Tuesday, February 24, 2015 1:35 pm by Michael Weller
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…)
Category: Courts, Enforcement, Environmental, Natural Gas/LNG, Regional Energy Law, Shale Development, Upstream Energy
Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:08 pm by Michael Weller
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…)
Category: Environmental, Midstream, National Energy Law, Natural Gas/LNG, Offshore, Regional Energy Law, Shale Development, Upstream Energy
Wednesday, January 28, 2015 1:12 pm by Michael Weller and Jason Hutt
Federal and state regulators are considering new rules applicable to naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and technologically-enhanced NORM (TENORM) in oil and gas waste. We discuss some of the most recent and expected developments below.
PADEP TENORM Study
On January 15, 2015, PADEP released the results of its TENORM study, which focused on quantifying TENORM associated with oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania. PADEP’s study examined the full spectrum of potential exposure pathways, from well sites, to wastewater treatment plants and landfills, to gas distribution and end use. While PADEP’s overall observation from the study was that there is “little potential” for radiation exposure from oil and gas development, the agency recommends additional study that could lead to additional regulations or a change in practices. Some of PADEP’s recommendations moving forward are set forth below: (more…)
Category: Crude and Products, Enforcement, Environmental, National Energy Law, Natural Gas/LNG, Regional Energy Law, Shale Development, Upstream Energy
Wednesday, January 14, 2015 3:33 pm by Sandra Snyder and Jeff Holmstead
On January 14, 2015, the White House announced that it would for the first time directly regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. By choosing to regulate methane directly rather than regulating VOCs, EPA may be seeking to create a legal basis (and perhaps even a legal obligation) to regulate methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations in the future.
According to the announcement, the oil and gas sector will need to reduce its methane emissions by 40-45% from 2012 emission levels by 2025. Although this announcement did not indicate how industry must achieve these steep reductions, it did clarify that EPA will propose regulations in the Summer of 2015 that will apply to new and modified oil and gas sources. Because these regulations would be proposed under the Agency’s authority under section 111(b) of the Clean Air Act, they will not reach existing sources. A final EPA rule is expected in 2016 that would cover activities and equipment such as oil and gas well completions, compressor stations, pumps, gathering stations, and other transmission sources. (more…)
Category: Environmental, Shale Development, Upstream Energy
Friday, November 21, 2014 4:27 pm by Ty Johnson and Kirstin Gibbs
At its November 20, 2014 meeting, FERC issued a policy proposal to facilitate the recovery of the costs associated with improving pipeline safety and reducing emissions. Recognizing the fact that several pipeline safety and environmental initiatives will be facing the natural gas industry in the coming months, FERC suggests that pipelines and customers could work together to develop a tracker (e.g., a surcharge on base rates) that recovers those costs associated with pipeline safety and environmental compliance. Because a modernization and safety tracker could be developed faster than establishing a cost recovery mechanism through the traditional rate case process, FERC reasons that pipelines may be incentivized to undertake the upgrades. (more…)
Category: Environmental, FERC, Midstream, Natural Gas/LNG
Wednesday, November 12, 2014 3:49 pm by Lowell Rothschild and Eric Washburn
In the latest listing driven by a huge July 2011 settlement with environmental NGOs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier today announced it would list the Gunnison sage-grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing comes in the face of objections from both sides. Colorado’s Governor and both its senators – all Democrats – had worked hard to prevent the listing, while environmentalists warned in advance that they would sue over a threatened listing, demanding that the bird be listed as endangered, not just threatened. (more…)
Category: Construction, Enforcement, Environmental, Litigation, Midstream, Natural Gas/LNG, Power, Regional Energy Law, Shale Development, Upstream Energy