Monday, July 8, 2019

Shale Law Weekly Review - July 8, 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.

Municipal Regulation: Boulder County Approves Temporary Moratorium on New Oil and Gas Development Applications 
On June 28, 2019, the Board of County Commissioners (Board) approved Resolution 2019-59 (Resolution), issuing a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas development applications and seismic testing in Boulder County, Colorado, according to the county’s press release. The moratorium was issued in response to SB 19-181 titled, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations, which was signed into law on April 16, 2019. The new state law gives local governments more authority to regulate oil and gas land use in order to minimize the effects of oil and gas operations on public safety and the environment. The moratorium will allow Boulder County time to amend or create regulations compatible with the new law. A public hearing is scheduled for July 16, 2019, to hear public testimony and to consider any final changes to the moratorium. 

Pipelines: Landowners Petition Supreme Court for Review of Preliminary Injunctions Issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline
On July 3, 2019, landowners filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court requesting review of preliminary injunctions issued for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (Givens v. Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC). More specifically, the petition asks the Supreme Court to review the issue of whether preliminary injunctions can be used to grant possession of land to pipeline companies under the Natural Gas Act before the company has paid just compensation to landowners. Earlier, on February 5, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion that Mountain Valley Pipeline could obtain immediate access to land easements granted by district court injunction orders without waiting for a just compensation hearing (Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. 6-56 Acres, No. 18-1159). If accepted by the Supreme Court for review, the parties will be given time to file briefs explaining their arguments in the case.  

Pipelines: Environmental Groups File Complaint Against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Issuance of Keystone XL Permit
On July 1, 2019, several environmental groups (Plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (The Corps) for the issuance of a permit approving the Keystone XL pipeline (Northern Plains Resource Council v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 4:19-cv-00044-BMM). Plaintiffs consist of the Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Earth. The Corps issued a Nationwide Permit 12, which allows pipeline work in “navigable waters” without changing the “pre-construction contours of waters of the United States.” According to the Complaint, the permit approves most of Keystone XL’s water crossings “without analyzing its project-specific impacts” on the environment. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is expected to transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Steel City, Nebraska.

PA Impact Fees: Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Distributes $252 Million in Gas Drilling Impact Fees
On June 27, 2019, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a press release detailing the most recent annual collection of gas drilling impact fees, which totaled nearly $252 million. According to the press release, the fees are significantly higher than the previous year due to the increase in gas wells from 8,518 last year to 9,560 this year. Under the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee Act (Act 13), the PUC is responsible for collecting and distributing the impact fees to municipalities throughout the state. On the PUC’s Act 13 website, fee distributions are separated by county, with Washington County receiving the largest distribution of approximately $8.4 million. A further breakdown of the disbursements, including disbursements by year, can be found on the PUC Act 13 website

Public Health: Concerned Health Professionals of New York Publish Compendium on Hydraulic Fracturing
On June 19, 2019, the Concerned Health Professionals of New York released the sixth edition of a hydraulic fracturing study titled, “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking(Compendium). The compendium is compiled of research from medical and scientific journals, journalists, and government agencies. The compendium analyzes how different areas such as air quality, public health, and noise pollution may be affected by unconventional oil and gas drilling.  Apart from industry drilling activities, the study also includes findings on how oil and gas infrastructure impacts public health and climate change.  Infrastructure described in the study include compressor stations, pipelines, liquified natural gas facilities, and power plants. The compendium concludes that an overall ban on hydraulic fracturing would be needed to combat the adverse effects on public health and the environment. 

From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
John McFarland, How to Identify and Resolve Your Oil and Gas Royalty Underpayments, (July 1, 2019)
Pennsylvania Legislation:
Act 20: Provides for transfer of money from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund into the Marcellus Legacy Fund (Enacted from SB 712 - June. 28, 2019).

Act 1A: Details Oil and Gas Lease Fund Appropriations (Enacted from HB 790 - June 28, 2019)

Act 14A: Details federal appropriation amounts for natural gas pipeline safety (Enacted from SB 242 - June 28, 2019)

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