HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on June 20 affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) could apply its permitting requirements for hydraulic fracturing companies. The Supreme Court’s one-sentence ruling provided no explanation (Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 96 MAP 2016, Pa. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on June 21 issued a memorandum indicating that it plans to begin preliminary research to assess how the EPA estimates methane emissions from the oil and natural gas production industry.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The attorneys general for 14 states and the attorney for the city of Chicago on June 20 moved in the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to intervene in a lawsuit brought by environmental advocacy groups against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in connection with the EPA’s announcement that it is reconsidering rules on the fugitive emissions of methane (Clean Air Council, et al. v. Scott Pruitt, et al., No. 17-1145. D.C. Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a notice on June 14 that it is postponing the compliance dates for what is referred to as the agency’s venting and flaring rule, a regulation pertaining to waste prevention in oil and gas operations that involve hydraulic fracturing.
LANSING, Mich. — A group that sued three Michigan state agencies challenging the constitutionality of a statute that imposes a time limitation on gathering signatures for the group’s ballot initiative to ban fracking on June 8 sought leave to appeal its case to the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing that the Michigan Court of Appeals misconstrued the declaratory judgment rule’s “actual controversy” standard to bar pre-enforcement challenges to the validity of state statutes (Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, et al. v. Director of Elections, et al., No. 334480, Mich. Sup.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on May 31 reversed a trial court ruling and held that the validity of the pooling provision in a hydraulic fracturing lease is not dependent upon the consent and ratification of nonparticipating royalty interest (NPRI) holders (Gastar Exploration Inc. v Joyce Contraguerro, et al., No. 16-429, W.Va. Sup. App.; 2017 W.Va. LEXIS 413).
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The states of North Dakota and Texas on May 9 filed a brief in Wyoming federal court contending that it is “extremely important” that the briefing schedule in their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) related to the implementation of a new federal rule on venting and flaring oil and gas produced from hydraulic fracturing resolve the case prior to January 2018 (State of Wyoming, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 16-285, Western Energy Alliance, et al. v. Sally Jewell, et al., No. 16-280, D. Wyo.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court on June 1 affirmed an appellate court decision and remanded a hydraulic fracturing lease dispute to trial court on grounds that the lease at issue does not qualify as a no-term, perpetual lease and a landowner couple is not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of forfeiting the agreement (Ronald Bohlen, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC, et al., No. 2015-0187, Ohio Sup.; 2017 Ohio LEXIS 1093).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania appellate panel on June 7 affirmed a lower court’s ruling and held that a municipal zoning hearing board’s decision to pass an ordinance allowing hydraulic fracturing was valid because environmental advocacy groups that had opposed the ordinance did not show that the ordinance would harm the environment (Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board v. R.E. Gas Development LLC, No. 1229CD2015, Pa. Cmwlth.; 2017 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 308).
DENVER — The states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming on June 5 filed a brief in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lacks the regulatory authority needed to promulgate its hydraulic fracturing rule pertaining to leases on federal land and that the court should hold the case in abeyance until the BLM advises it of the status of its reconsideration of the rule (State of Wyoming, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 16-8068, 10th Cir.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The attorneys general for California and New Mexico on June 2 filed a brief in California federal court arguing that the Office of Natural Resources Revenue’s (ONRR) decision to postpone enacting its revised valuation rule for the payment of royalties from hydraulic fracturing “is facially illegal” (People of the State of California, ex rel. Xavier Becerra, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 17-2376, N.D. Calif.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The state of North Dakota on May 22 filed its opening brief in the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that a lower court’s denial of the state’s motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by environmental advocacy groups against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency related to the disposal of waste from hydraulic fracturing should be reversed because the state has Article III, U.S. Const. art. III, standing to intervene (Environmental Integrity Project, et al. v. Scott Pruitt, No. 17-5010, D.C. Cir.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on May 19 ruled that a hydraulic fracturing company was not entitled to relief in a lease dispute because the company failed to demonstrate that a trial court committed prejudicial error when it denied the company’s request for judicial notice of what it said were facts contained in multiple deeds, assignments and certificates of merger related to the mineral rights (Ascent Resources – Marcellus LLC f/k/a American Energy-Marcellus LLC v. Galford Wadsworth Jr., et al., No. 16-0566, W.Va. Sup.; 2017 W. Va. LEXIS 348).
MADISON, Wis. — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on May 31 ruled that a municipality’s land use committee properly denied a permit to two companies that had sought approval to build a fracking sand mine because the committee was operating within its jurisdiction (AllEnergy Corporation, et al. v. Trempealeau County Environmental & Land Use Committee, No. 2015AP491, Wis. Sup.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A divided Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) on May 26 fined a hydraulic fracturing company $1,137,295.76 for violating state laws regarding the storage of fracking waste (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmenal Protection v. EQT Production Company, No. 2014-140-CP-L, Pa. EHB).
DETROIT — A federal bankruptcy judge in Michigan on May 25 ruled that the U.S. Bankruptcy Code does not prevent a law firm from representing multiple hydraulic fracturing drilling and equipment companies in their Chapter 11 proceeding despite the possibility that the firm may have received a preferential transfer from the debtors 90 days before the filing of their petition (In re: HardRock HDD Inc., No. 17-46425, Chapter 11, E.D. Mich. Bkcy; 2017 Bankr. LEXIS 1418).
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The state of Wyoming on May 3 filed a brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming arguing that a subpoena issued for a state employee in a hydraulic fracturing lawsuit brought by a couple who allege that fracking activities tainted their water should be quashed because the plaintiffs are attempting to “forcibly draw” the state into proceedings to which it is not a party (Jeff Locker, et al. v. Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc., No. 14-131, D. Wyo.).
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge in Wyoming on May 10 ruled that an oil company’s lawsuit against a casing manufacturer related to the failure of its equipment during fracking operations was valid, and he concluded that the casing manufacturer’s counterclaim for breach of a service agreement between the parties failed (Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. v. Noble Casing Inc., et al., No. 16-309, D. Wyo., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71618).
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court on May 19 affirmed a lower court ruling and held that a hydraulic fracturing company’s plan to drill wells underneath property held by a separate oil company would not violate that company’s leasehold interests because the fracking company’s plan was to drill wells that would pass through but not disturb the oil company’s mineral-bearing formations (Lightning Oil Company v. Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC, No. 15-910, Texas Sup.; 2017 Tex. LEXIS 463).
ST. LOUIS — A federal court wrongly excluded an expert witness for an Arkansas couple accusing a hydraulic fracturing company of trespass and improperly awarded summary judgment to the company based on the couple’s lack of sufficient evidence, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held May 22 in reversing and remanding (Robbie Hill, et al. v. Southwestern Energy Company, et al., No. 15-3458, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8862).