WASHINGTON, D.C. — A panel of the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 19 denied environmental groups’ challenge to the construction of a pipeline to carry hydraulically fractured gas through parts of West Virginia and Virginia, ruling that the market need for the pipeline was “reasonable” and supported by “substantial” evidence (Appalachian Voices, et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 17-1271, D.C. Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 19 denied review of an appeal by an order of Roman Catholic women who contend that a lower court incorrectly ruled that the Natural Gas Act (NGA) overrides the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) with regard to the construction of a pipeline to carry hydraulically fractured gas across property owned by the order (Adorers of the Blood of Christ, United States Province, et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 18-548, U.S. Sup.).
SALT LAKE CITY — An environmental group on Feb. 6 filed a complaint in Utah federal court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Trump administration in opposition to the administration’s “unlawful” sale of 43 oil and gas leases for hydraulic fracturing on approximately 51,400 acres of public land, which the plaintiffs say was done without a proper study of the likely harm it will cause to historic, cultural and natural resources (Friends of Cedar Mesa v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 19-13, D. Utah).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — San Juan County, Utah, which is an intervenor in the consolidated litigation brought by Native American tribes against the Trump administration regarding its decision to reduce the size of two national monuments, on Jan. 29 filed a brief in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia contending that the court should approve the county’s proposed briefing schedule (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]).
DENVER — A man who protests hydraulic fracturing operations sued the city of Lafayette, Colo., and its mayor in Colorado federal court on Jan. 17, contending that the defendants unconstitutionally blocked him from making comments critical of the mayor on social media with regard to the mayor’s actions that have advanced the fracking industry’s agenda in the city (Clifton Willmeng v. Lafayette, Colorado, et al., No. 19-150, D. Colo.).
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — An Ohio appellate panel on Jan. 18 affirmed a lower court and held that a couple did not have a valid claim for breach of lease against a hydraulic fracturing company because the couple’s interpretation of the lease was “strained” (John M. Merino, et al., v. Levine Oil Enterprises LLC, et al., No. 17CO0030, Ohio App., 7th Dist., Columbiana Co.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of the Interior (DOI) on Jan. 31 released a report in which it found that there was no evidence that a Utah state legislator who owns property along the border of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) influenced, or benefitted from, the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of the monument.
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 28 sent a letter to the executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), arguing that there should be a ban on all hydraulic fracturing-related activities in the basin.
BOULDER, Colo. — The Boulder County Commissioners on Jan. 9 filed a brief in Colorado state court contending that a hydraulic fracturing company is not entitled to place well pads on three parcels of land it does not own and that the company’s attempt to do so violates leases and easements (Board of County Commissioners of Boulder County v. Crestone Peak Resources Operating LLC, No. 2018CV3092, Colo. Dist., Boulder Co.).
CINCINNATI — A panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 4 affirmed a district court ruling and said that landowners failed to state a claim that their rights were violated when an Ohio agency granted the request of a hydraulic fracturing company and forced the landowners’ properties to be pooled for drilling purposes despite their opposition (Corey Kerns, et al. v. Chesapeake Exploration LLC, et al., No. 18-3636, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3450).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge on Feb. 5 sent an Indian tribe’s challenge to the federal government’s approvals of hydraulic fracturing wells on the tribe’s reservation to North Dakota federal court at the request of the drilling company, rejecting the tribe’s assertion that its choice of venue deserved “substantial deference” (Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 18-1462, D. D.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17975).
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Residents who want to get an anti-fracking measure on the ballot sued the Ohio Secretary of State in federal court Feb. 1 seeking to enjoin Ohio’s ballot access scheme “to the extent it allows unconstitutional pre-enactment review of proposed ballot measures by election officials and the judiciary in violation of separation of powers and the people’s core political rights” (Susan Beiersdorfer, et al. v. Frank LaRose, et al., No. 19-260, N.D. Ohio).
DENVER — An environmental group on Jan. 23 moved in Colorado federal court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the state, its governor and a state agency seeking to prevent the agency from proceeding with hydraulic fracturing operations that involve nonconsenting mineral owners (Wildgrass Oil & Gas Committee v. State of Colorado, et al., No. N/A, D. Colo.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An order of Roman Catholic women who contend that a lower court ruling that held that the Natural Gas Act (NGA) overrides the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) with regard to the construction of a pipeline to carry hydraulically fractured gas across property owned by the order, on Jan. 7 filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court contending that review is warranted because “RFRA is not an ordinary statute, and this is not an ordinary case” (Adorers of the Blood of Christ, United States Province, et al. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 18-548, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court on Jan. 28 denied a motion to reconsider its ruling in which it held that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) decision not to conduct a rule-making 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.).
NEW ORLEANS — A company that conducted fracking operations on an insured’s facility has asked the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court’s dismissal of its allegations that a site pollution legal liability insurer committed breach of contract by seeking indemnity for the $12 million the insurer paid to the insured for environmental damage caused by a June 2014 explosion (Halliburton Energy Services Inc. v. Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co., No. 17-20678 consolidated with No. 18-20239, 5th Cir.).
MISSOULA, Mont. — A federal judge in Montana on Jan. 24 partially dismissed a lawsuit against members of the Trump administration brought by an organization that sought to enjoin the meeting of a committee tasked with recommending federal policies related to hydraulic fracturing on federal and private lands. The judge ruled that claims that the committee was unlawfully created and that it failed to disclose its materials survive (Western Organization of Resource Councils v. David Bernhardt, No. 18-139, D. Mont., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11671).
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.).