Natural Gas Now Best Picks of the Week – September 12, 2020

Tom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

Readers pass along a lot of stuff every week about natural gas, fractivist antics, emissions, renewables, and other news relating to energy. As usual, emphasis is added.

Well, This Makes Little Sense, But It’s DEP, So…

The following comes from our friend Kurt Knaus at the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance:

The Department of Environmental Protection today ordered the builder of the Mariner East pipeline network to reroute a portion of its ongoing project in Upper Uwchlan Township, Chester County. The company has been performing horizontal directional drilling in the Marsh Creek area to connect two existing pipes that already are in the ground on either side.

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DEP’s order to reroute this portion of the project is no small matter, especially when you consider the pipe in this area is meant to connect two existing pipes that are already in the ground. Communities that thought this project was coming to an end now face potentially many more months of disruption, because this action has the potential of dramatically extending the construction life of a pipeline project that was nearly finished.

The economic impacts are just as real. Hundreds of local jobs are at stake downstream at Marcus Hook and along the line itself because of potential construction delays. This is Pennsylvania’s largest infrastructure project and it remains vital to the entire commonwealth, which is why it needs to move forward, not backward.

This is a classic overreaction so typical of government. It’s all about image and reactionary politics, rather than substance. The DEP hyperbole is way out of proportion to the harm from an inadvertent return of non-toxic materials and that was obvious two weeks ago when an Environmental Hearing Board judge rejected DEP’s position. Is this just an end run around the judge? A bone thrown to pipeline opponents? Expect a legal challenge. This isn’t the end of the story.

Cornell University Takes A Kick in the Groin for Going Solar

Well, this is sweet for those of us accustomed to Cornell opposition to natural gas (citations omitted):

On August 20, 2020, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department issued a decision in Cornell University v. Board of Assessment Review (“Cornell University”), finding that a solar photovoltaic system is taxable real property. This decision settled, at least in the Fourth Department, a real property tax question long considered—and feared—by solar developers

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Google Earth street view of Cornell solar farm

New York State Real Property Tax Law § 300 distinguishes between real property and personal property, stating that in New York State, the former is subject to real property taxation, special ad valorem levies and special assessments, whereas the latter is not subject to such taxation…

Applying this legal framework in Cornell University, the Fourth Department found that a solar photovoltaic system installed by a solar developer lessee on land owned by Cornell University (“Cornell”) met the common law definition of “fixture” and, therefore, was affixed to the subject land so as to constitute taxable real property.

With regard to [a] second requirement—application to the purpose of the land to which it is connected—the Fourth Department found that the solar photovoltaic system at issue met this requirement because the project was generating solar energy specifically to serve Cornell, and was an integral part of the school’s sustainability efforts and educational mission.

Finally, as to [a] third requirement—permanency—the Fourth Department found that the solar photovoltaic system was a permanent addition to the subject land… To this end, the Fourth Department looked to the agreement between Cornell and the solar developer lessee, which included a 20-year term, subject to two additional five-year extensions and further extension on a month-to-month basis thereafter. Although the agreement did require the solar developer to remove the system at the end of the lease term, such removal was only required if Cornell opted not to purchase the system. Based on the length and terms of the agreement, the Fourth Department found that the parties intended for the solar photovoltaic system to be permanent.

So, Cornell University, the institution that gave Tony “the Tiger” Ingraffea his platform to attack natural gas and promote wind and solar decided to put its money on Tony’s bet, looking to avoid real property taxation while also sucking up government rent and subsidies, lost. Well, good! As a reader observes, they deserved a good kick in the groin. Yes, they did. And, bear in mind; if this were a natural gas well pad it would be paying taxes without question.

And, Wind Farm Takes One, Too

Natural gas gets the attention whenever there’s an accident, but there do seem to be a lot of these:

Turbine manufacturer Vestas and developer EDPR are investigating a blade failure at the Timber Road 4 wind farm in the US state of Ohio.

A blade on a V150 4.2MW was heavily damaged in the incident. No one was injured.

In a joint statement, the companies said the site was secured after the failure, which occurred on 3 September.

“Following the occurrence, Vestas and EDP Renewables completed a site wide inspection of the blades on the other 30 wind turbines at Timber Road IV Wind Farm, and no additional damage nor indication of other failures were found,” the companies said.

Check out the “related stories” to the left if you follow the link to see what I mean by a lot of these stories. These are monster machines that extend 40-60 stories into the air with gigantic wings. The Timber Road project includes 30+ such behemoths scattered across the plain to generate relatively little electricity at the cost of huge amounts of government rent paid by ratepayers and taxpayers.

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What Timber Road wind turbines look like from more than one-half mile away using Google Earth street view (compare to barely noticeable buildings on the same horizon)

There’s more here:

On April 24 at approximately 12:48 p.m., a single blade of a turbine located along Paulding County Rd. 70 broke and struck the tower while rotating. That breakage was picked up by a sensor and the turbine immediately shut down. However the turbine was quickly restarted remotely by a Vestas technician working at the monitoring station in Portland, Oregon. As it was restarted the two remaining blades began to rotate, but after a few revolutions a second blade struck the tower and scattered debris in the surrounding fields. EDP personnel were on the scene by 1:20 and contacted Vestas which put the turbine into a paused state.
Although the failure of the first blade appears to be from a manufacturer defect, that is not the case with the second blade. According to the report, “Vestas has also concluded the second blade failure was the direct result of an overload caused by failure of the first blade. In other words, had the first blade not failed the second blade wold not have failed.”

Ok, then, it was a combination of manufacturing and human error. And, it scattered debris across the field. Who knew?

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