Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Shale Law Weekly Review - April 10, 2018

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.

Production and Operation: Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds that Hydraulic Fracturing Could Constitute Trespass
On April 2, 2018, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that hydraulic fracturing could constitute actionable trespass where subsurface fractures, fracturing fluid, and proppant cross property boundary lines (Briggs, et al. v. Southwestern Energy Production Company, 2018 PA Super 79, No. 1351 MDA 2017). The case was brought by the Briggs family when Southwestern Energy Production Company (Southwestern) drilled adjoining property and extracted natural gas from beneath the Briggs’ property. Southwestern argued that it could not be held liable for trespass because they never entered the property and that the rule of capture barred these trespass claims. The court held that “hydraulic fracturing is distinguishable from conventional methods of oil and gas extraction” and that shale gas extraction could constitute trespass when hydraulic fracturing crosses property lines.  

Methane Emissions: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Opens Public Comment for Draft Methane Emission Permits
On March 30, 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced an additional public comment period for two draft general permits, GP-5 and GP-5A. GP-5 addresses methane emission requirements for natural gas compression stations, processing plants, and transmission stations. GP-5A addresses methane emission requirements for unconventional natural gas well site operations and remote pigging stations. Public comment will be accepted until May 15, 2018.  

Infrastructure: Iowa Senate Passes Bill Making Critical Infrastructure Sabotage a Felony
On April 3, 2018, the Iowa Senate passed Senate Bill 2235 which makes “critical infrastructure sabotage” a Class B felony.  The bill defines critical infrastructure sabotage “to mean any unauthorized act that is intended to cause a substantial interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public relating to critical infrastructure property. The law would apply to protect electrical plants, telecommunications or broadband structures, and transportation infrastructure. In addition, the law would apply to gas, oil, chemical, and petroleum product infrastructure, including processing plants, storage facilities, pump stations, and pipelines.  An individual convicted of critical infrastructure sabotage could be imprisoned for up to 25 years and fined up to $100,000. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 35 to 13.

Methane Emissions: Court Issues Stay of Waste Prevention Rule Pending BLM Revisions
On April 4, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming issued a stay of  the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Waste Prevention Rule, pending implementation of the BLM’s revisions to the rule (Wyoming, et al., v. United States Department of the Interior, 2:16-CV-0285-SWS). The rule, Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation, was intended to reduce waste of natural gas from venting, flaring, and leaks during oil and natural gas production. In February 2018, BLM announced a proposed rule to revise the Waste Prevention Rule in order to reduce the cost of compliance. The court held that to force temporary compliance with rules the BLM is working to change “makes little sense and provides minimal public benefit, while significant resources may be unnecessarily expended.”

Induced Seismicity: USGS Research Analyzes Seismicity for Central and Eastern U.S.
On March 28, 2018, the U.S. Geological Survey published research evaluating future seismic hazards for the central and eastern United States. The article, 2018 One-Year Seismic Hazard Forecast for the Central and Eastern United States from Induced and Natural Earthquakes, has been published online by GeoScience World. The researchers use probabilistic seismicity-based methodology to forecast future seismic activity. The U.S. experienced a significant increase in earthquakes between 2008 and 2015 but the rate of earthquakes has since decreased. Declines in seismic events were most noticeable in Oklahoma and southern Kansas where fluid injection has decreased. Specifically, Oklahoma experienced 1 or 2 seismic events per year on average prior to 2009 and then over 1000 events per year in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Since 2015, seismic events in Oklahoma have decreased but still remain high.

International Development: First Horizontal Shale Gas Well is Completed in the UK
On April 3, 2018, Cuadrilla announced the completion of the United Kingdom's first horizontal shale gas well. The well is located in Lancashire and was drilled at a depth of 2,700 meters, extending 800 meters through the Lower Bowland reservoir. Cuadrilla will apply for consent to drill a second horizontal well that will be located in the Upper Bowland shale.

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