The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
New Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Regulations Take Effect
The new rules (25 PA. CODE CHS. 78 AND 78a) promulgated by the Environmental Quality Board were posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on October 7, 2016, and went into effect the next day. The rules are intended to set standards for the oil and gas industry to maximize safety and environmental protection. The rules include “public resource impact screening, water supply replacement standards, waste management and disposal, and establishing identification and select monitoring of wells located proximal to hydraulic fracturing activities.” The changes add a new chapter (Chapter 78a) to address specific requirements for unconventional wells and revise the existing requirements pertaining to conventional wells (Chapter 78) to avoid conflicts with the unconventional well requirements.
PHMSA Issues Interim Final Rule for Pipeline Safety
On October 3, 2016, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) intended to provide additional protections for pipeline safety. The new rule establishes procedures that allow for emergency orders “to address an unsafe condition or practice, or combination of unsafe conditions or practices, that pose an imminent hazard to public health and safety or the environment.” This rule is a direct response to the PIPES Act which gives PHMSA imminent hazard authority to respond to pipeline emergencies.
EPA Adds Updates from 2015 for Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program
The Environmental Protection Agency has published information on petroleum and natural gas systems emissions of greenhouse gases. From 2014 to 2015, facilities reporting emissions for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide decreased from 2,416 to 2,413. From 2014 to 2015, carbon dioxide emissions decreased from 161.9 to 160.5 million metric tons and methane emissions decreased from 73.1 to 70.3 million metric tons. Reported emissions of nitrous oxide increased from 0.1 to 0.6 million metric tons.
Dakota Access, LLC, Moves Forward After U.S. District Court Order
On October 9, 2016 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an order dissolving an injunction that prohibited continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Standing Rock v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1:16-cv-01534-JEB). The court held that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was not able to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits or that there would be irreparable harm without the injunction. However, construction of the pipeline is still prohibited by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on land near Lake Oahe.
New Study Reviews Methane Emissions from Fossil Fuels
A study published in Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science on October 5, 2016, evaluated methane emission trends from the global fossil fuel industry. According to the study, emissions coming from “natural gas, oil and coal production and their usage are 20 to 60 per cent greater than inventories.” However, the study also found that methane emissions from fossil fuel production have declined “from approximately 8 per cent to approximately 2 per cent over the past three decades.” The study is entitled “Upward Revision of Global Fossil Fuel Methane Emissions Based on Isotope Database.”
Cuadrilla Shale Company Permitted to Drill in Lancashire
On October 6, 2016, the UK Department for Communities and Local Government secretary Sajid Javid accepted the appeal for exploratory unconventional drilling for four wells at Preston New Road. The secretary deferred his decision on the second drilling site, Roseacre Wood, to allow for more information gathering. Objections by Lancashire council cited “visual impact and noise” when they initially refused to approve the drilling site applications. With their drilling applications now approved, Cuadrilla is set to begin the project in 2017.
Brazil Passes Bill Allowing More Foreign Participation in Oil Fields
According to the Brazil-U.S. Business Council, on October 5, 2016, the Brazilian House of Representatives passed a bill that removes the participation requirements of Petrobras in developmental activities. Previously, Petrobras was required to participate in 30% of oil field exploration as well as act as the operator of the field. This new bill makes the participation optional, allowing other foreign investors to participate more fully in oil exploration and development.
Written by Jacqueline Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator