Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 17 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Wyoming. 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.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania- Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC, a subsidiary of NiSource announced a pipeline project in Gloucester County, New Jersey and Chester County, Pennsylvania that would help further tie Marcellus gas production to Philadelphia-area markets. The project, which is an expansion from an existing transmission line that runs down the eastern seaboard, is expected to cost more than $210 million. The proposed Columbia project, like all project to bring Marcellus gas to market, will be strongly opposed by environmental groups. While the groups often raise objections under NEPA and the Endangered Species Act, the protests are really designed to sever gas produced with hydraulic fracturing from downstream markets. Nonetheless, Columbia anticipates FERC approval by June 2014 and the initiation of construction by early 2015.
North Dakota – OSHA and the National Service, Transmission, Exploration, and Production Safety Network (STEPS) has instituted a month-long safety program aimed at increasing safety at oil and gas operations operating in the Bakkan. The program calls for companies to take time for a voluntary safety stand-down wherein operations cease while safety initiatives like inspections, safety refreshers, and training can occur. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the “mining” industry category has a fatality rate of 15.8 workers per 100,000, but the fatality rate for oil and gas works is lower. The oil and gas industry generally has a good safety record. BLM estimates that exploration and development activities had an incident rate of 1.6 per 100 employees, compared to 2.2 for the rest of the mining sector. Refining incident rate of 1.1 is a quarter of the rate for the rest of the manufacturing sector. Pipeline transportation had a 0.0 incident rate in 2011, compared to 5.0 for the entire transportation sector.
Wyoming – The Wyoming House passed a bill that would force energy companies to cover the costs of landowners’ legal fees in successful challenges to use of eminent domain to access resources. Eminent domain issues are among the most contentious that face the energy industry and other land use industries. The legislation will now go to a conference committee to attempt to harmonize provisions in the House bill with a similar Senate bill.