Vol. 6, No. 2

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • Argument in challenge to BLM hydraulic fracturing rule delayed until March.
  • Colorado: NGOs filed lawsuit to overturn BLM oil and gas drilling leases due to ozone pollution.
  • Maryland: Legislature halted hydraulic fracturing regulations and contemplates extending ban.

Federal

Argument in challenge to BLM hydraulic fracturing rule delayed until March. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently delayed oral argument in the oil and gas industry’s challenge to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) hydraulic fracturing regulations until the week of March 20. Oral argument had been scheduled to occur on Jan. 17. The delay in oral argument, which none of the parties requested, will give the incoming Trump administration an opportunity to review the lawsuit and underlying regulations and potentially change course.

States

Colorado: NGOs file lawsuit to overturn BLM oil and gas drilling leases due to ozone pollution. In a novel lawsuit, several environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have sued BLM alleging that emissions from 67 oil and gas drilling leases will contribute to ozone pollution in the Denver area. Denver is classified as a nonattainment area for the 2008 national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone. Oil and natural gas development produces nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that are ozone precursors. The NGOs allege that the lease sales violate the Clean Air Act, which requires federal agencies to ensure that their actions do not worsen air quality in NAAQS nonattainment areas. BLM had dismissed the NGOs’ allegations when it issued the leases, stating that the leases themselves did not authorize emissions-generating activities.

Maryland: Legislature halts hydraulic fracturing regulations and contemplates extending ban. Maryland legislators recently halted the approval process for new regulations that would permit hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale formation in the western portion of the state while the legislature considers extending a ban on hydraulic fracturing that is scheduled to end in October. The Maryland Department of Environment adopted the regulations in response to a legislative mandate when Maryland enacted a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in 2015. The regulations cannot go into effect until the legislature approves them. Under the current hold, the regulations cannot be approved until Feb. 27.