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.
Water Quality: Cabot Oil Files Suit Against Dimock Township Resident for Harassment
On August 7, 2017, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (Cabot) filed suit against Dimock, Pennsylvania resident, Ray Kemble and his legal team (Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation v. Charles Speer et al.). Cabot claims the defendants abused the legal process and lacked probable cause in their April 2017 complaint against Cabot. Cabot also claims that the defendant’s complaint breached their settlement agreement and now seeks to recover 5 million in punitive damages. Lawsuits against Cabot were initially brought in 2009 by Dimock residents who claimed their water was contaminated by nearby hydraulic fracturing operations.
Pipelines: Sunoco and Environmental Groups File Settlement Agreement for Mariner East 2
On August 8, 2017, the Clean Air Council and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed a proposed settlement agreement regarding Sunoco Pipeline L.P.’s Mariner East 2 Pipeline. The settlement follows a court order prohibiting construction activities by Sunoco. Under the settlement agreement, Sunoco must perform several evaluations by re-examining geology at sites where spills or “inadvertent returns” occur. In addition, Sunoco must consider additional data, conduct geotechnical evaluations, including sampling, surveys, radar and tomography.
Pipelines: Hearings Begin for Keystone XL Pipeline in Nebraska
On August 7, 2017, the Nebraska Public Service Commission commenced an evidentiary hearing on TransCanada’s application for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a “36-inch diameter crude oil pipeline, beginning in Hardisty, Alberta and extending south to Steele City, Nebraska.” The hearing continued for five days and included witness testimony, exhibits, and cross examination. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, attorneys for landowners primarily questioned how TransCanada plans to avoid damaging land and natural resources. Recordings of the hearing can be found on Nebraska’s PBS & NPR Station.
Public Lands: Repeal of Oil and Gas Valuation Rule for Federal Leases
On August 8, 2017, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue published in the Federal Register their intent to repeal the Consolidated Federal Oil & Gas and Federal Indian Coal Valuation Reform Final Rule. The rule amended regulations governing oil and gas royalty valuation for Federal and Indian leases. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior press release, the rule “created confusion and uncertainty regarding how companies report and pay royalties…” The repeal will go into effect on September 6, 2017, and previous valuation regulations will be reinstated.
Public Lands: BLM Requests Comment On Oil and Gas Leasing in Alaska
On August 7, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published in the Federal Register a Call for Nominations and Comments for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska Oil and Gas Lease Sale. The call for nominations affects 22.8 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska as well as all tracks under the NPR-A Oil and Gas Lease Sale. Nominations and comments are due by September 6, 2017. The BLM press release can be found here.
Induced Seismicity: Oklahoma Governor Creates Task Force to Evaluate Oklahoma Corporation Commission
On August 7, 2017, Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma issued an executive order creating a Task Force to conduct an organizational analysis of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) for the purpose of improving agency operations. The OCC regulates oil and gas drilling as well as enforces federal regulations for underground injection of water and chemicals. The Task Force will conduct a performance assessment, assess the OCC’s mission, examine funding, and evaluate the OCC’s structure. The final report is due to the governor by November 15, 2018.
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