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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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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Shale Support Exclusive Frac Sand Supplier for NEPA Facility

Last September MDN told you that Shale Support Holdings, “a leading provider of frac sand and logistical solutions to the oil and gas proppant market” (headquartered in Texas, with an operations center in Mississippi), was stepping up its presence in the Marcellus/Utica region with a partnership with Tidewater Logistics (see Shale Support Holdings Expands M-U Frac Sand Business via Partnership). The partnership increases Shale Support’s operations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Because Shale Support can ship sand direct from Mississippi, which is much closer than most other alternatives, the price for frac sand is cheaper for customers. Shale Support has just announced another important deal, to become the exclusive supplier for a major regional frac sand facility in Wysox (Bradford County), PA…
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Did StateImpact Forum on PA Gas Royalty Issue Resolve Anything?

Perhaps our headline for this article is a tad misleading. Maybe the better question is, Was a meeting held yesterday in Towanda, PA on the topic of gas royalties *meant* to resolve anything? The answer of which is, “Probably not.” PBS StateImpact Pennsylvania organized and hosted a forum yesterday on the topic of PA landowners getting screwed over by energy companies with respect to royalty payments. Both sides were well represented at the forum. We think it’s a cool concept, to get both sides talking about a very important issue. However, StateImpact, funded and controlled by Big Green backers including the William Penn Foundation and Heinz Endowments, is not an impartial, unbiased news organization that wants to honestly explore this important issue. StateImpact is NOT an impartial broker. Their purpose is to play both sides against each other and enjoy the chaos that ensues. Whip up more animosity between both sides. Make no mistake: StateImpact abhors shale drilling and prefers it not happen at all in PA. With that as the proper context to understand the event, some good points did emerge from the discussion, despite StateImpact’s bad intentions…
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Bradford County, PA Judge Keeps Chesapeake Royalty Lawsuit Alive

A Bradford County, PA judge has turned down Chesapeake Energy’s attempt to wiggle out of a royalty lawsuit on a technicality. However, the judge also punted the case to a higher court to settle what he calls “novel questions of law”–rather than spending more time and money on such issues at the county court level. This is good news for landowners in Bradford County who have been shafted by Chesapeake’s royalty scheme to shift the cost of piping and processing to landowners by using inflated values for those services. In December 2015, Pennsylvania’s felony-indicted Attorney General, Kathleen Kane (now gone), brought a lawsuit against Chesapeake Energy, Anadarko and Williams accusing them of, among other things, royalty fraud (see PA Atty General Sues Chesapeake Energy, Williams for Royalty Fraud). In May 2016, Chesapeake and Anadarko filed to dismiss Kane’s complaints against them, accusing Kane of attempting to litigate federal antitrust claims in state court (see Chesapeake, Anadarko Try to Wiggle Out of PA Royalty Lawsuit). In June 2016 Kane’s office fired back by filing a motion to keep the case in state, not federal, court. In August, U.S. Middle District Judge Christopher C. Conner granted Kane’s motion–the case stays in the state court system (see Lawsuit Against Chesapeake, Anadarko Heads Back to PA Court). With a new AG now in place, Chesapeake and Anadarko tried to get the lawsuit tossed yet again–this time by saying the law that the AG’s office claims was violated has to do with consumer protection, for people who buy things. Chessy & Anadarko argue landowners aren’t buying anything, they’re selling (minerals), so the law doesn’t protect them from predatory leasing practices (see Chesapeake Tries to Wiggle Out of PA Royalty Lawsuit on Technicality). The Bradford County judge didn’t buy Chesapeake’s argument…
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UGI Buys NatGas Pipeline Gathering System in NE PA

UGI is a major utility company in Pennsylvania, providing natural gas and electric service to 700,000 Pennsylvania residents across the state. UGI, via its Energy Services subsidiary, operates natural gas storage facilities, compressor stations, LNG plants and local pipeline gathering systems. UGI operates several gathering systems in northeastern PA. Yesterday the company announced is has purchased an existing gathering system from Rockdale Marcellus for an undisclosed sum. The Rockdale gathering system consists of 60 miles of gathering lines–along with dehydration and compression facilities–located in Tioga, Lycoming and Bradford counties in northeast PA. The system was purchased, on paper, by UGI subsidiary Texas Creek, so the gathering system has been rebranded UGI Texas Creek. MDN has a map of the new system below…
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Chesapeake Energy to Test Utica Shale in NE PA’s Bradford County

