WV County Court Judge Orders MVP to Stop Work at River Crossing

On again, off again, on again, off again. Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), EQT Midstream’s 303-mile pipeline from Wetzel County, WV to the Transco Pipeline in Pittsylvania County, has had its share of ups and downs. A myriad of lawsuits have been filed against the project. Wacky radicals took to sitting in trees and poles to try and stop it. Most of the illegal protests and lawsuits only served to slow down the project, not stop it. But then a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club (and a few other colluding Big Green groups) yielded fruit in July when a federal court pulled permits for 3.5 miles of the pipeline where it runs through Jefferson National Forest (see Court Cancels Permits for Mountain Valley Pipe on Fed Land). Based on that court action, in early August the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told MVP to stop work everywhere, on all 303 miles (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). FERC’s stop-work order resulted in thousands of layoffs (thank you, jobs-destroying Sierra Club). A few weeks later, FERC reversed itself and allowed work to restart everywhere, except for the 3.5 miles in JNF (see FERC Lifts Mountain Valley Pipe Stop-Work Order, Rehiring). And now, here we go again. This time a county judge ordered MVP to stop work at the Greenbrier River. Yes, it’s just one isolated location and the stoppage is “temporary”–at least until the next hearing on Oct. 23. But given the way antis have leveraged such minor incidents in the past into larger work stoppages, we’re always weary when it happens. Here’s the latest in the MVP soap opera…
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WV Shale Industry Pushes Back Against Severance Tax Increase

What is it about teachers’ unions that makes them so greedy for other people’s money? We’ve told you, for years, about the quest by Pennsylvania’s teachers’ unions (most of them in the Philadelphia area) who want to raid the coffers of Marcellus drillers via a confiscatory severance tax slapped on top of an existing impact tax slapped on top of corporate income taxes. You can never have too many taxes in education-land. That’s the only way they get paid. In West Virginia it’s the same routine. WV already has a severance tax, a nosebleed-high severance tax of 5% (one of the highest in the country). And yet teachers want to increase it–so they can grab that money for moi (see WV Teachers Get Greedy, Want to Boost Already-High Severance Tax). Ever-vigilant, the shale industry is pushing back against the money-grabbers. At a recent “interim meeting” of the WV legislature, Anne Blakenship, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA), told legislators that the oil and gas industry is not asking for a reduction in the severance tax, but they ARE asking that the rate not go up. Phil Reale from the West Virginia Independent Oil and Gas Association (WV IOGA) said, “We certainly don’t want to be taxed more.” Let’s hope lawmakers were listening and not looking at their smart phones…
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WV Consumers Saved $4B Over 10 Years Thx to M-U Shale

Although the push is on to get Marcellus/Utica molecules to new markets where they can fetch higher prices, there is a group who has benefited in a major way from an abundance of cheap, clean-burning shale gas. That would be the residents and businesses located in West Virginia. Industry group Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) has just published a new report that reveals WV residents and businesses have saved a cumulative $4 billion from 2006-2016 as a result of the decreasing price of natural gas in the state. You may recall not long ago CEA published a similar study for Pennsylvania (see PA Consumers Save $30B Over 10 Years Thx to Marcellus Shale). Yes, PA’s numbers were much bigger than WV’s, but PA has more population (12.8 million in PA vs. 1.8 million in WV), therefore more chances for savings. And PA has more natgas in the ground than WV. But still, $4 billion in savings is nothing to sneeze at! That’s $4 billion in money in people’s pockets that didn’t come from other people’s pockets (via taxes) and got spent on goods and services with a beneficial ripple effect throughout the economy. Here’s the CEA report on the great news that West Virginian’s hit the $4 billion lottery in shale…
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NETL Picks 2nd Morgantown Site for Additional Fracking Research

MSEEL test site in the Morgantown Industrial Park – click for larger version

Important research on fracking by West Virginia University (WVU) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Morgantown, WV continues. Last year we told you that NETL and its Marcellus Shale Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (MSEEL) program are working on “mastering the subsurface”–learning what happens at the smallest level of fracturing shale, so they can improve recovery rates using new processes and materials (see NETL Morgantown Working on Breakthrough Shale Production Techniques). In addition to improving recovery, they’re also looking for ways to cut down on water use. Since there’s a fair bit of water already trapped in shale, NETL is experimenting with carbon dioxide foam as a way of using less water. They’ve even experimented with using natural gas itself to frack rock. Great work being done by NETL/MSEEL. So far that work has happened at one live, fracked shale gas well near Morgantown, drilled by Northeast Natural Energy. Now comes word that researchers are setting up a second test site, also in the Morgantown vicinity (Blacksville). As before, the aim “is geared toward improving gas recovery from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing at sites throughout the region”…
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New WV Facility Opens to Handle Radioactive M-U Waste

SECUR, a privately owned company headquartered in Pittsburgh that (among other things) cleans up radioactive waste from shale drilling, has just opened a new 10-acre branch facility in Tyler County, WV to do just that–to clean up NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials) and TENORM (technically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material). The facility cleans up both liquids (wastewater) and solids (drill cuttings) that contain a tiny bit of radiation in them, making them suitable for safe disposal. No, there is no permanent storage at the facility–the site, located in Friendly, WV, is only used to clean up the stuff coming in. SECUR then repackages the material and sends it back out to licensed disposal facilities. And did we mention…SECUR is a woman-owned, small business? Nice. Here’s the good news of yet more jobs and an essential service have come to the WV part of the Marcellus/Utica…
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Problem at Majorsville Compressor Reduced Flow on Rover Pipe

Rover system map – click for larger version

Near the end of August, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave Energy Transfer Partners permission to start up both the Burgettstown and Majorsville Laterals, beginning Sept. 1 (see FERC Finally Approves 2 Key Rover Pipeline Laterals, Sept 1 Start). The Majorsville lateral is a “feeder pipeline” that connects supplies of natural gas produced in West Virginia (and western PA) to the main trunk of the Rover Pipeline. Rover is a super highway flowing Utica (and Marcellus) gas to the Midwest and Canada. But without smaller laterals (feeders) flowing gas into the main trunk of Rover, there’s no gas to sell to anyone. Majorsville did, indeed, start up on or about Sept. 1st, but part (or all) of the Majorsville lateral went down a few days later, last Thursday, because a piece of equipment in the Majorsville compressor station needed “maintenance.” According to ET, such maintenance is “part of the normal startup” for a compressor station. Whatever the issue/problem was, it was quickly fixed and by Friday (a day later) the full Majorsville lateral was back up and running…
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Responding to Sore Loser Antis re Shale Court Cases

Blond Boy Crying

Ever notice how antis get all hot and bothered when they lose a court case? They holler and scream and rant and rave. Some even lay down and roll on the floor like two-year-olds. The refrain is always the same: “The court sided with the natural gas industry!” But that claim is not true. The editorial writers at the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail recently penned an editorial that, in so many words, tells antis to grow up. They do an excellent job of pointing out the courts are not siding with the industry, they’re siding with the law. Which is a strange and unfamiliar concept for many snowflake antis who were never told “NO” by their parents…
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Southwestern Sells Fayetteville Shale, Now Focused 100% on M-U

Some exciting news to share. Southwestern Energy, headquartered in Texas, has cut a deal to sell all of their Fayetteville Shale (Arkansas) assets to Flywheel Energy for $1.865 billion in cash. The sale makes Southwestern a pure play, 100% focused driller on the Marcellus/Utica region (i.e. Appalachia). What will Southwestern do with an extra $1.865 billion? According to their announcement: (1) Spend $900 million of it on retiring IOUs (“notes”) previously issued. That is, debt retirement. (2) Buy back up to $200 million in outstanding shares of stock. (3) Spend $600 million of it over the next two years (2019 & 2020) on more Marcellus/Utica drilling. But not just any M-U drilling. Southwestern owns acreage in both northeastern PA and the northern panhandle of WV (with a some acreage in Washington County, PA). According to Southwestern’s announcement, the extra $600 million will go to drilling in the company’s “liquids-rich Appalachia assets.” Northeastern PA is dry dry dry–no liquids. WV landowners brace yourselves–Southwestern will soon bring an extra $600 million (over half a billion dollars) worth of drilling to your area. If you’re signed with Southwestern and haven’t yet seen drilling, you now stand a much better chance! Here’s the exciting news, along with extra resources we’ve located to better help you understand the news…
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WV’s Acting Secretary of Commerce is MIA – Hurting Investment?

In an act still befuddling for us, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice fired Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher in June (see WV Commerce Secretary Who Brokered $83B China Deal…Fired). Thrasher took over as Commerce Secretary in January 2017 as part of the new Gov. Jim Justice Administration. Thrasher is “the guy” most responsible for putting together the massive $83.7 billion deal signed by China last November to invest in WV shale and petrochemicals (see China Agrees to Invest Amazing $83.7 BILLION in WV Shale, Petchem). It was the relationships established by Thrasher that led to that deal. So what happened to Thrasher? Why was he fired? It has nothing to do with the China deal. Anyway, Justice appointed W. Clayton Burch as Acting Secretary of Commerce. According to attendees at the recent West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Business Summit, nobody has seen Burch. Or at least, almost nobody. The head of the Chamber had face-to-face meeting with him once. Business leaders and legislators in WV are grumbling that they haven’t seen or heard from Burch since his appointment 80 days ago. It’s pretty obvious he’s just filling in until Justice gets off his derriere and appoints a new, permanent Secretary. The concern is that important projects, like the $83.7 billion deal with China, are suffering. Who will invest in WV if there’s no one to make decisions and propel projects forward?…
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MVP 2nd Big Win This Wk – 4th Circuit Lifts Stay of Water Permit

