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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

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

Wyoming federal judge issues preliminary injunction against BLM’s hydraulic fracturing regulations

The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and several states, including Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, and the Ute Indian Tribe rejoiced when Wyoming federal judge Scott W. Skavdahl issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new hydraulic fracturing regulations.

“We are pleased to see Judge Skavdahl agrees with our request to first hear the merits of our case before this final federal rule goes into effect,” IPAA Pres. Barry Russell stated following the September 30 order.

The complaint was filed by IPAA and Western Energy Alliance on March 20 to challenge BLM’s final ruling … Continue Reading

Colorado Supreme Court decides to hear fracking regulation cases

On Monday, September 21, The Supreme Court of Colorado agreed to decide whether localities can ban hydraulic fracturing operations or limit the storage of fracking waste products within their limits. The Court agreed to hear two cases, one involving a ban in the City of Longmont, and the other involving a ban in the City of Fort Collins. Both bans were overturned at the District Court level in 2014. A third Colorado city’s ban was also overturned in 2014.

In both Longmont and Fort Collins, citizens voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas wells and storing fracturing waste … Continue Reading

Berkeley Lab researchers quell frackquake fears, FEMA discusses induced seismicity

On July 9 the California Council on Science and Technology in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, released an expanded independent scientific report on hydraulic fracturing discussing anthropogenic earthquakes. Berkeley Lab researchers found “no recorded cases of induced seismicity” in California. The report concludes that to date there have been no known seismic events linked to disposal of produced water by underground injection in California.

The findings were part of a wide-ranging research study of hydraulic fracturing commissioned by the California legislature after passage of SB 4, the state’s first fracking regulatory legislation that became effective in 2013. The … Continue Reading

Railroad seeks dismissal of tribal suit challenging transportation of crude oil

Earlier this year, a Swinomish tribe filed suit in Washington state federal court against BNSF Railway Company (BNSF). In the lawsuit, the tribe challenges the amount of crude oil shipped by BNSF across tribal land. BNSF has authority under a settlement agreement it entered into with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. The settlement agreement granted BNSF a right-of-way easement to transport crude oil through the tribal land. Currently, Judge Robert S. Lasnik is considering a motion to dismiss filed by BNSF.

In the motion to dismiss, BNSF contends that the lawsuit should not be decided by a federal court. Rather, … Continue Reading

Opposition to federal fracking rules grows

Earlier this year, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final version of rules governing hydraulic fracturing on federal land. As discussed in a previous post, these rules will not only impose heightened requirements on drilling operations but also increase the reporting duties for drilling operators. Shortly after the BLM released its proposal, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and Western Energy Alliance (WEA) sued the BLM in Wyoming to challenge the proposed rules. The IPAA and WEA argued that the BLM’s rules are unnecessary because states adequately regulate hydraulic fracturing. The IPAA and … Continue Reading

Colorado Supreme Court refuses to authorize Lone Pine orders in fracking cases

On Monday, April 20th, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Antero Resources v. Strudley, a case closely watched by many in the oil and gas industry. The Supreme Court was confronted with the issue of whether the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure permit a trial court to issue a Lone Pine order—that is, a modified case management order requiring a plaintiff to submit prima facie evidence in support of the lawsuit before permitting full discovery. Lone Pine orders are used primarily in complex cases to ferret out meritless claims and ensure that litigation progresses expeditiously.
StrudleyContinue Reading

California Governor asked to impose fracking moratorium

Thus far, California has rebuffed attempts at instituting a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing. In fact, several localities in California have also rejected fracking bans. Nonetheless, on Thursday, several environmental groups petitioned California Governor Edmund G. Brown to impose an immediate moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and other methods of well stimulation in the state.

The petitioners claimed that such an action was necessary to protect the public from an imminent threat to its health and safety. According to the petitioners, fracking causes pollution, contaminates aquifers, relies on harmful chemicals, and increases the likelihood of earthquakes. The petitioners also blame hydraulic … Continue Reading

Wyoming to strengthen chemical disclosure requirements for fracking operations

The Wyoming Public Records Act (WPRA) requires that oil and gas companies disclose information about the chemicals used in their hydraulic fracturing operations. Specifically, companies must disclose the type of chemical used, the concentration of each chemical, the chemical compound name, and the CAS number—the unique number assigned to that chemical for purposes of public scientific literature. Companies may forgo disclosing this information, however, by requesting an exemption from the state’s disclosure rules on the basis that the information constitutes a trade secret, privileged information, or confidential information.

On January 23rd, the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) agreed … Continue Reading

Los Angeles well stimulation ban questioned

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council passed a motion to ban any oil and gas well stimulation or the use of wells for waste disposal injection. After passing the motion, the City Council authorized the city attorney to write the ordinance with the assistance of the Department of City Planning (DCP).

Similar to other proposed drilling bans, however, the implementation process for the prohibition has not gone smoothly. In fact, the DCP has advised the City Council against prohibiting oil and gas operations. According to the DCP, the City Council should hire an expert and merely update the … Continue Reading

Broomfield, Colorado: The latest town sued because of a local fracking ban

Several cities have recently passed local legislation banning the use of hydraulic fracturing. These local fracking bans have become the subject of litigation in a number of states. Broomfield, Colorado has become the latest locality to be sued for banning hydraulic fracturing within city limits.

