Matter of Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., Case No. U-17195 (Mich. Pub. Serv. Comm’n June 28, 2013). The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved the construction and operation of two natural gas pipelines. Petitioners filed a petition to intervene, consolidate proceedings, vacate the decisions, and hold a hearing to receive additional evidence. They also filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was stayed during the pendency of the MPSC petition. In April 2013, MPSC denied the request to intervene for lack of standing. Petitioners moved for reconsideration. On reconsideration, MPSC concluded that due to limited jurisdiction it could not consider environmental issues and that petitioners had brought their challenge in the wrong forum.
Mont. Envtl. Info. Ctr. v. BLM, (D. Mont. June 14, 2013). In this challenge to BLM’s decisions approving oil and gas leases on public lands, plaintiffs asserted that BLM had failed to comply with NEPA because BLM allegedly failed to adequately consider climate change impacts. The court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit on standing grounds, finding that plaintiffs had failed to establish injury-in-fact. Noting that plaintiffs’ recreational and aesthetic interests were “uniformly local” and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions “diffuse and unpredictable,” the court found that plaintiffs had presented “no scientific evidence or recorded scientific observations to support their assertions that BLM’s leasing decisions will present a threat of climate change impacts on lands near the lease sites.” The court further held that plaintiffs had made no effort to show that methane emissions from the lease sites would make a “meaningful contribution” to global warming and had thus failed to show that potential climate change impacts to the local environment were “fairly traceable” to greenhouse gas emissions associated with the challenged leases.
In re West Bay Exploration Co., UIC App. Nos. 13-01 & 13-02 (E.A.B. Apr. 16, 2013). Petitioners challenged an underground injection control permit for an oil and gas-related brine wastewater disposal well in Mississippi issued to West Bay Exploration Co. by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region V. Among other things, the petitions challenged EPA’s findings that the permitted injection would not contaminate underground sources of water and that the well would not adversely affect endangered species, including the Indiana bat. The Environmental Appeals Board dismissed the petitions as moot after the Region V regional administrator unilaterally withdrew the permit.
In re Stonehaven Energy Mgmt., LLC, UIC Appeal No. 12-02 (E.A.B. Mar. 28, 2013). Petitioner sought review of EPA Region III’s issuance of an underground injection control permit to Stonehaven Energy Management Co., LLC, which intended to convert an existing well to an injection well for disposal of brine produced from Stonehaven’s oil production operations. The Environmental Appeals Board remanded the permit in part, finding that Region III had not responded adequately to public comments regarding the risks of contamination of underground sources of water due to earthquakes or faults.
Western Energy Alliance v. Salazar, No. 11-8071 (10th Cir. Mar. 12, 2013). Plaintiffs sued BLM alleging that it violated the Mineral Leasing Act by failing to issue oil and gas leases within 60 days of the dates on which the top qualified bidders paid for the leases. In 2011, the district court ruled that BLM was required to determine whether or not lands are to be leased within 60 days of payment, but was not required to issue the lease within the 60-day timeframe. In 2013, the Tenth Circuit dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal on the jurisdictional ground that the district court’s June 2011 decision and order was not a “final decision” because the court had remanded the matter back to the agency for further action.