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…)
WE KNOW ENERGY®
Jason Hutt and Michael Weller
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…)
Recently, 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…)
Ohio Supreme Court Limits Municipal Regulation of Oil and Gas But Leaves the Door Open for Future Zoning MoratoriumsTuesday, 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…)
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…)
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…)