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Showing 30 posts in Drilling.

On March 2, 2020, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a municipality was allowed to proceed with challenging the validity of certain environmental state statutes under Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA). Pa. Dept. of Envtl. Prot. v. Grant Twp., No. 126 M.D. 2017 (Pa. Cmwlth. Mar. 2, 2020). The question addressed, whether and if so the extent to which the validity of Pennsylvania’s environmental statutes can be challenged under the ERA, was one left open by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Pa. Envtl. Defense Found. v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911 (Pa. 2017). Read More »

In a split 3-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the rule of capture applies to gas wells completed using hydraulic fracturing, though the Court’s holding was limited by the undeveloped factual record in the case. See Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production Co., No. 63 MAP 2018 (Pa. Jan. 22, 2020). With the Court’s decision, Pennsylvania joins Texas and other states that have applied the rule of capture to hydraulic fracturing. The narrow scope of the Court’s holding, however, makes it almost certain that neighboring landowners will continue to assert trespass and conversion claims against developers in Pennsylvania engaging in hydraulic fracturing until the law is further developed. Read More »

Last month in a 2-1 split, the Third Circuit held that state, not federal, law determined how much a landowner was entitled to as just compensation in condemnation proceedings brought by private entities under the Natural Gas Act of 1938. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., LLC v. Permanent Easement for 7.053 Acres, No. 17-3700 (3d Cir. July 23, 2019). The precedential decision will force natural gas companies to account for differences in state law in negotiations with landowners over what constitutes “just compensation” for a taking.   Read More »

Two recent decisions from two different states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, suggest that courts are becoming increasingly skeptical of landowners seeking to capitalize on oil and gas companies utilizing horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to access resources under the property of the landowners. Read More »

In Kerns v. Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, No. 18-3636 (6th Cir. Feb. 4, 2019), released on Monday, February 4, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a pipeline’s use of Ohio’s forced pooling law is not a taking under the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision, although not recommended for full text publication, is significant as more states enact and/or expand the scope of such laws, and may influence a similar suit brought in Colorado, within the Tenth Circuit, challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s forced pooling regulations.  Read More »

Since 2009, the Delaware River Basin Commission (“DRBC”) has effectively placed a moratorium on fracking activity within the Delaware River Basin (the “Basin”), premised on its assertion that any such activity is a “project” over which the DRBC has authority. But in Wayne Land & Mineral Group LLC v. Del. River Basin Comm’n, No. 17-1800, 2018 WL 3233784 (July 3, 2018), the Third Circuit, overturning a Pennsylvania District Court decision, has held that Delaware River Basin Compact’s (the “Compact”) definition of “project” is ambiguous, and that the DRBC may be without authority over fracking. The Third Circuit’s decision creates uncertainty regarding the scope of the DRBC’s authority and the future of fracking and other land use activities in the Basin. Read More »

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part a preliminary injunction issued by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court with respect to newly promulgated regulations regarding unconventional well drilling. Marcellus Shale Coal. v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot. of Commonwealth, 115 MAP 2016, 2018 WL 2452607 (June 1, 2018). In the decision, the Court rejected the argument that courts should defer to a regulatory agency when deciding a preliminary injunction with respect to the agency’s authority to issue regulations, and also shed light on how it interprets allegations of vagueness and conflict in agency regulations. The majority opinion was authored by Chief Justice Saylor and was joined in full by all the associate justices except for Justice Donohue, who authored a concurring and dissenting opinion. Justice Donohue’s opinion, perhaps most notably, voices her disagreement with the Commonwealth Court’s interpretation of Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, known as the Environmental Rights Amendment. Read More »

On June 1, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, held that a municipality was required to amend its zoning ordinance before it could allow natural gas operations in a residential-agricultural zoning district. Gorsline v. Bd. of Sup. of Fairfield Twp., et al., No. 67 MAP 2016, 2018 WL 2448803 (June 1, 2018).  Specifically, the Court ruled that the Fairfield Township Board of Supervisors improperly found that the drilling and operation of a natural gas well in a Residential-Agricultural (“R-A”) district was “similar to” other uses in the R-A district.  Although the Township’s zoning ordinance did not specifically allow drilling, the zoning ordinance provided that when a use is not specifically permitted by the zoning ordinance, the Supervisors may permit the use if, among other things, it is “similar to and compatible with the other uses permitted in the zone where the subject property is located.”  The Supervisors found that Inflection Energy, LLC’s proposed gas drilling was “similar to” other uses in the R-A district.  The Commonwealth Court upheld the Supervisors’ decision, finding that the gas drilling was similar to and compatible with a “public service facility,” which is a conditional use in the R-A district, and which is defined as the “erection, construction, alteration, operation or maintenance of buildings, power plants or substations, water treatment plants or pumping stations; sewage disposal or pumping plants and other similar public service structures by a utility, whether publicly or privately owned, or by a municipal or other governmental agency, including the furnishing of electrical, gas, communication, water supply and sewage disposal services.”   Read More »

Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated opinion in EQT Prod. Co. v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., No. 6 MAP 2017, 2018 WL 1516385, (Pa. Mar. 28, 2018), holding that the Clean Streams Law (“CSL”) does not authorize the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) to impose daily penalties for the ongoing, continuing presence of pollutants in waters of the Commonwealth. In the 5-to-2 decision, which affirmed in part the Commonwealth Court’s preceding opinion, the Court ruled that to construe the language of the CSL as allowing penalties for the movement of pollutants from one water body to another (DEP’s “water-to-water” theory) was not only unsupported by the statutory language, but would also expose the regulated community to potentially massive civil penalties, and as such, DEP’s penalty calculations including penalties for the days the pollutants remained in the affected groundwater after the initial discharge were excessive. Read More »

Do indirect discharges of pollutants into navigable waters amount to a violation of the Clean Water Act? On February 1st, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al. v. County of Maui, No. 15-17447, that discharges of pollutants originating from a point source violate the Clean Water Act even if the pollutants first enter another means of conveyance—in this case groundwater—before entering into a navigable waterway. Despite recent EPA efforts to roll back certain environmental regulations, the court gave no deference to EPA’s amicus curiae proposed liability rule requiring a “direct hydrological connection” between the point source and the navigable water. Read More »