On August 22, 2023, the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) announced that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) has issued the final Well Control Rule for drilling, workover, completion and decommissioning operations. This final rule clarifies blowout preventer (“BOP”) system requirements, modifies certain specific BOP equipment capability requirements, and builds upon the regulatory reforms that were originally implemented by the DOI after 2010. The BSEE is setting an effective date of 60 days following publication of the final rule, by which time oil and gas operators in the federally regulated outer Continental Shelf will be required to comply with most of the final rule’s provisions. Operators have a one-year deferred compliance date following publication of the final rule to equip subsea BOP stacks with the remotely operated vehicle intervention capability to both open and close each shear ram, ram locks, and one pipe ram as required by 30 CFR § 250.734(a)(4). The final rule:Continue Reading BSEE Announces New Well Control Rule
The lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) is a grouse that occupies a five-state range, including the western areas of Kansas and Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, eastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado. As we explained in a previous article, in response to litigation and following a nearly thirty-year history of regulatory listing and delisting, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS or Service) proposed to re-list two distinct population segments (DPS) of the LPC under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in June, 2021. 86 Fed. Reg. 29,432 (June 1, 2021). The Service has now issued a final rule listing the Southern DPS of the LPC (covering southwest Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico) as endangered and the Northern DPS of the LPC (covering southwestern to southcentral Kansas, western Oklahoma, northeast Texas Panhandle, and southeast Colorado) as threatened under the ESA. 87 Fed. Reg. 72,674 (Nov. 25, 2022). The rule becomes effective on January 24, 2023. Continue Reading Here We Go Again: Lesser Prairie-Chicken Re-Listed Under the Endangered Species Act
We summarize recent developments for Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Lease Sale 258 (in Alaska’s Cook Inlet), Lease Sale 259 (in Gulf of Mexico), and subsequent opportunities available to upstream oil and gas companies.
Continue Reading BOEM Resumes OCS Lease Sales 258 and 259
A recent Fourth Circuit decision narrowly construed the state administrative enforcement bar to the Clean Water Act citizen suit, allowing a citizen suit seeking civil penalties to proceed despite the fact the state had already issued a notice of violation for the same alleged conduct. …
Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Ruling Narrowly Construes Administrative Enforcement Bar to Clean Water Act Citizen Suit
A recent federal district court decision shows how a consent decree can provide protection to responsible parties under CERCLA by precluding later-filed tort claims seeking additional relief or different remedial action.
Continue Reading Federal Court Finds Tort Claims Preempted by CERCLA Consent Decree
Last week, in Residents of Gordon Plaza, Inc. v. Cantrell, the Fifth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc of a recent decision affirming the dismissal of a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) citizen suit. The key issue in the underlying appeal, 25 F.4th 288 (5th Cir. 2022), was whether certain maintenance activities qualify as a “removal” action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court affirmed that the maintenance activities do indeed constitute a “removal action.” Therefore, the suit was barred under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(b)(2)(B)(iv), which precludes RCRA citizen suits where a “responsible party is diligently conducting a removal action” pursuant to a CERCLA consent decree with EPA.
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Endorses Broad Reading of “Removal” Under CERCLA To Bar RCRA Citizen Suit
On December 27, 2021, the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a final nationwide permit (NWP) rule renewing a critical permitting tool for both the government and the regulated community. To comply with the Clean Water Act (CWA or the Act), projects with minimal adverse environmental effects can obtain authorization for the discharge of dredged or fill material into “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) through the Corps’ streamlined NWP process. With this rule, the Corps reissued 40 existing NWPs and one new NWP. These 41 NWPs will combine with 16 NWPs issued on January 13, 2021 to authorize use of the full suite of NWPs through March 14, 2026.
Continue Reading Army Corps Finalizes Nationwide Permit Renewal for Expedited Clean Water Act Permitting
Building on the Biden Administration’s strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, and as world leaders begin gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal under the Clean Air Act to significantly expand regulation of methane from oil and gas operations in the United States. The proposal—issued in conjunction with measures proposed by at least five other cabinet-level agencies to address GHG emissions—is part of President Biden’s “whole of government” approach to addressing climate change and represents EPA’s most ambitious regulatory effort to date to curb oil and gas sector emissions. EPA estimates compliance costs of $12 billion (present value, 3% discount rate) for existing sources, which it indicates would be offset by an estimated $4.7 billion (present value) through the capture of natural gas pursuant to the fugitive emission requirements in the proposal.
Continue Reading As COP26 Begins in Glasgow, at Home EPA Releases Bold Proposal on Oil and Gas Methane Emissions: Four Elements Worth Knowing
Using carbon dioxide to produce oil could be a key technology to transition to an energy landscape with lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Injecting CO2 into an oil formation to produce oil is known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The injected CO2 not only increases pressure in the formation, which aids production, but under certain conditions, the CO2 will mix with oil trapped within the rock in the formation, causing it to become mobile and able to be produced.Continue Reading Enhanced Oil Recovery in the Energy Transition
Recent federal court decisions continue to show that Article III standing can be a formidable defense to environmental citizen suits, particularly following the Supreme Court’s decision Spokeo v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016).
Continue Reading Article III Standing Still Proving to be a Formidable Defense to Environmental Citizen Suits