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).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A split panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on May 18 ruled that a municipality wrongly denied a permit sought by hydraulic fracturing companies because the objections to the permit were “insufficient” to show that the impact would be detrimental (EQT Production Company, et al. v. Borough of Jefferson Hills, No. 1184CD2016, Pa. Cmwlth.; 2017 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 238).
TULSA, Okla. — The federal government on May 15 filed a brief in Oklahoma federal court contending that a lawsuit brought by a Native American tribe related to oil and gas leases, as well a hydraulic fracturing drilling permits on Indian land, should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 16-cv-697, N.D. Okla.).
SAN ANTONIO — The U.S. government on May 16 filed an indictment against Texas state Sen. Carlos I. Uresti and two other individuals, alleging that they engaged in a scheme to defraud investors, commit wire fraud and launder money related to an alleged Ponzi scheme involving a fracking sand company the defendants operated (United States of America v. Carlos I. Uresti, et al., No. SA-17-CR, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Div.).
PITTSBURGH — A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on May 11 ruled that a drilling company that was not paid for expenses incurred as part of a verbal contract for hydraulic fracturing equipment had a plausible unjust enrichment claim against the company to which it rented the equipment (Get-Er-Done Drilling Inc. v. U.S. Crossing Unlimited LLC, et al., No. 16-1426, W.D. Pa., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71808).
TOPEKA, Kan. — A federal judge in Kansas on May 8 ruled that an agreement between a company that leased surface rights and the hydraulic fracturing company to which it leased those rights was “unambiguous” and said that the contract granted the fracking company the right to dispose of saltwater that was produced from its oil and gas operations in wells on the property that was part of the lease agreement (Doce Limited Partnership v. SandRidge Exploration and Production LLC, No. 16-1045, D. Kan.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70446).
FRESNO, Calif. — An appeals panel in California on May 4 reversed and remanded a lawsuit brought by environmental advocacy groups, concluding that residents had shown that the California Department of Conservation (DOC) and its Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) failed to follow proper procedure when they approved fracking permits (Association of Irritated Residents, et al. v. California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, et al., No. F073018, Calif. App., 5th Dist.; 2017 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3137).
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court on April 28 affirmed a lower court’s ruling that upheld a split decision by an arbitration panel and awarded a landowner $15.5 million for in damages, plus attorney fees, in a land dispute over gas rights and the responsibility for remediation contamination. The Supreme Court held that the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) did not have exclusive jurisdiction in the case, as had been argued by a hydraulic fracturing company (Forest Oil Corporation v. El Rucio Land & Cattle Company Inc., et al., No. 14-0979, Texas Sup.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge in Ohio on May 4 denied a group of landowners’ motion to file an amended answer, a counterclaim, a cross-claim and a third-party complaint against a group of hydraulic fracturing companies in ongoing litigation pertaining to oil and gas rights underlying their respective surface estates (Chesapeake Exploration LLC, et al. v. Kenneth Buell, et al., No. 12-916, S.D. Ohio).
OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge in Oklahoma on April 5 ruled that an oil company could request discovery of some information pertaining to “other similar incidents” that it contends are related to the hydraulic fracturing well dispute it has with a fracking services company (Singer Oil Company LLC v. Newfield Exploration Midcontinent Inc., et al., CIV-16-768, W.D. Okla.).
ATLANTA — The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on May 1 voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit against the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) pertaining to oil and gas exploration activities for the purpose of hydraulic fracturing operations in the Big Cypress National Preserve (National Resources Defense Council, et al. v. National Park Service, et al., No. 17-11798-GG, 11th Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on April 21 filed a brief in the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that lawsuits brought against it by a hydraulic fracturing industry trade group and other parties that oppose the EPA’s regulations as they pertain to fracking should be stayed (American Petroleum Institute, et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 13-1108, D.C. Cir.).
LOS ANGELES — A federal judge in California on May 3 dismissed a lawsuit brought by two environmental advocacy groups that had challenged a land management plan devised by federal agencies that would have opened thousands of acres of federal land to hydraulic fracturing (Los Padres ForestWatch, et al. v. United States Bureau of Land Management, et al., 15-04378, C.D. Calif.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) on April 26 consolidated two cases and issued a discovery order for a trial in which a hydraulic fracturing company and a citizens group both appeal a decision by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that granted a permit for fracking waste disposal wells (Pennsylvania General Energy Company LLC v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, No. 2017-031-R, and Judith Wanchisn, et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, No. 2017-032-R, Pa. EHB).
CINCINNATI — A land owner in Ohio on April 27 filed a brief in the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that a lower court wrongly dismissed his lawsuit against a hydraulic fracturing company for trespass, indemnification and unjust enrichment related to a fracking lease dispute (Eclipse Resources – Ohio LLC v. Scott Madzia, No. 17-3145, 6th Cir.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other environmental groups on May 2 filed a lawsuit in Ohio federal court contending that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to take a “hard look” at how the Wayne National Forest would be affected by hydraulic fracturing when those agencies approved permits to drill for oil and gas (Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. U.S. Forest Service, et al., No. 17-372, S.D. Ohio).
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The League of Conservation Voters and a collection of environmental advocacy groups on May 3 filed a lawsuit in Alaska federal court against President Donald J. Trump, contending that he made an “unlawful attempt” to reverse permanent protection for the Arctic Ocean when he signed an executive order that opened the area for oil and gas exploration (League of Conservation Voters, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. N/A, D. Alaska).
AKRON, Ohio — A group of hydraulic fracturing companies filed a brief in Ohio federal court on April 20 seeking summary judgment on a cross-claim they filed against an oil-field services company related to a lawsuit brought by a former employee of the oil-field services company. The fracking companies insist that the former employee’s lawsuit for bodily injury is not valid because the oil-field services company agreed to indemnify the fracking companies against such claims (Anthony G. Tuffillaro v. Chesapeake Energy Corp., et al., No. 16-878, N.D. Ohio).
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A study published April 5 in the scientific journal “Geochimica et Comochimica Acta” regarding the effects of hydraulic fracturing on an area known as the Appalachian Plateau in West Virginia found that the saline groundwater in the area in question “originated via naturally occurring processes,” rather than from fracking activities, but the surface water near areas of known spills or leaks at fracking disposal sites “mimicked the composition of” what are called flowback fluids from fracking operations in the Marcellus Shale formation.
PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania municipality on April 19 filed a brief in federal court arguing that an environmental group should not be permitted to intervene in a lawsuit pertaining to underground injection control (UIC) wells for hydraulic fracturing waste because the parties have already briefed the issues in the case and Pennsylvania law does not provide the group with the right to intervene (Seneca Resources Corporation v. Highland Township, et al., No. 16-289, W.D. Pa.).