The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas:
Highland Township, PA, denies plaintiff’s allegations in a local ordinance violation case
On April 12, 2016, Highland Township and its Board of Supervisors filed an answer in response to Seneca Resources Corp.’s complaint dated February 2015 challenging a local ordinance banning underground injection wells. In its complaint, Seneca Resources Corp. alleged that the township’s Ordinance No. 1-9 of 2013 “illegally purports to ban otherwise properly permitted and regulated underground injection control (UIC) wells used for the disposal of natural gas brines within the township.” Highland Township and its Board of Supervisors denied most of allegations in the complaint and demanded a jury trial. More information on this case is available at docket no. 1:15-cv-00060, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
BLM releases FYI 2015 Oil and Gas Activity Statistics on Federal and Indian Lands
On April 11, 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its Oil and Gas Statistics for the 2015 fiscal year. According to the statistics, BLM granted 3,508 drilling permits on Federal lands and 720 on tribal lands, which represents a 10 percent increase compared to 2014. In addition, BLM declared that about 810,000 acres were leased in the 2015 fiscal year. In a Press Release, BLM declared that “for a second year in a row, the BLM has completed 100 percent of all of its high-priority production inspections, despite not having a dedicated funding for this critical workload.”
Cabot Oil & Gas Company files Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law in the Dimock Area water contamination case
On April 7, 2016, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation filed a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law to vacate a jury’s decision rendered in March 2016 against the corporation. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania held Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation responsible for environmental contamination from its natural gas extraction activities in Pennsylvania. Cabot asked the court to “remit the grossly excessive damages award to no more tan $85,500” while originally it was ordered by the court to pay the total sum of $4.24 million following a trial by jury. More information on the case is available at docket no. 3:09-cv-2284.
FWS asks FERC to reevaluate a Pipeline Project in Georgia over wildlife concerns
On April 5, 2016, in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s Office of Energy Projects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stated that the proposed Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company’s Dalton Expansion Project would have some negative impacts on several listed species and their habitat, contrary to what FERC claimed. As a result, FWS asked FERC to reevaluate the project. The Dalton Expansion Pipeline Project, operated by Williams Energy Company, will be approximately 112 miles and will deliver 448,000 dekatherms per day (Dth/d) of Marcellus Shale gas to Georgia. More information on the Dalton Expansion Project is available at FERC docket no. CP15-117-000.
Pennsylvania DEP fines Rice Energy’s subsidiary over environmental violations
On April 4, 2016, Rice Drilling B, LLC, a subsidiary of Rice Energy Inc., received three fines from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for environmental violations at sites in Washington and Greene counties. The fines amounted to a total of $393,500. According to DEP’s Press Release, Rice Drilling B was fined for unlawfully “installing a waterline between a well pad and an impoundment without a permit, building a pipeline through a wetland that was not authorized by permit, and putting three waterlines under a stream when the permit authorized only one pipeline.”
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow