Friday, December 18, 2020

Shale Law Weekly Review - December 18, 2020

Written by: 
Jackie Schweichler – Staff Attorney
Sarah Straub – Research Assistant 

The following information is an update of recent local, state, national and international legal developments relevant to shale gas.

LNG Exports: Department of Energy Issues Rule Modifying Requirements for Environmental Review on LNG Projects 
On December 4, 2020, the U.S. Energy Department published a final rule in the Federal Register (85 FR 78197) that would modify environmental reviews requirements for some liquified natural gas (LNG) projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The new rule relieves the Department of Energy from having to conduct environmental reviews in connection with some aspects of exporting and importing LNG with non-Free Trade Agreement countries.  For example, the Department of Energy will no longer review potential environmental impacts stemming from construction and operation of new LNG export facilities and will no longer review authorization requests to import natural gas.  The new rule will take effect on January 4, 2021. 

Environmental Impact Studies: Ninth Circuit Invalidates BOEM Environmental Impact Study for Alaska Oil Drilling Project 
On December 7, 2020, a panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an order holding that two federal agencies failed to fully consider the impact that oil drilling operations in the Beaufort Sea in Alaska would have on the environment and wildlife.  The court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, case number 18-73400, held that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to appropriately consider the potential emissions impacts from foreign oil consumption.  The court also rejected a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biological opinion finding that the agency’s decision was inadequate in estimating harm to polar bears.  In addition, the court determined that FWS violated the Endangered Species Act by relying on “uncertain, nonbinding mitigation measures'' to create the biological opinion.  Lastly, because BOEM relied on the FWS biological opinion, the court found BOEM’s decision to approve Hillcorp Alaska, LLC’s Liberty Project to be arbitrary and capricious.  The court vacated the approval of the project and remanded the decision to the agency for an administrative review according to the court’s findings. 

LNG Exports: Delaware River Basin Commission Affirms Construction of LNG Export Facility 
On December 9, 2020, the Delaware River Basin Commission (Commission) affirmed its decision to approve construction of a marine logistics facility designed to transport bulk liquid products, including liquefied natural gas (LNG).  The facility, known as the Dock 2 project, is located at the Gibbstown Logistics Center in New Jersey.  After the project was initially approved in June 2019, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network submitted a request for a public hearing, primarily expressing concern for danger posed by inadvertent releases of LNG.  The Commission determined that environmental risks from LNG spills were improbable and that approval of the project would not interfere with the Commission’s Comprehensive Plan for the Delaware River Basin.  The decision was affirmed by Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the federal government, while New York abstained from the vote.

From the National Oil & Gas Law Experts: 
Chris Barronzzi, Ohio Supreme Court Holds That The Marketable Title Act And The Dormant Mineral Act Both Apply To Severed Oil And Gas Interests (Dec. 8, 2020) 
Charles Sartain, Texas NPRI Burdened with Post-Production Costs (Dec. 8, 2020) 
Charles Sartain, Discovery Rule Can’t Save a Louisiana Succession’s Untimely Claim (Dec. 10, 2020) 
Romany Webb, Could The Biden Administration Cancel Oil And Gas Leases In The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? (Dec. 7, 2020)
Margaret Barry & Korey Silverman-Roati, December 2020 Updates To The Climate Case Charts (Dec. 11, 2020)


Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: 

Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority Provides $1.7 Million in COVID-19 Restart Grants to 11 Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects Statewide (Dec. 8, 2020)

United States Department of Energy Press Releases:

Department of Energy Extends Third Set of LNG Export Authorizations Through 2050 (Dec. 10, 2020)


Federal Executive Agencies (Federal Register Dec. 7- 11, 2020):

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

85 FR 79266 Proposed Rule—Comments Period “Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf-Revisions to the Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf” (Dec. 9, 2020). 

Environmental Protection Agency

85 FR 80093 Notice “Environmental Impact Statements; Notice of Availability” (Dec. 11, 2020). 

Energy Department

85 FR 78840 Notice of Application — Comments Period “Eagle LNG Partners Jacksonville II LLC; Application To Amend Export Term Through December 31, 2050, for Existing Non-Free Trade Agreement Authorization” (Dec. 7, 2020). 

85 FR 78842 Notice of Application — Comments Period “Eagle LNG Partners Jacksonville LLC; Application To Amend Export Term Through December 31, 2050, for Existing Non-Free Trade Agreement Authorization” (Dec. 7, 2020). 

85 FR 79003 Notice of Application—Comments Period “Vista Pacifico LNG, S.A.P.I. de C.V.; Application for Long-Term, Multi-Contract Authorization To Export Domestically Produced Natural Gas Through Mexico to Non-Free Trade Agreement Countries After Liquefaction to Liquefied Natural Gas” (Dec. 8, 2020). 

Energy Information Administration 

85 FR 79005 Notice and request for OMB review and comment “Agency Information Collection Extension” (Dec. 8, 2020). 

Office of Natural Resources Revenue

85 FR 80147 Notice “States' Decisions on Participating in Accounting and Auditing Relief for Federal Oil and Gas Marginal Properties” (Dec. 11, 2020). 

Fish and Wildlife Service 

85 FR 79082 Notice of receipt of application and proposed incidental harassment authorization; availability of draft environmental assessment—Comments Period “Marine Mammals; Incidental Take During Specified Activities; Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization for Polar Bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska” (Dec. 8, 2020). 

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 

85 FR 78849 Notice “Columbia Gulf Transmission, LLC; Notice of Schedule for the Preparation of an Environmental Assessment for the East Lateral Xpress Project” (Dec. 7, 2020). 

Land Management Bureau 

85 FR 78865 Notice of sale “Notice of 2021 Coastal Plain Alaska Oil and Gas Lease Sale and Notice of Availability of the Detailed Statement of Sale” (Dec. 7, 2020). 

Ocean Energy Management Bureau

85 FR 79266 Proposed Rule—Comments Period “Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf-Revisions to the Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf” (Dec. 9, 2020). 

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration 

85 FR 78931 Notice—Comments Period “Pipeline Safety: Random Drug Testing Rate; Management Information System Reporting; and Obtaining Drug and Alcohol Management Information System Sign-In Information” (Dec. 7, 2020). 

85 FR 79074 Notice—Comments Period “Pipeline Safety: Request for Special Permit; Colorado Interstate Gas Company, L.L.C.” (Dec. 8, 2020). 

House Energy and Commerce Committee Actions:

H.R. 1426 “Timely Review of Infrastructure Act” Received in the Senate. Read twice. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. (Dec. 10, 2020). 

H.R. 8915 “To amend the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 to provide for the consideration of climate change, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. (Dec. 10, 2020). 

H.R. 8948 “To authorize the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to enter into cooperative agreements with States to carry out grant programs to assist in remediation and relocation efforts relating to hazardous air pollution, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committees on Energy and Commerce, and Transportation and Infrastructure (Dec. 10, 2020). 

Follow us on Twitter @AgShaleLaw—Top #ShaleLaw HotLinks Dec. 7-11, 2020: 
Seattle Aims To Ban Fossil Fuel Heating Systems” Climatewire 
Minn. Regulators Deny Request To Delay Line 3 Oil Project” Energywire 
Federal Officials Hear Arguments On Enbridge Pipeline Tunnel” AP 
Permian Highway Start-Up Sending Natural Gas to Gulf Coast” Natural Gas Intelligence 
Federal Regulators Are Rewriting Environmental Rules So a Massive Pipeline Can Be Built” ProPublica

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