First Choice Energy

Monday, December 24, 2018

Rice Brothers Challenging EQT Leadership

EQT headquarters in Pittsburgh
From Reuters:
EQT Corp’s board of directors will ask to meet Toby and Derek Rice for talks, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday, after the two brothers threatened the largest producer of natural gas in the United States with a board challenge. 
The Rice family sold its company Rice Energy Inc to EQT for $6.7 billion in cash and stock last year. It now owns about 2.75 percent of EQT, and Toby and Derek Rice wrote a letter last week to EQT’s board asking for a “course correction”. 
The brothers have also warned EQT that they will nominate their own directors to its board at its next annual shareholder meeting in 2019 if a “mutually agreeable outcome” is not reached. 
EQT Chairman Jim Rohr and Chief Executive Rob McNally plan to write to the Rice brothers to ask them to discuss their plans for the company in more detail with the board, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
Click here to continue reading. 

And further on this drama, from the Wall Street Journal:
The brothers who sold Rice Energy Inc. to EQT Corp. EQT 2.46% , but are now pushing to take over running the company, laid out their demands for a shake-up and have another activist’s backing in Elliott Management Corp. 
Toby and Derek Rice wrote Monday to the natural-gas company that their turnaround plan involves installing Toby Rice as chief executive and replacing board chairman James Rohr and three other directors they propose, according to the letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal. They suggest adding Toby Rice to the board as one of the replacement directors and selecting a mutually agreed-upon chairman. 
The two brothers co-founded Rice Energy with their brother Daniel Rice IV, who currently sits on EQT’s 12-person board. The two men would like Mr. Rice IV to remain on the board, according to people familiar with the matter. Toby Rice was chief operating officer of Rice until its $6.7 billion sale to EQT last year and had previously been its CEO. 
The former Rice management team has the support of activist hedge fund Elliott and at least two top-10 shareholders listed by FactSet, according to people familiar with the matter. One of them, activist hedge fund D.E. Shaw, came out publicly in support of the Rices last week.
Here is the link to that article in its entirety. 

BLM Auctions Off More Wayne National Forest Land

Wayne National Forest
From NGI:
Nearly half of the roughly 2,456 acres in Ohio, Michigan and Mississippi auctioned for oil and gas development last week by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Eastern States Office received no bids. 
Instead, about 1,313 acres in all three states were leased by Texas-based R & R Royalty Ltd. The rest of the acreage in Muskegon County, MI, and George County, MS, attracted no bids. The sale generated only about $ 22,636, but the bulk of those profits came from just 75 acres in Ohio's Wayne National Forest (WNF). 
The parcels, in the Utica Shale hotspot of Monroe County, earned about $ 200 / acre and took in nearly $ 16,000, including bonus payments and other fees. 
BLM said in 2015 it was considering leasing land in the WNF's Marietta Unit, which spans 40,000 acres in Ohio's Monroe, Washington and Noble counties, which were nominated by the industry for unconventional development. The Eastern States Office began auctioning parcels two years ago and land in the forest has generated more than $ 7 million since.
Read more by clicking here. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Digging Deep Into the 3rd Quarter 2018 Utica Shale Production Figures

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has now released the production data from the Utica shale for the third quarter of 2018. As always, we are going to give you a look at how the numbers compare to past quarters, past years, and how they break down among the various drillers who are active in Ohio and the counties where they are drilling. We'll look at where the production numbers would end up for 2018 if they continue at the same pace as they have had through the first three quarters. We also have the top 10 oil and gas wells detailed below.

PRODUCTION RATE COMPARISONS

First up, let's take a look at how the quarterly data compares from the first quarter of 2014 (which is when the ODNR began reporting quarterly data rather than one yearly report) through the third quarter of 2018. As a reminder, all oil figures are 42-gallon barrels, and all gas production is measured in MCF:


Oil production continues its rebound in the third quarter.  The total output is the most we've seen since the first quarter of 2016, while the rate of oil per day in production hit 30 for the first time since the third quarter of 2016.  At the same time, the rate is still far off from the peak of 69 barrels per day in production that was reached in quarter two of 2015.

