Monday, July 10, 2017

Shale Law Weekly Review - July 10, 2017

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.

Wastewater Disposal: EQT and Pennsylvania DEP Appeal $1.1 Million Wastewater Leak Fine
EQT Corp. and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection both are appealing a May 26, 2017, decision imposing a $1.1 million water pollution fine. EQT appealed (Docket Number: 844 CD 2017) the decision on June 22, 2017, which was imposed by a state hearing board, citing multiple errors in the decision, including failure “to apply a higher court’s ruling that penalty calculations should be constrained to days when contamination actively leaks into waterways,” according to a media report. DEP appealed (Docket Number: 852 CD 2017) the decision on June 26, 2017, to preserve their argument in a case now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, “which could revise a long-held understanding of what counts as a continuing violation of the state’s Clean Streams Law when pollution lingers or spreads in waterways after an initial spill,” the media report noted.

National Energy Policy: Renewable Energy On The Rise, But Fossil Fuels Still Dominate
On July 3, 2017, the United States Energy Information Administration released a report outlining the current US energy mix. In 2016, 81% of US energy came from fossil fuels. However, that’s the lowest fossil fuel share in the last century, according to the report. Additionally, 10.5% of US energy consumption came from renewable sources. “This was the largest renewable share since the 1930s, when overall energy consumption was lower and the amount of biomass consumption (mainly wood) was relatively high,” according to the report. Lastly, natural gas consumption has been on the rise 9 of the last 10 years.

Methane Emissions: D.C. Court of Appeals Says EPA Must Implement Methane Rule
On July 3, 2017, a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stated that the United States Environmental Protection Agency must vacate its 90-day stay on implementation of an Obama-era methane emissions rule. The court noted, “EPA’s decision to impose a stay, in other words, was ‘arbitrary, capricious, [and] . . . in excess of [its] . . . statutory . . . authority.’” But, the court also noted that “nothing in [its] opinion in any
way limits EPA’s authority to reconsider the final rule and to proceed with its June 16 [Notice of Possible Rulemaking].”

Public Lands: Department of Interior Set To Streamline Oil and Gas Leasing Permits
On July 6, 2017, the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a press release noting that “U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today signed a secretarial order to tackle permitting backlogs and delays, identify solutions to improve the permitting process on federal lands, and to identify solutions to improve access to additional parcels of federal land that are appropriate for mineral development.” Currently, BLM has 2,802 Applications for Permit to Drill (APD) pending. “Oil and gas production on federal lands is an important source of revenue and job growth in rural America but it is hard to envision increased investment on federal lands when a federal permit can take the better part of a year or more in some cases. This is why I'm directing the BLM to conduct quarterly lease sales and address these permitting issues,” Secretary Zinke said.

Public Lands: BLM Seeks Public Input On Land Use Planning And Environmental Reviews
On July 3, 2017, the United States Bureau of Land Management issued a press release announcing “that it is requesting ideas and input on how the agency can make its land use planning procedures and environmental reviews timelier and less costly, as well as ensure its responsiveness to local needs.” The effort to gather public input comes after House Joint Resolution 44 nullified the BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule in March. “The Trump Administration and the Department of the Interior are committed to working with state and local governments, communities, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders as true partners to determine the best ways to accomplish this, now and into the future,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said.

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