Monday, September 17, 2018

Shale Law Weekly Review - September 17, 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: Native American Tribes Sue U.S State Department Over Keystone XL Pipeline
On September 10, 2018, the Rosebud Sioux and the Fort Belknap tribes in South Dakota and Montana sued the U.S. Department of State (Department) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana (Rosebud Sioux Tribe, et al. v. U.S. Department of State).  The tribes argue in the complaint that the agency improperly issued a presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project.  They allege in the complaint that Department failed to consider potential environmental effects and cultural impacts on tribal lands in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.  In addition, Department originally denied the pipeline permit in 2015, but approved the permit in 2017 with “no new information to support its contrary decision.”  The plaintiffs allege that by not providing an explanation, Department violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

Wastewater Treatment / Disposal: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Upholds Fine for Release of Wastewater
On September 10, 2018, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued an opinion affirming the decision of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, which imposed a $1.1 million fine against EQT Corp. (EQT Production Co., v. Dept of Envtl. Protection, 2018 WL 4289310).  The Hearing Board imposed the fine after determining that EQT had violated the Clean Streams Law and related environmental regulations.  From April 30, 2012, to September 27, 2012, EQT was determined to be responsible for widespread contamination from a wastewater pond built on a shale gas drilling site in northern Pennsylvania.  Wastewater was released through a damaged liner and seeped into nearby springs and streams.  The court found that EQT had acted recklessly in the design and construction of the pond and unnecessarily delayed in addressing the problem.

Federal Lands: U.S. Forest Service Announces Plans to Streamline Drilling Permits in National Forests
On August 31, 2018, the U.S. Forest Service provided advance notice that it will be proposing revisions to the current Oil and Gas Resources regulations (36 CFR 228, subpart E).  The purpose of the change will be to streamline the requirements for oil and gas drilling in national forests.  According to the notice, the agency intends to remove redundant language, remove confusing options, and align the permitting process with the Bureau of Land Management.  The purpose of these changes is to decrease permitting times in order to promote domestic oil and gas production.  Comments on the notice will be accepted until October 15, 2018.

Methane Emissions: EPA Proposes Changes to Methane Gas Emissions Regulation
On September 11, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed amendments to its New Source Performance Standards for oil and gas producers.  The changes will affect the 2016 rule, Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources, 40 CFR Part 60.  The proposal includes a number of changes to the 2016 final rule, including reduced monitoring frequency at well sites.  The proposed changes would require producers to conduct monitoring surveys only annually, rather than semi-annually.  In addition, EPA intends to align these regulations more closely to existing state programs.  The agency predicts that these changes could reduce regulatory costs by up to $484 million from 2019 to 2025.

Methane Emissions: Virginia Announces Plan to Reduce Methane Leaks from Natural Gas
On September 12, 2018, the Virginia Governor’s office announced the state’s intention to establish a new set of regulations to reduce methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure in the state. The press release stated that the initiative will be headed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which will spend the next 120 days consulting with experts and industry to develop a plan. This action follows several initiatives by Governor Northam to address climate issues in the state, including ocean acidification and carbon emissions from the transportation sector.

Production and Operation: EIA Releases September Short-Term Energy Outlook
On September 11, 2018, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its Short-Term Energy Outlook.  The report provides production and inventory estimates for liquid fuels, natural gas, electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions. For the month of August, global crude oil prices fell initially but rose in the second half of the month for an overall increase.  Finished motor gasoline production was higher than the August 2017 average, while consumption declined.  Natural gas markets experienced low inventories due to high residential and commercial consumption, as well as growth in exports for liquefied natural gas and pipelines.

From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
Charles Sartain, Choice of Law Matters in an Oilfield Indemnity Suit, Gray Reed (September 13, 2018)

John McFarland, "Royalty Lease" - Lessor Beware, Oil and Gas Lawyer Blog (September 17, 2018)

Pennsylvania Notices
Upcoming Meetings: Senate Environmental Resources & Energy meeting (September 25, 2018)

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This week we published a new Shale Law in the Spotlight article: Overview and Timeline of Legal Developments Relating to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

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Check the September Agricultural Law Brief! Each month we compile the biggest legal developments in agriculture. If you’d like to receive this update via email, check out our website and subscribe!

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