Chesapeake Energy CEO Doug Lawler says the company plans to drill a test Utica Shale well in its core Marcellus acreage in Bradford County, PA sometime early next year. Which is really big news. Bradford is in the northeastern corner of the state, next door to Susquehanna County (east of Bradford). Susquehanna and Bradford have been heavily drilled by Chesapeake–at least in the Marcellus. Both counties sit in the “dry gas” (methane only) zone of the play, with no NGL or oil production, according to MDN’s forthcoming Marcellus and Utica Shale Almanac (stay tuned for more details about the Almanac). There have been very few, if any, shale wells drilled into the Utica in either Bradford or Susquehanna. However, there have been a few Utica wells drilled in Tioga County, which shares a border with and sits west of Bradford. And beyond Tioga (in the northerntier) sits Potter County, where there are more Utica wells. So Chessy wants to see if the Utica in Bradford may be productive. Lord knows the company has enough locations. According to the forthcoming Almanac, Chesapeake had 473 actively producing shale wells in Bradford in 2016. Now if we could only get Chesapeake to stop screwing landowners out of royalties…
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TGP’s Susquehanna West Project Gets Green Light to Begin Service

In April 2015 Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) subsidiary filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build 8.2 miles of new looping pipeline in Tioga County, PA and beef up two compressor stations in Bradford County, PA. The $142 million project is called the Susquehanna West Project. It will increase capacity along the 300 Line section of TGP, bumping it up by 145 million cubic feet per day (Mmcf/d). All of the extra capacity is spoken for by Statoil and the wells they’ve drilled in NEPA. Last September, FERC approved the project (see FERC Approves Another KM Pipeline Project in the PA Marcellus). The project was forecast to be done and dusted, going online, by Nov. 1. Usually we bring you news about such projects being delayed. In a happy reversal of that trend, last week FERC granted Kinder Morgan permission to bring the project online, NOW, a full two months ahead of schedule. Christmas came early this year…
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Chesapeake Tries to Wiggle Out of PA Royalty Lawsuit on Technicality

In December 2015, Pennsylvania’s felony-indicted Attorney General, Kathleen Kane (now gone), brought a lawsuit against Chesapeake Energy, Anadarko and Williams accusing them of, among other things, royalty fraud (see PA Atty General Sues Chesapeake Energy, Williams for Royalty Fraud). In May 2016, MDN reported that Chesapeake and Anadarko had filed to dismiss Kane’s complaints against them, accusing Kane of attempting to litigate federal antitrust claims in state court (see Chesapeake, Anadarko Try to Wiggle Out of PA Royalty Lawsuit). In June 2016 Kane’s office fired back by filing a motion to keep the case in state, not federal, court. In August, U.S. Middle District Judge Christopher C. Conner granted Kane’s motion–the case stays in the state court system (see Lawsuit Against Chesapeake, Anadarko Heads Back to PA Court). We now have a new AG (thank God), but it’s the same case and once again Chesapeake and Anadarko are trying to get the lawsuit tossed–this time by saying the law that the AG claims was violated has to do with consumer protection–for people who buy things. Chessy & Anadarko argue landowners aren’t buying anything, they’re selling (minerals), so the law doesn’t protect them from predatory leasing practices. The Bradford County judge in charge of the case is considering their latest argument to wiggle out of the lawsuit, based on a technicality…
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IMG Midstream: Army of Tiny PA Marcellus-Powered Electric Plants

MDN first told you about IMG Midstream in August 2014 (see 7 Small Marcellus-Powered Electric Plants Coming to NEPA). At the time, IMG was proposing to build seven “tiny” natural gas-fired electric plants–each plant producing on the order of 20-22 megawatts of electricity (enough to power 13,000 homes). IMG added a couple of more to their plans in November 2014 (see Details on IMG’s “Tiny” Marcellus-Powered Electric Plants in NEPA). The beauty of IMG’s tiny natgas electric plants is that they are really small–about the size of a basketball court; they produce almost no air pollution; and they are quiet. It’s a really cool concept. IMG’s very first tiny electric plant, in Susquehanna County, PA, went online in October 2015. The second plant, in Bradford County, PA, went online this past June (see IMG’s Tiny NatGas-Fired Electric Plants Take Off in the Marcellus). The former 9 planned plants ballooned with plans for 25 plants operating within the next five years! We spotted a recent article about IMG’s activities in southwestern PA and that got us to thinking. How are they doing with their plan to build 25 plants? So far, they’ve built 11 and are on the prowl for more locations. We have the latest update on IMG and their startegy of zigging (building small power plants) when everyone else is zagging (building large plants)…
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Williams Closes Deal to Increase Ownership in NEPA Pipeline System

