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.
California – On January 14, the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources published a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) analyzing the impacts of well stimulation treatments, including hydraulic fracturing. The report, titled “Analysis of Oil and Gas Well Stimulation Treatments in California,” was prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, as required by Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law by Governor Brown in September 2013. Public comments on the draft EIR must be received by March 16. Separately, the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) has released an independent scientific assessment of well stimulation, including hydraulic fracturing. The assessment, titled “Well Stimulation Technologies and their Past, Present, and Potential Future Use in California,” describes well stimulation treatments, how they are practiced in California, and where they are being used for oil and gas production in the state. The assessment is the first of a three part series titled “An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation Technologies in California,” with the other two volumes expected to be released in July. Volume II will assess the potential impacts of stimulation treatments on water, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and induced seismicity. Volume III will offer case studies to assess environmental risks for specific geographic areas.
Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court has determined, in a February 17 ruling, that state law preempts local bans on oil and gas development. The court decided, in a 4-3 decision, that Munroe Falls’ local drilling and zoning ordinances could not be enforced, because they conflict with state law regulating oil and gas operations. The city obtained a court order to block Beck Energy Corp. from acting on the state permit it received in 2011 to drill a gas well on a residential property until the company complied with a local law that included an entirely separate municipal permitting process. The state’s Ninth District Court of Appeals reversed that decision, and the city appealed to the state Supreme Court. Justice Judith L. French, writing for the majority, stated that home rule does not allow a municipality to “discriminate against, unfairly impede, or obstruct oil and gas activities” that are permitted under state law.
Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed an executive order on January 29 that reinstates the previous ban on new leases for oil and gas development in state parks and forests. The new order (No. 2015-3) rescinds a May 2014 order by Gov. Tom Corbett (R), who Wolf defeated in the November 2014 election, that lifted a ban set by Gov. Ed Rendell (D) in 2010. The new order prohibits any park or state forest land owned or managed by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) from being leased for oil and gas development. The order does not go as far as Gov. Rendell’s previous order, which covered all lands owned or managed by DCNR, not just parks and forests.