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It is often difficult to navigate the tangled web of just who owns and operates oil and gas companies. I found this out recently as I was reviewing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's "eFACTS" website.  This website tracks compliance with environmental laws and permits. It is an unbelievably tedious task to sift through these records, but every once in a while it pays off.

There are dozens of oil and gas companies drilling in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest.  One of these companies is called Duhring Resource Company.  It sounds local enough.  After all, there is a small town in the Allegheny National Forest called "Duhring."  So it must be locally owned and operated, right?  Well, the answer is not so clear.

As I was sifting through DEP's records for Duhring Resource Company on its eFACTS webite, I found this violation for an improperly lined pit.  As you can see, the violation was recorded on October 4, 2006.  But take a closer look to see what company the DEP held accountable for the fine.  Instead of Duhring Resource Company, it is Quail Energy Corp.

I had never heard of Quail Energy Corp and was curious as to why it was being held accountable for a violation under records for Duhring Resource Company, so I decided to dig a little deeper.  It turns out that Quail Energy Corp is a "project" of Itera USA, which is based in Jacksonville, FL.  

On April 14, 2007, Itera USA posted this on its website:

First ten oil wells from the Quail project have been drilled and completed and are now in full production

Quail Energy Corp.
Western Pennsylvania
April 2007

Itera is pleased announce that the first ten oil wells from the Quail project have been drilled and completed and are now in full production. The oil is lifted by American Refining Group out of Bradford,PA. This oil is high grade crude oil typical of the area.

Turning to Itera USA's website you find under its "Energy Resources" tab:

Itera has invested in a joint venture with Quail Energy, Corp. in a lease development project in Warren County, Pennsylvania.  The goal of the project is the drilling and completion of up to 22 wells in the Devonian formation (approximately 2,000 feet) in acreage adjacent to large oil and gas fields first produced by Pennzoil Production in the late 19th century. This area was the first in the world to produce commercial quantities of oil and gas.

Development continues today, and the region's wells produce the highest-quality oil in the United States.  The area's "Penn-Grade" crude oil combined with co-produced high-BTU gas makes for strong economics.   Quail Energy is an independent producer-operator that has been involved in developing oil and gas wells in the Appalachian basin for more than 45 years.

This is the same area where Duhring Resource Company is drilling.  This slideshow documents Duhring Resource Company's "operations" in Warren County, where Itera USA says it is operating in a joint venture with Quail Energy Corp...and don't forget that it is Quail Energy Corp that showed up as the company responsible for a violation under records for Duhring Resource Company.

But it gets even better (or worse).  Itera USA is part of ITERA, which is an international group of companies that "bring warmth to people," as its website says.  The Chairman of the Board for both ITERA and Itera USA is Igor Viktorovich Makarov.  

Mr. Makarov has an interesting history with former Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon, as documented in this October 24, 2006 issue of Harpers.

According to the Harpers article, ITERA needed assistance to access U.S. markets because of shady dealings with Gazprom, a Russian-controlled conglomerate.  The U.S. Trade and Development Agency had just pulled a pending $868,000 contract to ITERA because of its relationship with Gazprom.  According to Harpers:

Two months later, however, things began to look up when congressman Curt Weldon flew to Moscow to meet with the firm's executives. Weldon publicly praised ITERA and called it "a great source" for U.S. energy firms seeking foreign partnerships. After he returned home, Weldon attacked the Trade and Development Agency for withdrawing the grant and contacted Karl Rove and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on the firm's behalf.

Four months later, ITERA signed a $500,000 contract with Solutions North America, a firm led by Karen Weldon, the congressman's twenty-nine-year-old daughter. Karen's job, according to lobbyist disclosure filings, was to create "good public relations so in the future ITERA may sell goods and services to U.S. entities." Representative Weldon—who is now the target of an unfolding federal investigation—helped create that good P.R. by continuing to make favorable pronouncements about the controversial Russian firm.

The article continues to document the shady dealings between ITERA and Gazprom:

This was post-Soviet corruption of the worst sort, but none of it appears to have troubled Weldon. In late September of 2002, he helped organize a dinner at the Library of Congress in honor of ITERA's CEO, Igor Makarov. Karen Weldon's firm also lent a hand and was paid for its efforts as part of its contract with ITERA. Two days after the dinner, Weldon praised ITERA in a speech on the House floor; then, in late 2002, when Weldon led a congressional delegation to Eastern Europe, ITERA paid for Karen Weldon to join him. During a stop in Moscow, Rep. Weldon called for an increase in U.S. imports from ITERA and other Russian energy corporations. And in January 2003, ITERA opened an expanded U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, and flew Weldon down to attend the gala affair. "I can think of no other company," said the congressman, "that represents what Russia is today and offers for the future."

