The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
Final Report on EPA’s Study of Hydraulic Fracturing Effects on Drinking Water
On December 13, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its report entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States.” This report is the final part of an investigation commenced by the EPA in 2010 to determine possible effects hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water. The EPA found that “hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances.” Certain conditions can affect the frequency or severity of hydraulic fracturing effects. An example of a condition that can cause groundwater contamination is storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits.
Potter Township Denies Approval for Shell Cracker Plant
On December 14, 2016, Potter Township officials decided to deny approval for the new Shell Chemical Appalachia cracker plant, according to Power Source. The article states that the officials asked Shell to provide more information about the potential infrastructure the cracker plant would bring to the area. In addition, the Clean Air Council, an environmental group that objects to the project, was asked to file their arguments against Shell by January 6th. Power Source reports that the decision to obtain more information was made after two days of meetings in Potter Township.
DEP Releases Draft of New Methane Reduction Permits for Oil and Gas
On December 8, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a new plan called Methane Reduction Strategies for Natural Gas Operations. The plan states that the DEP intends to create new emission standards to reduce methane pollution by stricter maintenance, monitoring, and reporting requirements. The new permits will affect both unconventional well sites and conventional sites including “natural gas compression, processing, and transmission facilities.”
Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Service to Issue EIS for Proposed Oil and Gas Activities
On December 16, 2016, a public meeting was held in Williamsport hosted by the Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Service. Five of these public meetings were held in regards to the proposed environmental impact statement (EIS) requested by several companies intending to explore, produce, and develop oil and gas resources. The EIS was requested because the intended oil and gas activities by these companies may affect several species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Penn State Researches Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids in Shale
On December 8, 2016, Penn State News reported on a study done by Penn State researchers on hydraulic fracturing fluids. According to the article, the goal of the study “was to understand how the additives in hydraulic fracturing fluids affect metal mobilization from shale, and how they might be transformed or degraded after being subjected to the high pressures and temperatures during hydraulic fracturing.” The study is entitled “Metal Associations in Marcellus Shale and Fate of Synthetic Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Reacted at High Pressure and Temperature” and can be found in Environmental Engineering Science magazine.
DEP Provides Funding to Penn State for Energy Research
On December 7, 2016, Penn State News announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will be providing funding to Penn State University and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation to monitor solar, battery, and gas systems and how these sources of energy are being used. The purpose of the study is to examine a “cost-effective technology path to increase the use of renewable-energy power generation in Pennsylvania.”
Penn State to Use Big Data to Analyze Methane Releases at Shale Sites
According to Penn State News on December 7, 2016, Penn State researchers have received funding from the National Science Foundation to study methane concentrations in Pennsylvania’s waters. Large compilations of datasets have already been collected on methane concentrations near shale gas drilling sites. The researchers will use computer models and data mining techniques to analyze these datasets and determine the connection between shale drilling and methane occurrences
Non-OPEC Nations Join OPEC in Oil Reduction Efforts
On December 10, 2016, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) met with Ministers of non-OPEC oil producing countries to discuss efforts to stabilize the oil market, according to an OPEC press release. More than a dozen non-OPEC countries including Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Mexico, Kingdom of Bahrain, the Russian Federation, and others attended the meeting. These non-OPEC countries have agreed to a voluntary oil production decline with a reduction target set at 558,000 barrels a day. This decision will supplement the previous agreement made between OPEC nations to reduce oil production by 1.2 million barrels of oil per day.
Quebec Passes Bill Allowing Oil and Gas Production
On December 9, 2016, Quebec passed new legislation that will allow for more oil and gas exploration. The legislation, Bill 106, was introduced in June and provides for a system of licensing and authorization for oil and gas production. According to the Quebec Oil and Gas Association (QOGA), the new bill is intended for economic improvement. QOGA suggests production can alleviate economic strain currently felt from the 12 billion dollars spent on oil and gas imports.
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Check out this week’s Shale Law in the SpotLight: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Overview of the Final Rule on Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights on National Wildlife Refuge Lands and Waters.
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Written by Jacqueline Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator