Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 33 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in Colorado, Oklahoma, 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.
Colorado – The University of Colorado has designed a searchable database of water regulations targeting the oil and gas sector in Colorado and ten other states experiencing increased oil and gas development due to hydraulic fracturing. The Oil & Gas Water Quality Database will enable policymakers, industry officials, and citizens to consider the extent of states’ water quality laws, and compare such laws with those of other states, according to the December 10th, 2013 announcement of the project. The database consists of an interactive map and downloadable documents explaining each state’s water quality regulations. The eleven states with water quality laws included in the database are Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Oklahoma – The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma has granted a motion to dismiss filed by the Roger Mills County Board of Commissioners in a lawsuit filed against the County by Overflow Energy, LLC. The company contended that the County’s denial of an application for a variance from zoning regulations was preventing it from using a well to dispose of saltwater from oil and gas operations. Overflow entered into an agreement on February 1st, 2012 to build a saltwater disposal facility on a tract of land that was zoned “agricultural” under the County’s comprehensive plan. The company filed an application for variance with the County Board of Adjustment because operation of a saltwater disposal facility fell outside the allowable uses of “agricultural” land. The application was denied on September 23rd, 2013 after a public hearing on the matter, and the company filed suit, alleging violations of its substantive due process rights under the 14th amendment. The court’s decision to dismiss the case noted that the issues requiring resolution involved unsettled areas of state law and would have substantial implications for a major state industry and the authority of all county zoning boards. Adding that land use and zoning cases are classic examples of important issues of local concern in which federal courts should be reluctant to intervene, the court concluded that its abstention was proper and dismissed the case.
Virginia – The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy held a public comment period from January 13th through February 12th to gauge whether it was necessary to promulgate a regulation requiring energy companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The Notice of Intended Regulatory Action asserted that, although hydraulic fracturing had been used safely in the state since the 1960s, the increased use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing warranted a fresh look at the issues involved with the practice. Current Virginia law requires companies to provide only a “general description” of chemicals used in drilling, and prohibits the use of drilling fluids with the potential to cause adverse health effects without being issued a variance from the department. The department collected 28 comments during the public comment period.