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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

Quarterly Legislative Activity Update: Marcellus and Utica Shale Regions

Our Norton Rose Fulbright Pittsburgh-Southpointe practice tracks legislative activity that we believe may impact oil and gas development within the Marcellus and Utica shale regions (Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio). This Quarterly Update contains all of the relevant legislative activity occurring in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio during the fourth quarter of 2016.

Read the complete Quarterly Update.… Continue Reading

Quarterly Legislative Action Update: Marcellus and Utica Shale Region

Our Norton Rose Fulbright Pittsburgh-Southpointe practice tracks legislative activity that we believe may impact oil and gas development within the Marcellus and Utica shale regions (Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio). This Quarterly Update contains all of the relevant legislative activity occurring in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio during the second quarter of 2016.

The next issue of the Quarterly Update will be published in October 2016 and will contain all of the legislative activity occurring through the third quarter of 2016. New legislative activity occurring after publication of this Update will be posted to Norton Rose Fulbright’s Hydraulic Fracking Blog … Continue Reading

Florida house fracking bill passes second subcommittee

H.B. 191, a Florida bill that would facilitate fracking throughout Florida recently gained approval in the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. Since this is the second subcommittee it has passed, the bill is poised to be debated by the entire House in Florida’s upcoming January legislative session.

So far, opposition from the bill has come from environmental groups and the Florida League of Cities. The League opposes provisions that preempt local governments from enacting anti-fracking ordinances and regulating where and how fracking is conducted within their borders. The League’s opposition, however, may be misplaced. Local oil and … Continue Reading

Quarterly Legislative Action Update: Marcellus and Utica Shale Region

Our Norton Rose Fulbright Pittsburgh-Southpointe practice tracks legislative activity that we believe may impact oil and gas development within the Marcellus and Utica shale regions (Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio). This Quarterly Update contains all of the relevant legislative activity occurring in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio during the third quarter of 2015.

The next issue of the Quarterly Update will be published in early January 2016 and will contain all of the legislative activity occurring through the fourth quarter of 2015, highlighting changes occurring during that quarter. New legislative activity occurring after publication of this Update will be posted … Continue Reading

N.C. legislature preempts local fracking regulations with Senate Bill 119

North Carolina countered county fracking regulations with Senate Bill 119 on October 1st. Senate Bill 119 comes in at the tail of the Texas legislature’s H.B. 40, discussed earlier this week in this blog. Both designate state control versus local control over fracking regulations.

Local counties, such as Chatham and Stokes, have passed hydraulic fracking moratoriums since mid-August, and Lee county is currently considering passing its own. Stokes County’s moratorium lasts for three years and prevents the issuance of zoning permits connected to oil-and-gas development. Chatham County’s moratorium lasts for two years and halts all hydraulic fracking. These moratoriums … Continue Reading

Florida Legislature renews consideration of fracking ban

Last year, members of the Florida Legislature introduced S.B. 166—a bill that would have banned hydraulic fracturing in the state. The bill advanced to the Senate’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee but failed to advance any further. S.B. 166 was introduced after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) sued the Dan A. Hughes Company for unauthorized drilling activities near the Everglades. The FDEP also stripped the company of its drilling permits.

On August 24th, Senators Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard reintroduced the fracking ban. Unlike the prior version of the bill, the current version of S.B. 166 would not … Continue Reading

Quarterly Legislative Action Update: Marcellus and Utica Shale Region

Our Norton Rose Fulbright Pittsburgh-Southpointe practice tracks legislative activity that we believe may impact oil and gas development within the Marcellus and Utica shale regions (Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio). This Quarterly Update contains all of the relevant legislative activity occurring in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio during the second quarter of 2015.

The next issue of the Quarterly Update will be published in early October 2015 and will contain all of the legislative activity occurring through the third quarter of 2015, highlighting changes occurring during that quarter. New legislative activity occurring after publication of this Update will be posted … Continue Reading

Induced seismicity developments: Earthquake lawsuit jurisdiction, new research, and seismic monitoring

This June earthquakes captured the attention of courts, researchers, and regulators in key oil and gas producing states. Oklahoma’s highest court gave the green light to a lawsuit blaming injection wells for a plaintiff’s home damage and personal injuries suffered during an earthquake. Kentucky is increasing seismic monitoring within the state, and Texas oil and gas regulators continue to study the issue. As geophysics experts seek to know more about the true risks associated with induced seismicity, understanding by the U.S. Geological Survey and researchers continues to take shape.

