Monday, July 24, 2017

Shale Law Weekly Review - July 24, 2017

Written by Richard Neal- Research Assistant

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

Invasive Species: Environmental Study Reviews Impact of Shale Development on Invasive Species
On July 20, 2017, the Journal for Environmental Management published a study by researchers at Penn State University on the effects of unconventional gas developments on Pennsylvania vegetation. The study found that increases in natural resource development can increase vulnerability to invasive species. Researchers found in the study that, “Invasive plant presence on well pads was positively correlated with local propagule pressure on access roads and indirectly with road density pre-development, the number of wells, and age of the well pad.” Researchers concluded that a greater understanding of the effects of natural resource development is needed, but should be incorporated in invasive plant management strategies to help mitigate risks to the native ecosystem.

Production Reporting: Pennsylvania is the Second Largest Natural Gas Producer in the United States
On July 20, 2017, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) released energy profiles for each state in the U.S., including Pennsylvania. In the report, the EIA found that gross natural gas production in Pennsylvania, primarily in the Marcellus shale, exceeded 5 trillion cubic feet in 2016, making Pennsylvania the second largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year. Pennsylvania is second only to Texas which accounted for 27% of the U.S. marketed natural gas production in 2015. Pennsylvania also was the third largest coal producing state and ranked second in the nation in electricity generation from nuclear power.

Wastewater: Study Reviews Soil Sediment to Determine Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing
On July 12, 2017, Researchers from Penn State University, Dartmouth College, and Colorado State University published a study on the effects of treated hydraulic fracturing fluid on the Conemaugh River Lake in Western Pennsylvania. The study found that sediment layers over years of maximum oil and gas wastewater disposal contained higher levels of salts, radium, earth metals, and organic chemicals. The researchers concluded that the isotopic ratios and organic signatures of the contaminates lead back to Marcellus Shale wastewater. The study states that the risks of the contamination cannot be determined as of yet and will require further regulation and study.

Pipelines: FERC Issues Notice to Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. and Rover Pipeline, LLC
On July 13, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a notice of alleged violations to both Rover Pipeline, LLC and their parent company Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. (ETP). The notice states that the companies have been preliminarily determined to be in violation of Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act and Section 157.5 of the Commission’s Regulations. FERC staff determined that between  February 2015 and September 2016, Rover Pipeline, LLC, “did
not fully and forthrightly disclose all relevant information to the Commission in its application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and attendant filings in Docket No. CP15-93.” Specifically, FERC staff believes that Rover Pipeline, LLC made several misstatements in their docketed response to Commission questions on the purchase and demolition of certain resources.

Climate Change: Coastal Communities in California File a Complaint Against Oil and Gas Companies in Climate Change Litigation
On July 17, 2017, the California counties of San Mateo, Marin, and and the City of Imperial Beach filed suit in the Superior Court of California against more than 35 oil and gas companies. The plaintiffs filed complaints that said the corporations of the fossil fuel industry have known about the dangers of climate change caused by production of oil and gas for years. The counties’ claims include Strict Liability for Failure to Warn, Strict Liability for Design Defect, Private Nuisance, Negligence, Negligent Failure to Warn, and Trespass. The counties further added that the greenhouse emissions allegedly caused by these companies have caused sea level change and more volatile weather that has cost the city millions in the study and mitigation of climate change. The counties said that this rise in sea level and weather volatility puts the counties’ civil infrastructure, sewer systems, and roads at risk.

Pipelines: U.S. House of Representatives Approves Bill To Streamline Pipeline Process
On July 19, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bill H.R. 2910, introduced by Representative Bill Flores (TX).  H.R. 2910, also known as The Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, passed the House with a 248- 179 vote. The bill addresses the pipeline approval process, and makes FERC the lead agency in NEPA Reviews, which are for projects, programs, and activities related to environment and natural resources. FERC also would be responsible for coordinating with other agencies as needed to complete reviews and would decide what agencies will participate in reviews. H.R. 2910 was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for approval on July 20, 2017.

Pipelines: Nuns File Lawsuit against FERC over the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Project
On July 14, 2017, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (Adorers) filed suit against FERC in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Adorers claimed that the February approval of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project infringes on their religious beliefs. The Adorers are seeking a declaration that FERC violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,  42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1, and are seeking injunctive relief to prevent the pipeline from running across the Adorers’ land.

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