The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
PA Supreme Court Declares Portions of Act 13 Unconstitutional
On September 28, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an opinion addressing the constitutionality of Act 13 for a second time, striking down additional provisions of the landmark oil and gas legislation. In the present opinion, the court invalidated provisions of Act 13 involving the oversight of local oil and gas ordinances by the Public Utility Commission [sections 3305-3309]; the disclosure of information to health professionals for chemicals considered by oil and gas operators to be trade secrets [section 3222.1(b)(10) and (11)]; the notification to public water facilities by DEP following chemical or waste spills [section 3218.1]; and the exercise of eminent domain authority by a private corporation to acquire rights related to natural gas storage [section 3241]. (Robinson Twp. v. Commonwealth).
Maryland Proposes New Regulations for Oil and Gas Exploration
On September 26, 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment unveiled proposed regulations for oil and gas development. The regulations include a setback requirement of 2,000 feet from private drinking water wells and 1,000 feet from public water supply wells. The regulations also include one year baseline monitoring of water near the well pad. Additionally, there will be a presumption that any contamination occurring within the first year of drilling will be the fault of the well operator unless they can prove otherwise.
EIA Reports Significant Increase in Production from Utica Shale
On September 23, 2016, the Energy Information Administration published a report on recent hydrocarbon production from the Appalachian Basin’s Utica Play. The data showed that in 2012 only 104 wells existed in the Utica shale which produced 0.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas and 4,400 barrels per day (b/d) of oil. By June 2016, the Utica play produced 3.5 Bcf/d of gas and 76,000 b/d of oil. The EIA also notes that while the Utica produces both oil and gas, recent production is primarily natural gas.
OPEC Resolves to Limit Oil Production for Market Stabilization
While attending a meeting in Algeria, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed on September 28, 2016, to reconvene and determine limits for oil production. The OPEC intends to put production within a range of 32.5 and 33.0 mb/d. The main objective of the production limitations will be “to stabilize the oil market and avoid the adverse impacts in the short- and medium-term.”
United Nations Special Rapporteur Calls for Halt to Dakota Access Pipeline
On September 22, 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner published a statement regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur says the United States should cease construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline to protect drinking water, burial grounds, and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Ms. Tauli-Corpuz asks that the United States consult with those affected by the pipeline and obtain their consent before giving approval of the pipeline.
Canada Approves Pacific NorthWest LNG Project with Conditions
The Minister of the Environment for Canada, Catherine McKenna, issued a decision statement approving the Pacific NorthWest LNG Project on September 27, 2016. Prior to the decision, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency published their environmental assessment of the NorthWest project and determined that there would be “significant adverse environmental effects.” It was determined by the Governor in Council that the adverse effects are justified; however, the approval is subject to 190 legally binding conditions.
Written by Jacqueline Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator