Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 46 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in Colorado, New York, and Pennsylvania. 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.
Colorado – The Colorado Supreme Court has declared two local efforts to ban fracking “invalid and unenforceable,” leaving other attempts to ban fracking at the local level in a legally precarious position. The two decisions invalidated fracking bans in Longmont and Fort Collins. Fracking Insider previously covered a lower court’s decision striking down the Longmont measure (see here) and the passage of the Fort Collins ban at the ballot box in 2013 (see here). The decisions were welcomed by the Colorado Petroleum Council, which extolled the positive implications of the rulings for private property rights.
New York – The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has denied a Clean Water Act Section 401 permit for the proposed Constitution Pipeline, asserting that the application failed to meet the state’s water quality standards. The proposed 124-mile pipeline would have carried natural gas from the Marcellus shale region in northeast Pennsylvania to west of Albany, New York, delivering gas to New York and New England. Williams Partners LP is developing the pipeline with Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Company Inc., and WGL Holdings Inc. The four companies are considering challenging DEC’s decision in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, asserting that they voluntarily agreed to the state’s requests for route changes, trenchless construction techniques, trout stream restoration, and $18 million in wetland mitigation.
Pennsylvania – The state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) has voted 3 to 2 to approve updated Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites (Chapters 78 and 78a of the Pennsylvania Code). The revised standards include, for the first time, specific rules for hydraulic fracturing. They will be reviewed by the state legislature and the Attorney General before being published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, but the rules can only be stopped by a legal challenge or a vote by both chambers of the legislature, which Gov. Tom Wolf (D) would be expected to veto. The rules include separate chapters for conventional and unconventional drillers, which could be the basis of a legal challenge.