After seeing a slight decline in quarter two, gas production rates bounced back in the third quarter in terms of how much gas was produced per day in production.  The rate per well fell for the second straight quarter, though.  Still, overall gas produced hit another new peak.

The next table shows the production comparison year-over-year.


The stronger oil numbers of the past two quarters have put 2018 on pace to end the two year decline in total oil production and in fact post the second-highest yearly production number of the past eight years.  Meanwhile, the gas production from the first three quarters of this year is just a little bit short of matching the entire year's total from 2017 and will certainly set a new peak when the final production numbers are released for quarter four of 2018.

TOP PRODUCING WELLS

Here are the top 10 oil-producing wells in quarter one of 2018:


Eclipse Resources remains the Utica leader as far as oil production goes, with the top 6 wells of the quarter.  After Harrison County had a couple of the top 10 wells in previous quarters, this time around it's all Guernsey County, which has clearly distinguished itself as the top oil location in the Utica shale.

Here are the top 10 gas-producing wells from the quarter:


Eclipse Resources manages to claim the top spot on this list as well, but the rest belongs to Ascent Resources.  Jefferson County has emerged as a top gas producer, so its appearance in 6 of the top 10 spots is no surprise.

COUNTY-BY-COUNTY

Here is the production data broken down by county:


Guernsey County continues to produce by far the most oil despite having only sixth-most total wells in production.  On the quarter four report, Carroll County will likely surrender the top spot in terms of total wells in production to Belmont County after having been the leader in wells since the beginning of the Utica shale boom.

OPERATOR-BY-OPERATOR

And here are the results broken down by operator:


Eclipse Resources produced only 400,000 less barrels of oil than the leader in total oil production, Ascent Resources, despite Ascent having almost 3 times as many wells in production.  Meanwhile, Ascent's total gas production dwarfs every other driller's output.

We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of the data.  You can view the spreadsheet from the ODNR containing all of the production data by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

ODNR Releases 2018 Third Quarter Utica Shale Production Data

From the Ohio Department of Natural Resources:
During the third quarter of 2018, Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced 5,545,536 barrels of oil and 605,716,125 Mcf (605 billion cubic feet) of natural gas, according to figures released today by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). 
Natural gas production from the third quarter of 2018 showed a 31.44% increase over the third quarter of 2017, while oil production increased 31.79% for the same period. 
                                2017 Quarter 3 (Shale) 2018 Quarter 3 (Shale)     % Change
Barrels of Oil                 4,207,674 bbl                 5,545,536 bbl                      31.79%
Mcf of Natural Gas 460,844,826 Mcf            605,716,125 Mcf                31.44% 
The ODNR quarterly report lists 2,242 horizontal shale wells, 2,198 of which reported oil and natural gas production during the quarter. Of the wells reporting oil and natural gas results:  
  • The average amount of oil produced was 2,523 barrels.
  • The average amount of natural gas produced was 275,576 Mcf.
  • The average number of second quarter days in production was 84.

All horizontal production reports can be accessed at oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/production.
 
Ohio law does not require the separate reporting of Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) or condensate. Oil and gas reporting totals list on the report include NGLs and condensate.
We will have our detailed breakdown of the production data for you soon!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Rig Count Jumps by Two on Latest ODNR Utica Shale Report



New permits issued last week: 9 (Previous week: 13)  -4
Total horizontal permits issued: 2953 (Previous week: 2948)  +5
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2469 (Previous week: 2467)  +2
Total horizontal wells producing: 2092 (Previous week: 2088)  +4
Utica rig count: 19 (Previous week: 17)  +2

Monday, December 17, 2018

Landowners Advised to Hold Out on Cabot Lease Offers

From Farm and Dairy:
As landowners in the Ashland-Holmes-Wayne County area await official production results from exploratory wells drilled by Cabot Oil and Gas, attorneys for the landowners say it also makes sense to wait before signing any new lease agreements. 
A group of approximately 50 area farmers and landowners, many whom are part of the Mohican Basin Landowners Association, met in the basement of a church Dec. 13 for an update on drilling and leasing activity. 
Houston-based Cabot Oil and Gas has drilled two test wells in the area, with plans for several more, through a sublease agreement with TransCanada, the company that owns many of the old Columbia Gas leases in the area. 
Seeking signatures 
Over the past couple years, Cabot has had representatives in the area, seeking signatures from landowners that would amend and ratify existing leases, allowing Cabot to perform horizontal fracturing of wells that go beneath the Utica Shale formation.
Read more of this article by clicking here. 

Ohio Supreme Court Offers Clarification of Ohio Marketable Title Act

From Vorys:
On December 13, 2018, the Supreme Court of Ohio clarified the preservation of interests under the Ohio Marketable Title Act (OMTA). See Blackstone v. Moore, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-4959. In its decision, the Court held that under the OMTA, a deed reference to a previously reserved royalty interest is sufficiently-specific to preserve that royalty interest where the reference identifies the type of interest created and the person to whom the interest was granted. 
You can read the decision here
BACKGROUND 
The Kuhns conveyed real property to the Browns in 1915, reserving a one-half interest in oil and gas royalties. In 1969, the Browns’ successor-in-interest conveyed the same property to David Blackstone by a deed that referenced the Kuhns’ royalty interest as follows: 
Excepting the one-half interest in oil and gas royalty previously excepted by Nick Kuhn, their [sic] heirs and assigns in the above described sixty acres.
Click here to read more. 

Shale Industry Has Come a Long Way Since 2014

From Bloomberg:
U.S. shale’s response to OPEC’s decision to cut supply and boost prices: We’ll take it, but we don’t need it.

In 2014, the U.S. oil industry’s fate seemed to rest in the hands of OPEC ministers who were flooding the market with cheap oil in a push to obliterate them. Now, the cartel is in full retreat, agreeing to cut output to keep their own economies healthy even as U.S. production continues to surge. 
The move came in a week in which oil fell to near $50 a barrel, a price that four years ago would have panicked U.S. drillers. But since then, shale explorers have cut costs, boosted fracking efficiency and made wells longer and more productive. The result: Break evens for a 30 percent profit have been almost halved to just $45 a barrel in the prolific Permian Basin.

“The shale industry can now thrive in a $50 oil world,” David Deckelbaum, a New York-based analyst at Cowen & Co., said by phone. The OPEC decision to support prices over $50 in the U.S. “underwrites most of the industry.”

U.S. oil producers are now generating 11.7 million barrels of oil a day, about a third more than in 2014, with almost half the number of rigs. And last week, the industry became a net exporter for the first time in 75 years.
Continue reading that article by clicking here. 

Four Injured in Processing Plant Fire

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Four people were injured and one was in critical condition Thursday night after a fire at a Washington County gas processing plant Thursday night
The explosion involved a condensate tank at the MarkWest Energy facility at 800 Western Ave., in Houston, Pa. It was reported at 6:03 p.m. and the fire brought under control within an hour, according to county emergency officials.

Work was being performed by a contractor, Energy Transportation LLC of Bridgeport, W.Va., according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration which opened an investigation into the incident on Friday. 
All of the injured workers suffered burns. Two were flown to UPMC Mercy, including one person who was in critical condition Friday morning, officials said. The other two injured were flown to West Penn Hospital.
Click here to read more. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Monroe County Shale Rail Project Gets $20 Million Federal Grant

From a press release:
The following press releases from certain members of Congress were recently released to announce a $20 million federal grant for rail and pipeline infrastructure improvements at the Long Ridge Energy Terminal, wholly-owned by Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors LLC. 
Brown Announces $20 Million in Federal Funding for Monroe County Infrastructure Project 
Funds will Support Economic Development Efforts in Hannibal, Ohio 
Thursday, December 6, 2018 
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced $20 million in new federal funding for the town of Hannibal, Ohio to invest in its rail transloading project. This funding will allow the Ohio Rail Development Commission to construct a railyard and pipeline facility in order to increase the Long Ridge Energy Terminal’s capacity and connect it to existing rail infrastructure. This will give the area’s energy exports, including natural gas, better access to global markets. Brown wrote to the Department of Transportation in July in support of this project. 
“When our rural communities have up-to-date infrastructure, it helps them grow and support local jobs,” said Brown. “This project will have a significant economic impact on Hannibal and across Southeast Ohio.” 
The project will construct a pipeline-to-rail transloading facility at an energy terminal including truck racks with unloading bays, ladder tracks connecting to the recently constructed loop track, and rail loading arms. 
The funding for the project was made available through the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) through the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program.
Read more by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Some Recent Oil and Gas Numbers Are Very Impressive

