Fracking Litigation (US New York)

Useful New York Times (NYT) update on New York municipal litigation and rules already enacted is found here.

Per the NYT: Fracking has been the subject of five years of evaluation by state officials, including a continuing, and some say strategically delayed, “health impact analysis” by the New York State Health Department — a process whose pace has been criticized by both supporters and opponents of fracking. In August 2011, Dryden, New York, passed a municipal zoning ordinance effectively forbidding hydraulic fracturing. The ordinance prompted a lawsuit now being mulled by New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, whose ruling could settle the long-simmering issue of whether the state’s municipalities can ban the drilling process.

Per the NYT: “It’s going to decide the future of the oil and gas industry in the state of New York,” said Thomas West, a lawyer for Norse Energy Corporation USA, which has sought to have the ban overturned and will file legal briefs on the appeal on Monday.

Pilliga Gas Project (Australia)

The Federal Minister for the Environment, Australia, has ruled the Santos’ plan to explore for coal seam gas (CCG) in the Pilliga is not a “controlled action” under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This means the new “water trigger” in the Environment and Biodiversity Protection Conservation Act is not invoked (Santos already has state NWS permissions), and a full environmental impact study is not required.

In June, Santos itself made a referral under the federal Environment and Biodiversity Protection Conservation Act seeking federal clearance for the program.

In July, the federal Environment Department confirmed it had received 3,800 submissions concerning Santos’ planned development, the vast majority of which opposed the project. Here is the web presence of one of the campaign groups.

Here is the ABC news article on the Federal Minister’s decision.

Conditions are:

(1) If the threatened Pilliga Mouse, Regent Honeyeater or Koala are found in pre-clearance surveys, no construction is to take place during their breeding season.

(2) Staff and contractors must attend an induction by an ecologist;

(3) The groundwater must be monitored; and

(4) There must be log book records kept of flora and fauna.

The Minister’s decision allows for the felling of up to 400 hollow-bearing trees and the removal of up to 235 Cobar Greenhood Orchids.

Per the ABC news article – Santos says it’s pleased to learn its activities in the Pilliga do not impact water resources or other Commonwealth matters of national environmental significance. Spokesman, Sam Crafter, says the Commonwealth’s decision allows Santos to drill 15 new wells and turn on existing pilots already built by the former operator, Eastern Star Gas.

Fracking Bill (US California)

Senate Bill 4 (Sen. Fran Pavley) (US California) has passed the Senate and awaits Assembly floor vote (California legislature) (source: The Sacramento Bee).

Per The Sacramento Bee – this Bill if enacted would have energy companies inform communities of planned tracking projects, mandate greater disclosure on the chemicals to be used, and put in place a permitting system for tracking (triggering the type of environmental review associated with conventional oil & gas wells that currently require permits).

See here for The Sacrameto Bee update on developments, note the link to a parallel court action further down on the webpage.

Offshore Oil & Gas Safety

New safety regulations for the offshore oil & gas sector – for the US click here – for the EU see here.

In the US, there are amended safety rules and a mandated safety management system (SEMS) which all operators must adopt. Also the first round of verification of SEMS assessments is due in November 2013.

In the EU, a new European Directive will oblige rig operators and oil & gas operators to prepare safety reports to prevent major accidents and minimise their consequences. European companies involved in major accidents overseas will be required to report the circumstances in their country of domicile. Also, any operator or rig owner working in European waters will have their corporate global safety policy subject to local regulator scrutiny.