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.
Methane Emissions: Environmental Groups Sue to Reinstate Waste Prevention Rule
On September 28, 2018, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups sued the U.S. Department of the Interior in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to prevent the rollback of the Waste Prevention Rule (Sierra Club v. Zinke, Case No. 3:18-cv-5984). The Waste Prevention Rule, or Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation rule, was created to reduce natural gas waste from venting, flaring, and leaks during oil and gas production. On September 18, 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a new rule (the Rescission rule) revising the Waste Prevention Rule. In their complaint, the environmental groups allege that BLM failed to consider environmental impacts when it withdrew many of the regulations within the Waste Prevention Rule. The plaintiffs allege that these changes constitute a violation of the Department’s obligation to protect the public interest and the environment. This is the second lawsuit filed in response to BLM’s Rescission Rule. On September 18, 2018, California and New Mexico also filed a complaint alleging BLM violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Pipelines: Federal Judge Dismisses Eminent Domain Suit Against FERC
On September 28, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for granting limited eminent domain rights to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (Bold Alliance v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Case No. 17-cv-01822). The suit was brought by a group of landowners who hold property along the proposed path of the pipelines. The court found that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case. The court explained in the opinion that Congress has vested sole jurisdiction to adjudicate challenges related to natural gas pipeline construction in FERC. Accordingly, the court found that the appropriate forum for an appeal of FERC decisions would be a U.S. appellate court.
Pipelines: Court of Appeals Vacates Mountain Valley Pipeline Stream-Crossing Approval
On October 2, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order vacating stream-crossing approval in southern West Virginia for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (Sierra Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Case No. 18-1173 (L)). The court found that the Army Corps of Engineers, which approved the project, lacked the authority to approve an alternative river crossing method. According to the court, the Army Corps improperly permitted the use of a “dry cut” method for four river crossings, a method that may require 4-6 weeks to complete. West Virginia law requires all stream crossing projects to be completed within a 72 hour period to avoid potential environmental harm.
Pipelines: Federal Government Announces Cybersecurity Initiative
On October 2, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the launch of the Pipeline Cybersecurity Initiative. The initiative was announced at a meeting between DHS and the Oil and Natural Gas Sector Coordinating Council, the Transportation Security Administration Administrator, and the National Protection and Programs Directorate Under Secretary. The initiative will focus on taking a strategic approach to avoid threats and create a secure pipeline system. The new initiative was facilitated by the National Risk Management Center, which aims to identify critical infrastructure where cyber incidents could have destructive consequences.
Pipelines: FERC Approves Service for Atlantic Sunrise Project
On October 4, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company’s (Transco) request to begin service on the Atlantic Sunrise Project (CP15-138-000 and CP17-212-000). The Atlantic Sunrise Project consists of 183 miles of new pipeline, 12 miles of loops, 2.5 miles of pipeline replacement, two compressor stations, and other facilities. The project will increase the capacity of the Transcontinental Pipeline by 1.7 Bcf/day to 15.8 Bcf/day. In the recent order, FERC determined that Transco “has adequately stabilized the areas disturbed by construction.” FERC’s approval is conditioned upon terms within the 2017 Order Issuing Certificate.
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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This week we published one new Shale Law in the Spotlight article: Overview of Recent Amendments to the BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule
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