Scott Blanchard

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StateImpact Pennsylvania invites public to forum in Towanda on natural gas royalties

File photo. A Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site in Bradford County, PA.

Ralph Wilson / AP Photo

File photo. A Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site in Bradford County, Pa.

Join StateImpact Pennsylvania for an educational forum to learn how other states handle natural gas royalty payments and what’s being done about the controversy over post-production costs in Pennsylvania. The forum is titled, Drilling down on deductions: How are gas royalties paid around the U.S.?

Keynote speaker and royalty expert Owen L. Anderson, a professor and distinguished oil and gas scholar at the University of Texas, has lectured at numerous universities and venues on six continents and throughout the United States, and has written over 100 articles.

Anderson’s keynote presentation will be followed by a panel discussion on post-production costs and a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Other panelists are: Jackie Root, head of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners; and David Fine, an attorney with K&L Gates in Harrisburg who represented Elexco Land Services and Southwestern Energy in the landmark 2010 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, which held that Pennsylvania’s minimum royalty guarantee applies to revenues before expenses are calculated.

The event, at Towanda Area High School, is free and open to the public. RSVP here:

Proposed natural gas power plant in Birdsboro gets set of permits from DEP

FILE PHOTO:  A natural gas power plant under construction in Bradford County, Pa.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

FILE PHOTO: A natural gas power plant under construction in Bradford County, Pa.

The Department of Environmental Protection has OK’d several permits for a proposed natural gas power plant in Berks County.

The DEP said in a news release that it approved permits for construction of the main plant, as well as for a power line and water and natural gas pipelines to the plant. The permits include Safe Drinking Water Permits, required because the Reading Area Water Authority will need to make upgrades to a pumping station and build the water pipeline.

The Birdsboro Power plant is expected to produce up to 485 megawatts of electricity, according to information from EmberClear Corp., which is developing the project. Lehigh Valley Business reported that the project capitalizes “on the abundance of gas extracted from fracking Marcellus shale in the region.” The company says the work has created 300 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs.

The project has drawn criticism, including from the environmental group Delaware Riverkeeper Network. The plant is being built in the Schuylkill River floodplain, and the filling-in of the floodplain will make flooding worse in Birdsboro and downstream, the group says.

The company says the plant is expected to be up and running in May 2019.

PCN guests to field questions tonight about Gov. Wolf’s severance tax proposal

PCN will take calls on a live show tonight for two guests who will answer questions about Gov. Wolf’s proposal for a severance tax on natural gas drilling.

The program begins at 7 p.m. You can call 1-877-PA6-5001 or tweet @pcntv to ask a question.

Guests are Kevin Sunday, director of government affairs for the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, and Larry Schweiger, president emeritus of PennFuture, an environmental advocacy group.

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TMI’s future, federal policy in spotlight on Smart Talk program

Three Mile Island

Jeff Fusco / Getty Images

Three Mile Island

If you missed it last week, here’s a snippet from WITF’s Smart Talk program on the future of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, and how that could be affected by a recent decision by federal regulators to reject a Trump Administration plan that would have propped up the coal and nuclear industries.

Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument said the administration’s plan addressed real issues, including the issue of whether power plants should have a 90-day supply of power on-site. Only coal and nuclear plants can do that.

“I’ve been very supportive of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania during the time that I’ve been in the General Assembly,” Aument said. “But I’m not rooting for the success of one industry over the other.”

It “kind of sounds that way,” Smart Talk host Scott LaMar said.

“I haven’t,” Aument responded. “But I’m not rooting for the failure … of the nuclear energy industry. ”

Later in the program, LaMar welcomed Carl Marrara, vice president of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, and a member of Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts Coalition, who recalled Aument’s comments about pitting one industry against another.

The manufacturing association, he said, is “not rooting against a nuclear industry or a specific nuclear plant to fail in any way. We are for all energy. We are for energy infrastructure. We spend a lot of our time advocating on behalf of pro production, pro energy. We are in favor of every megawatt hour, every rivet of infrastructure that can bolster Pennsylvania’s energy economy, because what that means for manufacturers is competitiveness.”

Go here to listen to the whole program.

