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.
Pipelines: Pennsylvania DEP Holds Final Hearing on Atlantic Sunrise Project
On August 14, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held the fourth and final public hearing on the permit applications under review for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Project. The proposed pipeline will carry natural gas from northeastern Pennsylvania to the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern states. According to Penn Live, several dozen supporters and opponents attended the meeting. Those supporting the pipeline discussed energy self-sufficiency and job growth, whereas opponents discussed the potential environmental and health impacts. The 30-day public comment period opened July 22nd and will close August 21st.
Pipelines: PHMSA Sends Report to Congress on State Pipeline Repair Policies
On August 2, 2017, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) sent a report to Congress entitled State-level Policies that Encourage or Present Barriers to the Repair and Replacement of Leaking Natural Gas Pipelines. The report reviewed state policies and determined which policies created barriers to pipeline replacement and repair. According to the report, “44 percent of the states responding to the NAPSR query recommended accelerating repair or replacement of leaking natural gas pipelines to improve safety.”
Air Quality: Federal Court Rejects Appeal to Reconsider EPA Methane Emissions Case
On August 10, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected an appeal to reconsider its decision in the case against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the methane emissions rule, according to Law 360. In June, EPA issued a stay of the rule, “Oil and Natural gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources” which set new standards for greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds released from oil and gas development. Several environmental groups sued as a result and the court held that EPA lacked the authority to stay the rule (Clean Air Council v. Pruitt, No. 17-1145). EPA has agreed to comply with the court’s mandate and their statement can be found here.
LNG: Court of Appeals Upholds Department of Energy’s Approval of Texas LNG Export Facility
On August 15, 2017, the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the Sierra Club’s petition for review of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) approval of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export application in Brazoria County, Texas (Sierra Club v. United States DOE, No. 15-1489). In 2016, the court upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the construction of the LNG facility, known as the Freeport Terminal. After construction, DOE approved the export of LNG out of the Freeport Terminal. The Sierra Club argued that DOE did not “sufficiently examine the indirect effects of LNG exports.”
National Energy Policy: White House Issues Executive Order on the Environmental Review of Infrastructure
On August 15, 2017, the White House Office of the Press Secretary released the Presidential Executive Order on Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure. The order states that it is the policy of the federal government to “make timely decisions with the goal of completing all Federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects within 2 years.” Among other public and private assets, the definition for “Infrastructure project” includes energy from fossil fuels and pipelines. According to the Washington Examiner, this executive order will expedite the pipeline review and permit process.
LNG: Energy Trade Group Requests Moratorium on LNG Export Approvals
On August 16, 2017, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) urging DOE to place a moratorium on liquefied natural gas export approvals to non-free trade agreement (NFTA) countries. IECA argues that at the current approval rate, the U.S. will consume 71% of its technically recoverable natural gas resources by 2050. In addition, IECA argues that shipping LNG to NFTA countries “is inconsistent with President Trump’s fair-trade and “America First” policies.”
Pipelines: Federal Court Vacates PHMSA Final Order Against Exxon Mobil
On August 14, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated part of a Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) order that concluded Exxon Mobil had not properly considered the appropriate factors when developing its integrity assessment of the Pegasus pipeline (Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. v. U.S. Department of Transportation, et al., 16-60448). This case follows the 2013 spill of over 3,000 barrels of crude oil from the Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas. The Court of Appeals found that PHMSA’s final order was arbitrary and capricious and that Exxon did comply with regulations by considering risk factors in a “careful, informed decision-making process.”
Pipelines: Final Environmental Impact Statement Released for Enbridge Energy Line 3 Pipeline Project
On August 17, 2017, the Minnesota Commerce Department released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Line 3 Pipeline Project. The purpose of the impact statement is to provide information to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on the potential human and environmental effects of the project, to provide considerations of reasonable alternatives, and to consider methods for mitigating negative effects. The new Line 3 pipeline is to be constructed by Enbridge Energy and will be replacing the existing pipeline to carry oil from North Dakota to Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Commerce Department, Enbridge also proposed for part of the pipeline to be constructed in a new right-of-way.
Energy Policy: Netherlands Advertising Standards Board to Formally Censure Exxon and Shell
On August 14, 2017, The Guardian reported that the Netherlands Advertising Standards Board (the Board) plans to censure Exxon and Shell “for claiming that natural gas was “the cleanest of all fossil fuels” in an advert[isement] earlier this year.” The Guardian also reports that the Board censured Statoil earlier this summer when they referred to gas as “clean energy” and “low emissions fuel.”
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