First Choice Energy

Friday, February 14, 2020

Write-Downs and Spending Cuts Are the Words of the Day in U.S. Shale

From Reuters:
U.S. shale gas producers are ripe for further spending cuts and write-downs, investors and analysts said, with prices at four-year lows and China’s rejection of some gas imports weighing on earnings. 
Natural gas production in the United States is at record levels, outpacing domestic consumption and leading to global supply glut. At the same time, China, the world’s largest importer of gas, has turned away shipments with its demand forecast to rise at the slowest pace in four years amid the coronavirus outbreak. 
As a result, several large gas producers, have reduced the value of their production assets.
EQT Corp, the largest U.S. gas producer, recently said it would take a write-down of as much as $1.8 billion, following CNX Resources Corp, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp in reducing the value of gas properties. 
U.S. shale gas producers’ Antero Resources Corp, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp and EQT kick off fourth-quarter results in coming days. Antero has pledged to sell assets while Cabot plans a 27% cut to its drilling budget.
Read more by clicking here. 

Marcellus Shale Coalition Warns About Dire Impacts of Sanders/AOC Fracking Ban Bill

From the Marcellus Shale Coalition:
Following the introduction of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to ban the safe, responsible use of hydraulic fracturing, Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) president Dave Spigelmyer issued the following statement: 
“Banning the safe and strongly regulated use of hydraulic fracturing would bring our economy to a standstill. It would result in the loss of hundreds-of-thousands of good-paying jobs and wipeout billions of dollars of capital investment in Pennsylvania while reversing the environmental progress we have gained thanks to natural gas,” Spigelmyer said. 
“As a result of this disastrous policy, hard-working Pennsylvanians who have enjoyed a decade of affordable, reliable energy would be burdened with skyrocketing costs and our county would again be reliant on foreign nations to supply the energy we need. 
“Supporting and growing domestic shale production should be a core focus of any serious policy discussion aimed at continuing environmental progress, economic growth and American security.” 
  • Devastate State, National Economy: Pennsylvania would shed 609,000 jobs, lose $261 billion in state GDP, and $23.4 billion in state and local tax revenues if Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’ plan is signed into law, according to a recent U.S. Chamber analysis. Nationally, this policy would eliminate 19 million jobs and reduce U.S. GDP by $7.1 trillion.
Click here to read the whole press release. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

EID Investigation Sheds Light on Activist-Driven Media Platform

by Spencer Walrath, Energy in Depth

Earlier this week, EID released our investigation into the new Drilled News platform, shedding light into the connections between this new media initiative and the climate litigation campaign. Thanks to our efforts, the platform was forced to come clean about their funders and relationship to the problematic litigation campaign.
Richard Wiles, Confirmed Key Contributor
Richard Wiles’ Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) has played an integral part in the climate litigation campaign including running numerous social media campaigns, hosting events across the country to promote litigation, submitting an amicus brief, and hiring a lobbyist to arrange meetings between city officials and plaintiffs’ attorneys. CCI is funded by billionaire donors both foreign and domestic to wage a climate litigation campaign against the nation’s energy producers and continues to be opaque about its backers.
While Drilled News is not a direct advocacy arm of CCI, it is closely linked with the project and its executive director, Richard Wiles. Drilled News now admits that Wiles played an instrumental role in obtaining their initial launch grant from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), CCI’s parent organization:
“Wiles introduced us to the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, which was critical to landing our initial launch grant. For that, we have consistently thanked him in our credits.”
Drilled was also forced to acknowledge that while they have editorial independence from IGSD, Wiles continues to play an active role in influencing the direction of the organization and is a key source for new story ideas:
“Does Wiles constantly send us pitches and ideas, and sometimes even unsolicited critiques of our work? Yes.”
Downplaying their relationship
Despite their admissions, Drilled continues to downplay their relationship with CCI. They claim their funding comes from IGSD – not CCI. However, the most recent season of their podcast tells a slightly different story. The transcript of season three, episode two reads as follows:
In addition, while Drilled admits that they gave Wiles an “executive producer” credit during the first season, they allege that such “lofty titles” were given to several individuals and weren’t reflective of their work on the show. However, Wiles is the only person ever disclosed as an executive producer of the show, and has the most prestigious title of anyone listed in the podcast’s credits:
In the end, the mere admission of this close relationship with Richard Wiles is an important lens to interpret Drilled News’ current and future content.
Far from objective, the Drilled podcast has relied on interviews from some of the most high-profile activists in the climate litigation space, including Kert DaviesMatt Pawa, Sher Edling consultant Ann CarlsonGeoffrey Supran, and ERI lawyer Marco Simons. In contrast, they have never interviewed a single energy company featured on the podcast.
EID is proud of its investigators, who successfully shed newfound transparency on an organization with deep ties to the climate litigation campaign. EID is filling a critical void by providing scrutiny on members of the climate litigation echo chamber and will continue to shed light on groups that lack transparency in their operations.

