Monday, March 27, 2017

Shale Law Weekly Review - March 27, 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.

DEP Announces Online Document Submission Tool for Oil and Gas Operators
On March 21, 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched an online submission search tool for oil and gas operators and the public, according to a news release by the DEP Newsroom. The system is intended to comply with regulations implemented in October 2016, which require electronic document submission for unconventional well operations. The DEP stated that this tool “improves the process for all involved, reducing the redundancy and the potential for errors and, importantly, making information about unconventional well sites more quickly available to citizens.”

Federal Court Dismisses Delaware Riverkeeper Case Brought Against FERC
On March 23, 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) motion to dismiss (Del. Riverkeeper Network v. Ferc, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41126). The case was brought against FERC by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network who alleged that FERC abused its power to advance gas infrastructure projects and that FERC was biased in the pipeline review and certification process. The court held that the Delaware Riverkeeper had standing but that they were unable to show an unconstitutional bias from FERC because approving pipelines does not increase FERC’s budget.

Keystone XL Pipeline Receives Final Permit Approval
On March 24, 2017, the Office of the Press Secretary for the White House released a statement announcing approval of the final permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The pipeline is being built by TransCanada and will start from Hardisty, Alberta and extend to Steele City, Nebraska.  The Keystone XL will carry Canadian crude oil to refineries in the Gulf Coast and will have a capacity of up to 830,000 barrels per day.

Texas Attorney General Attempts to Intervene in BLM Lawsuit
On March 21, 2017, the Texas Attorney General filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rule regulating methane venting and flaring. The rule, Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation, is intended to reduce the amount of natural gas waste from venting, flaring, and leaks from oil and gas development on Federal and Indian lands. According to a press release from the attorney general, the BLM exceeded its authority in implementing the rule.

NY Federal Court Rules Against Constitution Pipeline
On March 16, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit brought by Constitution Pipeline Co. against the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), according to State Impact. The court ruled that Constitution Pipeline had not suffered an injury because the DEC had not yet acted on the pipeline permits. The court stated that to find injury in this case would be “speculative.” The Constitution Pipeline is designed to be a 124 mile-long pipeline extending from Susquehanna County, PA to Schoharie County, NY.

Study Finds No Correlation Between Drilling and Emissions in the Barnett Shale Area
A study was published this month entitled “Methane Occurences in Aquifers Overlying the Barnett Shale Play with a Focus on Parker County, Texas” in the Groundwater journal. The study assessed samples of methane found by the Barnett Shale play near Parker County. The purpose was to analyze methane, major ions, and carbon isotopes to determine the source of emissions. The study found no correlation between Barnett Shale well sites and emissions. Instead, the researchers determined that the main source of the methane emissions may result from shallow gas accumulations found in the Strawn Group, a sandstone, shale, and limestone formation.

Colorado Court Rules in Favor of Earth Guardians
On March 23, 2017, the Court of Appeals of Colorado held that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had the authority to hear a petition from Earth Guardians in a case involving oil and gas drilling regulation in Colorado (Martinez v. Colo. Oil & Gas Conservation Comm’n, 20017 COA 37). In 2013, Earth Guardians petitioned the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission requesting the adoption of a new rule that would “suspend the issuance of permits that allow hydraulic fracturing until it can be done without adversely impacting human health and safety…”

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