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  1. DOT’s New NEPA Categorical Exclusion May Actually Speed Project Delivery

    Friday, January 17, 2014 10:52 am by

    Spurred on by Congress, on Monday, the Federal Highway and Transit Administrations adopted a categorical exclusion which may spare some projects a detailed review under the National Environmental Policy Act.  Specifically, projects that receive less than $5,000,000 in federal funding will be presumed not to have to undertake any NEPA review at all.

    The fact that there would be some type of CatEx along this line was never in doubt – in July 2012, Congress included a provision in Section 1317 of the highway bill (called “MAP-21”) specifically ordering DOT to (1) designate a CatEx for any project that receives less than $5 million in federal funding and (2) promulgate a rule to carry out the CatEx.  The question was how DOT would implement this mandate:  Would any project whatsoever that received less than $5 million be excluded, even if DOT had other major decisions to make on the project – decisions that would normally require NEPA review? (more…)


  2. ShalePlay App

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014 10:54 am by

     

    Powered by Bracewell & Giuliani’s energy and environmental attorneys and government relations professionals, the ShalePlay app is the first of its kind, offering a comprehensive resource on news and information related to shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, including the latest industry trends and updates. (more…)


  3. EPA Issues NPDES Permit that Includes Limited Chemical Disclosure Requirements for Oil and Gas Operations Offshore California

    Friday, January 10, 2014 2:52 pm by and

    Region 9 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday made available the finalized National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit applicable to discharges from oil and gas exploration facilities offshore Southern California.  NPDES General Permit No. CAG280000 (2014 NPDES General Permit), issued under provisions of the Clean Water Act, authorizes discharges from exploration, development and production facilities located offshore of Southern California in accordance with specified effluent limitations, monitoring and reporting requirements and various other conditions. 

    The final 2014 NPDES General Permit includes certain new requirements that EPA indicates were added to address offshore hydraulic fracturing operations, including increases in the monitoring requirements associated with produced water discharges and new inventory and reporting requirements. (more…)


  4. Pa. Supreme Court Strikes Down Fracking Zoning Law: Governor Tom Corbett Contests the Ruling

    Thursday, January 9, 2014 10:38 am by and

    On December 19, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (the “Court”) largely affirmed a 2012 ruling by the state’s Commonwealth Court, which struck down several provisions of a law known as Act 13 (the “Act”). The Act created guidelines for natural gas drilling in the state, and included a provision restricting the power of local governments to pass zoning ordinances prohibiting natural gas fracking. However, the state Supreme Court sided with the lower court ruling and found several aspects of the law unconstitutional.

    The Court was divided in its constitutional grounds for invalidating the Act. In the majority opinion, three justices concluded the Act was in violation of Section 27 of the state constitution, the Environmental Rights Amendment (“Section 27”). Those justices found the Act did not adequately balance the promotion of hydrocarbon production against the duty to protect the environment as required by Section 27. Essentially, the Court imposed a balancing test requiring a government action to reasonably account for the environmental impact on an affected locale for it to be deemed constitutional under Section 27. The decision ultimately remanded parts of the case to the lower court to determine whether the remainder of the law was severable from the invalidated provisions. (more…)


  5. EPA adopts new standard for conducting All Appropriate Inquiries

    Monday, December 30, 2013 12:47 pm by and

    In a rule published on December 30, 2013 and effective immediately upon publication, EPA formally adopts a new standard for conducting All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) at potentially contaminated sites.  78 Fed. Reg. 79319.

    The AAI rule outlines steps for potential property purchasers to take to claim a limitation on CERCLA liability connected to purchased property.  40 CFR Part 312.  EPA allows purchasers to use the applicable ASTM standard for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments to satisfy their obligations under the AAI rule.  In this rule, EPA incorporates new ASTM International Standard ASTM E1527-13 into the AAI rule.  This standard updates several procedures associated with conducting environmental site assessments (ESAs).   (more…)


  6. Unlocking the Potential of Shale Gas in the UK Energy Mix

    Friday, December 27, 2013 9:24 am by and

    The UK is continuing to edge closer to realising the potential of its domestic shale gas resources. In mid-December 2013, the UK government published a report, known as the Strategic Environmental Assessment for Further Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing (the “SEA”), as part of the UK’s procedure for assessing the environmental effects of future onshore oil and gas licensing. The SEA was commissioned by the UK government and carried out in preparation for the next licensing round for onshore oil and gas exploration and production (being the 14th such round) in the UK under a “Draft Licensing Plan.” Pursuant to the Draft Licensing Plan, the UK government is considering a total area of 100,000 square kilometres for future licensing. The SEA sets out the potential environmental and economic effects of further onshore oil and gas exploration and production activity in the UK, including shale oil and gas production, by comparing a “low activity” and a “high activity” scenario.

    The “high activity scenario” assumes that a considerable amount of shale gas (4.32 to 8.64 trillion cubic feet) would be produced during the 2020s; a level of production which would satisfy around 25% of the UK’s estimated demand for natural gas for the decade. Under this scenario, up to 2,880 wells would be drilled each year and the SEA envisages “likely significant positive effects” for the economy, jobs and communities, with boons for both employment (an estimated 16,000-32,000 full-time jobs may be created, representing an increase of 3.5 to 7% in employment supported by the UK oil and gas sector) and local economies (which will benefit from initial contributions of £100,000 per fracking site and a further 1% of the revenue from each well over its lifetime, meaning a total of £1 billion could be paid out to local communities across the UK). (more…)


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