PA Supreme Court Resignation Affects Act 13 Zoning Decision

Justice Joan Orie Melvin Landowners and drillers have been waiting since last year for the results of a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Early last year the PA legislature passed the most sweeping new oil and gas drilling regulations in decades, called Act 13. Part of Act 13 replaces a crazy quilt patchwork of local zoning regulations with a set of uniform state zoning regulations. Towns didn’t like being told they can no longer fiddle with where a well can and can’t be drilled in their borders, so just over one year ago they sued (see Lawsuit Filed: PA Towns Sue State over Marcellus Act 13 Law).

Lower courts ruled in favor of the towns, striking down the zoning provisions of Act 13. The state appealed (and expedited) the rulings all the way to the state Supreme Court. The Supremes heard arguments in October (see PA Supreme Court Hears Testimony on Act 13 Zoning). Since then? We’ve waited for their decision on this vitally important case. Now we have a new wrinkle. One of the Supreme Court justices, Joan Orie Melvin, is being removed from office following conviction for a minor offense (she used state staffers and office space to assist her campaign for the high court). That leaves six justices, and a 3-3 decision is no good, and a real possibility…

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JLCNY Begins Fundraising for Lawsuit Against NY for “Takings”

The 77,000 member Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) is kicking their lawsuit against the state into high gear and asking for donations to help fund litigation. You may recall MDN interviewed Scott Kurkoski, lead attorney for the JLCNY, about their plans to sue New York for “takings” back in February (see video and transcript here: 77K NY Landowners Prepare Lawsuit Against DEC). Since that time, the JLCNY has finalized their plans, all the while hoping New York would change course at the last minute. They finally, reluctantly decided the clock has run out (see JLCNY Loses Faith in Cuomo, Initiates Lawsuit over Fracking Rules).

The lawsuit groundwork is ready. What’s needed now are several good plaintiffs—and money. Hence the fundraising appeal issued yesterday:

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EPA Appoints Panel of Experts to Review Fracking Study Due 2014

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the midst of a multi-year “research study” of hydraulic fracturing. The aim of the study is to find a way for the EPA to horn in on regulating oil and gas drilling—at the federal level—by using the federal Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. The feds really really want to find a way to grab away the power to regulate oil and gas drilling from the individual states. The Constitution grants that right to the states alone.

Apparently the EPA study is progressing—to the point they announced yesterday an “independent” panel of experts to “peer review” the EPA’s final report, due in 2014. In advance of looking over the final report, the panel of 31 experts will “provide scientific feedback on EPA’s research in an open and transparent manner.” Yes, let’s hope it is open and transparent.

The EPA announcement from yesterday, including the names of those on the “independent” panel:

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Wheeling Councilwoman Vows to Prevent Frack Water Treatment Plant

Less than two weeks ago, GreenHunter Water announced they had purchased a 10.8 acre barge terminal site in Wheeling, WV that sits along the Ohio River. GreenHunter has plans to convert the former gasoline storage facility into a shale wastewater handling and storage facility that will recycle wastewater so drillers can reuse it, or ship it by barge to other locations for disposal (see GreenHunter Buys Barge Terminal in Wheeling for Frack Wastewater).

GreenHunter made a mistake. They didn’t first approach Wheeling City Council to ask, “Mother, May I?” If they had, in all likelihood the outcome would have not been any different. At least one council member is strongly anti-drilling—Gloria Delbrugge (Democrat). She’s upset GreenHunter didn’t ask for permission first, and she’s pledging to stop the project altogether:

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Supply Chain: OH Company Offered Tax Credit to Create 120 New Jobs

More happy news from the Marcellus and Utica supply chain: Wooster Tool & Dye, a company that manufactures gas and oil separation tanks used by shale drilling companies, has been offered a seven-year tax credit to add 120 new full-time jobs to their existing workforce of 110. The new jobs will average $21 an hour. If the company accepts the deal (not yet a done deal, but it looks promising), they will agree to maintain operations in Wooster, OH for at least the next 10 years:

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NFL QB Drew Bledsoe Stumps for Frack Wastewater Recycling Company

MDN does not often run press releases from companies that service the drilling industry (supply chain stuff) unless there’s something newsworthy about it. We’ve just run across one such press release, from a company called Ecosphere that produces a technology to allow oil and gas companies to recycle drilling wastewater. The “new and different” thing about Ecosphere is not necessarily their technology (we don’t really know much about it), but instead the news is about who’s promoting it: former NFL superstar quarterback Drew Bledsoe (starting QB for the New England Patriots).

Bledsoe appeared on CNBC last Friday to promote Ecosphere’s fracking wastewater treatment solution, and Ecosphere is leveraging that appearance with a press release:

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