So, partly as a result of former PA Congressman Weldon, Itera USA is operating in a joint venture with Quail Energy Corp in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest.  And, despite having vast sums of money, Quail Energy is being cited by the Pennsylvania DEP for having improperly lined pits, which threatens our water quality and health.

Who could have guessed that in remote northwestern Pennsylvania, this trail of ownership would lead back to a political and corporate corruption scandal that spans the globe?  How many other similar webs like this exist?

You can contact the following offices and let them know that oil companies should not be allowed to operate on U.S. Public Lands if they cannot properly line pits for storing their toxic material because it threatens water quality and human health.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

U.S. Congressman John Peterson

U.S. Congressman Phil English

U.S. Senator Robert Casey

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter

Originally posted to paprog on Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 01:16 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  nice post (7+ / 0-)

    This story somewhat reminds me of the drug dealer who was using oil wells in the Allegheny to hide his illicit profits.

  •  Wow (4+ / 0-)

    Nice catch and research.  Follow the money works every time.  Put up a tip jar :)

    Experience may differ in online play...

    by OCD on Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 01:19:04 PM PDT

  •  Photos. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, OCD, paprog

    Here are some links to photos of drilling in the Alleghany:

    Photo 1
    Photo 2
    Photo 3

  •  Clean Water Act exemptions. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, paprog, kurt

    A big problem are CWA exemptions.  The Warren Co. Conservation Dist. sent this letter to the EPA in 2005:

    Dear Environmental Protection Agency,
    This letter is written in response to the recent proposal to postpone, until March 10, 2005,
    the permit authorization deadline for NPDES Storm Water Permits for oil and gas construction
    activity that disturbs one to five acres of land.
    The Warren County Conservation District by delegation agreement with the Department of
    Environmental Protection (DEP) administrates the Chapter 102-Erosion Control Program, Chapter
    105-Encroachment Program, Chapter 92-NPDES Program, and the Clean Streams Law in Warren
    County, Pennsylvania. Through these programs, the Conservation District has permitted and
    inspected construction projects associated with oil and gas exploration, production, processing, and
    transmission for the past 10 years. The earthmoving activities involved with the typical oil and gas
    projects, witnessed in Warren County, consist of clearing (logging), road building, grading (well
    site establishment), pipeline installation, and tank battery construction. Not one, but all of these
    operations are usually involved with any given oil and gas project. These activities disturb large
    areas of land (between 1 to 5 acres) and require extensive erosion and sediment control practices to
    protect nearby watercourses. With this in mind, consider that 70% of the oil and gas projects
    inspected by the Warren County Conservation District between 1997 and 2002 were in violation
    because they had no E&S control measures installed allowing sediment deposition into streams. All
    of these sites were repaired and E&S controls installed, however only after lengthy site meetings
    and inspections.
    Due to the extremely disruptive nature of oil and gas development and the track record of
    these developers to control accelerated erosion and sediment pollution, a special exemption from
    the NPDES Permit Requirements should not be enacted. In fact, special additional regulations need to be attached to oil and gas construction activities in order to minimize the amount of stream
    degradation presently being allowed to happen by this industry.

  •  thank you for bringing up Itera. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, OCD, paprog, kurt

    Here are the puzzle pieces I've been collecting since the spring of 2001 when Bush & Cheney said on CNN news that their agenda was "a pipeline across Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey," and "to protect our interests over there.
    In the midst of my research about how they planned to go about that, I found these, not necessarily in any order, as I'm still trying to understand all this with far less education about it than, say, Condoleeza Rice should have...
    Itera Group Intends To Produce Oil In US

    U.S. weighs sanctions against Gazprom  [1997]

    Gazprom: Russia's Enron?

    and most of intriguing of all, the Hermitage Fund, (with an "m") which I learned about in a brief NPR story.
    Here's a chunk of my LTE from back in the day      

