Brennan Weintraub - Research Assistant
Jackie Schweichler - Staff Attorney
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
GHG Emissions: Report Examines Emissions from Drilling on Public Lands
On November 23, 2018, the United States Geological Survey issued a report finding that 24 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation are caused by drilling on federal lands and offshore areas. The agency found that Wyoming, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Colorado contributed the majority of CO2 emissions on federal lands in 2014. Wyoming emissions alone comprised 57 percent of the total emissions from drilling on federal lands. Additionally, the report found that overall greenhouse gas emissions from oil, gas, and coal mining on these lands dropped between 2005 and 2014. The researchers collected data from the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Energy Information Administration.
Pipelines: Army Corps of Engineers Suspends River-Crossing Permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline
On November 20, 2018, three district offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Norfolk, Virginia; and Wilmington, North Carolina sent letters to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC informing them of the Corps’ decision to suspend the pipeline’s authorization to cross rivers and streams in those states. This decision follows a November 7 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that suspended a water crossing permit in West Virginia. Another recent court order on November 20 from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of North Carolina prevented Atlantic Coast from accessing a farm in Nash County. The pipeline, once completed, will run six hundred miles from West Virginia to North Carolina and will carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
Trespass by Fracture: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Agrees to Consider Whether Rule of Capture Applies to Hydraulic Fracturing
On November 20, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order granting a petition for allowance of appeal in order to determine whether the rule of capture applies to oil and gas produced by wells that used hydraulic fracturing (Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production Company, No. 443 MAL 2018). In April 2018, the Pennsylvania Superior Court opined that the rule of capture did not apply to prevent trespass liability from hydraulic fracturing operations. According to the Superior Court, the rule of capture is “[a] fundamental principle of oil and gas law holding that there is no liability for drainage of oil and gas from under the lands of another so long as there has been no trespass and all relevant statutes and regulations have been observed.” That court held that, because the rule of capture typically applies to oil and gas which is able to migrate within the reservoir and across property lines, it should not apply to the non-migratory oil and gas which is found in shale formations.
International Development: Western Australia Announces New Rules for Hydraulic Fracturing
On November 27, 2018, the government of Western Australia announced that it will lift the hydraulic fracturing moratorium for existing petroleum titles, following the finding of low risk by an independent scientific inquiry. The practice will continue to be banned in roughly 98% of the state and royalties collected will be used to fund new renewable energy projects. The government will also allow landowners to make the decision to prohibit oil and gas companies from using hydraulic fracturing on their land. Additionally, the state has agreed to create two-kilometer buffer zones around sources of public drinking water and residential areas in which no development will take place.
Water Quality: Penn State Study Examines Methane Migration Near Shale Gas Wells
On November 19, 2018, the Proceedings for the National Academy of Science published a study considering new methods of detecting methane contamination in wells located near hydraulic fracturing sites. The study region focused on a portion of the Marcellus Shale located in Hughesville, Pennsylvania. The researchers were able to identify chemicals that can indicate whether methane migration resulted from shale gas development or was preexisting. The study found that methane concentrations were higher in nearby wells after gas development had taken place and that contamination increased at points where the shale formation was relatively shallow and had been highly fractured. It also considered several wells that had previously been cited for leaks and found that, seven years later, methane concentrations are still significantly elevated. The title of the study is Detecting and Explaining Why Aquifers Occasionally Become Degraded Near Hydraulically Fractured Shale Gas Wells. The team of researchers included members of Penn State’s Department of Geosciences.
From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
George Bibikos, At the Well Weekly, (November 30, 2018)
Charles Sartain, Texas High Court Invokes the Discovery Rule, Energy and the Law (November 27, 2018)
John McFarland, Murphy v. Adams - What is an "Offset Well"?, Oil and Gas Lawyer Blog (December 3, 2018)
Dena Adler, Climactic Recent Weeks for International Climate Change Litigation, Climate Law Blog (December 3, 2018)
Location Change for Public Hearings regarding: Air Quality Plan Approvals for Proposed Compressor Stations in Delaware, Bucks Counties (December 4, 2018)
Follow us on Twitter at PSU Ag & Shale Law (@AgShaleLaw) to receive ShaleLaw HotLinks:
"U.S. could become net exporter of petroleum by 2022" San Antonio Express-News
"Eminent domain trial on Bayou Bridge pipeline begins with assertion that land worth only $1.11" - The Advocate Mag
"Canada’s Oil Output Is Growing Despite Its Pipeline Problems" - Oil & Gas 360
"Penn State scientists examine ground water to determine shale impact" - Shale Gas Reporter
"Explaining Natural Gas Price Fluctuations" - Breaking Energy
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This week we published a new Shale Law in the Spotlight article: PHMSA Amends Regulatory Requirements for Crude Oil Trains
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