Oil + Gas Update - No Constitutional Right to a Wilderness.
Natural gas prices remained relatively flat since our last report but remain low amidst reports of ample supply and average-to-cooler weather forecasts in the short term while oil prices dropped slightly alongside a flat rig count. In pipeline news, the D.C. Circuit upheld FERC orders regarding Atlantic Sunrise, Dominion says Atlantic Coast is still on schedule for 2021, and Williams filed for its Leidy South Expansion while environmental groups push to stop Mountain Valley and a resident sparked a dispute over public records involving Mariner East. In court news, a federal court in Oregon held that environmental groups and individuals lack standing to claim that federal policy supporting fossil fuel development deprives them of a fundamental right to a wilderness.
Here's your week in review...
Rig Counts, Spot Prices + Oil Prices
Rigs: National (-942); Marcellus (56); Utica/Point Pleasant (15)
Brent Crude: -$61.181/bbl
West Texas Intermediate: -$55.10/bbl
NYMEX: The August 2019 contract expired Monday @ -$2.141/MMBtu. The September 2019 contract opened +$2.233/MMBtu.
Spot Prices: Henry Hub (+$2.23/MMBtu); Dominion South (+$1.94/MMBtu); Tenn. Zone 4 (-$1.86/MMBtu)
("+" or "-" or blank denotes increase, decrease, or flat. )
WOPL - Appalachia
In our new section, WOPL ("waiting on pipelines"), we provide the latest news on the status of various pipeline projects in Appalachia:
Adelphia Project (Greater Philadelphia Region): Nothing new to report.
Atlantic Coast (W. Va. to Va. and NC): Dominion Energy says it still expects to open the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2021 despite delays caused by litigation. Sixteen states have filed briefs with SCOTUS urging review the Fourth Circuit’s decisions rejecting US FWS authorizations for the project. The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a request with FERC asking for an order “halting all construction” of the pipeline project.
Atlantic Sunrise (Northeastern PA to SE Pennsylvania): The D.C. Circuit upheld FERC orders approving the project and authorizing construction despite appeals and rehearing requests of individuals and environmental groups. (See below for more detail.)
Constitution (Northeastern PA to NY): Nothing new to report.
Empire Pipeline (NY to PA): Nothing new to report.
Leidy South - Benton Loop Expansion (PA): Williams filed an application with FERC seeking authorization for its Leidy South project to move gas from the Marcellus and Utica to markets along the Atlantic Seaboard by the 2021-2022 winter heating season.
Mariner East (Western PA to Eastern PA): A local resident is appealing a decision of the Public Utility Commission denying his request for records regarding Mariner East that contain confidential security information about pipelines that is exempt from public disclosure.
Mountaineer XPress (WV): Nothing new to report.
Mountain Valley Pipeline (Northern WV to Southern Va. and NC): Virginia’s environmental regulators ordered that all work cease on construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for “appalling” violations of E&S and other environmental controls.
NEXUS (Ohio to Michigan): Nothing new to report.
NFG FM100 Project (NC PA to Transco): Nothing new to report.
Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NJ/NY): Nothing new to report.
Northern Access (NW PA to Western NY): Nothing new to report.
PennEast (PA to Central Jersey): Nothing new to report.
Regional Energy Access (NE PA to PA/NJ): Nothing new to report.
Revolution Pipeline (PA): Nothing new to report.
Rover (OH, WV, PA to Michigan): Nothing new to report.
TransCanada Eastern Panhandle Project (PA to WV): Nothing new to report.
Headlines & Holdings - Appalachia
Kansas Federal Court Certifies “Company Man” Class Action. A federal court in Kansas conditionally certified a class action of “company men” classified as independent contractors who are paid a day rate for a 12-hour shift but not paid overtime for working more than 12 hours. Hancock v. Lario Oil & Gas Co., No. 219CV02140JARKGG, 2019 WL 3494263 (D. Kan., Aug. 1, 2019).
DC Circuit Denies Appeal of FERC Orders Approving Atlantic Sunrise Project Despite Critique of Concurring Judge. The DC Circuit upheld a FERC order granting Atlantic Sunrise’s certificate of public convenience and authorizing construction on the project following ASR’s condemnation actions in Pennsylvania, stating that the environmental groups and landowners can’t rehash old arguments regarding Pennsylvania’s environmental rights amendment and due process that the court previously rejected and concluding that the FERC record supported its actions. In a concurring opinion, Judge Millett critiqued FERC’s process of granting rehearing to toll the statutory appeal period while allowing companies to proceed with condemnation actions and construction even though challengers cannot appeal until FERC acts on rehearing requests. Allegheny Def. Project v. FERC, --- F.3d ---, No. 17-1098, 2019 WL 3518835 (D.C. Cir., Aug. 2, 2019).
Headlines & Holdings - Beyond Appalachia
No Standing to Claim Constitutional Right to “Wilderness,” Says Oregon Federal Court. A federal judge in Oregon concluded that an environmental group lacked standing to claim that the federal government’s support of fossil fuel development and the resulting harms of climate change violated the plaintiffs’ fundamental right to a wilderness, holding that the harm the plaintiffs seek to redress is a “diffuse, global phenomenon that affects every citizen of the world,” as opposed to individualized harm and reasoning that the district courts are not a forum for the type of “revolutionary thinking” that the plaintiffs want in order to recognize a new fundamental right nowhere found in the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent. Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S., --- F. Supp. 3d ---, No. No. 6:18-CV-01860-MC, 2019 WL 3467927 (D. Or., July 31, 2019).
Majors Ask Fourth Circuit to Undo State Remand in Baltimore Climate Case. The majors appealed the order of a federal court in Maryland that remanded the city’s lawsuit against energy companies alleging that they “substantially contributed to greenhouse gas pollution, global warming, and climate change by extracting, producing, promoting, refining, distributing, and selling fossil fuel products (i.e., coal, oil, and natural gas), while simultaneously deceiving consumers and the public about the dangers associated with those products” and “[a]s a result of such conduct, the City … has sustained and will sustain several injuries, including a rise in sea level along Maryland’s coast, as well as an increase in storms, floods, heatwaves, drought, extreme precipitation, and other conditions.” The majors argue that climate change is a uniquely federal issue that the district court ignored when it remanded the case to state court. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. BP PLC, No. 18-1644 (4th Cir.) (pending).
Federal Judge in Baltimore Climate Case Won’t Stay Remand Order Pending Appeal. The federal judge in the Baltimore climate change lawsuit against multi-national energy companies refused to stay the order remanding the case to state court in Baltimore, holding that the appellants didn’t meet the elements governing stays of remand orders pending appeal. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. BP PLC, --- F. Supp. 3d ---, No. CV ELH-18-2357, 2019 WL 3464667 (D. Md., July 31, 2019).
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