    If we carefully follow the money, and look at the map through the filter of the Russian oil pipeline industry, like a kaleidoscope all the pieces shake down differently, into a pattern that shows an otherwise hidden reason that the UK has spoken up so ferociously on our side, while France, Germany, Russia and China are lining up against us. Control of pipeline routes in Central Asia is being referred to as a return of the "Great Game." The pattern of the pipelines even helps explain why Chechnya is too important for Russia to let go quietly.  Without authority over Chechnya, all the pipeline proposals must include an ox-bow around that country or else pay them to play through.
         The recent story of division within the UN over whether or not it’s time to admit the possibility of war and enforce NATO agreements to protect Turkey makes more sense in this light too. Turkey is not just a neighbor of Iraq, its Gulf of Iskenderun port is an important end-point distribution destination on the way to Europe for the same oil pipeline system. When Boris Yeltzin resigned, "The Putin administration offered German banks stakes in Lukoil and Gazprom, Russia’s main energy companies," and "Central Asian governments began to forestall or renege on their deals with U.S. companies." (Williams) Once again, from our regular sources, we were told briefly ‘what,’ but not truly ‘why.’ Now that the Caspian contracts have gone against us, the U.S. has nothing to lose and a lot to gain by enforcing declarations we previously found expedient to ignore, and Europe can’t afford Turkish destruction.    
      Speaking of Gazprom, according to NHPR, May 31, 2001, Gazprom is so big that it is really a "state within a state." It consists of 25% of Russia’s economy across all types of business besides oil and gas, and the Ukrainian government owns a 38% stake in it. Remember when a Russian television station was ‘taken over’? That was the apparent issue, back when CNN News was mentioning "our interests over there." To Americans, that sounds vaguely like a first amendment problem- the government grabbing control of their news media. Actually it was Gazprom doing some more shady business. So why should Americans care about this? Because "American pension funds and other public, private and family money" (check out the Hermitage Fund) are invested in Gazprom - a firm that has been accused of being "Russia’s Enron." Gazprom wasn’t involved with Arthur Andersen, though. No, their accounting firm was another troubled financial services business - PriceWaterhouseCooper.

    At that time I had found the Florida address for Itera, with the surprising news (linked above) that they wanted to come from Russia to drill in America. This business with Putin before is a big part of how we got into the wars we are in now. I hope someone better versed in this can do a diary history of what has really gone on between Putin, Bush, and Cheney throughout the 1990s up until now.

    "Well, we're a little disturbed by the situation in the Middle East, but other than that..." Cyril, Breaking Away (1979)

    by peaceloveandkucinich on Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 01:57:21 PM PDT

    •  Itera deserves several diaries (6+ / 0-)

      but it has very little to do with Bush and Cheney. This is mostly domestic Russian stuff. See this, for instance:

      •  But Gazprom's strange dealings (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gogol, bronte17, rktect, walkshills

        involved Itera a great deal in some kind of weird power play. Meanwhile, the other clue that I found way back then was this: Bush and Cheney said those words, "a pipeline across Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey." I thought that sounded stupid, dangerous, and dumb, considering the state of general relations over there at the time [Mar/Apr 2001], that I went to the net and typed in "pipeline" + "Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey" and instead of a whole bunch of stuff I got one link. One. It was a simple address page for a solicitor's office in London, for the use of people who wanted to do business with  a company called Dresser-Rand. At the time I had no idea who that was, (although I had heard the name Ingersoll-Rand so I had a suspicion.), and neither did anyone else I asked, although maybe we would have, if during the campaign, Dan Rather had confronted Cheney when he lied.
           It was quoted in the WaPo that Cheney said he was okay with dealing with Libya, (Khaddafi and Berlusconi both made out pretty darn well dealing with GWB too) but he specifically stated he was not dealing with Iraq. Turns out, at the time, he was using a French subsidiary to do just that. That was when we got Freedom Fries with that. Then when it turned out to be true, Cheney reminded us that it was actually, in fact, legal, because it was through the Oil-for-Food program.
           It's so complicated, but Itera opens a window into the giant poison spider-web of dirty dealing going on that brought us to war based on a totally bullshit premise.  
            You say it's mostly domestic Russian stuff. Okay, that's true, except that I was the only one I knew at the time who even knew that American pension funds were being invested in what used to be Russia. And Enron! How quickly it seems the pain has faded from the American mind... American pension funds....My how times had changed.
         And  I saw Sam Donaldson's face when Cheney denied everything. He looked aghast, as if he couldn't believe Chebney would flat-out lie like that, but also pained like this was campaign-breaking big and he was not about to stick a pin in that boil right there on Sunday morning television without enough time to mop up the mess.
           Absolutely that last statement is my total speculation about what Sam was thinking. Ignore that part. But the rest is in WaPo and other perfectly public records. By actively reading everything but the NYT, which I have boycotted for its inaccuracies for 20 years, I was not fooled into fear and was not deluded about our weapons situation. [IMHO] Sam Donaldson not confronting Cheney is one of the ways we elected him, as surely as Colin Powell lying to the World on TV helped us end up at war.

