Robinson Rejected: Zoning Ordinance Permitting Oil and Gas Development in Residential-Agricultural Districts Is Constitutional

Jeremy A. MercerMargaret Anne Hill, and Frank L. Tamulonis III

Consistent with a line of recent Commonwealth Court decisions, the Commonwealth Court once again held that a township did not violate the Pennsylvania Constitution by passing an ordinance that allowed oil and gas development in various zoning districts, including residential-agricultural (R-A) districts. In Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board, 2017 Pa. Commw. Unpub. LEXIS 415 (Pa. Cmwlth. June 7, 2017), the Court upheld an ordinance and the zoning hearing board’s approval of an oil and gas permit in an R-A district over the objections of numerous entities, including the Clean Air Council (“CAC”) and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (“Riverkeepers”), who claimed that the township and/or board actions violated several provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Continue reading “Robinson Rejected: Zoning Ordinance Permitting Oil and Gas Development in Residential-Agricultural Districts Is Constitutional”

Drill on Through to the Other Side: No Trespass When Drilling Through Mineral Estate with Surface Use Agreement

Elizabeth E. KlingensmithJeremy A. Mercer, and Amy L. Barrette

The Texas Supreme Court annunciated two critical points in Lightning Oil Co. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore: (1) unauthorized interference may be a trespass only when it impacts the mineral lessee’s ability to exercise its rights to explore, obtain, produce, and possess the leased minerals; and (2) the trespass injury must outweigh the interests of the industry as a whole and society in maximizing oil and gas. Continue reading “Drill on Through to the Other Side: No Trespass When Drilling Through Mineral Estate with Surface Use Agreement”

Stretching Sovereign Immunity: The New Jersey High Court Immunizes the State from New Jersey Spill Act Liable for Pre- 1977 Discharges

Sophia LeeKevin J. Bruno, and Louis D. Abrams

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in NL Industries, Inc. v. State of New Jersey will frustrate the equitable allocation of cleanup costs at sites involving pre-1977 discharges where the State would otherwise qualify as a responsible party. Such a result would be particularly severe considering the high cleanup price tag for many sites predating 1977. Any party involved in or contemplating such a contribution action against the State should be mindful of this decision when determining how best to proceed. This should include determining whether a federal forum and contribution claims under the NJ Spill Act’s federal counterpart, CERCLA, might achieve a better result. Continue reading “Stretching Sovereign Immunity: The New Jersey High Court Immunizes the State from New Jersey Spill Act Liable for Pre- 1977 Discharges”

Stirring Up the Hornet’s Nest: Political Risk and Infrastructure

Michael L. Krancer

As the agenda at this year’s Northeast U.S. Petrochemical Construction Conference (June 19-20, Pittsburgh) will attest, there’s one thing that any new buildout of downstream petrochemical facility needs and that is an ample and reliable supply of upstream and midstream feedstock extraction and transportation. In the past supply was much easier to count on than it is today. Today’s new landscape of political opposition to hydrocarbons poses new risks that must be managed just like any other financial or enterprise risk. The opposition is committed to nothing short of destruction of the hydrocarbons business from the well-pad to the chemical plant to the consumer. Thus far, industry has underestimated this political risk and that is proving to be costly. Continue reading “Stirring Up the Hornet’s Nest: Political Risk and Infrastructure”

Court Rebuffs Dep’s New Chapter 78A Oil and Gas Regulations

Michael L. Krancer and Michael Joseph Montalbano

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court stayed, at least for now, implementation of portions of the new Chapter 78a oil and gas regulations that it considered rogue. These new rules are the poster child for “train-wreck” regulation—they come with the trifecta of horribles: (1) a huge price tag; (2) little or no environmental benefit; and (3) at a time when prices for Pennsylvania producers are low.  This is good news for the competitiveness of Pennsylvania as a leader in responsible energy production. Businesses in the oil and gas industry, royalty owners, and companies in the supply chain should keep a close eye out as this case progresses, as they will be significantly impacted depending on future developments in this case. Continue reading “Court Rebuffs Dep’s New Chapter 78A Oil and Gas Regulations”

Pittsburgh Penguins Are the Energy Story of the Year!

Michael L. Krancer

Pittsburgh coal may be dead, but the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins are the “energy” story of the year—maybe the century. At the turn of the New Year, the Penguins were deader than a rusty, retired coal plant. The team appeared to be out of the playoffs and armchair pundits like me were saying that Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby was a spent force. Now, those same plucky Penguins have been producing more energy than a matter/antimatter reactor and moved at warp speed to take the Stanley Cup back to the Steel City. Continue reading “Pittsburgh Penguins Are the Energy Story of the Year!”

More Obstacles Ahead for Pa. Net Metering Restrictions

Christopher A. Lewis

On the heels of high-profile solar regulatory decisions in Nevada and Hawaii last year and in California earlier this year, Pennsylvania took center stage last week in the ongoing battle over net metering policy. Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) disapproved a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) rulemaking that would have imposed additional limitations on the size of systems that qualify for net metering credit. IRRC’s disapproval of the rulemaking means that further attempts to reform net metering policy in Pennsylvania will likely have to come through legislative action. Continue reading “More Obstacles Ahead for Pa. Net Metering Restrictions”