Frack Wells & Pipelines Interfere with Human Life

WVSORO Provides Leadership on Important Mineral Rights Issues

From the Article by Julie Archer, WV Surface Owners’ Rights Organization, March 26, 2017

Forced Pooling, Land Reunion Bills Advancing

We’ve received several calls and emails asking about WV-SORO’s position on the latest version of the forced pooling legislation (SB 576) working its way through the Senate. We continue to oppose the bill, although we appreciate the efforts to improve it.

SB 567 contains two parts: “cotenancy,” which we have dubbed “majority rules,” and “joint development”/“lease integration” or what we call “invisible ink.” Below we have outlined our problems with the different parts of the bill.

On Saturday, the bill was on second reading in the Senate, which is usually when amendments are offered. However the bill was advanced to third reading, or passage stage, with the right to offer amendments preserved.  We’ll update you after tomorrow’s vote on any additional changes, and if the bill passes, what actions are needed once it goes to the House where we believe members are more open to including better protections for surface owners. In the meantime, click here and here to read more about the bill and what various groups and gas companies are saying about it.

In other news, our “land reunion” bill, SB 369, which would  begin to reverse the trend of separate ownership by giving surface owners a first chance to own any interest in the minerals under their land that are sold for non-payment of property taxes, was approved by the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining (EIM) Committee on Friday, and will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow. We’re hopeful that the committee will approve the bill and it will be voted on by the full Senate later in the week. We’ll continue to keep you posted.

Problems with Forced Pooling (Cotenancy and Lease Integration) Bill (SB 576)

COTENANCY (Aka: Majority Rules)

Surface only owners:

-We appreciate that a surface use agreement generally is required, HOWEVER, SB 576 contains a loophole that would allow a driller with an existing surface use agreement or other valid contract that pre-dates horizontal drilling to be used to locate well pads for horizontal drilling on a surface owner’s land.

-Also, the current version of the bill does not include provisions in earlier drafts that the royalties and ownership of missing and unknown owners go to the surface owner pursuant to the existing missing and unknown heir leasing statute. These need to be included or surface owner rights are taken away.

Surface owners who own minerals:

-We appreciate that the revised bill requires that non-consenting cotenants be paid the highest royalty in leases signed by the consenting owners. This is an improvement over the earlier bill. However, a knowledgeable mineral owner still might be able to negotiate a better deal than his or her cousins, and the bill lacks due process (right to appeal, etc.) for non-consenting owners.

LEASE INTEGRATION/JOINT DEVELOPMENT (Aka: Invisible Ink)

Surface only owners:

-SB 576 still allows the driller to put well pads and roads etc. on the surface owner’s land! It is appreciated that the common law rights are preserved. And $100,000 might sound like a lot, but it is only 4/100ths of 1% of the value of the gas that will be produced. And the land may have been in a family for generations or something purchased for happiness or into which tremendous energy has been invested that money cannot replace.

Surface owners who own minerals:

-SB 576 is in violation of constitutional prohibitions on altering private contracts, and in violation of the common law of interpreting contracts against the person who wrote them. The bill only modernizes old leases for what the driller wants, a pooling provision, but it does not modernize royalty amounts or give new signing bonuses.

See also:   WV Surfaces Owners’ Rights Organization

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Methane is a Very Significant Greenhouse Gas (2014)

Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

From an Article by Steve Horn • DeSmog Blog, March 20, 2017

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates.

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue’s flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

“Power plants currently use more than one third of natural gas consumed in the U.S. and the volume used is expected to increase as market forces drive the replacement of coal with cheaper natural gas,” the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said in a press release. The nonprofit commissioned and funded the study with a grant from the Afred P. Sloan Foundation.

“But if natural gas is going to deliver on its promise, methane emissions due to leaks, venting, and flaring need to be kept to a minimum.”

Methane Leaks Major Source of Emissions

Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but hangs around the atmosphere for a shorter time, with a global warming effect 84–87 times that of CO2 over a 20-year period, according to the EPA.

“[Methane is] a better fuel all around as long as you don’t spill it,” Paul Shepson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Purdue, said in a press release. “But it doesn’t take much methane leakage to ruin your whole day if you care about climate change.”

The researchers were careful to differentiate between emissions related to natural gas combustion versus leakage, with the latter found to be the primary source of methane emissions in this small, preliminary study. Previous estimates of methane emissions were reported to the EPA from the facilities themselves and were restricted to what came out of the smokestack, which means they excluded leaks from equipment such as steam turbines and compressors.