        "Well, we're a little disturbed by the situation in the Middle East, but other than that..." Cyril, Breaking Away (1979)

        by peaceloveandkucinich on Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 03:04:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Wow (5+ / 0-)

      Thanks for the additional info.  It's amazing how interconnected all this is.

  •  Your last five diaries on this are excellent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Its fascinating what you can find if you do your homework like this. Its almost enough to make you wonder whether governments and wars and all of that are just irrelevant when it comes to a multi billion dollar international business sector getting what it wants.

    The environment, planetary survival, laws, none of that is even considered worth discussing because the network is so extensive, so wealthy, so powerful it can afford to just blow off any consequences as the cost of doing business.

    Oil addiction makes drug addiction pale by comparison being societal rather than personal, but the symptoms of the addictive disease reaching its final stages are similar. The total physical and mental degredation, wherein a human junkie will stoop to anything to survive are now apparent in our national willingness to just shrug our shoulders and continue driving to work.

    Modern western nations have enjoyed cheap energy almost since the end of the Ottoman Empire while the third world has suffered from our exploitation.

    Monday morning quarterbacking of the desire to run a new pipeline through Afghanistan, shows the historic extent of the problem.

    The reason we are in Afghanistan and Iraq and headed for Iran is strategic. If we don't control the access to that oil and it goes to other nations like Russia, China or Iran, then we run out. When that happens its going to be much worse than the great depression,

    Iran, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and the US have all been involved in nuclear intrigues to dominate the access to Russias oil since the energy crisis that came to a head in the Carter administration.

    The Cold War, Iran Contra, the overthrow of the Shah, The Hostage Crisis, The Russian Intervention into Afghanistan, the CIA involvement in bringing Sadam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin into the game, the nuclear technology proliferation by Pakistan... You could take this back to the creation of Pakistan.

    We are all used to taking oil for granted. Its been a cheap readily available source of energy all our lives and we have never given much thought to why.

    Now as our addiction forces us to sell off every stick of furniture in the house, destroy our national forests, polute our oceans, allow cartels of banks, drug dealers and oil companies to destabilize whole countries bringing mind numbing poverty, desparation, disease, famine and war to billions we still haven't connected the dots to recognize whats coming.

    Without our oil we cease to function, What's going on right now in PA is just a withdrawl symptom, the old veins are collapsing and we need new places to stick the needle in.

    We are waking up to find the long range consequences are here now with compound interest attached in the form of global warming.

    Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

    by rktect on Thu Jun 21, 2007 at 02:41:51 AM PDT

    •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

      That's an interesting point about what is going on in PA being a withdrawal symptom.  If you spent any time on the ground in the Allegheny, you'd see an industry that is marching across the landscape trying to build every road they can as quickly as they can to "get a fix" so to say.

      The sad part is that there is so little oil and gas that they are extracting.  The Forest Service says about 6.5 million barrels of oil come off the national forest each year.  That's not even a drop in the bucket when you consider the U.S. consumes over three times that amount every day.  

      This is all about reaping outrageous profits at the expense of our public land.  

  •  A point of info: (0+ / 0-)

    the surface on which this company operates is managed by the USDA-Forest Service, but the minerals are privately held; technically the company is not operating on "US public land" because the Forest Service has very little control over the operations of the company.

    "Holy Moses, I have been deceived" - B. Taupin

    by wozzle on Thu Jun 21, 2007 at 05:29:58 AM PDT

    •  That is absolutely not true (0+ / 0-)

      They are operating on US Forest Service land.  Just because the mineral rights are owned by a third party does not transfer surface ownership out of the hands of the federal government.

      The mineral owner is required to notify the Forest Service of its intent to drill and the Forest Service, under PA state law, has the right to file objections to the location of wells.  

      Additionally, the Forest Service has authority under federal law to control how development proceeds on the federal surface.  You can read up on those laws here.

      Importantly, the Forest Service has refused to bring oil and gas drilling under proper NEPA procedures, which would include the public in an environmental analysis of the drilling.  Right now, there is virtually no environmental analysis for the drilling or public input because the Forest Service says it's not a "federal action."  But when the Forest Service approves an operating plan submitted to it by the oil operator, that approval (or disapproval) is a federal action that triggers NEPA, thus the need for environmental analysis and public participation.

      So, the Forest Service DOES have control over the operations.

