Jackie Schweichler – Staff Attorney
Sarah Straub – Research Assistant
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
Pipelines: Dakota Access
Permitted to Increase Pipeline Capacity
On October 14, 2020, the Illinois Commerce Commission issued an order allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to install more pumping stations along the pipeline at various locations in Illinois. The Commission found that the additional pump stations will help to nearly double the pipeline’s capacity to transport crude oil from 570,000 barrels per day to up to 1.1 million barrels per day. The additional pump stations will be located in Hancock County, Massac County, and near Patoka, Illinois. Dakota Access Pipeline alleged the need to increase capacity of the pipeline in order to meet growing demands of the public. The company argued that Illinois consumes the sixth most petroleum in the nation and that this pipeline is essential to meeting that need.
Pipelines: FERC Issues
Order Authorizing Construction of New Double E Pipeline
On October 15, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order authorizing the construction and operation of a new pipeline, the Double E Pipeline. The new pipeline is a joint venture entered into between Summit Permian Transmission, LLC and ExxonMobil Permian Double E Pipeline, LLC. The proposed pipeline will travel 116.1 miles from an existing plant in Eddy County, New Mexico to Pecos County, Texas. The pipeline is estimated to have permanent impacts on approximately 967 acres of land, while 72% of the project is anticipated to run parallel or adjacent to existing utility rights-of-way. The Commission’s order found that Double E had demonstrated a need for the pipeline’s construction project, had shown that the project would not impose adverse economic impacts on existing pipelines or their customers, and had established that the pipeline’s benefits outweighed any adverse economic impacts that might be imposed on landowners and nearby neighborhoods. The Commission’s order also denied an environmental group’s request that an Environmental Impact Statement be submitted, finding that the Environmental Assessment determined that the pipeline project would not significantly impact air quality, state and federal lands, or Karst formations (soluble landscapes which may lead to sinkholes, caves, and underground streams). One member of the Commission dissented from the opinion stating that he believed the Commission’s order violated the Natural Gas Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. In a statement by Summit Midstream, the company stated that it expects to receive FERC’s notice to proceed with construction within 90 days after the company has completed outstanding necessary requirements, files an implementation plan with FERC, and receives a right-of-way grant from the Bureau of Land Management.
Public Lands: Government
Accountability Office Report Suggests Review of Interior Department’s Temporary
Royalty Relief Program
On October 6, 2020, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that recommended the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) evaluate the methods they employed in extending temporary relief regarding royalty payments to oil and gas producers during the pandemic. During the spring of 2020, BLM developed a temporary program that allowed oil and gas producers to apply for relief from their responsibility to pay royalties on some oil and gas leases on federal lands. The program aimed to avoid permanent losses because of the downturn in the domestic oil markets. GAO advised that BLM’s administration of the relief program was inconsistent with BLM failing to establish that some operators needed the relief to avoid oil and gas well shutdowns. GAO estimated that the relief program may have resulted in the loss of approximately $4.5 million in revenue. GAO made the following two recommendations: (1) that BLM’s Director reevaluate the temporary royalty relief program; and (2) that BLM’s handbook be updated “to provide specific, consistent, and transparent policies and procedures for royalty relief.”
Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Approves Rule Change for
Underground Disposal Wells
On October 13, 2020, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved a rule change regarding underground disposal wells used by oil and gas operations to dispose of produced fluids. The regulation comes as a result of recent Wyoming legislation allowing the Commission to regulate both commercial and noncommercial underground disposal wells. The Commission received two comments regarding bonding requirements and amended the proposed rule in order to allow for adaptation of the required bond to the individual well. The approved rule will now be reviewed by the Wyoming Secretary of State and Governor’s office. You can watch the Commission’s meeting discussing the proposed rule and received comments here at approximately the 51 minute point.
Public Health: Harvard
Publishes Study Examining Increased Radiation Near Unconventional Oil and Gas
On October 13, 2020 Harvard researchers published a study in the journal Nature Communications which found that radiation levels downwind of unconventional oil and gas wells tend to be higher than radiation levels found near conventional oil and gas wells. Researchers collected data from across the United States from 2001 through 2017, analyzing 320,796 measurements from the Environmental Protection Agency’s RadNet monitors, which monitor background radiation levels in the environment. This data was then compared with oil and gas well production data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The researchers concluded that an increase in radiation released from unconventional oil and gas wells may result in adverse health effects in nearby communities. The largest increases of radiation were found in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields as opposed to the fields in Texas and the Dakotas. The researchers noted that further studies are needed to more completely examine and understand the connection between unconventional drilling, increased radiation, and the health impacts which affect nearby neighborhoods.
From the National Oil
& Gas Law Experts:
Charles Sartain, On the Way to a Renewable Energy Future: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (October 14, 2020).
Romany Webb, California Blackouts Highlight Need To Better Plan For Climate Impacts, (October 12, 2020).
Romany Webb, Trump v. The Climate, Round Two: What Four More Years Of Trump Might Mean For Climate Regulation, (October 15, 2020).
Agency Press Releases - State/Federal
of Energy Press Releases:
Wolf Administration Announces Winners of the 2020 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence (October 14, 2020).
Protection Agency Press Releases:
EPA Finalizes Procedures for Alternate Liner Demonstrations, Allows for More Site-Specific Management of Coal Ash (October 16, 2020).
