The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas:
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Dismisses Climate Case
On July 26, 2015, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania dismissed a case in which young petitioners sought a writ of mandamus to force the development of a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the court found that there were no jurisdictional or standing issues, it concluded that mandamus would not lie because the petitioners had no clear right to what they requested and that there would be no purpose to grant the petitioners’ requested declaratory relief.
States and Industry Groups Challenge Methane Rule
On August 2, 2016, fourteen states and state agencies and numerous industry groups have joined with Texas and North Dakota in challenging the EPA’s new methane emissions standards. According to a news release issued by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on August 2, 2016, there is widespread support for the methane rule among the public. Peter Zalzal, the EDF’s Lead Attorney, stated that the EDF would be “ vigorously defending [the standards] in court.”
Bureau of Land Management Moves Permitting Process Completely to the Internet
On July 28, 2016, BLM announced that e-filing will be the new default for filing drilling permit applications. The new system should reduce processing times and make the permit application process more efficient overall. There are, however, circumstances in which a waiver may be granted so that operators can file hard copies rather than e-filing.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Challenges Pipeline Permitting Process
In a complaint filed July 27, 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe claimed that the Dakota Access Pipeline would be harmful to important tribal landmarks, the environment, and the Tribe’s economy. The Tribe contends that the the authorized pipeline does not comply with the Clean Water Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, or the National Environmental Policy Act and seeks to have the authorization revoked pending compliance.
PHMSA Recommends $1.6 Million in Fines for Compression Station Explosion
In an order dated July 29, 2016, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) concluded that the Transcontinental Pipeline Company should be fined $1.6 million for a 2015 Louisiana gas plant explosion in which four people died. These fines are based on five probable violations found during an investigation of the explosion. The violations include inadequate notice of the incident, a lack of preventative measures for accidental ignition, inadequate training and oversight, failure of the operator to follow its Operator Qualification Plan, and failure of the operator to develop a purge plan.
New NEPA Guidance Issued
On August 1, 2016, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued new National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidance. The guidance aims to improve consideration of the climate change results of proposed actions.
Office of Natural Resources Revenue Releases Civil Penalty Regulations
On August 1, 2016, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue released a final rule on Civil Penalty Regulations. The rule extends penalties to solid mineral and geothermal lessees. While the rule has no royalty impacts and industry should not see significant new administrative costs, industry could face some increased penalties.
The Center for Biological Diversity Sues to Protect Aquifer
On August 3, 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit claiming that the Arroyo Grande Aquifer did not meet aquifer exemption criteria. Aquifer exemptions allow underground injection of wastewater near the exempted aquifer. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Arroyo Grande Aquifer doesn’t meet the requirements because, among other reasons, it was not demonstrated that the aquifer was no longer usable for drinking water or other “beneficial purposes.”
Written by Chelsea Wilson and Jessica Deyoe - Research Assistants