As we reported yesterday, EQT Midstream’s Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) got some excellent news–that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had lifted a stop-work order on the project (see FERC Lifts Mountain Valley Pipe Stop-Work Order, Rehiring). However, two clouds remain over the project, both created by the Fourth District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in response to lawsuits from the Sierra Club. One of those clouds is from the Fourth Circuit overturning permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management that allows MVP to cross 3.5 miles of Jefferson National Forest in West Virginia and Virginia (see Court Cancels Permits for Mountain Valley Pipe on Fed Land). EQT is working on resolving the issue so that USFS and BLM can reissue permits that will pass muster with the court. The other cloud appeared when the Sierra Club convinced the Fourth Circuit to suspend a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that allows MVP to construct the pipeline across streams and rivers in the West Virginia. The Clubbers got the court to suspend stream and river crossings based on a technicality–that MVP could not, in the case of four river crossings, get the work done within the 72 hour period stipulated by the permit. Therefore the court suspended work at all 591 stream/river crossings the pipeline traverses in WV (see Sierra Club Succeeds in Delaying MVP Project in WV via Court Order). In early July, the Army Corps reworked and reinstated the permit as it applies to the four river crossings in question (see Army Corps Engrs Reinstates MVP Permits for 4 WV River Crossings). The good news is that the Fourth Circuit has granted a motion by the Army Corps to reinstate its permits for all stream/river crossings for MVP. Sunlight is breaking through!…
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Fayette County, WV Loses Court Case to Block MVP Compressor Stn

Sometimes counties (and local towns) try to seize power that’s not theirs constitutionally. Particularly when they’re led by liberal Democrats who like to arbitrarily make up their own oil and gas regulations. Such is the case in Fayette County, WV. Most oil and gas regulation is done at the state level–it is a state function. Unless it’s a pipeline that crosses several states. Those projects are regulated at the federal level, to protect citizens in neighboring states from arbitrary and capricious actions (like those New York is engaged in). Counties don’t get to decide whether or not to allow an injection well, or a pipeline. Yet the lib Dems in Fayette believe they can make those decisions. And now, for the second time in two years, a federal court has slapped them down. Two time losers. In August 2017, Fayette County lost a federal court case to block injection wells in the county (see Fayette County, WV Loses Appeal to Block Injection Well). On Wednesday, the three lib Dem commissioners of Fayette lost a second court case–this one an attempt to block a Mountain Valley Pipeline compressor station. Both lawsuits, last year and this year, were aimed at stopping EQT projects…
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FERC Approves Mountaineer XPress Pipe Rate Increase

We spotted a story that contains information we don’t fully understand. Columbia Gas Transmission is currently building the Mountaineer XPress Pipeline, a $2 billion, 170-mile pipeline that will flow 2.7 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day of natural gas from existing and future points of receipt along or near the Columbia pipeline system–most of it located in West Virginia (see Details on Columbia Pipeline Mountaineer XPress Pipeline Project). At 2.7 Bcf/d, Mountaineer XPress is the second largest (by volume) new pipeline project for the Marcellus/Utica region–second only to Rover’s 3.25 Bcf/d pipeline. It is a big and important project. When Columbia (aka TransCanada) filed the original application, approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, they sought permission to charge $9.827 per dekatherm (one dekatherm is equivalent to one thousand cubic feet, or 1 Mcf) to flow gas along the pipeline. Put another way, shippers without a contract who want to ship along the pipeline will pay $9.83/Mcf to ship gas. Since gas typically fetches less than $3/Mcf, how can you make any money? That’s what we can’t figure out. Perhaps one of our sharp MDN readers can enlighten us? MDN Note: We have THE BEST readers! Dmitry Brown, a Senior Analyst with UGI Energy Services, wrote to clear up our confusion. The prices are per month, not per day. Shippers on MXP were expecting to pay $9.827/Mcf/month, or $ 0.32/Mcf/day. Columbia recently filed a request with FERC to increase the charge from $9.83/Mcf to a whopping $14.66/Mcf! The reason, according to Columbia, is that project costs have ballooned from $2 billion to $3 billion, “related to contractor labor costs, inspection costs, and outside services costs that substantially exceeded the contingency established for such charges.” Last Friday FERC approved the 49% increase. Now shippers will have to pay $14.663/Mcf/month, or $0.48/Mcf/day. Quite an increase…
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China Official Says $83.7B Deal with WV Still On, Some Progress

