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: FERC Approves Part of Mountaineer XPress Pipeline for Service
On October 5, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a request by from TransCanada to put its Elk River compression station into service. The compression station is part of the Mountaineer XPress natural gas pipeline which, when completed, will carry natural gas from northern to southern West Virginia. The project, which includes 170 new miles of pipeline, will transport over two billion cubic feet per day of natural gas across the state.
Pipelines: Army Corps of Engineers Suspends Mountain Valley Pipeline Permit
On October 5, 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) sent a letter to Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC informing it that the permits that the pipeline had been given to cross several water bodies in Virginia had been suspended. This follows a decision on October 2, 2018, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which suspended similar permits for the pipeline in West Virginia. In its order, the Court of Appeals stated that the Corps improperly substituted the use of a “dry cut” method for four river crossings. According to the court, stream crossings must be completed within 72 hours in the state of West Virginia. In the recent letter, the Corps stated that it will “await clarity on this issue” before deciding whether to reissue the permit.
Wastewater Treatment/Disposal: EPA Holds Public Meeting on Oil and Gas Wastewater Study
On October 9, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency held a public meeting to discuss a study that it is conducting on oil and gas wastewater to determine whether new regulations might be needed. EPA noted that new methods of wastewater management have developed over the last few years and that some states would like clear regulations on how this water may be reused. The agency has stated that it will solicit opinions from a variety of sources in potentially developing new regulations, including industry, Native American tribes, and NGOs.
Pipelines: Minnesota Court Dismisses Case Against Pipeline Protesters
On October 9, 2018, the Clearwater County District Court dismissed a case against climate change protesters who caused the shutdown of Enbridge Energy pipelines, according to The Guardian. The article states that the judge dismissed the suit before the defendants could present their case because the prosecutors failed to prove that the protesters caused any damage. Enbridge pursued the case after several protesters used bolt cutters to enter Enbridge pipeline valve enclosures in order to shut the pipelines down. The protesters argued that their actions were necessary to prevent the growing threat of climate change. Earlier, the Minnesota Court of Appeals had allowed the protesters to present the necessity defense and the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to review the case (State v. Klapstein, 2018 Minn. App. Unpub. Apr. 23, 2018). Following the dismissal, several of the defendants expressed disappointment at being denied the opportunity to present the necessity defense in trial.
From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
Charles Sartain, Are Oilfield Contractors Liable for Road Damage?, Gray Reed (October 11, 2018)
John McFarland, Three Supreme Court Cases to Watch, Oil and Gas Lawyer Blog (October 15, 2018)
HB 2701: Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy (October 10, 2018) legislation would amend Oil and Gas Act to require well operators to provide additional reports on water and community impacts.
HB 107: Corrective Reprint, Printer’s No. 4133 (October 1, 2018) would authorize natural gas distribution companies to establish a distribution system extension charge to cover the cost of expanding to underserved areas.
Upcoming Meetings: Environmental Resources and Energy (H) voting meeting on SB 138 (October 9, 2018)
Availability of Final Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit-3 for Earth Disturbance Associated with Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Processing or Treatment Operations or Facilities (October 6, 2018)
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“Petroleum index continues to climb” - Midland Reporter-Telegram
“Millions of Texas oil dollars flowing into carbon fee fight in Washington State” - San Antonio Express-News
“As Canadian pipeline plans falter, more oil is moving by rail - prompting familiar fears” - Washington Post
“Permitting drops in Pennsylvania amid strong production, tighter purse strings” - S&P Global Platts
“Drillers burn off record amounts of gas as focus remains on oil” - Houston Public Media
“Big Oil’s bet on natural gas is a slow burn” - Wall Street Journal
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This week we published one new Shale Law in the Spotlight article: Shale Law in the Spotlight – Impacts of Recent Steel and Aluminum Tariffs on the Oil and Gas Industry
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