Efforts to develop the oil sands from the Hartselle Sandstone formation in northwest Alabama started to become public in June 2011 but no one was watching.
Here’s a timeline of some of my research on a few key dates in the evolving oil sands development frenzy in Alabama. The focus is on 2013, but I’ve included a few other key dates from 2011, 2012 and 2014.
February 15, 2011: SCS Industries, LLC received a surface mining permit from the State of Alabama Department of Industrial Relations to mine asphaltic sandstone on a 15-acre tract in the SE 1/4 of SE 1/4 of Section 21, Township 5S, Range 9W.
- Permit # 012955
- File #42-SCS-1
- Transmittal letter addressed to Steve Smith, SCS Industries, LLC
- The address for SCS Industries, LLC shows a residential address in Atlanta, GA 30327
Numerous revisions to the surfacing mining permit referenced above.
June 8, 2011: Date of ADEM letter to SCS Industries, LLC re: public notice of NPDES permit application. This letter references the the public notice of permit as scheduled to appear in the Huntsville Times on July 14, 2011.
June 17, 2011: Transmittal letter and draft of NPDES permit for North Alabama Oil Sands Separation Facility to Steve Smith, SCS Industries, LLC, at the Atlanta, Georgia address.
June 29, 2011: ADEM Letter referencing modification to NPDES Draft Permit No. AL0081086 due to typographical error.
July 14, 2011: Presumably the above-referenced notice was published in the Huntsville Times on this date, although the actual notice is not included in the eFile documentation.
August 30, 2011: NPDES FinalPermit No. AL 0081086 issued to SCS Industries, LLC. Address noted above. Permit effective date is September 1, 2011 and Expiration Date of August 31, 2016.
December 14, 2011: ADEM Inspection Letter to Steve Smith, SCS Industries, LLC.
- Mailing Address on Letter: 2121 CR 236, Town Creek, Alabama
- Inspection report states that the facility has not been constructed and the property was a pasture at the time of inspection.
February 16, 2012: ADEM Memorandum to SCS Industries, LLC, North Alabama Oil Sands Separation Facility, et al re: inspection and no enforcement action needed.
May 10, 2012: MS Industries II, LLC formed in Alabama by Steve Smith.
October 2012: Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant assumed post as chair of the Southern States Energy Board (SSEB)
October 24, 2012: Keystone Energy, LLC formed in Mississippi
October 29, 2012: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley assumed post as chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) at its annual meeting. First Alabama governor to hold this position.
October 30, 2012: Transmittal Letter from Alabama Department of Industrial Relations granting surface mining permit to MS Industries II, LLC. Same acreage referenced in the February 15, 2011 permit to SCS Industries, LLC.
- Letter mailed to MS Industries II, LLC, 2489 County Road 236, Town Creek, AL 35672
- Permit # 13699, File #42-MS-1
- Permit Expiration Date: February 14, 2013
February 26, 2013: Transmittal Letter from ADEM to MS Industries II, LLC referencing a modification to NPDES Permit No. AL0081086. Effective date of modification: February 26, 2013. Permit Expiration: August 31, 2016 (same as original).
April 2, 2013: Alabama Rep. Greg Wren (R-Dist.75) introduced HB 503 to authorize State Oil & Gas Board to regulate oil sands development in Alabama.
April 18, 2013: HB 503 gets third reading in the House and passes the Alabama House of Representatives.
May 2, 2013: HB 503, Approved by the Alabama Senate
May 7, 2013: HB 503 Delivered to the Governor at 12:20 p.m.
Click here to view the full legislative history of Alabama HB 503 from OpenStates.org.
May 17, 2013: Alabama Minerals, LP formed in Texas
P.O. Box 568887, Denton, TX 75207 (same P.O. Box as Trinity Industries, Inc.)
General Partner is TGW Management, LLC
May 19-21, 2013: Mid-year meeting of the IOGCC in Point Clear, Alabama. Governor Robert Bentley continued to serve as Chair of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission.
- Official Meeting Highlights reference a Governor Bentley’s States First initiative (states should regulate oil and gas development and environmental protection within their state borders) and a presentation by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on importance oil and gas development in Mississippi.
May 22, 2013: TMS Newco, LLC formed in Delaware.
- The company’s headquarters is in Texas and has the same street address as Trinity Industries, Inc.
