WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. solicitor general, on behalf of the United States Forest Service (USFS) and other federal parties, on Jan. 22 moved in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a divided oral argument when it hears a case in which environmental groups and supporters of the hydraulic fracturing industry dispute whether a pipeline can be built across the Appalachian Trail (Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al., No. 18-1587, U.S. Forest Service, et al. v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al., No. 18-1584, U.S. Sup. [consolidated]).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. government on Jan. 22 filed a lawsuit for injunctive relief and civil penalties against a hydraulic fracturing company for violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at multiple oil and gas production facilities the government contends are liable for contaminating the air with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (United States v. Gulfport Energy Corporation, No. 20-340, S.D. Ohio).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge in New Mexico on Jan. 21 ruled that members of the Navajo Tribe are not permitted to add more mineral rights and landowners as intervenors in a lawsuit brought by environmental advocacy groups against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the approval of hydraulic fracturing permits in the Mancos Shale Play (Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 19-703, D. N.M.).
PHILADELPHIA — The Allegheny County Employees’ Retirement System (AERS) on Jan. 21 moved in a Pennsylvania federal court for the Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico to be appointed as lead plaintiff in a class action against a hydraulic fracturing pipeline company, the executives of which the plaintiffs say committed securities fraud and coerced a Pennsylvania agency to get approval for the Mariner East 2 pipeline (Allegheny County Employees’ Retirement System v. Energy Transfer LP, et al., No. 20-200, E.D. Pa.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Jan. 22 vacated and remanded a case regarding the rule of capture, concluding that developers who conduct hydraulic fracturing operations may rely on pressure differentials to drain oil and gas from under another person’s property, at least in the absence of a physical invasion (Adam Briggs, et al. v. Southwestern Energy Production Company, No. 63MAP, 2018, Pa. Sup., 2020 Pa. LEXIS 343).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Environmental groups on Jan. 15 filed a response brief in the U.S. Supreme Court contending that the Appalachian Trail cannot be separated from the land that constitutes it; therefore, neither the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) nor any other federal agency can grant an oil or gas pipeline right-of-way that crosses the trail on federal land (Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al., No. 18-1587, U.S. Forest Service, et al. v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al., No. 18-1584, U.S. Sup. [consolidated]).
PHILADELPHIA — An attorney for three Pennsylvania state senators and counsel for the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on Dec. 9 debated at the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals the senators’ right to intervene in a lawsuit over hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin (DRB), with the senators’ attorney insisting that “it’s hard to see how the senators don’t have an interest” in the case (Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC v. Delaware River Basin Commission, No. 19-2354, 3rd Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on Jan. 9 moved in District of Columbia federal court for partial summary judgment in consolidated lawsuits against the Trump administration concerning the reduction in size of national monuments, which would allow access to land for hydraulic fracturing, contending that there is no genuine issue of disputed material fact and, therefore, all of the plaintiffs in the consolidated actions are entitled to judgment as a matter of law (Hopi Tribe, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2590; Utah Diné Bikéyah, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2605; and Natural Resources Defense Council, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2606, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — An Ohio appellate panel on Dec. 9 affirmed a lower court ruling and held that a landowner’s claim for breach of contract regarding a hydraulic fracturing lease was properly dismissed because the implied covenant of reasonable development had not been violated (Thomas J. Pavsek v. Will Wade, No. 18 MO 0024, Ohio App., 7th Dist., Monroe Co., 2019 Ohio App. 5330).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Dec. 18 ruled that landowners’ challenges to the mineral rights in a disputed deed were without merit and held that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania rightfully holds subsurface rights to oil and gas available for hydraulic fracturing (Pennsylvania, et al. v. Thomas E. Proctor Heirs Trust, et al., No. 12-1567, M.D. Pa., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 217042).
PITTSBURGH — Several retirement funds on Dec. 6 filed an amended federal securities class action in Pennsylvania federal court against a hydraulic fracturing company and some of its executives, contending that they violated the Securities Exchange Act (SEA) and Securities Exchange Commission regulations by committing securities fraud and engaging in insider trading (In re EQT Corporation Securities Litigation, No. 19-754, W.D. Pa.).
BISMARCK, N.D. — A hydraulic fracturing company on Dec. 12 sued a contractor in North Dakota federal court, contending that it violated the contract between the parties related to the design and drilling of new wells in North Dakota (Wave Petroleum Operating LLC v. New IPT Inc., No. 19-272, D. N.D.).
EL PASO, Texas — Texas landowners on Dec. 3 filed a brief in a state appeals court contending that a lower court erred when it granted summary judgment dismissal to a solar energy company in a dispute over claims that the construction of a solar energy facility on a tract of land prevented them from accessing the mineral rights underneath that land that had potential for hydraulic fracturing (Kenneth R. Lyle, et al. v. Midway Solar LLC, et al., No. 08-19-00216, Texas App., 8th Dist., 2019 Tx. App. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 4265).
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A hydraulic fracturing company on Dec. 26 sued an oil and gas exploration company in Wyoming federal court contending that it has breached the agreement the parties reached concerning the sale of property rights, leasehold interests and natural gas wells (Devon Energy Production Company LP v. Justice Oil & Gas LLC, et al., No. 19-267, D. Wyo.).
FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas appellate panel on Dec. 19 affirmed a lower court ruling that a landowner was not entitled to royalties from hydraulic fracturing operations on a disputed tract of land because the previous owner of the land did not waive her rights (Richard D. Crawford v. XTO Energy Inc., No. 02-18-00217, Texas App., 2nd Dist., Fort Worth, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 11066).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Wilderness Society on Jan. 9 moved for partial summary judgment in District of Columbia federal court, contending that there is no genuine issue of disputed material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law in its lawsuit against President Donald J. Trump related to his executive order that reduced the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSNM), which the group says was partly motivated by a desire to access land for hydraulic fracturing (The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A Montana federal judge on Dec. 20 refused to dismiss claims by two Native American tribes that President Trump violated treaties, federal law and the U.S. Constitution by issuing a permit last year allowing work to continue on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline (Rosebud Sioux Tribe, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 4:18-cv-118, D. Mont., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 223887).
WILMINGTON, Del. — A hydraulic fracturing field services company on Jan. 7 filed its appeal brief in the Delaware Supreme Court contending that a lower court erred when it declared that a clause facilitating an initial public offering (IPO) authorized the other members of its energy company and investment fund to unilaterally exercise certain powers of the board of directors to proceed with the IPO (Williams Field Services Group LLC v. Caiman Energy II, et al., No. 488, 2019, Del. Sup.).
DENVER — Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt on Jan. 7 filed an answer in Colorado federal court contending that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) estimates of emissions associated with oil and gas production were consistent with the “reasonably foreseeable” development scenario for an area where hydraulic fracturing is proposed (Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. United States Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 19-2869, D. Colo.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Dec. 24 quashed two appeals without prejudice, one by a hydraulic fracturing trade group and the other by a state environmental agency, each of which took issue with a Commonwealth Court decision regarding the statutory authority of state agencies to set fracking regulations. The Supreme Court did not elaborate on its decisions in the orders (The Marcellus Shale Coalition v. Department of Environmental Protection of Pennsylvania, et al., No. 66 MAP 2019 and No. 68 MAP 2019, Pa. Sup.).