In an “end run” effort around the state legislature, proponents of more restrictive oil and gas well setback requirements in Colorado are employing the initiative process to achieve more restrictive minimum setbacks than present state law permits. On June 30th, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that three potential ballot initiatives permitting a state constitutional amendment requiring the more restrictive setbacks did not violate “the single subject rule.” Constitution, State of Colorado, Article V section 1(5.5) and section 1-40-106.5(1)(e), C.R.S. (2013).
According to a new study in the journal, Science, an increase in the number of earthquakes in central Oklahoma likely arises from the use of underground injection wells to dispose of treated wastewater from oil and gas fracking operations. The study, funded in part by the U.S. Geological Survey (“USGS”)and the National Science Foundation (“NSF”), focused on Oklahoma earthquakes and injection well practices. The research was led by Cornell University and included researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Earlier today, June 23, 2014, the United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to EPA’s current approach to regulating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) through its air permitting program for new or expanding stationary sources. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency. No. 12-1146, ___ U.S. ___, June 23, 1014. The Court said it left intact EPA’s ability to regulate 83 percent of such GHG emissions, compared to the 86 percent EPA championed under its approach. Nevertheless, in its ruling the Court undercut key foundations of EPA’s current GHG regulatory approach. This ruling will require EPA to re-think many aspects of its approach to GHGs and will give opponents increased leverage in the upcoming discussions.
The Ventura County Star reported on June 17th that the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (the “Division”), has modified its proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations mandated by last year’s Senate Bill 4, requiring well operators to conduct real-time seismic monitoring. The modified regulations specify that they apply both to offshore and on shore oil drilling operations. Most drilling off the California coast, however, occurs in federal waters that are beyond the reach of state regulations.
On June 17, 2014, EPA issued a proposed rule in the Federal Register, 79 Fed. Reg. 34480, proposing to amend the standards and practices for satisfying All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) under CERCLA. In particular, EPA is proposing to remove references to the 2005 Phase I ESA Standard ASTM E1527-05 as satisfying AAI.
Earlier today, June 9, 2014, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, et al., slip op. No. 13–339 (U.S., 6-9-2014). Reversing the Fourth Circuit, the Supreme Court held that the Superfund law’s preemption of state statutes of limitation for personal injury or property damage claims does not apply to state statutes of repose. Not every state has such a statute on the books, but for those that do, this may provide an additional shield for defendants, and an additional hurdle for plaintiffs.