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  1. Reports Connecting Seismic Activity to the Injection of Produced Water

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015 10:06 am by and

    In recent days, the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS), Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have each indicated that they are increasingly convinced that there is a connection between the underground injection of produced water and induced seismicity—small earthquakes caused by something other than naturally occurring activity.

    The Oklahoma Geological Survey released a statement on April 21, 2015 indicating that the increased seismic activity experienced in many parts of Oklahoma in recent years is “very unlikely” to be the result of naturally occurring forces.  In its statement, the OGS noted that Oklahoma has experienced more earthquakes in 2014 than in any year since 1977 and that, in many parts of the state, the seismicity rate is up to 600 times higher than the background seismicity.  The OGS drew a clear distinction, however, between hydraulic fracturing itself and the injection or disposal of water associated with oil and gas production.  It stated that the increased seismicity is not caused by drilling or extraction of oil or natural gas.  Rather, it is the disposal of naturally occurring water that is produced during the fracking process (known as “produced water” or “brine”) and re-injected into disposal wells that potentially causes increased activity, with the highest correlation being associated with oil and gas plays that contain the largest volumes of this kind of water.  The OGS was also careful to note that produced water connected to induced seismic activity represents a small percentage of the total volume of wastewater injected in disposal wells throughout the state.  (more…)


  2. FAA Continues to Modify UAS Approval Process to Expedite Integration

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015 9:20 am by

    By the end of 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had approved less than 15 Section 333 exemptions authorizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations. Roughly three months later, that number has jumped to over 130 Section 333 exemptions approved. The surge in approvals can be attributed to recent changes in the FAA’s approval process as well as increasing pressure from the White House and industry to speed up UAS integration. A few of the recent changes implemented by the FAA include introduction of a “blanket” COA, reliance on a “summary grant” process, and dialing back of certain prerequisites to approval.   (more…)


  3. BLM Releases Final Rule for Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal Lands; Industry Immediately Files Suit

    Friday, March 27, 2015 1:37 pm by and

    Brief Overview

    On March 20, 2015, three years after its initial proposal, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized new regulations applicable to hydraulic fracturing activities on federal and Indian lands.  BLM previously released a draft proposed rule in May 2012 and revised draft in May 2013.

    Key aspects of the final rule include requirements to:  (1) request approval of hydraulic fracturing before commencement of operations; (2) disclose chemicals after completing hydraulic fracturing activities (preferably via FracFocus); (3) perform well integrity and cement evaluation tests and obtain approval if cement remediation is required; (4) use steel tanks for the storage of recovered waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing; and (5) supply information  on estimated fractures and existing wellbores to reduce the risk of impacts to existing wells, i.e., “frack-hits.” (more…)


  4. 41 Questions the FAA Is Asking in Its ANPR on Small UAS / Drones

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015 1:17 pm by

    drone3Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published in the Federal Register its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or “drones” within the United States. The publication in the Federal Register starts the clock on the 60-day comment period, which at this point ends on April 24, 2015.   My recent blog outlined the FAA’s general framework for the UAS ANPR, including the main operating limitations.

    Today, I’ve listed below some of the major areas where the FAA is seeking input from stakeholders, including Risk Mitigation, Line-of-sight, Payload, International, Size Class, Crewmember, Testing Site, and other issues. Among other things, the FAA is looking for comments on the feasibility of its proposal, alternatives, any new technology that could inform its decision, data and studies.

    The FAA specifically is seeking comment on: (more…)


  5. Ohio Supreme Court Limits Municipal Regulation of Oil and Gas But Leaves the Door Open for Future Zoning Moratoriums

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015 1:35 pm by

    Last week, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that certain oil and gas-related ordinances of the city of Munroe Falls are preempted by the state’s oil and gas law. State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-485. The decision is the latest in an ongoing battle being waged over the authority of local governments to zone or regulate the operations of oil and gas companies. Often, the success or failure of a local government’s ordinance depends on whether it aims to “regulate” oil and gas operations or simply control their location according to traditional zoning principles.

    While a win for industry in this case, the Supreme Court’s holding in State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp. was limited to the ordinances at issue in the case and does not go as far as recent rulings in Pennsylvania and New York that were focused on zoning authority. Previously, in July 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional certain sections of the recently passed “Act 13” that would have removed a municipality’s ability to zone out oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Huntley & Huntley, Inc. v. Oakmont Borough Council, 600 Pa. 207, 964 A.2d 855 (2009). Then, in August 2014, the New York State Court of Appeals held that municipalities can effectively “zone out” oil and gas operations by passing zoning ordinances that ban oil and gas production activities. Wallach v. Dryden, 23 N.Y.3d 728, 992 N.Y.S.2d 710 (2014). (more…)


  6. The FAA Releases First of Its Kind Proposal for Small Drones/Unmanned Aircraft Systems

    Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:08 pm by

    drone1

    On February 15, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced the release of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking focused on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) or “drones” within the United States.  The release of the UAS NPRM is a step in the right direction that many in the industry have been waiting for since the FAA first chartered the small UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) in 2008.

    While some industries may find aspects of the proposal restrictive, many are pleased with the FAA’s initial UAS regulatory effort, which is focused on small UAS or those that weigh less than 55 lbs.  The UAS NPRM will at least remove some uncertainty for industry and could trigger more investment in UAS technology.  However, the process from release of the UAS NPRM to when a final rule takes effect could take years.  Companies looking to operate UAS in the interim are left to navigate one of many current certification processes, which are limited to specific purposes and still involve a bit of uncertainty.

    In the meantime, companies interested in deploying their UAS technology as well as industries that see an expanded role for the use of UAS (e.g., energy, agriculture, entertainment) should consider commenting on the FAA’s proposal, which will set the stage for future of UAS regulation.  There will be an opportunity to comment for a 60-day period once the UAS ANPR is published in the Federal Register. (more…)


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