Owners of land with substantial oil and gas resources have begun using the “takings” concept of property law to challenge local bans on fracking. “Takings claims,” which traditionally involve the seizure of some or all of private property without just compensation to the owner, are now being expanded by plaintiffs to encompass the idea that moratoria and bans on fracking deprive landowners of their mineral rights without compensating for the lost economic value of the oil and gas that could be produced. Continue Reading
Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 41 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in Maryland, North Carolina, and Ohio. As we explained in earlier volumes, we designed the Roundup to provide quick overviews on state regulatory activity. If you have any questions on any of these summaries, please do not hesitate to ask. Continue Reading
Withdrawal of Areas from Oil and Gas Leasing Regions
Earlier this year, President Obama announced the withdrawal of five zones in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea oil and gas leasing regions, totaling 9.8 million acres. These include the Barrow and Kaktovik Whaling Areas in the Beaufort Seas, and the Hanna Shoal and Subsistence Areas and 25-mile buffer zone in the Chukchi Sea. The protections were announced alongside and appear as deferrals in the draft 2017–2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, published on January 29.
Some of these areas had previously been excluded from leasing plans by both Democratic and Republican Administrations, and others are newly exempted. Areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea regions and Cook Inlet region are identified for potential sale in the draft Proposed Program. Continue Reading
Last Friday, the Department of Interior released its final rule updating the regulations that govern hydraulic fracturing on federal public and American Indian lands. It covers standards for wells and well construction, disposal of wastewater, and disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process. These regulations have been in the works since 2012, and Interior received more than 1.5 million comments on its draft rules.
The new rule will require validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones. Operators also must take measures to lower the risk of cross-well contamination with fracking chemicals and fluids, a goal that will be achieved through the mandatory submission of more detailed information on the geology, depth, and location of preexisting wells. Construction also must be guided by a specifically designed and implemented casing and cementing program that follows best practices and meets performance standards in order to protect and isolate usable water. During well construction, the site must monitor cementing operations and must take remedial action if there is an indication of inadequate cementing. If remedial action is taken, the operator must prove it was successful. Before beginning the hydraulic fracturing operation, the operator must perform a successful mechanical integrity test. The operator must also monitor annulus pressure throughout the fracturing operation. Continue Reading
Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 40 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. As we explained in earlier volumes, we designed the Roundup to provide quick overviews on state regulatory activity. If you have any questions on any of these summaries, please do not hesitate to ask. Continue Reading
The federal government can restrict access to public lands for oil and gas drilling purposes through a number of means. Recently, President Obama’s proposal to designate millions of acres of land in Alaska as wilderness made the national press, as did his recent designation of forestlands in California as a national monument and his outright removal of areas off the coast of Alaska from planned lease sales. While these actions are important and deserve close scrutiny, it is both interesting and alarming that critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act rarely command the headlines like wilderness and monument designations. Continue Reading
Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 39 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in Maryland, Oregon, and Virginia. As we explained in earlier volumes, we designed the Roundup to provide quick overviews on state regulatory activity. If you have any questions on any of these summaries, please do not hesitate to ask. Continue Reading
Several environmental groups have sued EPA, seeking a decision on a 2012 petition (“2012 Petition”) they filed with the agency, which requests that EPA add oil and gas exploration wells to the list of facilities required to report releases of toxic chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory (“TRI”) pursuant to the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (“EPCRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 11023(b). The plaintiffs allege that EPA’s delay in responding to their 2012 Petition is unreasonable under the Administrative Procedures Act and ask the Court to order EPA to issue a final response to their 2012 Petition within sixty (60) days. Continue Reading
Recently released data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s National Enforcement Initiative demonstrate how intensely EPA’s enforcement program is focused on the oil and gas industry, especially within key shale plays and basins.
More specifically, this map overlays the location of concluded enforcement actions and inspections and evaluations between fiscal years 2011 and 2014 over the boundaries of major shale plays and basins. Individual data points include the year of the action, the site, its program ID, latitude and longitude, and a link to the online detailed facility report. For concluded enforcement actions, data on enforcement is available through the detailed facility report. Continue Reading
Hydraulic fracturing and energy policy promise to be an interesting area to watch in 2015 as many competing political forces push to control the agenda. The new Republican Congress was sworn in last week, and has promptly sought changes in energy policy such as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and expediting U.S. natural gas exports. On the other hand, the Obama Administration must increase its rulemaking pace to ensure that the President’s top regulatory priorities are finalized (and potentially defended against legal challenges) by the end of his term. Continue Reading