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.
Municipal Regulation: PA Appeals Court Rules that Grandmother Lacks Standing to Challenge Natural Gas Well Location
On June 6, 2019, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld a trial court ruling that a grandmother concerned over her granddaughter’s health lacked standing to challenge the location of a natural gas well site (Worthington v. Mount Pleasant Township, No. 1149 C.D. 2018). The Plaintiff, Jane Worthington, was denied party status at a Mount Pleasant Township Board of Supervisors (Board) hearing regarding approval of a conditional use permit for the well site. Ms. Worthington requested party status to contest the location of the well site over concerns that wind could carry benzene from the site to her granddaughter’s school nearby, affecting her granddaughter’s already poor health. Ultimately, the Commonwealth Court agreed with the Board and the trial court, finding that Ms. Worthington’s “theoretical concerns” did not amount to the “substantial, direct and immediate interest” required to establish standing.
Surface Owner Rights: WV Supreme Court Rules Surface Landowners Not Substantially Burdened by Horizontal Drilling
On June 10, 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia ruled that surface landowners were not substantially burdened by the horizontal drilling used to develop the Marcellus shale beneath their properties (Andrews v. Antero Resources Corp., No. 17-0126). Petitioners, consisting of various surface landowners, argued that their use and enjoyment of land was being improperly and substantially burdened by the drilling operations. The Petitioners alleged the drilling activities amounted to nuisance and negligence caused by heavy equipment, truck traffic, vibrations, noise, and dust. Respondents, Antero Resources Corporation and Antero Resources Bluestone, LLC had obtained development leases from severance deeds that retained the mineral rights beneath Petitioners’ properties. The court found that the Respondents were not causing any physical damage to the Petitioners’ properties, and the Respondents were within their surface use rights to conduct the activities in question.
International Development: Norway’s Parliament Votes for Increased Restrictions on Fossil Fuel Investments
On June 12, 2019, Norway’s Parliament voted to increase restrictions on fossil fuel investment within Norway’s sovereign wealth fund. According to Reuters, the vote prohibits investment in companies that “mine more than 20 million tonnes of coal annually or generate more than 10 gigawatts (GW) of power from coal.” Norway’s sovereign wealth fund currently invests in 341 oil and gas companies around the world. Reuters reports that the new rules would mean Norway’s fund would divest its stake in companies such as Glencore and Anglo American.
LNG Exports: Commission Approves New Pier for Natural Gas Transportation in New Jersey
On June 12, 2019, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the approval of plans to construct a new pier in Greenwich Township, New Jersey for the transport of liquified natural gas (LNG). The Delaware River Basin Commission, made up of representatives from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and the federal government, approved the plans at a meeting on June 12. The pier project, proposed by Delaware River Partners, LLC, would allow large tankers to dock along a 1600-foot pier, increasing the capability to ship several commodities, including LNG produced from Pennsylvania wells. The project is expected to cost $96 million.
LNG Exports: City Council Approves Liquified Natural Gas Facility in Southwest Philadelphia
On June 13, 2019 the Philadelphia City Council approved ordinance 181063, which creates a partnership between Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) and Passyunk Energy Center, LLC (PEC) to build and operate liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities in the city. According to Whyy.org, the city council approved the ordinance with a 13-4 vote. The project will be funded by PEC, and is expected to generate $4 million per year in revenue for PGW. The new LNG facilities will be located within PGW’s existing Passyunk Plant. No additional pipelines or water supplies will be needed for the project.
From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
Charles Sartain, What’s the Bidding on the Green New Deal?, (June 13, 2019)
John McFarland, What Happens to Unclaimed Royalties?, (June 13, 2019)
Romany Webb, Climate Change, Ferc, And Natural Gas Pipelines: A New Sabin Center White Paper, (June 10, 2019)
SB 305: would allow landowners to receive compensation in certain eminent domain actions by the Delaware River Basin Commission (Re-referred to Appropriations - June 11, 2019)
HB 1392: would create an electric vehicle road use fee in accordance with the oil company franchise tax for highway maintenance and construction (Re-committed to Rules - June 10, 2019)
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“Stanford scientists creating ways to quickly, accurately and inexpensively find natural gas leaks” -Stanford News
“US Northeast midstream sector urged to fight back to lift gas project efforts” - S&P Global Platts
“$1.6B project proposed to move N.D. crude oil” - Associated Press
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This week we published two new Shale Law in the Spotlight articles: Shale Law in the Spotlight – Existing LNG Export Facilities in the United States: Alaska, Louisiana, Texas, and Maryland and Shale Law in the Spotlight – Delayed or Abandoned LNG Export Projects in the United States: Louisiana, Maine, and Texas