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: Court Grants Summary Judgment in Favor of Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline
On August 23, 2017, The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company (Transco) has the right to condemn properties located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to construct the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project (Transcon. Gas Pipe Line Co., LLC v. Permanent Easement for 2.14 Acres, No. 17-715, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134851). The project will consist of 183 miles of new pipeline, several miles of pipeline replacement, two compressor facilities, and other modifications. The court granted Transco’s Motions for Partial Summary Judgement and Preliminary Injunction, finding that Transco “has the right to immediate possession of the properties in question.”
Municipal Regulation: Youngstown City Council Accepts Ballot Proposal on Drinking Water Protections
On August 23, 2017, Youngstown City Council voted to accept two new charter amendment proposals. According to The Vindicator, because the proposals have sufficient signatures, City Council is obligated to accept and pass the proposals along to the Mahoning County Board of Elections. The proposals include the Youngstown Drinking Water Protection Bill of Rights which prohibits wastewater disposal and also limits drilling associated with oil and gas wells. The second proposal is the People’s Bill of Rights for Fair Elections and Access to Local Government. The Board of Elections will vote on certification for the proposals on September 6, 2017. If approved, the proposals will appear on ballots for the fall election.
Pipelines: Appeals Court Denies Petition from Constitution Pipeline
On August 18, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied a petition from the Constitution Pipeline Company (Constitution) challenging New York’s refusal to issue a water permit for their pipeline project (Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, et al.). The Constitution Pipeline is a 125-mile natural gas pipeline that will transport Marcellus Shale gas to New York and neighboring regions. In April 2016, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (Department) refused to issue a water permit on the basis that Constitution “had not complied with requests for relevant information.” Constitution then filed the present lawsuit. The Court of Appeals declared that the Department’s actions “were within their statutory authority and that the decision was not arbitrary or capricious.”
Pipelines: D.C. Circuit Holds FERC Must Issue New Environmental Impact Statement for Pipeline Project
On August 22, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will need to issue another environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (Project) which will be located in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida (Sierra Club, et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, et al.). The Project consists of “685.5 miles of natural gas transmission pipeline and associated facilities, six new natural gas-fired compressor stations, and modifications to existing compressor stations.” The court held that the EIS did not supply enough information regarding potential greenhouse-gas emissions and remanded the case.
National Energy Policy: DOE Report says Prevalence of Natural Gas Contributes to Coal Plant Closures
On August 23, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy released the Staff Report to the Secretary on Electricity Markets and Reliability. The purpose of the report is to evaluate the status of the electricity system and to focus on the “present trajectory of trends.” The study examined wholesale electricity markets in conjunction with federal policy interventions and regulations. One of the findings by the study was that the low-cost and abundance of natural gas has been the greatest contributor to the closing of coal plants.
Human Health: DOI Halts Study on the Health Effects of Mining, Pending Review
On August 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) sent a letter informing the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies) that they should cease all work on an ongoing study. The purpose of the study is to examine how exposure to mining in Central Appalachia has affected the health of residents. DOI indicated that they were conducting an “agency-wide review of its grants and cooperative agreements in excess of $100,000.” National Academies stated in their press release that they will be going forward with scheduled meetings and that they intend to continue the study once DOI has completed their review.
Human Health: Study Looks at the Health Effects of Living Near Oil and Gas Wells
On August 23, 2017, Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers (PSE) for Healthy Energy published a study in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal on negative health outcomes associated with living near oil and gas development. The study, titled Toward Consistent Methodology to Quantify Populations in Proximity to Oil and Gas Development: A National Spatial Analysis and Review, is the “first national proximity analysis to date that examines well data by primary production (oil, wet gas, dry gas) and status.” The study suggests that 17.6 million people in the United States are living within one mile of an oil or gas well. The study indicates that current setback requirements “may be inadequate to protect local populations from adverse health effects.”
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"2nd Circuit Decision May Not Mark the End of NY Pipeline Battle" - New York Law Journal
"Most new Permian oil likely to be exported from Houston, Corpus Christi" - Houston Chronicle
"Gas-fired power plant in Lawrence County back on track" - Shale Gas Reporter
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Check out this week’s Shale Law in the Spotlight: The Delaware River Basin Commission’s Regulatory Action and Inaction on Natural Gas Development.
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