DENVER — Environmental advocacy groups and the U.S. government filed briefs in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 22 arguing that an Indian tribe’s motion to dismiss an appeal of the court’s decision vacating and remanding a lower court ruling that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) exceeded its authority when it promulgated new regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing on public lands should be denied (Wyoming, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 16-8068, 10th Cir.).
PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania municipality filed a brief in Pennsylvania federal court on Jan. 10, arguing that there is no case law that establishes that citizens do not have the right of local community self-government, including the right to ban activities that violate their civil and environmental rights. The municipality also moved for leave to cross-file for summary judgment against a hydraulic fracturing trade group that contends that the township’s ordinance prohibiting the disposal of fracking wastewater violates state law (Pennsylvania General Energy Company LLC v. Grant Township, No. 14-209, W.D. Pa.).
SAN ANTONIO — A federal bankruptcy judge in Texas on Dec. 29 ruled that an energy company and its affiliates that solicited investments in hydraulic fracturing ventures were liable for fraud, but determined that specific Texas securities laws were not broken (In re: Primera Energy LLC [Frederick Patek, et al. v. Brian K. Alfaro, et al.], No. 15-51396, Adv. No. 15-5047, W.D. Texas Bkcy., 2017 Bankr. LEXIS 4439).
DENVER — A divided panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 18 reversed and remanded a case to district court concluding that a collection of environmental advocacy groups had the right to intervene in a lawsuit brought by an alliance of energy companies against the federal government with regard to its policy that reformed the process for issuing oil and gas leases on public land (Western Energy Alliance v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 17-2005, 10th Cir.; 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 25464).
PITTSBURGH — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Jan. 5 ordered two attorneys representing a municipality in its fight against a hydraulic fracturing company to pay $52,000 because they “vexatiously multiplied the litigation” by pursuing “frivolous claims and defenses” (Pennsylvania General Energy Company LLC v. Grant Township, No. 14-209, W.D. Pa.; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2069).
DENVER — A federal judge in Colorado on Dec. 19 ruled that U.S. government agencies must publish plans for the protection of wildflowers in relation to hydraulic fracturing activities in the Uinta Basin (Rocky Mountain Wild, et al. v. Noreen Walsh, et al., No. 15-00615, D. Colo.).
SANTA FE, N.M. — A collection of environmental advocacy groups on Jan. 3 sent a letter to the acting director of the New Mexico office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) contending that the BLM’s competitive oil and gas lease sale, which is planned for March, should be delayed until the BLM completes a resource management plan (RMP) and an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the shale formations where the drilling would occur.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Dec. 21 dismissed a consolidated lawsuit regarding hydraulic fracturing lease disputes and ruled that issues pertaining to the individual leases must be resolved through individual arbitration rather than class arbitration (Patricia L. Abrams v. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, et al., No. 16-1343; Paul H. Arnold v. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, et al., No. 16-1345; Robert C. Abrams v. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, et al., No. 16-1346; and Kylie E. Ahern v. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, et al., No. 16-1347, M.D. Pa.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 209905).
LONDON — A British oil and gas company announced on Jan. 9 that it is seeks judicial review of the Scottish government's “effective ban” on onshore hydraulic fracturing in Scotland on grounds that it is “a misuse of Ministerial power.”
By Laura A. Frase
OKLAHOMA CITY — Two men who contend that they were injured when a lithium battery exploded while they were working on a hydraulic fracturing rig on Dec. 29 filed a notice of appeal in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Jacob McGehee, et al. v. Southwest Electronic Energy Corporation, et al., and Southwest Electronic Energy Corporation v. Engineered Power LP, et al., No. 15-145, W.D. Okla.).
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge in Wyoming on Dec. 29 stayed a lawsuit brought by states and members of the hydraulic fracturing industry pertaining to the U.S. Bureau of Land Mangement (BLM) rule on venting and flaring at fracking wells on public lands, ruling that the agency’s plan to revise or suspend the rule warrants a stay (State of Wyoming, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 16-285, D. Wyo.).
MONTEREY, Calif. — A California state judge on Dec. 28 ruled that while a municipality’s ordinance that prohibits hydraulic fracturing is valid, parts of it are preempted by existing laws and regulations (Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. County of Monterey, No. 16cv003978, Calif. Super., Monterey Co.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Dec. 29 rescinded the 2015 final rule on hydraulic fracturing that had been passed during the Obama administration but was never enacted as a result of pending litigation. The agency’s action was published in the Federal Register.
PITTSBURGH — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Dec. 13 issued an order closing a case in which a hydraulic fracturing company sued a municipality over its right to prohibit underground injunction control (UIC) wells used for disposing waste from fracking operations. The one-sentence order provided no explanation for the ruling (Seneca Resources Corporation v. Highland Township, et al., No. 16-289, W.D. Pa.).
DENVER — Two men who formerly worked for a hydraulic fracturing company filed a brief in Colorado federal court on Dec. 8, arguing that the fracking company cannot show good cause for expediting the additional discovery that it seeks in its lawsuit in which the company alleges that the men misappropriated trade secrets (EOG Resources Inc. v. Ryan Birkenfeld, et al., No. 17-2721, D. Colo.).
DELTA, Colo. — A Colorado man on Dec. 8 moved in state court seeking reconsideration of the court’s decision to convert his motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment under the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure (CRCP) in a libel lawsuit filed against him by a hydraulic fracturing company that contends that it was defamed by negative comments the man made online (SG Interests I Ltd., et al. v. Peter K. Kolbenschlag, No. 2017-cv-030026, Colo. Dist., Delta Co.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A study published in the journal “Science Advances” on Dec. 13 concludes that there is evidence that there are negative effects of in utero exposure to hydraulic fracturing sites when they are located within 1.86 miles of a mother’s residence based on the detection of nonmethane hydrocarbons, which cause personal injury — especially to fetuses.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Outdoor outfitter Patagonia Inc. joined with other groups, including the nonprofit Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB), to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Dec. 6 against the Trump administration regarding the president’s decision to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument, which the plaintiffs argue would eliminate protection for the land and would open the area to hydraulic fracturing activity (Utah Diné Bikéyah, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2605, D. D.C.).
DALLAS — The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on Dec. 7 filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for its decision to approve dumping of waste from offshore hydraulic fracturing operations into the Gulf of Mexico.