In a first-of-its kind ruling on June 30, the Oklahoma Supreme … Continue Reading

Florida House of Representatives passes bill to strengthen hydraulic fracturing requirements

Earlier this week, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill targeted at hydraulic fracturing. The bill, H.B. 1205, would heighten the regulatory requirements on fracking. The bill passed easily with a sizeable majority voting in favor of the bill. 82 members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of passing the bill and 34 members voted against enacting the bill.

Under H.B. 1205, operators would be required to obtain a fracking permit before engaging in fracking operations. Moreover, operators would be required to declare that they intend to use hydraulic fracturing before beginning any drilling operations. In comparison, … Continue Reading

Train derailment in West Virginia

Earlier this week, a train transporting crude oil derailed close to Boomer, West Virginia. The train was carrying oil from the Bakken shale in North Dakota to Yorktown, Virginia. CSX Corporation Inc. (CSX) operated the one hundred-car train.

Conflicting reports have emerged on the impact of the derailment. Some reports suggests that the derailment may have polluted the Kanawha River, a major waterway in West Virginia, because one of the rail cars entered the river. Other reports state that none of the rail cars entered the river. Approximately twenty of the rail cars were ignited.

West Virginia has declared a … Continue Reading

Constitutional challenge filed against North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission

On Monday, the Haw River Assembly and Keely Wood Puricz filed suit in North Carolina state court, requesting the court to rule that North Carolina General Statute § 143B-293.2(a) is unconstitutional. North Carolina General Statute § 143B-293.2(a) specifies the appointment process for the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission (NCMEC) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The NCMEC is composed of five members appointed by the Governor and eight members appointed by the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA).

Plaintiffs contend that the appointment process for the NCMEC is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers doctrine. Specifically, … Continue Reading

Potential fracking ban on the horizon in Florida

Several states are currently involved in heated debates concerning hydraulic fracturing. The debates have ranged from whether states should implement fracking bans to whether localities have the authority to issue such prohibitions. Florida appears to be joining the debate. On Tuesday, two Florida state senators—Darren Soto and Dwight Bullard—proposed a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state beginning on July 1, 2015.
According to Senator Soto, the bill is necessary to ensure the integrity of the state’s water supply and environment. Specifically, Soto expressed concern that fracking may cause pollution and contaminate the water supply. Because Florida depends heavily … Continue Reading

US Forest Service issues plan allowing fracking in George Washington National Forest

On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, the United States Forest Service’s (USFS) Southern Regional Forester issued a Revised Land and Resource Management Plan and Record of Decision allowing natural gas drilling to take place on 177,200 acres of the George Washington National Forest located in Virginia and West Virginia. The new plan will go into effect in early 2015.

Notably, the plan does not prohibit operators from utilizing hydraulic fracturing technology to develop the forest lands. This differs from the original draft management plan which would have prohibited horizontal drilling. Prior to beginning operations, however, all development proposals are required to … Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit refuses to overturn jury verdict despite allegations that verdict was tainted

In Hiser v. XTO Energy, Inc., the Eighth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict against XTO Energy, Inc. (XTO) and rejected XTO’s argument that the district court should have granted its motion for a new trial. The appeal was heard by Judge Duane Benton, Judge Michael J. Melloy, and Judge Bobby E. Shepherd. Hiser involved allegations by the plaintiff that she suffered damages due to XTO’s drilling operations on a neighbor’s property.

During deliberations, the jury asked the district court whether XTO’s drilling operations included fracking or only drilling. The judge responded that the jury could only consider evidence presented … Continue Reading

North Carolina to allow hydraulic fracking

On June 04, 2014, Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed a bill into law allowing hydraulic fracking within the state, lifting a moratorium that has blocked fracking permits since 2012. Fracking in North Carolina can begin as early as next year.

