Monday, October 23, 2017

Shale Law Weekly Review - October 23, 2017

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.

State Regulation: PA House Finance Committee Approves Bill on Severance Tax
On October 18, 2017, the House Finance Committee approved House Bill 1401, also known as Natural Gas Drilling Tax Investment. House Bill 1410 provides for a volumetric based severance tax on natural gas produced in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf has issued a statement urging a vote and calling the severance tax a “fair and commonsense proposal that will address our structural budget deficit.” If passed, House Bill 1401 will be effective July 2017.

Local Regulation: Monroeville Enacts New Ordinance Disallowing Oil and Gas Except Within Industrial Zones
On October 10, 2017, the Municipality of Monroeville in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, enacted a new ordinance that eliminates oil and gas drilling from all zoning districts within the municipality other than in industrial districts. The new ordinance amends Ordinance 1443 which had allowed oil and gas wells to be drilled as a conditional use in all zoning districts. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the council voted unanimously to enact the new ordinance.

Local Regulation: Oil and Gas Organizations File Lawsuit Challenging Municipalities
On October 10, 2017, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) filed a lawsuit challenging the City of Thorton’s oil and gas regulations. The regulations include application, setback, and mitigation requirements in addition to the permitting process. According to the Denver Post, COGA claims that the regulations contravene state rules.

Pipelines: FERC Issues Approval for Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Projects
On October 13, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued certificates of approval for the Atlantic Coast pipeline project and the Mountain Valley pipeline project. The Atlantic Coast pipeline starts in West Virginia, splitting in Virginia with one half ending in Virginia and the other ending in North Carolina. It will transport 1.5 million Dth/d natural gas. The Mountain Valley pipeline project will transport 2,00,000 Dth/d natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia.

Pipelines: Court Allows Pipeline Activists to Present a Necessity Defense at Trial
On October 11, 2017, the U.S. District Judge for the Ninth Judicial District Court for Louisiana granted the defendants’ motion to present a necessity defense at trial. The defendants are accused of turning off the emergency shut-off valves for two pipelines last year as a form of protest. According to CNBC, the defendants plan to argue that the use of Canadian tar sands crude presents an immediate threat of physical harm from climate change. The defendants will also need to show that there was no legal alternative to breaking the law.

Natural Gas Storage: PHMSA Reopens Comment Period For Rule on Underground Natural Gas Storage
On October 19, 2017, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) reopened the comment period for the final rule, Pipeline Safety: Underground Natural Gas Storage Facilities. Comments on the final rule may now be received until November 20, 2017. The comment period was reopened in response to petitions by the American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, and the American Public Gas Association. The final rule establishes minimum safety standards for the underground storage of natural gas.

Local Regulation: Ohio Supreme Court Denies Lawsuit over Charter Amendment Prohibiting Fossil Fuel Development
On October 19, 2017, the Supreme Court of Ohio denied a motion by Bowling Green resident, David Espen, to compel the Wood County Board of Elections to remove a charter amendment from their ballot (David Espen v. Wood County Board of Elections, No. 2017-Ohio-8223). The charter amendment, Community Rights to a Healthy Environment and Livable Climate, would prohibit fossil fuel development within the municipality. Espen argues that the proposed charter amendment exceeds the municipality’s authority. The court held that Espen’s argument had no merit and allowed the charter amendment to remain on the ballot.

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See our Global Shale Law Compendium and this week’s article, Shale Governance in New England States. (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, & Vermont)

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