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MDN’S Top Stories in the Past 30 Days – December 2016

December 2016 / January 2017

MDN’S Top Stories in the Past 30 Days
By: Jim Willis, Marcellus Drilling News


Each weekday Marcellus Drilling News locates and shares news, along with a healthy sprinkling of commentary, for the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Over 50,000 people read MDN each month, making it an excellent barometer to inform ONG Marketplace readers which topics generated the most interest for those who work in the oil and gas and associated industries. Below is a summary of the top 5 stories that were most-read over the past 30 days on MDN.

#1 Most Read: BLM Launches Auction to Lease Wayne National Forest for Fracking
It’s been ten long years, but finally the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has just posted a lease sale auction for 33 parcels in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest (WNF).  Although there are some 18,000 acres under consideration for leasing by the BLM in WNF, this first batch amounts to about 1,600 acres–most of it in Monroe County, OH. Monroe is a prime location for Utica Shale drilling. WNF is the only national forest in Ohio and portions of it are found in Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Lawrence, Perry, Scioto, Vinton, and Washington counties. WNF is a “patchwork” of public land scattered among private land. Some 60% of the mineral rights below WNF are privately owned. Those mineral rights owners have been denied the use of their property rights for a decade. The BLM controls drilling on federally-protected lands like WNF. In November 2015, the BLM held a series of hearings about finally beginning to drill in WNF. With this auction, it appears that not only will public land get leased, but drilling on private land in WNF can go forward as well. Read the full story on the BLM’s auction for WNF at:

#2 Most Read: Trump Victory Good News for the Shale Industry
[Posted on Nov. 9, the morning after an astonishing election result.] Donald Trump’s victory in winning the presidency–whether you voted for him or not–is a victory for the oil and gas industry. Fracking is now not in danger of being banned, as it would have been with Hillary Clinton. During the Democratic debate his past spring in Flint, Michigan, on the topic of fracking Clinton said: “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” Chilling. But that future will now not be realized. The Washington “swamp” as Trump and his running mate Mike Pence call it, is about to get drained. That includes the rogue, out-of control Environmental Protection Agency, among others. Radical environmentalists are shocked and suicidal. We’re delighted! The people of this country have spoken. A special, big “THANK YOU” to the energy voters of Pennsylvania who put Trump over the top for a huge electoral victory. Not even Ed Rendell’s vaunted Philadelphia votegenerating machine could hold back Trump in the Keystone State. To read more of MDN’s post-election missive, go here:

#3 Most Read: Chesapeake Sells 882K Acres & 5,600 Conventional Wells in WV, KY
Chesapeake Energy, which continues to be strapped financially, embarked on a mission to lighten the debt load years ago–first under co-founder Aubrey McClendon, and then more aggressively under his successor, Doug Lawler. Many pieces of the company have been sold off: the Oilfield Services division, all of its Haynesville Shale assets, all of its Barnett Shale assets…we could go on. Chessy loves to do land deals. In December 2014 Chesapeake sold off 413,000 Marcellus acres mostly in West Virginia to Southwestern Energy. Once again Chesapeake is selling off assets in Appalachia. This time they have cut a deal to sell a mammoth 882,000 acres along with 5,600 operating gas wells in West Virginia and Kentucky.  However, the land and wells are in the “shallow” Devonian layer. That is, they are conventional (not shale) wells and acreage. Who’s the buyer and how much is Chesapeake receiving? Zacks speculates that the buyer is Core Minerals. The deal is somewhat complicated and, according to Zacks, won’t really add much to Chesapeake’s bottom line. However, it gives Chessy fewer things to worry about, and perhaps that’s a positive for the company. To read more about Chesapeake’s latest big Appalachia sale, click here:

#4 Most Read: Must-Attend Webinar – The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
Do you believe the argument that says, “Natural gas is just a bridge fuel to help us until renewable energy arrives to save the day”? Let me challenge your thinking with this counter-argument: Fossil fuels, including natural gas, are BETTER than renewables. Is your head spinning yet? MDN hosted a live webinar on Friday, Nov. 18, with Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and author of one of MDN’s favorite books: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Editor Jim Willis heard Alex deliver a live speech at the 2016 Shale Insight in Pittsburgh in September and vowed to have him address the MDN audience. Here’s what Jim wrote in September: “MDN editor Jim Willis found Alex’s talk the most compelling of the entire show. He has a degree in philosophy, lives in the San Francisco Bay area and looks like he’s a surfer dude. He combines two rare qualities–he’s a deep thinker who can present his deep thoughts in an understandable and entertaining way. Alex’s message is that the energy industry sucks at telling our story. His mission is to get us telling one of the greatest stories on earth. He said, ‘If you can’t tell the story of how you want to improve life, then you can’t improve life.’ So true.  Alex himself was raised believing fossil fuels are the enemy. He shared some of the thought processes that led him to conclude that fossil fuels are indeed not the enemy but the savior.” Alex didn’t disappoint. Over 200 people registered to attend the webinar. It was a great session with lots of excellent questions. You can watch a replay of the webinar here:

#5 Most Read: UTOPIA Pipeline Still Battling OH Landowners with Eminent Domain
Kinder Morgan’s UTOPIA (Utica To Ontario Pipeline Access) pipeline is a 12-inch ethane pipeline that will run 240 miles and will only be built in Ohio– therefore the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) won’t be involved in permitting the project. In April we asked the question, Why is UTOPIA Pipeline Less “Controversial” than NEXUS in Ohio? Perhaps that question was premature, because not long after we ran a story that Kinder Morgan was suing holdout landowners using eminent domain to allow the pipeline. The real eye-popper was reading just how much Kinder Morgan was offering for easements to property owners. Of course what a landowner is offered depends on how many feet of land the pipeline will cross. Some landowners were offered up to $63,300 for an easement. In some cases, the offers were, according to KM, “more than 10 times the appraised value of the easement.” It’s certainly in a landowner’s best interest to settle before being forced to settle (for far less) via eminent domain. So how is the process going? The lawyer for one group of landowners says KM’s offers are low, not high. This article offered an update on the legal battles in the Buckeye State over UTOPIA, which you can read here:


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