DENVER — A panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 18 reversed and remanded a hydraulic fracturing lease case, holding that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lacked the authority to require landowners to provide the agency with a key to a lease site on privately owned land (Maralex Resources Inc., et al. v. David Barnhardt, et al., No. 17-1421, 10th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 1705).
CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal judge in South Carolina on Jan. 18, pursuant to the All Writs Act (AWA), enjoined federal government agencies from taking action to approve permits related to applications for oil and gas surveys pertaining to potential offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean (South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, et al. v. Wilbur Ross, No. 18-3326, D. S.C.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22 denied a landowner family’s petition to hear their appeal of a lower court’s ruling that a hydraulic fracturing company was entitled to $1.8 million from the family as part of the contract between the company and the family because the deal contained a provision that the family had to repay that amount, which acted as a signing bonus, if the company decided not to drill on the family’s land (Zaremba Family Farms v. Encana Oil & Gas [USA] Inc., No. 18-475, U.S. Sup.).
RENO, Nev. — A federal judge in Nevada on Jan. 15 granted a motion for summary judgment by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a case brought by environmental groups that opposed the agency’s sale of leases for hydraulic fracturing on federal land. The judge said the BLM had conducted a “hard look” required by federal law and, therefore, the groups’ case lacked merit (Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 17-553, D. Nev.).
LOS ANGELES — A hydraulic fracturing operator on Jan. 10 filed a brief in California federal court contending that the district court should allow it to proceed with its application for a permit to conduct fracking operations off the California coast because the injunction that is currently in place will cause the company “irreparable harm” (Environmental Defense Center, et al. v. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, et al., No. 16-8418, C.D. Calif.).
DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court on Jan. 14 reversed a lower court’s decision and held that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) decision not to conduct a rulemaking proceeding related to hydraulic fracturing and adopt a rule proposed by residents who want to protect the environment was consistent with the applicable provisions of the state’s oil and gas conservation act (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, et al. v. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, et al., No. 2017SC297, Colo. Sup.).
BOULDER, Colo. — An environmental group on Dec. 3 sued the town of Erie, Colo., its mayor and its board trustees in state court, contending that they made an “unlawful and dangerous decision” when they approved an operating agreement with a hydraulic fracturing company because it will “result in large-scale oil and gas development negatively affecting multiple residential areas” (Erie Thriving LLC v. Town of Erie, Colorado, et al., No. 2018CV31116, Colo. Dist., Boulder, Co.).
DENVER — A panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 26 reversed and remanded a case, ruling that a hydraulic fracturing company’s mineral rights were not expanded beyond those in common law despite a clause in a deed that pertained to the land where it sought to drill (Marvin Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC, et al., No. 17-1374, 10th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 36454).
DENVER — Residents, environmental organizations and nuclear workers advocacy groups on Jan. 10 filed a petition in Colorado federal court seeking disclosure of certain documents related to a federal grand jury that was impaneled to investigate alleged criminal actions related to a former nuclear weapons plant that state and federal authorities now contend is safe for recreation and could be used for hydraulic fracturing (In re: Petition of Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups, et al., No. 19-76, D. Colo.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Environmental groups on Jan. 9 filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that a lower court “discarded Pennsylvania’s statutory definition of finality, and instead inserted its own federal standard of finality” when it ruled that federal law preempted the state review process for the construction of a pipeline that would carry hydraulically fractured gas through several counties in the state (Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, et al., No. N/A, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The state of Utah on Dec. 31 filed a brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia arguing that it has a right to file a brief in the lawsuit brought by Native American tribes and environmental groups that oppose the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of two national monuments, which the plaintiffs say was done to open the land for hydraulic fracturing activities (Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, D. D.C., Hopi Tribe, et al. v. Donald Trump, et al., No. 17-2590, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
BOISE, Idaho — The state of Wyoming on Dec. 21 filed a brief in Idaho federal court contending that the interests of justice “overwhelmingly favor transfer” to Wyoming federal court for a lawsuit filed by environmental groups that have challenged federal hydraulic fracturing leases contending that those leases endanger the greater sage-grouse (Western Watersheds Project, et al. v. Ryan K. Zinke, et al., No. 18-187, D. Idaho).
WILMINGTON, Del. — A plastics manufacturer on Dec. 12 filed a complaint in Delaware federal court seeking to register and enforce a $42,342,379.31 international arbitration award from a judgment it won against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the unlawful expropriation of the company’s investment in Venezuela related to the manufacture of ceramic proppants used in hydraulic fracturing operations (Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Europe v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, et al., No. 18-1963, D. Del.).
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — A hydraulic fracturing company on Dec. 19 sued a drilling company in Kentucky federal court, alleging that it is not entitled to information regarding the fracking company’s expenditures and contracts as a turnkey contractor beyond what was provided in the business agreement the parties entered. The fracking company also says the drilling company cannot require the disclosure of nonpublic personal information of its investors (Encore Energy Inc. v. Morris Kentucky Wells LLC, No. 18-180, W.D. Ky.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Institute for Policy Integrity (IPI) at New York University School of Law on Dec. 28 filed an amicus curiae brief in the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, contending that the PennEast Pipeline Project, which would transport hydraulically fractured gas, will be responsible for greenhouse gas emissions that will result in “substantial climate damages” (Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 18-1128, D.C. Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 27 denied a petition for review filed by an environmental group that contends that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the Orion Pipeline Project, which would carry hydraulically fractured gas from Pennsylvania to Mid-Atlantic states, violated federal law (Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 18-1108, D.C. Cir.).
BISMARCK, N.D. — A hydrofracking exclusion clearly applies to bar coverage for underlying suits filed by individuals who were injured during hydrofracking operations at an additional insured’s site because the injuries clearly arose out of hydrofracking operations, a North Dakota federal judge said Jan. 3 (Great West Casualty Co. v. XTO Energy Inc. et al., No. 16-387, D. N.D., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 797).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 7 denied certiorari to a group of Ohio residents who contended that their claim under the False Claims Act (FCA) against the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) was wrongly dismissed because the MWCD was aware that the leases in question violated an obligation to the United States (United States, ex rel. Leatra Harper, et al. v. Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, No. 18-418, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 2 issued an order refusing to hear the appeal filed by a landowner seeking rehearing of its ruling in which a panel ruled he could not establish entitlement to equitable tolling because he had not taken any action to pursue his rights regarding a hydraulic fracturing lease dispute before filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The one-sentence order did not elaborate on the reason for the panel’s denial (Merrill Chance v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 17-5057, 10th Cir.).
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Dec. 27 dismissed a private nuisance case brought by residents against a hydraulic fracturing company for contaminating their groundwater, ruling that the statute of limitations had run on the claim (Sheila Russell, et al. v. Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, et al., No. 14-148, M.D. Pa.).