Monday, March 13, 2017

Shale Law Weekly Review - March 13, 2017

Written by Jacqueline Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator

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

PA Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Drilling in Fairfield Township
On March 8, 2017, according to PowerSource, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments for a case regarding drilling in a township area zoned for residential and agricultural uses. The case is Brian Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors v. Commonwealth and involves landowners who have challenged Fairfield Township’s decision to allow Inflection Energy to drill natural gas wells. The court will decide several issues in the appeal, including the compatibility of natural gas development to nearby land uses.

DEP Responds to Concerns Over New Methane Emission Limits
On February 24, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) responded to a letter from three senators raising concerns with the DEP’s proposed oil and gas methane emission limits, according to the PA Environment Digest. The DEP stated that the goal of the permit revision is to decrease confusion and address noncompliance. In addition, the DEP stated that they are required to implement federal standards covering methane emissions under the Air Pollution Control Act. A copy of the DEP’s response letter is provided by PowerSource.

Pawnee Nation Files Suit Against Drilling Companies for Earthquake Damages
On March 3, 2017, attorneys for the Pawnee Nation announced that they have filed a lawsuit for damages caused by earthquakes, allegedly a result of nearby oil and gas operations. Specifically, the Pawnee Nation alleges that the damages occurred as a result of more than 50 earthquakes from September to November of 2016. According to the complaint, the damaged buildings were Pawnee Tribe buildings, some of which are listed on the Oklahoma National Register of Historic Places. The two companies named in the complaint are Eagle Road Oil and Cummings Oil Company.

EPA Withdraws Request for Emission Data from Oil and Gas Companies
On March 2, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a news release announcing their withdrawal of a request for emission information from oil and gas operators. The request had been issued in November of 2016 and asked for data from oil and gas companies “to help the agency determine how to best reduce methane and other harmful emissions from existing sources.” The withdrawal of this request allows time for EPA to assess whether this information is needed. In addition, the EPA is acting in response to a letter received from several Attorneys General and state governors who asked for a suspension of the request.

Federal Court Denies Standing Rock’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction
On March 7, 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s (the Tribe) motion for preliminary injunction challenging the easement granted to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The court held that the Tribe was unable to show that the easement for the pipeline was a substantial burden on their free exercise of religion. In addition, this week a confidential memorandum prepared by the Dakota Access pipeline company was made public by several news outlets. The memorandum compared an alternative route for the pipeline that would have taken the pipeline north of Bismarck. According to the memorandum, this route would have had a “more direct and more disproportionate” impact to minority communities, was longer, and would have increased construction costs.

FERC Approves Rover Pipeline for Construction and Operation
On March 3, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted permission to Rover Pipeline LLC, Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Company LP, and Trunkline Gas Company LLC to begin construction and operation of the Rover Pipeline, Panhandle, and Trunkline Backhaul Projects. This approval comes after the issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity that was granted in February 2017.

Victoria, Australia Bans Hydraulic Fracturing
On March 7, 2017, the Victorian Parliament in Australia passed a bill banning hydraulic fracturing in the state according to a press release by the Minister for Resources. The bill, called the Resources Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 or “Fracking Ban Bill,” “permanently bans all onshore unconventional gas exploration and development” and “extends the moratorium on conventional onshore oil and gas exploration and development.”

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