From Forbes:
They say numbers don't lie, and the last two weeks for the U.S. oil and gas industry have seen the announcements of some pretty amazing numbers. These are numbers that demonstrate exactly how productive and efficient the business has become, and numbers that must be put into some context to understand how extraordinary they really are. 
So, as we move into mid-December 2018, let's give it a shot: 
The U.S became a "net exporter" of petroleum liquids for the first time 75 years. - That's right, the week of November 30 through December 5 saw the United States of America actually export more crude oil and other oil-derived liquids than it imported from other countries. The key part of that sentence is "other oil-derived liquids," which include gasoline, diesel and other refined products. Rolling all of those products into the equation, the U.S. exported about 211,000 barrels per day more than it imported for the week, as reported by Bloomberg
The U.S. did not become a net exporter of "crude oil," as some others in the energy news media mistakenly reported. As Robert Rapier reported at Forbes.com over the weekend, our country is still a sizable net importer of crude alone, an equation that will not be reversed anytime soon.
Read more by clicking right here.

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OPEC and Allies Agree to Slash Oil Production

From CNBC:
Major oil producers have reached a deal to cut oil production and boost the market, following two days of grueling negotiations and despite opposition from U.S. President Donald Trump
OPEC clinched the deal with allied oil-producing nations including Russia at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria on Friday. The gathering came after deep divisions in the energy alliance were laid bare at a closely-watched meeting on Thursday, with OPEC unable to agree on the terms of crude output cuts. 
The alliance will take 1.2 million barrels per day off the market for the first six months of 2019. The 15-member OPEC cartel has agreed to reduce its output by 800,000 bpd, while Russia and the allied producers will contribute a 400,000 bpd reduction.

The deal is in line with expectations for the allies to throttle back output by 1 million to 1.4 million bpd.
Now we will likely see U.S. shale drillers ramp up oil production.  Click here to read the rest of this story from CNBC.

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NEXUS Owner and Contractor Facing At Least a Dozen Lawsuits from Ohio Landowners

From The Canton Repository:
Several landowners along the NEXUS pipeline have sued the pipeline’s owner and its construction contractor, saying the companies broke agreements to protect and restore properties affected by the project. 
Michael Thompson, the Jackson Township attorney representing the landowners, has filed a dozen lawsuits in Stark, Summit, Wayne and Columbiana counties in the last couple of weeks against NEXUS Gas Transmission and Michels Corp. 
NEXUS is a $2.1 billion pipeline backed by Detroit-based DTE Energy and Enbridge, a Canadian company. Michels Corp. is a construction firm in Wisconsin. 
The 36-inch diameter pipeline can carry up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Utica and Marcellus shales to users in Ohio, Michigan and Canada. 
Thompson said he anticipated filing more lawsuits in the coming weeks, and Tuesday he added Michels to a lawsuit filed against NEXUS in July. The lawsuits have two aims:
“One, to hold (NEXUS and Michels) accountable for specific damages that they’ve caused, and, two, so that in the future, a message is given to them that they can’t just do what they want and trample on the rights of the property owners,” Thompson said.
Click here to learn more about these lawsuits.

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Ohio House Approves Use of Brine for Road De-Icing

From Cleveland.com:
The Ohio House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation allowing brine from vertical oil and gas drilling to be used for road de-icing, despite concerns that the salty liquid contains dangerous and radioactive chemicals. 
House Bill 393, which heads to the Senate after passing the House 52-31, is touted by supporters as a way to promote the use of a product that is a safer and less corrosive alternative to rock salt to keep roads ice-free. 
State Rep. Anthony DeVitis noted that for more than a decade, the Ohio Department of Transportation used brine from drilling operations. 
However, in 2014, state lawmakers imposed restrictions on the sale of fracking byproducts that inadvertently applied to vertical wells too. DeVitis said this bill, which would not apply to brine used in horizontal “fracking” drilling operations, would rectify that move.
Find out more by clicking here.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