New Study Finds That Reality Doesn't Line Up with Perception on Water Contamination from Fracking

From the University of Texas at Arlington:
A study led by environmental researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington suggests a disconnect between the perception of groundwater contamination and the extent to which that contamination is attributable to oil and natural gas extraction. 
Members of the Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation (CLEAR) at UTA found that samples from only five of 36 private water wells showed any potential indications of contamination from unconventional oil and gas development, a multifaceted process that includes hydraulic fracturing. The samples were collected from the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Marcellus Shale regions in response to anecdotal claims of oil- and gas-related contamination. 
The study, “Characterizing anecdotal claims of groundwater contamination in shale energy basins,” appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment
Kevin Schug, Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry and co-founder and director of CLEAR, led the study along with CLEAR co-founder Zacariah Hildenbrand. Other authors were Doug Carlton, CLEAR project manager; Paige Wicker, a graduate research assistant in the CLEAR lab; Sabrina Habib, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina; and Paula Stigler-Granados, an assistant professor at Texas State University. 
“We found that the water quality data very rarely aligned with the perceptions that the well owners had of their individual situations,” Schug said. “This disconnect between perception and reality is possibly attributed to prevailing negative sentiments toward hydraulic fracturing as well as myriad environmental factors that make point source attribution very challenging.”
Find out more by clicking here. 

Hess CEO Says U.S. Shale is Beginning to Plateau, Acknowledges Climate Change as a Real Threat

From Reuters:
Shale pioneer John Hess said on Tuesday that key U.S. shale fields are starting to plateau, calling shale “important but not the next Saudi Arabia.” 
Over the past decade, the shale revolution turned the United States into the world’s largest crude producer and a force in energy exports. Yet that did not translate to higher stock prices or returns for investors, with the S&P 500 Energy sector only gaining 6% in a decade, far less than the 180% return for the broader stock market. 
Companies remain under pressure to trim budgets and produce enough free cash flow to pay investors higher dividends or buy back shares. The biggest industry challenge is the lack of long-term investment, Hess said. 
Production in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas is starting to plateau, while the Bakken field in North Dakota where Hess is a major producer will hit its peak production levels within the next two years, said Hess, who spoke Tuesday in Houston at the Argus Americas Crude Summit.
Read the whole article by clicking right here. 

Legal Challenge to Nuclear Bailout in Ohio Has Been Killed

From The Columbus Dispatch:
The challenge to overturn House Bill 6 – the ratepayer-financed bailout of Ohio’s nuclear power plants – is officially dead. 
At the request of the opponents of the controversial legislation, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed Friday a case in which a federal judge had asked the justices to answer legal questions about placing referendums on Ohio ballots. 
The action followed the Thursday dismissal in U.S. District Court of the now-abandoned bid by Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts to force a vote on the $1 billion subsidy being routed to the owner of two nuclear plants on Lake Erie. 
The group dismissed last week its appeal before the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying it did not have the cash to continue its fight. 
The group had appealed an Oct. 23 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edmund A. Sargus in Columbus that held it turned to the wrong court seeking additional days to collect signatures on its petition. 
Sargus instead sent the case to the state Supreme Court, which will not answer questions of state law that the judge raised about Ohio’s referendum process.
Click here to read more. 

Sanders & Ocasio-Cortez Introduce Bill Completely Banning Fracking Nationwide Within 5 Years

From Law 360:
Leading progressive Democrats have introduced what they say is Congress’ first-ever proposal to ban fracking across the United States, with immediate limits ramping up to total prohibition by 2025. 
The Fracking Ban Act was introduced Friday by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent among the top Democratic presidential contenders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-term New York liberal with a focus on climate change. Although unlikely to become law this year, with Republicans controlling the Senate and the White House, the measure may forecast how a progressive Democratic administration would approach energy policy. 
“If we are serious about clean air and drinking water, if we are serious about combating climate change, the only safe and sane way to move forward is to ban fracking nationwide,” Sanders said in a statement Friday. 
Fracking is an abbreviated term for hydraulic fracturing, which is a production technique that typically uses a high-pressure mixture of water and sand to fracture a shale rock formation and start the flow of oil or natural gas. Environmental groups are concerned that wastewater injection wells can pollute groundwater and cause earthquakes. Fracking enabled the domestic surge in production of natural gas, which contributes to climate change, albeit less so than other fossil fuels. 
As soon as the bill would became law, it would block new federal permits for fracking-related infrastructure. Next year, it would require the end of production at any well that has ever been fracked and is located within 2,500 feet of an inhabited structure. The technique would be banned outright across the country on Jan. 1, 2025.
Read the whole article by clicking here. 

