere except for those areas marked M-2 industrial zoning–a big change (see Monroeville, PA Hostile to Shale, Bans Drilling in Most Places). Previously, drilling permits were “conditional use” in Monroeville, meaning each permit was evaluated on its own merits, regardless of which zoning district it was located in. By limiting drilling to M-2, Council severely limited drilling in the municipality–but at least drilling was still allowed. Then in January, Monroeville Council advertised their new zoning ordinance to FURTHER RESTRICT any kind of oil and gas activity–not just drilling, but pipelines, compressor plants, etc.–to a 150-acre parcel located next to the city dump (see Monroeville Pushes Ban on NatGas Activity, Incl. Drilling & Plants). It would be, in essence, a total ban on shale drilling activity throughout the township. Two weeks ago Monroeville Council voted (unanimously) to withdraw the proposed new ordinance, which means the zoning ordinance from last October limiting drilling to M-2 remains the law. Still not good, but better than a total ban…
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Pittsburgh Airport Plans NatGas Microgrid to Attract New Business

Seems like we increasingly see the word “microgrid” popping up. What, exactly, is a microgrid? Microgrids are small electric generating plants, most often powered by natural gas. They usually produce a few megawatts of electricity and are often used for “peaking”–which means they are used during times of high electricity demand. During times of high demand these small microgrids kick on and produce electricity to help meet the demand (see One of Nation’s Largest NatGas Microgrids Coming to Philly Navy Yard). Sometimes microgrids outright replace reliance on the local electric utility. Such is what is being proposed for the Pittsburgh International Airport. You may recall that CONSOL Energy (now CNX Resources) drilled a bunch of wells on Airport property and produces a boatload of natgas every day. The plan is to use some of that gas to power a microgrid to lower the cost of electricity at the airport complex–a complex where officials are attempting to attract businesses to locate. Having super cheap electricity generated by your own natgas helps…
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PA DEP Schedules 3 Hearings for Shell Ethane Pipeline

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In February, MDN told you the Pennsylvania State Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) had caved to pressure from anti-fossil fuelers with regard to Shell’s proposed Falcon Ethane Pipeline project (see PA DEP Caves to Pressure, Extends Comment Period for Shell Pipeline). Shell is working on an ethane “pipeline system” with two “legs” to feed the mighty cracker plant being built in Monaca, Beaver County (see Shell Working on 94-Mile Ethane Pipeline to Feed PA Cracker). The DEP advertised an official comment period for the project on Jan. 20, giving interested parties until Feb. 20 to file their comments–an entire month. However, one month isn’t enough time for anti-drillers to marshal the faithful to try and sink the project. FracTracker Alliance, an anti-fossil fuel organization, colluded with other groups to put the word out to flood the DEP with demands to keep the comment period open. The DEP caved and extended the comment period to April 17th along with three public hearings (circus freak shows), to give the FracTracker faithful time to mount publicity and legal offensives to try and stop the project. The DEP has just announced the dates and locations for the three public hearings…
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Federal EPA Approves Permit for Plum, PA Wastewater Injection Well

Plum, PA

As MDN reported last July, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency in charge of approving oil and gas wastewater injection wells, was actively reviewing an application and plan from Penneco Environmental Solutions (division of Penneco Oil Co.) to convert a plugged gas well into a brine (wastewater) injection well in Plum, PA–in Allegheny County, near Pittsburgh (see New Frack Wastewater Well on the Way in Allegheny County, PA). The good news is that the EPA has given its final approval for the project. However, Penneco has miles to go (a lawsuit & state permits) before they begin retrofitting the well…
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Frac Sand Barge Facility Near Pittsburgh Gets $638K Grant to Expand

McKees Rocks barge facility

While we don’t (yet) have hard numbers for how many shale wells were drilled in the Marcellus/Utica in 2017 versus 2016 and 2015, we’re pretty sure the 2017 number went up–a lot. Why do we think so? Because frac sand use went through the roof in 2017. Yes, drillers are using more sand to frack each well, so the numbers could reflect drilling the same number of wells using more sand–but we don’t think that explains it all. Not this much sand. McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises operates a barge/transloading facility on the Ohio River in McKees Rocks (Allegheny County), PA. Jim Lind, operator of the facility, says sand shipments soared 200% in 2017 over previous years. Put another way, sand shipments doubled–at just this one facility! Sand is barged in to the facility from the Midwest, then loaded onto trucks and rail cars for delivery to Marcellus/Utica well sites throughout the region. Business is good. The barge facility needs to expand. Pennsylvania recognizes the facility’s value to the shale industry, so the state has just made a $638,015 grant to allow McKees Rocks to handle more barges at the same time at the 100-acre facility. That’s good for the Marcellus/Utica, and it’s good for the regional Pittsburgh economy…
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Monroeville, PA Antis Want 100% Ban on Fracking, Pipelines

