COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. government on March 16 filed a brief in Ohio federal court in support of a consent decree that would settle 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).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A divided Minnesota Supreme Court on March 11 affirmed a lower court and held that a municipality had the authority to pass an ordinance prohibiting the extraction of hydraulic fracturing sand under specific circumstances (Minnesota Sands, LLC v. Winona, Minnesota, A18-90, Minn. Sup., 2020 Minn. LEXIS 121).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The state of Utah on March 5 filed a brief in District of Columbia federal court contending that there are no genuine issues of material fact concerning the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of national monuments, which would allow access to land for hydraulic fracturing. The state contends that President Trump’s “unique monument-designation authority encompasses subsequent reconsideration” (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]).
NEW ORLEANS — A Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 3 ruled that a federal district court did not err in applying a two-level enhancement to the sentencing of a former CEO of a sand fracking company who pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired with two other men in the operation of a Ponzi scheme (United States v. Stanley P. Bates, No. 18-50785, 5th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 6778).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A pipeline company on Feb. 18 filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court contending that it should reverse a lower court ruling that determined that the company did not have the authority to exercise the federal government’s power of eminent domain to secure necessary rights of way for the construction of an interstate pipeline that would carry hydraulically fractured gas (PennEast Pipeline Company LLC v. New Jersey, et al., No. 19A836, U.S. Sup.).
HOUSTON — The chief financial officer for a hydraulic fracturing company on March 2 filed a declaration in federal bankruptcy court in Texas explaining that the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to “a significant and sustained drop in oil and gas prices,” which are dependent on factors beyond the company’s control (In re: Pioneer Energy Services Corp., et al., No. 20-31425, S.D. Texas Bkcy.).
WACO, Texas — A hydraulic fracturing company on Feb. 26 sued a fracking well services company in Texas federal court, contending that it infringed a patent related to technology used to protect fracking equipment from sand that is used in the process of oil and gas extraction (Forum US Inc. v. Odessa Separator Inc., No. 20-150, W.D. Texas).
AUSTIN, Texas — Two pipeline companies on Feb. 13 filed a brief in Texas federal court contending that their project should be allowed to continue because they followed the appropriate regulatory process to gain federal approval to build it and the plaintiffs that oppose it “cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits” (Austin, Texas, et al. v. Kinder Morgan Texas Pipeline LLC, et al., No. 20-138, W.D. Texas).
MIDLAND, Texas — A petroleum engineer on Feb. 28 sued a hydraulic fracturing well services company and its affiliates in Texas federal court, contending that they engaged in “an intense defamation campaign” against him and the company he worked for following a dissolution of the contract between the parties (Mark A. Burkett v. The Aztec Well Family, et al., No. 20-52, W.D. Texas).
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal judge in Alaska on Jan. 10 denied residents of the Native village of Nuiqsut’s request for relief from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to allow oil and gas exploration drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR), concluding that the BLM’s environmental assessment authorizing the operation was valid (Nuiqsut, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 19-56, D. Alaska, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3302).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A panel in Pennsylvania on March 2 issued an unreported opinion in which it ruled that a municipality could proceed with its counterclaims against a state environmental agency related to its ordinance banning the storage of hydraulic fracturing waste because the agency’s arguments against those claims were “without merit” (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection v. Grant Township of Indiana County, et al., No. 126MD2017, Pa. Cmwlth.).
PITTSBURGH — A hydraulic fracturing company on Feb. 27 sued a valve supply company contending that it breached a contract between the parties because the equipment it delivered to the fracking company was defective (EQT Production Company v. Aspen Flow Control LLC, No. 20-295, W.D. Pa.).
SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge in Utah on March 2 dismissed a lawsuit brought by environmental advocacy groups, ruling that their claims were moot because the federal agencies that granted hydraulic fracturing leases had met their burden of showing that no ground-disturbing activity would occur during an environmental analysis that is to be conducted while the leases are temporarily suspended (Friends of Cedar Mesa v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 19-13, and Southern Utah Wilderness Association v. David Bernhardt, No. 19-266, D. Utah).
BOISE, Idaho — A U.S. magistrate judge in Idaho on Feb. 27 granted partial summary judgment on one claim made by environmental advocacy groups who contend that the secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wrongly approved hydraulic fracturing leases without following federal laws designed to allow for public notice and comment periods. The magistrate judge did not vacate the leases, however, and directed the BLM to correct deficiencies (Western Watersheds Project, et al. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 18-187, D. Idaho).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 27 held that an insurance policy exclusion for operations bars coverage for worker’s bodily injuries suffered in a well-site fire that was ignited by trucker’s use of a cigarette lighter, reversing a lower court in part and remanding for the lower court to vacate its judgment ordering the insurer to reimburse a second insurer for half of its defense costs (Carolina Casualty Insurance Company v. Burlington Insurance Company, Nos. 18-8071 & 18-8077, 10th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 6021).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Seven U.S. senators, all of whom are Democrats, along with other lawmakers, on Feb. 20 sent letters to the Secretary of the Interior contending that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) revision of a plan that would open the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR) in Alaska to oil and gas drilling is “unnecessary and threatens to sacrifice the Reserve as part of a larger push by the Trump administration to recklessly sell off America’s Arctic for oil and gas development.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Feb. 24 in a hydraulic fracturing pipeline right of way case in which the parties and the justices sparred over which federal agency has authority over the land of the Appalachian Trail and which federal laws apply to the construction of pipelines (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]).
SAN FRANCISCO — Law professors who bill themselves as experts in public land law and natural resources law on Feb. 20 filed an amicus curiae brief in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals contending that President Donald J. Trump exceeded his constitutional authority and his statutory authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) when he revoked the action taken by the Obama administration that protected the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from oil and gas exploration (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. — The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a hydraulic fracturing pipeline right of way case in which the parties and the justices sparred over which federal agency has authority over the land of the Appalachian Trail and which federal laws apply to the construction of pipelines (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]).
RALEIGH, N.C. — Greenpeace USA and other environmental advocacy groups on Feb. 20 sent a letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urging him to oppose construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) even as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the issue of eminent domain under federal law pertaining to the pipeline.