Still No Final Decision on Belmont County Cracker Plant as PTT Pushes Back Against Activists

There continues to be no end in sight for the ongoing will-they or won't-they drama over the possible construction of a cracker plant in Belmont County.

Over the past couple of weeks the proposed cracker plant has remained in the news, but the latest comments from PTT Global Chemical reveal that there is still no final decision made as to whether the plant will actually be built.  So in the meantime, the possibility continues to exist that the money that has been spent preparing the site, grants that have been awarded, wooing by local officials, and hand-wringing by anti-oil and gas activists is all much ado about nothing.  It is hard to imagine that PTT would come this far and have invested this much money without actually building the plant, but with nearly 5 years expired since they first announced that this project was a possibility, it's anybody's guess at this point what will actually happen.

Here is the latest news.  First, from The Intelligencer:
Some concerned area residents met with representatives of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Gov. Mike DeWine to express concerns about an ethane cracker plant proposed for Belmont County.

The project, being considered by PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Industrial Co. Ltd., would use the ethane contained in the local natural gas stream to make plastic. If the plant is constructed, it would be located at the former site of FirstEnergy’s R.E. Burger coal-fired electric generating station at Dilles Bottom, south of Shadyside along the Ohio River. 
“The facility has been issued water pollution discharge permits by the OEPA despite concerns about pollution in the Ohio River, which more than 5 million people depend on for clean drinking water,” the group wrote in a news release distributed after the meeting. “The OEPA issued these permits without testing existing levels of toxic chemicals in the Ohio River, leaving the public in the dark about additional pollution from the proposed facility. Recent testing by the Environmental Working Group has revealed that both Cincinnati and Columbus already have dangerous levels of ‘forever chemicals’ like PFAS in their drinking water.” 
Group members pointed out that DeWine has met with PTTGCA officials but thus far has not met in person with concerned residents. The group presented the OEPA and governor’s staff with letters Wednesday that lay out their concerns and requests.
Click here to read the rest of that story.  DeWine's office did not have any comment on the meeting.  But that doesn't mean that DeWine has had no comment on the cracker plant project.

From the Times Leader:
Gov. Mike DeWine believes the multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant proposed for Belmont County will be built.

The governor discussed the status of the proposed petrochemical complex last week during the Ohio Associated Press 2020 Legislative Preview Session. Reporters from around the state attended the event, held Tuesday at the Thomas J. Moyer Judicial Center in Columbus. 
DeWine responded to questions from The Times Leader and the AP regarding the potential for the plant to be built and about how related environmental concerns are being addressed. 
“I think the plant will be built,” DeWine said. 
He added that he had met recently with “key officials” from PTT Global Chemical LLC and Daelim Chemical USA LLC, the firms partnering on the project. He said those talks occurred “within the last month” but did not reveal details of those discussions.
Continue reading that article by clicking here. 

Meanwhile, PTT representatives responded to the environmental concerns being raised over the project.  Again from The Intelligencer:
The companies contemplating construction of an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County say they are committed to doing all they can to address the threats of climate change and the proliferation of single-use plastics.

Dan Williamson, Columbus-based spokesman for PTT Global Chemical and Daelim Industrial Co. LLC, said the companies fully understand these threats to the environment, and are committed to doing their part to help mitigate them. He added that the firms, based in Thailand and South Korea, respectively, are known for calling attention to, and addressing, these issues in their home countries. 
“Should we reach a final investment decision on this project (at Dilles Bottom), we will be every bit as active and outspoken on these issues in the United States as in Asia,” Williamson said. 
Williamson said the companies have remained rather quiet on environmental issues in the U.S. and the local region thus far, because they have not yet reached a decision on whether to proceed with the Belmont County project. As the discussion has intensified locally, however, with concerned residents staging protests against the project and meeting with state officials to voice their concerns, PTTDLM decided it was time to become more involved in the conversation. 
To that end, Williamson outlined the ways that PTTDLM will demonstrate a commitment to protecting the environment if it moves forward with construction of the Belmont County cracker plant, taking steps beyond “what is legally required.”
To check out the list of steps the company outlined, click here to read the full article. 