Limiting fracking to an impossibly small 150 acres (out of 12,620 acres) that make up Monroeville–a mere 1% of the acreage–is not enough of a ban for radical antis in the municipality of Monroeville (suburb of Pittsburgh). They want it all banned–every single centimeter. The only problem with that is the Act 13 law, passed in 2012, requires each municipality to allow drilling in at least one zoned area. But hey, disobeying the law isn’t a problem for antis–they do it all the time. They are anarchists by nature. Last October, Monroeville Council passed a temporary ban on oil and gas well drilling everywhere except for those areas marked M-2 industrial zoning–a big change (see Monroeville, PA Hostile to Shale, Bans Drilling in Most Places). Previously, drilling permits were “conditional use” in Monroeville, meaning each permit was evaluated on its own merits, regardless of which zoning district it was located in. By limiting drilling to M-2, Council effectively banned drilling in the municipality. They passed the temporary ban until they could pass a new zoning ordinance that would set the frack ban policy in concrete. In January, Monroeville Council advertised their new zoning ordinance to FURTHER RESTRICT any kind of oil and gas activity–not just drilling, but pipelines, compressor plants, etc.–to a 150-acre parcel located next to the city dump (see Monroeville Pushes Ban on NatGas Activity, Incl. Drilling & Plants). Fantastically, unbelievably, antis in Monroeville aren’t happy with that 150-acre parcel exception–an old dump! They want drilling at the dump banned too…
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Compromise Allows Drilling to Begin in Pittsburgh Suburb of Plum

In October 2017, local officials in Plum, PA (Allegheny County) approved a plan by Huntley & Huntley (H&H) to drill a series of Marcellus wells on a single well pad in their municipality (see Plum, PA Gives Huntley & Huntley Green Light for Shale Drilling). Plum’s leaders got blowback from some residents (antis) over the decision to conditionally approve H&H’s request. In Plum, fracking is (or rather was) allowed in any zone if a conditional use is granted. That’s what happened in October–the Plum Council issued a conditional use exception for H&H to drill on 92 acres near Coxcomb Hill Road in Plum. To avoid dealing with more such conditional cases, Plum Council drafted proposed changes to their zoning ordinances (ordinances which haven’t been updated since 1993) that will only allow fracking in rural residential and industrial zones (see Plum, PA Officials Hold Hearing on New Restrictions for Fracking). H&H originally said the changes would be too restrictive. However, they later adopted a “half a loaf is better than no loaf” philosophy, opting to support the new rules. A compromise. In December, Plum Council moved ahead and adopted the new rules, and antis predictably blew a gasket (see Plum, PA Passes Ordinance to Allow Fracking – Antis Livid). How and why did Plum adopt such an ordinance? Especially given so many surrounding towns in Allegheny Township are outright hostile to drilling? Let’s pull the curtain back and probe the thought process Plum used to arrive at a compromise that appears to work for both sides…
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PA Supremes to Consider EQT Request to Drill Well in Jefferson Hills

In December 2015 MDN told you about EQT’s application to drill a single shale well in Jefferson Hills (Allegheny County), PA (see Jefferson Hills, PA Antis Oppose EQT Well Near Future School Site). The well would be drilled “near” where a new school is due to be built, which generated vigorous local opposition. As part of the a conditional use permit, EQT agreed to (a) not use Borough roads during construction, (b) use a pipeline from a local water company instead of trucks for the water needed to drill and frack, greatly reducing the amount of truck traffic, (c) pledged the project would not impact local streams and wetlands, (d) comply with local lighting regulations, and (e) install sound walls if needed. In other words, EQT bent backwards, forwards, sideways, jumped through numerous hoops and turned itself inside out to comply with requests from the town. The Borough Planning Commission unanimously approved the conditional use permit request. But then the town, bowing to pressure from residents, rejected the request in December 2015, saying the proposed project would endanger local health and the environment. EQT sued and won in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in June 2016. Jefferson Hills appealed and in May 2017, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the EQT verdict saying the town arbitrarily rejected the permit and EQT should be allowed to drill (see PA Appeals Court Clears Way for EQT to Drill Jefferson Hills Well). Jefferson Hills appealed it all the way the PA Supreme Court and on Monday the court agreed to hear the case…
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