Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Shale Law Weekly Review - January 7, 2020

Written by:
Jackie Schweichler – Staff Attorney
The following information is an update of recent local, state, national and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.
Water Quality: Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Publishes Report on Pavillion Water Wells
On December 23, 2019, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) published findings as part of the investigation into the drinking water wells in Pavillion, Wyoming.  The report is entitled, Final Pavillion, Wyoming Gas Field Domestic Water Wells Report on Recommendations for Further Investigation Pavillion, Wyoming.  In the report, WDEQ focused on two recommendations, including additional sampling for bacterial populations which involved evaluating geochemical/biomarkers such as total dissolved solids, sulfide, and methane.  The report also analyzed water samples for volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, and organochlorine pesticides in order to “achieve lower method detection limits.”   This report was prepared as a response to two of the ten recommendations presented in WDEQ’s 2016 Final Report.  The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will analyze the remaining recommendations. 

Methane Emissions: New Mexico Releases Report on Methane Emissions Reduction Strategy
On December 19, 2019, the New Mexico Methane Advisory Panel released their draft technical report describing potential strategies for methane reduction in the state.  The Methane Advisory Panel consists of 27 individuals representing members of the oil and gas industry, technical laboratory professionals, university researchers, and environmental organizations.  The report was prepared in response to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Executive Order to create a regulatory framework to reduce methane emissions. The report addresses pneumatic controllers, leak detection and repair, dehydration units, compressors and engines, venting and flaring, and storage.  For each section, the report addresses the process, equipment, costs involved, sources of emissions, implementation, challenges, and the potential path forward.

National Energy Policy: Global Energy Institute Publishes Report on Impact of National Hydraulic Fracturing Ban
On December 19, 2019, the Global Energy Institute (GEI) published a new analysis of the potential impact of a hydraulic fracturing ban.  The report was prepared as a response to statements made by presidential candidates that they intend to ban hydraulic fracturing if elected.  GEI examined the benefits of hydraulic fracturing and analyzed the impact of a ban on energy security, manufacturing, the overall U.S. economy, and individual states.  The report states than a hydraulic fracturing ban would phase out 19 million jobs by 2025 and “reduce the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $7.1 trillion.”  According to GEI, during that time frame Pennsylvania would lose 600,000 jobs and residents would experience a cumulative cost-of-living increase of $4,654.  The report is entitled, “What if Hydraulic Fracturing was Banned? The Economic Benefits of the Shale Revolution and the Consequences of Ending It.”

Pipelines: Ohio Court Affirms Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Rover Pipeline
On December 9, 2019, the Court of Appeals Stark County, Ohio Fifth Appellate District issued an opinion affirming the dismissal of a lawsuit against Rover Pipeline, LLC (Rover) (State of Ohio ex rel. Yost v. Rover Pipeline, L.L.C., 2019-Ohio-5179).  The State of Ohio brought this lawsuit alleging that Rover had illegally released millions of gallons of drilling fluids into state waters during construction of the Rover Pipeline.  Ohio alleged that Rover violated Ohio’s water quality standards and failed to obtain the necessary permits and certification.  Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), projects that will affect water quality are subject to section §401 Water Quality Certification by the state.  In response, Rover argued that states must act within one year of receiving an application for certification in order to preserve their CWA authority. The court found that Ohio did not act within one year and, accordingly, dismissed the lawsuit.  In the present order, the appeals court affirmed the dismissal, stating that Ohio waived its rights under the CWA. 

International Development: European Commission Publishes European Green Deal
On December 11, 2019, the European Commission unveiled The European Green Deal, a strategy aimed at combating climate and environmental challenges.  The strategy includes new objectives for emissions reductions and directs the Commission to propose a new European “Climate Law” by March 2020.  The plan emphasizes transitioning energy reliance to renewable and sustainable alternative fuels.  The strategy also recommends the cessation of fossil fuel subsidies and directs the Commission to close tax loopholes for aviation and maritime fuels.  
From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts:
National Regulatory Actions
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 
Pennsylvania Actions and Notices
Pennsylvania State Senate 
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
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