And finally, to round out the cracker plant news, here is one more article from the Bellefontaine Examiner:
Ohio’s private nonprofit development corporation announced Friday it will provide a $20 million grant to one of the developers of a proposed multi-billion dollar ethane “cracker” plant to pay a contractor to complete “critical” site engineering and site preparation work. 
Money from the revitalization grant for PTT Global Chemical America will be paid directly to the engineering firm Bechtel Corp, said JobsOhio spokesman Matt Englehart. 
The support of JobsOhio has been vital, and the partnership “continues to work toward a final investment decision” in the first half of this year, said Dan Williamson, a spokesman for PTT Global and its partner, Daelim Chemical USA. 
The economically struggling Appalachian region surrounding southeast Ohio’s Belmont County where the plant would be built has been eagerly anticipating that decision for several years. Thousands of constructions construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions would be created if the plant is built.
Read the whole article by clicking here. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Permitting Slows in Utica Shale During Last Two Weeks

WEEK ENDING 02/01/20

New permits issued last week: 6 (Previous week: 11)  -5
Total horizontal permits issued: 3190 (Previous week: 3184 +6
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2712 (Previous week: 2711)  +1
Total horizontal wells producing: 2434 (Previous week: 2434)  +-0
Utica rig count: 12 (Previous week: 11)  +1

WEEK ENDING 02/08/20

New permits issued last week: 2 (Previous week: 6)  -4

Total horizontal permits issued: 3192 (Previous week: 3190 +2
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2713 (Previous week: 2712)  +1
Total horizontal wells producing: 2443 (Previous week: 2434)  +9
Utica rig count: 12 (Previous week: 12)  +-0

February 2020 Well Activity Maps Published by ODNR

Encino Energy Releases Announcement for Landowners

Click on the image to view at a larger size

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Permitting Picks Up in Utica Shale; Rig Count Holds at 11

WEEK ENDING 01/25/20

New permits issued last week: 11 (Previous week: 2)  +9
Total horizontal permits issued: 3184 (Previous week: 3184 +-0
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2711 (Previous week: 2711)  +-0
Total horizontal wells producing: 2434 (Previous week: 2431)  +3
Utica rig count: 11 (Previous week: 11)  +-0

Three Key Things to Know About Rolling Stone's Latest Oil, Natural Gas Hit Piece on TENORM