Podcast on Mariner East 2 shutdown: What we know, and what might be next

An aerial view of Sunoco Pipeline's Mariner East 2 construction in rural Pennsylvania. Plans for a new construction technique in some locations have prompted a new round of community resistance.

Jeremy Long / Lebanon Daily News

An aerial view of Sunoco Pipeline's Mariner East 2 construction in rural Pennsylvania. .

StateImpact reporter Susan Phillips recently joined WITF state capitol reporter Katie Meyer on her State House Sound Bites podcast to discuss the Mariner East 2 shutdown and what might happen next.

The conversation included Meyer asking Phillips how significant a delay the work stoppage could be for Sunoco, which has said it intends to meet all of the requirements listed by the Department of Environmental Protection so the company can be authorized to resume work under DEP’s permits. Work that isn’t covered by those permits is allowed to go on.

Phillips’ answer: ”I’ve asked Sunoco what does it mean for the pipeline’s production schedule. The pipeline itself has been plagued by lots of problems and lots of delays. This seems to be a significant delay. During the last earnings call in December, Sunoco said the pipeline was gonna be up and running by the spring of 2018. And I don’t know if this work stoppage will have an impact on that or not, given that the cold weather may have had them stop work anyway. I really don’t know. So, I haven’t heard back from Sunoco on whether or not this means further delays on when this pipeline will actually come online.”

Listen to the entire podcast episode here.

Mariner East 2 shutdown is latest in a spate of challenges to major Sunoco project

stock_pipelinesThe Mariner East 2 pipeline’s shutdown was big news this week — and, as Sunoco has said it plans to do what’s required so it can start construction again, there is more to come.

StateImpact Pennsylvania has been following this story for years, and you can track the history of the project, its promises and its problems through our collected reporting.

Recent stories include:

Federal repeal of fracking regulations affects relatively small amount of Pa. land

SIPA_StandardThumb_NaturalGasPower_2xYou might have seen a headline last week about President Trump repealing fracking regulations.

Anything fracking-related is likely to turn heads in Pennsylvania. But the regulations in question had to do with fracking on federally owned land. Because of that, Trump’s action isn’t expected to significantly affect Pennsylvania, which had fewer than 10,000 acres of federal land with oil and gas leases as of fiscal year 2016, according to the Bureau of Land Management

That ranked Pennsylvania 28th among states with such leases, according to BLM data.

The Washington Post reported that the repealed regulations “would have tightened standards for well construction and wastewater management, required the disclosure of the chemicals contained in fracking fluids, and probably driven up the cost for many fracking activities.”

Environmental lawyer asks state Supreme Court to back up its order to Commonwealth Court

A drilling rig in Tioga State Forest. The Supreme Court ruled that all proceeds from oil and gas drilling on state land needs to be spent on environmental conservation. The court based its ruling on the state's Environmental Rights Amendment.

Scott Detrow/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A drilling rig in Tioga State Forest. The Supreme Court ruled in June that all proceeds from oil and gas drilling on state land needs to be spent on environmental conservation. The court based its ruling on the state's Environmental Rights Amendment.

An environmental lawyer wants the state Supreme Court to direct Commonwealth Court to follow its order in a case centered on whether Pennsylvania must use oil and gas lease proceeds from drilling on state forest land only for environmental conservation.

John E. Childe of Camp Hill made that claim in a lawsuit against the state, but Commonwealth Court had ruled against the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation. Childe says in a new filing that when the Supreme Court on June 20 decided that the state was a trustee for public resources, it vacated the Commonwealth Court’s decision and sent the case back for “further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.”

Childe’s filing claims nothing has happened, and he is asking the Supreme Court to step in.

Here is his complete filing:

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Cabot Oil and Gas to pay $99,000 for air quality violations in Susquehanna County

Reports of health problems by people living near gas rigs like this one in Susquehanna County should be compiled in a statewide registry, advocates say.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact

A Cabot Oil and Gas well site in Susquehanna County.

Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. will pay $99,000 as part of an agreement with the state environmental protection department, which found air quality violations at natural gas well sites in Susquehanna County.

The DEP also said that for 20 wells, Cabot didn’t submit reports that are used to figure out whether the wells would be exempt from permitting requirements.

“Cabot has acknowledged these violations and taken necessary corrective measures to come into compliance,” the DEP said in a news release.

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