In 2013, Broomfield voters passed Local Question 300— an amendment to the city’s charter that prohibits the use of fracking and the disposal or open pit storage of fracking waste within city limits for five years. According to the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), the measure passed by only twenty votes.

On November 24th, … Continue Reading

Fracking bans may thrust California localities into contentious legal battle

On November 4th, Denton became the first city in Texas to enact a ban against hydraulic fracturing. The next day, several members of the oil and gas industry and the state of Texas sued Denton, alleging that the ban was invalid. It is possible that other parties are also planning on suing Denton over the fracking ban. Mendocino and San Benito counties may be following in Denton’s footsteps.

Mendocino and San Benito counties passed legislation on November 4th prohibiting hydraulic fracturing. A fracking ban was on the ballot in Santa Barbara county, but the ban was defeated. Observers have noted … Continue Reading

Fracking dominates the November ballot

One of the most highly debated issues during the November election was the question of whether localities have the authority to enact fracking bans. Several cities throughout the country have attempted to enact prohibitions against hydraulic fracturing with varying degrees of success. Denton, Texas has become one of the latest cities to consider such a ban.

On November 4th, Denton residents voted on whether the city should enact a ban against hydraulic fracturing within the city limits. The measure passed with 59 percent of Denton residents voting in favor of the measure and 41 percent voting against it. The Denton … Continue Reading

The New York Court of Appeals rules on local ban on fracking

The New York Court of Appeals recently denied an energy company’s motion for rehearing in Matter of Wallach v. Dryden. Matter of Wallach was a consolidated appeal in which the court heard challenges to local fracking bans enacted in the Towns of Dryden and Middlefield. The parties challenging the bans argued that the local laws were preempted by state law.

The court held that the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law (OGSML) did not preempt local bans on hydraulic fracturing. The court reasoned that the towns had authority to enact the zoning laws banning fracking under the doctrine of home … Continue Reading

Revisions to proposed fracking regulations in California

California recently circulated its third version of S.B. 4., a bill passed last year that sets forth rules regarding well stimulation operations. The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources received over 100,000 comments from the public regarding the first version of S.B. 4. The second version of the bill also received a significant number of comments.
The third version of the bill features several changes from the previous versions. For example, the threshold for reporting seismic activity occurring near wells has been increased to require a magnitude of at least 2.7. In addition, whereas well … Continue Reading

US geological survey researchers release findings on reports of induced seismicity in Colorado and New Mexico

Researchers with the US Geological Survey recently released a study claiming a link between wastewater injection and reported seismicity in the Raton Basin of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. The researchers sought to explain a series of August-September 2011 earthquakes in the region and claimed that there was “strong evidence that [the] earthquake sequence [was] induced by fluid injection in the area.” They came to this conclusion in part because “earthquake rate change” over time appeared “to be solely coming from the area of the wells.”

This is the latest in a series of studies seeking to explain reported … Continue Reading

Irreconcilable differences: Colorado court finds that a local hydraulic fracturing ban is preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Act

Hydraulic fracturing has become a hot button topic in Colorado as oil and natural gas development has increased near urban and residential areas. During the 2012 election, in response to citizen concerns, the cities of Longmont, Lafayette and Broomfield adopted some form of ban on hydraulic fracturing, despite strong warnings from the state and local industry trade groups that such bans were contrary to state law.

On July 24, 2014, the Boulder County District Court fulfilled those predictions and overturned the City of Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing and storage and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste within city limits. See Continue Reading

Ban on hydraulic fracturing in Santa Cruz County, California

On March 20, 2014, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to prohibit hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas development in their county. This ban continues the ten-month moratorium that was started in September 2013.

Santa Cruz’s ban of hydraulic fracturing is largely symbolic because there are no known oil leases in the county nor has the area been targeted by oil and gas developers.

While Santa Cruz becomes the first county in California to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, other counties are considering their own bans or moratoria, including Butte, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Benito, and Orange.

Beverly … Continue Reading

Environmental groups protest drilling in Utah and Nevada

On May 7, 2014, WildEarth Guardians filed a complaint in the US District Court, District of Utah, Central Division, against the US Forest Service and the US Bureau of Land Management, seeking to enjoin these agencies from approving oil and gas drilling in the Ashley National Forest, located in the Uinta Basin.

In a Record of Decision (ROD) based on a Final Environment Impact Statement (FEIS) and other documents, the Forest Service approved a 400-well project on February 12, 2012. This 400-well project on 162 well pads is being developed on 25,900 acres in the Ashley National Forest and will … 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

Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission finalizes hydraulic fracturing rules

The Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission finalized its proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations at a public meeting on April 2, 2014. The Commission first proposed these regulations in December 2012 and has revised the draft regulations several times.

The regulations require the disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process and, with this last revision, include a provision allowing the operators to submit the names of proprietary chemicals confidentially. The confidential information must be “separately filed in an envelope clearly marked confidential along with a list of the documents which are non-disclosable as trade secrets, the specific legal authority, … Continue Reading