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.
Pipelines: Columbia Gas Files Lawsuit Against State of Maryland for Easement to Install a Natural Gas Pipeline
On May 16, 2019, Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC (Columbia) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources to obtain an easement to construct a pipeline in Washington Country, Maryland (Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v 0.12 Acres of Land, More or Less, 1:19-cv-01444-GLR). The suit was filed following a decision made on January 2, 2019, by Maryland’s Board of Public Works denying permission to install the pipeline for Columbia’s Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project. According to Columbia, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the construction and operation of the pipeline. On January 1, 2019, several lawmakers sent a letter to the Maryland General Assembly regarding the pipeline’s construction, citing concerns for public health and climate change. The project is designed to provide 47,500 Dth per day of natural gas from Pennsylvania to Morgan County, West Virginia.
Pipelines: Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection Orders ETC Northeast to Restore Waterways Affected by Construction of Revolution Pipeline
On May 14, 2019, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ordered ETC NorthEast Pipeline, LLC (ETC) to identify and restore all waterways and wetlands that were destroyed during construction of the Revolution Pipeline (Pipeline). According to the press release, DEP’s investigation into the construction of the pipeline found numerous violations incurred by ETC, including the elimination of 23 streams and 17 wetlands. The Order requires ETC to investigate all areas that were disturbed by the pipeline construction, and to submit a plan of action to restore all streams and wetlands affected.
Pipelines: Texas Lawmakers Pass Bill Creating Criminal Offenses for Damage to Critical Infrastructure
On May 20, 2019, the Texas Senate passed a bill that creates felony offenses for damage to critical infrastructure facilities. The bill is entitled, Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. Critical infrastructure facilities are defined as being completely enclosed by a barrier or marked with a sign indicating entry is prohibited. The definition specifically includes oil and gas pipelines and related facilities. In addition to criminal offenses, defendants who are convicted could also be held civilly liable to property owners. The bill was previously passed by the House a few weeks prior to the Senate vote, and it is now awaiting a signature from Governor Greg Abbott.
Pipelines: Protesters and Landowners File Lawsuit Against Louisiana Law Prohibiting Unauthorized Entry of a Critical Infrastructure
On May 22, 2019, protesters and landowners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana challenging Louisiana’s Critical Infrastructure Protection statute (White Hat, et al v Landry, et al, 3:19-cv-00322-JWD-EWD). The statute, La. R.S. 14:61, defines unauthorized entry as intentional entry into a restricted area that is marked or completely enclosed by a physical barrier when the person is not authorized to enter the area. Additionally, critical infrastructure is defined as any structure, equipment, or property located within or upon certain facilities such as LNG terminals or pipelines. The Plaintiffs argue that including pipelines in the statute is unconstitutional and overbroad, and they have asked the court to enter a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the statute.
Pipelines: PHMSA Issues Notice to Oil and Gas Operators on the Dangers of Land Movement
On May 2, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a notice reminding oil and gas pipeline operators of safety-related risks due to earth movement and other geologic hazards. The notice states that the design of new liquid pipelines must consider the load that may be imposed by geological forces. Some general hazards include washouts, floods, unstable soil, and landslides. For offshore pipelines, operators must take into account hazards including mudslides, water currents, hurricanes, ship anchors, and fishing operations. PHMSA encourages pipeline operators to take practical steps to protect each transmission line through surface patrol programs and ongoing facility surveillance.
International Development: Somalia Passes Petroleum Law in Effort to Promote Oil Exploration
On May 20, 2019, Somalia’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources (Ministry) announced the passage of a petroleum bill that will establish a stable program for future revenue sharing among the federal government, member states, and the local community. The bill updates Production Sharing Agreements (PSA’s) that set requirements for environmental protection and fiscal terms for potential discoveries. According to the Ministry’s announcement, the bill is designed to ensure transparency and financial accountability by the government and any potential investors. Somalia anticipates accepting bids in November 2019 for a licensing round of 15 blocks covering approximately 9,300 square miles.
From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
Charles Sartain & Alexis Foster, Operator: How Would You Like to Pay Twice For That Pipe Delivery?, (May 22, 2019)
John McFarland, Texas Railroad Commission Sued to Force Regulation of Pipeline Route, (May 22, 2019)
Susan Biniaz, The Paris Agreement – Au Revoir?, (May 24, 2019)
HB828: would amend well permit requirements in Title 58 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Laid on the table- May 14, 2019)
SB630: would provide a transition to renewable energy by imposing duties on agencies related to energy consumption. (Referred to Environmental Resources And Energy- May 20, 2019)
Follow us on Twitter at PSU Ag & Shale Law (@AgShaleLaw) to receive ShaleLaw HotLinks:
“Clean-energy bill amended to shore up coal-fired power plants” - The Columbus Dispatch
“Aramco Taps into US Shale Gas Boom” - Bloomberg
“Colorado won’t halt drilling as it refocuses rules on safety” - Associated Press
“Potential historic sites in NJ may stall PennEast pipeline” - Shale Gas Reporter
“TSA under scrutiny over pipeline security failures” - Houston Chronicle
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This week we published two new Shale Law in the Spotlight articles: Shale Law in the Spotlight – EPA Issues Determination to Continue RCRA Exemption for Oil and Gas Wastes and Shale Law in the Spotlight –Update on State Critical Infrastructure Protection Statutes: North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.