Monday, December 4, 2017

Shale Law Weekly Review - December 4, 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.

Methane Emissions: PA DEP Releases Draft of Final Permits Addressing Methane Emissions From Natural Gas
On November 30, 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the release of drafts for two final general permits addressing methane emissions and air pollutants from natural gas development. The permits, GP-5 and GP-5A, were proposed earlier this year and and are part of Pennsylvania’s methane reduction strategy. The permits establish a threshold for methane emissions at unconventional well sites, pigging stations, and midstream and natural gas transmission facilities.  

Induced Seismicity: Study Assesses Earthquakes in Texas to Determine Source
On November 24, 2017, Science Advances published a new study on potentially induced earthquakes in Texas. The study analyzed the Fort Worth Basin in Texas and the northern Mississippi embayment to assess whether recent seismicity was induced by human activity or occurred naturally. The study compared the geologic layers of rock and fault lines in both locations. The study concludes that the recent earthquakes in Texas can be attributed to human activities, specifically wastewater injection. The study is called Discriminating Between Natural Versus Induced Seismicity from Long-Term Deformation History of Intraplate Faults.

Methane Emissions: Oil and Gas Companies Sign Initiative to Reduce Methane Emissions
On November 22, 2017, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, and several other oil and gas companies signed an initiative promoting the reduction of methane from natural gas processes. The document, Reducing Methane Emissions Across the Natural Gas Value Chain, includes of list of principles for the companies to follow in order to continue “providing access to energy while addressing global climate change.” These principles include monitoring methane emissions from operations, advocating for sound methane policies, improving emission data collection. and increasing transparency.

Pipelines: Sixth Circuit Issues Emergency Stay of NEXUS Pipeline
On November 22, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an emergency stay of construction on the NEXUS pipeline (City of Green v. Nexus Gas Transmission, LLC). The case was brought by the City of Green, Ohio (Green) who petitioned for review of the Water Quality Certification issued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). Green argued that the Water Quality Certificate was issued improperly because procedures for the environmental process were ignored in determining the effect of the pipeline on wetlands in Ohio. According to the court, Green had strong arguments that they were likely to succeed on the merits and that they would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a stay. The NEXUS pipeline is a 255 mile interstate natural gas pipeline designed to deliver 1.5 Bcf/d from points in Ohio to Michigan and Canada.

Pipelines: FERC Approves Millennium Pipeline Upgrade Project
On November 28, 2017, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Millennium Pipeline Company’s application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for their Eastern System Upgrade Project (Millennium project). FERC found that construction of the Millennium project will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment. The Millennium project will be located in Orange, Sullivan, Delaware, and Rockland Counties, New York. The Millennium project is expected to transport 223,000 Dth/d of natural gas.

Production and Operation: Penn State Researcher Examines Number of Abandoned Wells in Pennsylvania
On November 15, 2107, Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University, gave a webinar presentation suggesting that the number of plugged and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania is 252,000. According to the Post-Gazette, this would mean that the PA Department of Environmental Protection has no record of 168,000 wells.  This prediction, however, is notably less than than what Stanford University researchers stated in a 2016 study. That study, Identification and Characterization of High Methane-Emitting Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells, suggested that the number of abandoned wells is somewhere between 470,000 and 750,000.

Economic Development: Survey Ranks Texas as Most Attractive For Oil and Gas Investment
On November 28, 2017, the Fraser Institute published the Global Petroleum Survey 2017, a report ranking geographical regions for oil and gas exploration. The report surveyed 333 industry executives to rank provinces, states, and geographic regions according to their investment potential. The survey found that of the regions with the largest petroleum reserves, the most attractive for investment were Texas, United Arab Emirates, Alberta, Kuwait, and Egypt. When the locations were ranked without regard for petroleum reserve size, Texas was still the most attractive for investment, followed by Oklahoma, North Dakota, Newfoundland & Labrador, and West Virginia. The survey evaluated 97 jurisdictions that hold more than fifty percent of proved global oil and gas reserves. Thirty-nine jurisdictions were listed in the medium reserve category, along with five U.S. states. Pennsylvania was also included in the medium reserve category and was listed as the 15th most attractive for investment.

Natural Gas Usage: Utility Commissioners Release Report on Current Access to Natural Gas
On November 27, 2017, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners released a report proposing logistical and financial solutions in an effort to expand natural gas service to underserved and unserved areas of the country. The purpose of the report, NARUC Task Force on Natural Gas Access and Expansion, is to study current natural gas access, examine the need for access, and recommend mechanisms to address the benefits and opportunities for access to natural gas.

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See our Global Shale Law Compendium and this week’s article, Shale Governance in Pennsylvania (2013 to 2016).

Check out this week’s Shale Law in the Spotlight: UPDATE - Dakota Access Pipeline and its Current Legal Developments

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