Vol. 5, No. 50

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • EPA expected to release hydraulic fracturing report, although an investigative report has raised questions.
  • Environmental groups moved to intervene in challenge to BLM’s methane rule.
  • Oklahoma: Class action lawsuit filed against oil and gas companies over seismic activity near Cushing.

Federal

EPA expected to release hydraulic fracturing report, although an investigative report has raised questions. It is anticipated that before the end of the Obama administration, and possibly before the end of the year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue a final version of its study of the potential for the use of hydraulic fracturing to impact ground water. A central conclusion of the draft report issued in 2015 was that hydraulic fracturing does not cause “widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water. The draft has since been the subject of extensive review by EPA’s Science Advisory Board. Recently, a report published in Marketplace alleged that EPA changed key findings in the study after meeting with White House officials, including adding that central conclusion. Environmental groups have been calling on EPA to issue a final version of the study that clearly highlights the risks they believe hydraulic fracturing poses, while industry stakeholders have supported the study as based on very extensive data, thorough analysis and sound science.

Environmental groups move to intervene in challenge to BLM’s methane rule. A number of environmental groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians and Environmental Defense Fund, have moved to intervene in industry challenges to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule regulating methane emissions on public lands. The rule would limit venting and flaring of methane and also require leak detection of equipment and pipelines. The groups’ decision to seek intervention was motivated in part by concerns that the incoming Trump administration may decide not to defend the rule. The groups also requested to participate in a hearing scheduled for Jan. 6 related to industry petitioners’ motion for a preliminary injunction to bar implementation of BLM’s rule. The case is being heard by the same judge who struck down BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule earlier this year.

States

Oklahoma: Class action lawsuit filed against oil and gas companies over seismic activity near Cushing. A number of residents of Cushing, Oklahoma, have filed a class action lawsuit against White Star Petroleum LLC, Crown Energy Company, PetroWarrior LLC, FHA Investments LLC and Cher Oil Company, Ltd. as well as other unnamed defendants over increased seismic activity near Cushing that is allegedly related to the underground disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater. The suit alleges that the plaintiffs have suffered property damage, reductions in market value and physical and emotional suffering as a result of increased seismic activity. In additional to monetary damages, they are seeking a reduction in production waste, reinforcement of vulnerable structures and the establishment of an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center. Several other class action lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court in Oklahoma in response to increased seismicity allegedly related to oil and gas production.