Written by Torin Miller - Research Assistant
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
Local Regulation: Pennsylvania Appeals Court Affirms Decision That Municipality Can’t Block EQT Well
On May 18, 2017, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County ruling that the municipality of Jefferson Hills could not deny approval for a proposed natural gas well by EQT Production (EQT). The Court held that prior permittance of oil and gas drilling on the proposed site required opponents to “establish with probative evidence that there is a high degree of probability that the conditional use will constitute a detriment to the public health, safety, and welfare exceeding that ordinarily to be expected from the proposed use.” The court reasoned that the borough did not meet this standard, and that development of the well could proceed.
Wastewater Disposal: Wastewater Well Given New Life by Circuit Court
On May 22, 2017, The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas erroneously excluded evidence and granted summary judgment in favor of Southwestern Energy Company (SWE). Dale and Kari Stroud (Strouds) claimed that SWE’s disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste fluid near the Strouds property amounted to a trespass and unjust enrichment. The 8th Circuit held that the Strouds’ expert testimony should have been presented before a jury, and that summary judgment in favor of SWE was inappropriate.
State Regulation: Pennsylvania Capitol Hosts Proponents and Opponents of Gas Industry
On May 24, 2017, Republicans from the Senate Majority Policy Committee and the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a joint hearing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Inside the Capitol, legislators and industry professionals discussed the benefits natural gas production has brought to Pennsylvania, including jobs and other economic benefits. Outside the building, environmental groups and others opposed to natural gas extraction protested the hearing and voiced their opinions.
Nuisance: Texas Supreme Court Rules That Texas Town Filed Nuisance Lawsuit After Expiration of Statute of Limitations
On May 19, 2017, the Supreme Court of Texas reversed a court of appeal’s judgment that a Texas town’s claim for nuisance was not barred by the statute of limitations. The town of Dish, Texas, filed suit for nuisance and trespass in 2011 against multiple energy companies who own and operate four natural gas compressor stations and a metering station. The town complained of noise and odor emanating from the compressors and claimed the town was losing revenue as a result. The Supreme Court noted that the complaints began as early as 2006, and the lawsuit was not filed until 2011. As a result, the Court held “that the two-year statute of limitations bars their claims.”
Pipelines: Poll Shows Residents of Mid-Atlantic States Support Pipelines
On May 22, 2017, the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) released results showing that “[m]ajorities of voters in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina support approval and construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and similar projects.” A telephone survey of voters showed that West Virginians most strongly supported the pipeline, followed by Virginia and North Carolina, respectively.
"Northeast Hungry For Gas; Frustrated By Lack Of Pipeline Investment" - Oil & Gas Investor
"How a Small Town Is Standing Up to Fracking" - Rolling Stone
"Trump Budget Proposes Deep Cuts in Energy Innovation Programs" - New York Times
"Shell shareholders to vote for new climate change goals" - The Guardian
"How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas" - New York Times
"GOP gubernatorial candidate vows to oppose natural gas extraction tax" - Republican Herald
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Check out this week’s Shale Law in the Spotlight: Approved Applications for LNG Export Projects in the United States (Part 2 of 2)