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Powered by the attorneys of Bracewell & Giuliani, Energy Legal Blog® is your resource for updates and analysis on national and global energy issues.
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  1. FERC Approves $3.25 Million Civil Penalty in Southwest Blackout Case

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014 2:00 pm by and

    On July 7, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a stipulation and consent agreement between FERC’s Office of Enforcement, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and Arizona Public Service Company (APS) resolving FERC and NERC’s joint investigation into APS’s involvement in the September 8, 2011 Southwest Blackout.  The Southwest Blackout was a system disturbance in the Pacific Southwest that affected transmission in Arizona, California and Mexico, and ultimately caused a complete blackout of San Diego.  FERC and NERC found that APS violated certain of the Transmission Operations (TOP) group of NERC Reliability Standards, and that these violations resulted in cascading outages in which 2.7 million customers, or approximately 5 million people, lost power for several hours.  FERC and NERC concluded that APS failed to prepare for this type of event by not performing a unique day-ahead study for September 8 and by not coordinating its day-ahead studies with neighboring transmission operators, including the Imperial Irrigation District and the California Independent System Operator.  APS has neither admitted nor denied the violations in the stipulation and consent agreement.  (more…)


  2. NY High Court Upholds Local Bans on Hydraulic Fracturing

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014 8:49 am by

    On June 30, 2014, the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, held that municipalities can effectively “zone out” oil and gas operations by passing zoning ordinances that ban oil and gas production activities, including hydraulic fracturing, within municipal boundaries.  The court rejected claims that the state’s Oil Gas and Solution Mining Law (OGSML) preempts efforts on behalf of local authorities to ban hydraulic fracturing operations.

    In 2011, the Town of Dryden, New York banned hydraulic fracturing by passing a zoning ordinance that prohibited “all activities related to the exploration for, and the production or storage of, natural gas and petroleum.” Norse Energy challenged the ordinance, arguing that the Town of Dryden lacked authority to prohibit natural gas exploration and extraction activities because the OGSML preempts local zoning laws that curtail energy production.  The lower court concluded there was no evidence of express or implied preemption in the OGSML.     (more…)


  3. Environmental Regulations Impacting the Energy Industry – Summer 2014

    Friday, June 20, 2014 11:06 am by


  4. OSHA’s Permian Expansion Signals Increased Scrutiny of Safety in the Oil Patch

    Thursday, June 19, 2014 12:00 pm by and

    During a 2013 visit to Texas, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor and Administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), spoke at multiple stakeholder events of OSHA’s growing concerns with respect to worker safety in the Texas oil patch. Dr. Michaels left no doubt during his Texas visit that he and his agency would devote greater resources to regulating the industry.

    Last week, as part of that enhanced enforcement focus, OSHA announced that it is elevating its Lubbock location from a district office under the El Paso area office to a full area office. The agency is also growing its enforcement team in the Lubbock office, adding three new compliance officers who will concentrate primarily on oil and gas operations.

    (more…)


  5. Underground Drilling Access for UK Shale Developers: The 300 Metre Question

    Wednesday, June 4, 2014 3:29 pm by and

    Since the lifting of the fracking moratorium in December 2012, the UK Government has continued to work with regulators and the industry to develop a clear regulatory regime for shale gas which encourages exploration and investment while protecting public safety and the environment. Steps taken to date include:

    • the introduction of tax incentives to support early development of onshore oil and gas projects, including shale gas projects (as described in our blog post); and
    • the publication of the Strategic Environmental Assessment for Further Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing, which assessed the environmental effects of future onshore oil and gas licensing in the UK, as well as the publication of new planning guidance which clarifies the interaction of the planning process with the environmental and safety consenting regimes (as described in our blog post). (more…)

  6. EPA Must Uniformly Apply Air Aggregation Requirements

    Tuesday, June 3, 2014 8:30 am by , and

    EPA suffered a major loss on May 30 when the D.C. Circuit refused to uphold EPA’s attempt to narrow the ruling in the Summit aggregation case to only the states in the 6th Cir.  Reversing more than 20 years of EPA practice, the Summit case directed EPA to refrain from using interdependency or the functional interrelatedness of various sources when making a determination regarding whether to aggregate the emissions from those sources for NSR and Title V permitting purposes. 

    In December 2012 after the Summit decision was final, EPA issued a memo that said the Agency would only apply the Sixth Circuit’s Summit decision in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan.  The memo was challenged by an industry trade association, the National Environmental Development Association (NEDA).  (more…)


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