Marathon Petroleum will split off Speedway and replace CEO

Findlay-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. announced plans to “spin off its Speedway gas-station business” and replace Chairman and CEO Gary Heminger, who will retire next year, The Columbus Dispatch reports. The announcement reverses Marathon’s position from recent statements that the company intended to continue under its current structure despite pressure from investors (see our October 15, 2019 blog post). Elliott Management Corp., part of the group of shareholders that pushed for the split, said in a statement the move “will unlock substantial value for shareholders,” according to the article. For more, read the full article.

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Shale Crescent USA region has generated $1.1 trillion in savings nationwide

A new economic analysis shows natural gas end-users, including “American households, businesses, manufacturers, and electric power generators,” have saved $1.1 trillion since 2008 “as a result of increased natural gas production in the Shale Crescent USA region,” prnewswire.com reports. The Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program and Shale Crescent USA published the findings in a report, Natural Gas Savings to End-Users: 2008-2018, A Technical Briefing Paper. Users in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia “have realized a combined savings of more than $90 billion since 2009,” according to the article. For more, read the full article.

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Marathon Petroleum executives resist idea to split company

Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger and Greg Goff, one of the company’s directors, recently assured employees “the company intends to continue as a diversified oil and gasoline company” in response to a New York hedge fund’s recommendation to break Marathon into three companies, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Findlay-based Marathon operates a refinery in Canton and is the “majority owner in a partnership that operates MPLX, an oil and natural gas gathering network with operations in Stark County and the Utica Shale.”

Elliott Management, which owns 2.5% of Marathon’s stock, said it believes Marathon would be more valuable if the company split into three businesses: Speedway gas and convenience stores, a refining operation, and MPLX as a standalone “midstream business moving oil and natural gas from wells to refineries and processors.” For more, read the full article.

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Cabot to sell stake in Meade Pipeline Company

Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. has reached an agreement to sell its 20 percent stake in Meade Pipeline Co. to NextEra Energy Partners for $256 million, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports. Cabot’s regional headquarters is based in Pittsburgh; Meade “carries Marcellus Shale gas on the Atlantic Sunrise in eastern Pennsylvania,” and is “30 percent owner of the Central Penn Line, a 185-mile segment of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline,” according to the article. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year. For more, read the full article.  

National, Pennsylvania

EPA announces plan to loosen restrictions on methane for energy industry

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently announced plans “to loosen federal rules on methane by allowing oil and gas operators to largely police themselves,” The Washington Post reports by eliminating federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the proposal removes “unnecessary and duplicative” regulatory burdens, according to the article. Anne Idsal, assistant administrator of the U.S. EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said U.S. EPA will continue to require gas and oil companies to limit the release of “volatile organic compounds,” including methane, “but only during drilling and processing.” The proposal also challenges whether the federal government has the authority to regulate methane “without first making a detailed determination that it qualifies as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.” The plan is particularly notable because major energy companies are split on the rollback. For more, read the full article.

National, Oil & Gas Litigation

Power companies ask Supreme Court to strike down nuclear power subsidies; Supreme Court denies petitions for writs of certiorari (update)

Update:  On April 15, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied, without decision, two petitions for writs of certiorari that were filed by one of the nation’s leading trade associations representing independent power producers. Those cases alleged, among other things, that ZEN legislation out of both New York and Illinois were preempted by federal law. The Court upheld the dismissal of the complaint in each case, and the Zero Emission Nuclear (ZEN) legislation in New York and Illinois was effectively upheld as not in violation of the Federal Power Act.

On January 7, 2019, the Electric Power Supply Association, one of the nation’s leading trade associations representing independent power producers, filed two petitions for writs of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. The writs for cert arise from appeals of a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which is summarized here, and a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which is summarized here, that both upheld state subsidies for nuclear power generation facilities in New York and Illinois, respectively. The question presented by both appeals is “[w]hether the [Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. § 791a et seq.] preempts only state subsidies that explicitly require a wholesale generator to sell its output in FERC-approved auctions, or whether the FPA also preempts state subsidies that lack such an express requirement but that, by design, subsidize only generators that sell their entire output via such auctions, thereby achieving the same effect.”

Both petitions urged the Court to recognize the great importance of the decisions from the Second Circuit and Seventh Circuit if upheld. “The economic and policy stakes are enormous,” and the subsidies will grossly distort market outcomes. “Unless this Court intervenes, these subsidy schemes will impose huge costs and threaten serious distortions of the FERC-authorized mechanisms for setting wholesale rates at economically efficient levels and sending appropriate price signals to wholesale market participants.” To the petitioners, the decisions ratify “a fundamental transfer of regulatory authority to the States and away from the federal government and its policy of relying on market forces to set just and reasonable wholesale rates and send economically efficient signals regarding market entry and exit.”

This case will have major ramifications across the country but particularly here in Ohio, as the outcome could work to either essentially permit or effectively preempt future attempts at providing nuclear subsidies to failing generation facilities. The response date for both petitions has been set for February 7, 2019.

National, Oil & Gas Litigation

Utica and Marcellus shale plays drive U.S. natural gas production to record high

The Utica/Point Pleasant and Marcellus shale plays are driving growth in U.S. natural gas production, according to data from the EIA and reported by the Youngstown Business Journal. National production was up 11% in 2018, marking the “largest annual production increase on record” for the second year in a row. Gross withdrawals in Ohio alone were up 34% in 2018; notably, the Appalachian basin is now supplying an increased volume of natural gas to other areas of the country, including the Gulf Coast and Texas. Likewise, export volumes have increased. Billion-dollar investments in pipeline development across the region will continue. For more, read the full story.

National, Ohio

Eclipse Resources and Blue Ridge Mountain Resources finalize merger agreement

On March 1, 2019, Eclipse Resources and Blue Ridge Mountain Resources finalized their merger agreement, according to Compelo Energy. The company, now named Montage Resources Corporation, also announced a new credit agreement which will allow them to increase their borrowing base from $225 million to $375 million. For more, read the full story

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States could have limited abilities to block pipeline projects

States could soon have limited abilities to block natural gas pipelines and other energy projects from going forward, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business. Insiders with the Trump Administration have reportedly said that this legislation, targeted at states in the Northwest U.S., could come in the form of an executive order. Recently the state of New York used a provision of the Clean Water Act to block a pipeline project that was previously approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). For more, read the full story.

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Supreme Court review denial favors pipeline company

On January 22, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of a Fourth Circuit decision affirming the dismissal of an action brought by landowners in the Western District of Virginia. The action sought to prohibit the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) from issuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, which would provide eminent domain authority to the pipeline company. For more, read the full story.  

National, Oil & Gas Litigation
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