Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 22 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in California, Maryland, and Puerto Rico. As we explained in earlier volumes, we designed the Roundup to provide quick overviews on state regulatory activity. If you have any questions on any of these summaries, please do not hesitate to ask.
California – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has set deadlines for the federal government and environmental activists to propose a remedy to its March finding that the BLM had failed to consider the risks of hydraulic fracturing when it leased 2,700 acres for oil and gas development in the state. The court issued the briefing order on May 15th, giving the parties until June 3rd to file their opening brief, the defendant until June 25th to file a response, and the plaintiffs until July 9th to file a reply brief. A hearing on the remedy was also set for July 16th. In the March 31st decision, the court rebuked BLM for not taking a “hard look” at the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, as required under NEPA, when it sold four oil and gas leases totaling 2,700 acres of federal land.
Maryland – Two pieces of legislation that could affect the future of hydraulic fracturing in the state, House Bill 828 and Senate Bill 854, were signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley on May 16th. H.B. 828 requires any person operating as a “land professional” to be certified by the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation before negotiating with a property owner for obtaining oil or gas mineral rights. S.B. 854 requires holders of drilling permits to provide financial assurance of at least $50,000 per well, and to carry environmental pollution liability insurance of up to $1 million per loss, in addition to current liability insurance mandates. Landman registration and financial assurance are often the subject of state hydraulic fracturing regulation.
Puerto Rico – FERC issued a ruling May 1st that EcoEléctrica LP’s planned LNG supply pipeline project is not subject to the agency’s mandatory pre-filing environmental review process, and that the company’s environmental assessment of the project is sufficient to comply with NEPA requirements. The company had asked FERC in April for this ruling for its proposal to install additional facilities at its existing export terminal. LNG export issues play an important part of the domestic natural gas picture as sufficient markets are seen as necessary to sustain continued development.