Wednesday, January 30, 2013

W.Va. DEP Misses Deadlines For Environmental Studies Related To Drilling Activities

State regulators are behind schedule on the release of two key studies mandated as part of the horizontal drilling legislation that was enacted in late 2010, according to an article in The Charleston Gazette.  The newspaper reports that the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection is required to conduct studies of noise, light and dust from drilling operations, air pollution from well sites, and the use of wastewater impoundments by the oil and gas industry.  Click to read the entire article.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lewis Glasser Expands Environmental Practice By Hiring Former Senior Counsel To W.Va. DEP

Lewis Glasser Casey & Rollins PLLC has hired Joseph L. Jenkins, formerly Senior Counsel for the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection, to expand the law firm’s environmental practice and services.  Joseph has joined the firm as an associate, and his practice focuses mainly on energy and natural resources law, environmental law, legislation, rule-making and litigation with an emphasis in oil and natural gas, mining and quarrying, including SMCRA, Clean Water Act and state and federal environmental permitting, compliance and enforcement. 

Jenkins previously served as Senior Counsel for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and served as Counsel to the West Virginia Senate Committees on Energy, Industry and Mining and Transportation and Infrastructure during the 2011 Legislative Session.  He also is familiar with federal criminal law, having served as a CJA panel attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia for several years.  Jenkins began his legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable H. L. Kirkpatrick III, Circuit Judge of Raleigh County, West Virginia.
Jenkins’ more recent experience includes:
  • Successfully defending a challenge to the State’s notice, comment and appeal procedures for surface owners with regards to the issuance of oil and natural gas well permits before the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.  Martin v. Hamblet, No. 11-1157, 2012 W.Va. LEXIS 904 (W. Va. Nov. 21, 2012).
  • Preparing an amicus brief on behalf of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Alaska for filing in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in support of Farrell-Cooper Mining Company and Oklahoma Department of Mines’ challenge to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s use of the ten-day notice process for permit defects under SMCRA.  Farrell-Cooper and Okla. Dep’t of Mines v. U. S. Dep’t of Interior, et al., 12-7045 & 12-7048 (10th Cir.).
  • Being actively involved in the administrative appeal of and challenge to the W.Va. Environmental Quality Board’s decision regarding conductivity, TDS and sulfate associated with coal mining operations.
  • Successfully defending challenges to NPDES and SMCRA permits issued by the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Being actively involved in the legislative and rule-making processes regarding the W.Va. Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act, W. Va. Code § 22-6A-1, et seq.
  • Being actively involved in the successful representation of a defendant in a forty-four count federal indictment that charged fifty-five defendants with numerous offenses including RICO, kidnapping, robbery, conspiracy, gambling, guns and drugs.  And serving as a liaison for defense counsel in this expansive case to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on matters relating to discovery and CJA management.
Jenkins attended Concord College (now University) in Athens, West Virginia where he received his undergraduate degrees, summa cum laude, in Biology (B.S.) and Geography (B.A.).  He then obtained his law degree (J.D.) from the University of Oregon School of Law earning a certificate in environmental and natural resources law.  While in law school, Jenkins served as co-director of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.

“As one of the premier energy law firms in the Appalachian Basin, we wanted to enhance Lewis Glasser’s full-service capabilities with Joe’s unique environmental law and regulatory knowledge,” said Nick Casey, managing member.  “Joe’s background in regulatory matters, litigation and legislative rule-making will serve our clients well.”

Casey noted that over the past year Lewis Glasser has expanded its legal capabilities with the hiring of several new attorneys, many of whom are part of the firm’s growing natural gas and energy practice.

Friday, January 25, 2013

NiSource To Invest $1.5 Billion In Pipeline Improvements In The Appalachian Basin

NiSource's Columbia Gas Transmission has received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a customer settlement that facilitates Columbia's comprehensive pipeline infrastructure investment plan in the Appalachian Basin. The settlement covers the initial five years of Columbia's investment plan, which will include pipeline replacements and  upgrades totalling more than $1.5 billion.  Click to read the company's press release.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lawmakers May Give Consideration To Lease Integration Issue During 2013 Legislative Session

The biggest impediment to the orderly development of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in West Virginia is the inability to deal in a timely manner with non-participating minority mineral owners.  This can be due to missing or unknown owners or know owners who just won’t participate.  These non-participating  minority owners, who cannot be compelled to participate in a lease or if they are leased cannot be compelled to modify lease to provide for pooling, are preventing the orderly development of WV’s gas resource.  The resulting sterilization and waste is contrary to the stated public policy of het state.  This also negatively impacts surface owners and the environment because pad locations and the extension of laterals are dictated less by geology and topography and more by how to avoid unleased or unpooled tracts. 

