The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
Marcellus Shale Coalition Files Suit Against New Drilling Regulations
On October 13, 2016, the Marcellus Shale Coalition filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania against the PA DEP (Marcellus Shale Coalition v. Department of Environmental Protection of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 573 MD 2016). The Marcellus Shale Coalition is challenging the DEP’s implementation of new drilling regulations under the authority of Act 13. They suggest that the new rules are vague, conflict with other applicable statutes, and some sections constitute special laws, a violation of the PA Constitution.
District Court Rules Private Nuisance Claim May Continue Against SEPCO
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a ruling denying Southwestern Energy Production Company’s Motion for Summary Judgment on October 13, 2016. (Tiongco v. Southwestern Energy Prod. Co. (3:14 - CV - 1405) The case was originally brought by Stephanie Tiongco alleging an intentional private nuisance claim against SEPCO for its drilling and gas exploration activities which created “excessive noise, light, and vibrations.” SEPCO filed a motion for Summary Judgment which the court denied here because SEPCO could not show there were “no genuine issues of material fact.”
EPA Agrees to Review VOC Emissions at Natural Gas Production Sites
On October 7, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia signed a consent decree where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to review the Natural Gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions factor under the Clean Air Act (Air Alliance Houston v. Gina McCarthy, 1:16-cv-01998). The EPA will have until June 2017 to review and propose revisions to the VOC emissions factor of “elevated flares and enclosed ground flares at natural gas production sites.” The EPA will then have until February 2018 to issue final revisions or make a final determination that revisions are not necessary.
SELC Files FERC Challenge Against Dominion Transmission’s New Pipeline
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on October 13, 2016 challenging a proposed pipeline in Virginia. (Shenandoah Valley Network, Highlanders to Reject Route through Conservation Easements filed by Southern Environmental Law Center under CP15-554, et. al.) The SELC argues that the pipeline’s conversion of conservation easements will “undermine public trust” and the pipeline proposal “is not consistent with Virginia state law.” The Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s current route will go through the Appalachian Mountains. According to Dominion Transmission, Inc., the pipeline will be 600 miles long and start in West Virginia, run through Virginia, and then end in North Carolina.
FERC Approves Sabine Pass Liquefaction Train 2
On October 12, 2016 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an approval letter to Cheniere Energy, Inc. for a second liquefaction train at Sabine Pass in Louisiana. The FERC says the project “can be expected to operate safely as designed” and is in compliance. According to Cheniere, the Sabine Pass LNG terminal can accommodate six liquefaction trains. Each LNG train will have a production capacity of 4.5 million tons per annum.
ExxonMobil and InterOil Transaction Approved by Canadian Court
On October 10, 2016, the Supreme Court of Yukon granted approval for the pending InterOil deal with ExxonMobil (Re: Interoil Corporation, 2016 YKSC 54). The court found the transaction to be “fair and reasonable.” There was no dispute that the arrangement complied with statutory requirements and had been “put forward in good faith.” The transaction will involve a $2.5 billion exchange where ExxonMobil will acquire InterOil’s outstanding shares. ExxonMobil will pay $45 per share and will obtain licenses on approximately four million acres in Papau New Guinea.
Written by Jacqueline Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator