DENVER — An environmental group on July 15 filed a brief in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that it should reverse a lower court’s ruling that held that Colorado has a compelling interest in allowing hydraulic fracturing companies to target the minerals of nonconsenting mineral owners through a practice referred to as “forced pooling.” The group says that the district court misapplied an abstention doctrine when it should have adjudicated the merits of the claim (Wildgrass Oil & Gas Committee v. Colorado, et al., No. 20-1151, 10th Cir.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge in California on July 15 vacated the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rescission of the 2016 rule that regulated venting and flaring of methane gas at hydraulic fracturing facilities, ruling that the agency “simply engineered a process to ensure a preordained conclusion” and that the rule was “defectively promulgated” (California, et al. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 18-5712, N.D. Calif.).
HOUSTON — Hydraulic fracturing operator Chesapeake Energy Corp. on June 28 filed an adversary proceeding the Texas federal bankruptcy court seeking declaratory judgment, a restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to prevent it from forcing Chesapeake to honor transportation contracts as it seeks to reorganize the company (In re: Chesapeake Energy Corporation, No. 20-33233, S.D. Texas Bkcy.).
AUSTIN, Texas — Residents on June 22 sued a pipeline company in Texas federal court, contending that it is liable for pumping 36,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing drilling fluid containing a minimum of seven probable human carcinogens into an aquifer in violation of federal law (Dr. Teri Albright, et al. v. Permian Highway Pipeline LLC, et al., No. 20-651, W.D. Texas).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A group of mineral owners on July 8 moved in Ohio federal court seeking summary judgment on claims that hydraulic fracturing companies have trespassed and under state law do not have the right to extract oil and gas from the geological formations that lie below the base of the Utica Shale (J&R Passmore LLC, et al. v. Rice Drilling D LLC, et al., No. 18-1587, S.D. Ohio).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Native American environmental group, as well as other advocates for the environment, on July 9 filed a petition in New Mexico federal court contending that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) when it issued hydraulic fracturing leases in the San Juan Basin near Navajo communities (Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 20-673, D. N.M.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A community development corporation on June 8 filed an amicus curiae brief in the Ohio Supreme Court contending that it should reverse a lower court’s decision regarding restrictions that the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) placed on a mineral rights deed that the development corporation sold to a hydraulic fracturing company (Siltstone Resources LLC v. State of Ohio Public Works Commission v. Patriot Land Company LLC, et al., No. 202-0031, Ohio Sup.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on June 22 released a report from a grand jury that investigated the hydraulic fracturing industry in the state that determined that the state government’s oversight of fracking has been “poor,” state officials have failed to protect the environment and health officials are “in a state of denial” about the effects of fracking on humans.
SAN FRANCISCO — Conservationists who are suing the Trump administration alleging that offshore leasing for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is a violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), on July 7 filed supplemental briefing in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that it should take notice of two recent rulings, which they say support their argument that Congress has exclusive power regarding the disposition of public lands (League of Conservation Voters, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., Nos. 19-35460, 19-35461 and 19-35462, 9th Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A hydraulic fracturing company on July 2 sued Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and the agency in District of Columbia federal court, arguing that the defendants incorrectly valued the company’s production and then misapplied a federal statute to the payment of fracking royalties (Continental Resources Inc. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 20-1810, D. D.C.).
LANSING, Mich. — A group that opposes hydraulic fracturing and wants to get a referendum on the ballot filed a lawsuit in Michigan court on July 6, seeking a declaration that a state law is unconstitutional as it is applied to statutory initiative petitions under the state constitution, and it wants a permanent injunction requiring a state agency to canvass the group’s petition without exclusion of petition signatures (Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan v. Board of State Canvassers, No. 20-125MM, Mich. Clms.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge on July 6 shut down the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), saying the “significant disruption” the shutdown will cause is outweighed by the “seriousness” of the federal government’s lack of response to Indian tribes’ concerns about the pipeline’s location and operation, so “the flow of oil must cease” (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., No. 16-1534, D. D.C., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117866).
RICHMOND, Va. — Despite a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court last month in which a divided panel ruled that construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) could proceed, the two companies building the pipeline made a joint announcement on July 5 that they were ceasing construction due to “ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on July 6 ruled that a district court’s order granting partial vacatur and an injunction is stayed except as it applies to the Keystone XL pipeline, pending an appeal in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals brought by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding its alleged failure to perform “a full and proper analysis” of the environmental impact caused by construction of the pipeline (Army Corps of Engineers, et al. v. N. Plains Res. Council, et al., No. 19A1053, U.S. Sup.).
NEW ORLEANS — In a July 2 ruling, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a Texas federal judge’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a copyright infringement defendant but vacated the judge’s subsequent decision to deny the defendant its request for more than $1 million in attorney fees (Digital Drilling Data Systems L.L.C. v. Petrolink Services Inc., No. 19-20116, 5th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20803).
ALBANY, N.Y. — A divided New York Court of Appeals on June 25 reversed a lower court and ruled that a company right to seize property by eminent domain to build a pipeline was not conditioned on obtaining a certificate ensuring water quality pursuant to federal law protecting groundwater (In the Matter of National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation v. Joseph A. Schueckler, et al., No. 29, N.Y. App.).
HOUSTON — Hydraulic fracturing operator Chesapeake Energy Corp. on June 28 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal bankruptcy court in Texas, citing “an overleveraged balance sheet,” as well as a recent price drop connected to the new coronavirus pandemic and a price war between Russia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as reasons (In re: Chesapeake Energy Corporation, No. 20-33233, S.D. Texas Bkcy.).
WILMINGTON, Del. — Hydraulic fracturing companies sued financial services providers in the Delaware Chancery Court on June 9, contending that they violated their fiduciary and contractual duties and numerous state laws governing trade secrets when they commingled funds and engaged in transactions outside the scope of the agreement they had entered (Lone Pine Resources LP, et al. v. William S. Dickey, et al., No. 2020-0450, Del. Chanc.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A hydraulic fracturing pipeline company on June 9 filed a reply brief in the U.S. Supreme Court contending that the state of New Jersey is wrong when it argues that “none of the traditional criteria support certiorari” in the company’s appeal of a federal appellate court’s ruling that held that the company did not have the authority to exercise the federal government’s power of eminent domain to secure rights of way for construction of a pipeline (PennEast Pipeline Company LLC v. New Jersey, et al., No. 19A836, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on June 29 invited the U.S. solicitor general to file a brief in a case brought by a hydraulic fracturing pipeline company against the state of New Jersey as the high court considers granting certiorari and hearing the company’s petition to reverse a lower court’s ruling that determined that the company did not have the authority to exercise the federal government’s power of eminent domain to secure rights of way for the pipeline’s construction (PennEast Pipeline Company LLC v. New Jersey, et al., No. 19A836, U.S. Sup.).