Some encouraging words, but also some outright lies, coming from Ling Wen, president of China Energy Investment about China’s planned investment in West Virginia. Wen addressed reporters yesterday in Hong Kong, and some of the conversation turned to China Energy Investment’s 20-year deal to invest $83.7 billion in WV’s shale and petrochemical industries (see China Agrees to Invest Amazing $83.7 BILLION in WV Shale, Petchem). Months ago we speculated that the impending trade war with China might put that investment on hold, a fear that was confirmed in June. Chinese officials were supposed to attend the Northeast U.S. Petrochemical Construction Conference in Pittsburgh to announce the first round of investments in WV. However, Brian Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, said given the trade war with China, the officials elected to stay home instead. Anderson said at that time, “The pending trade war has put this project in jeopardy” (see Trade War Puts $83.7 Billion Chinese Investment in WV on Hold). But a few weeks later Anderson changed his tune. He told a reporter, “In terms of the development process, we continue to move forward…We’re even working on the next potential visits by officials and team members, so it’s not just the high-level executives, but development teams” (see $83.7B Chinese Investment in WV Shale & Petchem Still Alive?). Yesterday Ling Wen said even though there is an ongoing trade war between China and the U.S., the WV deal is still on. That’s good news. Wen also said that media reports that China cancelled trips “was not true.” That’s an outright lie. They did cancel trips in June…
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FERC Finally Approves 2 Key Rover Pipeline Laterals, Sept 1 Start

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) game of hardball with Energy Transfer over the Rover Pipeline has finally paid off. For months FERC has refused to allow four Rover laterals–feeder pipelines to shuttle gas from where it’s produced into the main Rover pipeline–to start up (see FERC Plays Hardball with Rover – Refuses to Certify 4 Laterals). The reason? ET has not, according to FERC, lived up to its word on restoration work. Things like smoothing over the dirt and replanting grass and other vegetation over top of the buried pipeline. Earlier this month ET assured FERC it would have the majority of restoration work done on two key laterals–the Burgettstown Lateral in southwestern PA, and the Majorsville Lateral in the northern panhandle of WV–by the end of this month (see FERC Continues to Block Rover Laterals Until Restoration Work Done). With recent evidence that ET is indeed living up to its word, last Thursday FERC gave ET permission to start up both the Burgettstown and Majorsville Laterals on Sept. 1. The majority of the restoration work will be done by this Friday, Aug. 31. However, there will still be some odds and ends after that (addressing “ground movement areas) that will go on through December. That leaves two final laterals–the CGT (Columbia Gas Transmission) and Sherwood Laterals, still not online. This is a prime example of FERC playing hardball, contrary to the “rubber stamp” antis claim FERC is for pipeline companies…
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WV Teachers Get Greedy, Want to Boost Already-High Severance Tax

We’ve written, forever, about the quest by Pennsylvania’s teacher’s unions (most of them in the Philadelphia area) who want to raid the coffers of Marcellus drillers via a confiscatory severance tax slapped on top of an existing impact tax slapped on top of corporate income taxes. You can never have too many taxes in education-land. That’s the only way they get paid. Neighboring states like Ohio and West Virginia already have a severance tax. It’s hard comparing apples to apples, but essentially PA drillers pay a bit more than OH drillers, but a whole lot less than WV drillers. The severance tax in OH is 1.25%. In WV the severance tax is a whopping 5%. And yet, amazingly, the teacher’s unions in WV are now clamoring to boost the severance tax even more! They want to boost the tax by 2.5% to 7.5%–which would kill the Marcellus/Utica industry in the state. It would be a death sentence. The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) is on the case, pushing back against this lunacy…
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FERC Lets MVP Restart Work on 25% of Pipe; MVP Lays off ‘Thousands’

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has had a change of heart–sort of–with respect to their stop-work order issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). We previously told you that on August 3, FERC told MVP to stop all construction prompted by an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacating permits issued for the project as it crosses 3.5 miles of Jefferson National Forest in West Virginia and Virginia (see FERC Shuts Down ALL Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline in WV, VA). In a letter to FERC this past Tuesday, MVP asked FERC to reconsider and allow them to restart construction for at least part of the pipeline. FERC agreed and partially lifted the stop-work order a day later, on Wednesday. The new order allows MVP to work on the project for 77 of its 303 miles–about 25%. However, in a sad announcement, MVP said because so much of the project remains (for now) idled, it is laying off 50% of the workers who had been working on it. It’s estimated that around 6,000 people are employed directly or indirectly on the project, which means “thousands” (perhaps as many as 3,000 people) are now out of work–thanks to the Sierra Club and their lawsuit. Hey, how many jobs has the Sierra Club created? What’s that? NONE?! And how many jobs has the Sierra Club destroyed? We’d estimate it to be in the tens of thousands. MVP also announced that due to the ongoing work stoppage and delays, the project completion and in-service date has now slipped to the end of next year–an additional nine months. It’s a sad day indeed…
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