U.S. EPA requires Lanai Oil Company to protect Hawaiian waterways from oil spills (October 14, 2020).
State Actions - Executive/Legislative
Agencies—Actions and Notices:
50 Pa.B. 5821, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, “Application of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc. for approval of the abandonment of natural gas service to one residential premise located in Allegheny County.” (October 17, 2020).
HB 2925 “An Act amending the act of July 7, 1980 (P.L.380, No.97), known as the Solid Waste Management Act, in general provisions, further providing for definitions; making an inconsistent repeal; and making editorial changes.” Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy, (October 14, 2020).
HB 2826 “An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, further providing for relationship to solid waste and surface mining.” Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy, (October 14, 2020).
SB 619 “An Act amending the act of June 22, 1937 (P.L.1987, No.394), known as The Clean Streams Law” Voting Meeting Scheduled for October 20, 2020
Federal Actions - Executive/Legislative
Agencies—Actions and Notices:
85 FR 64452 “Energía Costa Azul, S. de R.L. de C.V.; Application To Amend Long-Term Authorization To Export Natural Gas to Mexico and To Re-Export Liquefied Natural Gas From Mexico to Non-Free Trade Agreement Nations” Notice of application; Comment period ends December 14, 2020 (October 13, 2020).
85 FR 65392 “Golden Pass LNG Terminal LLC; Application To Amend Export Term Through December 31, 2050, for Existing Non-Free Trade Agreement Authorization” Notice of application (October 15, 2020).
85 FR 65391 “Change In Control; Sabine Pass Liquefaction, LLC” Notice of change in control (October 15, 2020).
85 FR 65795 “Cheniere Marketing, LLC and Corpus Christi Liquefaction, LLC; Application for Blanket Authorization To Export Liquefied Natural Gas to Non-Free Trade Agreement Countries on a Short-Term Basis” Notice of application (October 16, 2020).
85 FR 65797 “Delfin LNG LLC; Application To Amend Export Term Through December 31, 2050, for Existing Non-Free Trade Agreement Authorization” Notice of application (October 16, 2020).
Environmental Protection Agency
85 FR 65800 “Environmental Impact Statements; Notice of Availability” Notice (October 16, 2020).
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
85 FR 64454 “Northern Natural Gas Company; Notice of Schedule for Environmental Review of the Lake City 1st Branch Line Abandonment and Capacity Replacement Project” Notice (October 13, 2020).
85 FR 64455 “Midship Pipeline Company, LLC; Notice of Initiation of Section 5 Proceeding” Notice (October 13, 2020).
85 FR 65039 “Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, Inc.; Notice of Application” Notice (October 14, 2020).
85 FR 65041 “ANR Pipeline Company; Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC; Columbia Gulf Transmission, LLC; Notice of Initiation of Section 5 Proceeding” Notice (October 14, 2020).
85 FR 65035 “Rover Pipeline, LLC; Notice of Initiation of Section 5 Proceeding” Notice (October 14, 2020).
85 FR 65394 “Columbia Gulf Transmission, LLC; Notice of Application and Establishing Intervention Deadline” Notice (October 15, 2020).
National Resources Revenue Office
85 FR 65395 “Agency Information Collection Activities; Collection of Monies Due the Federal Government; and Processing Refund Requests Related to Overpayments Made to ONRR” Notice of information collection; request for comment; comment period ends December 14, 2020 (October 15, 2020).
Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
85 FR 65142 “Pipeline Safety: Class Location Change Requirements” Proposed rulemaking; Comment period ends December 14, 2020 (October 14, 2020).
Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Office
85 FR 65422 “Agency Information Collection Activities; Certification of Blasters in Federal Program States and on Indian Land” Notice of collection information; request for comment; comment period ends December 14, 2020 (October 15, 2020).
85 FR 65422 “Agency Information Collection Activities; Permanent Program Performance Standards-Surface and Underground Mining Activities” Notice of collection information; request for comment; comment period ends December 14, 2020 (October 15, 2020).
85 FR 65421 “Agency Information Collection Activities; Underground Mining Permit Applications-Minimum Requirements for Reclamation and Operation Plan” Notice of collection information; request for comment; comment period ends December 14, 2020 (October 15, 2020).
House Energy and
Commerce Committee Actions:
H.R. 8582 “To amend the Clean Air Act to establish a tradeable performance standard covering emissions from the electricity generation and industrial sectors, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (October 13, 2020).
H.R. 8605 “To authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to award grants to certain entities to conduct research on, or to establish, wastewater surveillance and other early warning systems, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (October 16, 2020).
Follow us on Twitter at PSU Ag & Shale Law (@AgShaleLaw) to receive ShaleLaw HotLinks:
“OPEC Cuts 2021 Oil Demand Forecast Again As Virus Cases Rise” Reuters
“DOE Report Indicates Need For Innovation, While Recognizing Role Of Natural Gas, Oil In U.S. Energy Needs” Daily Energy Insider
“Wyoming's Energy Sectors Slogging Through Slow Recovery, New Report Shows” Casper Star Tribune
“Natural Gas Is Key To Pa.’s Economic Future” Pittsburgh-Post Gazette
“Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline Can Resume, FERC Rules” The Roanoke Times
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