New Study: U.S. Shale Boom Has Lowered Trade Deficit by Over $250 Billion

From a press release:
The boom in U.S. oil and gas production over the past decade has exerted a moderating force on what is a large domestic merchandise trade deficit by helping reduce the country’s net petroleum imports, a new report by business information provider IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO) says. Continued U.S. production growth is now on track to make the country a net-exporter of petroleum for the first time since at least 1949. 
The total U.S. merchandise trade deficit in 2017 was nearly $250 billion lower than it otherwise would have been if the petroleum (crude oil, refined products and natural gas liquids – petroleum liquids separated out from natural gas and also known as NGLs) trade deficit had remained at its 2007 level, the report finds. IHS Markit projects that the U.S. petroleum trade balance will further improve by roughly $50 billion between 2017 and 2022. 
The findings are part of a new report entitled Trading Places: How the Shale Revolution Has Helped Keep the U.S. Trade Deficit in Check. The report examines the impact of rising U.S. oil, natural gas and chemicals production on the domestic trade merchandise balance and how the U.S. position in energy and chemicals may evolve in coming years.
Click here to read the rest of the release.

Click here to read more and fill out a form to download a copy of the report.

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Permitting Picks Up in Utica Shale



New permits issued last week: 13 (Previous week: 7)  +6
Total horizontal permits issued: 2948 (Previous week: 2935)  +13
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2467 (Previous week: 2462)  +5
Total horizontal wells producing: 2088 (Previous week: 2088)  +-0
Utica rig count: 17 (Previous week: 18)  -1

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December 2018 Shale Activity Maps Released by ODNR






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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ohio EPA Requests Early Stakeholder Input for Potential Oil and Gas Rules

Ohio EPA is requesting early stakeholder input until Dec. 19, 2018, on potential rules that would cover air pollution emissions from existing non-conventional oil and gas facilities that are not currently covered by Ohio EPA’s most recent general permit.
The rules would cover similar equipment and requirements that are currently covered in U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for the oil and natural gas sector, as well as Ohio EPA’s oil and gas general permits. The rules would cover both existing and new sources like oil and gas well sites and gas compressor stations.
This early stakeholder outreach provides stakeholders with an opportunity to provide their comments and suggestions before the Agency drafts the language of the rules. After the Agency has addressed comments received during this outreach, it will draft proposed rule language and hold an interested party comment period to solicit comments on the rule language before continuing through the rest of the rule promulgation steps. 
Information on the early stakeholder outreach for these rules can be found online at epa.ohio.gov/Portals/27/regs/3745-31/ESO_NewOilandGasRules_2018.pdf. Comments should be sent by the close of business on Dec. 19 to Mike Hopkins, Ohio EPA Division of Air Pollution Control, PO Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049, or by email to mike.hopkins@epa.ohio.gov.

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EQT Reaches Settlement in Class Action Suit Related to Royalties Scheme

From the Charleston Gazette Mail:
The trial of a major lawsuit alleging that energy giant EQT Corp. has been shortchanging thousands of West Virginians on their royalty payments won’t start Tuesday as planned, following the tentative settlement of the case late last week.

Details of the deal have not yet been made public.

Marvin Masters, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said “the parties have tentatively resolved the case,” pending settlement details being worked out.

A spokeswoman for the court confirmed the settlement, and said the trial was canceled.

Linda Robertson, spokeswoman for EQT, declined to comment on the settlement, citing “pending litigation.”

More than 10,000 individuals and businesses in West Virginia are estimated to be members of the class of plaintiffs. They allege that EQT, the state’s second-largest gas producer, was illegally deducting various costs — such as for transporting and processing gas — from their royalty payments.
Click here to read more about this.

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ETP's Sloppiness on Rover and Mariner East 2 Pipeline Led to Over 800 Permit Violations

From Reuters:
Energy Transfer LP (ET.N) and its Sunoco pipeline subsidiary have racked up more than 800 state and federal permit violations while racing to build two of the nation’s largest natural gas pipelines, according to a Reuters analysis of government data and regulatory records. 
The pipelines, known as Energy Transfer Rover and Sunoco Mariner East 2, will carry natural gas and gas liquids from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, an area that now accounts for more than a third of U.S. gas production. 
Reuters analyzed four comparable pipeline projects and found they averaged 19 violations each during construction. 
The Rover and Mariner violations included spills of drilling fluid, a clay-and-water mixture that lubricates equipment for drilling under rivers and highways; sinkholes in backyards; and improper disposal of hazardous waste and other trash. Fines topped $15 million. 
Energy Transfer also raised the ire of federal regulators by tearing down a historic house along Rover’s route.
The rest of the article can be read by clicking here.

