Chloe Marie – Research Specialist
Jackie Schweichler – Staff Attorney
Audry Thompson – Research Assistant
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
National Energy Policy: White House Council on Environmental Quality Issues Proposed Regulations Focused on Updating NEPA Review Process
On January 10, 2020, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published in the federal register a notice of proposed rulemaking designed to streamline the existing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations. CEQ acknowledged that it has been more than 40 years since NEPA regulations have been updated and that changes are needed to reflect the Trump administration’s intent to reduce the paperwork burden on federal agencies as well as to minimize administrative delay. CEQ therefore proposes, among other things, to accelerate the process of preparing an environmental impact statement by imposing stricter time and page limits and revising the terms and conditions of a NEPA review, including reconsidering the threshold for the implementation of a NEPA review. The proposed rule also encourages coordination and consultation between state, tribal and local agencies to ensure optimal support and compliance with NEPA. The public comment period is open until March 10, 2020.
Pipelines: Federal Court Vacates Compressor Station Permit in Buckingham County, Virginia, for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project
On January 7, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order vacating a key permit to construct and operate a compressor station in Buckingham County, Virginia (Friends of Buckingham v. State Air Pollution Control, No. 19-1152). The compressor station is part of the infrastructure supporting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. In January 2019, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board (the Board) granted Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC’s request for a permit to construct and operate the Buckingham County compressor station. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) petitioned the court for a review of the Board’s decision, alleging that Board did not sufficiently consider whether Union Hill was a “suitable” site for the compressor station. Specifically, SELC argued that the Board failed to “consider electric turbines as zero-emission alternatives to gas-fired turbines” and that the Board failed “to assess the Compressor Station’s potential for disproportionate health impacts on the predominantly African-American community of Union Hill.” The Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs and remanded to the Board for further proceedings.
GHG Emissions: Academic Study Reviews Air Pollution Emissions from Electricity Generation
On January 6, 2020, the School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California in San Diego, published a study in the journal Nature Sustainability on air quality impacts following the shift from coal to natural gas for electrical power generation in the United States between 2005 and 2016. According to the study, the decommissioning of fossil fuel power plants contributed significantly to the reduction of nationwide mortality rate from greenhouse gases. The study states that the transition from coal-fired units is also associated with increases in crop yield, suggesting that between 249 and 878 million bushels of corn, soybeans, and wheat were “saved” during this period. The researchers noted the present findings are subject to change due to anticipated differences in feedstock between regions, the emergence of new technologies and that it is more than likely that the first retired coal-fired units were the oldest and least efficient ones. The study is entitled “The downstream air pollution impacts of the transition from coal to natural gas in the United States.”
PA Impact Fee: PA Independent Fiscal Office Releases 2019 Impact Fee Estimate
On January 9, 2020, the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released their 2019 Impact Fee Estimate. According to the report, Pennsylvania will collect $198.2 million in impact fees for calendar year 2019. This is a $53.6 million decrease from the $251.8 million collected in 2018. IFO states that the reduction in fees collected can be largely attributed to low natural gas prices. Part of the decrease can be attributed to the changed status of stripper wells following a Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion issued in December 2018. (For more information on this decision, see our Shale Law in the Spotlight - An Overview of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling Related to the Impact Fee)
From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
Tiffany Challe, January 2020 Updates to the Climate Case Charts (Jan. 10, 2020)
Tiffany Challe, Five Points About the Proposed Revisions to CEQ’s NEPA Regulations (Jan. 10, 2020)
Amy Turner, Municipal Natural Gas Bans: Round 1 (Jan. 9, 2020)
Pennsylvania Department of Energy Press Releases:
DEP Reminds Pennsylvanians to Take a Commonsense Approach to Home Heating Oil and Propane Supply for a Safe Winter (January 8, 2020).
Students Encourage Pennsylvanians to Start Year Off Radon Safe with Simple Home Test (January 6, 2020).
Pennsylvania Executive Agencies—Actions and Notices:
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
50 Pa.B. 23 “Execution of Oil and Gas Lease for Publicly-Owned Streambeds” Notice (January 4, 2019).
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
50 Pa.B. 131 “Electric Generation Supplier License Cancellations of Companies with an Expired Financial Security, Insufficient Financial Security Amount or Language” Notice (January 4, 2019).
Federal Executive Agencies—Actions and Notices:
85 FR 72 “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas From the United States: 2019 Update-Response to Comments” Notice (January 2, 2020).
Environmental Protection Agency
85 FR 1297 “Idaho: Final Approval of State Underground Storage Tank Program Revisions, Codification, and Incorporation by Reference” Proposed Rule—Comment Period (January 10, 2020).
85 FR 1269 “Georgia: Approval of State Coal Combustion Residuals Permit Program” Rule (January 10, 2020).
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
85 FR 1310 “Williams Companies Inc; Notice of Filing” Notice (January 10, 2020).
85 FR 1310 “Combined Notice of Filings #1 [Wilderness Line Holdings, LLC]” Notice (January 10, 2020).
85 FR 1308 “Combined Notice of Filings #1 [RWE Renewables Americas, LLC]” Notice (January 10, 2020).
85 FR 1312 “Combined Notice of Filings [NET Mexico Pipeline Partners, LLC]” Notice (January 10, 2020).
85 FR 1311 “Texas Eastern Transmission, LP; Notice of Application” Notice (January 10, 2020).
85 FR 1309 “Texas Eastern Transmission, LP; Notice of Application” Notice (January 10, 2020).
85 FR 1102 “Annual Update of Filing Fees” Rule (January 9, 2020).
85 FR 707 “North Baja Pipeline, LLC; Notice of Application” Notice (January 7, 2020).
85 FR 706 “Combined Notice of Filings #1 [Energy Center Dover LLC, DB Energy Assets, LLC]” Notice (January 7, 2020).
85 FR 705 “Combined Notice of Filings [Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC]” Notice (January 7, 2020).
