The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas:
Federal Jury Holds Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation Responsible for Dimock Area Water Contamination
On March 10, 2016, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania found against Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, holding it responsible for environmental contamination from its natural gas extraction activities in Pennsylvania. The jury’s verdict finds Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation to have negligently operated wells in the Dimock area that interfered with plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their property. Cabot was ordered by the Court to pay the sum of $4.24 million to be divided based on each plaintiffs’ damages. Plaintiffs filed a complaint on November 19, 2009, alleging that Cabot negligently discharged pollutants near plaintiffs’ homes and water wells. More information on the case is available at docket no. 3:09-cv-2284.
West Virginia House Reviews Senate Bill Addressing Private Nuisance Claims
On February 4, 2016, West Virginia Senator Ryan Ferns introduced Senate Bill No. 508 to the General Assembly pertaining to civil claims for private nuisance alleged to result from oil and gas operations. The bill would prevent landowners from bringing a lawsuit against any person engaged in oil and gas activities based on private nuisance unless the landowners could show that the activity at issue is carried out in violation of laws, license, permit or other governmental authorization. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 20 to 12 on February 23, and is currently pending in House Judiciary Committee.
Idaho Legislature Establishes Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
On March 7, 2016, the legislature of the state of Idaho passed Senate Bill No. 1339 giving authority to the newly created state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to regulate oil and gas activities. The Commission will have power to oversee the Idaho Department of Lands’ regulatory process for permitting oil and gas wells. The Commission also will have authority to review and reverse any Department of Lands’ decisions. SB 1339 was passed in anticipation of future oil and gas development in the state of Idaho while only minor natural gas drilling activities have taken place in the western part of Idaho.
Constitution Pipeline is Expected to be Operational by October 2016
In a media advisory dated March 10, 2016, Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, announced that the new Constitution pipeline is scheduled to be operational by October of this year. The Constitution pipeline project will be approximately 124 miles in length and will deliver 650,000 dekatherms per day (Dth/d) of natural gas supply from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, to an interconnect site in Schoharie County, New York. Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, explained that “pending receipt of the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Constitution anticipates beginning limited mainline construction in the summer of 2016.”
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow