ICYMI: Energy & Environmental News Round-up

Oil & Gas

New Oil and Gas Emission Control Guidelines Posted

On Thursday, October 20, 2016, EPA published emission control techniques guidelines for the oil and gas industry regarding reducing smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in oil and natural gas equipment. These guidelines do not impose legal requirements; rather, they are recommendations to state and local agencies to consider as they determine what emissions limits to apply. More information can be found here.

No New Trial in ECA $1.1M Landowner Royalties Case

On Monday, October 24, 2016, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that ECA did not meet its burden of proving its need for a new trial in the case involving a $1.1 million judgment to landowners. The landowners sued ECA in federal court in 2010, alleging they did not receive their proper amount of royalties under their leases because allegedly improper post-production costs were deducted. The District Court jury awarded $1.1 million in damages.  ECA appealed the verdict to the Third Circuit. Information on the case may be found here.  Additional BIR analysis is forthcoming.

Study Found Produced Water Safe for use on Crops

A study published on Monday, October 24, 2016 by the Cawelo Water District in Bakersfield, California, found that produced water resulting from hydraulic fracturing operations may subsequently be reused on crops with no adverse effects. Researchers found no difference in crops that were irrigated with recycled water than crops irrigated with water from other sources.  Additional reporting may be found here.

 

DEP Defends Authority to Implement New Chapter 78a Regulations

On Tuesday, October 25, 2016, Scott Perry, the deputy secretary of the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas Management, testified in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court that DEP had clear authority to promulgate the new Chapter 78a regulations. The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) filed a lawsuit in early October, arguing that the new Chapter 78a regulations went beyond DEP’s regulatory authority and were too vague.  Mr. Perry’s testimony was part of a hearing on MSC’s request for a preliminary injunction. More information on the lawsuit can be found here.

Sierra Club Appeal of DOE’s Approval of Dominion Cove Point Export Plan

The Sierra Club filed a brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, October 24, 2016, arguing that the Department of Energy erred in allowing Dominion Resources Inc. to export liquefied natural gas from Cove Point to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the United States. The Sierra Club specifically argued that the Department of Energy did not take into account the impacts of increased natural drilling in the area.  Additional information about the case can be found here.

Coal

Appeals Court Re-affirms Coal Owner Entitled to Methane Within Coal Seam

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled on Thursday, October 21, 2016, that a lease granting a company the right to mine coal also granted them the right to sell the resources, including coalbed methane. The lawsuit was brought by a Greene County property owner who argued that Consol Energy Inc. needed to pay an additional 12.5 percent royalty in order to pay for the methane extracted from the coal. The Superior Court held that methane was a “constituent product” included in the lease. The decision may be found here.

Environmental Groups File Suit Seeking Right to Inspect Mining Operations

The Sierra Club and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards sued the Department of the Interior on Friday, October 21, 2016, to protest a denial of their request to inspect the Red River Coal Company mine in Virginia. Additional reporting may be found here.

Environmental

Challenge to Allegheny County’s Air Pollution Permits

On Thursday, October 20, 2016, The Clean Air Council, PennEnvironment, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and Clean Water Action asked US EPA to publish a notice of deficiency against Allegheny County for being too slow in processing Title V permit applications for large industrial facilities. The Allegheny Health Department responded that the bulk of the permits were for renewals and that backlogs were common across the country. More information can be found here.

Government Climate Change Decision Upheld

A Ninth Circuit judicial panel ruled on Monday, October 24, 2016 that the National Marine Fisheries Service reasonably relied on climate-change projections to determine that a seal population living in the Artic would be endangered by the end of the century. The panel found that the National Marine Fisheries Service acted reasonably and based on “substantial evidence.” Additional reporting may be found here.

Volkswagen reaches settlement in emissions case

On Tuesday, October 25, 2016, California District Judge Charles Breyer approved a $14.7 billion dollar settlement with Volkswagen and consumers and the federal government regarding its emissions violations. The settlement requires Volkswagen to set aside $10 billion to buy back consumers’ cars, and to invest $2 billion over the next 10 years in projects that support the increased use of zero emissions vehicles. Additional reporting may be found here, here, and here.

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