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PARTA Opens Natural Gas Filling Station in Portage County

From the Record-Courier:
With Ohio’s status as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” it only makes sense for some expansion of infrastructure to make it available to area motorists, said CNG-One’s Michael Battaglia. 
About 60 people were on hand Wednesday as PARTA celebrated just that — the opening of its compressed natural gas filling station, which it uses in some of its buses and makes available to the public. The station is located at 2000 Summit Road just east of Kent State University. 
With the addition of CNG on the site, PARTA General Manager Claudia Amrhein said the agency now has two compressed natural gas buses and plans to buy eight more during the next several years. She encourages other fleet managers to consider converting as well. 
“The station is now open to the public, which makes it really possible for local fleet owners to consider converting to natural gas-powered vehicles,” she said. 
According to Battaglia, several area fleet managers are weighing whether to make the transition, which one should not do lightly. CNG-One converts vehicles running on regular gas to compressed natural gas vehicles.
Click here to read more.

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Ohio EPA Seeks Input on Proposed Modifications to Belmont County Cracker Plant

Hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 12, 2018


Ohio EPA will hold a public meeting to present information and accept comments on draft modifications to the wastewater discharge permit related to the proposed PTTGCA Petrochemical Complex that would be located at Old Route 7 and Ferry Landing Road (Hwy. 2), Shadyside.
The information session is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2018, and will be held at Shadyside Community Center, 50 E. 39th Street. The public hearing will immediately follow, during which the public can submit comments for the record concerning the draft modification.
The modifications to the wastewater discharge permit conditions requested by PTTGC America LLC would:
  • decrease the levels of pollutants to be discharged to the Ohio River;
  • change the locations where storm water, which is water that runs off impervious surfaces after rain events, will be discharged; and
  • modify limits at an internal monitoring station that does not directly discharge to surface water.
During the hearing, the public may present testimony concerning the modifications to the wastewater discharge permit.
The draft modified permit may be viewed online at wwwapp.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/permits/Draft/0IF00018.pdf or at the Ohio EPA Southeast District Office, 2195 Front St., Logan. Call for an appointment: (740) 385-8501.
Ohio EPA values public input. Comments will be accepted both verbally and in writing at the hearing and may be submitted through Dec. 19, 2018. Written comments may be emailed to: epa.dswcomments@epa.ohio.gov or by mail to Ohio EPA-DSW Permits Processing, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049.

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State Lawmakers Increase ODNR Budget for Plugging Wells

From The Times Reporter:
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is revving up its program to plug oil and gas wells that were left behind by their owners. 
State lawmakers more than doubled the plugging program’s budget earlier this year to $15 million. 
ODNR plans to plug 173 wells this fiscal year, and has entered contracts to plug 55 of those wells at a cost of $3.6 million since July 1. 
ODNR spent $6 million to plug 83 wells last fiscal year, a price tag and number of wells that were records for the plugging program, which has been around since the mid-1970s. 
The new funding has allowed the program to put together a robust plugging plan, said Steve Irwin, spokesman for ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. 
“It’s exponential growth headed in the right direction,” Irwin said.
Continue the article by clicking here.

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Paid to Protest: Lifting the Curtain on Keep Wayne Wild, LLC

by Jackie Stewart, Energy in Depth

EID has been exposing the underhanded “Keep It In the Ground” (KIITG) tactics aimed at halting oil and gas development in the Wayne National Forest for years, including the  Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) deliberate efforts to obstruct the federal mineral leasing and permitting process.  Keep Wayne Wild is another example that has taken a page out of this KIITG playbook, working in conjunction with CBD to ban fracking in the Wayne under the guise of a so-called “local volunteer concerned citizens organization.”
According to Keep Wayne Wild’s filing with the Ohio Secretary of State, the self-described “volunteer environmental conservation organization” is actually a for-profit Limited Liability Company (LLC) whose spokeswoman is listed as a current employee of the Sierra Club. Keep Wayne Wild, LLC also has direct ties to the Ohio Health Registry, Buckeye Forest Council, and the Heartwood—groups that have been active in multiple protests and lawsuits involving the Wayne National Forest.
 
