Monday, July 9, 2018

Shale Law Weekly Review - July 9, 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.

Interstate Commissions: Third Circuit Remands DRBC Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium Litigation
On July 3, 2018, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion remanding litigation related to the hydraulic fracturing moratorium put into place by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). (Waye v. Delaware River Basin Commission, No. 17-1800). The case was brought by Wayne Land and Mineral Group, LLC (Wayne), who sought a declaratory judgment that the DRBC does not have the authority to review Wayne’s hydraulic fracturing activities. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania previously found that “projects,” which the DRBC is given jurisdiction over, is unambiguous and includes the practice of hydraulic fracturing. The Third Circuit disagreed, finding that the term is ambiguous, and has ordered further fact-finding.

Pipelines: Virginia Court Affirms Ruling that Natural Gas Companies May Conduct Surveys on Private Property
On July 5, 2018, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed a ruling that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) was permitted under Virginia law to access private property to conduct surveys (Barr, et al. v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, Record No. 170620). Virginia Code §56-49.01, permits natural gas companies to conduct tests, appraisals, and surveys for proposed projects so long as the company has requested the landowner’s permission and provided notice of intent to enter the property. ACP is a natural gas pipeline company engaged in the process of building a pipeline from West Virginia, through Virginia, to North Carolina. ACP requested consent from landowners in order to test the area along the pipeline’s proposed route, but consent was withheld. ACP filed for declaratory judgement against the landowners, and the trial court eventually granted ACP permission to enter the properties.

National Energy Policy: U.S. Fossil Fuel Consumption at Lowest Point Since 1902
On July 3, 2018, the U.S. Energy Department released a report finding that fossil fuel sources made up just over eighty percent of domestic energy consumption in 2017, the lowest figure recorded since 1902. The majority of the decrease found in the report is due to a continuing decline in the use of coal, which has fallen nearly forty percent from its peak in 2005. While natural gas use has declined slightly, oil consumption increased slightly. Renewable sources of energy now make up roughly eleven percent of domestic energy sources, the highest in roughly a century.

Pipelines: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reinstates River Crossing Permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline
On July 3, 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a letter in which it reinstated the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s permit for four river crossings in West Virginia. A stay put into place last month by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, remains in effect. The court granted the stay as part of a series of lawsuits brought by the Sierra Club, among other environmental groups opposed to the project. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is designed to transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shales to the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline, which would then carry the products to refineries in the Southeastern United States.

Pennsylvania Notices
Rescission of Technical Guidance, DEP is rescinding the technical guidance document for policies and procedures to be followed by administrative staff in processing oil and gas documents (June 30, 2018).

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