by Nicole Jacobs, Energy in Depth

Rolling Stone author Justin Nobel has been spending a lot of time in the Appalachian Basin recently, and not because some of the biggest bands in history will be touring here this year, as one would expect from the music magazine. Instead, Nobel has been conducting a tour of his own, amplifying “Keep It In the Ground” research and messaging, and writing his latest misleading hit piece on the oil and natural gas industry.
His latest article claims that the industry is knowingly exposing workers and communities to high levels of radiation through the produced water and solids that result from drilling. And while he peppers in statements from regulatory officials, the overall image he paints is a false one, of an unregulated industry, despite this being one of the most regulated industries in the country.
Here are three key things to keep in mind when reading the Rolling Stone article:
Fact #1: This isn’t the first time Rolling Stone or Justin Nobel have misled the public.
Rolling Stone suffered “a loss of reputation, journalistic credibility and $3 million,” when it was forced to retract and admit that a story it ran in 2015 was completely made up.
Similarly, Nobel’s and the magazine’s coverage on oil and natural gas – whether it was blaming infant deaths on drilling in Utahportraying pipelines as underregulated and unsafe, or misleadingly praising a compendium full of debunked research as a “new” “authoritative study,” among others –  has been high on KIITG rhetoric, but short on actual facts.
Fact #2: Multiple regulatory agencies have determined oil and natural gas activity is not a health concern.
Contrary to Nobel’s claims that radon and radiation have not been well-studied, a multitude of research has been conducted on both radon and technically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material, or TENORM.
To his credit, Nobel mentions a 2015 Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection study that found there is little potential for harm to workers or the public from radiation exposure due to oil and gas development.” But Nobel included criticism of the report from Marvin Resnikoff, whose own research has been intensely scrutinized, including by the U.S. Geological Survey that said Resnikoff “relied on theoretical calculations utilizing limited data from geologic analogs.”
Nobel and Resnikoff criticized the PaDEP report for “ignor[ing] the well-documented risks posed by the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive dust,” but in fact, PaDEP’s study did consider inhalation in its study. Specifically as it pertains to one of Nobel’s major talking points, the spreading of brine (produced water) on roads, PaDEP found “limited potential” for people enjoying the outdoors to be exposed to radiation from this practice, explaining:
“The recreationist is an appropriate exposure scenario based on the remote location of the roads. A recreationist, such as a jogger or hunter, usually spends less time on the impacted area, e.g., two hours a day, three days a week, than a resident. However, a recreationist may have a higher inhalation rate than a resident. Recreational land use addresses exposure to people who spend a limited amount of time at or near a site while playing, fishing, hunting, hiking, or engaging in other outdoor activities.” (pg. 158)
Not only does the Rolling Stone article fail to include PaDEP’s findings on brine being used as a road de-icer and for dust control, but there’s also no mention of other state agencies’ findings. For instance, Ohio Department of Natural Resources has also been studying the application of brine on roads. ODNR spokesman Adam Schroeder recently told The Columbus Dispatch:
“The (Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management) has collected brine samples from both brine hauler trucks and wells. These samples are helping the division to establish baseline radiological data on naturally occurring radioactive material in produced brine from different geological formations.”
“Recent models from both the Ohio Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection show that controlled application of brine containing naturally occurring radioactive material offers a negligible risk to human health.” (emphasis added)
Similarly, a 2015 West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection report found:
“Radioactive compound levels in landfill leachate are at similar levels at both landfills that accept drill cuttings, and landfills that don’t accept drill cuttings.”
“Drill cuttings from the Marcellus Shale formation contain radioactive compounds at levels higher than the overlying strata, and are likely contributing to radioactive compounds present in landfill leachate. However, radioactive compounds are found at landfills that don’t accept drill cuttings, therefore it can be expected that radioactive compounds present in landfill leachate, at landfills that accept drill cuttings, are also the result of other materials being accepted in the landfill.” ( emphasis added, 154)
Further, Nobel included criticism of the Pennsylvania report for “downplay[ing] the radioactive gas radon,” but ignores the WVDEP’s findings that:
Radon levels recorded are significantly below proposed federal drinking water standards.”
There is also no mention that New York Department of Environmental Conservation reached similar conclusions to PaDEP on TENORM and public health in 2013:
“Based on currently available information it is anticipated that cuttings and flowback water will not contain significant levels of naturally occurring radiological materials (NORM)…. Any potential worker-health or waste-disposal impacts related to concentrated NORM are already subject to controls under existing DOH and DEC regulations…with those measures in place, potential significant adverse impacts on human health from NORM exposure are unlikely.”
Separately, radon has also been studied extensively in Pennsylvania where homes historically have significant issues with the gas, including in areas well outside the Marcellus Shale region.
In 2016, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University released a report concluding “there is no support” to back up activists’ claims about cancer risks from radon in Marcellus Shale gas. This research was supported by the PaDEP’s citizen’s guide on radon that explains:
“Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems” in homes in Pennsylvania.
Fact #3: The oil and natural gas industry is strictly regulated, including in how it manages solid waste and produced water.
There are strict regulations on how the drill cuttings and other solids that result from shale development are tested and disposed of. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Chapter 288 of Pennsylvania’s Residual Waste Landfills regulation regulates all solid waste and includes sections of the Radiation Protection Act, which specifically regulates disposal of drill cuttings into landfills. In addition to monitoring, these regulations even dictate specific areas of the landfill that can be used for materials releasing radiation:
“For noncaptive residual waste landfills, a designated area for vehicles for use in the event of the detection of waste containing radioactive material. The designated area shall, by location or shielding, protect the environment, facility staff and public from radiation originating in the vehicle. The Department’s ‘‘Guidance Document on Radioactivity Monitoring at Solid Waste Processing and Disposal Facilities,’’ Document Number 250-3100-001, describes various factors to consider in determining an appropriate designated area.”
Produced water is also strictly regulated and typically managed by recycling and reuse, disposal in injection wells or treated at facilities licensed to process the water. Importantly, approximately 90 percent of the brine produced in Pennsylvania is recycled and reused in the development of future natural gas wells. In Ohio, because of its more extensive network of injection wells, that is the more common form of management.
Notably, this isn’t the first time that Nobel has painted an image of Ohio’s injection wells being dangerous. EID took him to task in 2017 for similar claims, and the fact remains that the state’s injection well program is one of the best in the country, and has been described as a case study on best management practices. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency evaluated Ohio’s compliance under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, concluding that ODNR is running a “good quality program.” And the Groundwater Protection Council stated:
“Ohio is at the forefront of regulating Class II injection wells and is continuously advancing regulations of the UIC program. ODNR’s ongoing efforts provide the necessary protections to help ensure that Ohio’s underground drinking water resources are safe.”
The health and safety of its workers is a top priority for the oil and natural gas industry across the country. That’s a fact that continues to be demonstrated through in-depth trainings and procedures, the sole purpose of which is to protect the people whose work fuels the world. Nobel’s latest piece is one in a long line of biased imitations of investigative journalism that push a “Keep It In the Ground” narrative, while ignoring science.

