Ohio City Will Not Appeal Court Order Overturning Drilling Ban

The City of Broadview Heights will not appeal the ruling of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court overturning the city’s voter-approved ban on new oil and gas drilling. The trial court relied on a recent decision from the Ohio Supreme Court in State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp. to hold that the prohibition on new oil and gas drilling was in conflict with Ohio’s comprehensive statutes regulating oil and gas drilling. The city says that on advice of their legal counsel, it determined that any appeal of the devision would be futile.

EQT Executive Nominated As Commissioner Of The PUC

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Governor Tom Wolf nominated Andrew Place to serve as commissioner on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.  Mr. Place is currently the corporate director for energy and environmental policy.  He was selected to replace the outgoing commissioner, James Cawley, whose term expired March 31 of this year.  Mr. Cawley will serve until September 1 or until the nominee is confirmed.

New York Issues Final Environmental Review on High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing

On May 13, 2015, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) released its Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program, signaling the completion of its environmental review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing.  NYSDEC previously released drafts of the SGEIS in September 2009 and September 2011, which generated more than 260,000 public comments during the applicable review periods.  The final SGEIS will be followed by the issuance of a legally-binding Findings Statement  by the NYSDEC Commissioner, Joseph Martens.  Last December, the New York State Department of Health recommended prohibiting hydraulic fracturing, based upon the agency’s public health review, and Commissioner Martens anticipated that his Findings Statement would include a ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

First Installment of Quadrennial Energy Review Recommends Investment in Energy Infrastructure

The White House recently released a report from the first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), focusing on U.S. energy transmission, storage and distribution infrastructure.  In January 2014, President Obama directed the administration to conduct the QER as part of his Climate Action Plan, in order to provide a “multi-year roadmap for U.S. energy policy”.  This first QER report includes a recommendation for the U.S. to invest in the modernization of its aging energy infrastructure, including accelerating pipeline replacement and the maintenance of natural gas distribution systems.  The QER report indicates that such investments will increase the safety, security, resiliency and reliability of the U.S. energy infrastructure while promoting economic, consumer service, climate protection and system reliability benefits.

Pennsylvania DEP Releases 2013 Emissions Inventory for Natural Gas Industry

Earlier this week the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released the 2013 air emissions inventory for the natural gas industry.  Operators submit emissions data to DEP on an annual basis.  Compared to 2012, the 2013 inventory includes data from 1,590 additional well sites and 33 additional midstream facilities.  Despite an increase in the number of facilities reporting emissions data, the 2013 inventory shows a decrease in methane and carbon monoxide emissions compared to 2012.  The 2013 inventory also shows increased emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds.

Ohio Appeals Court Reaffirms Decision in Hupp v. Beck Energy Corp.

The Seventh District Court of Appeals has reaffirmed its prior decision in Hupp v. Beck Energy Corp. In Belmont Hills Country Club v. Beck Energy Corp. and Bentley v. Beck Energy Corp., the appeals court relied on Hupp in holding that a conditional secondary term does not make a lease perpetual in nature and that the lease at issue contained an express waiver of implied covenants of reasonable development. Further, a lease that allows production in paying quantities to be determined “in the judgment of the lessee” does not create a perpetual because courts impose a good faith standard on the paying quantities determination. The court also held that the delay rental provision did not allow the lease to be held in perpetuity by making nominal payments.

CONSOL Energy Earns CSSD Certification For Appalachian Basin Operations

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a collaborative of environmental organizations and energy companies that encourages responsible practices in development of shale gas resources in the Appalachian region, and CONSOL Energy, Inc. each announced the certification of CONSOL Energy’s Appalachian Basin operations.  In order to be certified, CONSOL had to show that it met CSSD’s 15 Performance Standards by meeting or exceeding state and federal air and water management regulatory requirements.  CONSOL joins Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Corp. as the third natural gas producer to earn the certification.

EPA Proposes Prohibition on Discharge of Unconventional Wastewater to POTWs

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule under the Clean Water Act that would prohibit the discharge of unconventional oil and gas extraction wastewaters to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs).  The rule would apply to wastewater associated with production, field exploration, drilling, well completion and well treatment for unconventional operations, but would not apply to wastewater produced by conventional operations.  According to EPA, the industry does not currently discharge unconventional wastewater to POTWs and this rule “will ensure that such current industry best practice is maintained over time.”  The rule would be immediately effective on the date of publication of the final rule.  Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before June 8, 2015.

Clean Water Act Jurisdiction Rule Sent to White House for Review

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced that they have submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a joint final rule aimed at clarifying which water bodies are subject to Federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.  On April 6, 2015, the agencies announced on an EPA blog that the draft final rule was recently submitted to OMB for interagency review.  EPA and the Corps published their initial rulemaking proposal in early 2014 and reportedly received more than one million stakeholder comments since then.  Interagency review of a final draft rule is generally considered the last step in the federal rulemaking process.

Constitution Pipeline Can Be Built Across Holdout Properties

FuelFix.com reports that the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania recently ruled that the Constitution Pipeline can be built across seven northeastern Pennsylvania properties despite the fact that the respective landowners had not agreed to the construction.  The Constitution Pipeline is a 124-mile pipeline project designed to transport Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania to New York and New England.  It would connect with the existing Tennessee and Iroquois pipelines in New York.  Its partner companies, including Williams Partners LP and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., sought access to 130 properties in Pennsylvania and filed condemnation proceedings regarding 20.  Agreements were reached with 13 of the 20 landowners.  Judge Malachy Mannion ruled that the pipeline has the necessary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and that it serves the public interest by increasing gas pipeline capacity.  Judge Mannion also noted that the landowners stood to gain adequate compensation from the pipeline’s owners.  A spokesman for Williams stated that the group hopes to begin construction by June 1st after obtaining additional permits and posting the necessary bond.