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Oil and Gas

Federal Court Halts Wetland Permitting – Nationwide Permit 12 (Utility Activities)

Pipeline companies, utilities, engineers, builders and land developers, and other construction companies that rely on Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 for utility line and trenching activities in and around potential wetland areas will need to carefully re-evaluate their ability to conduct work under this general permitting tool.  This is because on April 15, 2020, a federal district court vacated NWP 12 and determined that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) had not adequately considered impacts in issuing the 2017 permit under the federal Endangered Species Act.  As a result of this court ruling, pipeline and utility infrastructure projects that rely on NWP 12 may be impacted.

Landmark Decision Re: Climate Change and Allegations of Securities Fraud

Trial Court Absolves ExxonMobil

On December 10, 2019, following twelve days of trial and testimony, Judge Barry R. Ostrager of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, denied the State of New York’s claims that ExxonMobil engaged in securities fraud by either violating the Martin Act or Executive Law  63(12).  New York had claimed that ExxonMobil failed to make proper public disclosures related to how ExxonMobil accounted for past, present and future climate change risks.

Colorado Oil and Gas Health Risk Study

Short-term risks of exposure can include headaches, dizziness, and respiratory, skin and eye irritation

Building on an earlier assessment released in February 2017, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental released a state-funded study on October 17, 2019 titled:  “Human Health Risk Assessment for Oil & Gas Operations in Colorado.”  A peer-reviewed article summarizing the study was published in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.

Citizens Sue to Prevent Colorado Oil and Gas Commission From Issuing Oil and Gas Permits

A Court Order Halting Agency Actions Would Prevent Any Oil and Gas Permitting for Months While the Commission Promulgates Revised Regulations  

 On October 8, 2019, a citizens group based in Broomfield, Colorado, filed suit in Denver District Court requesting a Court order for an immediate stay of all actions by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC”) involving “permitting of any drilling, pooling, and spacing units until the COGCC rulemaking is completed.”

Colorado Mining Operations Face Temporary Cessation Roadblock

Case of First Impression Overturns Mined Land Reclamation Board Ruling

On July 25, 2019, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a ruling of the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board (“MLRB” or “agency”) which had authorized a second period of temporary cessation for a uranium mine.  The Court in Information Network for Responsible Mining, Earthworks, and Sheep Mountain Alliance v. Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board was asked to determine if the agency properly authorized a “second period of temporary cessation” which would allow the mining permit issued by the MLRB to remain in effect.

Trump Administration EPA to Focus Criminal Enforcement on Significant and Egregious Violators, Citing 1994 “Devaney Memorandum”

A high-ranking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement official in the Trump Administration recently cited a 1994 memorandum by Earl Devaney, then Director of EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, as presenting guiding principles to select cases for criminal enforcement of environmental violations. The January 12, 1994, memorandum, “Exercise of Enforcement Discretion,” is often referred to as the “Devaney Memorandum,” and it is available at this link:  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/exercise.pdf. This may signal that criminal enforcement of environmental laws under the Trump Administration will be limited to situations in which there has been significant actual or threatened environmental harm and truly culpable conduct.