The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas:
U.S. EPA agrees to modify water discharge permits granted to oil and gas producers in the Wind River Reservation, Wyoming
On May 26, 2016, the national alliance Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) announced that U.S. EPA has agreed to propose some changes to disputed water discharge permits allowing hydraulic fracturing fluids to be discharged in the Wind River Reservation, Wyoming. In April 2015, PEER challenged those water permits “on the grounds that surface disposal of drilling wastewater without even identifying the chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing . . . fluids . . . violates the Clean Water Act, as well as EPA’s own regulations.” U.S. EPA did not yet release a date for the publication of those proposed changes.
ATSDR founds 44 private water wells hazardous to health in Dimock, Pennsylvania
On May 24, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released a health consultation following a request from EPA to evaluate the water quality in private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania. The residential well water results are based on samples taken in 2012. The agency “found some of the chemicals in the private water wells at this site at levels high enough to affect health (27 private water wells), pose a physical hazard (17 private water wells), or make the water unsuitable for drinking.” More information on the Dimock investigation can be found here.
Boulder County Commission announces new moratorium on oil and gas drilling activity
On May 19, 2016, in a response to the Colorado Supreme Court’s decisions concerning local fracking bans, the Boulder County Commissioners announced that the Commission has adopted a new moratorium on processing oil and gas development applications until November 18, 2016 – the time “to review our current land use code and adopt changes that fit with the current status of oil and gas drilling operations.” The new moratorium terminates the temporary moratorium enacted in 2012 that would have expired in July 2018. The Commissioners declared that “if our existing moratorium on new oil and gas applications was to be challenged, a court would most likely view our moratorium as no different from Fort Collins’ moratorium.”
Researchers at Duke’s University examine local government revenues and costs from oil and gas activities as part of the Shale Public Finance project
On May 18, 2016, faculty researchers Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi at Duke University’s Energy Initiative released an Issue Brief entitled “Local government revenues and costs associated with oil and gas development.” Amongst others, the researchers found that “major costs for local governments have tended to center around three issues: increased demand for road repair . . . increased demand for sewer and water services . . . and a variety of staff costs, such as expanding police or emergency services and raising compensation to compete with high-paying jobs in the oil and gas sector.” This Issue Brief was released as part of the Shale Public Finance project launched by Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi. Further information on the Shale Public Finance project is available here.
BOEM releases an Environmental Assessment on offshore drilling in the Southern California Planning Area
In May 2016, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), together with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), released a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) of the use of well stimulation treatments on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf, Southern California Planning Area. BOEM and BSEE concluded that the likelihood of various accidents from the use of well stimulation treatments in the region “is low and reasonably foreseeable for only a single accident scenario considered in this PEA (i.e., during the transfer by crane of WST chemicals from a PSV to a platform).” Further information on the PEA is available here.
Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow