Monday, May 13, 2019

Shale Law Weekly Review - May 13, 2019

Written by:
Sara Jenkins - 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.

LNG Exports: FERC Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement for Plaquemines Parish Project
On May 3, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced that it has issued a final environmental impact statement for the proposed Plaquemines LNG and Gator Express Pipeline project (Project). FERC concluded that the Project would result in adverse environmental impacts, but such impacts would be reduced to less than significant levels through impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures. Mitigation measures include compliance with FERC’s Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, And Maintenance Plan and Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures. The Project, located in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, will include an LNG terminal and two parallel natural gas pipelines. Each pipeline will be designed to deliver approximately 1.9 Bcf/day. Once completed, the Project will have an export capacity of 20 million metric tonnes per year and three marine loading berths for ocean-going ships carrying up to 185,000 cubic meters of LNG.

Wildlife Habitat: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Considers Petition to Downlist Endangered Beetle
On May 3, 2019, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule entitled, Endangered and Threatened Species: Reclassifying the American Burying Beetle from Endangered to Threatened on the Federal List. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered downlisting the American Burying Beetle from endangered to threatened after a petition was filed offering substantial new information. The petition, which was jointly signed by the American Stewards of Liberty, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and SWCA environmental consultants, initiated a status review of the beetle by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s review found that the main threats to the insect are increasing temperatures brought about from climate change, and ongoing land-use changes to its habitat. According to the finding, the beetle still meets the definition for threatened because these threats are still prevalent.

LNG Exports: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Denies Request for Water Quality Certification of Jordan Cove Project
On May 6, 2019, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a letter to Jordan Cove LNG, LLC and Pacific Connector Gas pipeline, LP (collectively “Jordan Cove”) denying water quality certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act for their LNG export terminal project. DEQ denied Jordan Cove’s request based on a lack of reasonable assurance that the project would not interfere with water resources or aquatic life. DEQ issued an Evaluation and Findings Report detailing the project, application requirements, water quality standards, and findings. The Jordan Cove project is designed to consist of an LNG export terminal in Coos County, Oregon, and a pipeline to transport natural gas 229 miles from the Ruby Pipeline and the Gas Transmission Northwest (GTN) Pipeline near Malin, Oregon. If completed, the LNG terminal will have a carrying capacity of 1 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day.

Public Lands: U.S. Bureau of Land Management Issues Proposed Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement for Oil and Gas Development in Central California
On May 9, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued the Proposed Resource Management Plan Amendment and Final Environmental Impact Statement for Oil and Gas Leasing and Development (Proposal). The Proposal follows President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 titled, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which required immediate review of any agency action that potentially burdens the development of energy resources in the United States. In the Proposal, BLM’s Central Coast Field Office considered six alternative approaches to oil and gas development in central California. The agency-preferred alternative, Alternative F, would open up 683,100 acres of federal minerals to oil and gas leasing with Controlled Surface Use stipulations and 42,400 acres with No Surface Occupancy stipulations. Additionally, 67,500 acres would be closed to leasing in designated wilderness areas. BLM initiated a 30-day public protest period when the Proposal’s Notice of Availability was published in the Federal Register.

GHG Emissions: D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Dismisses Petition to Review FERC Decision for Lack of Jurisdiction
On May 9, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a Petition for Review (Petition) of Orders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for lack of jurisdiction. The Petition, filed by Otsego 2000 (Otsego), requested that the court review actions taken by FERC granting a certificate to Dominion Transmission, Inc (Dominion) to construct and operate its New Market Project (Project). Otsego claimed that under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FERC was obligated to review upstream and downstream effects of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the project. In May 2018, in an Order Denying Rehearing, FERC announced it would no longer consider upstream and downstream effects of greenhouse gas emissions, because the evaluations would go beyond the requirements of the NEPA. The court, however, did not address this issue because Otsego failed to establish standing. The court found that due to a failure to identify injury, Otsego lacked the standing needed to invoke the jurisdiction of the court.

From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
George Bibikos, At the Well Weekly, (May 10, 2019)

John McFarland, Increased Gas Flaring in the Permian, (May 9, 2019)

Pennsylvania Legislation: 
HB 247: would allow well bores to cross multiple units so long as the operator has the right to drill those wells (Removed from table - May 8, 2019)

SB 619: would establish new reporting obligations for spills or discharges that could violate water quality criteria  (Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy, May 10, 2019)

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