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
resource.

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.

Down the Pipeline: Downstream Potential in Pennsylvania

Shale development in Pennsylvania is moving downstream. With
upstream operations now a functioning constant in the Commonwealth, natural gas
companies and investors have set their sights on downstream opportunities. Shale gas developments are categorized by three
classifications: upstream, midstream, and downstream. Gas extraction and any
operations at the well site are considered upstream, midstream covers pipeline
transfer of gas, and downstream encompasses the final use of the raw natural
gas. While upstream and midstream operations are generally limited to gas
extraction and transfer, downstream operations cover a broad spectrum of
possibilities.

Ohio Grant a ‘Positive Step’ Toward Final Decision on Second Appalachian Cracker Plant

Plans to build a second ethane cracker plant in the
tri-state region are moving forward. PTT
Global Chemical America has been studying the project in Belmont County,
Ohio, since 2015 and is close to making a final investment decision. In late July, JobsOhio, the state’s private economic
development organization, awarded a $30
million revitalization grant toward site preparation, which is expected to
cost about $65 million. It’s one of the largest awards ever offered by the
agency as an incentive to attract the plant. “JobsOhio’s revitalization grant will support initial site
preparation work, which will begin later this month.  While this is an important and positive step
for the project, no final investment decision has been made,” said JobsOhio
spokesman Matt Englehart.