Jacqueline Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator
Tori Wunder - Research Assistant
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
Pipelines: DEP Suspends Mariner East 2 Pipeline permits
On January 3, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an order suspending Sunoco Pipeline’s construction permits associated with the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Among the violations listed by DEP, Sunoco failed to obtain permit authorization for horizontal directional activities, unlawfully discharged drilling fluid, and failed to obtain permits for several construction activities. DEP is requiring Sunoco to submit documents regarding their trenchless pipeline construction techniques, trout stream crossings, and any other unpermitted installation methods used. Sunoco is also required to explain the failures leading to the violations and to address all alleged impacts to private water wells, including replacement and restoration.
Methane Emissions: Environmental Groups Sue BLM for Delay of Waste Prevention Rule
On December 19, 2017, seventeen environmental groups sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the BLM’s decision to amend the deadlines for the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule (Waste Prevention rule). The environmental groups state that the BLM has violated the Mineral Leasing Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The purpose of the original rule was to reduce natural gas waste from venting, flaring, and leaks from oil and natural gas production. In early December, BLM published a new rule to amend the Waste Prevention rule and delay implementation for one year.
Pipelines: FERC Issues Order Granting Rehearing Request for Millennium Pipeline Eastern System Project
On December 28, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order granting rehearing requests regarding the Millennium pipeline project. The rehearings were requested for the FERC order that was issued on November 28, 2017. FERC states that the sole purpose of granting the rehearing will be allow further reconsideration of the November order. The November order granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the proposed Eastern System Upgrade Project for the Millennium Pipeline Company, LLC.
Wildlife Habitat: BLM Revises Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan
On December 27, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revised its Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan and released a new Instruction Manual. This new Instruction Manual replaces the previous Manual released under the Obama Administration in 2016. The new Instruction Manual continues to prioritize leasing outside of the Greater Sage-Grouse habitat, but does not require the BLM to consider leasing requests outside of the Sage-Grouse’s habitat before those within it, leaving the habitat “open” for leasing.
Economic Development: DOE Pledges to Invest $30 Million in Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas
On January 3, 2018, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would invest $30 million dollars in six research and development projects in unconventional oil and natural gas recovery. The purpose of the selected projects is to grow an understanding of reservoir behavior and optimal well-completion strategies, next-generation subsurface diagnostic technologies, and advanced offshore technologies. The projects were selected from emerging unconventional plays with an output of less than 50,000 barrels per day.
Wildlife Habitat: DOI Determines that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Does Not Prohibit Accidental or Incidental Takings
On December 22, 2017, The United States Department of the Interior released a memorandum discussing whether or not the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibited the accidental or “incidental” taking or killing of migratory birds. A prior opinion issued by the Department had concluded that any taking or killing of migratory birds was prohibited by the MBTA. This opinion withdraws and replaces that prior opinion, and applies the MBTA only to actions which have as their purpose the taking or killing of migratory birds, their eggs, or their nests. According to Oil and Gas Journal, several oil and gas companies have been prosecuted for bird deaths in recent years.
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"Environmental lawyer asks state Supreme Court to back up its order to Commonwealth Court" - State Impact
"Cold Chills US Gas Production In Shale Plays As Heating Demand Jumps" - Oil & Gas Investor
"Court rules against Pa. drillers in royalty dispute" - Farm and Dairy
"Pennsylvania Farm Show is back Jan. 6-13; Here's what's new" - Lancaster Online
"As Oil Rises, Shale Drillers With Few or No Hedges Stand to Gain" - Bloomberg Business
"Next Big Step For Reservoir Modeling" - Hart Energy
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See our Global Shale Law Compendium and this week’s article, Shale Law Governance in Pennsylvania - Legislation from 2013 to 2016.
Check out this week’s Shale Law in the Spotlight: Natural Gas Severance Taxes in the United States (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Wyoming)
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