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CELDF attorneys sanctioned in legal fight over oil and gas wastewater disposal well
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported this welcome news last week:

A federal judge on has sanctioned attorneys representing a small Indiana County community $52,000 for their "continued pursuit of frivolous claims and defenses" in their effort to block an oil and gas wastewater disposal well from operating in Grant Township.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter ordered attorneys Thomas Linzey and Elizabeth Dunne of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to pay about 10 percent of the more than $500,000 in attorneys' fees and costs that Pennsylvania General Energy said it incurred while challenging a community bill of rights ordinance that Grant enacted in 2014 to ban such disposal wells.

Judge Baxter also referred Mr. Linzey to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board for possible further punishment. She did not impose any sanctions directly on the township.

The Franklin County-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has represented dozens of communities in Pennsylvania and elsewhere against unpopular industrial activities by pursuing the principle that local community self-government trumps corporate property rights and certain state and federal laws.

But Judge Baxter wrote that the group's legal theories have repeatedly been discredited across 15 years of federal litigation in Pennsylvania.
Regardless, CELDF attorneys "continue to pursue nearly identical and rejected theories unabated," she wrote. Those actions "substantially and inappropriately prolonged this litigation, and required the court and PGE to expend significant time and resources eliminating these baseless claims."
Warren, Pa.-based Pennsylvania General Energy is pleased with the decision, its general counsel Lisa McManus said, while Kevin Moody, general counsel for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, said the decision "is a win for the rule of law over people who want to take the law into their own hands."

Undeterred, the legal defense fund said in a press release that the ruling is evidence that "corporate forces once again have been able to wield our institutions of government to punish those working to elevate the rights of communities over fossil fuel corporations."

Judge Baxter already ruled in favor of the company on most of its federal constitutional claims. A jury trial to resolve the company's remaining claims in the case is scheduled for May.

More coverage from other news outlets:
FERC commission rejects Trump plan to help power plants
Federal regulators have rejected U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry's plan to bail out struggling coal and nuclear plants, instead asking grid operators to suggest their own ways to ensure reliable power supplies.
In a January 8 order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission terminated a proceeding that had begun in response to Mr. Perry's September directive that suggested power plants should be rewarded for having 90 days of fuel on site. The proposal would've largely benefited coal and nuclear power plants.
"We appreciate the Secretary reinforcing the resilience of the bulk power system as an important issue that warrants further attention," according to the order. "We expect to review the additional material and promptly decide whether additional Commission action is warranted to address grid resilience."
The defeat is a setback for President Donald Trump's efforts to revive the coal industry and put miners back to work. The Energy Department plan drew criticism from natural gas producers, grid operators and others who argued it would undermine competition in wholesale power markets. Consumers in more than a dozen states would have been stuck footing the bill.

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Northeast Oil & Gas Awards finalists revealed
Congratulations to all companies that received nominations for the 6th Annual Northeast Oil & Gas Awards. Finalists have now been announced on the Oil & Gas Awards website. All finalists shortlisted for the Awards have excelled in the core values the awards: best practice in CSR, Health & Safety, Environmental Stewardship and Innovation.

Winners will be announced at the annual Awards Gala Dinner being held at the Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh on March 1. In addition to the gala, the annual Northeast Industry Summit will be held on the same day in the same venue (free to attend). For more information on registering for the industry Summit, contact the Oil & Gas Awards team at info@oilandgasawards.com.
DRBC expands public comment on proposed hydraulic fracturing ban
The Delaware River Basin Commission has added two public hearings and extended the deadline for written comments on its proposal to permanently ban natural gas development in a 14,000-square-mile region that includes the northeastern tip of Pennsylvania.

A de facto ban on natural gas development in the Delaware basin has been in effect since 2010. In September, the commission voted to direct staff to draft regulations by November 30 prohibiting horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the basin, asserting that unconventional natural gas development "presents risks, vulnerabilities and impacts to surface and ground water resources across the country."

The DRBC had previously scheduled four public hearings in January to take input on the regulations and now has scheduled two more: February 22 at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville and a hearing by telephone on March 6. Additionally, written comments now will be accepted through March 30.

Information about providing comment, along with the regulations, can be found here. PIOGA is providing comments in opposition to the ban.

PIOGA kicks off centennial celebration
This year marks 100 years of this trade association working on behalf of Pennsylvania's crude oil and natural gas industry. Actually not this trade association, as PIOGA was formed in 2010, but we can directly trace our roots to 1918 and the founding of the Pennsylvania Oil, Gas and Minerals Association. Minerals" later was dropped from the organization's formal name, but the "M" stuck around in the acronym POGAM.

Unfortunately, a fire in March 1986 gutted the building housing POGAM's office in Bradford, and the organization's historic records were lost. We can't tell you about the issues that consumed the association in its early days. However, we can relate some of the more recent facts about how we came to be the organization we are today.

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