Monday, March 18, 2019

Shale Law Weekly Review - March 18, 2019

Written by:
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.

Pipelines: FERC Approves Construction of Empire North Project
On March 7, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order approving the construction of the proposed Empire North Project in New York and Pennsylvania. The project will involve the construction of two new compressor stations, one in each state, and is expected to increase the Empire Pipeline’s overall capacity by over 200,000 Dth/day of natural gas. The Project is expected to begin construction later this year and will be completed in September of 2020.

State Regulation: West Virginia Legislature Passes Natural Gas Utility Bill
On March 8, 2019, the West Virginia House of Representatives passed House Bill 2661, which seeks to incentivize utilities to provide natural gas to areas where dependable sources are not currently accessible. The bill would allow for gas utilities to petition the state Public Utility Commission for rate increases in areas where dependable, lower-priced sources of natural gas are not available. The bill would also prevent the abandonment of existing gas services unless present and future public convenience and necessity permits it.

Wildlife Habitat: Bureau of Land Management Announces Changes to Sage Grouse Protections
On March 15, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management announced that Records of Decisions were being issued to amend land-use restrictions related to sage grouse habitat in several Western states. The amended plans will continue to designate roughly 29 million acres of sagebrush steppe as priority habitat for the sage grouse.  The plans will also designate roughly 23 million acres as general habitat, which creates more flexible restrictions on land-use. These new plans will affect public land in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Northern California, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Pipelines: Delaware County District Attorney Announces Investigation of Mariner East Pipeline
On March 11, 2019, District Attorney Katayoun Copeland of Delaware County, Pennsylvania announced an investigation into allegations of criminal misconduct related to the construction of the Mariner East Pipeline. The Mariner East 2 Pipeline, the latest expansion of the pipeline, is expected to boost the system’s total capacity to roughly 345,000 barrels of natural gas per day. Due to the pipeline’s seventeen-county span across Pennsylvania, D.A. Copeland announced that the investigation will be conducted jointly with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

International Development: Western Australia Temporarily Rescinds Greenhouse Gas Guidelines
On March 14, 2019, the Western Australia Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) announced that it would be withdrawing its newly-revised greenhouse gas guidelines following discussions with affected companies. EPA plans to engage in further discussions with industry members in order to ensure that the guidelines are able to be implemented practically and that companies will be able to anticipate the way in which the guidelines will be applied. The most significant concern of potentially-affected companies is the way in which offsets will be regulated under the new guidelines.

From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
Charles Sartain, Texas Supreme Court Clarifies Hyder, (March 12, 2019)

Pennsylvania Legislation:
HB 781: would allow counties the option to use impact fee funds for stormwater management (Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy - Mar. 11, 2019)

SR 33: would establish a commission to recommend safety, oversight, and coordination improvements for the transport of oil, gas, and other hazardous liquids (Referred to Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure - March 13, 2019)

HB 828:  would extend the term for well permits, allow for a single well permit to apply to multiple wells, and allow the final well location to be within 50 feet of the location specified on the permit (Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy - March 14, 2019)

HB 817: would have DEP establish a telephone hotline number for Pennsylvania residents to report suspected oil and gas violations (Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy - March 14, 2019)

HB 819:  would allow trained response teams to be in place for drilling and production operations (Referred to Labor and Industry - March 14, 2019)

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