85 FR 705 “CPV Fairview, LLC; Notice of Institution of Section 206 Proceeding and Refund Effective Date” Notice (January 7, 2020).
85 FR 500 “Combined Notice of Filings #1 [Beech Ridge Energy II LLC, Beech Ridge Energy II Holdings LLC, Southern Power Company]” Notice (January 6, 2020).
85 FR 500 “Combined Notice of Filings [Midship Pipeline Company]” Notice (January 6, 2020).
85 FR 503 “Notice of Petition for Declaratory Order; Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc.” Notice (January 6, 2020).
85 FR 502 “Notice of Request Under Blanket Authorization; Gulf South Pipeline Company, LP” Notice (January 6, 2020).
85 FR 91 “Combined Notice of Filings [Iroquois Gas Transmission System, L.P.]” Notice (January 2, 2020).
85 FR 87 “Combined Notice of Filings #1 [Southwest Power Pool, Inc.]” Notice (January 2, 2020).
85 FR 87 “Records Governing Off-the-Record Communications; Public Notice” Notice (January 2, 2020).
85 FR 88 “Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC; Notice of Request Under Blanket Authorization” Notice (January 2, 2020).
85 FR 529 “Agency Information Collection Activities. . . Coal Management” Notice—Comment Period (January 6, 2020).
Land Management Bureau
85 FR 113 “Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee; Call for Nominations” Notice (January 2, 2020).
House Energy and Commerce Committee Actions:
H.R.5545 “NO EXHAUST Act of 2020” Referred to Committees on Energy and Commerce & Oversight and Reform (January 7, 2020).
H.R.5542 “To require the Secretary of Energy to establish a grant program for States to provide incentives to natural gas distribution companies for the improvement of natural gas distribution systems, and for other purposes” Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (January 7, 2020).
H.R.5544 “To create jobs and drive innovation and economic growth in the United States by supporting and promoting the manufacture of next generation technologies, including refrigerants, solvents, fire suppressants, foam blowing agents, aerosols, and propellants, and for other purposes” Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (January 7, 2020).
H.R.5541 “Tribal Power Act” Referred to Committees on Natural Resources & Energy and Commerce (January 7, 2020).
H.R.5554 “To amend the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to ensure that vehicles in Federal fleets comply with certain low greenhouse gas emission standards, and for other purposes” Referred to Committees on Oversight and Reform & Energy and Commerce (January 8, 2020).
H.R.5558 “To promote American leadership in vehicle manufacturing, job creation, improved air quality, and climate protection through domestic manufacturing of low- and zero-emission vehicles and development of electric vehicle charging networks, and for other purposes” Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (January 8, 2020).
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Actions:
PN1156 “Nomination—James P. Danly, of Tennessee, to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the remainder of the term expiring June 30, 2023” Returned to President (January 3, 2020).
PN1332 “Nomination—Katharine MacGregor, of Pennsylvania, to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior” Received from President and referred to Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (January 6, 2020).
S.2657 “Advanced Geothermal Innovation Leadership Act of 2019” Committee on Energy and Natural Resources filed written report (January 7, 2020).
S.2702 “Integrated Energy Systems Act of 2019” Committee on Energy and Natural Resources filed written report (January 7, 2020).
S.2714 “ARPA-E Reauthorization Act of 2019” Committee on Energy and Natural Resources filed written report (January 7, 2020).
S.2799 “Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability Act of 2019” Committee on Energy and Natural Resources filed written report (January 7, 2020).
S.2668 “Solar Energy Research and Development Act of 2019” Committee on Energy and Natural Resources filed written report (January 9, 2020).
Follow us on Twitter at PSU Ag & Shale Law (@AgShaleLaw) to receive ShaleLaw HotLinks:
“Anti-fracking Group Proposes Limiting Colorado Oil and Gas Drilling,” Reuters (Jan. 7, 2020)
“Anti-fracking Group Proposes Limiting Colorado Oil and Gas Drilling,” Reuters (Jan. 7, 2020)
“2020: A Year of Pipeline Court Fights, with One Lawsuit Headed to the Supreme Court,” InsideClimate News (Jan. 3, 2020)
“Australia Becomes World’s Largest LNG Exporter,” Oil & Gas Journal (Jan. 9, 2020)
“PennEast asks FERC for Two-year In-service Delay,” Shale Gas Reporter (Jan. 3, 2020)
“U.S. Oil Industry Warns of Economic Fallout From Democratic Drilling Ban,” Reuters (Jan. 7, 2020)
“Natural-Gas Slide Continues to Start 2020,” The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 2, 2020)
“U.S. Shale Struggles To Ride Out The Storm,” OilPrice.com (Jan. 5, 2020)
“US-Iran Conflict Escalates, Crude Oil Prices Soar,” Oil & Gas Journal (Jan. 3, 2020)
“Iran-Driven Oil Rally Boon to Struggling US Producers,” Rigzone (Jan. 3, 2020)
“Five Environmental Fights To Watch in 2020,” The Hill (Jan. 1, 2020)
“Permian Basin: Wave of Pipeline Projects is Late to The Oil Boom,” E&E News (Jan. 6, 2020)
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