The study was done as part of EDF’s ongoing series of studies measuring methane emissions and leakage throughout the U.S. natural gas supply chain. EDF said in its press release that the Purdue scientists plan to follow up with research at additional oil refineries and power plants. Purdue stated in a press release that support for the research also came from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Natural gas recently eclipsed coal as a power source feeding the U.S. electric grid, according to data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“For decades, coal has been the dominant energy source for generating electricity in the United States. EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) is now forecasting that 2016 will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation in the United States on an annual basis,” explained the EIA in March 2016. “Natural gas generation first surpassed coal generation on a monthly basis in April 2015, and the generation shares for coal and natural gas were nearly identical in 2015, each providing about one-third of all electricity generation.”

Trump Admininstration Dismantling Methane Regulations

The Purdue-EDF research results were published the same week President Donald Trump proposed massive cuts to the EPA, which would include a 23 percent cut to the enforcement division tasked with overseeing emissions at gas-fired power plants and oil refineries. The Trump administration has also announced its intentions to halt former President Barack Obama’s proposed methane emissions rule for gas situated on U.S. public lands and has already reversed the Obama EPA’s information request for methane emissions data from U.S. domestic oil and gas producers.

As DeSmog previously reported, Carl Icahn, the business tycoon who interviewed and vetted current EPA Administrator Scott Pruittowns petrochemical refineries with a documented history of exceeding allowable emissions rates set by the EPA. In addition to being a major donor to Trump’s campaign, Icahn also serves as an adviser on regulatory issues to the Trump White House, a position set to benefit his extensive business holdings and raising concerns about conflicts of interest.

Icahn, however, has dismissed these concerns, telling Bloomberg Businessweek, “It may sound corny to you, but I think doing certain things helps the country a lot. And yeah, it helps me. I’m not apologizing for that.”

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Tom Steyer is on a Mission for Planet Earth

March 25, 2017

This Billionaire Determined to Save our Planet From an Article by Nick Stockton, Wired Magazine, March 23, 2017 Tom Steyer isn’t your average California tree hugger. The former hedge fund manage— number 1,121 on Forbes’ wealthiest people list, with $1.61 billion — was once best known for turning $15 million into $30 billion in about two decades. [...]

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Pennsylvania Utility Regulator Verbally Slams Natural Gas Pipeline Opponents

March 24, 2017

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Robert Powelson hopes to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission From an Article by Marie Cusick, StateImpact Pennsylvania, March 21, 2017 One of Pennsylvania’s top utility regulators says people opposing pipeline projects are engaged in a “jihad” to keep natural gas from reaching new markets. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner Robert [...]

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WV-DEP is Becoming an Instrument of Industry

March 23, 2017

New DEP is using W. Va. as industry dumping ground   Letter to the Editor, Charleston Gazette-Mail, March 19, 2017   The article by Ken Ward, Jr., titled “DEP eliminates protections for noise, light from natural gas facilities” shows how much the government of W.Va. has its middle finger up to the state’s citizens.   [...]

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Residents Standing Up Against Rover Pipeline in Harrison County, Ohio

March 22, 2017

Harrison County residents stand up to natural gas company From the Staff News Report, WTOV News 9, Steubenville, OH Harrison County, OH — Sheila Bittinger and her husband Stanley have gotten used to the loud noise of heavy machinery the past couple of weeks. But that doesn’t mean they like it. The machines are operated [...]

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Concerns About Methanol Plant at Institute, WV

March 21, 2017

Institute citizens meet to discuss methanol plant From an Article by Alex Thomas in WV MetroNews | February 14, 2017 INSTITUTE, W.Va. – A new methanol plant in Institute drew concern from citizens at a meeting February 13th  at West Virginia State University. The founders of U.S. Methanol, Brad Gunn and Richard Wolfli, discussed at [...]

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NOAA Coral Reef Watch: The Progressive Death of Earth’s Corals

March 20, 2017

It is Unacceptable to Normalize the Disruption and Loss of Earth’s Corals From an Article by Stephen Mulkey, The Environmental Century, 3/18/17 For the first time the Great Barrier Reef has experienced two back-to-back bleaching events, which have been driven entirely by extreme sea surface temperatures. The devastation is hard to miss, unless you are [...]

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Global Warming Continues to Damage Coral Reefs

March 19, 2017

Coral Reefs’ Only Hope Is Halting Global Warming From an Article by Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News, March 15, 2017 PHOTO: The Great Barrier Reef has experienced a series of damaging bleaching events since 2014. >>> Bleaching events have stressed coral worldwide, particularly the Great Barrier Reef, and research says their survival depends on quickly [...]

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Medical Doctors Describe Global Warming’s Health Impacts

March 18, 2017

Climate Change Impacts: American’s Health Hurt By Global Warming, Doctors Say From an Article by Denisse Moreno, I B Times, March 15, 2017 Climate change is already harming Americans’ health, a report released Wednesday by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, which represents more than half of the country’s doctors, found. “Climate change [...]

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