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Oil and Gas Update

Legislation

Federal Court Rejects Use of Virginia County Flood Ordinance to Limit Natural Gas Pipeline Construction

A federal court in Virginia has ruled that a county’s attempt to impede an interstate gas pipeline with a floodplain ordinance is preempted by the federal Natural Gas Act.  See Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC v. Nelson County Board of Supervisors, No. 3:18-00115 (W.D. Va. March 9, 2020).

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (“ACP”) holds a certificate from FERC under the Natural Gas Act to construct and operate…

West Virginia Enhances Penalties for Trespass and Damages to Critical Infrastructure

The West Virginia Legislature has adopted a West Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. See W. Va. Code §61-10-34 (copy available at https://legiscan.com/WV/text/HB4615/2020). The new Act establishes three categories of criminal actions concerning “critical infrastructure”.

  1. Trespass: It is a misdemeanor to “willfully and knowingly … enter[] property containing a critical infrastructure…

FERC Sidesteps New York’s Denial of CWA §401 Certification Giving Go-Ahead to Millennium Pipeline Company Spur

For any company desiring to construct a natural gas pipeline, all roads lead to FERC.” Millennium Pipeline Company, L.L.C. v. Seggos, 860 F.3d 696, 698 (D.C. Cir. 2017).

In a significant and already controversial decision issued in mid-September, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) granted approval for Millennium Pipeline Company L.L.C. (“Millennium”)…

One Project, Many Lawsuits

On August 23rd, the federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a decision by the Corps of Engineers to issue a Clean Water Act §404 permit to Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company to construct about 13 miles of “looped” pipeline in two counties in northeastern Pennsylvania (read the JK Energy & Environmental Monitor summary of Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. U.S. Army Corps of…

Sierra Club Links Up with Libertarian Landowners in Continued Opposition to Gas Development

Opponents of natural gas development do not have the resources to challenge individual well permits in the Marcellus and related shale gas basins. Instead, they understand that the future of the industry depends on assembling the rights to draw gas from fractionated ownership and on the ability to attract higher prices by building transmission pipelines to carry the gas to new markets.  So, the…

Virginia Supreme Court Largely Affirms Right of Pipeline to Conduct Property Surveys and Examinations without Landowner Approval

The Virginia Supreme Court issued two opinions on July 13, 2017, addressing the rights of pipelines to survey property without landowner permission. In the first, Chaffins v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, the Court considered what constitutes adequate prior notice by a pipeline company to gain access for surveys and property evaluation in the absence of landowner approval. In the second, Palmer…

California Plaintiffs Seek to Address Climate Change Via State Tort Suits

On July 17, 2017, the governments of California’s Marin and San Meteo counties, as well as the city of Imperial Beach, filed three separate complaints in California Superior Court in their respective counties against 37 oil, gas, and coal companies. We have previously written about similar suits filed by citizen groups, states, and cities in federal court here.

Although most of these suits…

Pennsylvania Court Rules that DEP Applied Wrong Standard in Requiring Compressor Station and Natural Gas Well Pad to Aggregate Air Emissions for Permitting Purposes

In a decision issued on June 2, 2017, a Pennsylvania court disagreed with the conclusions of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) that a compressor station and natural gas well pad owned and operated by two separate business entities should be considered a single source of air emissions regulated by a single air permit simply because they…

Delaware Riverkeeper Asks Third Circuit to Expedite Review of Corps-Issued Permit for Pipeline

We have written before about the effect of the Natural Gas Act on environmental permits issued for pipelines.   Generally, the Natural Gas Act preempts the effect of many local laws on pipelines, but preserves obligations to obtain permits under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.  Nonetheless, in 2005, Congress amended the Natural Gas Act to provide that challenges to those permits are to be heard…

South Carolina Federal Court Upholds Distinction Between Point Source and Non-Point Source Pollution

On April 20, 2017, a South Carolina federal district court dismissed an environmental group’s Clean Water Act (“CWA”) citizen suit against Plantation Pipe Line Company, Inc. (“PPL”) and its parent company, Kinder Morgan Energy Partner, L.P., which own a 3,100 mile petroleum pipeline.  The pipeline leaked 369,000 gallons in December 2014.  The leak was repaired within a few…

Ohio Supreme Court to Hear Appeal on Expansion of Implied Covenants

Ohio Supreme Court to hear case seeking to expand the implied covenant to reasonably develop to include the obligation to explore deeper formations in Alford v. Collins-McGregor Operating Company, Washington App. No. 16CA9, 2016-Ohio-5082.

In this case, the plaintiff landowners sought a declaration of partial forfeiture of their leases, as to all depths below the Gordon Sand Formation, on the…

 

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