Monday, May 8, 2017

Shale Law Weekly Review - May 8, 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.

Conservation Groups Sue Over Drilling Permits Granted in Ohio’s Only National Forest
On May 2, 2017, several conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for authorizing the development of oil and gas minerals in Wayne National Forest. The conservation groups argue that the BLM and Forest Service failed to take a “hard look” at the the potential impact of drilling in the area. The BLM approved leasing in approximately 40,000 acres of the forest after preparing and approving an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact. (Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Service, et al.)

Study Links Largest Oklahoma Earthquake and Injection Well Activity
On May 3, 2017, a study published in the journal of Seismological Research Letters examined the relationship between the September 2016 Pawnee earthquake and wastewater injection activity. The 5.8 magnitude earthquake was the strongest in Oklahoma history and caused the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to close several injection wells in the area. The research suggests “...the combined effect of stress changes associated with a high-rate fluid injection transient and long-term injection may have influenced the timing and location of the Pawnee earthquake.” The study is entitled, “The Effects of Varying Injection Rates in Osage County, Oklahoma, on the 2016 M5.8 Pawnee Earthquake.” Also published in the journal of Seismological Research Letters was a study entitled, “Induced Seismicity in Oklahoma Affects Shallow Groundwater.This study concluded that induced seismicity from injection wells could cause changes in groundwater levels at distances of greater than 150 km from the earthquake epicenter.

Environmental Groups File Lawsuit Against Executive Order on Drilling in the Arctic
On May 3, 2017, the League of Conservation Voters and several other environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging the recent Presidential Executive Order Implementing and America-First Offshore Energy Strategy. The executive order implements a new policy to “encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf…” The plaintiffs argue that the executive order exceeded the President’s constitutional authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

Standing Rock Drops Appeal of Religious Based Preliminary Injunction
On April 28, 2017, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a motion for voluntary dismissal of their appeal against a decision made by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Last month the district court denied Standing Rock’s motion for preliminary injunction “to prevent the flow of oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota pursuant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act…” The plaintiffs decided to drop the appeal after Dakota Access LLP announced oil had been placed in the pipeline as of March 27th.

Motion Granted to Hold Clean Power Plan Lawsuit in Abeyance
On April 28, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted the government’s motion to hold a case regarding the Clean Power Plan in abeyance (West Virginia, et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al.). The case was brought by several states in opposition to the Clean Power Plan which established guidelines for emissions from existing power plants. The current administration requested the abeyance after the Environmental Protection Agency announced on April 4, 2017 that it is reviewing the rule and may revise or suspend it.

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