Gov. McCrory signed the Energy Modernization Act of 2014 at an event at North Carolina State University after the bill passed through the state House (64-50) and Senate (33-12) during the preceding week. The bill was introduced by three Republican state senators, Sens. Bob Rucho, E.S. Newton, and Andrew C. Brock. Republicans lead both the House and Senate … Continue Reading

North Carolina lawmakers consider proposed Energy Modernization Act

In July 2012, North Carolina’s state assembly overrode the governor’s veto to enact a bill lifting a ban on hydraulic fracturing and requiring state regulators to pass and implement rules relating to hydraulic fracturing activities, including the disclosure of chemicals to state agencies and local emergency responders, by October 1, 2014.

On May 15, 2014, several state senators introduced a bill (S.B. 786 or Energy Modernization Act) to extend the deadline to January 1, 2015, and to modify certain provisions relating to oil and gas activities.

The bill provides for the confidentiality of hydraulic fracturing chemicals, “upon a showing satisfactory … Continue Reading

EPA reviews states’ solid waste management regulations for oil and gas operations

In an April 1, 2014 memorandum, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) summarized state regulatory programs concerning the management of solid waste from oil and natural gas exploration, development and production (E&P) operations.

In reviewing each state’s regulations, the EPA focused on surface storage and disposal facilities managing produced waters, drilling muds, drilling cuttings, hydraulic fracturing return fluids, and various other waste liquids and materials intrinsically related to oil and gas E&P.

The EPA found that the state regulations were primarily concerned with the “technical requirements associated with the design, construction, operation, maintenance, closure, and reclamation of surface pits, … Continue Reading

Senators question EPA’s proposed research into states’ efforts to regulate hydraulic fracturing

In a letter dated May 8, 2014, five U.S. senators urged the Office of Inspector (OIG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discontinue its “preliminary research on the EPA’s and states’ ability to manage potential threats to water resources from hydraulic fracturing,” arguing that such a review is “well outside the mission and expertise of the OIG…[and] duplicative of numerous other federal efforts.”

The OIG announced its proposed research in a memorandum dated February 5, 2014, stating that it would evaluate the regulatory authority that is available to the EPA and the states, identify potential threats to water … Continue Reading

Eight Arkansas families sue natural gas gathering company over compressor station operations

In the Circuit Court of Faulkner County, Arkansas, on April 24, 2014, eight families who live near compressor stations operated by Desoto Gathering Company sued that company, alleging the emission of “huge amounts of methane and hydrogen sulfide, as well as other flammable, malodorous and noxious gases, chemicals and compounds, directly into the air.” In addition, these families assert that the compressor stations “are injuriously loud and produce harmful levels of noise and toxic emissions” and that they have been harmed by the noise, vibration, odor and pollution.

Having purchased their property many years ago because it was in a … Continue Reading

Council of the District of Columbia votes to prohibit fracking in the George Washington National Forest

At the Washington DC City Council meeting on March 6, 2014, all twelve lawmakers present unanimously voted to prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations in the nearby George Washington National Forest.

The 1.1 million-acre forest located in Virginia and West Virginia, with more than half lying over the Marcellus Shale geological formation, contains the headwaters of the Potomac River, which is the sole source of drinking water for the nation’s capital.

The council’s resolution states horizontal hydraulic fracturing “has been linked to significant adverse environmental impacts, including surface and drinking water contamination.”

Citing to letters from local water officials with the … Continue Reading

Emergency order requires testing and classification of crude oil transported by rail

On February 25, 2014, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an emergency order requiring rail shippers of crude oil to test the crude’s makeup before shipping it and to classify the crude as Packing Group I (high danger) or Packing Group II (medium danger) hazardous material until further notice.

The DOT’s emergency order recognizes that the misclassification of petroleum crude oil as a Packing Group III (low danger) material is an “imminent hazard . . . that presents a substantial likelihood that death, serious illness, severe personal injury, or a substantial endangerment to health, property, or the environment may … Continue Reading

Virginia plans to expand disclosure of fracking chemicals

Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (“DMME”) issued a notice that it plans to mend its Oil and Gas Regulations (4VAC25-150) to ensure that these regulations reflect current industry best practices and to expand the disclosure of chemical ingredients used in oil and gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing. The deadline for public comments is February 12, 2014. The DMME plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed action after publication in the Virginia Register.

The Virginia Oil and Gas Association has petitioned the DMME to amend the Oil and Gas Regulations to require oil and gas companies to … Continue Reading

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