Monday, April 16, 2018

Shale Law Weekly Review - April 16, 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.

PA Impact Fee: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Stripper Well Definition
On April 11, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments on the definition of “stripper wells,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The case was initiated when the Public Utility Commission alleged that Snyder Brothers Inc. (SBI) owed $500,000 in impact fees for their natural gas wells. SBI argued that their wells met the definition of a stripper well due to their low production levels, and thus, were not subject to the impact fee. Act 13 defines a stripper wells as “An unconventional gas well incapable of producing more than 90,000 cubic feet of gas per day during any calendar month…” The question presented to the court is whether the word “any” refers to one month or every month of the year.

State Regulation: Colorado Court Approves Proposed Oil and Gas Setback Requirement Initiative for Ballot
On April 6, 2018, a Colorado Supreme Court judge approved a proposed ballot initiative, Initiative 97, that would increase the buffer zone for new oil and gas development to 2,500 feet from any occupied structure or vulnerable area. Initiative 97 defines “vulnerable area” to include playgrounds, sports fields, public parks, drinking water sources, lakes, rivers, and streams. The purpose of the initiative is to reduce the negative impact of oil and gas development on
“health, safety, welfare, and the environment.” For the initiative to qualify for the ballot, at least
98,492 valid signatures must be gathered by August 6, 2018.

Induced Seismicity: Oklahoma Issues Disposal Well Reduction Order after Earthquakes
On April 9, 2018, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued a disposal well reduction order for a wastewater disposal well in Garfield County after strong earthquake activity. The order requires that the disposal volume in the Arbuckle formation be decreased from 17 thousand barrels a day to 5 thousand barrels a day. The earthquake that initiated this order was a 4.6-magnitude earthquake followed by several smaller earthquakes on April 7th, according to an article by Oil & Gas Journal. The article also states that the disposal well is owned by privately held MM Energy Inc.

Air Quality: Report Forecasts Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Exploration
A recent draft report issued by the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP) provides a future year forecast of air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions for oil and gas exploration and production operations. The draft report, dated January 2018, includes an oil and gas emissions inventory for the Greater San Juan Basin in Colorado and New Mexico, and for the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas. The study examines air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, as well as greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and methane. The report, Future Year 2028 Emissions from Oil and Gas Activity in the Greater San Juan Basin and Permian Basin, was prepared by engineering, design, and consultancy company, Ramboll.

Air Quality: Colorado Researchers Suggest Health Risks Increase with Proximity to Oil and Gas Facilities
On March 27, 2018, a study prepared by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health found that air pollutant concentrations and health risks increased with close proximity to oil and gas facilities. The researchers estimated acute and chronic noncancer hazards and cancer risks for exposures to nonmethane hydrocarbons in a residential setting. According to the researchers, current setback distances in Colorado may not protect nearby residents from negative health effects resulting from exposure to oil and gas facility air pollutants. They found that populations living “within 152 m of an O&G facility are more likely to experience neurological, hematological, and developmental health effects.” The study, Ambient Nonmethane Hydrocarbon Levels Along Colorado’s Northern Front Range: Acute and Chronic Health Risks, was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. 

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