Federal Court Properly Defers to Oklahoma Oil and Gas Oversight, Rejects Sierra Club Bid for Federal Regulation

Guest Commentary

Robeck_MarkBy Mark R. Robeck, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. Mr. Robeck is a Partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a contributor to its Fracking Insider blog.

In 2016, the Sierra Club filed suit in Oklahoma alleging that use of state-permitted deep wastewater injection wells was causing increased seismic activity—both in frequency and severity.  Sierra Club v. Chesapeake Operating, LLC, et al., Case No. CIV-16-134-F, United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

In an April 4, 2017 Order the court dismissed the case, declining to exercise jurisdiction because doing so would interfere with the state regulators’ efforts to address the alleged increased seismic activity from wastewater injection. Continue reading

US Food Security and Farmers’ Livelihoods at Stake in “Waters of the US” Rule Rewrite

Lawrence KoganGuest Commentary

By Lawrence A. Kogan*

For decades, federal agencies have incrementally extended their control over agricultural lands by expanding the definition of “waters of the US” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and asserting broad legal jurisdiction over WOTUS-adjacent “wetlands.” Those efforts triggered intense legal conflicts, facilitated the CWA’s growth into a “regulatory hydra,” and caused a “reversal of terms [in our unique relationship with government] that is worthy of Alice in Wonderland.”1

President Trump recently issued Executive Order 13778 as the first step aimed at curtailing this government juggernaut.  The order directs the heads of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to review for substantial revision or rescission their jointly issued 2015 CWA regulation that expanded the definition of “WOTUS.”  Presumably, EPA’s review of this regulation will be undertaken while the October 9, 2015 federal court-issued stay of its implementation remains in place.2 Continue reading

Fifth Circuit Rejects Rigid Interpretation of Removal Statute in Asbestos-Liability Case

5thCirWhen attempting to remove civil lawsuits from state to federal court, business defendants often must contend with not one, but two opponents. One opponent, of course, is the plaintiff, who prefers the home cooking of a local judge and jury. The second opponent is the federal district court judge, who may be loath to inflate the size of his docket. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit late last month reversed one district court judge’s crabbed interpretation of a removal statute which consigned an asbestos-liability defendant to the notoriously pro-plaintiff Louisiana state courts. Continue reading

EPA Fracking Report Deliberately Ignores Key Studies to Embrace Inconclusive Results

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*Grace Galvin, a Communications Associate at WLF who received her JD from Charleston School of Law and is pursuing a Master’s in Journalism and Public Affairs at American University, contributed significantly to this post.

“A blessing” is the description Franklin Bess used to convey his feelings toward the oil and natural gas industry, as long as the drilling is American-based. He and his wife, Katie Bess, are the proud owners of The Williamson Ranch in west Texas, land that has been in Katie’s family for five generations.

In an interview with Ezra Levant, a Canadian broadcaster and “ethical oil” advocate, the Bess family expressed relief in April 2015 when an oil-and-gas exploration and production company bought their expiring lease with Tall City Exploration. This sale has provided the income necessary to allow the Bess family to maintain the ranching life—a rarity today—and pass their land on to future generations.

Many ranching families near Big Spring, Texas have similar stories, and they have the Permian Basin shale that lies beneath their town, and the use of such extraction techniques as hydraulic fracturing, to thank for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, environmental activists, with the help of the federal government, have generated a narrative that paints hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” as a destructive and offensive process. Continue reading

Federal Judge “SLAPPs” Down Lawsuit Demanding “R” Rating for All Movies Depicting Tobacco Use

ratingsOn November 10, 2016, a California federal judge dismissed a putative class-action lawsuit designed to force the Classifications and Rating Administration (CARA) to give an “R” rating to any film containing tobacco use.  Alleging that around 200,000 young people would start smoking every year after seeing tobacco use in G, PG, and PG-13 rated movies, the plaintiff in Forsyth v. Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. sued the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) (CARA is operated as a division of the association), the National Association of Theater Owners, and various major movie studios.  Because injunctive relief alone isn’t enough in most class actions, the complaint also sought $20 million in damages. Continue reading

Federal Court Deems “Identifiable Trifle” to Be Sufficient Harm for Environmental Citizen-Suit Standing

sboxermanFeatured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy

By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Katharine Falahee Newman, Sidley Austin LLP

In late August, the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois held that the owner and operator of a coal-fired power plant was liable for violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) related to particulate matter emissions. See National Resources Defense Council et al. v. Illinois Power Resources, et al.  While the decision ultimately reached and decided the merits of the CAA violations largely in Plaintiffs’ favor, the case is also notable for its discussion of whether Plaintiffs—the Natural Resource Defense Council, Respiratory Health Association, and Sierra Club—have standing to sue under the CAA’s citizen-suit provision, 42 U.S.C. § 7604.  The court held that they do, and specifically that all that was required to establish injury was an “identifiable trifle.”  Defendants in environmental citizen suits will have an increasingly difficult time challenging plaintiffs’ standing if more judges embrace this court’s exceedingly low standard for what constitutes a “case or controversy.” Continue reading

Crusade or Charade?: What’s Really Motivating Efforts to Mandate GMO-Labeling?

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Because “public-interest” groups cloak themselves with the feel-good mantle of protecting consumers, the environment, animals, etc., the motives of such groups rarely get questioned. But several recent developments show that all too often, activists put their own self-interest before the public’s interest.

Consider, for example, environmental groups’ opposition to a Washington state ballot measure going before voters this fall. Initiative 732 pursues a major environmentalist goal—carbon-emissions reduction—by imposing an excise tax. Revenues from the carbon tax would in turn fund sales, manufacturing, and low-income-household tax cuts. In other words, it’s revenue neutral, and that doesn’t sit well with green activists who see climate change as an effective proxy for a broader ideological goal: expanding government. Continue reading