16 August 2016

Sidley Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Report

Vol. 5, No. 33

Topics discussed in this week’s Report include:

  • Kansas: State imposes additional restrictions on oil and gas wastewater disposal to address concerns over seismicity.
  • Colorado: Petitions are filed for ballot initiatives that would restrict hydraulic fracturing.
  • EPA’s Science Advisory Board issues critique of agency’s June 2015 hydraulic fracturing study.
  • Environmental groups send notice of intent to file new challenge to hydraulic fracturing in the Pacific Ocean.

Federal

Environmental groups send notice of intent to file new challenge to hydraulic fracturing in the Pacific Ocean. The Environmental Defense Center and the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (the NGOs), sent a 60-day notice of intent to file suit against various federal agencies, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, contending that the agencies violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when assessing the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing off California’s Pacific coast. The NGOs assert that the agencies violated the ESA by allegedly failing to engage in consultation to ensure that off-coast hydraulic fracturing does not harm listed endangered species or their critical habitat. In an earlier round of litigation brought by the NGOs, a federal court ordered the agencies to conduct an environmental assessment of hydraulic fracturing in the Pacific under the National Environmental Policy Act; that assessment found that offshore hydraulic fracturing would have no significant impact.

EPA’s Science Advisory Board issues critique of agency’s June 2015 hydraulic fracturing study. In its final report on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft June 2015 study of hydraulic fracturing’s impacts on drinking water, EPA’s Science Advisory Board criticized the EPA’s conclusion that hydraulic fracturing did not cause widespread drinking water contamination. The board’s report claimed that the EPA did not possess sufficient quantitative support for that conclusion and generally did not specify the magnitude of various risks possibly associated with hydraulic fracturing. In a dissent, four board members argued that the EPA did adequately justify its conclusion that hydraulic fracturing does not cause systemic drinking water problems.

States

Colorado: Petitions are filed for ballot initiatives that would restrict hydraulic fracturing. Environmental groups filed petitions seeking to place two initiatives regarding hydraulic fracturing on Colorado’s ballot in November. Initiative 75 would require the state to amend its constitution to grant local governments the right to regulate oil and gas development within their borders, including banning it. Initiative 78 would amend the state constitution to require 2,500 foot setbacks from any occupied structure for new oil and gas sites. The ballot drives are in response to Colorado Supreme Court decisions from May, discussed in this publication, which prohibited localities from banning hydraulic fracturing within their borders or issuing moratoria on its use. An initiative will be allowed on the November ballot if supported by 98,492 signatures of registered electors.

Kansas: State imposes additional restrictions on oil and gas wastewater disposal to address concerns over seismicity. In response to concerns over possible induced seismicity, the Kansas Corporation Commission reduced the amount of oil and gas wastewater that can be disposed in an area of south central Kansas from 25,000 barrels a day to 16,000 barrels a day. The area includes Harper and Sumner counties and parts of other counties. The commission’s order also requires its staff to analyze whether injection wells within a quarter mile of each other should be treated as a single well under the order. These restrictions are in addition to those the commission imposed on a group of five smaller areas last year.

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