The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas:
University of Texas publishes new study addressing wastewater injection wells and earthquake activity
On April 13, 2016, the University of Texas at Austin published a new study entitled “Geomechanical analysis of fluid injection and seismic fault slip for the M4.8 Timpson, Texas, earthquake sequence” in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. The study examines the relationship between underground wastewater injection wells and the recent increase in earthquake activity in Texas. The researchers found it to be “plausible” that wastewater injection caused a swarm of earthquakes near Timpson, Texas, including a M4.8 earthquake in May 2012.
INEOS Europe AG and Rex Energy Corp. sign a natural gas sale and purchase agreement to begin in April 2016
On April 11, 2016, INEOS Europe AG signed an agreement with Rex Energy Corporation, a Pennsylvania-based company, for the purchase of natural gas liquids, including ethane, propane and butane, from the Appalachian Basin to be shipped to Europe. In a Press Release, INEOS explained that “the natural gas liquids will be transported through the Mariner East infrastructure and exported by sea to INEOS’ European cracker complexes.” Shipment of ethane is expected to begin in April 2016 while shipment of butane and propane is expected to begin in 2017.
UK Environment Agency grants environmental permits to Third Energy for shale gas development
On April 11, 2016, UK Environment Agency granted permits to Third Energy allowing the company to conduct hydraulic fracturing operations in North Yorkshire, located in Northern UK. Third Energy filed an application with the North Yorkshire County Council in July 2015 to explore and produce shale gas using hydraulic fracturing at existing production facilities. In a Press Release, UK Environment Agency declared that “the decision follows a rigorous assessment of Third Energy UK Ltd’s proposals, as well as all comments submitted during two public consultations.”
Iowa individual landowners bring legal action against Iowa Utilities Board over eminent domain for Bakken oil pipeline
On April 8, 2016, the Northwest Iowa Landowners Association and individual landowners filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Utilities Board in Polk County District Court challenging the issuance of a permit for the Bakken oil pipeline. In a Press Release, attorneys for the individual landowners stated that “the lawsuit . . . argues that Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, does not qualify as a utility and therefore should not have the ability to use eminent domain to forcibly access Iowa landowners’ property to build a pipeline to transport Bakken oil across the state.”
U.S. Forest Service announces possibility of withdrawing portions of the Bridger-Teton Forest from oil and gas leasing
Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Forest Service announced the release of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for oil and gas leasing on National Forest System lands in the Wyoming Range. Interestingly, in a Press Release dated April 7, the Forest Service declared that it might consider withdrawing consent to lease portions of the Bridger-Teton Forest. Located in Wyoming, the Bridger-Teton Forest covers about 3.4 million acres of federal public land, including 39,490 acres held by oil and gas leases. The Forest Service proposed four leasing alternatives, including withdrawing consent. The Final SEIS is expected to be released in October 2016, and the decision is expected in January 2017.
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow