Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Shale Law Weekly Review - May 29, 2018

Written by:
Brennan Weintraub - Research Assistant
Jackie Schweichler - Education Programs Coordinator

The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.

Pipelines: Ohio EPA Seeks Feedback on Proposed Pipeline to Run Through Parts of the Ohio Valley
On May 23, 2018, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency extended its public comment period regarding the creation of Shell’s Falcon Pipeline, which would carry ethane gas through the eastern part of the state to western Pennsylvania. In particular, the agency is seeking comment on the potential impacts that the pipeline might have on the state’s water sources. The project has received some pushback from environmental groups, especially the Ohio Sierra Club, and members of the local coal industry, who fear that the expansion of natural gas in the region could have negative effects on their own business.

Electricity Generation: EIA Reports Electric Power Sector Uses Lowest Levels of Fossil Fuels since 1994
On May 24, 2018, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in their
Monthly Energy Review that in 2017 the electric power sector utilized the least amount of fossil fuels since 1994. According to EIA, fossil fuel consumption by the power sector has declined due to the decreased use of coal and petroleum, even though consumption of natural gas has increased. Additional factors affecting this trend include changes in fuel composition and improvements in electricity generating technology. As of 2017, more coal was consumed by the power sector than natural gas, however, natural gas power plants produced more electricity. The EIA also reports that changes in consumption and efficiency assisted in producing the lowest levels of carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector since 1987.

Pipelines: PUC Judge Orders Sunoco to Shut Down the Mariner East Pipeline
On May 24, 2018, administrative judge Elizabeth Barnes of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ordered that Sunoco halt construction on its Mariner East pipeline, which is designed to carry natural gas from western Pennsylvania to the company’s processing facility in Marcus Hook, near Philadelphia. The judge ordered that Sunoco provide a public risk analysis of the pipeline and provide assessments of connected pipelines. The project had previously been halted due to concern over sinkholes, but the PUC allowed the project to restart construction earlier this month.

Pipelines: FERC Extends Comment Period on Revising Natural Gas Pipeline Process
On May 23, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order extending the public comment period regarding proposed changes to its policies on interstate transportation of natural gas to July 25. The agency is considering changes in how it determines whether proposed pipelines meet the standards of public convenience and necessity and is soliciting comments from the public to determine which, if any, additional factors should be considered. FERC’s current policies date back to 1999 and, according to the agency, are in need of an update due to “significant changes in the energy markets, as well as in the production, use and consumption of natural gas.”

Pipelines: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Begins Construction
On May 22, 2018, Dominion Energy began construction on the Marts Compression Station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The station will provide compression to support the pipeline’s transmission of natural gas between Harrison County and Greensville County, Virginia. While work on the pipeline has begun, construction on a portion of the pipeline will be avoided due to a court decision from last week. Specifically, on May 15, 2018, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order vacating the Dominion Energy’s Incidental Take Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (Sierra Club, et al. v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, No. 18-1083). The court stated that the endangered species take limits were “so indeterminate that they undermine the Incidental Take Statement’s enforcement and monitoring function under the Endangered Species Act.” For now, approximately ten miles of the pipeline will need to be on hold. The court stated that they will provide a more detailed opinion at a future date.

Sovereign Wealth Funds: North Dakota Oil and Gas Legacy Fund Has Earned Over $1 Billion
On May 24, 2018, Dave Hunter, the executive director of the North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office reported to the state legislature that the Legacy Fund, which sets aside thirty percent of all state revenue from oil and gas production as an emergency fund, has earned over one billion dollars since its inception in 2011. The body responsible for overseeing the fund, the Legacy and Budget Stabilization Fund Advisory Board, voted on May 25, 2018, to maintain the fund’s current asset allocation.

Pipelines: New Hampshire Supreme Court Ruling Could Reopen Debate Around Proposed Hydro Power Transmission Project
On May 22, 2018, the New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a state PUC (Public Utilities Commission) ruling against Eversource, which sought to use electric rates to pay for an expansion to the existing Algonquin Pipeline. The court overturned the PUC’s decision, that the use of electric rates to pay for the pipeline would violate state law that requires the separation of businesses that operate power plants from those that transmit electricity, by determining that the functional separation of such businesses was not the legislature’s “overriding purpose.”  The court’s reasoning could revive the controversy around the proposed Northern Pass hydro power transmission project, which would bring hydro power down to New Hampshire from Quebec. While the body responsible for the project’s fate, the Site Evaluation Committee, has decided not to re-hear the application at this time, the ruling could provide new pathways for companies to finance similar projects in the future.

Follow us on Twitter at PSU Ag & Shale Law (@AgShaleLaw) to receive ShaleLaw HotLinks

Connect with us on Facebook! Every week we will post the CASL Ledger which details all our publications and activities from the week.

Stay informed with our monthly Agricultural Law Brief located here.

No comments:

Post a Comment