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In 2014 Williams bought out Access Midstream, the renamed and former division of Chesapeake Energy called Chesapeake Midstream (see Big News: Williams Partners Buying Access Midstream for $6B). When Williams bought Access, one of the regional pipeline gathering systems it got as part of that deal is what Williams calls the Bradford Supply Hub (named after Bradford County, PA). In February, Williams announced a deal with a part-owner for portions of the Bradford Supply Hub, Western Gas, to buy out Western’s portion (see Williams Cuts Deal to Increase Ownership in NEPA Pipeline System). Through an elaborate deal, Williams gets Western’s 33.75% ownership stake in what is called the Rome and Liberty natural gas gathering systems (part of the Bradford Supply Hub), along with a check for $155 million. In return, Williams is transferring to Western its 50% ownership stake in the Delaware Basin JV Gathering pipeline system, located along the New Mexico/Texas border. That deal, first announced in February, is now done…
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Positive Signs that Shale Drilling is Coming Back in Central PA

As MDN has noted over the past several months, the signs have been positive that Marcellus/Utica drilling is picking up once again. But that doesn’t mean it’s picking up in every location. Or does it? One of the hotbeds of drilling activity “back in the day” was in several northeastern/central Pennsylvania counties, including Tioga, Bradford, Lycoming and Sullivan. But then the bottom fell out of the industry (with super low prices) and drilling all but dried up in those counties. The good news is that there are signs of life, once again, in the central counties of PA. Between Nov. 1 and Mar. 6, 30 drilling permits were issued in Tioga County, 12 permits in Lycoming County, and (somewhat surprising), 8 permits issued in Sullivan County. Shale is coming back!…
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Williams Cuts Deal to Increase Ownership in NEPA Pipeline System

In the midstream (i.e. pipeline) world, it seems like nobody owns 100% of anything. Big midstream companies like Williams and Kinder Morgan (and others) are composed of subsidiaries and (sometimes) MLPs–master limited partnerships. And beyond the companies within companies (like a Russian nesting doll), often pieces of pipeline systems are co-owned with other companies, even competitors! In 2014 Williams bought out Access Midstream, the renamed and former division of Chesapeake Energy called Chesapeake Midstream (see Big News: Williams Partners Buying Access Midstream for $6B). When Williams bought Access, one of the regional pipeline gathering systems it got as part of that deal is what Williams calls the Bradford Supply Hub (named after Bradford County, PA). Yesterday Williams announced a deal with a part-owner for portions of the Bradford Supply Hub, Western Gas, to buy out Western’s portion. Through an elaborate deal, Williams gets Western’s 33.75% ownership stake in what is called the Rome and Liberty natural gas gathering systems (part of the Bradford Supply Hub), along with a check for $155 million. In return, Williams is transferring to Western its 50% ownership stake in the Delaware Basin JV Gathering pipeline system, located along the New Mexico/Texas border…
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Northeastern PA Counties Explore Alliance to Pass Royalty Reform

One of the issues that isn’t going away is the demand by landowners in some Pennsylvania counties, like Bradford, for lawmakers in the state to pass a bill that guarantees them what they believe they are already guaranteed–a 12.5% minimum royalty, based on a 1979 law that states they should get such a royalty. We’ve extensively covered what we call a civil war between two parties who are otherwise friendly toward each other–landowners and shale drillers. Last year the issue came to a head with House Bill (HB) 1391 (see our list of stories here). In a nutshell, landowners say Chesapeake Energy and some other drillers are taking post-production deductions out of landowners’ royalty checks, resulting in royalty payments far below 12.5%. In some cases landowners are receiving bills for money owed to the driller–after the driller pulled the gas out of the ground! Who in their right minds leases land for drilling so they can PAY the driller! It is an outrage and landowners want it stopped. Drillers, on the other hand, say you can’t just change contracts after they’ve been signed, punishing the entire industry for the bad actions of a few. Drillers say the proper response is for landowners to sue the bad apples. Frankly, it’s all a mess. The new news is that landowners from Bradford and several other northeastern PA counties, tired of being outmaneuvered by drillers, are actively talking about forming an alliance to try and garner enough support in Harrisburg to get a bill like HB 1391 passed this year…
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Thai Company Banpu Makes 2nd Investment in Northeast Marcellus

1/18/17 Update: The seller has now been identified as Chief Oil & Gas. See the appended press release below from Banpu’s U.S. partner Kalnin Ventures.

Last May, Range Resources sold its portion of a joint venture in northeast Pennsylvania (see Thai Company Buys Out Range Resources’ JV in NEPA for $112M). Banpu Pcl, Thailand’s largest coal producer, invested $112 million to purchase Range’s Marcellus non-operated JV operations in Bradford County, PA. The “Chaffee Corners Joint Exploration Agreement” gave Banpu an ownership share in 62 producing wells and another 14 wells waiting on completion, and a share in 170+ more drilling locations. Talisman is the operator of the wells and the company that does the drilling in the JV. Banpu liked it so much, they’re back. The company announced today it has acquired a 10.24% stake in more Marcellus leases in northeastern PA for $63 million. The information we’re able to locate does not specify who the driller is in which Banpu is sinking money, but the acreage is located near the first deal–presumably also in Bradford County…
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