Court Rules Against Pipeline Condemnation of State-Owned Lands

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit,
the federal appeals court responsible for cases arising in New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, and Delaware, ruled for the
state of New Jersey and against the developers of the PennEast natural gas
pipeline. The pipeline company, holder of a license from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), had filed suit against the state and other
property owners under the Natural Gas Act to exercise eminent domain over lands
needed to construct its 116-mile pipeline from Luzerne County, Pa., to Mercer
County, N.J.  Among the lands subject to
the condemnation were properties and easements owned by the state of New
Jersey, including 40 parcels subject to state-held agricultural protection and
open space easements. New Jersey objected to the condemnation of these lands
citing several grounds, but the federal district court granted
the condemnation in December 2018. The state appealed. In its Sept.

Pa. Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in ‘Rule of Capture’ Case

Pennsylvania’s top court will hear oral arguments on Sept. 12 in a case being closely watched by gas drillers and industry associations,
as well as land owners. “Rule of capture” is a long-established legal principle used
in conventional well drilling. It holds that a property owner can drill a well
and extract oil or gas, even if it comes from beneath another owner’s land
without that person’s permission. It is based on the fact that gas and oil
traditionally were found in underground reservoirs and could migrate freely across
property lines.

The State of West Virginia’s Natural Gas Extraction

West Virginia is pushing natural gas. The former coal giant
has shifted its focus from its legacy in the mines to the shale play,
diversifying its economic mix and creating jobs. West Virginia is home to both the Marcellus and deeper Utica
shale basins, with an estimated 28 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves,
the fourth largest of any state in the country. For the state that has stumbled
in its response to the fall of coal, these reserves present a new opportunity,
and it has capitalized. With thousands of wells drilled and hundreds more permitted annually, the state has grown its natural gas industry in quantifiable ways.

Greene County Undergoes Rebranding Welcoming Natural Gas Industry

Staff of the Shale Gas Knowledge Hub traveled to Waynesburg
University in Greene County, Pa., to attend the launch event for the county’s
new marketing and branding plan. The event included several speakers from
county government, the energy industry, and the team tasked with the
rebranding. The theme of energy was present in all of the speakers’
presentations throughout the evening. Greene has dubbed itself “A Powerful Place,
Perfectly Placed” which alludes to the rich history of the energy industry in
the county. Representatives from Consol Energy spoke of the longstanding coal
legacy in the county, the future of Consol in the region, and the progress
being made in toward renewable energy with natural gas as the bridging

DEP Audit Finds Beaver County Agency had Poor Oversight of Two Major Pipeline Projects

The Pennsylvania Department
of Environmental Resources recently revoked some of the Beaver County
Conservation District’s permitting powers after an audit showed that it did
a poor job overseeing many projects, including several big natural gas pipelines
being built there. The agency had been authorized to issue erosion and
sedimentation and water encroachment permits for the DEP. A press release noted
that such delegation of duties to county conservation districts is optional,
and that DEP will now take over handling those permits. An audit
conducted in April found that the agency did not have proper staffing, and
did not properly review applications, coordinate with DEP or sufficiently
inspect projects. “DEP staff identified significant and consistent problems
with BCCD’s recordkeeping, permit review, and inspections,” said DEP Secretary
Patrick McDonnell in a press release.

Governor Wolf met by Mariner East Opponents

Gov. Tom Wolf has made Pennsylvania’s energy industry a key
focus of his administration. However, while some plans proposed by the governor
have been met with praise, others have caused contention. Wolf campaigned on several environmental and energy issues
in both of his runs for office. He promised to harness the natural gas and oil
industry in the state, and ensure that Pennsylvania’s public lands would be
protected. He has delivered on parts of these promises, like his 2015
moratorium on leasing public lands to oil and gas drillers.

Franklin & Marshall Poll Gauges Pennsylvanians’ Attitude toward Restore PA Plan

Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Opinion
Research has released
the results for their August 2019 poll. The poll grades citizens of
Pennsylvania’s attitudes on several current issues, including prospective state
policies. This poll asked citizens about their opinions on Gov. Tom Wolf’s
Restore PA policy proposal and yielded interesting results. Gov. Wolf’s Restore PA proposes $4.5 billion in
infrastructure incentives that will be paid for with a new severance tax on
natural gas extraction. The $4.5 billion would be borrowed, and paid off over a
20-year period with severance tax revenues.

New EQT Leader Reaches Out About Changes

The new CEO of EQT, the largest gas producer in
Pennsylvania, recently went on the road to assure landowners that his takeover
of the company will pay dividends. Toby Rice is already well-known in Southwestern Pennsylvania
and Ohio as the former president of Rice Energy, a company which had many
leases and wells in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio and was ultimately acquired
in 2017 by EQT. He recently went on a two-week outreach campaign to connect
with landowners in Southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. This
campaign consisted of holding well-attended events for landowners and community
members at which he spoke about his background and business philosophy, which
revolves around technology, planning, and relationships. He calls it the
“shalennial approach” to gas development.

Research Studies Impact of Shale Development in PA State Parks

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), natural gas extraction takes place on approximately 700,000 acres of state forest. While Governor Wolf issued a moratorium that stopped new leasing of state lands 2015, these lands remain impacted today. State lands are maintained by the DCNR, and much of it is open for recreational use. The DCNR monitors shale gas activities on state lands. Its Gas Monitoring Program works to track and monitor the effects shale gas development has on the natural resources, land uses, and the changes in monetary values that development causes to state forest land.

EQT Settles WV Lawsuit

EQT has agreed to pay $53.5 million to settle a federal class-action
lawsuit with West Virginia residents who claimed the company was
shortchanging them on gas royalty payments by deducting a variety of
post-production expenses. The lawsuit, which included about 9,000 people, was filed in
2013 and a trial was scheduled for November. EQT, which is the second-largest
gas producer in the state, will pay the money into a settlement fund and it
will be distributed based on factors such as the type of lease held, the amount
of gas produced from each well and how much was deducted from royalty checks. The suit claimed that EQT deducted money from royalty checks
for its post-production activities, such as the cost of transporting and
processing gas. EQT, which claimed the deductions were proper, said the
settlement demonstrated “the company’s commitment to fostering a good
relationship with landowners.