Friday, January 24, 2020

2 New Permits Issued in Utica Shale Last Week

WEEK ENDING 01/18/20

New permits issued last week: 2 (Previous week: 4)  -2
Total horizontal permits issued: 3184 (Previous week: 3184 +-0
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2711 (Previous week: 2711)  +-0
Total horizontal wells producing: 2431 (Previous week: 2423)  +8
Utica rig count: 11 (Previous week: 11)  +-0

Documentary Stokes Fears, Prompts Residents to Speak Out Louder Against Belmont County Cracker Plant Plans

From The Times Leader:
For some of the nearly 50 people who turned out to view a documentary film screening, the film not only provided a new perspective about how widespread the plastic waste problem is worldwide — but it also validated their concerns about the proposed PTT Global Chemical America plant for Belmont County.

The Ohio Valley citizens group, Concerned Ohio River Residents, made the educational documentary prerelease screening of “The Story of Plastic” available Saturday afternoon at the Grave Creek Mound Historical Site theater in Moundsville. The group invited dozens of invited local “decision makers” and politicians in an effort to showcase the global plastic pollution crisis that the world now faces, according to Bev Reed, an organizer of the group. 
She said while the 90-minute film still has still not been released to the public by its creator, Deia Schlosberg, she is hopeful the film will be made available to the public as soon as possible. Reed said the film is “very eye opening,” and that the group members feel very fortunate to have access to an early viewing. 
“The Story of Plastic” focuses on exposing the truth behind the plastic pollution crisis, according to its creators. In the film, footage shot over three continents illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, heaps of trash; rivers and seas clogged with waste; and skies choked with the runoff from plastic production and recycling processes.
Read the rest of that article by clicking here.

The Columbus Dispatch editorial board added their voices to those who aren't thrilled about the potential impacts of the cracker plant as well:
As Ohio officials do all they can to make a proposed $5 billion petrochemical plant a reality in Belmont County, we hope they are equally determined — and able — to protect the Ohio Valley’s air, water and health. 
To people concerned about the environment, climate change and public health, the facility proposed by Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical America is a nightmare. To expect the powers that be to oppose the plant, however, is unrealistic. 
The word “gamechanging” is used to describe the economic effect it could have on an area of the state that has suffered for decades from the decline of coal. If plans come together, the plant would mean thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs at the plant. 
The so-called “cracker” plant would take the ethane found in natural gas — produced in abundance via fracking wells in the area — and break the molecules into smaller molecules of ethylene, the root chemical for many plastic products. 
And the jobs and the building wouldn’t stop with the cracker plant. Its demand for ethane would spur more drilling in the area. There would be processing facilities to separate the ethane from the natural gas, and storage for the ethane destined for the cracker plant. A company called Energy Storage Ventures has said it will begin construction this year on a project to store 2 million barrels of ethane, butane and propane in underground salt caverns near Clarington, Ohio.
Click here to read the rest of that editorial. 

Gulfport Energy to Pay $1.7 Million Penalty and Make Upgrades in Settlement With EPA

From The Oklahoman:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday it has reached an agreement to end an enforcement action against Gulfport Energy that accused the company of violating air emissions standards at 17 well pad locations it operates in eastern Ohio’s Utica Basin. 
EPA officials said the settlement, which includes an agreement by Gufport to pay a $1.7 million penalty, addresses Clean Air Act violations regulators assert they found at the locations during inspections they conducted in 2015. 
The company, investigators found, failed to capture and control emissions from storage vessels on the pads. 
It also failed to comply with associated inspection, record-keeping and reporting requirements related to operations at those locations.

The violations were issued in December 2016.
You can read the rest of this article by clicking here. 

Supreme Court Rejects Columbia Gas Storage Field Case

From Law360:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review a Sixth Circuit ruling that a TC Energy Corp. unit didn’t need landowner permission to access an underground natural gas storage facility with a valid Federal Energy Regulatory Commission operating certificate. 
Landowners whose property sits atop Columbia Gas Transmission LLC’s storage field near Medina, Ohio, claimed the Sixth Circuit wrongly held in July that the Natural Gas Act doesn’t require companies that hold FERC certificates for storage fields to acquire the property they need for those fields. That means companies have the right to use that land without getting the go-ahead from landowners first, the appeals court said. 
In urging the Supreme Court to reject the landowners’ petition, Columbia argued that the dispute is a matter of state law, not the NGA, and that the landowners never even raised the federal law issue in the lower court. 
The dispute stretches back to 2013, when 29 landowners rejected a compensation offer from Columbia in relation to its Medina storage field, for which the company had a certificate of public convenience and necessity since 1958, according to the landowners’ Oct. 8 petition for writ of certiorari.
Read on by clicking here. 

Gemma Power Systems Wins Contract for $900 Million Gas-Fired Power Plant in Harrison County

From World Construction Network:
Gemma Power Systems, a subsidiary of Argan, has secured an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services contract from Harrison Power to build the 1.08GW Harrison Energy Center in Ohio, US.

Harrison Power’s parent firm EmberClear is developing the natural gas-fired power plant in Harrison County. Construction works are due to begin this year with commercial operations planned in the first quarter of 2023.

Being developed at a total cost of $900m, the 1.08GW Harrison Energy Center It will be located 50 miles west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the Village of Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio.

The project will be constructed in the Harrison County Industrial Park on a 100-acre site allocated for a power plant. It is expected to create nearly 600 construction jobs and 30 permanent jobs.

EmberClear president and CEO Raj Suri said: “Harrison Energy Center will be a reliable, highly efficient world class power generating facility offering stability and cleaner electricity to the PJM power market. We look forward to working alongside Gemma and Mitsubishi to bring this significant project to completion.”

The county will build, own and operate all the water/wastewater pipelines in order to reduce capital expenditure and risk for the project. To minimise water usage, the power plant will use an air-cooled condensing system.
Click here to read more. 

WTRF also reported on this:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

One Study Credits Shift from Coal to Natural Gas with Saving Lives as Another Warns of Higher Emissions

From a UC San Diego news release:
The decommissioning of coal-fired power plants in the continental United States has reduced nearby pollution and its negative impacts on human health and crop yields, according to a new University of California San Diego study. 
The findings published this week in Nature Sustainability use the U.S. transition in recent years from coal towards natural gas for electric power generation to study the local impacts of coal-fired unit shutdowns. While the shift from coal to natural gas has reduced carbon dioxide emissions overall, it has also changed local pollution levels at hundreds of areas around the country. In particular, the burning of coal creates particulate matter and ozone in the lower atmosphere—often experienced as “smog” —which can affect humans, plants and regional climate. These pollutants (aerosols, ozone and other compounds) from coal burning can wreak havoc on human health when inhaled, and also have damaging effects on plant life. They also alter local climate by blocking incoming sunlight. 
The author, Jennifer Burney, associate professor of environmental science at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, combined data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on electric power generation with satellite and surface measurements from the EPA as well as NASA to gauge changes in local pollution before and after coal-fired unit shut-downs. She also studied changes in county-level mortality rates and crop yields using data from the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
Burney found that between 2005 and 2016, the shutdown of coal-fired units saved an estimated 26,610 lives and 570 million bushels of corn, soybeans and wheat in their immediate vicinities. The inverse calculation, estimating the damages caused by coal plants left in operation over that same time period, suggests they contributed to 329,417 premature deaths and the loss of 10.2 billion bushels of crops, roughly equivalent to half of year’s typical production in the U.S.
Click here to read the whole release.

Meanwhile, from The Columbus Dispatch:
The fracking boom across the country has resulted in greenhouse gas emissions steadily climbing each year since the United States has become the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. 
As a result of the boom, there are plans over the next five years to build or extend 157 petroleum and natural gas drilling sites and chemical manufacturing and refinery plants across the country, according to federal records. 
That expansion will result in greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. totaling 990.5 million tons per year by 2025, according to a study by the Environmental Integrity Project
The nonpartisan and nonprofit group, established in 2002 by former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attorneys, said that’s the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power plants. 
The emissions estimate includes the proposed Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical America ethane petrochemical plant in Belmont County. The so-called “cracker” plant, which would use natural gas and create ethylene, an ingredient used in plastics, would emit an estimated 1.785 million tons of greenhouse gases each year. 
“It’s company-supplied information. The big picture, especially for Appalachia — Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — is this facility would create demand for even more oil and gas extraction and kind of lock this region into that economy,” said Courtney Bernhardt, research director for the Environmental Integrity Project. “Right now, renewable sources of energy are available. And I know that this facility would be creating plastic, ultimately, but there are other ways to make plastic.”
Read the rest of that article by clicking here. 

