Monday, November 28, 2016

Shale Law Weekly Review - November 28, 2016

The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.

BLM Natural Gas Regulations Face Second Lawsuit from Montana and Wyoming
On November 18, 2016, the states of Wyoming and Montana filed suit against the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in response to new oil and gas regulations (Wyoming and Montana v. Sally Jewell, 16-cv-285-S). The lawsuit alleges that the BLM lacks the authority to promulgate the regulations. The new rules entitled, Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation, are intended to “reduce waste of natural gas from venting, flaring, or leaks…” This is the second lawsuit brought against the regulations. The first lawsuit was filed by the Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Ass’n of America v. Jewell).

Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma Files Suit to Protest Oil and Gas Leases
On November 18, 2016, the Pawnee Nation filed suit in federal court against the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Land Management. (Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma v. Sally Jewell, 16-cv-679-JHP-TLW) The case was filed in protest of oil and gas leases and drilling permits that were approved on Indian trust lands. The complaint alleges that the approval of the leases violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the American Indian Agricultural Resource Management Act. Concerns expressed in the complaint include “surface disturbance, traffic, noise, air pollution, and accidents…”

Sierra Club Files Antitrust Complaint Against NEXUS Pipeline
On November 16, 2016, the Sierra Club filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging antitrust violations by DTE Electric Company (DTE). According to the Sierra Club press release, the pipeline project owned by NEXUS Gas Transmission, LLC, an affiliate of DTE, will monopolize the market in Michigan and then raise consumer rates above competitive levels. The complaint alleges that “DTE Electric already controls 47% of installed generating capacity owned by Michigan utilities,” and the pipeline project negatively impacts competition in the energy market.

Oil and Gas Leases Cancelled in Colorado
On November 17, 2016, the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cancelled 25 oil and gas leases in Colorado, according to a BLM press release. The oil and gas leases were located in the Thompson Divide area and were issued from 1995 to 2012.  These leases “amount to less than ½ of 1 percent of the active leases on public lands in the state of Colorado…” The BLM also announced the full adoption of the settlement agreement for the Roan Plateau Resource Management Plan which involved the closing of 17 oil and gas leases.

Center for Biological Diversity Files FOIA Claim Against Railroad Administration
On November 21, 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity (“Center”) filed suit against the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for allegedly failing to publicly disclose documents (Center for Biological Diversity v. Federal Railroad Administration, No. 16-2308). The Alaska Railroad Corporation was given approval by the FRA in 2015 and in September of 2016 they became the first railroad to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG). The complaint alleges that the FRA violated the Freedom of Information Act when they failed to provide documents in response to the Center’s request for records on the decision to approve the transportation of LNG by rail.

Physicians for Social Responsibility Release Report on Health Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing
On November 17, 2016, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released a report entitled “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.” The PSR report is a compilation intended to provide evidence from medical writings, the government and industry reports, and other investigations about the effects of hydraulic fracturing. The studies by PSR state that inherent problems in gas extraction “can lead to water contamination, air pollution with carcinogens and other toxic chemicals, earthquakes, and a range of environmental and other stressors wrought on communities.”

Energy API Releases Report on Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water
On November 17, 2016, Energy API (API) released a report called Quantitative Support for EPA’s Finding of No Widespread, Systemic Effects to Drinking Water Resources from Hydraulic Fracturing.” The report was prepared by Catalyst Environmental Solutions for API as quantitative support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s draft assessment which examined the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. The report states they found “no direct correlation between the hydraulic fracturing process and quality of drinking water supplies.”

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Releases 2016 Electricity Outlook
On November 16, 2016, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released their 2016 Standard Scenarios: A U.S. Electricity Sector Outlook. The report discusses several major areas in energy including “Declining costs and increasing deployment of renewable energy, abundance of low-cost natural gas, [and] rapid growth in rooftop photovoltaics (PV).” NREL estimates a growth in renewable energy generation as well as growth in natural gas. In addition, the report shows a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions, where emissions in 2015 were 21% less than 2005.

Victoria, Australia Introduces Bill to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing
On November 22, 2016, the Andrews Labor Government introduced legislation entitled Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016. The new bill is intended “to prevent the exploration and mining of coal seam gas, to ban hydraulic fracturing and to impose a moratorium on petroleum exploration and production…” The Office of the Premier for Victoria stated in their press release that the bill will also extend the moratorium on conventional drilling until 2020.

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Written by Jacqueline Schweichler

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