The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
UGI Energy Begins Construction on Sunbury Pipeline Project
As reported by Central Penn Business Journal, on August 24, 2016 UGI Energy Services LLC had their groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sunbury pipeline. The pipeline will be 35 miles long and will stretch from Lycoming County to Snyder County. The company expects that the 20 inch pipeline will be finished within the year.
Proponents of Drilling Regulations Lack Sufficient Signatures for Colorado Ballot
A news release issued on August 29, 2016 by the Colorado Secretary of State reported the failure of proposed ballot initiatives. The ballot measures would have allowed local regulation of oil and gas development. In addition, the second ballot measure would have required a mandatory 2,500 foot setback from drilling activities. Proponents of the ballot measures collected the required number of signatures, but after verification, approximately only 80% of the signatures in a random sample were deemed to be valid. The valid signatures were insufficient to qualify for the ballot.
Environmental Groups Challenge BLM Oil and Gas Lease Approvals
On August 25, 2016, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The complaint alleges that the approval of 397 oil and gas leases violates the National Environmental Policy Act. The plaintiffs argue that the BLM failed to properly assess the potential climate impact of greenhouse gas emissions and their cumulative effect. The case is WildEarth Guardians v. Jewell et al., case number 1:16-cv-01724.
U.S. Geological Survey Reports Record Matching Earthquake in Oklahoma
As reported by the USGS, on September 3, 2016 Oklahoma experienced a magnitude 5.6 earthquake several miles northwest of Pawnee. The earthquake matches the previous record high magnitude of 5.6 from 2011. USGS reports potential damage from expected aftershocks. USGS also reports that in the past seven years there has been a significant increase in the number of induced earthquakes that have been linked to oil and gas development.
University of Texas Arlington Publishes Study on Possible Source of Air Contamination
The UTA study published August 26, 2016 suggests that contaminated air around American shale plays occurs as a result of operational or mechanical inefficiencies rather than as a natural result of unconventional drilling operations. The researchers tested for emissions of benzene, toluene, and xylene isomers and created a heat map to determine where the emissions were being produced. They found that emissions could be traced to flaring stations, condensate tanks and compressor units on only some drilling sites. The study is called “Point Source Attribution of Ambient Contamination Events Near Unconventional Oil and Gas Development” and was published in the Science of the Total Environment journal.
Clean Air Task Force Releases Report on Health Effects from Oil and Gas Industry
An analysis from the Clean Air Task Force entitled “Gasping for Breath” was released on August 31, 2016 and offers a look at national health impacts from ozone smog produced from oil and gas pollution. The Task Force determined that health impacts resulting from ozone smog could cause asthma attacks, impair lung function, and exacerbate bronchitis and emphysema conditions. The study suggests that Texas specifically will be drastically impacted by pollutant related sickness, especially in Barnett Shale drilling areas.
Victoria, Australia Announces Ban on Unconventional Gas Drilling
In a media release issued by the Andrews Labor Government on August 30, 2016, it was announced that Victoria, Australia will implement a permanent ban on unconventional gas development. The release states that the ban is being imposed to protect the agricultural sector of Victoria, as Australia’s top food and fiber producer.
Written by Jacqueline Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator