Michael W. Aceto

All articles by Michael W. Aceto

 

Fracking Wastewater Does Not Meet Definition of “Toxic” Under Pennsylvania Law, Appellate Court Says

Pennsylvania’s appellate courts continue to be active in shaping the state’s laws surrounding hydraulic fracturing. Recently, in Protect PT v. Penn Township Zoning Hearing Board and Apex Energy (PA) LLC, the Commonwealth Court affirmed a zoning board’s decision permitting a natural gas company to store large quantities of wastewater from fracking operations at and around multiple drilling sites because it did not meet the definition of “toxic” material, as set forth under local ordinance, among other reasons. In this decision involving multiple
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Pennsylvania Legislators in Favor of Fracking, Seek to Join Opposition Against Delaware River Basin Commission’s Moratorium

Earlier in 2017, we reported the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to reinstate a landowner’s challenge to the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the 24 county region, spanning across parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and New Jersey. In that decision (Wayne Land & Mineral Group LLC v. Del. River Basin Comm’n), the court held that the definition of the word “project,” as set forth in the DRBC’s governing document, the “Compact,” was ambiguous, and therefore remanded the case for the trial court to engage in fact-finding
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Hydraulic Fracturing Update: PA Appellate Court Permits Enforcement of $1 Million Dollar Penalty Upon Fracking Operator

Recently, a Pennsylvania Appellate Court decided to permit the enforcement of a monetary penalty levied upon a driller, totaling over $1.1 million, stemming from the delay of maintenance to leaks in a damaged liner of an impoundment used to contain wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations.    ​In EQT Production Company v. Department of Environmental Protection, Docket # 844 CD 2017, a driller challenged the extent of a monetary assessment against it by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing
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Pennsylvania Appellate Court Shapes Public Notification Requirements for Hydraulic Fracking Operations

Previously, we reported the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Marcellus Shale Coalition v. Department of Environmental Protection, et. al., where the court decided to preserve an injunction against the Department of Environmental Protection of Pennsylvania (DEP) to prevent the enforcement of various new rules pertaining to hydraulic fracturing operations. However, one of DEP’s proposed rules that the PA Supreme Court did not address was the public notification requirement, which, as we predicted, would be scrutinized by the lower courts. In the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s most recent decision related to challenges by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, some of DEP’s proposed public notice requirements were upheld; however, the court also
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New York Federal Court Rejects Landowner’s Claimed Right to Drill, But Will Challenges Continue?

A federal court in New York recently dismissed a landowner’s claim that the state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment and due process rights. In Morabito v. The State of New York, et. al., the plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Western District of New York, asserting that the state’s decision to prohibit high-volume fracking activities constituted a regulatory taking and/or arbitrary and irrational restriction on plaintiff’s property rights. The plaintiffs, who are farmers, own various properties in western New York atop
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Sides With Gas Industry, But Allows For Potential Enforcement of Two New Rules

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently decided to preserve an injunction against the Department of Environmental Protection of Pennsylvania (DEP) that prevents the enforcement of various new rules pertaining to hydraulic fracturing operations. In the case of The Marcellus Shale Coalition v. Department of Environmental Protection, et. al., industry organization, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), had sought a preliminary injunction, challenging the validity of several regulations relating to unconventional gas well operations (which includes hydraulic fracturing, as opposed to traditional oil
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What Happens to Wastewater From Oil and Gas Extraction? EPA Seeks Input

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun soliciting information for a new study that will examine how numerous entities across the U.S., including industry, stakeholders, local officials, energy providers, states, and the EPA itself, regulate and manage wastewater produced during the oil and gas extraction processes. The goal of the study is to develop better and more effective ways to dispose of, recycle, or reuse the wastewater generated during extraction. By way of example, and with regard to hydraulic
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Landmark Ruling: Trespass Claims Against Fracking Companies Proceed as Pennsylvania Recognizes Property Rights to Natural Gas

Recently, the Pennsylvania Superior Court — PA’s appellate court — published its opinion in Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production, potentially altering the landscape of hydraulic fracturing litigation in Pennsylvania. The intermediary appellate court’s decision centered on the interpretation of Pennsylvania’s rule of capture, which allows companies to drain a natural resource, including oil, gas, or water, from beneath property they do not own so long as they do not trespass on the surface level of the land. In its ruling, the Superior Court noted that the rule
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Power Struggle: A State’s Constitution Being Used to Oppose Hydraulic Fracturing

In June 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in PA Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et. al, (PEDF) establishing a broad interpretation of PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA), which is found in the Commonwealth’s Constitution. Some folks in PA might not know this, but it’s one of only a few states in the nation to recognize having clean air and water as a basic civil right for its citizens. The case, brought by the Pennsylvania Environmental
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New York City Sues Big Oil Over Effects of Climate Change

Earlier this month, the New York City government (the City) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against five of the world’s largest publically traded oil companies. The complaint alleges that the defendants significantly contributed to climate-change through the sale of oil and gas products over the years, resulting in property damage and subsequently forcing the City to incur other costs associated with weather-related prevention efforts, now and in the future. Specifically,
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A Public Hearing Before the Death Knell Tolls on U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The U.S. EPA will conduct a public hearing in Charleston, West Virginia on November 28 and 29, 2017 that concerns the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP, as passed under the Obama Administration in 2015, was designed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emitted by power plants. Under the CPP, the EPA assigned each state a goal to reduce emissions from existing power plants and gave the states broad discretion to devise their own
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Contaminated Water Supply Continues to Plague Puerto Rico

More than a month after Hurricane Maria reached Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 as a strong Category 4 hurricane, its catastrophic environmental effects continue to be felt as new problems complicate relief efforts. As of the middle of October 2017, approximately 35 percent of residents in Puerto Rico had no access to clean water. Relief teams began distributing water from a well at the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site, which had been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund list
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