WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sixteen U.S. senators, all Democrats, on April 26 sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is under Zinke’s jurisdiction, to postpone development plans for hydraulic fracturing in two national monuments until the resolution of lawsuits challenging President Donald’s Trump’s decision to reduce the size of the monuments.
DENVER — Two men who contend that they were injured when a lithium battery exploded while they were working on a hydraulic fracturing rig filed a brief on April 23 in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, contending that the arguments asserted in a brief filed by the two defendants “represent a misunderstanding” of the claims and constitute “a continued misapplication of Oklahoma law.” As a result, the men argue that a lower court’s decision in favor of the fracking companies should be reversed (Jacob McGehee, et al. v. Forest Oil Corp., et al., No. 17-6238, 10th Cir.).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A divided Ohio Supreme Court on April 24 granted a writ of mandamus to a group of residents who sought to amend the May ballot in Youngstown, Ohio, to permit a question that would limit hydraulic fracturing operations (The State ex rel. Khumprakob v. Mahoning County Board of Elections, No. 2018-0404, Ohio Sup.; 2018-Ohio-1602).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M — A federal judge in New Mexico on April 23 ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not violate federal law when it approved hydraulic fracturing permits to drill in the Mancos Shale/Gallup formations, despite claims by environmental advocacy groups that contended that the approval was “problematic” (Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Sally Jewell, et al., No. 15-209, D. N.M.; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67855).
DENVER — A federal judge in Colorado on April 23 ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it auctioned leases for hydraulic fracturing because based on the information available to the agency, it could not have predicted the effect those leases would have on ozone emissions (Wild Earth Guardians v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, No. 16-3141, D. Colo.; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67869).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A divided U.S. Supreme Court on April 24 upheld the constitutionality of the inter partes review (IPR) procedure introduced in 2012 by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), 35 U.S.C. § 100 (Oil States Energy Services LLC v. Greene's Energy Group LLC, No. 16-712, U.S. Sup.).
RICHMOND, Va. — The Sierra Club Inc. and other environmental advocacy groups on April 18 filed a brief in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals contending that government agencies have not “implicitly considered” the impact a pipeline to carry natural gas from hydraulic fracturing operations in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations would have on the Jefferson National Forest (Sierra Club Inc., et al. v. United States Forest Service, et al., No. 17-2399, 4th Cir.).
DENVER — A federal judge in Colorado on April 12 ruled that a hydraulic fracturing company did not breach its confidentiality agreement with two other fracking companies regarding an auction of mineral rights and dismissed the case with prejudice (Branta Exploration & Production Company LLC, et al. v. Newfield Production Company, No. 15-416, D. Colo., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62174).
HOUSTON — A divided Texas appellate panel on April 19 reversed a $4.5 million award of exemplary damages in a hydraulic fracturing trade secret misappropriation case, finding that the evidence did not support a finding of malice. The panel affirmed the other aspects of the lower court’s decision (Eagle Oil & Gas Co., et al. v. Shale Exploration LLC, No. 01-15-00888, Texas App., 1st Dist.; 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 2779).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on April 19 filed a notice of intent in the Federal Register indicating that it will be holding public scoping meetings throughout Alaska as part of the agency’s plan to sell at least two leases to drill in areas not less than 400,000 acres for hydraulic fracturing by December 2024.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A hydraulic fracturing company on April 16 filed a brief in Pennsylvania Superior Court seeking rehearing en banc because it says a Superior Court panel “misapprehended material facts” when it determined that the rule of capture does not preclude a fracking company from liability for trespass where subsurface fractures, fracturing fluid and proppant cross boundary lines and extend into the subsurface estate of an adjoining property for which the operator does not have a mineral lease (Adam Briggs, et al. v. Southwestern Energy Production Company, No. 1351MDA2017, Pa. Super.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fourteen states, the District of Columbia and the city of Chicago on April 5 sued the Environmental Protection Agency and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to compel Pruitt to comply with the nondiscretionary duty under federal law to establish guidelines for limiting methane emissions from existing sources in the oil and natural gas sector (New York, et al. v. E. Scott Pruitt, et al., No. 18-773, D. D.C.).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments March 22 in which attorneys for a landowner, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and a hydraulic fracturing company debated whether the agency’s approval of a fracking lease and drilling permits violated federal law (Merrill Chance v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 17-5057, 10th Cir.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court on April 2 reversed a trial court and ruled that the rule of capture concerning hydraulic fracturing operations does not preclude a fracking company from liability for trespass where subsurface fractures, fracturing fluid and proppant cross boundary lines and extend into the subsurface estate of an adjoining property for which the operator does not have a mineral lease (Adam Briggs, et al. v. Southwestern Energy Production Company, No. 1351MDA2017, Pa. Super.; 2018 Pa. Super. LEXIS 79).
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge in Wyoming on April 4 issued an order staying the implementation of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that requires oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at hydraulic fracturing wells on public and tribal lands (Wyoming, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 16-285, D. Wyo.).
PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania municipality on April 3 moved in federal court to bifurcate proceedings regarding a determination on attorney fees a hydraulic fracturing company seeks in connection with a dispute between the parties that centers on whether the municipality has the right to ban activities that violate their civil and environmental rights (Pennsylvania General Energy Company LLC v. Grant Township, No. 14-209, W.D. Pa.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The American Petroleum Institute (API) on March 30 moved in California federal court to intervene in a dispute over the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to repeal regulations pertaining to methane waste related to hydraulic fracturing, arguing that API’s members will be “directly damaged if the invalidated provisions of the Hydraulic Fracturing Rule were to take effect” (Sierra Club, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 18-524, California v. United States Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 18-521, N.D. Calif.).
By Laura A. Frase
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge in New Mexico on March 31 ruled that citizen groups that contest the decision made by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to approve permits for hydraulic fracturing have standing to sue the agency because they have shown an “alleged increased environmental risk” or an aesthetic injury, which are constitutionally cognizable injuries (Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Sally Jewell, et al., No. 15-209, D. N.M.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court on March 28 affirmed a lower court’s ruling in a groundwater contamination case and concluded that “the mere presence” of a contaminant “in a water of the Commonwealth or a part thereof” does not establish a violation of Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law because movement of a contaminant into water is a predicate to violations (EQT Production Company v. Department of Environmental Protection of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 6 MAP 2017, Pa. Sup.; 2018 Pa. LEXIS 1572).