- You can find a decoder key to the alphabet soup of companies here, based on my research discoveries so far.
May 23, 2013: Keystone Energy, LLC obtained oil and gas lease on 748 acre tract in Franklin County, Alabama. Landowners are Elmer T. Hovater and wife.
- Keystone Energy LLC has address of 105 Executive Drive, Suite C, P. O. Box 220, Madison, MS 39130.
- Keystone Energy, LLC is registered to do business in Alabama as KE, LLC.
- Lease recorded in Franklin County Deed Records at Book 349, Page 365.
May 24, 2013: Deed from Greg Masterson to MS Industries II, LLC (443 acres)
Recorded in Colbert County Deed Records: Book 2013, p 15919.
May 24, 2013: Mineral deed from MS Industries II, LLC to GTW, LP.
Conveys a 1% interest in 443 acres (the Masterson property). Recorded May 29, 2013 Colbert County, Alabama Deed Records Book 2013 Pg 15931
June 26, 2013: Master Loan Agreement involving Alabama Minerals, LP (referenced in a recorded document)
June-July 2013: Several other conveyances from various landowners to MS Industries II, LLC and/or TMS Newco, LLC.
July 27, 2013: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley & Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant announced Memorandum of Understanding between Alabama and Mississippi to “study” oil sands resources. Announcement comes during meeting of the Southern States Energy Board. Here’s a screen shot of the first two paragraphs of the Memorandum.
- Here’s a PDF of the Memorandum of Understanding released by Governor Bentley’s office.
- News Release from Gov. Bentley’s office announcing the Memorandum of Understanding
August 1, 2013: Keystone Energy, LLC qualifies to do business in Alabama as KE, LLC.
August 6, 2013: WHNT-TV 19 does story on Memorandum of Understanding. Perfunctory report. Other news media also provide some coverage on this issue.
August 21, 2013: Keystone Energy, LLC obtains oil and gas lease from heirs of Robert Neal Williams (deceased) and Betty Williams (deceased) on 1,240 acres in Franklin County, Alabama.
September 27, 2013: Deed from Yordy Farms LLC to TMS Newco, LLC
This is a large tract of farmland in Spring Valley, Colbert County, Alabama). A Norfolk Southern railroad spur extends along the right-of-way of this property. See the photo below for an aerial view of the railroad spur and a portion of this land.
October 1, 2013: Mortgage from TMS Newco, LLC to Alabama Minerals, LP (property acquired from Yordy Farms LLC)
October 2013: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley assumed role as chair of the Southern States Energy Board, replacing Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.
October 24, 2013: Mortgage Assumption Agreement between TMS Newco, LLC and Alabama Minerals, LP
November 2013: Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant assumed chair of Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, replacing Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.
November 18, 2013: Corrective Deed from Yordy Farms, LLC to TMS Newco, LLC
December 20, 2013: Deed from Christopher J. Wallace to TMS Newco, LLC
- Christopher J. Wallace is a Franklin County Commissioner.
- This 160-acre tract is adjacent to the 443-acre Masterson tract acquired May 24, 2013.
January 14, 2014: Governor Bentley’s State of the State Address referenced plans to create the Alabama Oil Sands Program at the State Oil & Gas Board during 2014.
February 7, 2014: Mineral Deed from TMS Newco, LLC to MS Industries, LLC. Deed executed February 7, 2014 but not recorded until March 19, 2014
February 27, 2014: Deed from Tuscumbia Limited, LLC by Danny Gist to MS Industries II, LLC. Stated price on Deed: $400,000.00. This property includes a commercial building and is located across the road from former Yordy Farms property purchased in 2013
- Recorded February 28, 2014
- 3.16 acres + 37.79 acres
Unfortunately, since we no longer have a press performing any type of meaningful watchdog role, none of this made the news, at least not until Governor Bentley’s office released the text of the governor’s deal with Mississippi to pursue development of the oil sands. And the scope of news coverage was then limited to echoing the talking points from the governor’s news release and the state’s geologist. The early news reports didn’t consider the effect on residents who will have to live in the midst of the mining operations.
Eventually, the TimesDaily in Florence, Alabama began to provide more boots-on-the-ground research that takes a meaningful look at the potential effects of oil sands mining in northwest Alabama. You can find links to some of the Times Daily articles here. I hope the TimesDaily will continue to put time and energy into researching these issues.