Florida Governor Takes on the Environment

Environmental remediation work is about to pick up steam in Florida. In his first major policy act, recently inaugurated Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a broad executive order last Thursday aimed at tackling numerous water and environmental issues confronting the state. DeSantis, who was inaugurated on January 8, took office facing a number of environmental crises, including unprecedented levels of the red tide bacteria that killed wildlife and closed beaches along the Gulf of Mexico last year; toxic blue-green algae that has choked the St.
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PA Supreme Court Enforces “Impact Fees” Against Natural Gas Drillers, Defines Scope

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued an opinion providing guidance to the natural gas industry regarding the application of “impact fees” associated with hydraulic fracturing. ​In Snyder Brothers, Inc., v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, et. al., the court decided that natural gas drillers whose production from wells exceeds 90,000 cubic feet per day, for even one month of the year, will be required to pay impact fees. The decision overturns Pennsylvania’s intermediary appellate court’s prior decision that allowed drillers to avoid the impact fee if their vertical wells were classified as “stripper wells,” which, by definition, are not subject to impact fees due
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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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Appeals Court Leaves Potential for Hydraulic Fracturing Revival in the Delaware River Basin

Earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit issued a decision that leaves a glimmer of hope for hydraulic fracturing entrepreneurs in the Delaware River Basin, which encompasses portions of 24 counties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. On July 3, a three judge panel issued an opinion on their review of a Pennsylvania federal court’s decision to grant a motion to dismiss a case for declaratory relief brought by oil and gas
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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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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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