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Proposed Delaware River Basin fracking ban sparks legislation

On May 16, 2019, Delaware Governor John Carey, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a proclamation in support of a permanent fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin.

The Delaware River Basin is a 330-mile-long river watershed running through four states: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Since 1961, the Delaware River Basin Commission (“DRBC”), a regional interstate and federal agency, has managed the basin. The governors for the four basin states and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the North Atlantic Division make up the voting members of the … Continue Reading

Second edition of the Shale Gas Handbook released by Norton Rose Fulbright

On June 25, 2015, Norton Rose Fulbright released the second edition of the Shale Gas Handbook. Almost two years ago, Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers, realizing that the unconventional oil and gas phenomenon was having various results all around the world, came together to create the inaugural edition of the Shale Gas Handbook. The Shale Gas Handbook is a one of a kind, one-resource book that members of the oil and gas industry can turn to for questions about unconventional shale oil and gas drilling, production and hydraulic fracking. Since the launch of the first edition, there have been a number … Continue Reading

End of Colorado legislative session marks beginning of new era of energy regulation

The end of Colorado’s legislative session this past Friday marked the beginning of a new era of energy regulation posing serious ramifications to the State’s fracking industry.

On April 16, 2019, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 19-181, officially revamping the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Prior to the Act, the Commission’s purpose was to foster the development of Colorado’s natural resources. Now, the Commission has a new mission: to regulate the oil and gas industry and to protect the public’s health and safety and the environment.… Continue Reading

Bureau of Land Management moves forward with California fracking plan

On April 25, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a new draft report supplementing its previous reports proposing new oil and gas development near Bakersfield, California. If finalized, the agency’s plan will entail drilling more than 100-400 wells per year on 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate.… Continue Reading

Landowners, energy companies file briefs seeking to capture Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in historic hydraulic fracking case

Over the past few months, new developments have taken place in the historic Pennsylvania Supreme Court case involving landowners’ trespass and conversion claims against an energy company based on hydraulic fracking activities. Back in November 2018, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania agreed to hear the case to consider whether the rule of capture applies to hydraulic fracking. Since November, both parties, as well as numerous amici curiae, have filed briefs.… Continue Reading

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania set to determine whether rule of capture applies to fracking

On November 20, 2018, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued a one-page order agreeing to consider whether the rule of capture applies to hydraulic fracturing. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s review comes after the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned decades of precedent and decided the rule of capture did not apply to fracking wells.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will consider a single question on appeal: “[d]oes the rule of capture apply to oil and gas produced from wells that were completed using hydraulic fracturing and preclude trespass liability for allegedly draining oil or gas from under nearby property, where the well … Continue Reading

New study examines seismic activity in Oklahoma

A new study published in October purports to link seismic activity in Oklahoma to wastewater injection wells. Besides rates and pressures, Bridget Scanlon, hydrogeologist and lead author of the study, suggested injection depth may influence seismicity potentials. However, Scanlon limited her study to deep wastewater injection wells in Oklahoma.

The study examined the correlation between seismicity and wastewater injection wells in Oklahoma’s Arbuckle Formation—located adjacent to the basement. Additionally, the study noted seismic activity appeared to decrease in connection with reduced wastewater injection rates. According to the study, wastewater injection wells are the culprit of the increased seismic activity in … Continue Reading

Colorado voters reject Proposition 112

On November 6, Proposition 112 failed 58 percent to 42 percent. The measure needed 50 percent to pass. After a contentious and expensive campaign, voters derailed the measure that posed drastic implications on future oil and gas development in the state.

Proposition 112 would have expanded existing setback requirements from 500 feet to 2,500 feet from homes, schools, hospitals, and “vulnerable areas.” If Proposition 112 passed, Colorado would have approved the country’s largest mandatory buffer zone between new wells and homes. Proposition 112 would have made future oil and gas development on nonfederal land within the state nearly impossible.

The … Continue Reading

Survey of fracking ballot measures

Below is a survey of fracking ballot measures across the country. Colorado is the only state that has fracking measures on the upcoming November ballot. But, Florida has an offshore drilling prohibition that encompasses offshore fracking, and San Luis Obispo County, California also has a fracking ban on their ballot. Michigan and Columbus, Ohio were unsuccessful in their efforts to include fracking bans on their ballot.… Continue Reading

PA Superior Court revives trespass claim against fracking company

Last Monday, a three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court revived a trespass claim against a fracking company. The claim, which was previously defeated by summary judgment, could return to the trial court for determination of its merits.

In 2015, plaintiffs filed suit against the fracking company alleging trespass and conversion. Plaintiffs claim the company used hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas beneath the plaintiffs’ property, where the company did not have a lease, from an adjacent tract on which it had a lease.… Continue Reading

Study observes possible links between hydraulic fracturing wastewater injection and seismic activity in Kansas

A new study published this month purports to link seismic activity in Kansas to wastewater disposal associated with hydraulic fracturing. Justin Rubinstein, the lead researcher, suggested that further research was needed to examine the effects of wastewater injections, stating that this study was “the tip of the iceberg as far as what we’re going to learn.”

The study examined ongoing seismicity in two counties in southern Kansas from 2013-2016, observing correlations between increases in seismic activity subsequent to increases in wastewater disposal via deep-injection wells. Additionally, seismic activity appeared to decreased at the same time as economic and regulatory forces … Continue Reading

Controversial study attempts to link fracking to poor infant health

Last month, in an article published in the journal Science Advances, economics professors at Princeton University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Los Angeles attempted to link fracking to low birth weight. The study is controversial, and has been criticized since its publication.

