Monday, February 12, 2018

The Shale Law Weekly Review - February 12, 2018

Written by:
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 Imposes Penalty and Allows Sunoco to Resume Work on Mariner East 2
On February 8, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed a Consent Order and Agreement with Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. (Sunoco) allowing work to resume on the Mariner East 2 pipeline.  The order imposes a $12.6 million civil penalty on Sunoco for permitting violations. In January, DEP ordered Sunoco to suspend all work after drilling fluids were discharged without a permit. In addition, Sunoco failed to obtain permit authorization prior to conducting horizontal directional drilling activities. The Mariner East 2 is a 20-inch pipeline project that expands the capacity of the current Mariner East 1 to 345 thousand barrels per day of natural gas liquids.

Pipelines: Immediate Access to Disputed Properties Granted to MVP 
On February 2, 2018, a federal judge in West Virginia granted Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP) immediate access to disputed lands along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP v. Simmons, et al., 1:17-cv-00211). The court states that in order to access the disputed properties, MVP must deposit certified checks and post surety bonds worth several times more than the appraised easement value. The court concluded that MVP has met eminent domain requirements and is authorized to immediately access the properties. The determination was based upon MVP’s showing that it would be “irreparably harmed in the absence of a preliminary injunction,” that this harm is not outweighed by the concerns of the defendants, and that granting access is in the public interest.

Pipelines: FERC Allows Rover Pipeline to Continue Drilling Under Tuscarawas River
On February 6, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the revised drilling plan submitted by Rover Pipeline, LLC (Rover) and issued an order authorizing Rover ro recommence drilling at the Tuscarawas River. FERC ordered Rover to cease drilling at the end of January after drilling fluid was lost.  Rover was asked to submit information on how they planned to address drilling fluid losses. In addition, Rover was told to provide a revised drilling plan with a feasibility analysis of alternate crossing locations at the Tuscarawas River. The Rover pipeline is designed to transport 3.25 bcf/d of Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas along 713 miles of pipeline.

Oil and Gas Leasing: Lawsuits Filed Against BLM for Alaskan Oil and Gas Lease Sale
On February 2, 2018, two lawsuits were filed by several environmental and conservation groups against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for petroleum lease sales in northern Alaska. The first lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice, alleged that BLM failed to fulfill its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 2016 and 2017 when it held oil and gas lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (Natural Resources Defense Council, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al.) In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that BLM acted arbitrarily and capriciously by foregoing NEPA analysis, and the plaintiffs request that the 2016 and 2017 be vacated. The second lawsuit was filed by several groups including the Alaska Wilderness League, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, and The Wilderness League. In this lawsuit the plaintiffs also allege that BLM violated NEPA during the 2016 and 2017 oil and gas lease sale.

Pipelines: FERC Files New Environmental Impact Statement for Southeast Market Pipeline Project
On February 5, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) filed a new Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (Project). The new EIS was filed in response to a court order issued in August 2017. In the court order, the judge stated that the initial EIS was inadequate because it did not contain sufficient information on the greenhouse gas emissions that would occur as a result of pipeline use.  The Project is comprised of three natural gas pipelines including the Sabal Trail Project, the Florida Southeast Connection, and Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company LLC’s Hillabee Expansion Project.

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