To find a resolution, interested parties have been meeting in West Virginia and discussing lease integration to deal with pooling and other administrative processes to deal with non- participating minority mineral interest owners.  They also are doing this in advance of the start of the 2013 West Virginia legislative session, which begins in earnest on February 13, 2013. Given the continued development in Ohio, this is expected to be the session when West Virginia lawmakers give careful consideration to the reality that non-participating minority ownership interests are impeding development in West Virginia.

Lewis Glasser Casey & Rollins PLLC and its government relations affiliate, LGCR Government Solutions LLC, have been actively involved in these meetings and will be monitoring this issue closely during the 2013 legislative session.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

West Virginia's Natural Gas Production Increases 50 Percent

According to an article in The State Journal, natural gas production rose 50 percent in West Virginia in 2011. The state's production rose to 385,500 thousand cubic feet, or mcf, up from 256,600 mcf in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Natural Gas Annual.  The reprot was released January 7.  In West Virginia, shale gas represented 58 percent of the state's production.

Click to read the entire article.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Charleston Gazette Editorial Highlights Positive Economic Impacts From Marcellus/Utica Activities

Another newspaper in West Virginia, the state's largest, has come out with an editorial that highlights the significant positive economic effects from natural gas drilling activities.  The Charleston Gazette published an editorial on Sunday, January 6, that focuses on two recent reports and the "upside" that is being provided from the Marcellus/Utica boom.  The editorial concludes with: "Both projections are hopeful. More gas drilling jobs. More insulating jobs. With the coal industry retreating, West Virginia needs all the new employment it can acquire."

Click to read the entire editorial.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Editorial: Natural gas growth -- Marcellus shale projections encouraging

Provided is an editorial published in the Jan. 2, 2013 edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

A new study is predicting that West Virginia’s vast Marcellus shale field could support more than 29,000 jobs by 2020, and 58,000 by the year 2035. That is — of course — if the industry is allowed to continue shale-gas development in the Mountain State, and if the federal government doesn’t attempt to curtail natural gas growth as we have seen in recent years with coal.

The report issued last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy says the natural gas industry has already created more than 11,800 direct and indirect jobs in the state and generated about $283 million this year alone in tax revenue. Those revenues could hit $884 million a year for state and local governments by 2020, the Associated Press reported. In all, the study predicts West Virginia could see more than $25 billion in shale-driven revenues between 2012 and 2035.

Last week’s report is the second of a three-part study co-sponsored by the institute, which launched a campaign to promote gas drilling in July. The findings of the study are encouraging, and paint a brighter future for West Virginia — if the industry growth is not impeded by the federal government.
 For their part — environmentalist are already working hard to slow the Marcellus shale gas boon. Several environmental and citizens’ groups claim groundwater will be contaminated by the process known as hydraulic fracturing, which uses water and chemicals to break gas deposits free from rock. They also suggest that the process will create air pollution, and damage to roads and streams. Several groups are calling for a moratorium on drilling.

Time will now only tell if the industry will be allowed to grow, or if the federal government will intervene, and attempt to curtail this great energy boon potential. All eyes are now on President Barack Obama to see who he will pick to succeed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and whether or not this person will be reasonable and willing to work with the coal and natural gas industries.
 Just imagine what 29,000 new jobs, and ultimately 59,000 new jobs, could mean not only for West Virginia, but America. And just imagine what this emerging industry could do in terms of meeting America’s future energy needs.

We must be willing to embrace this emerging industry. The vast Marcellus shale field offers not only great potential to West Virginia, but our nation as a whole. The industry should be allowed to grow and prosper. And the same goes for the still strong coal industry of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

A common sense national energy policy should include all abundantly available fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas, in addition to wind, solar and the other green energy sources so strongly advocated by the Obama administration.