On March 25, 2016, 81 Fed. Reg. 16286, OSHA issued a new final rulemaking to reduce silica dust exposure that will directly affect more than 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing. OSHA explains that silica dust exposure occurs in common workplace operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock, and stone products (such as construction tasks), and operations using sand products (such as in glass manufacturing, foundries, sand blasting, and hydraulic fracturing).
Beginning October 1, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will target its enforcement efforts in seven different focused areas, including three areas designed to protect water quality, two initiatives aimed at reducing toxic air pollutants and reducing air pollution, an initiative to reduce accidental chemical releases from industrial facilities, and an enforcement initiative geared at energy extraction activities.
Lone Pine orders have become an increasingly common case management tool employed by trial courts to help streamline proceedings for defendants and the court while maintaining equity for the plaintiffs. Lone Pine orders are most often used in cases involving complex issues and multiple plaintiffs, but are becoming more widely employed in a greater variety of cases.
In another “end run” around the state’s General Assembly, proponents of greater restrictions on oil and gas exploration in Colorado are again employing the initiative process, this time to authorize local governments to enact laws within their geographic boundaries more restrictive than state law, and even go so far as to potentially ban all exploration activity. Alongside a companion ballot language challenge allowing for more restrictive statewide setback requirements (the subject of a prior article, (Colorado Supreme Court Approves Ballot Measure Language Restricting Fracking), the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that two ballot initiatives permitting a state constitutional amendment allowing for more restrictive local control 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).
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.
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 May 19th, EPA published an ANPRM in the Federal Register requiring the reporting and analyzing of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). EPA had delayed regulatory action for several years as environmental groups debated whether more transparent public disclosure was critical to ensure public safety, while industry representatives responded that regulation within their borders should be left to the states. The move largely comes as a result of insistence by Earthjustice and 114 other environmental groups, arising from a petition seeking greater federal involvement filed more than three years earlier.
In a first–of-its-kind-ruling, the LA Times reported yesterday that a six-person Texas jury awarded almost $3,000,000 against a natural gas company whose drilling, a ranching family contended, caused debilitating sickness, memory problems, killed pets and livestock, and forced them out of their home. Other landowners have sued over fracking claims and drilling, but reached settlements. However, this appears to be the first reported case which has proceeded to judgment.