      •  Please; (0+ / 0-)

        it is absolutely true.  The mineral estate is the dominant estate.  The FS, according to the Minard Run decision, has 60 days to "approve" (ie negotiate) a plan of operations.  NEPA is trumped by the state law; there are no options to approval.

        I really wish that the PA folks would realize that the laws governing non-federal mineral estate are STATE laws, not federal. And your state laws came into being in 1905.

        "Holy Moses, I have been deceived" - B. Taupin

        by wozzle on Thu Jun 21, 2007 at 01:10:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, you are wrong (0+ / 0-)

          The Minard Run case was decided purely under Pennsylvania property law dealing with the easements that occur when the surface of the land is separated from the mineral estate beneath it. The United States was granted no greater rights than any other landowner in that case, but only because the United States

          "specifically disclaimed any intention of proceeding as a sovereign in regulating the use of the surface."

          Therefore, the Minard Run decision does not present the full range of the Forest Service’s regulatory power over oil and gas development.  

          Please tell me where the Minard Run decision says that NEPA is trumped by state law. It's the other way around.

          The 60 days you refer to does not mean the Forest Service has 60 days to approve the oil operators means that the oil operator must give the Forest Service at least 60 days advanced notice of their intent to drill and provide proof of right to exercise mineral rights, designated field representative, map of the planned development, plan of operation, and erosion & sedimentation control plan.

          In planning documents for the new forest plan, the Forest Service admits that the relevance of Minard Run is outdated and certainly does not represent its full authority to regulate oil and gas drilling on the national forest, despite the fact that they don't own most of the mineral rights.

          Besides, even if what you say is true, which it isn't, that in no way supports your first claim that,

          technically the company is not operating on "US public land" because the Forest Service has very little control over the operations of the company.

          They are operating on U.S. Public Land and the rules and regulations that apply to private mineral operations (outstanding and reserved) give the Forest Service ample authority to control how oil and gas drilling occurs on the public's land.

          •  The Minard Run decision (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is a federal decision.  It recognized the dominance of state law over federal rights.  FS is trying to use the 1911 Mining Act to counter Minard Run; my opinion is that they will fail.  

            Did you know that if FS finds a violation of its agreements with operators on private minerals, it must go to the state for resolution?  Federal regs DO NOT APPLY.

            And BTW, the status of federal acquired land as "public land" depends on the laws under which it was acquired.  Sorry, I've worked with several federal agencies on this stuff, and it's not at all like it is on public domain land.

            •  Federal regulations do apply (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wozzle, Predictor

              I'm not as pessimistic about the Forest Service asserting its authority under the 1911 rule.  

              We know that the Forest Service held a meeting with its attorneys from OGC and they decided that NEPA applied to private oil and gas operations on the Allegheny because of the 1911 rule.

              This was back in January.  They have yet to apply NEPA as of yet, but I'm hoping that will change soon.

              I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this.

              •  I understand their concern; (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                they are playing with state law and takings.  If USDA is hit for takings on the Allegheny they will be toast - they don't yet recognize their financial exposure.  Industry will not treat them kindly.

                •  Reasonable use (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  That is the standard for which oil and gas companies are to operate.

                  Right now, they are not making reasonable use of the surface, particularly when you consider it is federal public forest land.  

                  For instance, this is unreasonable.

                  Oil companies destroying the scenic integrity of a "National Scenic Byway" is not a reasonable use of surface resources in the extraction of subsurface mineral rights.

                  This is not reasonable either.

                  The North Country Trail is a "National Scenic Trail."  Howard Drilling destroyed approximately a half-mile section of this trail when it constructed this road for drilling.  The Forest Service ordered Howard Drilling to cease their operations.  That demonstrates that the Forest Service indeed does have control.

  •  Need help ID'ing an oil drilling operation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In the last year, a full-blown drilling rig has appeared down the road from my house in the National Forest in Arkansas.  Does anyone know how I can find out more about what they are doing?  How they managed to get a little plot in the national forest and who is doing this?  They don't talk to any locals.  They run 24/7.  There's a little sign that indicates the company is called "Unit" but that could just be a generic name.  How can I find out more?

    •  Contact the Forest Service (0+ / 0-)

      Just ask them if they can tell you anything about it.  If they stonewall, file a Freedom of Information Act request.  If you've never filed a FOIA, read over this site.

      Do you know if the national forests in Arkansas own their mineral rights?  That can be a huge difference in terms of access to information and level of public participation/environmental analysis goes into what is occurring.

      Also, check with your state permitting agency.  Any company likely must apply for and receive permits to drill and this is likely done through a state environmental agency.

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