History of Keep Wayne Wild
Though Keep Wayne Wild, LLC has officially been a for-profit business much of this year, it was originally established as a California-based nonprofit called SprouTogether in 2016. SprouTogether’s initial Ohio focus was on preventing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from allowing the leasing of federal minerals in the Wayne National Forest. SprouTogether also led a failed fundraising and mobilization effort on Fundly.com, which coincided with the national attention that #NODAPL was receiving at the time.
In 2016, BLM agreed to lease federal minerals in the Wayne after finding “no significant impact” to the forest, resulting in Keep Wayne Wild going virtually silent from November 2016 until March 2017.
Then in March 2017, Keep Wayne Wild, LLC reemerged as a “new group” now based in Columbus, and hosted its first event as this “new” entity – a year before it received its business filing with the Ohio Secretary of State. That same month Keep Wayne Wild, LLC launched its website, using a disturbing anti-fracking video from Appalachia Resist! — perhaps the most rogue fringe activist group in Ohio – whom the company admits they “coordinate and cooperate” with. And despite at the time of this launch not yet being official with the state, included the ability to “donate” on its website.
In fact, it wasn’t until February 2018 – nearly a year after its new website launched – that Keep Wayne Wild, LLC received its for-profit status business certification, and days later, officially joined forces with CBD and others by adding its name as a “conservation group” to CBD’s press release  protesting leasing in the WNF. Following the press release, Keep Wayne Wild, LLC filed an administrative protest challenging BLMs the upcoming federal mineral auction lease sale.
CBD and Keep Wayne Wild, LLC hailed a small victory in September after oil and natural gas permits were delayed and a federal auction lease sale was put on hold– a victory that was reversed in October when BLM issued both permits to drill and announced for the previously halted lease sale will occur in December. Just a few days later, the business launched a social media campaign and event in Columbus asking for legislative opposition to Ohio Senate Bill 250, a bill Keep Wayne Wild, LLC claims takes away the ability to conduct protests like those that have occurred about the Wayne National Forest.
The bill, authored by Ohio State Senator (and Navy SEAL) Frank Hoagland would “prohibit criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and aggerated trespass on a critical infrastructure facility, to impose fines for organizations that are complicit in those offenses, and to impose civil liability for damage caused by trespass on a critical infrastructure facility.”  Not surprisingly, Keep Wayne Wild, LLC and the Sierra Club are tied at the hip on this protest, and if you look at the calls to action and who’s planning to attend this event, you’ll see the same cast of characters that are at all of the Sierra Club events.
Conclusion
As EID has repeatedly pointed out, the smoke and mirrors campaigns being used by the small contingent of Ohio anti-fracking groups is seemingly never ending, and Keep Wayne Wild, LLC’s antics are just the latest example. As a case-in-point, Keep Wayne Wild LLC’s Statutory Agent and spokesperson, Ms. Becca Pollard, claims she is still employed by the Sierra Club, according to a LinkedIn page, is a former employee of Buckeye Environmental Network and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Heartwood.
Here we go again – another fake, so-called “local volunteer group” in Ohio. Keep Wayne Wild, LLC is anything but local, or simply volunteers, as it would have the public (and the media) believe. Instead, Keep Wayne Wild, LLC is a for-profit business that is using its website as a portal to ask for donations to support the Ohio Environmental Council’s lawsuit against BLM and the U.S. Forest Service. It is also seeking legislative support on statehouse issues, as well as petitioning signatures.  It’s clear that the Columbus-based Keep Wayne Wild, LLC, is in fact getting paid to protest, lobby, and organize for profit, off the backs of an issue impacting southeastern Ohio – not a Columbus-based business.
By contrast, “we the people,” the neighbors and landowners in and around the Wayne National Forest (the people who actually live in the region) have made their voices heard during the debate over leasing of federal minerals, and time and time again have made it clear that they are supportive of oil and gas development in the Wayne.

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