Over the course of ten years, Janet Currie, Michael Greenstone, and Katherine Meckel, the authors of the study, analyzed 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania, where fracking is common. They concluded that living within 1 kilometer of a fracking well while pregnant increased the odds that one’s baby would be born with a low … Continue Reading

BLM to rescind 2015 fracking rule

Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) announced that it will publish a final rule to rescind a 2015 regulation requiring companies to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing.

Decried by both the BLM and oil and gas trade associations as costly and duplicative of existing regulations, the repeal of this rule marks the final nail in the coffin for a legal battle that began over two years ago.… Continue Reading

PA federal judge strikes down municipal fracking ban

Late last month, a federal magistrate judge in Pennsylvania struck down a township’s ban on fracking activities. The ban, which prevented the injection of fracking waste into a well underlying the town, was preempted by state and federal law, said the judge.

The judge ruled that the ban was preempted by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Pennsylvania’s Act 13, which prevents municipalities from passing ordinances that regulate oil and gas activity except through limited channels, namely the state’s Municipalities Planning Code and Flood Plain Management Act.… Continue Reading

US 10th Circuit dismisses Obama-era fracking litigation

The US 10th Circuit on Thursday dismissed the challenge to an Obama-era fracking rule that imposed strict requirements on oil and gas operators on federal and tribal lands. The rule was blocked in 2015 and never took effect.

The three-judge panel dismissed the case in its entirety—including the lower court’s decision to block the rule—in light of the fact that the US Bureau of Land Management earlier this year asked the court to pause its review of the rule and recently proposed a measure to rescind the Obama-era regulations. These actions followed the change in US administrations.

Said the court, … Continue Reading

Delaware River Basin Commission to consider fracking ban

On Wednesday, the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to begin the rule making process that could lead to a fracking ban in parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The Commission, which regulates the Delaware River watershed and is comprised of members from each of the above states and a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, now has until November 30 to draft its proposal.

The Delaware River watershed encompasses parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and provides drinking water to millions of people in the four states. It also encompasses territory rich … Continue Reading

US BLM plans to rescind Obama-era fracking rule

The US Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday issued a proposed rule that would rescind Obama-era fracking regulations. The regulations, which were promulgated in 2015 and related to hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands, had never taken effect.

In March 2015, the BLM, then under the Obama administration, issued a final rule that imposed limits and reporting requirements on operators fracking federal and tribal lands. The regulations, which focused on well casing, wastewater storage, and disclosure of chemicals used in fracking operations, were widely decried by industry.

The rule was blocked in late 2015, before it could take effect, … Continue Reading

Texas task force notes benefits of fracking, calls for more data

The Task Force on Environmental and Community Impacts of Shale Development in Texas on Monday released a 204-page report analyzing fracking’s impacts on the state. The Task Force, a group sponsored by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas and comprised of individuals from varied backgrounds in the energy and environmental community, lauded the economic benefits of fracking but also called for better oversight of its effects.

The report first notes the revolution that was the shale boom—that is, the proliferation of horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry—and the significant economic and … Continue Reading

Latest USGS study finds fracking is not a current threat to drinking water

In a study published May 31, 2017, the United States Geological Survey concluded that unconventional oil and gas production in the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, and Haynesville shale formations is “not currently a significant source of methane or benzene to drinking water wells.”

Researchers sampled over one hundred drinking-water wells in the frack zones of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. This produced two key observations about the quality of the water. First, over 90 percent of the wells containing methane had concentrations below the government’s proposed threshold of 10 milligrams per liter. And even then, “most of the methane detected in groundwater … Continue Reading

“Crude and imperfect” expert report enough to survive summary judgment in Arkansas subsurface trespass

The 8th Circuit held on Monday, May 22, 2017, that the Arkansas district court abused its discretion when it granted summary judgment for the defendants in a subsurface trespass case. The appellate court instead held that the plaintiffs’ “crude and imperfect” expert report was not flawed to the point of exclusion and also held that, even without the report, the plaintiffs had raised a fact issue for the jury.

In 2009, Southwestern Energy approached the Stroud family seeking to use a plugged well on their property as a waste water injection site. The Strouds declined and Southwestern began injecting water … Continue Reading

US BLM asks 10th Circuit to pause review of Obama-era fracking rule

On Friday, the US Bureau of Land Management asked the Tenth Circuit to pause its review of an Obama-era rule on fracking. The rule, if implemented, would restrict fracking practices on federal and tribal lands.

The move comes at a time when the BLM and other agencies are reconsidering their positions in light of the new administration.

In June of last year, a federal district court judge overturned the rule, stating the BLM exceeded its authority in issuing the rule in light of the fact that Congress never directed the agency to regulate fracking. The BLM appealed, but now finds … Continue Reading

Maryland bans fracking

Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans hydraulic fracturing in the state. The move comes a week after the state’s legislature passed the bill.

Maryland currently has no fracking activity inside its borders, leading many to label the move political—that is, a play to constituents without much consequence. But the western part of the state sits atop a portion of the Marcellus Shale, and industry for a while now has considered the prospect of drilling in the state.

Environmentalists praise the governor’s actions, but opponents of the law defend fracking and its safety. They … Continue Reading

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