"Just minutes" before Obama appointees were to lose their majority on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, they approved proposals for a pair of billion-dollar pipeline projects to ship gas out of Pennsylvania and other Marcellus and Utica Shale producing states, so it can be burned by industries in the South and Midwest, writes Robert L. Christensen Jr., energy analyst at Philadelphia-based broker Drexel Hamilton:
1) On Friday, FERC gave "surprise approval" for Energy Transfer and Energy Transfer Partners (the outfit that bought Philadelphia's Sunoco) to build the $4.2 billion, 715-mile Rover Pipeline from Pennsylvania to Michigan. Rover "will help alleviate the log jam of too much natural gas in the Northeast chasing too little pipeline takeaway capacity," and boost resulting low prices.
That will specially benefit producers Antero Resources, Rice Energy, Southwestern Energy and Chesapeake Energy, also easing price pressures on Cabot Oil and Gas and Equitable Resources.
2) Right after the Rover approval, FERC also issued a Certificate of Necessity and Public Convenience to the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, a $3.8 billion, 200-mile gas pipeline, to be started in the next two months and granted eminent-domain rights.
That happened just 10 minutes before Democrats were scheduled to lose their majority on FERC, pushing back future pipeline decisions until the Republicans can appoint replacements.
Atlantic Sunrise will transport gas from Marcellus and Utica wells (mostly owned by Cabot Oil and Gas) "to new growth market in the U.S. Southeast."
Christiansen estimated the pipelines will boost prices in Pennsylvania as much as $2 a cubic foot, enriching gas companies that have had a hard time selling the stuff, there's so much of it.
Too bad (for Pennsylvania's long status as a slow-growth area of the industrial U.S.) that nobody much has built industrial facilities in the state to use the stuff before it gets shipped away.