It's with studies like that in mind that protesters are fighting to try and stop the proposed cracker plant, as reported by The Times Leader:
A potential ethane cracker plant proposed for Dilles Bottom is facing some opposition.

More than 30 people from communities such as Wheeling, Bridgeport, Moundsville, Shadyside and Weirton held signs and stationed themselves on both sides of W.Va. 2 at the Moundsville Plaza, located across the Ohio River from the proposed plant site. Many drivers honked horns as they passed, and some shouted encouragement and gave thumbs-up signs. 
PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Industrial Corp., based in Thailand and South Korea, respectively, obtained an air permit-to-install and a modified wastewater discharge permit for the project in 2018. Environmental groups opposed to the project immediately challenged one of those permits, but that issue was resolved in September, when a settlement was announced. 
Vincent DeGeorge, representing the activist organization Concerned Ohio River Residents and president of Ohio Valley PEACE, said the protesters have environmental and health concerns. 
“We’re a group of local citizens who think the truth, all the information about this cracker plant, hasn’t come out, and we’re confident when that information comes out, the environmental concerns, the economic concerns, the health concerns, Ohio River residents will be convinced that this cracker plant is not the way to go, that there are much better alternatives,” he said. “(We’re) letting other people who have concerns about the cracker plant know that they’re not alone.”
That whole article can be read by clicking on this link. 

Columbia Gas Faces Opposition to Pipeline in Union County

From the Marysville Journal-Tribune:
The Union County Commissioners are filing an appeal to a project that would bring nearly five miles of gas line from Jerome Township and into Marysville. 
“While we are not so much opposed to what they are doing, we just don’t feel it goes far enough,” said Tim Hansley, Union County Administrator. 
In December, Columbia Gas submitted a Letter of Notification, indicating they intended to construct a 4.78 miles natural gas pipeline, known as the Marysville Connector, beginning at Watkins-California Road between U.S. 42 and Derio Road and ending on Industrial Parkway near Veyance Technologies. 
While Columbia Gas says the majority of the 12-inch natural gas main will be constructed within permanent private pipeline easements, paperwork from the company says it does not actually have any of those easements yet. In addition to the 4.78-mile length of the pipeline right-of-way, Columbia Gas says it will obtain land rights for staging areas that will be situated along the pipeline right-of-way and other areas needed during construction.
Click here to continue reading. 

Rig Count in Utica Shale Slips to 10 on Latest Report

WEEK ENDING 01/11/20

New permits issued last week: 4 (Previous week: 2)  +2
Total horizontal permits issued: 3184 (Previous week: 3182 +2
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2711 (Previous week: 2709)  +2
Total horizontal wells producing: 2423 (Previous week: 2423)  +-0
Utica rig count: 10 (Previous week: 11)  -1

ODNR Publishes First Well Activity Maps of 2020

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Rig Count and Total Permit Count in Utica Shale Continue to Decline

WEEK ENDING 01/04/20

New permits issued last week: 2 (Previous week: 2)  +-0
Total horizontal permits issued: 3182 (Previous week: 3187 -5
Total horizontal wells drilled: 2709 (Previous week: 2706)  +3
Total horizontal wells producing: 2423 (Previous week: 2422)  +1
Utica rig count: 11 (Previous week: 12)  -1

Friday, January 3, 2020

Ohio Supreme Court to Review Case in Fight to Overturn FirstEnergy Nuclear Bailout

From The Columbus Dispatch:
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to rule on federal-court questions that could revive the failed referendum campaign seeking to repeal the ratepayer-financed House Bill 6 bailout of a pair of nuclear power plants in the state. 
U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus in Columbus ruled on Oct. 23 that Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts turned to the wrong court in its bid for additional days to gather more signatures for its petition drive to place a ballot issue before voters. 
Sargus sent the case to the state Supreme Court, which agreed Tuesday by a 4-0 vote to hear the lawsuit filed by opponents of the new law. 
Justices Judith French, Patrick Fischer and Patrick DeWine did not participate in the vote because they have conflicts of interest involving their past campaign managers having served roles in the referendum campaign. State appellate court judges would be appointed to replace them in hearing arguments. 
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts had asked Sargus, in a suit against Secretary of State Frank LaRose, to grant it up to 38 additional days to gather signatures. The group argued that unconstitutional state laws and reviews denied it the full 90 days and thus access to the ballot.
Read the whole article by clicking here.